It’s time to vote for several offices and ballot measures, including a chance to restore the name of The Paseo in Kansas City (which was changed to MLK Jr. Blvd last January), pick the mayor of Wichita, and a measure that could save Kansas money on the Census.

Early voting is available in some places, if you want to avoid the rush on Nov 5. Check out our slide show below for the basics.

Everything You Need to Vote, at ksballot.org

Thanks to a change by the Kansas Legislature, Kansans now vote every November. In even years, along with the presidential election (every four years) Kansans vote for their state elected officials, such as statewide offices ,(governor, secretary of state, treasurer, etc.) those we send to Topeka to serve in the Legislature, county commissioners and judges.

In November, on odd years, we vote for local officials (school board members, city council members, junior college board of trustees and utility board members).

However, this year with presidential elections and even Senate and Congressional races starting earlier and earlier, it’s hard for local races to get much attention.

So if you find yourself not feeling as well informed as you’d like about who’s on the ballot or their position on issues, you should check out ksballot.org.

WHO’S ON YOUR BALLOT There, you can find out who is on “your” ballot. Just enter your address, and it will pull up the candidates and issues on your ballot. This year, every Kansan has the amendment to fix how the state adjusts National Census results. (see story this page) Otherwise, you should see only the candidates that will be on the ballot you receive at the poll. 

RESEARCH CANDIDATES Each candidate listed on ksballot.org has links to their webpages, Facebook pages, and other places where you can research their positions on issues important to you. When available, candidate statements are provided right on ksballot.org, but we encourage every voter to research candidates as thoroughly as possible.

CREATE VOTER’S GUIDE You can even save your choices in your own voter guide! You can print your guide, or email it to yourself to take it to the polls.

Find your polling place and make a plan to vote. If you want to vote early, the tool will show you what dates are available for early voting, and show you the closest location based on your address.

Pick a time, it knows what times the polls are open, both for advance voting and on Election Day. Or, if you want to vote by mail, there’s also a link to order an advance ballot in the mail instead.

Kansans May Be Surprised by Census Ballot Issue 

You know how you show up for an election and after you vote for the candidates you’re supporting, you find all these issues at the back of the ballot that you know nothing about? Well, this article is designed to tell you about the one ballot issue all Kansans will find at the back of their ballot this year.

This a relatively minor issue, with the vote changing how Kansas counts “the place of residents” for students and military personnel. Currently, under the Kansas constitution, the Secretary of State is required to survey college students and military personnel assigned to bases to find out if they want to be counted where they’re residing now, or where they live when they’re not at college or on post.

College students who spend nine months of the year in Manhattan, for example, might indicate they want to be counted back home in Salina. If they are from out of state, a member of the military posted to Fort Riley might indicate they want to be marked as residing in their hometown in Ohio.

Why change that?

The process was originally put in place to help squelch the loss of population from rural communities. There are some who still suggest this would end up favoring urban centers over rural ones, or would hurt more conservative parts of the state, but the effect would be small and not worth the cost, says current Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab (R).

According to Schwab, the process costs a lot of money, and takes a lot of time. Schwab estimates that for the upcoming Census, the process would cost Kansas over $800,000, and reduce the amount of time for the 2022 redistricting process by 3 to 6 months.

Second, the Census is designed to help states and the federal government allocate funding for services and programs depending on how many people live in a given community. For a decade, until the next Census in 2030, the resources for those communities will be dependent on the 2020 Census count. College students and military personnel spend most of the year on campus or on base. The resources to support them should go to those communities for infrastructure, libraries, health services, community organizations, and other public services.

Support for this amendment has broad bipartisan support.

Paseo Blvd Name Change the Largest Issue on KCMO Ballot

By Bonita Gooch, The Community Voice

While there are races to fill two vacancies in the Missouri House of Representatives on the Nov. 5 special elections ballot in Kansas City, and four questions authorizing the Parks and Recreation Department to sell off some excess land, there is not an issue more contentious than the ballot issue to change the recently named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd back to its original name: The Paseo.

CITY OF KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

QUESTION 5

SHALL THE FOLLOWING BE APPROVED?

Shall the City of Kansas City change the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., which is approximately 9.98 miles in length from the center line of Lexington Avenue south and east to a point south of the center line of East 85th Street, back to The Paseo Boulevard?

• A vote Yes, changes the name to The Paseo

• A vote No, keeps the name Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

The Issue

In January 2019, the Kansas City, Mo., City Council voted to change the name of Paseo Blvd to Martin Luther King, after what some consider limited input from the community. The 8-to-4 vote was immediately controversial and by spring, enough signatures had been secured on a petition to force a vote on the issue by the citizens of KCMO.

The Paseo History

The Paseo, built as part of the city’s beautification effort, dates back to the late 19th century. The beautifully landscaped boulevard features fountains, benches, and pergolas, and connects to some of the city’s grandest parks.

“It was really the crown jewel of the park system and of the City Beautiful movement in Kansas City,” said Jeremy Drouin, manager of Missouri Valley Special Collections.

At 10 miles, it is one of the city’s longest roads. The name “Paseo” was inspired by a famous thoroughfare in Mexico City. As a boulevard, the maintenance and control of The Paseo falls under the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The Name Change History

Kansas City was believed to be the only major city in the United States that didn’t have a street named in King’s honor. As an organization that advocated for the vision of Dr. King, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) – at the urging of the Rev. Charles Briscoe – took the lead on the effort to name a KCMO street after King.

With the support of numerous organizations, political leaders and community organizations, in 2016, the SCLC asked the Park Board to approve changing the name of The Paseo to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. They were turned down, citing the historic significance of the name.

In 2018, the issue gained revived steam and Mayor Sly James appointed an advisory group to make suggestions on how the city could honor King. Four months later, the group recommended naming the new airport after King as their first priority and renaming 63rd Street after King as their second choice.

The City Council weighed a vote on the name change in November and December 2018 but put it off. An effort was supposed to be made to engage members of the community, but it appears little of that was done, and in January 2019, the City Council voted 8 to 4 to approve the name change.

The ‘Save the Paseo’ Viewpoint

Feeling they were blindsided by the council’s vote, Paseo area residents and concerned citizens found like-minded individuals on social media and in their neighborhoods. By spring, they were organized behind a petition drive to put the name change to a vote of Kansas City residents.

They had two major concerns. Chief among those concerns was preserving the historic Paseo name. However, as their knowledge of how the name change was approved, group members became almost equally concerned about the process.

What they say is not their motivation is racism. 

“They want to paint a face of who this issue is,” said Kelli Jones on a local podcast. Jones, one of the Save the Paseo core organizers, is an African-American female, lives on Paseo, and says she “loves Dr. Martin Luther King.” Jones says her opinion reflects those of her friends, family and neighbors; they don’t support the name change they don’t like that their opinion wasn’t considered.

They’re concerned the city didn’t follow its adopted process for changing street names, which requires them to contact 75% of the property owners who will be affected.

“It’s about how when you elect people into office, you want them to listen to you, you want to feel like you’re being heard and you just want to feel like you’re a part of the process,” said Jones.

The Pro King Viewpoint

For those who support changing 63rd Street to King, and suggests it’s a better option because as an east-west corridor that runs through a multitude of diverse communities, Howard rejects that concept. “It’s a misnomer that you don’t have diversity on MLK Blvd,” said Howard on a local podcast. “While MLK is predominately Black, it’s not totally Black.”

Unlike the Save the Paseo group, the effort to change The Paseo to King Blvd. was the result of a grassroots effort by people most impacted by the name change, said Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Greater Kansas City SCLC. The SCLC reviewed the addresses on the submitted ballot petition and says the majority of them had zip codes west of Troost.

Across the country, where efforts have been made to change street names to honor King, there has often been a lot of disagreement, particularly along racial lines and Howard says he sees a lot of racism around this local issue.

“This is a perfect epitome of the pathology of White privilege that suggest that White people can decide what a street name, or boulevard, will be named in a predominately African-American community in which White folks in the city have had very little interest in investing, in living, keeping up, beautifying and maintaining,” said Howard. “We believe there is something wrong with that picture and we believe there are White people of goodwill who understand how significant this is to the broader community.”

USD 500 – Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools

Re-Elect Valdenia Winn

Message paid for by the Winn for School Board Campaign, treasurer Valdenia Winn.

I am running for re-election to the USD 500 Board of Education because I have a personal passion for service to our community and a commitment to public education. I will always stand up for the students, faculty, staff, parents, and taxpayers of our community.

As Board members, it is our job to review processes and operations and we must ask the hard questions and hold everyone accountable. How is the District serving students, faculty and staff? Where are, the funds going? Is the District reaching the community, talking to the community; making KCK better? We must make USD 500 educationally and financially accountable. As board members, we have a fiduciary responsibility, and we must ASK AND must be able to ANSWER where and how resources are being spent.

I seek to work with the Board and the Administration to UPDATE governance policies so that USD 500 will hire more qualified teachers of color from our community. That will contribute directly to student achievement because they are currently living in our community and want to work for USD 500 and most important, want to invest in our students.

Last year, I reached out and recruited 18 teachers to apply; they had Master’s degrees and PhD’s. Only two were interviewed, but NONE of them were hired…and USD 500 started that year with 60 teacher vacancies. There are numerous examples of strong, qualified teachers of color who have left USD 500 because they were overlooked for promotions. All of them are now leading other districts as Principals, VP, school psychologists and teachers. This is a USD 500 pattern and it must end!

USD 500 does not want to hire or promote teachers of color from KCK. What it wants to do is to hire newly graduated teachers from rural areas and train them for other districts. And we wonder why our children do not succeed with being taught by new, inexperienced teachers who do not know anything about KCK or about the cultures of the students who they teach?

Vote for Winn, Tresvan, and French and together we can make this CHANGE!

– Valdenia Winn

Wichita Mayoral Candidates Answer:

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? How would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified?

Jeff Longwell (incumbent) – My platform focuses on public safety, infrastructure, and quality of life. All three issues are key to Wichita’s growth and success. The public safety issue involves the following of a guided increase in police officers following a blueprint provided by Wichita State University.

We are already aligned with a blueprint to improve public safety by adding more officers. The issue of improving infrastructure currently has full council support with regard to roads, water and sewer improvements. Quality of life will require additional public engagement to ensure we are addressing the wide range of needs our community would like to see with regard to building a better Wichita.

Brandon Whipple (candidate) – Currently, City Hall is run by connected insiders who do not spend enough time listening to the people who elected them. Big decisions are being made behind closed doors without public input. If we want to compete with our sister cities like Des Moines, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, we need innovative leadership willing to talk to the people and put their ideas into action.

First, we must rebuild trust and create a culture of transparency at City Hall. This starts by utilizing technology to communicate with all the different communities that call Wichita home Once we create dialogue and provide more opportunities for stakeholders to be heard, we must listen. Right now, we see some attempts to gain feedback from the community, however, most of that feedback is ignored for plans that seem to be crafted by the same inside dealers at City Hall. f we want to retain and attract young, diverse talent, we must make it clear that Wichita wants to hear their ideas and will implement them to make the city work for everyone.

Lyndy Wells (write-in candidate) – Lyndy Wells was not an official write-in candidate when this question was asked. To vote for Wells, you will need to write his name on your ballot.

In the race for Wichita School Board USD 259 at-large seat, Joseph Shepard is challenging incumbent Sheril Logan.

Democrats Drop Out of U.S. Senate Race to Clear Path for Bollier 

Both former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom and former Kansas Rep. Nancy Boyda dropped out of the primary race for U.S. Senate in what seems to be a move to clear a path to the Democratic nomination for Kansas state Senator Barbara Bollier.

Grissom urged Democrats to unite behind Bollier, a retired Kansas City-area anesthesiologist who made headlines in December by defecting from the Republican Party. Bollier was formerly a GOP moderate often at odds with the party’s more conservative leaders, and is running as a “pragmatic” Democrat and centrist.

Bollier was stripped of her committee assignments by GOP leaders for backing Kelly’s 2018 campaign and after the election formally switched parties. She cited frustration with the Republican stance on LGBT rights as one of the main reasons for her decision.

Bollier plans to draw from a similar coalition that elevated Kelly to the governor’s office and could face the same opponent in the general election if former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach emerges as the GOP nominee.

Grissom’s withdrawal comes as a surprise as his campaign this month had been touting its strong fundraising haul.

Grissom raised nearly $470,000 from July through September, putting him ahead of Kobach and Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, among other candidates.

He will have the option of refunding donors or steering money toward other candidates, including Bollier, now that he’s withdrawn from the race.

Grissom, who served as U.S. attorney for Kansas from 2010 to 2016, had faced criticism for his handling of subordinates during his tenure as U.S. attorney for Kansas.

Manhattan Mayor Pro Tem Usha Reddi remains in the race, saying “Our democracy works best when people have choices. I have always fought for what’s right in my personal life as well as my public life and will continue to do so as we move forward.”

Other remaining Democrats in the race include Wichitan Robert Tillman, who ran for Congress in 2018. Tillman ran for Congress in 2012, 2016 and 2017. Also on the ballot is Goddard’s Elliott Adams, who is doubling on the ballot this November as a candidate for the Goddard School Board.

The open Senate seat has drawn a crowded field of Republicans, too. In addition to Kobach, contenders include: Rep. Roger Marshall, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, Kansas City area businessman Dave Lindstrom, and conservative commentator Bryan Pruitt.

Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in eight decades.

Associated Press contributed