Nearly 60 years later, Kansas City streetcar is connecting downtown again
Voters in the newly formed taxing district to extend Kansas City’s downtown streetcar system to the University of Missouri-Kansas City go to the polls Saturday to decide who will sit on the district’s board of directors.
There’s just one question on the ballot asking voters to choose up to seven directors from the 19 candidates running for the board of the Main Street Rail Transportation Development District.
“They don’t have to vote for seven candidates,” Shawn Kieffer, a Kansas City Election Board director, said. “They can vote for as few as they want.”
The seven candidates with the most votes will win the election. The length of their terms vary based on the total votes each candidate received. Three directors would serve three-year terms. Two would serve two-year terms and two would serve one-year terms.
The election is the second in a three-step process to build the $227 million expanded rail system south from Union Station to 51st Street and Brookside Boulevard.
In the first step, voters approved via a mail-in ballot process the boundaries of the Main Street Rail Transportation Development District. In the third election, voters will be asked to approve specific local sales and property taxes needed to help fund the expansion.
The list of candidates for the board of directors includes seven streetcar supporters who plan to run as a slate: David Johnson and Jeff Krum, who serve on the current downtown streetcar authority; former city council members Cindy Circo and Jan Marcason; civic advocate Ruben Alonso and engineer Leonard Graham, who both live in the Union Hill neighborhood; and Crissy Dastrup, who lives in Midtown.
Johnson said voters need to realize that they are not voting for or against the streetcar expansion.
“It’s important that people who want the streetcar but are responsible participating citizens are put on the board to make sure the ratepayers’ interests are protected and that the project actually gets built,” Johnson said. “That’s what voters intended when they approved the district in August.”
Meanwhile, Be SmartKC, which is dedicated to stopping streetcar expansion, is urging voters to select only four candidates: Steve McCandless, a South Plaza resident, Linda Hart Tabory, a resident of Rockhill, Ted Derks, a Country Side resident, and Greg Allen, a staunch critic of the difficult and cumbersome streetcar election process and the attempt to tax a relatively small segment of the city for the project.
These candidates are of like mind that this project requires a lot more scrutiny and transparency than it has seen thus far, Allen said.
“If elected, I think we’re going to scrutinize everything that is brought before this board — we’ll have to see what makes sense and what doesn’t,” Allen said. “I think we must examine the voting process that has played out so far, including the proposed vote on taxes.”
Other candidates are Timothy Zook, Tyler Watt, William Farrar, Quinton Shaw, Timothy Jury, Brendan Waters, Jesse Whidden and Dane Mehringer.
What directors do
The board of directors will oversee the local funding generated from the transportation district. The board, however, does not design, construct, manage or operate the streetcar.
The directors will set the date for the final election where voters within the transportation district will be asked to approve the local sales tax increase and special assessments on property.
The board, however, can’t impose the sales tax and assessments and start collecting revenue until the rest of the funding has been obtained.
At that time, the board would likely finalize the boundaries of the assessment zone. The board, however, can’t expand it beyond what was approved by voters in August.
Directors are not compensated for serving on the board.
When and who can vote
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Saturday. Only registered voters who live within transportation district may vote.
There are about 35,000 registered voters who live in the district’s boundaries — generally from the Missouri River to 53rd Street and from State Line Road to Campbell Street.
Absentee voting at the election board’s offices ends at 5 p.m. Friday, according to the Kansas City Election Board.
In addition to the absentee and central voting location at the Kansas City Election Board, Suite 2800 in Union Station at 30 W. Pershing Road, there are six polling locations:
▪ Two at Sacred Heart Hall at 814 W. 26th St.
▪ The Whole Person at 3710 Main St.
▪ Immanuel Lutheran Church at 1700 Westport Road
▪ Central Methodist Church at 5144 Oak St.
▪ Garrison Community Center at 1124 E. Fifth St.
The election board sent out election notice postcards Saturday notifying voters about their polling locations. For some, they will be voting where they usually vote.
But for the majority of voters, they will cast their ballots in a different location.
For those who didn’t receive a card or need to check on their polling locations, go to election board website at www.kceb.org/ and enter their last name and date of birth in the “Oct. 7 TDD Locations” box. People can also call the election board at 816-842-4820.
Who pays for this election
This election is not sponsored by the city of Kansas City. It’s being sponsored by a group of petitioners seeking the streetcar expansion, which is also paying the estimated $45,518 cost of the election.