A group of East Side advocates has gathered sufficient signatures for a petition initiative seeking an April ballot measure to benefit the urban core, the Kansas City clerk’s office said Wednesday.
City Clerk Marilyn Sanders informed Mayor Sly James and the City Council that the group had gathered 1,849 signatures, more than the 1,708 needed for a valid petition.
“We are pleased that the grass-roots coalition, which has been pulled together, has been able to gather the necessary signatures,” said Vernon Howard Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City and senior pastor of St. Mark Union Church, who helped lead the petition drive.
The petitions seek an April ballot measure for a one-eighth-cent citywide sales tax increase for 30 years to support development projects in neglected areas from Ninth Street to Gregory Boulevard and from the Paseo to Indiana Avenue.
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The proposal would raise about $8 million per year, or almost a quarter of a billion dollars over three decades. A five-member board, appointed by the mayor and City Council, would help recommend how the tax proceeds would be spent.
“We will be relentless in our efforts to bring equity to economic investment for the urban core,” Howard said, adding that for too long African-American voters have supported other citywide taxes and programs without reaping sufficient benefits in return. Howard called on the civic, government and business communities to champion this urban-core initiative.
The City Council must vote to put this initiative on the April ballot. But some are worried that it may compete with the city’s own plans for an $800 million infrastructure bond measure on the April ballot. The details of that citywide program are not yet available, but it will almost certainly require a modest property tax increase for 20 years. It would aim to bring infrastructure improvements to all parts of the city.
Council members Katheryn Shields and Quinton Lucas said Wednesday they hope the council can have a productive dialogue with the petitioners about ways to help the East Side succeed while also supporting the broader general obligation bond package.