borderless transit / borderless region

Council addresses legal flaws in voter-approved Question 1

The City Council voted January 18 to amend a petition initiative restricting streetcar expansion activities that was narrowly approved in August 2017.

“Question 1” prevented city staff and elected officials from planning — or even talking about — streetcar expansion unless a separate vote was held citywide. Planning is a core city function that is authorized in the City Charter. A petition initiative cannot restrict Charter functions. In addition to that flaw, Question 1 also instituted a $1,000 fine per occurrence, which introduced clear constitutional issues that the Council had to address to avoid future litigation that might throw out the entire question.

KCRTA opposed Question 1 on these legal grounds, as well as the fact that it was put forth by streetcar opponents. Wording of the ballot language was intentionally vague and meant to restrict expansion entirely, not just ensure a more democratic process. If the city were to propose a citywide election for streetcar expansion, they would have to plan for that in advance (which Question 1 clearly prohibited).

The approved ordinance is a compromise, allowing the city to participate in planning while respecting the will of the voters that future expansion would be put to a citywide vote first. This also allows the Riverfront and Main Street extensions — which were well underway prior to August 2017 — to proceed as planned.

We thank the Councilmember who voted for the ordinance to amend:

– Mayor Sly James
– Lee Barnes
– Alissia Canady
– Dan Fowler
– Jolie Justus
– Quinton Lucas
– Kevin McManus
– Jermaine Reed
– Katheryn Shields
– Scott Wagner

We’d also like to thank the new Main Street Rail Transportation Development District, South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, South KC Alliance, Downtown Council, Kansas City Streetcar Authority, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, and PortKC for their testimony.