Chalk up yet another defeat for the campaign to pass an $800 million medical research sales tax on Nov. 5 in Jackson County.
By Yael T. Abouhalkah
The Kansas City Star
Led by Kansas City Mayor Sly James, the mayors of the countys five largest cities are not going to endorse the half-cent sales tax increase, which would raise $40 million a year.
UPDATED 2 PM: Now the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has announced it will also oppose the tax.
The official comment from James office is short and to the point: Mayor James is supportive of the broad concept of translational medicine but at this time is not taking a position on this particular ballot question.
Lees Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads, Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross and Raytown Mayor David Bower said in interviews they are all neutral on Question One. They wont support the tax and they wont oppose it either.
Independence Mayor Don Reimal did not respond to interview requests, but Im told he has the same position.
This opposition will not help supporters pass the tax increase in those cities. Thats a good thing to hear for tax opponents, like myself.
Certainly it would be better for the Yes on One people to have the leading politicians in each city out drumming for the cause.
But keep in mind that all of these mayors have cities to run cities that depend on getting millions of dollars from local sales and property taxes, especially, to provide services to their residents.
In fact, as Mayor Ross of Blue Springs has noted, he is spending all his time trying to persuade his citys voters to endorse a half-cent sales tax increase that would be used to improve parks and build a community center. That tax also is on the Nov. 5 ballot.
So at least in Blue Springs, voters have the opportunity to approve up to a full, 1-cent hike in their sales tax rate to 8.975 percent. They also could reject one or both of the requested half-cent taxes.
Its not exactly surprising that the mayors wont come out and embrace a tax thats going to be used for speculative research by two private organizations (St. Lukes and Childrens Mercy hospitals) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Heres their thinking: If the county tax passes, that could make it tougher to get voters to approve city taxes some time in the future.
However, none of the mayors has good reasons to come out publicly to directly oppose the tax either. Look at whos leading the charge for it: The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, made up of business elite who fund all kinds of political and tax campaigns in Kansas City and other cities in the county.
So the mayors are neutral, which in this case is essentially not good news for tax supporters.