Platte County voters will play role in choosing new KC mayor

Platte County is merely a team player in the politics governing the city of Kansas City. But we’re an important player today and for the future. Looming like a slow moving storm cloud on a distant horizon is the Kansas City mayoral race.

Bill Graham

Bill Graham

Eleven declared candidates are campaigning ahead of the April 2 primary election. About half are serious candidates, a few taking a long shot, others trying to make a point.

In this era of fractured media coverage for a metropolitan area and a few generations getting all their news from national feeds over their cell phones, it’s quite possible that a very high percentage of the county’s eligible voters within the city limits of Kansas City don’t even know a mayoral election is at hand.

But you Dear Reader are reading a newspaper and are informed, so I’m not concerned about you.

However, I do worry a bit that issues pertaining to our part of the city will get their fair share of attention from the candidates. A candidate looking north will see that the city kisses the boundaries of the county seat, Platte City, and surrounds or borders communities such as Ferrelview, Platte Woods, Lake Waukomis, Houston Lake, Weatherby Lake, Riverside, Parkville — how confusing. The candidates may also note less complaints come from our county because so much of the commercial and residential properties within the city of Kansas City are relatively new, thus with less maintenance problems.

But we’re not without issues. Voters within the city would be wise to note which candidates bother to talk about the Northland. And if they do, what specifically are they saying?

Here are some things for candidates and voters to ponder.

Growth is the major issue for Platte County. Some want more growth faster to get more money flowing through the community. Others would prefer more limited growth or none at all, especially in their neighborhood. Well growth is coming, like it or not. The compromise position is quality growth with streets and intersections capable of handling vehicle traffic without jams, plenty of green space, accommodations for pedestrians and bicycles and an insistence on commercial structures not overly bland.

Platte Countians showed their support for healthy parks by supporting a sales tax in two separate elections for a county parks system. But Kansas City is a major parks player, too. Residents expect and deserve their share of money devoted to the city’s park system.

Voters should also look for a mayor committed to ensuring that parkways and boulevards are built to the city’s standards. Developers would like to cut corners to decrease costs and increase profits. High standards along boulevards and parkways helped insure quality construction near them in old Kansas City south of the river. We deserve that quality in the north. The new growth coming in the First Creek and Second Creek watersheds east of Interstate 29 and south of Missouri 92 will be a test of that.

A mayor will have to wrestle with a problem at the other end of the income spectrum, too. Affordable housing, to buy or to rent, is among the campaign fodder thus far in this mayoral election. Well it’s an issue in the north, too. Very few new apartment complexes and subdivisions are being built in price ranges affordable for low to medium incomes. That includes for families where the parents are just starting out on work careers. Whatever steps a new city hall administration takes to boost affordable housing, our county should get a piece of that pie.

We need a mayor that will battle for state and federal dollars for transportation infrastructure. We’re a commuter county, primarily, and like much of America, we’re driving on an outdated highway system.

Our schools are so important to our communities. We need a Kansas City mayor who is not willing to give tax breaks to corporate projects that shortchange and harm our schools.

Whoever gets elected mayor will have an extremely full plate. Kansas City is geographically huge and socially and economically complicated. But we want that mayor to remember that Platte County is a player. Watch for signs of that among candidates as the primary approaches.