Kansas Citians deserve a full accounting of the financing for a new convention hotel downtown.
Three Kansas City Council members — Teresa Loar, Katheryn Shields and Heather Hall — have asked for more information before construction begins on the new hotel, near Bartle Hall. They’re concerned that some details of the project remain opaque.
Their request is reasonable and should be accommodated without delay.
At a news conference Tuesday, the three said they are now getting some financing details, but more information is needed. They also want time to digest the information they’ve received.
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We’ve seen no evidence or irregularity in the financing arrangements for the $322 million hotel project. In fact, the commitment from Loews Hotels and others to spend nearly $60 million of their own money on the venture substantially improves the financing.
Outside agencies have approved the deal as well. We trust their judgment.
But citizens still deserve a detailed accounting of how their money will be spent on any project, let alone a major convention hotel. That’s what Loar, Shields and Hall want.
They’ve proposed an ordinance that would prohibit spending “from any city source” for the hotel until certain documents are released. Among those documents: a full term sheet with financing agreements and equity participants. They also want a “pro-forma” statement of spending plans for the project.
The city attorney’s office declined to approve the Loar-Shields-Hall ordinance for consideration, an unusual step. City Councilman Scott Wagner said it might invalidate the original agreement between the hotel developers and the city, which is more than two years old.
Kansas Citians need not reach a decision on the legality of the ordinance, which may be heard Wednesday morning at City Hall. Regardless, the public has a right to see the information the three council members seek.
A compromise is clear and necessary.
Developers of the hotel should commit to making the requested information public before ground is broken for the project. The work of designing and financing the hotel can proceed as the documents are assembled.
The council members can put their ordinance on hold once the promise is made. Hotel boosters could hardly complain about such an agreement. The figures the three council members want should be readily available.
And the council members should accept the compromise. Unless their real goal is to undermine the project itself — an effort we would oppose — a promise to provide the needed information before groundbreaking should be sufficient.
The convention hotel has faced repeated delays. Those postponements were frustrating but ultimately were essential to delivering the best possible project for Kansas City.
We support the new hotel. The 800-room structure will further energize the west side of downtown, bringing conventions and tourists who will spend money, increasing jobs and tax revenue.
And the council members asking the questions say they want the project to proceed. “We’re fine with this hotel,” Councilwoman Loar told reporters and activists Tuesday.
But transparency and full disclosure are fundamental to good government. That’s true whether you want a new airport, run a child welfare agency or plan to build a convention hotel.
Council members Loar, Shields and Hall are asking for such transparency. The city and developer should commit to providing it and then start building the hotel.