Prairie Village mayor takes issue with challenges to city’s ‘home rule’

Prairie Village mayor Ron Shaffer used his quarterly column in the city’s “Village Voice” newsletter to take a hard stand against two pieces of state legislation that he says threaten Prairie Village’s “home rule authority” — the city’s power to govern itself as it sees fit within the bounds of the state and federal constitutions.

At issue, Shaffer says, are two laws: one that would force the city to allow guns in municipal buildings and one that would force the city to change its election schedule. Shaffer’s full article is copied below:

As spring has begun and the State Legislative session is coming to an end, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on a couple of critical pieces of state legislation which continue to erode our ‘home rule’ authority.

Mayor Ron Shaffer
Mayor Ron Shaffer
As you may be aware, the City of Prairie Village has an ordinance in place which prohibits individuals from carrying a concealed handgun in municipal buildings such as City Hall and our municipal pool complex.

The legislature has approved a bill which requires adequate security measures at public entrances of municipal buildings in order to prohibit the carrying of any weapon into a building. The City could exempt out of this requirement if adequate security measures such as the use of electronic equipment and/or personnel at public entrances are added to detect and restrict the carrying of any weapons into the municipal building. We now understand Governor Brownback has signed the bill and therefore the City will find it necessary to change our ordinances to either allow concealed handguns or install appropriate security measures. Our local legislative representatives have assisted the City in vocalizing the City’s opposition to this bill.

On yet another front to confirm that out-of-area state legislators know best how to run our cities, the legislature is also considering making modifications to the local election process. Currently, our local elections, like many of our neighboring Johnson County cities, are non-partisan (mayors, city council members, school board members, Johnson County Community College trustees, and water district board members) and are held in April with primary election in February, if required. These elections are held separately from the state and national official elections in the August/November cycle. These referenced State legislators have introduced legislation to move local elections to November to coincide with State and National elections, as well as, returning to local elections to be partisan in nature. Their stated purpose of the legislation, among others, is to reduce government costs due to lower voter turnout at municipal elections.

The City Council and I have expressed concern with moving the local April election cycle to November. We believe it would be detrimental to the local election process and make it more difficult and costly for local issues to be heard above the larger media campaigns of the higher offices. Throughout Prairie Village’s history, our City elections are traditionally dominated by local issues. Candidates typically get their message and position on local issues out via mail, door-to-door discussion with residents and through speaking at small volunteer groups.

The City Council continues this tradition, by encouraging residents to be active in our community by participating in volunteer committees, and attending Planning Commission and City Council meetings. Without your valuable participation our community would not be what it is today.