Johnson, Wyandotte mayors chide legislature in open letter to residents: ‘Actions are hurting local communities and ultimately will hurt Kansas’

Merriam Mayor Ken Sissom speaking at the recent State of the Cities event. Photo provided.

Mayors in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties have sent a strongly worded letter to their state legislators criticizing the Kansas Legislature for its “unbalanced” budget and interference in local control.

The open letter, which actually is addressed to citizens of the two counties, is under the signature of Merriam Mayor Ken Sissom as chairman of the Johnson and Wyandotte Counties Council of Mayors. The council includes 22 cities across the two counties. The letter was approved by a consensus of the mayors, Sissom said.

The letter charges the Legislature with using a blanket dislike for “big government” to criticize all taxes and government. Local government and the taxes it raises pay for the services that citizens rely on everyday, the mayors state.

“These issues transcend party,” Sissom said. “It is just wrong.” When you have the mayors in the two counties agreeing on this issue, “it clearly cuts across all lines,” Sissom said.

“The ones (legislators) who are making this happen, won’t talk to us. We have to go to the public to let them know (what is happening),” Sissom said.

The letter is especially critical of the “tax lid” that was passed last session. “The tax lid discourages local government and investment,” the mayors say. If a city is growing, the “artificial cap” could eliminate a city’s ability to support growth with basic services like public safety.

The tax lid hurts the cities’ ability to pay for services, Sissom said, and hampers the ability to self govern. The Legislature also moved local elections despite strong opposition from the cities.

The legislature, the mayors say, is eroding local control.

“Local control – government close to and responsive to the people – recognizes that our local communities have elected officials capable of making good decisions on taxing and spending,” the letter reads. “We are accountable to you at the next election. Unfortunately, the Legislature’s actions are hurting local communities and ultimately will hurt Kansas.”

The mayors, Sissom said, would ask citizens to become more engaged and know what the legislators are doing.

The full text of the letter appears below.