The Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series with good planning and their on-field play, despite a few errors along the way.
On Tuesday, when a unifying victory parade and a Union Station rally honored the Royals, the 2 million people who live in the Kansas City area reaped the benefits of past actions by voters and civic leaders.
But residents also paid a price for mistakes that came back to haunt them. A sampling of both:
▪ We don’t have an efficient, regional public transit system.
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Instead, for too many years, elected officials on both sides of the state line have offered a disjointed network that refused to work on behalf of the people who matter the most — passengers. The most egregious mistake came decades ago, when Johnson County leaders broke away from the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. The lack of a regional system made it more difficult than it should have been to plan for and smoothly transport people on Tuesday.
More missteps: Mayor Emanuel Cleaver’s obstructionist comments about where to build public transit helped kill an early light-rail plan in the late 1990s. Years later, voters rejected two reasonable, city-led light-rail projects.
▪ Suburban sprawl has consequences.
People who have chosen to live in Olathe, or the outskirts of Jackson County or way out in the Northland complained loudly about how long it took to get to downtown Kansas City, either by personal vehicle or the bus.
Hello: If you decide to reside miles upon miles away from the literal and symbolic heart of this community, then you could pay a price when you suddenly need to get there for a big civic event. On Tuesday, that price amounted to spending time waiting in lines for buses or in cars on freeways.
Then again, Tuesday also was a great day for thousands of people to reap the rewards of their decisions to move into the heart of Kansas City, even right into downtown.
▪ Voters made the right calls to save Union Station and the Liberty Memorial, and renovate Kauffman Stadium.
People across this nation have marveled at stunning photos of the sea of blue-clad Royals fans gathered south of the station and north of the memorial.
But as early as the 1980s some respected local voices wanted to tear down the aging station, as passenger train traffic dwindled. In 1996, however, voters in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties and in Johnson County approved a sales tax that raised just over $118 million to grandly restore Union Station, build Science City and reopen a civic treasure.
Part of Liberty Memorial was in danger of collapse in the late 1990s. It took more public funds, approved by Kansas City voters, to repair the facility and build the excellent World War I Museum there.
And the Royals play in a modern stadium because Jackson County voters in 2006 backed a tax to renovate it — two years after Johnson County voters wrongly said “no” to that cause.
▪ Kansas City voters also ignored skeptics in 2004 and — following the downtown-championing leadership of Mayor Kay Barnes — approved new fees to pay for Sprint Center. For good reasons, that’s where Tuesday’s parade began.
Across the street, the Power & Light District is on pace, unfortunately, to burden local taxpayers with tens of millions in debt. Yet once people figured out that the district’s covered “living room” was a great place to gather to communally watch sporting events such as the World Series and World Cup, this part of downtown is much livelier.
No one knows when the Royals will win the World Series again. But area residents should insist on better planning — and fewer mistakes — from civic and political leaders as this community gets ready for the next huge celebration.