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UG Mayor Garner: Promises made during consolidation never kept, calls for new form of government

Posted at 12:51 PM, Oct 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-11 13:51:43-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — More than 25 years after the voters of Wyandotte County signed off on combining the governments of Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County, Mayor/CEO Tyrone Garner says it’s time for another change.

Garner, flanked by the mayors of Bonner Springs and Edwardsville (whose residents did not vote in support of the consolidation), called on a series of neighborhood meetings to present proposals to change the governing structure that Garner says hasn’t lived up to its promises.

“That promise presented to Wyandotte County back in 1997, from those that said that we need to consolidate to replace a machine, it appears that machine has been replaced with an even bigger machine that’s running on all cylinders,” Garner said outside of Memorial Hall Wednesday morning.

Garner said the promise of how prosperity in Village West would be shared with other parts of the community hasn’t materialized. One of the original projects of the area, Kansas Speedway, opened in 2001, with officials crediting consolidation in landing the deal.

“At this point, I’m not holding my breath as mayor waiting on any past promises to be made,” Garner said.

News of Garner’s announcement Wednesday was circulated Monday by his Chief of Staff, Irene Caudillo. None of the members of the Unified Government’s Board of Commissioners spoke at the news conference, with only Edwardsville Mayor Carolyn Caiharr speaking with Garner.

“The residents of Edwardsville and Bonner Springs voted against this unification out of fear that it would not serve the people well,” Caiharr said. “Unfortunately, it seems they were correct.”

Garner’s critique of the Unified Government touched on similar themes he spoke about during an acrimonious Board of County Commission meeting late in 2022 in which commissioners stripped Garner of the ability to determine what items made it to full commission agendas for consideration.

“This is a backdoor way to literally take the power of this mayor away to work on behalf of the people who voted for me,” Garner said at the December 2022 meeting. “This is an unacceptable, unknown, backdoor and to me, shady way to do business.”

About a month later, one of the commissioners who voted to to limit Garner’s power said he was removed from his positions on commission committees by the mayor.

"This singling out of the youngest Commissioner of color on the dais is a complete disservice to my constituents who have needs and concerns that both Standing Committees can address," 8th District Commissioner Andrew Davis said in January. “I will not cease until this is fixed and will continue to do everything in my power to advocate for the 8th district."

Garner’s Wednesday news conference isn’t the only event scheduled for this week on the topic of the future of the Unified Government.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, UG commissioners plan to hold a special session on the PlanKCK comprehensive planning process.

“This is the first of several presentations with the Board of Commissioners to walk through this substantial planning effort which will share proposed policies, strategies and action plan items to realize the shared vision,” a release about the meeting reads.