Remember when the Douglas County Citizens voted “No” on a tax to fund a mental health crisis center and a jail expansion? (To jog your memory, that was May 2018.)
Then remember when we voted “Yes” on a tax to fund just a mental health crisis center? (November, 2018)
Our community’s values seem clear: We want to invest our money in services to support people, not cells to incarcerate people.
Still, Douglas County leadership continues to take steps toward a $30 million jail expansion project. (That figure does not include increased operating costs for the expanded jail.)
One significant step the County Commissioners need to take is to issue a bond—take out a loan-- so that we can pay for the construction project. The Commission plans to issue this bond without placing it on the ballot and without allowing for a 30-day petition period.
Kansas State law, K.S.A 12-195b(e), requires that if local governments want to put their constituents in debt through bond issuance, they must either hold an election or allow for the circulation of a petition that could force an election. But Douglas County insists that they do not need to do either of these things because a ballot measure approved in 1994 gives them authority to issue the bond.
Justice Matters is urging the county leadership to follow the law and grant its citizens the basic right to circulate a protest petition. When they do, Justice Matters will be ready with a legal petition and a plan to collect the necessary 2,500 signatures.
The Jail Alternatives Research Team of Justice Matters is committed to holding our elected officials accountable to state law and to the values held by our community: values of restoration, compassion, and justice.
If you would like to join us in this work, you are welcome at our next team meeting:
--March 10, 6:30-8 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church (2104 Bob Billings Pkwy).
For more information, contact a Justice Matters organizer:
Ben MacConnell: ben@JusticeMattersinKansas.org
Katie Hobson: katie@JusticeMattersinKansas.org