Wyandotte County residents packed the conference room at the South Branch library in the Argentine neighborhood. Attendees of the forum talked about jobs, health care, property taxes, failing infrastructure, economic development and medical marijuana.



BY DEBRA DeCOSTER


The annual Wyandotte County Legislative Delegation forum was well attended with about 90 people filling the conference room at the Kansas City, Kansas South Branch Library to voice their concerns to their Kansas state senators and representatives before their spring session begins in Topeka, Kansas.


The annual January forum was structured differently this year, giving the community the opportunity to speak first and the legislature listened and spoke during the last half hour. The forum closely following on the heels of the November election had residents opening up about issues that affect their families and their community. Kansas Senators Kevin Braun, David Haley, Pat Pettey and Representatives Tom Burroughs, Pam Curtis, Stan Frownfelter, Broderick Henderson, Kathy Wolfe Moore, Louis Ruiz and Valdenia Winn listened for an hour and a half to residents as they voiced their concerns over Medicaid, property taxes, failing infrastructure in the 66106-zip code community, economic development, medical marijuana and concerns over growing racism in the community.


Irene Caudillo, President and CEO of El Centro, Inc., spoke to the senators and representatives about a voter registration program that they and other community organizations are hoping to bring to Kansas and Wyandotte County.


“We would like to see election day registration enacted. Election day registration allows citizens to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. There are 19 states that have enacted same day registration and voter turnout at the polls has risen. Kansas has one of the most restrictive voter registrations and we want to see changes on those restrictions,” she said.


Mike Smallwood, legislative committee chair for the Kansas City, Kansas Chamber of Commerce, advised the legislators about a North Loop project that the Chamber is concerned about how it will affect downtown Kansas City, Kansas.


“There is an effort underway to close the north part of I-70 that goes across the intercity viaduct and turn it into a parkway. This would dramatically restrict access to downtown KCK and Fairfax,” said Smallwood, “We must approach this issue not only locally but on the state and federal level. If we cut off that access, it will be a huge problem for the revitalization of downtown Kansas City, Kansas.”


Smallwood also asked the community and the legislators to help ensure that everyone is counted in the next Census.


“We have to make sure that we get an accurate count so that we can get the resources we need based on our numbers,” he said.


Senator Pat Pettey, 6th District, agreed that Wyandotte County needs accurate census reporting.


“It is very important that everyone is counted and that we allow ourselves to be counted so that we can get back the federal funding we deserve,” she said.


Cordelia Walker, a lifelong resident and President of a community organization called Unity with Purpose, spoke out on her concerns.


“Unity with Purpose community action network of Kansas City, Kansas is working together for social, political, economic and environmental justice. These are prevailing areas of concerns in our community—to improve public education in USD500 school district. I was searching for our status online on where the school district stands in terms of the entire state. The best that I could find is that there are 309 school districts in Kansas and USD500 is not in the top 100. That should give us concern,” she said, “another area is health improvement in the Wyandotte County northeast area and it has been determined that the northeast area is the worst food desert in Kansas City, Kansas. We want health improvement and we urgently need a full-service grocery store in the northeast area, access to affordable health care and jobs.”


Carolyn Ruiz asked if individuals need to get a Real ID drivers license. When she went to renew her license, she was asked for her birth certificate.


“I said birth certificate? Why would I need a birth certificate to renew my drivers’ license? Apparently, they are for the federal id drivers license, but the way they asked, they assumed I knew about it. I told them I don’t have it with me. I also was told it must be the original birth certificate, not a copy. I was told in 2020 if you don’t have the ID you won’t be able to board domestic flights. What do I need to know about this?”


Senator Pettey answered her question and told Ruiz that it was correct information. If anyone plans to board flights in 2020 everyone must have a Real ID or a passport.


“I will look into this and make sure that our department is getting the correct information out there for everyone. In order to get the Real ID, a person must have their original birth certificate, social security card, marriage license for women whose last name has changed and/or a passport,” said Pettey.


If your name is not the same on all your documents, bring proof of your name change. For example, if your birth certificate shows a different name than your married name, bring your marriage license. For a list of accepted documents, see list F at ksrevenue.org/pdf/de56a.pdf.


On the Real ID website, it states that anyone boarding an airplane or entering a federal facility using state issued ID after October 1, 2020, will need a Real ID.


The Real ID Act is a coordinated effort by the states and Federal Government to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, which should inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification. State of Kansas residents have the option to choose between either a Real ID card or a Non-Real ID card.


Representative Louis Ruiz responded to questions about in-state tuition for DREAMERS and said, “we will continue to fight for in-state tuition for DREAMERS. We have kept bills from passing to end in-state tuition in the past, and we will continue to stay on top of this issue.”


At the end of the two-hour conversation, each Senator and Representative thanked the crowd for attending the program. Representative Tom Burroughs said, “I stand ready to continue to advocate for your issues and our community. Your comments, concerns and questions were presented well and with conviction.”