Tuesday night, four Manhattan city commissioners thought they chose to do nothing by accepting the city attorney’s opinion that the proposed ordinance to provide 2 percent of the city’s general fund for social services was administrative and not allowed under petition referendum.
But they’re wrong. What they chose to do was precisely what the Kansas Supreme Court cautioned against. The court said not to apply the guidelines regarding whether an ordinance is legislative or administrative “too strictly” such that citizens are denied the right to petition their elected officials when they disagree with their decisions. The commission should have listened to Commissioner Jim Sherow, who took the side of citizens and voted to allow us to vote on the ordinance.
As noted by Commissioner Sherow, the city attorney’s opinion provided Commissioners Wynn Butler, Rich Jankovich, John Matta, and Loren Pepperd “political cover,” and they chose to take it. Why? We think it’s because they were afraid that we were going to win this fight at the ballot box. They didn’t want to actually know that a majority of the voting public does indeed want city funding for social services to continue and at the 2-percent level provided by the ordinance.
Thanks to everyone who carried petitions and to the 1,800-plus citizens who signed the petition to create a law to preserve and protect social services funding by the City of Manhat-tan. Your passion and belief that government has a responsibility and a role in helping citizens who need help from time to time is the philosophy of government we need to keep for Manhattan.
Despite being denied the opportunity to vote to preserve funding for social services, citizens still have recourse. We know the battle with commissioners who believe that funding for social services should come from the private sector is not over. They will be looking to cut or perhaps even eliminate spending at the city budget hearing on June 26 when the proposed 2013 social service budget recommendations are presented.
SOS — Save Our Social Services — will be there continuing to tell them that social services spending should not be cut or eliminated. We hope you’ll be there too.
Manhattan residents Debbie Nuss and Geri Simon are co-chairs of Save Our Social Services.