KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many people rely on Kansas City’s bus service to get around. It’s one issue that will be on the Nov. 7 ballot next month.
Kansas City residents in Jackson, Cass, Clay and Platte counties will also vote on a 10-year extension to the 3/8th-cent sales tax that supports the city’s bus service.
If passed, it’s expected to generate $421 million over the next decade.
“Having that transportation is definitely a beneficial factor, so being able to not have that opportunity would provide an obstacle to people that might not be able to,” Chris Lopez said.
He’s one of nearly 23,000 people who took the city bus last month. Lopez plans on voting yes on the sales tax extension.
But the Northland’s two presiding county commissioners are concerned about another public transit issue — and what it could mean for the future.
Clay County Commissioner Jerry Nolte and Platte County Commissioner Scott Frciker are worried about who represents their counties on the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority board.
State statute says Clay and Platte counties must submit three people to Mayor Quinton Lucas when their designated board seats opens up. The mayor is supposed to pick from those nominees.
Nolte said that’s not what happened this spring.
“We submitted our three individuals, and he went off lists in both the case of Clay and Platte county and named individuals not nominated by our county commissions,” Nolte said.
The Clay County leader argues this goes against state law.
Right now, Clay County’s KCATA board member, Jade Liska, also works for the city’s Aviation Department, which Nolte thinks raises concerns about the board’s independence — and Lucas’ influence.
“And if you’re not giving people representation according to the law, and you are in fact raising taxes on them or levying a tax, then you are denying them the representation that they deserve as people who are taxed,” Nolte told FOX4.
FOX4 emailed the mayor’s office twice Thursday asking for an interview or comment. We have not heard back as of this story’s publication.
While Nolte lives in Gladstone and won’t be voting on the sales tax extension, he did have this to say:
“How would I vote on the tax issue? … I would want to take into account why I was not being represented. That would be something that would play into my decision-making.”
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority released this statement to FOX4:
“The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) understands that Platte and Clay counties have concerns regarding how their communities are represented on the KCATA Board of Commissioners.
“However, to be clear, KCATA is not a City Department and is not involved in the selection process of KCATA commissioners.
“Here is an excerpt from the statute related to the selection of Commissioners: § 238.060 R.S.Mo.
- If the current commissioner or the position which has become vacant was appointed from Platte or Clay County, the county commission of the county shall submit a panel of three persons who are residents of that county and of any city, town or village, including the city of Kansas City, Missouri, that has appropriated funds for operations of the Kansas City area transportation authority in its current or immediately preceding fiscal year, selected by a majority vote of the commission, to the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, who shall appoint with the approval of a majority of the members of the city council of the city of Kansas City, Missouri, a successor;
“This sales tax renewal is unrelated to the concerns about board selection. The 3/8-cent on the ballot in November represents 30% of bus service in Kansas City, including the Northland.
“If it does not pass, the people making more than 1 million trips every month will be negatively impacted. If this funding is not renewed, the community would see routes eliminated, an overall reduction in frequency, including service for persons with disabilities and seniors, not to mention the loss of over 100 jobs, primarily Union bus operators and mechanics. Our riders depend on KCATA to get to work, school, healthcare and back home. A reduction of this magnitude would threaten their economic security.
“We recommend that voters educate themselves on KCATA services and how the 3/8-cent sales tax has supported bus service for the last 20 years.”