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Presidential Update October 2021

Amber Stenger | Published on 9/28/2021

IF IT ISN’T BROKEN, DON’T FIX IT

Sometimes, it is precisely because something is working that we don’t notice it.

That’s definitely the case with Johnson County’s Home Rule Charter. Voters enacted the charter, which defines how our county government operates, in 2000. Every 10 years, 25 community members are appointed to review the charter and decide whether we need to make changes in the form of amendments. (Read more about the statutes behind home rule in Kansas here.)

A few weeks ago, I attended the first public hearing of the 2021 Charter Commission at KU’s Edwards campus. It was canceled because several of the dozens of people who showed up didn’t want to abide by KU’s mask or social distance policies. My focus was preserving one pillar of the charter: Keeping county commissioner races nonpartisan. In 2000 and in 2010, charter commission members considered proposals to make county commissioner races partisan. LWVJoCo leadership thought it was important to remind the commission of how our current nonpartisan system benefits our community:

  • This system better reflects the growing number of independent voters. As of August 2021, 26% of all registered voters in Johnson County are unaffiliated with a political party.

  • Candidates must declare their own positions on pressing local issues instead of relying on party planks. 

  • Races are less polarizing outside the party framework, focusing more on the ability and positions of the candidates than preconceived notions based on party affiliations.

  • It fosters a more collaborative environment among elected officials. Collaboration in the public space leads to more efficiency, productivity and innovation, especially at the local level.

We’re watching

As you know, the League serves an important watchdog role for local governing bodies. We have two members, Eileen Marshall and Alleen VanBebber, who are doing an incredible job following the work of the commission closely for our community. They’ve been attending all of the commission meetings, keeping me and Vice President Janet Milkovich apprised of likely issues of concern and posting updates for members. (See “Observer Reports,” starting in April.) 

Right now, we’re watching. But know that, if and when the time comes, League members will mobilize to keep these all-important county commission races nonpartisan. 

Amber Stenger

President

913-620-5172 | jocoleague@gmail.com