A new weapons plant is nearing completion in south Kansas City, and nothing will halt its operations to replace the Bannister location that makes non-nuclear components for nuclear weapons.
By LYNN HORSLEY
The Kansas City Star
But a grass-roots group of peace activists is urging support for a measure on Tuesday’s ballot that would prohibit Kansas City from subsidizing facilities in the future that manufacture or procure parts for nuclear weapons.
“What we want to do is get Kansas City out of it,” said Jane Stoever, a member of Peaceworks KC and an advocate for Question 3. She was part of the group that gathered about 3,500 petition signatures to compel the City Council to put this citizens’ initiative on the ballot.
City Council members reluctantly did so. They said the initiative is a naive crusade that will do nothing to reduce the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal, but could hurt economic development efforts, especially in south Kansas City.
When council members voted to put the measure on the ballot, they emphasized their fear that the measure would be a job-killer and discourage defense contractors from doing business with the city.
“This just drives business away,” said City Councilman Scott Taylor, who lives in south Kansas City. “It does drive away potentially, new jobs, new high tech companies that might be supplying the plant. It also sends a bad message to a lot of other industries.”
Taylor worries that if Kansas City’s hands are tied and it can’t offer incentives, then those businesses will just go to nearby Grandview or other suburbs, or to Kansas, which wouldn’t be limited by this ballot measure.
The campaign surrounding Question 3 represents something of a David and Goliath battle. Supporters of the initiative have raised about $6,000 and are getting their message out on college campuses, in church gatherings and with other organizations such as the Sierra Club.
Opponents of the measure have raised about $90,000 from major civic and business groups, including the Civic Council, Kansas City Southern Railway, Burns and McDonnell, J.E. Dunn Construction, and Honeywell, which will manage and operate the plant for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Rachel MacNair, spokeswoman for the campaign supporting Question 3, said her group is not concerned about its financial disadvantage. She said she believes the group’s message is resonating with many Kansas Citians, who don’t think the city should be in the business of modernizing the nuclear weapons arsenal.
“A lot of military experts are getting upset about that, saying these are cold war relics,” she said. “For heaven sakes, why should we be spending money on this when it doesn’t address the actual national security problems we have?”
The group initially tried to halt construction of the new $1 billion plant at Missouri 150 and Botts Road, which will become completely operational in August 2014. But the City Council declined to put that initiative on a city ballot, saying it was an unconstitutional interference with the federal government’s power to provide for the national defense.
This petition therefore seeks only to prevent the city’s future financial involvement in weapons production.
No matter what happens on Election Day, MacNair said her group has already achieved a big part of its mission.
“Our original three goals were to raise public awareness, do public education and make it clear that that plant is controversial,” she said. “We are succeeding on those three goals, big time.”
To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to email@example.com.