Tuesday, Nov. 06 2012 3:21PM
Sanders pushes transit in annual speech
County executive reports balanced budget
BY Russ Pulley
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders continues stumping for commuter rail as he makes public appearances.
At his State of the County Address Nov. 2 event at Union Station, transit was a prominent topic, even featuring a video of area mayors speaking about cooperation and advantages of public transportation..
“No initiative in Jackson County has more potential to transform how our community lives, works, and moves than the effort to build a new, modern and efficient public transit system,” Sanders said.Sanders said that according to the Brookings Institute, the region has fallen further behind other regions ranking 94th of 100 in ability to access jobs by public transit.
“While this unacceptable gap has grown wider, our resolve to provide a solution remains steadfast.” Sanders said.
The county is in the process of studying routes using existing rail and finance options. Officials have yet to announce a detailed plan, which Sanders alluded to in his speech, saying “It’s not about getting transit done fast. It’s about getting it done right.”
Sanders touts public transit as an essential piece of infrastructure to attract entrepreneurs and jobs of the future.
In comments following the speech he told reporters an election on a county transit system could be held next August or November.
Sanders reported that despite the Great Recession, by reorganizing its finances and “doing more with less” it balanced its budget without raising taxes. It is one of six counties in Missouri with an “Aa” bond rating, which is very good, had a clean audit and reduced the county’s 911 tax by 18 percent.
He predicted the county would see $4 million loss in revenue in 2013 because of cuts in funding the county gets from Missouri, but pledged to balance the county budget again without a tax increase.
Sanders listed projects being wrapped up or just beginning.
By the end of the year the Jackson County Sheriff Department’s radio system will be replaced by a state-of-the-art communications system that enables deputies to talk to one another across city, county, and state boundaries. Sanders credited Sheriff Mike Sharp with completing the project at a cost of under $5 million, 25-percent off original estimates through cooperation of other area law enforcement agencies, including the Missouri Highway Patrol, Kansas City and Independence police departments.
Next year the county will reopen the historic Truman Courthouse in Independence, which has been undergoing restoration. It will start expansion of the eastern Jackson County Courthouse, also in Independence to eventually have five new courtrooms and a better jury room.
Sanders said that the Medical Examiner’s Office and Sheriff’s Department had worked with 100 professionals from agencies in Missouri and Kansas to form a regional response team to be prepared for disasters like the Joplin tornado.
The county will cooperate with Kansas City for farther extension of the Little Blue Trace Trail, he said.