Government & Politics

Survey indicates KC’s infrastructure bond measures passing

Mayor Sly James gives details on $800 million 'GO' bond proposal

Kansas City Mayor Sly James held a Town Hall recently to discuss the city’s $800 million general obligation bond proposal that will be for voters to decide on the April 4 ballot. Dan Coffey of Citizens for Responsible Government had a few observat
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Kansas City Mayor Sly James held a Town Hall recently to discuss the city’s $800 million general obligation bond proposal that will be for voters to decide on the April 4 ballot. Dan Coffey of Citizens for Responsible Government had a few observat

Kansas City’s infrastructure bond proposal on the April 4 ballot appears to have sufficient voter support, according to a recent poll, although the survey question didn’t specifically mention the property tax increase needed to pay off the bonds.

The survey also shows support for a ballot measure to relax marijuana penalties.

The survey by Remington Research Group showed 62 percent of likely voters agreed Kansas City should be authorized to issue $800 million in general obligation bonds for streets, bridges, sidewalks, buildings and flood control. On that issue, 23 percent said “no” and 15 percent were undecided.

The automated phone survey was done March 24 and 25 with 1,458 likely municipal voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. The actual ballot measures on the general obligation bonds need a supermajority of 57.1 percent approval to pass.

“With the margin of error, it’s in good shape right now,” said Titus Bond, director of the Remington Research Group, which did the survey on behalf of Missouri Scout, a Jefferson City political news service. Missouri Scout has tended to follow St. Louis issues more closely, but Bond said it also wants to pay closer attention to Kansas City issues.

Kansas City’s April 4 ballot actually has three infrastructure questions: Question 1, seeking approval for $600 million in general obligation bonds for streets, bridges and sidewalks; Question 2, seeking $150 million for flood control projects; and Question 3, seeking $50 million for a new animal shelter plus Americans with Disabilities Act improvements to public buildings.

If all three pass, it will involve a cumulative property tax increase through the 20-year bond program. The average homeowner with a $140,000 house and $15,000 car would pay about $2,000 in additional taxes through 2036, and the entire bond payoff would likely take until 2056.

Bond said the presumption from the survey question was that if one of the ballot measures passes, all will pass. The survey question also did not specifically refer to a tax increase, because the ballot language doesn’t mention a tax increase, although it does say the city will set the property tax rate sufficient to pay principal and interest on the bonds.

The automated survey is done only on landline phones, which skews to older voters, but Bond said they are also more likely to vote in a special, low-turnout election like the one April 4. Election authorities say turnout could be less than 10 percent.

The survey showed the highest support, 72 percent, in District 4, which includes downtown and the Old Northeast as well as neighborhoods generally from State Line to Troost Avenue and north of 59th Street.

It also had more than 60 percent support in District 3, the urban core; and in District 6, which encompasses most of Kansas City south of Interstate 435.

It had 58 percent support in District 5, east of Troost between 51st Street and Interstate 435; 56 percent support in District 1, Kansas City in Clay County; and 54 percent support in District 2, primarily Platte County.

Steve Glorioso, spokesman for the infrastructure bond campaign, said the results were encouraging and generally reflect the sentiments expressed in door-to-door campaigning that field operators have conducted to tens of thousands of homes in the city over the past three months.

The survey did not ask likely voters about Question 4, a separate ballot question that proposes a one-eighth-cent citywide sales tax increase to promote central city economic development.

But it did ask about Question 5, which seeks to reduce the fine and eliminate the possibility of jail time for possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana. On that question, 56 percent were supportive, and it only needs a simple majority to pass.

The survey also asked about approval of Sly James’ job performance as Kansas City mayor. He garnered 66 percent approval, while 17 percent disapproved and 17 percent were unsure. That’s down from last year, when James’ approval was greater than 70 percent.

“He’s taken a bit of a hit,” Bond said of James, who is term-limited out of office in 2019.

While the next mayoral primary isn’t until April 2019, the survey also tested voter reaction to potential candidates, asking who would get the vote if the election were held now.

Fourth District Councilwoman Jolie Justus got 12 percent, while 3rd District at-large Councilman Quinton Lucas got 11 percent. Missouri Sen. Ryan Silvey got 8 percent; Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner got 6 percent; Missouri Sen. Jason Holsman got 5 percent and City Councilman Scott Taylor got 3 percent.

But the biggest winner? “Undecided” got 55 percent.

It’s still very early, Bond agreed, and most candidates have little name recognition.

“Nobody knows who anyone is,” he said.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley