Old Drum Network
An Alternative News Source for Warrensburg and Johnson County Missouri
Free Press Article
April 2002 Election Analysis
For Warrensburg Free Press April issue
The ambulance district passed handily. The Trails Library issue lost decisively. The City Council and the Warrensburg R-VI school board will each have a new member. The question is, how will these elections affect daily life?
Effective last-minute advertising helped the ambulance issue win. Work will immediately start on getting the ambulance district rolling. Just a day after the election, the County Commission established the six sub-districts for election of the ambulance board. Warrensburg township will get two of the six seats, and there will be room for complaint about the excessive population disparity between the Warrensburg east sub-district and some of the rural ones. Filing for the positions at the County Clerk’s office has already opened and will close on April 19th. It will be interesting to see just how wide a range of experience and talents the position can attract.
Downtown Warrensburg was “rescued” by the voters from other areas. While the library issue carried all the Warrensburg precincts with 60% of the vote, it needed much more. The rest of the county opposed it; Lafayette County was adamant with a 75% NO vote. So the Warrensburg branch of the library will remain as a downtown hub for a while longer. A number of theories have been proposed for why the issue lost, when a tax three times as large passed. Among the comments heard from people who voted against it were:
It is apparent that a great deal of redesign and rethinking will have to go into the library issue before it is resubmitted to the voters.
- Warrensburg was to get too much out of it. Voters weren’t going to raise taxes to build a new chamber for the Warrensburg’s city council. Library backers should have been aware of this perception, but never really addressed it.
- The CMSU library is handy; let people pay and use it.
- A move to the new location would hurt the core of downtown Warrensburg.
- The letters to the editor supporting the issue looked too orchestrated.
- The signs “vote for ‘our’ library” irritated voters outside Warrensburg who felt they’d gain no ownership benefits from the new building.
- The building is too fancy. The energy efficiency of the building was never addressed, and voters were well aware of the high use at Warrensburg’s community center.
- Voters didn’t feel assured that there would be enough money to operate the library once it was built (asked by those who are aware of Warrensburg’s Community Center problems).
- Lafayette County voters asked why should Warrensburg get all benefits when other places need the revenue more.
- The organized supporters all seemed to come from what was termed the “usual suspects.”
- The lack of last-minute advertising did not give an extra push to the undecided voter.
- People in the fast-growing Pittsville area (78% against) use Jackson County libraries.
The nature of the Warrensburg City Council will change with the narrow defeat of incumbent Jim Davis by Charles Rutt. A professional educator is replaced by a CMSU manager. Rutt, although employed by a governmental institution, manages a retail business, which cannot help but bring a viewpoint absent from city government since Jim Jackson left the Council.
There will also be a new face on the Warrensburg R-VI school board as church pastor Jeff Arp joins returning 6-year incumbents Kathy Howard and Tom Kerber. All three had indicated strong support for the 50 cent levy increase which will be on the June ballot. Reassessments and other increases have raised many people’s school taxes by almost 40% since 1996; this proposal, if passed, will bring the total increase to over 56%.
This election showed three notable trends.
- People will vote in an April election if there are issues or candidates that stimulate their interest.
- The growing strength of the western part of the county (especially the Pittsville area) is evident, as it registered more votes on county-wide issues than all but two of the Warrensburg precincts. The area will likely be a swing area, as it supported the ambulance district and destroyed the library issue.
- Candidates and groups that advertised heavily in the last week before the election did well. Dr. Hanna unseated an incumbent for the Western Missouri Medical Center trustee position, the ambulance district passed, and Jim Davis almost overcame Charles Rutt’s lead from the City Council primary election. Our local media outlets will undoubtedly use this information to encourage more political ads in future elections.
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