Archive for Mary Rupert

Opinion column: Mayoral contest looks different this year

Window on the West

by Mary Rupert

There’s something different about the mayoral contest this year in Kansas City, Kan. It’s because the contest was shifted from the spring to the fall this year.

While it may seem like city campaigns should be in full swing, in reality, they are just getting started.

The mayoral contest in Kansas City, Kan., is shaping up so far as a two-person race, but it may not stay that way.

On Feb. 6, incumbent Mayor Mark Holland filed for re-election, and challenger David Alvey also filed for mayor. During the past few months, there has been speculation that others are interested in the office, also.

Stopping by the election office on Thursday, Feb. 16, William Crum was told that those two were still the only candidates officially filing for mayor. However, more than a dozen information packets about filing for office have been requested from the election office. That shows some additional interest, with the possibility that others may file. The filing deadline is noon June 1, the primary is in August and the general election is in November.

In the last primary campaign, in spring 2013, five candidates sought the office. The general election was between Holland and Commissioner Ann Murguia, with Holland receiving 56 percent of the vote to Murguia’s 43 percent. Former Commissioner Nathan Barnes was in a close third place in the primary.

Sen. David Haley

A frequently mentioned possibility for a mayor’s campaign this year is State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist. After a legislative forum on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Main Kansas City, Kan., Public Library, Haley was asked whether he was going to run this year.

Sen. Haley said he was excited that there would be a vigorous debate, and he was listening closely to what the candidates propose to do. He indicated he would be monitoring the campaign on issues in which he was interested.

“I just want to hear a genuine commitment (from each candidate),” Sen. Haley said. He added he had a solid reputation that could only be diminished by running. However, he did not specifically say he would or would not run for the mayor’s office.

Incumbents traditionally have a large advantage in elections, mostly because they already have good name recognition. Incumbents also can make an announcement about major economic development initiatives, for example.

But the incumbent’s advantage may be smaller this year with election law changes that allow more time between the primary and general elections, formerly just around a month or so, and now about three months. The elections were moved to the fall of the year by a state law change. Instead of a primary in February and an election in March, now there will be a primary in August and a general election in November.

Alvey said last week that he expected the longer election season this year to help him, as it gives him more time to get to know the voters.

While state legislators changed the election timing this year, another issue from the last Kansas City, Kan., campaign hasn’t been changed. At the last election, the election cycle and how it affected Commissioner Nathan Barnes was an issue. In the UG’s election cycle, the 1st District candidate had to give up his UG seat in order to run for mayor, but not the 3rd District candidate. In some other cities, there is a rotation, but here, the 1st District commissioner and about half the commissioners are always running the same year as the mayor. That means a UG commissioner from one of those districts has to give up his seat to run for mayor, while commissioners from other districts do not have to risk as much.

While it may be too late to change it for this election, the issue still needs to be studied again in the future.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottedaily.com.

Mayoral challenger talks about lower property taxes

David G. Alvey (File photo)


by Mary Rupert

Mayoral challenger David Alvey said Thursday in an interview that if elected, he thinks he can do a better job than incumbent Mayor Mark Holland.

Alvey, who filed for the office last week, said many factors were behind his run for mayor, including the PILOT tax on the Board of Public Utilities’ bill, high property taxes and underground utilities along Leavenworth Road. He mentioned several additional issues as well.

Alvey said he would represent the entire community, and that he would be a full-time mayor.

Alvey serves on the BPU board, representing at-large District 2, generally the south side of Kansas City, Kan. He is a past BPU board president. The UG and the BPU are related; while the BPU has its own board and makes its own decisions, it is under the UG, with the UG approving BPU bond issues.

“I really feel as if we have just not fulfilled promises, for example, to reduce the PILOT on the BPU bill,” Alvey said. The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes is a charge that the Unified Government places on the BPU bill, that goes to the UG. The PILOT was at 7.9 percent from 2002 to 2008, then it was raised to 9.9 percent for one year because of an economic recession. Later it was raised again to 12.8 percent, for 2010, and there was a promise it would be reduced, he added. The PILOT has been at 11.9 percent since 2011.

“We constantly get complaints from folks about the PILOT,” he said. A lot of the public doesn’t understand the BPU isn’t putting the tax on the bill, or that it goes to the UG. Three years ago, there was a proposal from the UG to eliminate the PILOT and just take a transfer of funds from the BPU, Alvey said. That wouldn’t have shown up on the bill but BPU would have had to raise rates to cover it, he said. He was against it because it wouldn’t have been transparent, he said.

On the topic of the underground power lines that the UG approved along part of Leavenworth Road, Alvey said, “I have a real concern with what I think is just projects that don’t make any sense.”

Burying infrastructure along Leavenworth Road will cost an additional $7 million, he said. The renovations on Leavenworth Road would have been cleaning up the appearance of the overhead power lines anyway, he added, so it doesn’t make sense to him to bury them.

He said there must be 100 projects around the city that have more desperate needs than burying power lines. If there aren’t that many projects that need funding, then the money should have been used to reduce taxes, he added.

Alvey said a 4-mill reduction on property taxes in recent years just wasn’t enough, and might save $15 to $20 for the homeowner. There was a promise that when The Legends sales tax revenue bonds were paid off, the money would be used to reduce property taxes, he said. He believes that promise and the promise to reduce the PILOT fee were not kept.

Alvey also was critical of the mayor’s having bodyguards, which he estimated cost the UG $200,000 a year. In four or five years, those funds would add up.

“I feel safe wherever I go in this community,” Alvey said. He added he doesn’t understand why someone would need bodyguards.

“I know a lot of projects around town that a million dollars would go a long way toward fixing, curbs and sidewalks, those sorts of things,” he said.

Alvey said the UG Commission needs to come together and develop a long-term vision of 25 to 30 years in the future, and be committed to stay with that vision.

Alvey said when he was elected to the BPU, the utility didn’t have much credibility, but much of its credibility has now been restored.

Alvey voted for the recent electric rate increase at the BPU. The utility was under pressure from the federal government in the past several years to install more pollution devices on its equipment and has installed some new equipment.

“We will spend what we need to make sure we provide the services the people deserve, not a dollar more, not a dollar less,” Alvey said.

He said he feels the credibility of the UG currently is lacking, and needs to be restored. The leaders will need to do their jobs and make sure the government serves the people, according to Alvey.

“I’ve developed a reputation for being honest and fair, but I also will fight for what I think is important, I will fight to sustain the institutions that this county needs, like the BPU,” Alvey said. “I will fight to sustain services that we need to provide.”

Services are not free and the government needs to be careful with every dollar, he said. It’s not his own personal aesthetic preferences that are important, it’s about what makes the community stronger and allows it to survive, he said.

Alvey also mentioned the mayor’s remarks at a news conference following the death of police Capt. Robert Dave Melton last year. Alvey said he thought the remarks were insensitive to police officers and families of police officers. After the news conference, the mayor apologized and said he would never intentionally introduce controversial remarks at a time of grief.

The BPU doesn’t have a pot of gold, Alvey remarked, and when the UG takes money from it, it comes from the ratepayers, he said. “We have to take care of that money because we hold it in trust,” he said, and the same principle applies to the UG.

Besides working on a long-range vision, the UG needs to take care of its public safety employee, he said. There is a need to work with other taxing districts, as they are all responsible for the tax burden, he said.

“If we can get the tax burden down, that gives people more reason to stay in Wyandotte County,” he said.

He added he would like to focus on redeveloping neighborhoods in the county, that might develop a strategic vision to enhance their area.

Additionally, he said there is a need for new jobs in the county that pay a living wage.

This year, the primary election is in August, and the general election is in November.

Alvey, besides serving on the BPU, is a past member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. He is also active in the Turner Community Connections group, where he is on the board, and active in his church. He is an assistant principal at Rockhurst High School, Kansas City, Mo. He holds a degree from St. Louis University and has done graduate-level work.

Alvey is married and has five children. He is from a family that has several generations in Wyandotte County, including some relatives who have served in public office. His grandfather served in local public office and another member of his family was a state senator. His middle name is “Gibbs,” and one of his ancestors was the namesake for Gibbs Road.

Women forming investors group to help nonprofits

by Mary Rupert

A women’s investors group is forming in Wyandotte County with the purpose to help local nonprofit organizations.

Kristy Blagg, who is organizing the group, said its first meeting will be on Thursday, Feb. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Amigo’s restaurant, 2737 S. 47th St., Kansas City, Kan. Any Wyandotte County women interested may attend.

Blagg hopes for a good turnout; already 64 people have said they will attend, and more are interested.

The idea of the Wyandotte Women Giving Society is simple, she said. Those attending agree to write a check for $50 to a nonprofit organization at the meeting. Those attending may nominate a nonprofit of their choice, three organization names will be drawn, and those three will have the opportunity to give a five-minute presentation about the nonprofit. Then there will be a silent vote of those present to select the organization that will receive the donation checks that night, she said.

If the group can get 100 women to attend and write checks, the nonprofit organization will receive a $5,000 donation.

Blagg, a juvenile probation officer who sees a lot of needs in the community, said she got the idea for this group when she did another fundraiser for the Blue Door, a nonprofit group that helps place teens.

She heard about a group in Johnson County where 100 women met each month and each wrote a check for $100 to a nonprofit organization.

“That sounded really neat to me,” Blagg said. She wasn’t sure if she or most women here could spend $100 every month, so she changed the concept to a $50 check written quarterly. The group that receives the money will come back to the next meeting and tell what they did with the donation, she added.

“Even if their nonprofit doesn’t win, other people will hear about it,” Blagg said. “It can help them other ways. It’s about awareness, too.”

It’s possible that some of those attending will also decide to give a donation to one of the other groups later, she added.

In getting this group off the ground, Blagg started a Facebook page and a logo was designed. The logo became somewhat controversial, as it depicted a strong woman wearing a headdress. While there were some initial objections from some people about using a native American image, Blagg requested support from Janith English, chief of the Wyandot nation of Kansas, who wrote a letter that supported concepts of the logo.

Blagg said the group’s event will be casual, mostly an informal get-together. She grew up in a small town in Iowa and her family was religious, she said, but they didn’t have enough money to be philanthropists. She expected that most people who attend will be like her.

“This is something we can do and maybe it will help make a difference,” Blagg said.

Any women who live, work in Wyandotte County or who love Wyandotte County may attend, she said. Reservations are not necessary. Those attending will be asked to fill out a membership form asking for a yearly commitment of $200.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/Wyandotte-Women-Giving-Society-1795970867286970/.