Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten re-introduced familiar themes of cleaning up the capital city, and slightly raising the sales tax in his annual address to Downtown Topeka, Inc. Thursday night. His "State of the City" Address was delivered to a crowd of more than 300 Topekans at the Downtown Ramada. He told the audience "we can do nothing, or we can do something.. and it's better to do something."
Bunten says he wants the city to act on improving crumbling infrastructure, and making Topeka neighborhoods safer. Not directly mentioning his vetoes of a 2nd police helicopter, Bunten said his preference is with an unmanned police surveillance camera system in operation in Little Rock, Arkansas. But Bunten has told reporters the controversy over the chopper could harm his plan to ask for a half-percent sales tax increase this year. One bright note was a presentation of 2 Segway cycles to the Police Department and Chief Ron Miller, one paid for by CoreFirst Bank, the other bought with donations to DTI.
The mayor says a new idea will be pursued to ask nearly two dozen USD 501 security officers to patrol around the city's community centers over the summer months. Plans will also be explored to have Washburn and Stormont-Vail security officers include adjacent areas in their patrols.
Bunten went on to outline four neighborhood priorities.. keeping city park areas trimmed, edged and mowed with control of overgrown weeds.. and toughening up enforcement of violations by out-of-county landlords. (40% of Topeka's properties are rentals.) The mayor wants to set up some areas of Topeka as benefit districts, allowing neighborhood leaders to levy their own fees and taxes for improvements in their district. And Bunten outlined an ambitious plan to link for City Hall to work with the State of Kansas on a multi-million project to make the heart of the city more attractive, from Polk to Monroe and 4th to 17th, to showcase Topeka for Capitol visitors.
Bunten says he's already talked with Governor Sebelius and Senate President Steve Morris about the project's funding.