Five – just over half – of the Wyandotte County Commission seats are up for reelection and there’s so much interest in these positions, that all but one of the races will have a primary.
It’s obviously not the pay, slightly under $20,000 per year, that’s making these positions so attractive.
Instead, most of the candidates say they’re committed to seeing positive change in the area – where taxes and utility rates are high, income is low, and economic growth is slow in comparison to the rest of the metro area.
In the District 1 At-Large seat currently held by Melissa Bynum, she only has one competitor: Ricky Smith, known in the community for 38 years for his barbecue. This is the only Wyandotte Commission race without a primary.
Three of the other districts up for election – Districts 2,3,4 – cover eastern Kansas City, KS, east of 435, and cover much of the city’s poorest communities.
In District 2, incumbent Brian McKiernan (on the commission since 2011) is not seeking reelection. Three people have stepped forward to run in this district.
District 3 incumbent Christian Ramirez has four competitors in his bid for reelection.
In District 4, one of the city’s historically Black districts, current commissioner Harold Johnson Jr. is not seeking reelection. Four candidates are vying for this seat.
In District 6, which covers south of I-70,between 435 and 670, incumbent Angela Markley is not seeking reelection. This race has attracted a diverse mix of three candidates – one White, one Hispanic, and long-term Black political activist Mary Martin.
“Don’t just vote on a name you know. Vote on the individual’s platform and positions. Will they represent you? That’s what Wyandotte County did with Marvin Robinson, who didn’t vote their interest in his inaugural session in the Kansas Legislature. Don’t go into this blind.”– The Voice Team
District 4 Commission Candidates
We’ll focus our coverage on the District 4 candidates.
Tarence Maddox had a tumultuous four years (2011-2015) on the Wyandotte County Commission when he served as one of its youngest-ever commissioners. Since then, he says he’s grown up. In the interim, he continued his work including serving two terms as president of the Kansas City, KS, NAACP. His platform is “A Firm Voice is URGENT.” Urgent is an acronym for: “U” to utilize every resource possible to rebuild District 4. “R” to revitalize neighborhoods with emphasis on rebuilding infrastructure. “G” to grow the tax base in the District 4 by attracting more affordable housing. “E” to engage District 4 by holding town hall meetings where citizens can learn and be heard. “N” to neutralize high crime rates by targeting high crime spots. “T” to lower taxes.
Pamela Penn-Hicks wants to make a stronger, more livable and vibrant community. The goal here is progress. A 40-year WYCO resident and retired federal employee, she’s been active in the community, serving previously in her neighborhood association, on the USD 500 Educational Task Force, and on the Police Advisory Board. Her platform acronym is EAGER. She wants: “E” for equitable distribution of resources and services. “A,” she will be accountable and engaged with the District 4 community. “G,” her goal is to generate affordable housing where people can live with dignity. “E,” working for economic growth that meets the district’s needs. “R,” revitalization of the neighborhood’s infrastructure.
Brandie Armstrong is an involved community organizer and activist, who serves on the Wyandotte County Planning and Zoning Commission and wants to use her boundless energy to make the community better and stronger.
She wants to have community-driven economic development, not just affordable housing, but attainable housing. When developers are given tax breaks for coming into the city, she would require them to sign Community Betterment Agreements. “If they can take from us, they can give back to us,” she said.
She also wants to look at the residency requirement that she says is hindering the Unified Government from attracting qualified employees and will take a “hard look” at the BPU rates, the PILOT and property tax rates.
Dr. Evelyn Hill who served nine years on the KCKPS School Board is back and ready to continue her service to the community. As a candidate for the Fourth District, she’s identified economic development in the district including affordable housing,higher incomes for residents.and more amenities.
Concerned about violence within the district, she’d like to see more public safety and for people to be able to feel safe where they live. She says that she would concentrate on providing people who are involved in crime an opportunity to have good jobs.
She’d like more assistance and support for the growing number of homeless people beyond what’s already being done. She’d like to see a shelter for women and children with families as well as places where homeless people can take a shower, eat, and receive mental health and other wraparound services.