Wyandotte County

Monroe Dodd

Ask people in Kansas City, Kansas what it means to have a unified government, and you’ll get some interesting answers.

“Kansas City is like Australia,” says Hannah Milner, a stay-at-home mom who has lived in KCK for seven years. “They’re a country and a continent. We’re a county and a city.”

Despite this strong metaphor, Milner admits, “I don’t really understand the government side of things.”

That’s a fairly common sentiment in the Kansas City area. So let’s go back in time to see how the unified government developed, and what it means for KCK today.

The day after giving his 2015 State of the Government address, CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County Mark Holland sits down with Steve Kraske to delve into the details behind the triumphs and challenges of the county and Kansas City, Kan.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County

Since he was elected in 2013, Unified Government of Wyandotte County Mayor and CEO Mark Holland has been able to boast some impressive developments and job growth in the county.

Holland reiterated those successes in his State of the Government address Tuesday, making particular note of 4,000 new jobs created in 2014. He said that number represents about 30 percent of all new jobs in the state of Kansas.

Wikimedia - CC

It's common knowledge among Kansas Citians that much of Johnson County, Kan., is suburban, while Kansas City, Kan., proper is an urban core.

What might not be common knowledge is that Overland Park, Kan., has a larger total population count and higher employment density than KCK. So is it still a suburb?

An offshoot of Kansas’ Rural Opportunity Zones program could be moving into Wyandotte County, pending approval from the state legislature.

Wyandotte County officials are optimistic that Gov. Sam Brownback will introduce the plan to the Kansas legislature soon. Brownback first debuted the idea for “Urban Opportunity Zones” on the campaign trail in August.

The zones would entice out-of-state residents to move into Kansas with a five-year income tax exemption, up to $15,000 in help for student loan payments, and significant property tax breaks for 15 years.

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan.

“We don’t have time to wait for a survey to find out what people need. We’ve already known the work, and we know what people need.” That was at-large Commissioner Mark Holland in March of 2013 at a mayoral candidate forum.

futureatlas.com / Flickr--CC

Do you use the word, Kansas, as shorthand for the suburbs?

Our daily talk show Central Standard explored that question Wednesday.

There’s some truth to the perception that the Kansas side of the metropolitan area is way more suburban than the “real city” in the Show-Me-State, said Bill Coldiron.

Coldiron, of Overland Park, Kan., is a member of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., where KCUR held a community forum last week as part of our Beyond Our Borders series.  

A two-acre cemetery in downtown Kansas City, Kan. is one of the few public reminders of the Wyandot Nation, whose trail of tears brought them to the area in the early 19th century. Yet the Wyandot had an influence on what was to become Wyandotte County, as well as Kansas' civil war history.

Guests:

Ben Palosaari

The beginning of the new Armourdale Hike and Bike – Island View Loop trail doesn’t look much like the gateway to urban nature oasis.

It’s adjacent to an industrial park and underneath the 18th Street Expressway Bridge, next to unused railroad tracks. There’s a fair amount of broken glass and other debris littering the ground around the trail.

But on Saturday morning, jubilant city officials in workout clothes opened the trail to the public, and the talk was largely of turkeys, deer and bald eagles that live near the trail.

Mike Sherry / The Hale Center for Journalism

LaShana McGee marvels at the exploits of her 4-year-old daughter around their neighborhood pool in Piper, Kan.

“She goes straight to the deep end. It’s crazy,” McGee says. “I don’t know why she does that, but she does. She just jumps right in, and she will swim her way back to the stairs where you get in.”

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Much like the winning drivers at Kansas Speedway next door, Sporting Kansas City is taking a victory lap.

Firmly planted in Kansas City with a state-of-the-art soccer venue and a first class practice facility and fields, Sporting Kansas City steered the area to another level with an announcement Wednesday of a proposed National Training and Coaching Development Facility in Kansas City, Kan.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was on hand for the formal announcement at Sporting Park before Sporting KC took the field for an international friendly match against Manchester City FC.

Christina Lieffring / KCUR

Counties and states all over America host seasonal fairs. Originally, they were organized to share the latest technology in agriculture and genes among livestock. But in an age of instant information are state and county fairs still relevant? On Tuesday's Central Standard, we investigate the modern function of fairs, and talk with some professional livestock judges about their criteria for appraising animals and producing the food of tomorrow.

Guests:

Christina Lieffring / KCUR

People usually associate state and county fairs with Ferris wheels and food on a stick. But in areas that have seen their demographics shift from rural to urban populations, these fairs are now serving a new role of connecting city folk to their country roots.

One way the Wyandotte County Fair, which runs July 22 to 26, does this is through its competitions in arts and crafts, food, agriculture and livestock, run by the local 4-H club.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

The soccer craze in the Kansas City area wasn’t just captured in the Power & Light District watch parties for the World Cup games.

It’s evident on full-size soccer fields on both sides of the state line. But the metropolitan area's newest soccer passion may be churning up on mini-courts in Kansas City, Kan.

The Upshot / The New York Times

Johnson County, Kan., is one of the easiest places to live in the United States, according to a new study by The New York Times

The New York Times ranked counties based on six criteria: education, unemployment rate, median household income, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate.

KCPT

John Hornbeck came to a Thursday forum in Kansas City, Kan., with two cans of green beans.

His point was to illustrate that solving hunger isn’t as simple as merely providing someone something to eat — especially when health is thrown into the mix.

It’s been nearly a year since Mark Holland became mayor of Kansas City, Kan., and it’s time to see what influence he’s wielded in the city over that time.

On Wednesday's Up to Date, Mayor Holland joins us in the studio to talk about the city’s economic development, public health programs and other issues.

Guest:

  • Mark Holland, mayor of the unified government of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County
Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Wednesday was Joe Reardon’s last day in office.

The popular, 2-term head of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas says there were many things he was proud of accomplishing, and a few things he regretted not getting done.

Here are the things he was most proud of:

KCK Mayoral Foes Battle By Substance And Style

Mar 29, 2013
Dan Verbeck / KCUR

Wyandotte County voters on Tuesday will decide who holds the reins as Mayor/CEO of Unified Government.

KCUR’s Dan Verbeck has background on two candidates who bring distinctly different approaches to operating the post.

Each serves as a member of the local governing commission, survivors of a spirited primary campaign and election. The candidates appeared to answer questions posed by a panel in a forum at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Appearing in alphabetical order:

Courtesy Kansas Health Institute

According to the latest Kansas County Health Rankings, Johnson and Riley counties have the healthiest residents in Kansas again this year.  Wyandotte County and a cluster of counties in southeast Kansas remain among the least healthy.

KCUR

Update Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. Due to the weather, polling places have been consolidated in both Wyandotte and Johnson Counties. Find polling places for Wyandotte County here and Johnson County here

Beth Lipoff

Whether you're lining up to vote or hitting the slopes, the snow will affect your day Tuesday.

bigstock.com

On Tuesday, voters in Wyandotte County will narrow the field of candidates for the Mayor/CEO of Unified Government.  The number running will be reduced from five to two, going into the April general election.  KCUR’s Dan Verbeck reports on candidates’ backgrounds and issue-positions that have appeared since the campaign began in earnest only a month ago.

When Joe Reardon said he was stepping down as mayor of Kansas City, Kan. and CEO of Wyandotte County, it surprised many.

bigstock.com

Wyandotte County has cashed in on its first payment from a new casino at the Kansas Speedway.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

The Environmental Protection Agencies’ Regional Headquarter Offices in downtown Kansas City, Kansas will officially be relocating to a new location this fall.  Their new home?  The former Applebee’s headquarters in Lenexa, Kansas. 

That Wyandotte County is grappling with some major health issues is no secret.  It’s ranked one of the least healthy regions in Kansas, and findings from a recent health assessment reaffirm the challenges:

Civil Rights Exhibit Displays The Power Of Popular Media

May 9, 2012
Charlie Upchurch / KCUR

In 1955, Emmitt Till was a young boy visiting family in the South, and was brutally murdered. After his death, his mother made the decision to send the explicit photos of his autopsy to the media, saying, “Let the world see what I’ve seen.”

Medical Software Giant Expands In KCK

Apr 25, 2012
Elana Gordon / KCUR

Construction is now underway at Cerner’s new campus near the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. Once completed, the $190 million development will contain two nine-story buildings on a 660,000 square-foot campus and employ thousands of people.