G. Joseph McLiney: Voters are tied to the streetcar tracks

08/22/2014 3:40 PM

08/22/2014 4:28 PM

Your vote doesn’t count and it probably never did. The ballot box is nothing more than a scam designed to make you believe you have a voice in politics.

Your leaders have little more than contempt for your directions. To prove this to yourself, you need only listen to what your mayor and city council say and watch what they do.

The August election is a shining example that should drive home this sad fact. By more than a 20-point margin, voters rejected the proposed streetcar expansion.

Instead of listening to the people, Mayor Sly James responded by saying, “We’re not going to let the (streetcar) starter line be the end of the line for this thing. It’s ridiculous to think that.”

He didn’t give this massive defeat a second thought. Moments after the votes were counted and the message to end this unwanted and unneeded streetcar project was clear, he pronounced the voters to be “ridiculous” and declared he is “...not going to roll over and let it go.”

This disdain for us shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to our city government. On May 22, more than two months before a single vote was cast, the city awarded two contracts for the Phase 2 Streetcar expansion design work.

Councilman Russ Johnson sponsored both resolutions causing $8,146,630 to be spent using “funds previously appropriated.”

Perhaps those spare millions we apparently have laying around could help the budget we’re told is always in crisis or go to lowering the cost of utility services and not the mayor’s vanity railroad. If committing millions before the election doesn’t demonstrate our leadership’s complete disregard for us, perhaps you’ll be convinced by Councilman Johnson’s promise that if you vote against him, he knows 50 people who will come and force the expansion upon you.

This thuggish statement isn’t an exaggeration, but you need not take my word for it. Visit the city’s website and the video of officials’ meeting during which Councilman Johnson, in a surprisingly candid moment said, “If anybody out there thinks that if this (Phase 2 Streetcar project) gets voted down in August it’s going to go away. I know 50 people out there that will force you to either move this forward or they will move it forward for you.”

It sounds a little like our councilman has a mob ready to break our legs to help convince people to vote his way. What he is actually referring to is a little known trick used by financiers and developers called a Transportation Development District.

This technique allows a very small group to force a half a billion-dollar project down our throats. It was exactly this underhanded, yet perfectly legal method that created the $100 million, 2-mile starter line currently ravaging Main Street today.

Ayn Rand wrote, “We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission....”

It’s clear Kansas City has reached that point. Voters asked their representatives to stop the streetcar expansion.

Our leaders are not listening. They’re ignoring our direction and doing exactly as they please, or in the words of Councilman Johnson, “...the streetcar is going to be expanded whether we like it or not.”

G. Joseph McLiney of Kansas City runs a private investment firm specializing in public finance. To reach him, send email to oped@kcstar.com.

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