Exterior of City Hall in Kansas City, Kansas.
Incumbent Angela Markley has decided not to run for reelection in Wyandotte County’s District 6, leaving an open seat. Voters will cast their ballots on Nov. 7. (Christopher Smith/The Beacon)

Kansans will cast votes in dozens of municipal races across the state on Nov. 7, including in Wyandotte County, where half of the Unified Government’s Board of Commissioners will be up for election.

In District 6, which covers the less densely populated areas in south central Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, incumbent Angela Markley has decided not to seek a fourth term. Instead, the Rev. Steve Neal faces off against small-business owner Philip Lopez.

The winner of the election will make important decisions on the Board of Commissioners shaping the budget, housing, policing and possibly the Unified Government’s charter.

District 6 covers most of the areas of Kansas City, Kansas, that lie between Interstate 435 to the west, Interstate 70 to the north and Interstate 635 to the east, as well as the part of Lake Quivira that is in Wyandotte County. The district includes most of the Turner area.

To prepare for this year’s Unified Government election, The Beacon reached out to all candidates in the five commissioner races with 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.

Philip Lopez initially responded to a Facebook message asking for his email address but did not return responses prior to publication.

Click on a link to jump to a question:

Meet the candidates

Steve Neal

Candidate headshot
District 6 candidate Steve Neal (Provided photo)

Neal has been the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Turner for 16 years, where he also works as the coordinator of the Caring Connection Collaborative. 

Favorite place to get tacos in KCK: Either the taco truck at 55th Street and Pitkin Avenue or the taco truck at 42nd Street and Metropolitan Avenue.

Favorite thing to do or favorite festival in KCK: Two of my favorites are Silver City Days in Argentine and Turner Days.

Philip Lopez

Lopez, who owns a tree-trimming business in Wyandotte County, did not respond to the questionnaire.

In a campaign video, he said his primary goal is to bring down taxes in Wyandotte County by tightening Unified Government spending. He also believes that the commission needs to be more cautious with tax incentive deals.

“Our budget is a complete disaster,” Lopez said in the video. “We need our mill levy to come down. We need to stop all these tax incentives for these big corporations. Our taxpayers are getting screwed in the end. If big corporations want to be here, they need to pay.”

He also believes that the Unified Government needs a management overhaul to address corruption, pointing to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) in particular.

Earlier this month, he drew criticism for comparing the BPU to Nazism in a different campaign video posted on Facebook.

Lightning round questions

Candidates were asked for a yes-or-no position in response to these four questions:

  1. Should the Department of Justice investigate the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department?
  2. Should officials be allowed to hold more than one elected position at a time?
  3. Should the Board of Commissioners have limited the mayor’s powers in February 2023?
  4. Should housing developments receiving tax incentives be required to include units at affordable rent prices? 
  5. Should the Unified Government remove the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) fee from BPU bills and recoup that revenue elsewhere?

How would you increase affordable housing in Wyandotte County?

Neal: As District 6 commissioner, I will advocate for and support the creation of a housing trust fund that can be utilized to assist those in need of affordable housing. We also need to be creative and collaborative in our efforts of balancing new development with sufficient stock of affordable and equitable housing. This can be done through reasonable incentives and requirements.

What would you do to improve public safety?

Neal: My goal would be to facilitate partnership between neighborhood groups and community policing. I will also work to revitalize neighborhood groups throughout District 6, as well as partner with such groups as Wyandotte Countians Against Crime and Wyandotte County Citizens Patrol. 

Would you do anything to make property tax assessment more fair?

Neal: All county tax assessors are regulated by Kansas state statutes. My role as commissioner will be to work to cut waste within UG spending, keep mill levies as low as possible and call upon our state representatives and senators to look closely at state statutes concerning property assessment and to make them fair and equitable.

What should the Unified Government do to address the issue of rising houselessness?

Neal: The UG budget should allot funding for a cold and warm weather shelter in Wyandotte County. As District 6 commissioner, I am willing to work closely with all entities in Wyandotte whose mission is to eliminate homelessness in our city and county.

If elected, what issues will you make your own?

Neal: Established neighborhoods first! Continued new development while deferring needed infrastructure in our older, established communities is detrimental to our city and county as a whole. I will work to and advocate for a more balanced and equitable system which better serves our established neighborhoods.

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Josh Merchant is The Kansas City Beacon's local government reporter. After graduating from Seattle University, Josh attended Columbia Journalism School, earning a master’s degree in investigative journalism....