Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

OPINION: Is Lily Wu what Wichita really needs?

Wren Johnson

With the recent mayoral election on Nov. 7, Wichita voters were faced with a difficult choice between incumbent mayor Brandon Whipple and challenger Lily Wu. Despite having little to no political experience prior to launching her campaign, Wu succeeded in the election with 58% of the votes, over 36,300 votes in her favor. 

Wu was a reporter and news anchor for two Wichita-area television stations for 12 years and also served as a board member for three Wichita-area nonprofit organizations, according to Ballotpedia.

Whipple has spent the last 10 years in elected office. Prior to his election as mayor in 2019, Whipple served for District 96 in the Kansas House of Representatives for seven years and has also taught at Wichita State University. He relocated to Wichita from New Hampshire in 2003, in a year-long education-service mission with AmeriCorps. With that program, he worked with at-risk youth at Wichita South High School and decided to call Wichita home.

Wu approached the election from a businesswoman’s perspective. She consistently ran her campaign focusing on ideas that would benefit the economy and those who currently earn livable wages, instead of looking at the city’s needs as a whole or even considering the 15.2% of Wichita citizens who are currently living below the poverty line. 

Being considerate of the challenges and division of citizens in all income brackets is necessary to be a successful city official, especially in a city with 2.6% more citizens living under the poverty line than the 13.4% average for Sedgwick County. 

Wu said real estate development is necessary for growth and that real estate will bring affordable housing, retail, restaurants, hotels and other amenities that help increase our quality of life. However, in the last four months that I’ve been living in Wichita as a college student, those “amenities” she mentioned never came to mind when contemplating Wichita’s immediate needs. 

Whipple, on the other hand, focused on improving the public safety in Wichita, a crucial point for the well-being of the city in my eyes. 

Before moving to Wichita this year, I had never anticipated such a high poverty rate, this was something I didn’t experience in Johnson County, Kansas, the wealthiest county in the state. 

“As Mayor, we must continue to build a safer city,” Whipple said. “This includes rebuilding trust, investing in programs that address youth violence, domestic violence, human trafficking, and embracing best practices for addressing mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness.”

Homelessness is an issue gaining more attention as the city’s homeless population has grown to its highest point in the last 12 years. In addition, people of color face disproportionate rates of poverty in Sedgwick County, with 22.5% Hispanic and 31.1% Black residents living in poverty. 

In 2022, under Whipple’s leadership, Wichita moved to invest nearly $8 million from American Rescue Plan funds in order to arrange and operate a housing facility to accommodate individuals struggling with addiction or seeking shelter. On Nov. 2, 2023, Whipple announced the facility’s location and specific details about how the shelter will serve its intended purpose. 

Whipple knows the importance of acknowledging and acting on Wichita’s citizens’ feedback — doing so and saying so are two different things, but Whipple has done both. This is reassuring to me as a citizen in a rather large city. The 2022 budget was transformed from important resources back into important services based on feedback from Wichitans. 

Whipple also invested $31 million into paving dirt roads around neighborhoods and schools to create a safer route for children who walk to school. In 2023, Whipple incorporated five in-person town halls to provide a structured opportunity for citizens to share their thoughts and values on Wichita. 

Overall, Whipple carried out multiple promises he made prior to winning his election in 2019 against incumbent mayor Jeff Longwell. He made significant efforts toward eliminating homelessness in the city and providing resources for all citizens in need. With Wu’s focus being aimed primarily toward improving the economy, she is unlikely to make as many substantial improvements where they’re most needed in the city, which are citizens’ public health and safety. 

View Comments (9)
About the Contributors
Shaylee Jacobs-Wilson
Shaylee Jacobs-Wilson, Former reporter
Shaylee Jacobs-Wilson was a sports reporter for The Sunflower. Jacobs-Wilson is from Olathe, Kansas. Jacobs-Wilson uses she/her pronouns.
Wren Johnson
Wren Johnson, Illustrator/Designer
Wren Johnson is an illustrator for The Sunflower. Johnson is a third-year communications major that loves chickens. In her free time she likes to read, draw, and hang out with friends. Johnson uses she/her pronouns.

Comments (9)

All The Sunflower Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • R

    RichardDec 7, 2023 at 7:22 pm

    Is it supposed to be satire or are you just that far off?

    Wu received over 37,000 votes when the official results were published by the Sedgwick County Election Office almost three weeks ago on November 17th.

    You’re sourcing Ballotpedia?

    Truth is, voters didn’t want the kind of career politician’s experience Whipple brought that created division (both within the city government and between the city and Sedgwick County), a police officer shortage and rising crime much higher than the national average, higher taxes, and an entitled powermonger representing our city (see neighborhood cleanup incident, although multiple examples).

    Everyone I know was bombarded with Wu’s priorities and numero uno was always public safety. Whipple had a well-documented and terrible relationship with local law enforcement. I’m guessing that’s why so many in law enforcement endorsed Wu.

    For context, Wu’s answer on real estate development was quite transparent and in response to a specific question (See July 10, 2023 Wichita Beacon article).

    Homelessness is more of an issue in our city than it has ever been. The city council directed ARPA funds at what they’re calling a MAC or multi-agency center and, no, Whipple didn’t announce the location (you’re referring to a temporary homeless shelter), which has yet to be determined. If he cared about this issue he would’ve attended homeless task force meetings. He didn’t. But Wu did.

    You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but you might consider rooting it in at least a morsel of fact. I get you’re young and impressionable, but wow. Sweetheart, the whole journalism thing may just not be your forte.

    Personally, I’m glad that guy got his butt kicked and optimistic where our city can go under Wu’s leadership.

    • A

      AbiDec 8, 2023 at 11:47 am

      Richard, you were doing so well making your argument (even though I wholesale disagree with it), and it could have stood well enough on its own.

      And then you went and condescendingly called the college student “sweetheart”, and everything you said before it went completely to sh*t for it.

      Well done.

  • W

    WSU AlumDec 7, 2023 at 4:13 pm

    So after barely living here under half a year, you have an opinion on the election exhaulting a mayor who embarrassed himself and the city (didn’t mention that) while listing ‘accomplishments’ many of which were council decisions (he’s only one of 7 votes)…then try to paint Wu into a simplified platform (that doesn’t appeal to you) though way more then half of her campaign that I saw (including the debates) revolved around public safety and police. Just relable your headline ‘Liberal outsider with no experience in area wishes progressive mayor would have won’ so it’s clear how twisted and biased your article is going to be up front.
    This isn’t journalism and shouldn’t be wasted on the pages of the Sunflower…save it for your next IG post

    • A

      AbiDec 8, 2023 at 11:50 am

      Wow. That’s a pretty aggressive opinion from someone who won’t even share their first name. lol

  • M

    MarkDec 7, 2023 at 9:42 am

    As long as the contributors to this article see the need to say they use she her pronouns, I can’t take anything they say seriosly. Grow up it’s ridicules.

    • J

      Jessica AlagaDec 7, 2023 at 5:05 pm

      Did you mean ridiculous sir? I think a strong journalist wanting to reach a large audience would be ridiculous to not have acceptance/tolerance to social change. Inevitably institutions concepts and rules, change. At one point women were not able to study at universities. Community building takes many leader skills to be successful but the desire to grow and learn is most important. She shines a light on both candidates highlighting top focuses of each. This article brings local interest on an important topic. I appreciate your insight and a voice who understands and appreciates perspectives and being able to relate to people with other perspectives. Great article!!

  • F

    Franklin StrumDec 6, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    Whipple has decreased public safety by discounting the police that serve for our safety. He always took the side that maybe cops always did wrong. Even he personally pushed a cop was harassing him then called the city manager because he was trying to dump where he wasn’t supposed to. Face it he did nothing to protect public safety

    • A

      AbiDec 8, 2023 at 12:36 pm

      Conversely, Lily Wu has both discounted and decreased actual public safety by naively and incorrectly conflating public safety and police.

      There’s an entire world of things that exist within the realm of public safety that either have absolutely nothing to do with police or the police are ill-equipped to handle.

      I’d like to hear what the police have to offer by way of sanitation, water, and infrastructure because these are all very broad areas of public safety that include many granular things within each.

      I mean, are we going to put the dirty water in jail…?

    • L

      Liz MorganDec 8, 2023 at 4:57 pm

      What are you talking about? They got a contract that was so good it was approved by like 90% of their members. Funding was increased by 30 million dollars over Whipple’s tenor. The positions they’re short? They were already in the budget Whipple supported awaiting applicants. He pushed for all of these things.

      He also took the lead (not to knock the rest of council that also strongly supported this), on getting an outside group to come in and talk with officers about where they felt changes needed to happen and what was hurting retention. You can read what they were focused on in the Jensen Hughes report — hint: it was the culture, not the pay. Their own union doesn’t seem to want to hear it but the report is available with a quick google search if you want to read it.

      He also pushed for increased fire fighters pay from like $15 (which was appalling). This city hasn’t built a new fire station, or even repaired them, in over 10 years. He pushed for a third party to look at that department too. Come to find out, the city is like a dozen stations short, not just the buildings but the people needed to work in them. He pushed to get stations into the improvement plan and opposed an instance where city administration wanted to nix one of them for a lake development project. That never got any press, I just caught the budget retreat livestream that year and saw it. Council also supported a new set of medics that could take some of the weight off the fire dept as they make every medical call in the city. That happened a few months ago.

      How Whipple acted at the cleanup was gross. It’s important though that people remember the other things that happened though too. Like credible death threats after our police chief left and council picking a new chief. The man had to have a security detail over it.

      All the stuff about him not living there, not being qualified to dump trash there was just false. He represented the area for like 10 years or something, he lives there. The rules he supposedly broke weren’t put in until after this incident. IMO, I think media was putting things out there, others on social media too, about all of this that wasn’t quite factual and it sure didn’t help.

      All of this really has to make you wonder why the union thought a mayor has power in HR disputes and department stuff. They aren’t supposed to. That’s not a knock on the union, that’s a knock on politicians and non-elected administration of the past. The HR person changed and then here come complaints about the mayor and how discipline is being handled.

      Idk maybe it’s nothing but it sure made me sit up and pay more attention to administration people, too. I could see 100% why a union might feel like it’s personal, when it could very well be that an HR director past wasn’t doing his job well.

      We don’t get to vote for city admin people and they have a lot of power. I think, as the public, we kind of recognize that city hasn’t been great over the last like 15 years or so. We keep sending mayors and council members packing, thinking it will solve the issue. It doesn’t and I wonder these days if that isnt because of an administration we have no say over.