March 8, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The pushback against Kansas City University’s Master Planned Development (MPD) district appears to have suffered a critical defeat.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 8, Kansas City, Missouri City Clerk Marilyn Sanders confirmed to the Northeast News that historic preservationists hoping to save the Historic Northeast’s Colonial Court apartments from demolition had fallen four valid signatures short of clearing the first hurdle in the referendum petition process. The petitioners needed to gather 100 valid signatures within 10 days of the Thursday, February 23 City Council vote in favor of the University’s MPD. The group beat the 10-day deadline – submitting 104 signatures to the City Clerk’s office before the window closed – but six were ultimately invalidated after the signatures were forwarded to various election boards throughout the city.
“They have 96 valid signatures; they’re four short of what they need,” said KCMO City Clerk Marilyn Sanders. “It’s too late to start the process all over again.”
Sanders further indicated that two of the signatures were invalidated because the individuals resided in Grandview and Independence, respectively. At the time of publication she wasn’t sure why the remaining six signatures were invalidated, but Sanders added that the information should be available on the City Clerk’s website by the afternoon of Thursday, March 9.
KCU Public Relations and Outreach Manager Elizabeth Alex struck a conciliatory tone in a statement issued to the Northeast News via email on Thursday afternoon.
“KCU has been part of the neighborhood for more than 100 years and cares deeply about the community,” wrote Alex. “The university will continue our commitment to the Northeast, to Kansas City as a whole and the entire region as we offer the finest education possible to future physicians and scientists.”
On Sunday, March 5, historic preservationists from Northeast Kansas City submitted a notice of intent to circulate a referendum petition on Ordinance No. 170109 – which approved the Master Planned Development (MPD) district for KCU. The group collected just over the 100 signatures needed to complete the first step of the petition process, and the City Clerk’s office confirmed on Monday, March 6, that the signatures had been forwarded to the Kansas City Election Board. If all the signatures had been validated by KCEB, the petitioners would have had an additional 30 days to drum up the 3,417 signatures needed to force Council action.
Heather Welch, one of the petition organizers, said on March 5 that the individuals she approached while canvassing at Kessler Park were generally willing to sign the referendum petition.
“Every person I have approached that has been a Kansas City resident and registered voter has been super happy to sign the petition,” Welch said.
3rd District Councilman Quinton Lucas, an active participant in community discussions ahead of the February 23 City Council vote to approve KCU’s MPD, told the Northeast News on Monday, March 6 that he was taking a wait-and-see approach to the referendum petition. Lucas did acknowledge, though, that the recent uptick of citizen petitions is a reflection of a lack of voter trust in political institutions in general.
“I think we have significantly slowed down the process of legislation of Kansas City, and I don’t know if that is good for Kansas City,” said Lucas. “It’s a reflection that a higher number of voters don’t have confidence with what we’re doing in Kansas City.”