East Side to Jermaine Reed: Yes, you’re at home, but this is no way to treat family

Jermaine Reed’s new plan would invest $10 million in 18th & Vine District

Kansas City leaders announce an ambitious plan to invest $10 million in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District.
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Kansas City leaders announce an ambitious plan to invest $10 million in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District.

“Am I at home here?” Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed asked his constituents at Friday’s regular Urban Summit breakfast.

Oh yes, they told him. But home is where along with your favorite meal, you might get served the news that your hair looked better the other way, or any number of other truth bombs you’re not really longing to be let in on.

In this case, what Reed had to hear in some detail is that the small amount of city sales tax revenues that voters agreed should go into economic development on the long-ignored East Side has not been deposited into a piggy bank that the city can raid at will.

Reed, who is running to succeed Sly James as mayor, was there to talk up the latest plans for new investment in the city’s historic 18th & Vine Jazz District.

No one’s against that, even if former City Councilwoman Sharon Sanders Brooks did wonder out loud why she doesn’t see more African Americans working on construction projects there. Instead, she said, “Hispanics, Hispanics and whites” seem to have most of those jobs.

Reed’s constituents are not so jazzed, though, about the surprise aspect of the city’s plan to take $3 million of the money for 18th & Vine from the only $10 million a year in sales tax revenue that voters approved for the East Side.

And why even have a board to oversee how that money’s going to be spent if the city is planning how to use it without even consulting members?

Reed called the completely justified criticism he was hearing from the advocacy group “a gross misrepresentation” of reality.

You just aren’t getting a clear picture, he told them. Same as when he was a kid, he had to move the TV antenna this way and that to get better reception. Then, when he could see his show at last, he’d say, “God bless Bill Cosby!”

“Because I liked that show,” he explained, when no one even smiled at his analogy.

When City Manager Troy Schulte first showed Reed the 18th & Vine plan several weeks ago, “I said, ‘We should probably talk to people on the eighth-of-a-cent city sales tax board because that’s not a good look’”’ to fail to do so.

He was definitely right about that.

But when he did tell Central City Sales Tax District Board Chairman Herb Hardwick and Donna Wilson, it was in what board vice chair Melissa Patterson Hazley called a “tap-on-the-shoulder conversation in the hallway” when they happened to be at City Hall on other business.

Reed said in a phone interview that on the contrary, he went out of his way to extend “professional courtesy” by telling Hardwick and Wilson when, yes, he happened to run into them “two or three days” after he heard of the plan.

“And I’ve emailed them all, so it’s a misrepresentation for individuals to characterize that you haven’t talked to folks here or there.”

Hazley said that email was only sent last week — after the proposal had been made public.

And talking to “folks here or there” is no way to bring the board into the decision-making process.

So, what do board members think now that they know?

In her own view, Hazley said, “the board agrees with the sentiments of the room” at the Urban Summit.

City officials shouldn’t have to be reminded that stakeholders need to be at the table from the beginning and not as an afterthought.

Sometimes I think that if secrecy were deadly, this city would be a ghost town.