Question 1 on Tuesday’s ballot in Kansas City comes from streetcar opponents. File photo by The Star
Question 1 on Tuesday’s ballot in Kansas City comes from streetcar opponents. File photo by The Star

Government & Politics

KC-area voters will weigh in Tuesday on streetcar, minimum wage, tax questions

By Lynn Horsley

August 04, 2017 05:48 PM

Tuesday is Election Day for Kansas City-area cities, and voters will decide issues related to the streetcar, minimum wage and taxes.

In Kansas City, voters will decide three questions, all placed by petition initiative, not by city government.

Question 1 is from streetcar opponents, who believe streetcars are a big waste of money. This ballot measure would prohibit Kansas City municipal government from planning for or implementing any fixed rail transit system without a citywide vote of approval.

This question comes just as several thousand voters along the Main Street corridor in midtown have approved formation of a larger streetcar taxing district, as the first step to streetcar expansion from downtown to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. That vote, certified Friday, was 2,458 votes in favor of and 1,048 against the new district formation.

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If citywide voters approve Question 1 on Tuesday, it could hinder progress for that transportation district. If voters citywide approve Question 1, the City Council will consider whether it is legal or should be repealed or challenged in court.

Neil Nakahodo

Question 2 is a petition initiative from maverick transit activist Clay Chastain, who has placed numerous unsuccessful measures on Kansas City ballots but lives in Bedford, Va. Question 2 seeks a  3/8 -cent sales tax increase for 25 years to help pay the costs of a rapid rail and electric bus system. Voter approval of Question 2 would authorize Ordinance 170043, which calls for implementing, as much as possible, the following improvements:

A rail route from Vivion Road in the Northland to the Kansas City Zoo, with electric bus extensions beyond that to Kansas City International Airport and the Cerner campus out south.

The rail spine would run from Vivion Road to City Market and from Union Station to the zoo, predominantly in its own right-of-way, with stops at Penn Valley Park, Armour Boulevard, Westport, the Plaza, UMKC, 57th and Troost, Brookside, and Research Medical Center.

Another line would go east from downtown to the Truman Sports Complex with stops at Hospital Hill, Troost, Prospect and the VA hospital. Another line would go east from downtown to Old Northeast.

Critics say the local tax won’t raise nearly enough money to build Chastain’s vision, even with federal funding. If voters approve it, the City Council will have to decide whether it’s remotely feasible or should be repealed.

Question 3 is another petition initiative seeking a gradual increase in Kansas City’s local minimum wage, to $15 per hour by 2022. However, a new state law pre-empts such a local increase, so there’s a serious legal question about whether this could ever be implemented, even with voter approval.

Other ballot measures include:

▪ Proposition 1 on the Clay County ballot seeks a quarter-cent sales tax increase to establish a countywide children’s services fund for youths aged 19 and younger.

▪ The city of Independence is seeking a half-cent sales tax renewal for transportation purposes such as streets, sidewalk and bridge maintenance and construction. The tax was first approved in 1998.

▪ The city of Grandview is also seeking renewal of a a half-cent capital improvements sales tax that was first approved in 1998.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley