Confusion remains years after creation of ‘Unified Government’
In a couple of weeks, Kansans will go to the polls to select city officials, school board members and other local officials. I urge everyone to vote, because the winners of these elections touch our lives every day. It is extremely important that you become knowledgeable on local issues and then get out and vote.
Every two years when there is a local election, there are Bonner Springs and Edwardsville residents who are confused by the ballot. There are candidates for positions in Bonner Springs and Edwardsville and also those seeking positions in the Unified Government. I know when I was unopposed for re-election as mayor of Bonner Springs, I would get calls asking if Joe Reardon was running against me because yard signs were popping up. (Yes, I had one of his signs in my yard.)
The answer was Joe was running for mayor-CEO of the Unified Government, and I was running for mayor of Bonner Springs. Because Mayor-CEO Mark Holland of the UG isn’t up for re-election for two more years, there is less confusion.
The mayor-CEO of the Unified Government serves as mayor of Kansas City, Kan., and chairperson of the county commission. He has no local control over Bonner Springs, Edwardsville or the portion of Lake Quivira that is in Wyandotte County.
Let me see if I can explain. The Unified Government has the same relationship with Bonner Springs and Edwardsville as the Leavenworth County Commission has with Basehor or the Johnson County Commission has with De Soto. As far as Bonner Springs and Edwardsville are concerned, the UG is in charge only of county issues such as the judicial system, deed registration, voting, the county jail, sheriff, etc. The UG handles both city and county issues for Kansas City, Kan.
Both Bonner Springs and Edwardsville are completely independent cities. Both are rated as cities of the second class in Kansas. Now that has nothing to do with quality of life or services. It is strictly based on population.
Bonner Springs has a mayor-city manager form of government. The mayor is directly elected at-large. Bonner Springs has four wards with two council members elected from each ward. I might add that while they are elected from a ward, they represent the entire city. The chief operating officer is the city manager, who makes day-to-day decisions. The council is a policy making group that approves the “road map” for the city staff. One council member is elected from each ward every two years.
Edwardsville’s mayor and five city council members are elected at-large, with elections held every two years. Three council seats will be on the ballot this year, and the mayor and other two council members in two years. Edwardsville also has a city manager who directs the staff.
Both Bonner Springs and Edwardsville have representation on the UG Board. The two cities along with part of Piper are in the seventh district. A commissioner is elected from the district and deals with both KCK and county issues. In addition, we are represented and vote for an at-large commissioner who represents roughly half of the county.
The commission has absolutely no control over Bonner Springs or Edwardsville, because all decisions are made by the local councils.
Bonner and Edwardsville voters will vote for the At-Large District 1 Commissioner and also will vote for the Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees members.
The UG has been in operation since the late 1990s and has worked well. This is largely due to the very high level of cooperation and support between the three cities. The attitude is “what’s good for one city is good for the other two.” All three cities work well together.
I urge you to take the local elections seriously. Find out where candidates stand on local issues and know the facts. It is vital to everyone’s future to vote in the local elections.