Wyandotte County voters will cast votes on Nov. 7 in an election that will decide half of the Unified Government’s Board of Commissioners.
This board is the chief governing body for Kansas City, Kansas, and the rest of Wyandotte County, making decisions related to development, the police department and the budget.
The candidates elected this year will likely face important decisions related to the Unified Government’s charter. Mayor and CEO Tyrone Garner, along with the mayors of Edwardsville and Bonner Springs, have suggested that the charter is due for significant and potentially existential changes while some UG commissioners support less dramatic change.
Voters in District 3 will decide between incumbent Christian Ramirez and challenger Tina Medina, who narrowly defeated Bette McGill in a primary election that resulted in a draw, decided by “lot.”
District 3 covers the southeastern corner of Kansas City, Kansas, including most areas south of the Kansas River and east of Interstate 635.
To prepare for this year’s Unified Government election, The Beacon reached out to all candidates in the five races, asking them to participate in a three-part questionnaire. These questionnaires include biographical questions, five lightning-round yes-or-no questions and five short-answer policy questions. Some responses have been lightly edited for length or clarity.
Both candidates received the questionnaire by email, but only Medina returned responses.
Click on a link to jump to a question:
- Meet the candidates
- Lightning-round questions
- How would you increase affordable housing in Wyandotte County?
- What would you do to improve public safety?
- Would you do anything to make property tax assessment more fair?
- What should the Unified Government do to address the issue of rising houselessness?
- If elected, what issues will you make your own?
Meet the candidates
Medina is the owner of Wise Writers and Speakers and Media Oasis Medina, writing business grants, books and proposals. She is the founder of Tina Medina Ministries.
Favorite place to get tacos in KCK: Amigos on Shawnee Drive.
Favorite thing to do or favorite festival in KCK: I like to suggest ideas for grants for Argentine to better the neighborhood. I also like to walk in Argentine and meet new people.
Ramirez is the incumbent commissioner representing District 3. He did not respond to The Beacon’s questionnaire after several attempts to reach him by phone, email and Facebook.
Prior to his first term, Ramirez worked as a legislative aide to state Sen. Pat Pettey and as the treasurer of the Wyandotte County Democratic Party. During the 2019 election, he told KCUR that he was an advocate for youth programming and community-driven economic development.
Since 2019, he has been at odds with Mayor Tyrone Garner on several issues, including a subsidized housing development to be built in place of the Reardon Convention Center. Garner held the development from the commission’s agenda for months before Ramirez and the other commissioners unanimously approved it.
Since then, Ramirez supported a rule change to the Board of Commissioners that prevents the mayor from indefinitely holding items off of the commission’s agenda if they have been approved by a standing committee.
When Garner suggested that the Unified Government should consider significant changes to its charter, Ramirez agreed that reforms are necessary but cautioned against “drastic, unilateral decisions” that could destabilize Kansas City, Kansas.
Lightning round questions
Candidates were asked for a yes-or-no position in response to these four questions:
- Should the Department of Justice investigate the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department?
- Should officials be allowed to hold more than one elected position at a time?
- Should the Board of Commissioners have limited the mayor’s powers in February 2023?
- Should housing developments receiving tax incentives be required to include units at affordable rent prices?
- Should the Unified Government remove the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) fee from Board of Public Utilities bills and recoup that revenue elsewhere?
How would you increase affordable housing in Wyandotte County?
Medina: We could seek federal dollars for more Section 8 housing and perhaps create some dynamic new communities. We could also take the land bank excess land or homes to see if that could be redeveloped and earmarked for low-income housing. How many people in Wyandotte County have been displaced because of this harsh economy and could we create a payment plan or a freeze on property taxes is the real question at hand.
What would you do to improve public safety?
Medina: Cameras on every major street would be a great way to let people know that public safety begins when we can capture crime on camera like in every other city. This act really needs to happen. The increase in street lighting and solar lighting for homes would be a great deterrence as well.
Would you do anything to make property tax assessment more fair?
Medina: I would propose easier ways to pay, such as payment plans, offsetting fees for seniors and the Kansas Homestead resources. I would also propose financial case management for seniors and those on fixed incomes if needed. The national housing crisis created by COVID-19 is contributing to the increase of property values in the Midwest. We have to ask ourselves: are home prices overinflated? What happens when the bubble pops?
Could a hardship clause be introduced in which a payment plan or a freeze of 2022 rates would be in place? Creating something like the Westside Chapter 353 Development Plan is something to consider.
What should the Unified Government do to address the issue of rising houselessness?
Medina: Financial case managers are needed to help on an individual basis. As a former homeless case manager, everyone is different and their story is unique. We have to be balanced and wise on the issue of homelessness because the government can’t solve all problems, but with social agency partners, it is possible to help. Some people want to stay on the streets or in the woods. Grants can be actively sought as well. Can there be a path from being on the streets to getting public housing from the Kansas City, Kansas, Housing Authority? I think so.
If elected, what issues will you make your own?
Medina: Urban core grant writer for Argentine, Armourdale and Northeast. The Argentine Plan — we have been ignored in planning for 50 years — and partnering with agencies to seek grants for District 3. Help Rosedale with their proposed community center and a playground or kids’ park for the Frank Rushton neighborhood.
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