Archive for Tuesday, November 12, 2002

County options

November 12, 2002


Wyandotte County officials are asserting their independence and butting heads with some Kansas laws.

What's the deal in Wyandotte County? A couple of recent governmental actions make it seem that county officials would prefer not to be a part of Kansas.

Wyandotte County officials are moving ahead on an agreement to allow an American Indian casino to be built near the Kansas Speedway. The resolution passed by the Unified Government Commission bypasses the state government and takes the plan straight to Congress for approval.

The plan would allow the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma to build a casino in Edwardsville in exchange for dropping a lawsuit claiming a right to nearly 2,000 acres of prime industrial real estate in northeast Kansas City, Kan.

Gov. Bill Graves opposes the action on the basis that it sidesteps the state's right to have any say over Indian gaming operations within its borders. Other tribes have claimed a right to land in Kansas. Conveniently, the plots all seem to be located in the Kansas City metropolitan area, where casinos could be expected to be profitable.

Graves is right that federal approval of the Oklahoma Wyandottes' claim would invite other tribes to bypass state channels and go directly to the federal government. Gov.-elect Kathleen Sebelius, however, may be more supportive. Her spokeswoman said this week that Sebelius would tend to look favorably on gambling proposals that have local support.

Officials in Edwardsville and Wyandotte County also are bucking state law on the issue of Sunday liquor sales. True to the state's temperance tradition, Kansas legislators have rejected many attempts to repeal the state's ban on sales of packaged beer, wine and liquor on Sundays. It hasn't been a popular policy with many retailers, especially those in communities close to Missouri, which does not have similar restrictions.

Wyandotte County voters have approved a measure that would allow Sunday sales by liquor stores. The same month, the Edwardsville City Council approved a charter ordinance allowing its one liquor store to open on Sunday. They say they have a right to exempt themselves from the state law because some of the state's liquor control laws aren't applied uniformly across the state.

As part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, Wyandotte County has many differences and fewer and fewer things in common with the less-populated portions of the state. That's not necessarily bad, but efforts by Wyandotte County officials to opt out of state laws that don't serve their needs may pose some interesting and troubling dilemmas for state lawmakers.

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