In UG mayor’s race, what Kansas City, Kansas needs is all the change it can get

·5 min read

After interviewing four of the five candidates for mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, the only consensus of our editorial board is that the people of WyCo deserve a change, and we don’t mean some fine-tuning or a tweak.

In practical terms, that means a vote in the Tuesday, Aug. 3, primary for Anyone But David Alvey, the incumbent, who at least was honest in promising to keep doing things exactly as he has in the past.

As we’ve said before, the county’s high property taxes would remain high if he won another term. Electric rates would not go down, because the mayor likes hefty payments from the Board of Public Utilities for the UG’s budget. Handouts to developers would continue. And the see-no-evil current mayor sees no need for a Justice Department civil rights investigation into KCK’s scandal-plagued police department.

“Frankly, I don’t believe we need an independent investigation of the police department,” he told us. “I think we have to have the chief, who is responsible for this, to come to us with an honest assessment based on his experience and his understanding of what is needed, and I trust Chief (Karl) Oakman to do that. I think that if Chief Oakman says that I need additional help to figure this out, then — and of course we know KBI has investigated some things. They turned it over to the FBI. The FBI is currently investigating, so I don’t make any comments on that, obviously, but whatever comes out of those investigations, if there’s something lacking, we’re going to continue to take a look, but I don’t think — at this point I’m not calling for a Department of Justice investigation.”

Asked whether an investigation isn’t necessary to restore trust, he disputed the premise of the question: “I would say that’s not accurate. There are some parts of our community that doesn’t trust, but most of our community is not asking for this.” And those who are begging for it don’t count, apparently. Which is same old, same old, too.

The “change” candidates, all of them very different, are Tyrone Garner, Chris Steineger and Janice Witt. Daran Duffy, who did not respond to messages, is also running.

Garner, who has the backing of the firefighters and spent decades at the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, is calling for a DOJ investigation into allegations of longstanding and widespread corruption inside the department. “We need to have outside eyes,” he told us, to properly investigate the many allegations of serious crimes committed by former KCK police detective Roger Golubski and others.

Garner’s critics question why he didn’t take on the power when he was the power, as deputy chief. Garner insists he never sat on any information. “Any type of nefarious activity, I handled it swiftly. I wasn’t part of any ‘blue code.’” He didn’t call in the DOJ as deputy chief, he told us, because “I wasn’t the chief or the mayor. I did not have the authority to call in the Justice Department to do anything. If I had, I would not have retired; I would have been fired.”

He’s calling for an independent investigation now, he said, because “people deserve to know” the truth about the department. “That needs to be said, and unless I missed it I don’t think those things have been said.”

‘Bullet in Golubski’s head’ comment isn’t funny

Steineger, a former state senator who like Alvey comes from a family with a long history of officeholding, still swears he wants to disrupt generations of cronyism and “a long sad history of nepotism.”

“I feel a real growing sense of frustration with the status quo, with utility bills and taxes,” he told us. “I hear that over and over and over again. Everyone’s getting collectively pissed off about this.” No doubt about that.

Like Alvey, though, he sees no need for a DOJ investigation of the KCKPD. During our interview, Steineger said he was sick of hearing about past police corruption when confiscatory taxes and electric bills are so much more relevant to so many more people. Someone should just go ahead and put a bullet in Golubski’s head so everyone can move on, he told us. With all that the former police detective knows about skeletons both real and metaphorical, Roger Golubski might be the safest man in Wyandotte County. Still, while Steineger presumably wasn’t being serious, wow, that comment was neither funny nor responsible.

Janice Witt, a longtime business owner and community activist who has run before, also wants to do away with cronyism, cut taxes and excessive public utility fees and increase services.

“KCK is a hot mess,” she says, “but it’s my home and I love it.” She’s in this race for all those who’ve raged against a “corrupt political machine” that has accepted scandal and crime in the police ranks because they feel powerless. “It amazes me that people find it acceptable to live this way,” she says. “I have to raise hell” to say that it’s not.

She definitely does that, and sued over a deal that allowed former Police Chief Terry Zeigler to live rent-free in a lake house owned by the UG. She has also pushed for an independent investigation of rape and other criminal allegations against Golubski and other officers.

Daran Duffy, the fifth candidate, describes himself as “a Christian, a Biblical Conservative, a homeschool dad, and Mighty Man of God.”

None of these candidates is without flaws, which is why several members of our board said they couldn’t support any of them. But all of the incumbent’s challengers would bring more hope to Wyandotte County than residents have any reason to feel now.

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