Window on the West
by Mary Rupert
It was more than a year ago that I was writing that an appointment was expected soon for the vacant Unified Government Commission, 1st District, at large seat. But it’s still not filled.
The commission last year deadlocked on selecting an appointment to the seat, with neither of two final candidates getting the required majority of votes. That’s a year and more that the north side of town has been underrepresented, and the south side of town has had one more representative than the north side during that time. It’s unbalanced, and it’s time to do something about it.
Different commission opinions on whether to continue trying to fill the seat do not always break down along geographical lines. For example, Commissioner Ann Murguia of the 3rd District, on the south side, stated she would be OK with bringing other candidates forward if the rest of the UG Commission is ready to vote. But, the whole issue appears to be on the back burner right now.
Some good ideas earlier, such as one from Mary Martin to put the appointment on the election ballot, were shot down by local officials because the UG charter did not allow that to be done.
Community activist Alvin Sykes is still trying to pry the UG out of its stuck-in-the-mud stance on the issue. He was in court again on Wednesday with Carolyn Wyatt’s lawsuit on the issue to see if any progress could be made toward getting an appointment to the position, but he said there was another continuance in the case.
The UG’s answer to Carolyn Wyatt’s lawsuit was that it was “discretionary” on its part whether to fill the vacancy. However, Sykes pointed out that the charter ordinance said the UG Commission “shall” make an appointment to fill the seat, which means it must do it. He mentioned cases of other cities where there was a tie vote having voted more than 50 times before finally reaching a decision, while Kansas City, Kan.,-Wyandotte County only tried to vote around four times, he said.
Sykes has come to the conclusion that the delays are “really more for political reasons.” There has been speculation that some of City Hall opposes both of the candidates who were finalists earlier. While the candidates were affected by the “none of the above” decision, also affected were residents who have one fewer representative who can vote in the district’s best interests.
“It’s not fair,” Sykes said. “And it sends the signal to the public that if they let this go this long and do not address it, the at-large seat is not necessary to have. They’re not expressing a sense of urgency to fill it. But if you don’t need a 1st District, at-large position, why do you need a 2nd District, at-large?”
Let’s face it. It’s been a year and more. Wyandotte County had plenty of time to either vote for one of the two nominees until one is selected; or to start the process over and consider other candidates; or to change the UG charter ordinance and select another method of settling the issue, such as a coin toss or a special election at the polls.
The fact that the seat has been allowed to be vacant, perhaps until the spring 2015 local elections, is an insult to all residents living in the 1st District, at large, who deserve to have representation.
If you want to try to pry the UG out of its stuck position on this issue, just contact your commissioners or the mayor’s office (573-5040, http://www.wycokck.org/commissioners/, 573-5010, http://www.wycokck.org/mayor/ ) and voice your opinion.
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