Kansas City’s $800 Million Animal Shelter?
For months Kansas City has been talking about issuing an $800 million general obligation bond, backed by increased taxes, to make up for years of deferred maintenance on the city’s basic infrastructure. Now that the ballot language is being shaped, city leaders have provided few specifics about how that $800 million will be used, with the exception of building an animal shelter
Lynn Horsley at The Kansas City Star writes,
The city’s finance staff is arguing for more general, flexible language, because anticipating future needs is difficult. Finance Director Randy Landes pointed to a successful $250 million general obligation bond vote in 2004 for just “deferred maintenance and basic capital infrastructure.”
But some council members said voters need more specificity. Mayor Sly James has argued for flexible language but suggested there could be an annual “report card” to assure voters the money is being spent responsibly.
The idea of the city issuing its own report card on the matter should raise eyebrows. But in a recent interview on KCUR, the mayor said the city could publish a list of projects to be addressed by the bond, but he didn’t want to be held to it! Imagine a student asking to issue his own report card on his ability to accomplish vaguely defined tasks!
It shouldn’t be surprising that city leaders aren’t eager to be held to specifics. Remember, these are the same city leaders who:
- Issued an emergency ordinance allocating $10 million toward streetcar expansion. But when the streetcar expansion was defeated, just spent the money elsewhere;
- Dismissed the need for an audit of the water department despite a huge increase in water rates to pay for water and sewer infrastructure improvements;
- Responded internally to a call for information on economic development subsidies with, “Be very careful. Do not divulge anything more than necessary;”
- Repeatedly (and incorrectly) characterized the movement of money from the Aviation Department to the City;
- Issued questionable numbers on downtown and east side development efforts; and then
- Hired a trade association of development financiers to report on the success of the City’s development schemes.
Voter skepticism in Kansas City and around the country is high, and for good reason. There is little trust of political leaders, and the weak promise of a “report card” for the spending is a perfect example of why. Kansas Citians are right to demand a specific list of projects rather than an $800 million blank check for an animal shelter.