From the Wyandotte Daily News print edition
The campaign for mayor of Kansas City, Kan., is continuing in a mostly positive manner as Election Day, April 2, approaches.
Some residents are saying they are still undecided with less than two weeks to go until Election Day. Advance voting started March 19 and will continue until noon April 1.
Candidates Mark Holland and Ann Murguia, both Unified Government commissioners, have been making appearances at local events, explaining their positions on the issues.
Holland, a moderate, appeared to draw support from many who backed Joe Reardon, Carol Marinovich and from some local Democratic Party leaders, while Murguia, who expresses some fiscal conservative ideas, gained support from Nathan Barnes, Joe Steineger, Tom Burroughs, Stan Frownfelter, and several labor unions including the firefighters and police union.
On March 16 at a campaign appearance, Holland talked about continuing the economic development of the past several years and making sure citizens are connected to the new jobs. When the STAR bonds are paid off, expected in four years, he said funding needs to continue to be invested in business as well as in property tax relief for residents. He listed grocery store projects around the community, including at 18th and I-70, in Turner, at 55th and Leavenworth Road, at Wyandotte Plaza, and plans for more in the urban areas. He said Indian Springs would need to be a primary focus.
Both candidates are talking about economic development throughout the county.
Murguia, in a campaign statement, said her district had seen a great amount of economic development in the past five years, she has a proven record for development in her district, and she would be able to create new economic development opportunities for the midtown and urban areas, growing the tax base and lowering the high tax rate. She said she would include all the people of Wyandotte County in decision-making. Her district has seen redevelopment with new houses, new retail stores, new grocery stores and a new library. Murguia’s approach is to survey the residents of a district, find out their priorities and then work on those goals.
Both candidates say they favor holding down property taxes. It’s not likely that there will be a UG property tax increase proposed this year, and one of the campaigns is taking a look back at the 2011 budget. Murguia’s supporters are highlighting their differences over the 2011 budget, when Holland voted for a mill levy increase, and Murguia opposed it.
Murguia says she has never voted for a tax increase, although taxes were raised by $11 million in the six years she was a UG commissioner. In 2011, according to news stories from the Wyandotte Daily News files, UG revenues had declined, so property taxes were raised about $38 for the average taxpayer, and with additional fee increases, it was an average $60 increase. It was an 8.9 percent mill levy increase. The vote at one of the budget meetings on July 28, 2011, was 6-4 in favor of the increase. Holland voted for the 2011 budget, while Murguia voted against it.
At that time, according to the file stories, Holland said that valuation was down about 15 percent in the county, and that sales tax revenue also was down. In 2011, the UG had already lost 300 positions through attrition, early retirement and a hiring freeze, and the commission would have needed to lay off 200 more people to balance the budget, he said at the time. The majority of the commission then voted to raise the mill levy instead.
The local revenue picture has improved a lot in the past two years, and the UG’s current budget plan for 2014 is to maintain the current level of property taxes, not increase it.
All of the UG commission members endorsed candidates this year. Earlier, Holland was endorsed by Joe Reardon and Carol Marinovich, along with some commissioners. On March 9, Murguia was endorsed by Nathan Barnes and some of the UG commissioners.
While the candidates themselves have mostly stayed away from going negative in their speeches, some of their fellow commissioners who made endorsements have received letters from the Unified Government Ethics Commission. Mike Kane confirmed that he and some others received a letter last week from the Ethics Commission about their endorsements. UG ethics rules do not allow commissioners to use their titles in announcements, advertising or campaign information about endorsements.
Campaign finance statements filed by the candidates showed that on Feb. 19, Holland had a lot more money available to spend than did Murguia. Murguia had raised more money, and spent more in the primary.
Holland’s Feb. 19 statement showed total contributions of $32,079, expenditures of $16,847, and cash on hand of $15,231 for the campaign.
Murguia’s Feb. 19 statement showed contributions of $37,060, expenditures of $34,699, and cash on hand of $2,360.
Some of the well-known contributors to Holland’s campaign were Ray Daniels, John Jurcyk, Patricia Pettey, Gary Grable, William Dunn Jr., George Breidenthal, Kelly Kultala, Melissa Bynum, and Matthew Watkins. He also received a contribution from MRPP Inc., which has the same address as Rep. Mike Peterson.
Murguia’s donors included many real estate developers, including Hugh Zimmer; many lawyers, some construction companies, and several labor unions. Other contributors included the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma, Scherzer Real Estate, David Spehar, Joe Vaught, Joanne Gilstrap, Elmer Sharp, and many people from the south side of Kansas City, Kan.
Giving to both the Holland and Murguia campaigns were KC Waterpark Management, affiliated with the Schlitterbahn; Kansas Speedway Development; and the Northeast Citizens for Progress.
For more information about advance voting, polling places, and hours of the election, visit the website www.wycokck.org/election, or call the election office at 913-573-8500. The election office is at 850 State Ave. To check your voting place, you can visit the Voter View website at https://myvoteinfo.voteks.org/.