Here's how KC can make plenty of progress in 2013
The Kansas City Star
Just watch: 2013 is going to be the best year ever in the Kansas City area.
How’s that for being optimistic?
Of course, there are plenty of ways for that upbeat prognostication to go awry. Here are several local issues worth special scrutiny this year along with the usual caveat that — at any time — new concerns could pop up and demand attention.
Arrange a cease-fire in the economic border war.
Neither Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback nor Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon wants to back down and change how each has been doling out tax breaks to woo selected businesses across the state line. Someone’s going to have to find a compromise that both men can claim as a victory. The best idea so far: Use a sliding scale to hand out less in incentives to businesses that merely move from Missouri to Kansas, or vice versa.
Build more living units in downtown Kansas City.
Taxpayers have subsidized the Power & Light District, Sprint Center and apartment construction. It’s time for the private sector — led by the Cordish Co. — to construct a lot more living units needed to house people who will continue downtown’s revival.
Develop a commuter rail plan that moves lots of Jackson Countians for a decent price.
That’s a tall order, given that County Executive Mike Sanders expects to put a one-cent sales tax increase on a 2013 ballot. Yikes: That’s about $80 million a year. Proponents will have to show how commuter rail could reduce highway congestion and, more importantly, boost economic development in the county.
Give Kansas City travelers a really convenient-to-use design for the new airport.
It seems most residents don’t want to mess with the current Kansas City International Airport. Too bad. Local aviation and construction executives want to spend millions in federal dollars and create jobs, so a new airport will be built. That starts this year with a good design.
Find reuses for Kansas City’s growing number of black-hole development sites.
The Bannister Mall area desperately needs to be redeveloped. Is this the year a major shift takes place in what might go there? Housing? A city-sponsored soccer complex? Meanwhile, the sprawling federal facility along Bannister Road a few miles away will lose thousands of employees as they migrate elsewhere. That site can’t sit empty for long, or it will speed deterioration of nearby neighborhoods, similar to what’s happened near the old Bannister Mall area.
Spur real job creation.
Two groups need to step up their game this year. One is the Kansas City Area Development Council. It has not had enough success in boosting the number of new jobs attracted to the region in recent years. The other is the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Its Big 5 ideas need to start producing results, especially in the field of entrepreneurship and in strengthening urban neighborhoods, thus preserving jobs there.
Pull the plug on some Kansas City tax increment financing projects.
The best shot in early 2013 comes next week when taxing jurisdictions such as the Raytown School District and the Mid-Continent Public Library try to end a two-decade-plus incentive project known as Winchester Center. Mayor Sly James has pledged to try to work out a decent compromise. If that doesn’t happen, this TIF project should become the motivation for schools, counties, libraries and other groups across Missouri to reform the state’s city-friendly rules on incentives, which have cost taxing jurisdictions hundreds of millions of dollars.
Capably roll out the downtown streetcar line.
The easy part is done: Voters have approved tax increases to pay for this worthwhile economic development project. The difficult part starts this year when crews dig up streets and find costly surprises as tracks are laid.
The new year brings the potential for a lot of progress in this area. Time to make it happen.
Reach Yael T. Abouhalkah at 816-234-4887 or email email@example.com. He blogs at voices.kansascity.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah