Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mayoral candidates meet again at KCKCC forum


Unified Government commissioners Mark Holland and Ann Murguia once again squared off Wednesday night at a political forum held at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

Sponsored by the Kansas City, Kan., Chamber of Commerce, the forum held Wednesday night featured the mayoral candidates and Unified Government Board of Commissioners candidates.

The main event of the evening, of course, featured the two mayoral candidates looking to replace current Unified Government Mayor/CEO Joe Reardon.

Holland, who won 48 percent of the vote in the primary, pointed to his representation of the entire county in his opening comments.

"I've been elected county-wide instead of just focusing on one part of the county," Holland said. "We need to continue the momentum in Wyandotte County."

Murguia, on the other hand, pointed to her work in her district in Argentine and Rosedale as evidence she's ready for the job.

"Redeveloping Western Wyandotte County is different than developing Eastern Wyandotte County," Murguia said, mentioning her work with ANDA and her efforts to help raise funds to build the new Argentine library.

"I helped raise millions of dollars to build quality homes in the area," she said. "I received millions in grants."

Holland said Wyandotte County should continue to take advantage of what he called the "low-hanging fruit" in economic development.

"You have to be creative about economic development," Holland said. "We've had great success at 78th Street and State Avenue. 18th Street and I-70 was a disaster (before the Sunfresh store was built)."

Holland said the county should focus on developing a long-term solution for downtown Kansas City, Kan., along with Indian Springs.

"Downtown is everyone's downtown."

While Murguia said development in the west was important, she mentioned that part of the county feels left behind.

"There's momentum in some areas of Wyandotte County," she said. "Other areas feel that there is no real momentum at all."

In another moment that offered some potential contrast between the two candidates, Holland saved his strongest remarks for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

"The greatest threat to Wyandotte County is state cuts," he said. "That threat is hurting our cities in Wyandotte County. We need to take a strong stand against Governor Brownback's policies."

Murguia, meanwhile, said the county has to look at its priorities when it comes to government.

"You have to determine where the priorities are," she said. "Government can not be everything to everybody."

She also reaffirmed her opposition to increasing property taxes.

"I made that promise in 2007," she said. "I have never voted for a property tax increase."

The candidates also differed on an idea Murguia mentioned about surveying the community for input on government.

"We all need to communicate," Murguia said. "I would be for a county-wide survey. The priorities in Western Wyandotte County are different than those in downtown KCK. We have to do a survey."

Holland said a strategy is in place to continue Wyandotte County's momentum.

"We need leadership as soon as the next mayor is sworn in," he said. "We don't have time to do a survey. We have a strategy in place."