Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Clueless in K.C.

At a community meeting in southeast Kansas City tonight, dozens of local residents gathered, apparently to vent their frustration with two of the main speakers: Owen Buckley, whose company owns what was once Bannister Mall (now a pile of rubble), and Councilman John Sharp.

Many of the people had come to previous meetings where Mr. Buckley and his attorney had painted a very rosy picture of what a soccer-centric redevelopment plan would look like. Even before the collapse of Wall Street, it was clear to me and my friends that this plan would never happen, and if it did, that it would be a failure of spectacular proportions.

So, we were in the small minority there who weren't upset that there won't be another pro-sports arena in Kansas City. That's probably why I felt so detached from the whole thing. That feeling only got worse as Councilman Sharp convinced some in the crowd that it wasn't enough to have given away the store (in the form of diverting to the developer any taxes on the land or from any economic activity that may happen there). No, we needed to give them even more "economic incentives" with the help of the State of Missouri.


The irony of these "economic incentives" now is that -- not having the burden of property taxes -- the owners of the land have no incentive to develop it. There is minimal cost to them as they sit on the property in hopes a better deal will come along sometime ten or twenty years down the road.

Yet there was no suggestion of revoking the tax-exempt status of the land. And there was not one mention of the plan that wouldn't have been a spectacular failure, but which never had much of a chance due to the backward thinking in this town. Read about that in The Pitch.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Who is our city council really working for?

The other day, I referenced an article on firedoglake in a tweet:

Reason we're screwed #1 Not only does campaign money corrupt Congressmen, the job is just a resume-builder for K-street
This was about the U.S. Congress, but it applies to our own city council as well. Just look at the career of former 3rd district councilman Troy Nash.

Nash sat on the Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee during his two terms on the city council (1999 to 2007 -- a period that witnessed too many sweetheart deals with developers to list, diverting your tax dollars into developers' pockets while putting the city in a precarious debt situation.)

After being term-limited off the city council, Nash became Vice President and Director of Public Sector Consulting for Zimmer Real Estate Services, one of the largest firms in the Kansas City area.

This fits the pattern perfectly: Use one's time in government to service wealthy interest groups, then work directly for them in the private sector, using the connections made while supposedly serving the people's interests to further the interests of their true masters.

Information that indicates who these true masters are is out there, but you don't hear about it much, and doing your own research by looking up campaign contributions at the Missouri Ethics Commission web site is not my idea of a fun leisure time activity.

But, somebody needs to do it.