KC’s full plate of issues: Plaza, guns, tax hikes, KCI

09/18/2013 8:16 PM

09/18/2013 8:16 PM

In the last few weeks, Kansas City police pepper-sprayed youths gathered in a park near the Country Club Plaza, Missouri legislators rejected flawed gun and tax-cut bills, civic leaders unveiled the campaign for their questionable $800 million medical research tax increase and Kansas City International Airport’s future became somewhat clearer.

Whew! There’s a lot going on as summer fades into fall. Let’s recap:

• The resilience of the Plaza will be tested this weekend.

Thousands of mostly white people will stroll around Friday and Saturday nights — alcohol in hand and some packing heat (this is gun-loving America, after all) — enjoying the 82nd annual Plaza Art Fair, a wonderful Kansas City institution.

Just a few blocks away, a large group of black youths may gather for a third straight weekend in Mill Creek Park. Fights may or may not break out, guns may or may not be pulled out. The real test will be whether Police Chief Darryl Forté and his commanders have come up with a different strategy than using pepper spray to disperse the youths, as occurred last Saturday.

Yet the youths need to be cut some slack, too. Plenty of them are hanging out in a public park — much like the art fair lovers are hanging out on public streets nearby.

The bottom line: Isn’t it possible that both gatherings can peacefully co-exist?

• Good news from the Missouri General Assembly: Legislators rejected two bad bills in last week’s veto session.

One measure would have made the state the nation’s laughingstock by rejecting the enforcement of all federal gun laws. Two Senate Republicans voted the sensible way and ensured the bill’s failure by a single vote. But let’s give credit, too, to Kansas City area Democratic senators who stood strong against the measure.

The tax cut also failed, partly because 15 House Republicans didn’t want to handcuff Missouri with a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, damaging education and social services.

Now the bad news: These dangerous measures will be back next year, according to vows from shortsighted politicians such as House Speaker Tim Jones.

• The “Yes on 1” campaign kicked off the unusual effort to pass a half-cent sales tax increase in Jackson County to finance medical research.

It’s notable that even civic leaders behind this $40 million-a-year cause acknowledge one county shouldn’t bear the burden of a regressive tax to finance an effort that could, in concept at least, benefit the entire country. A lower tax, spread across the state or at least the region, would have been preferable.

Yet, from its viewpoint, the civic community can’t count on uncooperative Missouri or Kansas legislators getting aboard an effort to help with medical research. So they backed into putting the full lug on Jackson Countians in a vote on Nov. 5.

• While some people seem determined to keep KCI as it is, the task force evaluating its future is more realistic.

In recent days the group has heard that it could cost $650 million or more to essentially spruce up the present facility, fixing infrastructure that’s 40 years old.

If airport users are going to spend that much money to keep the status quo, the task force appears ready to face the reality that — for several hundred million dollars more — Kansas City could get a truly up-to-date airport that could provide more restrooms, better waiting areas, improved security and expanded food service.

This citizens group needs to reach the goal of determining the best ways to keep the convenience that everyone loves at KCI, while building an airport that’s nicer than the outmoded one we have now.

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