Government & Politics

Mayor Lucas names new TIF board that won’t ‘rubber stamp’ development projects 

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said he expects tough questions and a measured approach to development incentives from the incoming members of the Tax Increment Financing Commission (TIF) he appointed Thursday.

Lucas, who won the mayor’s office after serving one term on the City Council, hopes to fill three of the six TIF Commission seats set aside for mayoral appointments with current council members Lee Barnes, Andrea Bough and Ryana Parks-Shaw.

To chair the board, he named former Councilwoman Alissia Canady, an opponent in the April mayoral primary who endorsed him in the general election. Canady was an outspoken critic of some TIF plans approved by the commission and the council.

The appointments must be approved by the City Council.

Tax increment financing allows a developer to capture new property and economic activity tax revenue generated within a district to pay for certain costs.

Critics of TIF contend that standards for approving TIF plans have been too lax, and that the revenue retained by developers has stunted budget growth in taxing jurisdictions like school and library districts.

Proponents say dozens of economic development projects would not have happened without TIF because they would otherwise be too costly for developers to undertake on their own.

TIF packages must be approved by the commission and the City Council.

Putting so many current and former elected officials on the independent board, Lucas said, would bring more accountability.

Lucas said he respected Canady’s advocacy for responsible use of incentives.

“I like having people on boards who I think share that viewpoint of equity in development, responsibility in development, fidelity to the taxpayers and making sure that we’re being responsible long term,” he said.

Glynn returns to TIF Commission

Appointing so many elected officials to the independent board is unusual, but it’s not the first time a current council member has filled the role. Former Mayor Sly James appointed his then-mayor pro tem, Cindy Circo, to chair the board. Circo still holds that position and would be replaced by Canady.

Despite the inclusion of four current and former council members, Lucas said he expected the board would still act independently from the council.

The TIF Commission is also made of members from Jackson, Clay and Platte counties who advise on projects in their own counties and the school districts that comprise the city.

As a mayoral candidate, Lucas was often critical of frequent public assistance for developments, especially luxury projects or those requiring assistance to build parking garages. This TIF Commission, he said, will ask questions and take a sensible approach.

“That’s what I think the taxpayers want from us,” Lucas said. “What they don’t want is a rubber stamp, and maybe, I guess, my critique of past boards has been that I think we’ve seen a lot of rubber stamp activity in years past.”

Lucas also appointed Pam Mason, a former Clay County commissioner, and Tammy Queen, the city’s interim finance director. Former mayoral primary opponent Phil Glynn, who was dismissed from the commission by James in 2015 for questioning some development proposals, was appointed as an alternate, along with former City Councilman Bobby Hernandez, Andrea Dorch, Michael McGee, Matt Oates and Jeffrey Williams.

Lucas is also expected to soon announce appointments to other agencies that make recommendations on tax incentives, including Port KC, where he said he will appoint Glynn, who endorsed him in the general election.

New parks, Visit KC board members

Lucas on Thursday also announced his five appointments to the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Board: finance executive Jack Holland, restaurant owner Chris Goode, insurance executive David Mecklenburg, a current board member, and former council members Scott Wagner and Mary Williams-Neal.

Wagner, who served as mayor pro-tem, also ran unsuccessfully in the mayoral primary.

Lucas said the group represented an “outstanding” and diverse group that represent neighborhoods north and south of the Missouri River and east and west of Troost Avenue.

And just weeks ahead of a vote on whether to change Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard back to The Paseo Boulevard, Lucas said he hopes the future Parks Board gives residents who come with an idea a chance for a hearing. The Parks Board rebuffed a proposal from a group of ministers who supported changing The Paseo to honor King, the late civil rights leader.

Later Thursday, Lucas drew on other familiar City Hall names when he announced appointments to the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates as the Visit KC Board of Directors. The mayor appoints half of the up to 30 board members. Among his nominees are outgoing City Manager Troy Schulte, City Councilwomen Teresa Loar and Melissa Robinson and Councilman Kevin O’Neill.

Visit KC nominations require confirmation by the City Council, but parks nominations do not.

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Allison Kite reports on City Hall and local politics for The Star. She joined the paper in February 2018 and covered Midterm election races on both sides of the state line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in economics and public policy from the University of Kansas.