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Smoking Restrictions, Bus Tax and School Issues on April Ballots
March 27, 2008
by Bradley Osborn

Here?s a look at the issues and candidates facing Kansas City, Mo., voters in the April 8 election. Other municipalities and school districts, in Kansas and Missouri, will be making decisions in April voting as well.

Smoking

A debate about public health vs. personal and business rights brought the issue of smoking in public places to the floor of the Kansas City, Mo., City Council in January. Impelled by an initiative campaign led by a committee of petitioners, the council ultimately set an intermediate-level ban in place and put the petitioners? plan on the April 8 ballot.
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The intermediate-level ban passed by the council in January just took effect March 24. It prohibits smoking in restaurants without liquor licenses. Restaurants that have liquor licenses may allow smoking after 9 p.m. if all patrons are age 21 or over. If the ballot question is approved, it would displace the current ordinance.
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The smoking restriction ballot measure (Question 3) would prohibit smoking in enclosed places of employment, enclosed public places and on public sidewalks abutting acute-care hospitals, while allowing it in casino gaming areas. The purpose of the ordinance is to promote public health by decreasing residents? exposure to secondhand smoke, and to create smoke-free environments for workers and residents.
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Bus Tax

Almost one-third of the funding for buses operated by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) is provided through local taxation. It was this funding that the Clay Chastain light-rail plan intended to use for city passenger trains. The Kansas City, Mo., City Council repealed the voter-approved Chastain plan in November, calling it unworkable. The council then placed the 15-year KCATA three-eighths-cent tax levy on the ballot a year early to make an end-run around any future bus-fund reappropriation, in an attempt to secure it for another decade and a half.
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Around half of the 20,000 to 30,000 people who ride the Metro, the KCATA bus line, have no other personal means of transportation, and rely upon the bus system to get around.
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Question 1 continues a city sales tax for the purposes of developing, operating, maintaining, equipping and improving a bus transit system by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority for Kansas City, Mo, at a rate of three-eighths percent for 15 years.
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Schools

None of the open positions for board members of the Kansas City, Mo., School District is contested. Incumbent Bill Eddy dropped out of the race for the only contested seat, representing the district at-large, in which he faced Airick Leonard West. (However, Eddy?s name will still appear with West?s on the ballot, which had already been finalized.) Four people have declared themselves to be write-in candidates for the at-large seat: Emanuel Cooper Jr., Joyce H. Huggins, Ralph Reuscher Jr. and Theresa Thompson.
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No candidates filed for the seat representing Sub-District 1, but in recent days Dolores Arzola, who heads the District Advisory Committee, and Arthur Benson, an attorney who represented the plaintiff schoolchildren in the 1979 Kansas City, Mo., desegregation case, have made themselves known to be write-in options for that seat.

Business

Question 2 would increase permit fees for short-term loan establishments. The increase is earmarked to cover administrative expenses related to the regulation and inspection of those businesses.

Elsewhere

Many area cities are holding contests to seat mayors and councilpersons/aldermen. Regional school districts will see board members chosen and bond issues and tax levies decided; this includes a Metropolitan Community College trusteeship. And some infrastructure and municipal tax questions also appear on vote cards.
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Kansas polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 1.

Missouri polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 8.

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From Councilwoman Jan Marcason, 4th District

Just to clarify Question 2 on the April 8 ballot, the fee of $1,000 would cover the cost of enforcing ordinances to reduce the proliferation and blight to neighborhoods caused by pay day loans. Ordinances approved by the KCMO City Council require pay day loans to be no less than 1 mile apart, that they be painted non-primary colors, that their signs be no more than 5% of their exterior surface, there will be no banners or electronic signage, owners or managers will have to be on-site during business hours, and the property must be well-maintained and free of drug, alcohol, prostitution, or other illegal business activity.

In addition, the pay day loan establishments must post a sign at each teller's winder (in 24-point type) that clearly shows the repayment schedule of pay day loans over the legal 6 roll-overs. In many cases, people who borrow $100 will pay back double that amount if the loan rolls-over the legal six times.

Consumers need to be aware of this information. The ordinances will be in effect whether or not Question 2 is approved. However, without the $1,000/year licensing fee, the city will have to rely on its existing resources to monitor the compliance. I hope that the voters approve this important licensing fee.
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