TOPEKA, Kan. - Despite the nation's tough times, the capital city is in fine shape according to Mayor Bill Bunten.
Bunten delivered his State of the City address Wednesday night at the 44th Downtown Topeka, Inc. Annual Meeting in Topeka.
Bunten began his speech praising the good things about the capital city. "We have the best of virtually everything here now," the mayor said. "We have hills and streams, a river running through the city, we are surrounded by lakes and reservoirs. We have four seasons, clean air, a solid economic base of successful businesses, Washburn University, an outstanding regional medical complex, a state of the art library, a grand performing arts center and much, much more. And—we are the capital city of a great state, Kansas."
Bunten gave credit to City Manager Norton Bonaparte, Jr. and the city council for finishing the fiscal year in "excellent financial health." He credited Topeka Police Chief Ron Miller and the TPD for lowering crime. Planning the development of the city's riverfront, the Riverfront Authority was also given a shout out by the mayor. And those involved in the Heartland Visioning project that began in 2008 were also recognized for their work to better the city.
Despite the positives, Bunten said there is still much to do. He outlined three things he said "need to change" in Topeka: the charter ordinance that gives the mayor, in Bunten's opinion, too much power; a sales tax increase on .5% is needed to pay for infrastructure improvements; and elect a city council and mayor who will "work together for the benefit of the entire city."
Something the mayor said he'd like to see considered is a change in the makeup of the city council to include some members elected at large and some from districts.
Council person Sylvia Ortiz, District 3, said this is one of the few areas she disagrees with the mayor. "I think my district knows me well enough and to be at large, I don't know if I'd be back in office. I don't know if my district would have representation," she said.
Mayor Bunten wants to see the proposed one-half percent sales tax put on the April 7th ballot. "If we do nothing, the city will continue to deteriorate physically, and when someone finally addresses the problem the cost will be much higher," Bunten said. "We have only two sources of funds adequate to repair our infrastructure: the property tax and the sales tax."
"I'm not sure this is the best time for a sales tax issue," said Council member Richard Harmon, District 9. "Consumer confidence is very weak right now and I would prefer to wait until the economy gets stronger."
Toward the end of his speech, Bunten announced his candidacy to again run for mayor in the April election.
In closing, Mayor Bunten said, "So how is the state of the city? In the words I often heard from my dear friend, Governor Mike Hayden, it’s real good."