Kansas City voters have important issues on upcoming ballot

Platte County voters will decide some important questions when they go to the polls on April 4. 

The Park Hill and North Platte school districts have bond issues on the ballot, important because schools are crucial to families and to a community’s economic welfare. Individuals are gallantly running for city office or various boards for the honor of dealing with problems and thankless tasks. 

If you want to see how complicated the world and people can be, get elected to local government, but voters within Kansas City, Mo. face the biggest financial questions on the ballot. A metropolitan city’s long-term health is at stake.

Kansas City mayor Sly James and most key city leaders are pushing for voters to approve an $800 million bond package for roads, bridges, sidewalks, flood control and bringing various city buildings into compliance with the Americans With Disability Act. The bond proposals are divided into three questions to be approved or rejected by voters separately at the polls. 

I hope these bonds pass because they will help all of Kansas City, including the Northland.

Question 1, if approved, would provide $600 million in bonds to fix streets, repair or replace outdated bridges, and provide good sidewalks where they are in poor condition or non-existent. 

Kansas City has an enormous geography thanks to annexations north, south and east of the original old city. A good side of this is pockets of rural countryside within the city limits, and there are places for parks. We’re not all concrete and pavement within the city limits. 

But there’s also a lot of outdated streets that now bear heavy traffic, and they need upgrades.

Old country roads don’t serve cities well when new houses line either side. Bridges built for light farm traffic now face more stress as well as age. 

And there are plenty of old streets and bridges long outdated south of the river, too.

Better streets and sidewalks can boost property values and economic development. That includes areas in southern Platte and Clay counties with housing built between 1900 and World War II and in the years immediately after the war. 

Not all need is in 1800s-built KC. As all of Kansas City goes, so will the Northland. Also, the city would assume the costs for sidewalks, which property owners currently have to bear.

Question 2 on the ballot would authorize $150 million for flood control improvements. 

This would allow work on stream channels and storm water systems to alleviate longtime flood prone areas. Proponents say the bonds could leverage $565 million in federal flood control dollars placed in water legislation by Emanuel Cleaver and Sam Graves, who represent most of the city in Congress. 

Among the projects mentioned are channel stabilization and modification along the East Fork of Line Creek in Platte County.

Question 3 would provide $50 million for a new animal shelter serving Kansas City and for money to bring various city buildings or projects into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

There is also a Question 4 on the ballot that calls for a one-eighth-cent citywide sales tax to support economic development in the city’s east side south of the Missouri River, older neighborhoods with deep-seated problems. I have mixed opinions on this question and offer neither endorsement nor opposition.

But the first three questions address basic infrastructure needs that a city builds upon. 
In some neighborhoods, this is rebuilding. Some of the problems with streets and flooding exist because engineers know far more now than they did many decades ago. 

In other places, such as newer neighborhoods in Platte County, it’s buttressing the economic health of neighboring sections of the city to keep urban decay at bay. The future is built on good roads, safe bridges and keeping above the floods. 

We need to be able to get from one end of town to the other safely without great delay.

City officials point out that this bond issue only addresses part of the $6 billion in infrastructure needs they have identified. But fix the most pressing needs and build things right in the growing Northland, and Kansas City will have a sparkle that perks up the entire metro area. 

Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at editor@plattecountycitizen.com.