Gilstrap files for UG Commission 1st District, at large seat

Mark Gilstrap
Mark Gilstrap

by Mary Rupert
Mark Gilstrap, a former state senator in the Piper area of Kansas City, Kan., has filed for Unified Government Commission, 1st District, at large.

Gilstrap, who filed Dec. 18, said he was running to be an asset on the UG Commission with his experience in finance.

Gilstrap, 62, retired Dec. 17 from the UG Finance Department, treasury division, where he worked 33 years. He is a former city treasurer, former deputy county treasurer, and his last title was deputy revenue director. He said at the current time, there isn’t much experience on the UG Commission in the accounting field.

“We need somebody to jump in and take the bull by the horns, look at the budget, and see if everything is being spent wisely,” Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap served in the state Senate from 1997 to 2008, and he was the Wyandotte County Republican chairman until recently, when he decided not to run for re-election. The current chairman is Joe Ward. Gilstrap still is a precinct committeeperson.

He said while in the state Senate, he voted to allow the people to vote for the casino, and they did vote for it heavily. He noted that at the time of the vote, it was expected that funds from the casino and developments would be used to reduce taxes here.

“I’m asking myself, with all this money coming in, why are we still having to raise taxes, and why are we one of the highest counties in the state for unemployment, when a couple thousands people are working at the Legends and the casino?” Gilstrap asked.

STAR (sales tax revenue) bonds from The Legends were supposed to help reduce taxes, but instead, it appears that other STAR bond projects were created, he said.

He said those are questions he would like to look into if elected.

He said that he does not support property tax increases. He said he supports more efficient management of government departments, and finding ways to collect delinquent tax money that is owed to the UG.

While he supports the idea of a new convention center being built in western Wyandotte County, perhaps near the casino, he would look more closely at the mayor’s downtown Healthy Campus proposal, he said. He said he did not feel confident that he would support it unless it had strong non-UG funding behind it. He said he was not sure of how much use the downtown development would receive.

Gilstrap said he was confident that he could work with everyone on the commission. As a state senator, he was in the minority party and had to work with the majority party, and could work with both, he said.

He said that he expects to have some name recognition when he runs for office. It will be the fourth election for the 1st District, at large seat, with a Gilstrap on the ballot. His brother, Mike, previously ran for the office and served in the office in 2003. Mike Gilstrap ran for re-election in 2007 and lost to Mark Holland by 31 votes. Mike Gilstrap was defeated again by Holland in 2011. The Gilstrap name has been on the ballot for this seat four times.

“I think it’s a good thing because a lot of these races are name recognition,” Mark Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap has stayed involved with the Kansas City, Kan., Chamber’s Congressional Forum luncheon, Bonner Springs Chamber of Commerce, Polish-American Club, Community Housing of Wyandotte County, and Leavenworth Road Association.

He is a graduate of Rockhurst College with an accounting majority, and is married to the former JoAnne Mantel, who is the pharmacist in charge at the Legends Walmart. They have three adults children and three grandchildren.

Gilstrap is the second person this year to file for the 1st District, at large seat. The first was Christal Watson.

There is no incumbent in the 1st District seat, as it was formerly held by Mayor Mark Holland. The commission deadlocked on filling the seat, unable to reach six votes on the finalists for the appointed position, and it has remained vacant.

BPU’s 2015 budget to increase $75 million

The Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities approved a budget increase of $75 million for 2015, largely attributed to environmental costs at the Nearman plant, on Wednesday night.

According to BPU spokesman, David Mehlhaff, the BPU does not currently have plans to adjust electric rates in 2015.

A BPU news release stated that the $450 million BPU budget was $75 million more than the 2014 budget.

The increase was the result of costs surrounding environmental upgrades at the Nearman coal-fired power plant, the news release stated.

Government mandates have resulted in increased costs for electric utilities as they comply with environmental rules to provide cleaner power to customers, according to the BPU news release.

The 2015 budget priorities include: remaining focused on needs of customers through increased communication and new customer friendly initiatives; delivering reliable electric and utility service through use of innovative, advanced technology, enforcing reliability standards for all transmission and distribution system components; energizing the new Fiberglass Substation to increase electric distribution capacity, reduce system losses and improve service to Fairfax commercial and industrial customers; begin construction of the Nearman Air Quality Control Project; promoting energy efficiency through customer education and develop new programs that improve overall energy efficiency in the community.

The news release stated that BPU will continue to improve internal efficiencies and reduce costs, assist and support community partners and governmental units, and meet and prepare for future customer growth.

Man stabbed near 7th and Minnesota

Kansas City, Kan., police have responded to a stabbing today at the bus stop at 7th and Minnesota in the downtown area.

According to a police spokesman, a man in his early 30s is suffering from a stab wound, and was taken to a hospital with serious injuries.

A person of interest was taken into custody in relation to this incident, the police spokesman said.

The bus stop is located near the police headquarters in Kansas City, Kan.

The incident is under investigation by the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Bureau. Anyone with information is asked to call the TIPS hotline at 816-474-TIPS.