City Commission candidate Hentzler wants the city to live up to its progressive roots
photo by: contributed photo
Though Joey Hentzler has an active interest in politics, he didn’t necessarily plan to run for office. However, as he was trying to motivate others to run, many suggested that he would make a good candidate himself.
“I had been searching for candidates who I thought would be committed to progressive policy issues and to communities that don’t often have their voices considered at City Hall,” Hentzler said. “I asked like a few dozen people, and maybe a third of them turned the question on me: ‘Why don’t you run?'”
Editor’s note: The Journal-World has been publishing profiles on candidates for city and school board offices.
Hentzler, 26, one of six candidates running for City Commission, now says he hopes his campaign will lead the way in bringing more progressive issues to local politics. Hentzler, who is originally from Topeka, moved to Lawrence in 2011 and said he has personally benefited from Lawrence’s progressive culture but that the city needs to do more to live up to its progressive roots and provide for all residents.
Hentzler pointed to the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department’s Health Equity report, which shows significantly worse outcomes in several health measurements, including life expectancy, for low-income people and minorities in the community.
“And that just demonstrates that something very serious is happening under the veneer of our purportedly progressive community,” Hentzler said.
He said one of his priorities would be fighting against systemic racial disparities, and that would mean no longer making decisions in a colorblind manner. To that end, he wants the city to do a racial disparity impact analysis that indicates how particular projects or policies would impact people of color. For example, he said that would mean having demographic information regarding those who use the Community Building on West 11th Street before the city discusses its future and potentially closing the center.
Another key issue for Hentzler is providing both affordable and adequate housing for Lawrence residents. Hentzler said the city needed a higher percentage of homes designated as permanently affordable, because only then will those home prices start influencing the broader market. He also said just focusing on affordability wasn’t enough and that the city needed to make sure that homes, including rentals, were in good condition.
“Half of our community are renters, and yet I don’t believe their issues are being represented sufficiently on the commission,” Hentzler said. “Not only is it about affordable housing and making sure that we increase the supply of permanently affordable housing in our community, but also adequate and healthy housing. Because if your rent is affordable but there is black mold in your home and your landlord is not responsive to maintenance requests, affordability doesn’t mean a lot for you and your family.”
Hentzler said there needed to be a mechanism to address health and maintenance concerns that go unaddressed by landlords. He also said the city needed to strengthen its rental inspection program, which he said was inadequate. Currently, the city only inspects a small percentage of the city’s rental properties.
Hentzler said he would also like to make Lawrence a more sustainable and environmentally friendly city. He said he supported the city’s $11.3 million investment in energy-efficient upgrades — expected to pay for themselves within 20 years — and said the city should invest more in green energy. He also said the city needs to make sure it’s ready to handle the impacts of climate change, including the threats of flooding to both city infrastructure and homes, especially given this year’s frequent flooding.
“Right now, way too many of our neighbors are way too vulnerable to the consequences to come,” Hentzler said. “A real tangible example is the kinds of extreme rain events that we had this summer.”
Hentzler earned undergraduate degrees in political science and Latin American and Caribbean studies from KU.
He has worked since 2017 for Kansas Appleseed, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that works to address social, economic and political injustice in Kansas, according to its website. He currently serves as the organization’s director of advocacy. He also serves on the executive board of the Douglas County Extension Council, which is part of the Douglas County K-State Research and Extension office.
The seats of commissioners Stuart Boley, Leslie Soden and Matthew Herbert are up for election this year, and both Soden and Herbert have announced they will not seek reelection. The general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 5.