Editorial: Voters say ‘yes’ to Kansas City by approving bond, tax proposals

Voters including Peggy Sample (foreground) cast their ballots on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at the Harmony Vineyard church in the Northland.
Voters including Peggy Sample (foreground) cast their ballots on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at the Harmony Vineyard church in the Northland. kmyers@kcstar.com

Kansas City delivered an extraordinary vote of confidence to the city’s leaders Tuesday and provided a needed jolt of momentum to the community.

Voters approved all three GO bond issues on the ballot, authorizing infrastructure repairs, flood control and building renovations. Supporters of the bond package succeeded despite the steep requirement of a 57.1 percent supermajority.

The proposals also passed despite a despicable and misleading last-minute opposition radio ad, which included racist subtext.

Voters endorsed a proposed one-eighth-cent sales tax for the East Side, a boost for the community’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

And voters passed Question 5, an initiative reducing city penalties for minor marijuana possession.

Voters’ decision to greenlight the $800 million infrastructure plan is welcome news.

It reflects a belief that City Hall can be trusted to spend the money wisely. The city is now authorized to borrow up to $40 million annually for the next 20 years, then spend the cash on sidewalks and streets, storm drainage and a new animal shelter.

The City Council has an absolute obligation to prove itself worthy of the faith voters have placed in their elected officials. Mayor Sly James promised an annual report card on the spending from the bond program, and he must deliver.

City staffers should keep a close eye on costs. Bids and contracts should be airtight. Overruns and bloated budgets should be rejected.

We recommended approval of all three bond issues. The final price tag should average about $100 a year for a typical homeowner.

While that number is reasonable, it ain’t peanuts, either. Kansas City — led by the mayor — should once again review the scope and cost of taxes in the community with an eye toward reductions.

Kansas City voters also endorsed the One City proposal, Question 4, providing hope to thousands of residents in some of Kansas City’s neglected neighborhoods.

The sales tax will raise $100 million over the next 10 years for improvements and incentives along the Prospect Corridor on the East Side.

The vote suggests Kansas Citians are willing to help out their less fortunate neighbors. Here, too, City Hall must watch carefully to make sure the funds are spent properly.

Voters approved Question 5, the measure that will reduce the city’s penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The ordinance revision limits fines to $25 and prohibits jail time.

The change might lull some to think a possession charge in Municipal Court is not that big of a deal.

But it could still be a very big deal for young people, whose job prospects won’t be enhanced by a drug conviction. Those seeking government jobs in particular may lose out, and student loans might be at risk.

We opposed Question 5 because it was a confusing half-step that didn’t solve a difficult problem.

The City Council has a right to amend or repeal the ordinance — with nine votes in the first year and a simple majority after that.

We would not normally recommend immediate changes in a voter-approved law, and the strong vote for Question 5 should draw the attention of lawmakers everywhere.

Still, the council will want to give the new ordinance careful scrutiny in the days ahead.