72.8% of voters approved a 10-year extension for the KCATA bus service. It was set to expire in 2024. // Photo courtesy KCATA.

City ballot issues pass overwhelmingly

By John Sharp

The two questions KCMO government put on the November 7 ballot both passed overwhelmingly citywide but with significantly higher margins in Jackson County than in Clay and Platte Counties.  

No votes were cast on either measure in the very small portion of Cass County within KCMO, according to the Cass County Clerk’s office.

Question 1 was a 10-year extension of KCMO’s current 3/8 of a cent sales tax to support bus service in the city by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority that was scheduled to expire in March 2024.  Much of the revenue from the tax comes from out-of-town visitors to the city.

Requiring just a simple majority for passage, it passed with 72.8% of the vote based on unofficial results.

It passed with 77.7% of the vote in Jackson County, but with only 59.8% in Clay County and just 68.5% in Platte County.  Some Northland leaders had been critical of the proposal during the campaign, citing what they felt was a lack of adequate bus service in their areas.

Defeat of the proposal, however, would have been a threat to bus service throughout the city since the tax generates about 30% of KCATA’s overall budget, likely forcing significant cutbacks in existing service and making it extremely difficult if not impossible to continue to expand service to underserved areas as the KCATA has in recent years to some areas in the southland.

If the proposal had failed, some bus routes probably would have been eliminated entirely while service would have been cut on other routes by reducing the frequency of service or eliminating night and weekend service, according to some city and KCATA officials.  Layoffs also were anticipated.

Nicholas Miller, president and business agent of Local 1287 of the Amalgamated Transit Union that represents unionized KCATA employees, said the measure’s approval by almost a three-to-one margin shows city residents understand how important the public bus system is and realize many people without reliable personal transportation rely on it to get to work or access other needed services.

In an interview, Miller noted the 10-year tax extension will bring more financial stability to the system, let it plan better for the future based on reliable revenue estimates and help it attract and retain skilled employees.

The last renewal of the tax was for 15 years.

Question 2 was to allow the city to remove a small tract of about 5.4 acres of vacant and undeveloped land with rugged terrain in the northland from the city’s park system and sell it through a competitive process.

The Board of Parks & Recreation Commissioners had determined the tract north of NE 32nd Ter. between N. Oak Trfkwy. and N. Holmes was not needed for park, parkway or boulevard use.

Although removing small tracts of unneeded land from the park system from time to time is a relatively routine process and there was no apparent organized opposition to this measure, the public’s support for the park system and its protective attitude toward parkland  was evident in the vote on this proposal which passed  with 62.9% of the citywide vote, about 10% less than the vote in favor of the sales tax to support bus service.

While the measure passed with 67.3% of the vote in Jackson County, it only received 53.2% of the vote in Clay County where the tract is located and 54.8% of the vote in neighboring Platte County. 

The city charter requires a public vote before disposing of any park property.

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