KCK mayoral candidates Ann Murguia and Mark Holland explain themselves



Ann Murguia
Executive director of the Argentine Neighborhood Development Association (ANDA)

3rd District commissioner for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas

The Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library's sleek, modern South Branch is a rare bit of new civic development in a neighborhood that's pocked with blight and vacant businesses. So it's easy to see why Ann Murguia, 3rd District Commissioner for the Unified Government, wants to meet here. On a snowy afternoon 11 days before the election, library patrons surf the Web on a bank of computers, kids roam the aisles picking out books, and people talk and read at bar-style high tables in a corner.

"I chose this place because I wanted you to be able to see how, when you bring a large group of committed volunteers together for a common goal, what can happen," Murguia says. "I'm very excited to be part of a group of volunteers that raised $2 million for this $6 million library. And we did it in a relatively short period of time — it took about two and a half years — and I'm talking from the beginning of fundraising to the end of construction."

The Pitch: What one piece of experience makes you the better candidate?

Murguia: I've lived in one of the most challenging urban neighborhoods here in Kansas City, Kansas, for 17 years now. Besides living here, I work here, and since I've been working here, I've realized just how difficult it is to redevelop these areas. As the executive director of ANDA [Argentine Neighborhood Development Association], I've learned that, and I've been able to figure out ways to still develop this area, this library being one of my development successes in addition to the new grocery store that we're building right now. [A Save-A-Lot store is set to open at 2100 Metropolitan.]

I have been intimately involved with those kinds of developments, along with building new infrastructure and new housing. My opponent has not been involved with those kinds of things. And, to begin to turn this entire county around, not just a very specific area of this county, it's going to be important that the next mayor knows how to do those things.

What crucial thing did Mayor Joe Reardon not accomplish?

[Refers to a property-tax map that her campaign has produced.] Both Joe Reardon and Carol Marinovich, when they first ran for office, said that they were going to redevelop the urban core. Clearly, they were not successful. They had great success out here [indicates the Village West area], and they did a lot of amazing things. But my biggest concern is that we're growing poverty at a faster rate than we are growing economic development in western Wyandotte County. And if we don't get a mayor that truly has the ability to redevelop the urban core, we're going to be in big trouble, regardless of how beautiful it is out here [at Village West].

The biggest thing is that we continue to raise our property-tax rates because of the inability to redevelop this area. We have to offset those costs somehow. We have to get that revenue from somewhere.

It's been a friendly campaign, but tell us why your opponent would be a bad choice for Wyandotte County.

Mark has no business experience and does not have any development experience in the urban core. Zero. It's already challenging enough to make development happen in these areas. The last thing we need is a mayor who has no experience or results in that. Mark's results, accomplishments, successes are all around what we've done as a commission collectively. Outside of that, there's really nothing that my opponent can put his fingerprint on and say, "I worked on that. I actually did that. I actually made that happen." He has never worked an economic-development deal outside of his work as a commissioner. He has never recruited a business. He has never been involved in the contract between a developer and a business.

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City recently announced it was closing its KCK location, on Eighth Street. What's your reaction?

I really wish that the Y would have come to us before they decided to close and actually have a conversation with us about how the government might be able to help keep the facility open. Unfortunately, they didn't, and now it creates a hole in our community. It's one less recreational, healthy option people have in the urban core. It's very disappointing.

Mark Holland
Senior pastor at Trinity Community Church, a United Methodist Congregation

District 1 commissioner-at-large for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas

KCK's Prescott Plaza shopping area, on 18th Street just off Interstate 70, looks like the sort of commercial development that could fit in the suburbs, rather than in the troubled urban core. There's a Sun Fresh grocery store, a Jack in the Box, a few other necessity chain stores — and there's the Mexican restaurant called Tapatio. This is where Wyandotte County Commissioner-at-Large Mark Holland wanted to meet, in part to say that Prescott Plaza should serve as a beacon for what KCK has gotten right.

"This site was a former truck stop that was rife with prostitution and drugs," he says. "When it was torn down by the Unified Government, and a grocery store was put in, all these ancillary businesses came with it. This represents a very important strategic investment in Kansas City, Kansas. And it shows how you invest in quality in urban areas, and that success has a ripple effect in the neighborhoods around it."

Over a plate of crunchy tacos ("Great!" he says) and beans, he answers more questions about his campaign.

The Pitch: What one piece of experience makes you the better candidate?

It would be big-picture collaborative leadership. You don't ever hear a quarterback on TV talking about "what I did." It's about what "we" did. What you accomplish, whether it's in a church, whether it's in a community organization, whether it's in a city, you do it all by we. And that collaborative, big-picture vision is what separates me.

I've been an at-large commissioner for six years, so I've been elected countywide twice and have been responsible to all the constituent areas of the county, not just one district. And that's a dramatic difference in vision. The risk of representing one area is the risk of parochialism. You focus on the interest, and sometimes it can even be viewed that you're in competition with the other districts. When you have that big-picture vision, you know that what's good for one part of town is good for all parts of town.

What crucial thing did Mayor Joe Reardon not accomplish?

I think it's the wrong question to ask to say, "Where did he let the county down?" or "What did he leave on the table?" I think there's a building and progression that goes on. Carol Marinovich did things that nobody else could have done and was able to accomplish them because of the changes in the Unified Government.

Joe Reardon was able to take things to another level because of the work of Carol Marinovich, not because she left things on the table but because she created an environment where there was more opportunity. And he took full advantage of that. And I stand on the shoulders of two giants. They have created infinitely more opportunity for Wyandotte County than was ever present before. I inherited a city that is much healthier than the one Joe Reardon inherited.

It's been a friendly campaign, but tell us why your opponent would be a bad choice for Wyandotte County.

Because I'm running against her. Because I'm the right candidate. When somebody's an incumbent, you're running against them. When there's an open seat, we're both running for an office and the good of the city. I'm running for mayor because I'm fourth-generation Wyandotte County, and I'm a third-generation pastor in the community. This is my hometown, and I want the best for it. I've been on the commission six years. I see the possibilities and the opportunity out there.

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City recently announced it was closing its KCK location, on Eighth Street. What's your reaction?

I've not given up hope that that's not going to happen. I'm in conversations with a number of people. I think we need a state-of-the-art community center in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. And I think the Y would be a good partner. I don't think that closing the Y necessarily helps our momentum to get to that. I don't think it necessarily hurts it, either.

If we're going to talk about healthy communities, if we're going to talk about being ranked 105th out of 105 counties in overall healthiness by the Kansas Health Institute, if we're going to address those things, we need healthy living opportunities. And the YMCA or a rec center is one of the ways you do that.


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