Citizens throughout the black community are becoming more and more concerned about the focus or lack thereof from black members of this City Council and their priorities.
Watching this Council makes the concerns seem legitimate.
The concerns are that the black Council members go into any issue they bring before the Council with at the very least six votes, but they are not using that influence effectively or at all. They should count Mayor Quinton Lucas, Councilmen Lee Barnes, Brandon Ellington, Councilwomen Katheryn Shields, Melissa Robinson and Ryana Parks Shaw, Andrea Bough and Teresa Loar are at least eight votes that they take into any issue off the top, but as my grandmother would say, “a closed mouth never gets fed”.
Several weeks ago, with intense lobbying by Council members from the First and Second Councilmatic districts, to fund $42 million for a new soccer complex in the Northland. The money is to be paid back through sales tax revenue not the general fund, they claim.
The argument that supporters of the project made was that parents have to drive for miles to take their children to practices and compete in tournaments to other complexes located in Overland Park, Olathe, K.C.K and Swope Park.
Their biggest selling point was that “developers” have $240 million waiting in the wings to build an hotel, food courts and other items related to soccer and the center to the tune of about $14 million a year in tax revenue. Ironically, none of the projected tax revenue happened with the multi-million dollar complex built in Swope Park, but their proposal sounds good. Parents attend the tournaments in Swope Park, get in their cars, turn right on 63rd street and head over to I-435 and go back to the Northland or Overland Park. Or they make a left and head back over to Brookside. No tax revenue takes place around Swope Park because nothing is there to buy!
Since this Council has been seated there have been four major projects that have been passed with a proposed or estimated cost; Crossroads $52 million, May 2020; Strata $132 million plus incentatives; Waddell and Reed $140 million and of course the aforementioned Northland Soccer complex $43 million. So, roughly, $ 300 million, and not one nickel toward 18th and Vine.
It is not THE CALL’s position that all of the black Council members voted for all of these projects. However, there should have been a block of votes that leveraged for development or affordable housing or something which benefits the community they were elected to serve. Crater size potholes still exist on 55th street between Swope Parkway and Paseo and this is May.
So, let’s back up a minute. Former City Councilman Jermaine Reed and others on the previous Council set the stage and began the process by spending $9 million of the $27 million allotted for the 18th and Vine Jazz district. No one has picked up that torch or even mentioned that those funds were allocated and are just sitting on the front steps just waiting to be picked up.
There is $10 million in bond money just sitting there that was never mentioned in any negotiations for votes for over $100 million in projects that do not benefit or change the quality of life in the black community.
There are several multi-million projects, Requests For Proposals, for projects in the Jazz district just sitting there, because the 18th and Vine committee has not yet been sworn in to even review the RFPs. These projects could easily exceed $70 million.
It gets worse. At no time, since being sworn in, has any member of the “black voting block” mentioned opening a Tax Increment Finance for the Jazz district. This would attract developers to come into the area and help with its overall total development. At the very least a 353 Tax Abatement plan would also entice development in the area. By the way all of the blight in the Jazz district is owned by the City of Kansas City. One would think they would be the first in line to get their properties properly developed and generating tax revenue.
Every place there is major development in the Kansas City metropolitan area there is a TIF. The key to development is mixing public money with private money. The problem is that it never comes up in a conversation by black Council members.
THE CALL would challenge the black Council members to show us a Crossroads project, a Northland Soccer complex, a Strata project or a Wadell and Reed project totaling anywhere near $350 million within the black community?