Group collects enough signatures for two measures challenging KC weapons plant

A group that opposes a new weapons plant in south Kansas City has gathered enough signatures for two ballot measures challenging the plant.

The city clerk’s office confirmed today that the KC Peace Planters had collected more than the 3,572 valid signatures required for two ballot measures relating to the plant under construction at 14500 Botts Road. The plant, scheduled to be fully operational in 2014, is designed for the manufacture of non-nuclear components for nuclear weapons.

It is up to the city council to decide whether to place the measures on a city election ballot, most likely in August.

The Peace Planters mounted a citizens’ initiative last year to prevent weapons manufacturing at the plant, but the city council declined to put the measure on the ballot, arguing it was illegal. These latest ballot measures were written to withstand further legal challenge by the city, according to petition coordinator Rachel MacNair.

“We took their objections into account,” MacNair said today.

But Councilman John Sharp, who represents the district that includes the plant, said he thinks at least one of the new ballot measures still has legal problems.

“This revised petition seems to have all the same flaws as the earlier one,” Sharp said.

Sharp was objecting to the first of two petitions, which calls on Kansas City to divest itself of the municipal bonds for nuclear weapons parts, to the extent allowed by law. It also states that no local agency will own the plant, as is currently the case. Finally, the ballot measure says that if the court knocks down any provision, the rest would stand.

But Sharp said that the legal problems remain because the ballot measure challenges the existing financing for the plant.

“It’s clearly too late to stop this project,” he said.

MacNair said her group knows it can’t stop the plant’s construction but wants to halt manufacturing that perpetuates nuclear weapons and wants the plant converted to a more environmentally beneficial use.

The second ballot measure stipulates that Kansas City will make contingency plans to convert the plant, possibly to renewable energy production, in case the plant no longer manufactures nuclear weapons components. Sharp said the second proposal doesn’t initially appear to be as problematic legally as the first ballot proposal.