Will KC voters give Mayor James two big victories today?
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City voters today will decide one of the most low-key tax elections in a quarter century.
As that happens, Mayor Sly James can rest comfortably with this fact: He’s a winner if voters endorse only one of the two questions.
And he’s a big winner if voters approve both questions.
Finally, if Kansas Citians reject both questions - which I think is unlikely - he can point to the continued bad economy as one of the main reasons for those losses.
Yes, the mayor wants voters to endorse both Questions 1 and 2.
(Personally, I oppose Question 1, the sales tax that will increase tax revenues by $23 million a year for City Hall. The mayor and I are on the same side with Question 2, which would allow the city to issue $500 million in revenue bonds to make needed sewer upgrades.)
But even if voters approve just the sewer bonds - which I think is the one that will get more votes - the mayor can cross off a big priority on his list.
That leaves the sales tax question and its fate open for debate.
James has, through his upbeat personality, tried to convince Kansas Citians they need to invest in better basic infrastructure such as parks and roads to truly lift the city’s future. He also wants a sales tax increase that would spread the burden of paying for some of these amenities.
I agree this far: The city does need a strong parks system and certainly needs to invest more money in its roads.
However, I don’t support giving City Hall $23 million a year in extra money until James and his administration have made progress on other priorities of making sure public dollars are well spent. That means reining in pensions, for instance, something the city still has not done.
James argues it will happen and, to his credit, he’s headed in the right direction, along with City Manager Troy Schulte.
Yet the deed isn’t done yet. Neither are other priorities, such as reducing the cost of health insurance for police officers or cutting the Fire Department staffing to a reasonable level.
Still, voters may disagree with that view and go along with the mayor’s recommendation that spending more money will build a better city.
If that happens - if voters endorse both Questions 1 and 2 today - Mayor James will be off to the best start possible in his second year in office.