Wyandotte County mayoral contenders discuss city's future - KCTV5

Wyandotte County mayoral contenders debate government's future

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KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

With less than two months until the end of an era in KCK, the city is hearing from the candidates vying to be the next leader.

Joe Reardon, the two-term mayor/CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS, announced last month that he will not seek re-election this spring.

There are five candidates vying for two spots in the mayoral primary on Feb. 26.

All five debated on policies Monday on Up to Date on 89.3 FM, KCUR.

Three of the candidates, including Nathan Barnes, Mark Holland and Ann Murguia, are all elected Wyandotte County commissioners. Holland is also pastor at Trinity Community Church.

Cordell Meeks III serves as chairman of the Human Relations Commission, and Janice Witt is a community leader.

Candidates discussed lowering property taxes that have gone up $7 million in the past four years.

Reardon said his decision to not run for a third term was tough, but it was a personal choice.

Reardon said he is looking forward to the future challenges and opportunities that will come his way. In an interview with KCTV5, he left the door open to seeking a higher office in the future.

Reardon's term ends in April.

Barnes said he would lower taxes. His proposals include building a minimum security facility, which he said would keep money in the county and produce jobs. He said the government pays $3 million annually for other facilities to house county prisoners.

"You can vote for an experiment - that's somebody with little to no experience," he said. "Or you can vote for someone who has experience."

Holland said he wants to make strategic investments "in our downtown and Indian Springs."

Meeks proposes tax breaks for businesses that require employees to volunteer at the KCK School District through mentoring, tutoring and career counseling programs. He said the community must do more as state and federal governments do not adequately fund programs.

"Coming in with new, fresh ideas is something I'm ready and willing to do. I'm capable of doing it," Meeks said. "I'm a small business owner. I'm use to starting businesses and attracting companies to the area."

He said he is a lifelong resident who knows lowering taxes is something the electorate wants.

Murguia said she immediately would lower property taxes by using tax revenues from the Legends shopping area. She said the eastern and midtown areas of KCK need more attention from the local government and said she is a consensus builder that would establish the priorities most sought by residents.

Witt is a community leader who runs her own life insurance brokerage company. She has outspoken opinions and once ran against Holland for a commissioner spot.

"I'm running for the people," she said. "The people have no voice."

Murguia has come under scrutiny for not sending all her children to the KCK School District. One of her children attends a Shawnee Mission School District school.

"It was a choice my son made. He attended a summer camp where he developed great relationships with some kids in that school district and he wanted to go to school with them," she said, but added that does not reflect her personal feelings on the quality of education offered by the KCK School District.

Her two other children do attend the KCK School District.

"I believe very strongly in KCK schools," she said. "I'm not running for the school district board of education. I'm running for mayor/CEO of Wyandotte County."

Witt in particular attacked Murguia for her viewpoints on tax increases, saying Murguia is misrepresenting her record. She said Murguia has supported tax increases.

Witt said the notion of lowering taxes is a "Jedi wish," saying it's not as easy to implement as the other candidates contend it is.

"I'm not an advocate of lowering taxes," she said. "The milk is on the floor. We just have to do our best to clean it up ... It is impossible for me to say to anyone taxes are going to go down when there is no viable way to do that. That is what I call a Jedi mind trick."

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