Clay Chastain’s three-year legal battle to get his Kansas City light-rail plan on the ballot is awaiting a judge’s ruling — again.
The case has been to the Missouri Supreme Court and is back again at the district level.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Sandra Midkiff said at the close of a Thursday hearing that she will issue a ruling “as soon as possible.”
Apart from the city’s wish that the ballot issue not appear on any ballot, Midkiff was presented with two basic options.
Put Chastain’s proposal in full or in edited form before the voters this fall, as his attorney contended. Let them decide whether to raise sales taxes three-eights of a cent for a light-rail system that the city would be under no obligation to build.
Or, the city’s attorney argued, let the city write the ballot language for the voters. But that would almost certainly result in another court challenge.
Chastain attorney Jeffrey Carey claimed that in arguing for that, the city was trying to keep the measure off the ballot indefinitely either out of animosity or because it might interfere with plans for a citywide streetcar system.
“It will just mean more delay,” he said.
But assistant city attorney Sarah Baxter said the the Supreme Court decision and provisions in the city charter supported her position.
Chastain, a longtime transit activist, was in the courtroom but gave no testimony.
Should the judge rule in his favor, the measure could go to the voters in November.
Chastain gathered enough signatures in 2011 to put on the ballot a tax measure to build a 22-mile light-rail system, a 19-mile commuter line and an 81/2-mile streetcar line.
The city refused to present it to the voters, claiming the tax would not raise enough money to pay for it and it was unconstitutional.
In February, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the Chastain proposal was not unconstitutional because it merely raised money without requiring the city to actually build the project.