For those trying to take Kansas City’s tax policy seriously, the discussion of blighting the luxurious InterContinental Hotel on Country Club Plaza isn’t making things any easier.
Blight, which is a legitimate and pervasive problem on the east side of Kansas City, is tragic. It scars communities, reduces property value and chases away private investment. The documentary “Our Divided City” demonstrates clearly the link between urban neglect, poverty, blight, and crime in Kansas City alone.
But Kansas City’s use of blight, particularly in the case of the InterContinental Hotel, doesn’t address those things. The Kansas City Star wrote that the hotel in question is seeking the blight designation so that it can create a community improvement district (CID) and collect a 1% tax. The hotel would keep the tax and use it to address “deteriorated bathroom finishes and ceilings, torn and badly stained carpets in heavily trafficked areas and guest rooms, and torn wall paper.” In short, the CID allows them to create and collect a tax that they don’t have to report as part of their basic rate. But it will still be charged to every customer—tacked on at the end of every bill like any other tax, even though the money will stay with the hotel. One Marriott general manager has said that if the InterContinental’s request is granted, other hotels will seek to follow suit. And why not? It’s an opportunity to charge customers an extra 1% more than the rates they advertise.
It's difficult enough to look at a hotel as opulent as the InterContinental and think blight. Now the hotel wants to charge customers an extra 1% that the city will never see, and call that a tax. Kansas Citians, along with those who visit the city and stay at the InterContinental, deserve better. The hand-wringing and nose-holding of the past is not sufficient. Kansas City needs a more open and fair tax policy.