After a recent KCPT documentary on urban neglect made waves across the region, supporters of the earnings tax are eager to counter claims that the city's east side neighborhood has been, well, neglected over the years. Kansas City Mayor Sly James is no exception. In a recent blog post, the Mayor stressed that,
Since 2011, over $2.5 billion in major developments, ranging from housing and commercial real estate to infrastructure and capital improvements have been approved, broken ground or been completed just in the area east of Troost, south of the river, and north of 63rd Street.
Attached to the post is a document listing projects that have taken place in the region the mayor defined. Some of the projects listed dealing with infrastructure were at least arguably meritorious. Others, including the boondoggle Citadel project, clearly weren't . . . but were nonetheless included in the city's strange parade of apparent economic successes.
Yet the single largest spending item on the list overshadowed all the rest, punctuated by its $375 million price tag. That item: the Arrowhead Stadium upgrades.
We first have to highlight the dubious argument that publicly underwriting professional sports is good economic policy. It's not. But beyond that, is Kansas City actually arguing that giving piles of money to wealthy professional sports team owners is a win for long-neglected communities in the urban core? Is the Truman Sports complex even inside the commonly understood boundaries that define the urban East Side neighborhood and its struggles? City officials might point to the minority-owned business hiring targets of the project and the indirect impact they could have had on the corridor around Troost, but the argument that Arrowhead's corporate welfare trickled down to East Side residents is very thin gruel for this long-suffering community.
The blog concludes with the following:
To the people I serve who live in our city’s eastern neighborhoods, the city hasn’t forgotten about you. I haven’t forgotten about you. Far from it. We’re going to do a better job of telling you about all things going on in your neighborhoods.
Fact is, the residents in the urban core know exactly what is going on in their neighborhoods, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the luxury boxes at Arrowhead. What members of the community need is leadership that huddles with residents and drives policies that deliver basic city services effectively and efficiently to the people who need them every day. Instead, all too often the city throws Hail-Mary policy passes long after the rout is on.
By that point it's too little and, unfortunately, too late. Our residents deserve better than to endure that kind of play calling year after year.
About the author
Director of Government Accountability