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.