KC will have only one measure on November ballot

Kansas City will have just one modest item on the Nov. 6 ballot, despite passionate appeals from activists for three other ballot measures.

Thursday was the deadline for the City Council to approve issues for the November ballot. After hours of debate, the council voted not to place a measure before voters that would have called for a $100 annual tax per sign face on billboards to deal with billboard blight.

Supporters said it was a way for the billboard industry to help the city solve a serious code enforcement problem, but opponents said the idea for the tax was too rushed, didn’t raise enough money and closed the door on more creative solutions.

The council also opted not to put on the ballot an initiative supported by a group opposing nuclear weapons.

The Peace Planters gathered more than 5,000 signatures of registered voters, petitioning for a measure that would prevent Kansas City from having any future financial involvement in a weapons component plant like the one under construction in south Kansas City.

The Peace Planters concede they cannot halt the current plant but want to prevent any future such plants in Kansas City. While City Attorney Bill Geary has said the proposed ballot language is legal, other attorneys argued it is not. The council put the matter off until next week, past the ballot deadline.

Members of the Peace Planters said Thursday they were weighing whether to seek a court order forcing the city to put their measure on the ballot in November.

Transit activist Clay Chastain also had urged the council to put his latest light rail plan on the November ballot, but his plea drew no council response. A Jackson County judge has already ruled Chastain’s measure unlawful because it doesn’t provide full funding, but Chastain is appealing that decision.

The City Council did approve a ballot question Thursday that will seek voter approval to raise the mandatory retirement age for municipal judges from 65 to 70. That same proposal failed by 311 votes in 2006, but the city attorney has warned that Kansas City’s lower age limit conflicts with state law and could subject the city to a lawsuit.