Bankrupting the coal industry, restricting domestic oil production, and investing in green technology is the goal of our president, and building electric public transportation in cities across this nation is his New Deal.

So even though you were never consulted, Kansas City is moving forward with their plans to build a streetcar in downtown Kansas City, and despite what City Hall and rail activists are telling you, you’re going to pay for it.

FACT: It took just 351 votes to approve the funding of a $102 million building project.
When light rail was defeated by Kansas City voters six times, agenda driven politicians and activists realized that they had to change their strategy. By taking Clay Chastain’s name off the project, renaming the light rail to “streetcar,” and disenfranchising voters by forming a TDD (Transportation Development District) they were able to reduce the eligible voters to less than 700 citizens. Mostly loft dwelling renters without families or taxable property.

FACT: Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich conducts an annual audit of the state’s TDDs, and frequently finds that these projects are plagued by problems with competitive bidding, overspending, and misreporting finances to the state. Something needs to be done to reform TDDs in Jefferson City to protect citizens from having their tax revenue drained by questionable transportation projects that they were never allowed to vote on.

FACT: As many as 9 out of 10 public works projects go over in cost. There hasn’t been a single streetcar project in this country that has come in under budget.  In order to form and pass the TDD, the advocates had to keep their projected cost as low as possible. Historically, cost over runs for streetcar projects have averaged at around 44%.  When this project inevitably breaks the budget, where will the extra money come from? It will come from the city’s general fund, and it will come from the transportation budget, both of which are funded by the average disenfranchised Kansas City taxpayer.

FACT: The contract to build streetcar was not awarded to the lowest bidder. Consistent with Schweich’s audits, City Hall chose not to go with the “lowest and best bid” and bypassed two locally based companies to select an out-of-town company that politicians and activists most likely had in mind before the TDD was ever even formed. The only thing missing from this picture is Tom Pendergast concrete.

FACT: Kansas City’s streetcar was just awarded a $20 million grant from the federal government. On it’s face, that may seem like good news, but most of that money comes from the 2009 Stimulus. This was part of the fifth round of transportation grants, which get continuously smaller with each new round, and ours was the largest one awarded. It doesn’t even cover 1/5 the cost to build our two miles starter line, and there is no promise of maintaining services after it’s built.

FACT: The KCATA’s annual operating cost from their website is $87 Million. That means the entire city is served by buses for a whole year for $15 million less than what it costs just to build 2 miles of track in Downtown Kansas City.

FACT: Despite all of the economic development projects that Kansas City has spent hundreds of millions on in the past decade, there are 20% less jobs in Downtown Kansas City now than in 2000. Not only have Union Station, the Power & Light District, the Sprint Arena, and numerous other projects failed to yield the successes that they promised, but they have all created new obstacles and burdens for tax payers to overcome.

•Union Station merged with the Kansas City Museum, causing it to lose its accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums.  The museum closed its doors in 2007 for renovations, but most of the funding it needed to make those renovations was instead used to keep Union Station afloat.

•We were promised that if we built the Sprint Arena, that a professional sports franchise would follow, and while the venue regularly brings large acts to Kansas City, we have yet to fill the arena with an anchor tenant.

•And the Power & Light District is barely operating at 30%. Each year, Kansas City tax payers are forced to pay $12-$14 million out of the general fund to pay back the bonds that were issued to build it.

In addition to these problems manufactured by dreamers in City Hall, Kansas City has neglected our aging infrastructure, our public schools continue to struggle, and violent crime continues to be a problem.

FACT: Federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx rose to his position after building a streetcar in Charlotte, NC, while he was mayor. No doubt our own ambitious mayor has similar dreams, which would explain his frustration with any opposition to this project, and his willingness to build it at any cost. Does he really have the best interest of Kansas City in mind, or is he more focused on future career goals?

Without even discussing the pros and cons of rail transit, you can see that this project was misguided before it even left the station, and there’s little, if anything you can do to stop it, because our current mayor and city council have promised to get this project completed even if it means bypassing the democratic process. If you’re as angry as I am, contact your state representative and ask them to seek solutions for reforming TDDs.

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Comments
  1. Not Eric Chaloux says:

    Lookie here. Is KCMO giving special treatment to development projects in the streetcar TDD while everyone else can go to hell? http://webfusion.kcmo.org/coldfusionapps/IBS/Files/IB166.pdf

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