WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) The day after winning the election to become Wichita's next mayor, Brandon Whipple looks ahead, talking about his plans for the city.
Among issues city leaders face heading into a new year concern construction of a new water treatment plan, continuing the Riverfront master plan, public transportation, public safety and Century II.
Whipple already has some specific plans for public safety and Century II's future.
During his campaign, making Wichita safer was a primary focus for Whipple. Now, the mayor-elect says it's his top priority.
"I think what people don't understand is, we have less police officers than other cities our size," Whipple says. "Which, that takes away from their ability to do community policing."
The Wichita Police Department currently has 674 commissioned police officers. Whipple says that's not enough and that more community policing allows officers to take care of problems before they "spill over" into emergencies.
"Increasing police officers would not only cut the time for when they need to respond to emergencies but also hopefully lower crime overall through community policing networking," he says.
Regarding Century II's future, currently one of the biggest debates in the city, Whipple says his goal "is to repurpose Century II" and to build a new performing arts center.
"I think Century II is an iconic building. It's unique to Wichita," Whipple says.
While having a goal to build a new performing arts center, Whipple says he also wants to make sure organizations continue to use Century II while a new venue is under construction.
As far as funding goes, Whipple says that's something the city will have to work out, as well as finding the right location for a new venue.
"My goal, if we're going to do this for the performing arts community, let's ask them what they want. Let's have them at the table to get their input and then also get the input of the citizens to make sure that what we do moving forward h has the public buy in, because if no, there's a chance that it won't be utilized as much,"
When it comes to public transportation, Whipple says Wichita is far behind other cities and he'd like to see an overhaul of the current transit system. As far as the water treatment plant goes, Whipple says he needs to talk with the council and get updates on progress.
He says any action taken on the water treatment plant will come from the city council as a whole. Whipple says he plans to review the progress so far with council members and until that happens, he can't say if any changes will come to the process.
Whipple says he sees the Riverfront area and new Wichita baseball stadium among great opportunities for growth, but wants to make sure plans for such opportunities are responsible and accepted by the community.
Pleased with progress in Wichita in recent years, Wichita city council members who spoke with Eyewitness News Wednesday voiced confidence the city will continue moving in the right direction with Whipple stepping in as mayor after the New Year.
Council members Brandon Johnson and James Clendenin say they are looking forward to working with Whipple as several multi-million-dollar projects carry over from one administration to another.
Before Whipple takes office in January, Longwell and the council will finalize the contract for the city's new water treatment plant. City leaders later this month or early next month will take a vote on the second contract for the project, which includes construction.
"We'll have a new mayor that's going to need to get up to speed on everything that happens, united front," Johnson says.