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UG Mayor Tyrone Garner calls commission vote to limit agenda power 'underhanded'

Mayor Garner.jpg
Posted at 3:52 PM, Dec 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-16 18:51:02-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County Board of Commissioners approved a major change Thursday that modifies the way commission agendas get set.

The meeting was streamed on the UG's YouTube page.

After more than 90 minutes of conducting normal business, Mayor/CEO Tyrone Garner appeared ready to adjourn the commission’s last meeting of 2022.

But before a vote to adjourn could be taken, commissioners took a different route.

By an 9-1 vote, commissioners voted to suspend the rules that require them to only conduct business previously outlined on a written agenda.

With the rules suspended, Commissioner Angela Markley distributed details of an ordinance that would guarantee items coming out of standing committees a spot on the full commission agenda, bypassing any gatekeeping by the mayor’s office.

“This puts into writing what has been a a long-standing commission tradition that items that come through our standing committee arrive on our full commission agenda for a vote,” Markley said.

The mayor then took to the microphone to describe his position.

“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. “This is an unacceptable, unknown, backdoor and to me, shady way to do business.”

Several commissioners took turns describing a system they felt didn’t give enough weight to work from standing committee.

“This is about equalizing the playing field,” Commissioner Christian Ramirez said. “This is something that should have been done a while ago.”

Several commissioners spoke to having passed items in their standing committee only to see the item blocked from making it to the full commission for a final vote.

“I do view this as an opportunity to increase collaboration,” Commissioner Brian McKiernan said.

After a passionate discussion that lasted close to an hour, commissioners voted 9-1 on two votes that passed Markley’s ordinance.

Commissioner Tom Burroughs was the lone vote against Markley’s ordinance.

“It pains me to see us do it this way,” Burroughs said, adding that he may not necessarily have been opposed to the re-write. “I’m just opposed to the process in which it occurred.”

In a statement to KSHB 41 News Friday, Garner said Thursday's vote only resolved him to continue his work.

"I believe that this is more than a blatant rejection of my community driven agenda, but rather clearly rejects the will of the people of Wyandotte County desperately seeking change," Garner said.

Full statement:

“Considering my recent call to action for unity and collaboration between myself, our commission, and the community, I view the political action taken by nine UG Commissioners as an underhanded act that curtails the longstanding discretion and authority of the UG Mayor/CEO. I believe that this is more than a blatant rejection of my community driven agenda, but rather clearly rejects the will of the people of Wyandotte County desperately seeking change. Their request for community driven change champions equity, facilitates unity, promotes opportunity, and calls for a political body that provides leadership that works equitably for all. It is an understatement to say that I am disappointed for those voters that elected me seeking an improved way forward. As such, I am even more resolved to stand firm with the people against an establishment that I believe has disenfranchised many, disinvested much, and has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy. I am confident that the resilient people of Wyandotte County are aware of what is occurring and will do what is legally necessary for us to rise above any challenge. I assure the residents of our great County that community driven change has indeed come, and I remain committed to standing with all those demanding change.”