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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Oh, How It's Good To Be Back

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

If only for the sake of Kansas City politics. As we speak, I'm printing off the web-based form to change my address with the Kansas City Election Board, so that I can vote in my new precinct on April 4. And what is there to vote on in Kansas City on April 4, you most certainly are dying to know?


Back before we left for Africa, the Jackson County Sports Authority was making noises about a ballot proposal for renovations to the stadiums at the Truman Sports Complex, home to the Royals and the Chiefs. When we returned, we found that not only did that proposal actually make it on the ballot, but another one did as well, a proposed tax on goods used in Jackson County but purchased outside the county (yeah, it's confusing) for the purpose of funding the construction of a rolling roof for the complex. A rolling freaking roof.

You can find all the information about the details of the proposals elsewhere. Like here and here. I won't get into it. Here's what I'll get into: Kansas City's seeming inability to make the kinds of moves and developments that cities like Denver and Dallas and Cleveland and Detroit have been able to make over the last 10 years.

All of those municipalities have seen construction of new amenities aimed at enhancing their downtown: ballparks, lightrail, and so on. But for some reason, Kansas City can't pull the trigger on any of these kinds of things. To its credit, the city did approve construction of a new arena downtown. In August of 2004. And construction hasn't started yet. Ahem.

So here are these two proposals, both aimed at enhancing the existing sports complex, a sprawling concrete expanse on the city's eastern frontier, surrounded by absolutely nothing of interest to event-goers, save a Denny's and a couple of hotels. The renovation plan will lock in the two teams' leases for over 20 years, guaranteeing that Kansas City won't endure the shame of being without major league baseball and football until at least 2026 (only the shame of having perrenial losers in those sports). 90% of the renovations--90%--will be paid by the tax increase (3/8 of a cent); the two multi-million dollar franchises could only combine to chip in 10% of the cost--combined. That's jacked.

And the rolling roof plan? Come on. The only reason for this is to get the Super Bowl. NFL Commisioner has "promised" that, if voters were to approve this addition, Kansas City will host the Super Bowl in 2015. Great. And next year's Oscars will be held at my apartment.

So how am I going to vote? I don't know. I'm an ardent sports fan, and living in a city with Major League Baseball and the National Football League is pretty cool. But I'm almost 30, and I see a few more important things that tax money could be spent on in this city, this county, and this state (er, education perhaps). It bothers me that the driving force behind these proposals is fear: if we don't fund these upgrades, the teams will leave and then we'll be lumped in with the Omaha's and Oklahoma City's of the world. I'm not so sure I care enough about that to punch the "yes" dot for these things.

Half a billion dollars in mostly tax-payers money just to "upgrade" (read: maintain) what's already there? That's a hard sell.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 5:30 AM


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