A judge has ordered another election in the proposed Kansas City streetcar expansion process, and it’s another unusual situation. This time an election will be held on a Saturday, Oct. 7.
Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs has issued an order declaring that a new Kansas City streetcar taxing district is officially established, following an unusual mail-in election of registered voters living within those boundaries, between the Missouri River and 53rd Street and between State Line Road and Campbell Street.
This district could eventually encompass an expanded streetcar route from Union Station to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
But the district boundary formation election is just the first step in a multi-step process to actually extend the streetcar route beyond downtown and south through midtown.
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Next up is an election of seven people who would serve on a board of directors for the new streetcar district. Candidates must currently live within the district boundaries, be at least 21 years old, and have lived in Missouri for at least a year prior to Oct. 7.
Three directors would serve three-year terms. Two would serve two-year terms and two would serve one-year terms. This could also be an interesting election because it could feature both candidates who support streetcar expansion and those who oppose streetcar expansion.
The judge set the special election for Oct. 7, a Saturday. It will be from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and it will likely be at one or two central polling locations. Eligible voters will be notified of the location head of time.
Kansas City Election Board Director Shawn Kieffer said the election board thought a Saturday election would be easier to administer and wanted to give it a try.
“We wanted to see what turnout would be, and what would happen,” he said.
This election is going forward even though a citywide election Aug. 8 threw streetcar expansion into doubt. That’s because voters citywide narrowly approved a petition initiative from streetcar opponents that prohibits city participation in streetcar expansion without a citywide vote.
Some have said the Aug. 8 vote could eventually halt streetcar expansion because the city will have to be a partner in that expansion process. But others have questioned the legality of the Aug. 8 ballot measure and have suggested the City Council may repeal it. Repealing a voter-approved measure, however, can be politically problematic.
There’s not yet legal clarity on what will happen, although supporters of the new streetcar taxing district say the Aug. 8 vote can’t halt the streetcar district planning.
The October election is not being sponsored by the city of Kansas City. It’s being sponsored and paid for by a group of petitioners seeking the streetcar expansion. One polling place is less expensive than multiple polling places.
Candidates must pay a $5 filing fee to the Jackson County clerk and then go to the Kansas City election board to take an oath declaring their candidacy. Two candidates so far have done that: longtime streetcar advocate David Johnson and former city councilwoman Cindy Circo.
If streetcar expansion is to move forward, a third election will have to be held next year, again by mail, in which voters within the district would be asked to approve the specific sales and property taxes necessary to pay the local portion of streetcar expansion. Federal funds would also be needed to make the project a reality.