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The Kansas City Streetcar Advisory Panel Is Just For Show
By Patrick Tuohey

The panel appointed to advise Kansas City Mayor Sly James about the best route for the southern extension of the streetcar met on Saturday morning, and many were skeptical. Of course, Kansas City voters have rejected similar rail efforts for years so this is no surprise.

Whatever the advisory group decides, however, is moot. That is because the city’s petition for the creation of a special taxing district and the increased sales and property taxes therein has already been submitted to a judge for consideration. Nothing this advisory panel does will change it, nor is any decision they reach binding upon the city. As the Kansas City Star published:

Kansas City Councilman Russ Johnson told the group: “We’ll do everything we can to incorporate the preferred alternative.”

Kansas Citians are being asked to commit to very specific and enforceable sales and property tax increases in return for a vague notion of where those rails will be laid; the city is not willing to commit to a specific route. In the petition to the court, the city spends about seven of 15 pages (pages 6 through 13) detailing how the taxes are to be assessed and collected. As for the route, that receives less than one page (page 4) of vague statements such as (emphasis added):

The Expansion Routes will connect to the Starter Line, and are expected to run generally along (i) Independence Avenue, east from the Starter Line, (ii) Linwood Boulevard and/or 31 and (iii) Main Street and/or the public right of way commonly referred to as the Country Club Right of Way or public streets in the vicinity thereof, south from the Starter Line, all as generally depicted on Exhibit D…

The petition does not even include the consideration of public input as to the route, its ending, or the placement of stations. Those will be decided by “further design and engineering.”

The specific Expansion Routes, their respective termini (which may be closer to or farther from any such Expansion Routes’ connection to the Starter Line) and the specific location of embark/disembark points, remain subject to refinement or alteration following further design and engineering;

For the sake of transparency — and an informed electorate — the City Council should have undertaken “further design and engineering” before convening an advisory board and submitted the petition to a judge. But they didn’t, and so the effort to seek citizen input is a tale told by streetcar supporters: “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

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February 21, 2014
Ask Not For Whom The Bell Clangs

By Patrick Tuohey

It clangs not for thee, according to Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

If you are reading this, the streetcar is not for you. In a Feb. 13 interview on KCUR radio, James said the following:

We need people to understand, a lot of the folks who are against this [streetcar expansion] are people who have been vested here, they’re already here. They’ve lived most of their lives if not close to all of it [here]. We’re not building this city for them. We’re building this city for the next 75 years.

Not only is the streetcar not for people in Kansas City; voters ought to discount the views of Kansas Citians exactly because they are from Kansas City. In the same interview, James said:

And despite people’s objections, despite their willingness to look at it in some instances, when we’re out looking for talent to come to this city, they’re not looking for some place where they can drive all around town, they are demanding public transportation.

Got that, Kansas City taxpayers? The streetcar is not for you, it is for others, either in the future or those who live somewhere else. You’ll just be paying for it. Planning ahead for city growth and seeking to attract new citizens are noble goals. The problem is that nothing in the research about streetcars indicates that it accomplishes either.

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