Here is the final installment of my recommendations for the Midterm ballot issues. I started writing out more detailed explainers on the root issues of each of them but I think we’ll explore those topics after the election. Right now I just want to give you a quick rundown of why I recommend a yes vote for each.
Vote Yes for Amendment 1 - Clean Missouri
I can’t say I’m thrilled about every part of this amendment. In fact it covers so much ground that I’m surprised it falls within the single subject rule — a requirement that citizen initiated ballot measures be only of one subject. Doesn’t matter, it’s on the ballot and you should still vote yes.
The measure will do a lot of things to lobbying and campaign finance, some of which I think might be unnecessary or overly complicated — we still are sorting out the campaign finance amendment voters approved in 2016. But the most important provision involves state legislative redistricting.
Every ten years, the process of redrawing the boundaries of each state house district and state senate district has historically been in the hands of the state legislature — the Missouri General Assembly. This has made it very easy for the majority party to exploit the process to further tip the scale in their favor — a process commonly known as partisan gerrymandering. Amendment 1 not only gives a lot of that power to a non-partisan demographer, but it places criteria on drawing those boundaries to ensure elections are more competitive.
In 2016, just 21 of the 163 races for seats in the Missouri House of Representatives were within 20 points. The other 142 seats would be considered landslide victories. The Senate looked largely the same. The entire state would benefit from toning down this hyper partisan district map. Vote yes on Amendment 1 to make redistricting a fairer process.
Vote Yes on Amendment 4 — Bingo!
I cannot even believe bingo, a game favored by retirees and non-profit fundraisers, is regulated by the state constitution. If this was an amendment to completely remove bingo regulations from the state constitution I’d really be rooting for it. I’m not even going to get into the details on this one. Just know that it deregulates some aspects of bingo games used to raise funds for charitable organizations and that’s a good thing. Read more here.
Vote Yes on Proposition D — Fuel Tax Increase
Prop D is a far cry from the complete overhaul we need to make our transportation system more equitable and financially sustainable. But, this is a critical stop gap measure to ensure an almost adequate amount of funding to maintain our roads.
The fuel tax increase would set aside funding for the Highway Patrol (which has always been funded out of fuel tax revenue), freeing up more funding for roads and bridges. And $7 million would go directly to the city of Kansas City, Missouri to support maintenance of local streets.
In the long run we need to look for better ways to fund transportation — we have to think beyond a tax on fossil fuels. Vehicles continue to get more fuel efficient and many are switching to electric vehicles and this cuts off the only source of funding we have right now to pay for transportation at the state level.
We also need to be careful to not build more than we can afford to maintain. For example, why is MoDOT adding lanes to I-435 right now but doesn’t have the funding to replace the structurally deficient Buck O’Neil Bridge? The city of KCMO has committed to covering half of the $200 million to build a new bridge.
We have a rural highway system that is significantly larger than it should be and that comes at a cost to Kansas Citians. When we fill up our gas tanks here in the city, most of the state fuel tax goes to pay for these rural highways. We have underfunded public transportation to the point that only 18% of the region’s jobs are accessible by transit, giving many no other option than to drive. This places an enormous cost on thousands of low wage workers. Then to take the money they pay into fuel tax and spend it in other communities is a double injustice.
I’m willing to put my trust in MoDOT and other state officials by voting Yes on Prop D. But as a member of KCMO City Council I will be a tireless advocate for a system that truly benefits the people of Kansas City.
Vote Yes on the Library Question - Property Tax Levy
The Kansas City Public Library had 4 million visitors in 2017. Thousands of people use the library on a regular basis and depend on the many services the system provides. This especially true in our undeserved and under-resourced communities where the digital divide is the greatest. The library can provide a lifeline for folks to connect to basic services, reliable internet, and critical information.
My family uses the library regularly and we are more than happy to spend $25-30 extra dollars per year in property taxes to give the library the financial boost it needs to serve the people of Kansas City well into the future.
Please vote yes on the Library Question!