Kansas Citians and indefatigable Mayor Sly James are the big winners in the aftermath of Tuesdays elections.
By YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH
The Kansas City Star
And Johnson Countians are the big, big losers.
Kansas City voters showed they are willing to use more public funds to provide better basic services, especially for parks, roads and sewers.
Johnson Countians showed they are prepared to cut and cut some more when it comes to government spending.
If youre looking for a leader in fearlessly acting to provide a superior quality of life for this region, Kansas City has put its best foot forward.
Meanwhile, Johnson Countians look like they are ready to retrench after years of being the areas movers and shakers.
Think this goes too far?
Then check this out.
Kansas Citians who live in Republican-dominated Platte County voted 55-45 percent on Tuesday in favor of a new half-cent sales tax to bolster spending on city parks and roads. So much for all the hoopla about how GOP voters hate extra taxes, especially in this tough economy. The increase also was approved by city voters living in Jackson and Clay counties.
My takeaway: With the highly popular James leading the charge, the city provided a credible, nonpartisan plan to improving the communitys assets. Voters decided to embrace it.
They wanted to restore some employees and programs to the Parks and Recreation Department. Kansas Citians showed they wont mind spending more public revenue $3 million a year to bolster an agency that has been recognized as one of the nations best for years but has fallen on hard times lately. Residents told City Hall they are willing to pay for cleaner parks, community centers with longer hours and other enhanced parks programs.
As for roads, Kansas Citians finally said enough is enough, and gave permission to spend at least an extra $15 million a year on smoother streets.
Voters also backed the use of $500 million in revenue bonds to upgrade sewers, paid for with higher sewer rates.
Meanwhile, the view is grimmer in Johnson County.
On Tuesday voters gave resounding primary victories to ultra-conservative Republican state Senate candidates in four of the five most hotly contested races in the county. The candidates supported by Gov. Sam Brownback appear ready to take control of the entire Legislature unless Democrats somehow rally in November.
The victories by the ultra-conservatives endanger state funds for keeping Johnson County schools well-financed. Plus, the potential is much higher that public money for services to seniors and low-income residents both fast-growing parts of Johnson Countys population will be slashed in Topeka.
But theres more bad news for Johnson Countys future.
The leading candidates for an open County Commission seat Tuesday said they were against higher taxes.
Whats wrong with this picture?
Well, the county has been cutting its library hours and personnel in recent months. The county also has had to trim future spending goals for its other public amenities, especially its renowned parks system.
Where are the people speaking up for using a little bit more tax money to keep Johnson County as the premier place to live in the region?
They have been cowed outspent and outvoted by ultra-conservative forces and residents who seem bent on creating a grimmer future for the county when it comes to superb public services.
Add in several more facts.
Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan., will get Google fiber first, making dozens of neighborhoods in those cities more attractive to residents when it comes to high-speed Internet connections.
Downtown voters just endorsed creation of a streetcar taxing district, with a vote on funding the two-mile system to come this fall.
For now, Johnson Countians have taken a step backward when it comes to being leaders for this area.
And Kansas Citians have taken a bold stride toward upgrading crucial basic services, intent on building a better future for this region.