Ignore political whining about KC Zoo tax election
Platte County commissioners Jason Brown, Kathy Dusenbery and Jim Plunkett recently rejected placing the Kansas City Zoo’s proposed tax on the fall ballot.
A special election could have cost taxpayers $65,000, they claimed, and the county could have had to finance startup administrative costs of a new zoological district if the tax passed.
This is misleading tripe.
It’s also patronizing tripe because the commissioners ignored the will of the people who had signed an initiative petition with the required number of signatures to put the tax on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Cass County Commissioner Brian Baker used some of the same weak arguments when his elected body also rejected a petition drive in that county for the tax.
Summed up, the signatures of 5,000 registered voters were trash-canned by the two commissions. (Fortunately, elected officials in Clay and Jackson counties properly placed the proposed tax before voters.)
Rightfully so, zoo officials are asking courts to put the tax on the ballots in Cass and Platte counties as well.
Both county commissions used disingenuous reasons for dismissing the zoo issue. Consider the Platte County political whining about the cost of a special election.
Hmmm, let’s look back to 2009, when Plunkett and Dusenbery put a sales tax renewal for county parks on the ballot.
Guess what? It was a special election that cost taxpayers $60,000.
In fact, even though Plunkett and Dusenbery are Republicans, the Platte County Republican Central Committee opposed the parks tax. One reason: the cost of the special election.
Here’s what Dusenbery said at the time of that opposition from fellow Republicans: “I respect their decision, but it is up to the people of Platte County to decide whether they want to continue with the quality of life promoted through” the parks tax.
That was the right stance on that tax, renewed by voters.
It also would have been the proper view for Dusenbery and other commissioners this year: Let voters decide the fate of the proposed one-eighth-cent zoo tax.
Now add in this fact: Zoo officials repeatedly have said they would help pay for election costs in counties that place the tax on the ballot, such as in Jackson County.
Chuck Caisley, campaign manager for the tax, said this week, “I told Jason Brown on multiple occasions that we would pay for this (election)” in Platte County.
In a press release, Dusenbery contended that financing the administrative actions of a new zoological district for six months could have been “a blank check” to the Kansas City Zoo.
Not true, said Caisley, adding that the costs would have been a few thousand dollars per county. And the Friends of the Zoo — the private group that manages the facility — would have covered those expenses if requested.
Dusenbery told me zoo officials didn’t do a good job contacting her commission.
But they sure did try.
According to emails sent to the Platte County Commission, Dusenbery had agreed to meet with Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff and others on Aug. 12. But that meeting was canceled by a “scheduling problem” with Dusenbery. Eventually, Dusenbery never met with zoo officials.
In Cass County, Baker recently bragged on a Facebook post: “Cass County Commission DOES NOT put KC Zoo tax on November ballot!”
Baker used the same two canards as Platte County, citing the cost of a special election and possible county financing for the zoo district’s startup expenses.
Here we go again.
Cass County commissioners weren’t exactly worried about the cost of a special election in 2007, when they rushed a new sales tax for a proposed arena to the ballot. Voters overwhelmingly rejected that poorly prepared plan.
As in Platte County, Caisley says the Friends of the Zoo would have covered the election and administrative costs in Cass County, too.
Sure, the all-Republican members on both counties’ commissions don’t mind looking like anti-tax politicians.
But in this case, they made a shameful decision to reject valid public initiatives to let voters choose what kind of zoo they want for this region.
Reach Yael T. Abouhalkah at 816-234-4887 or email him at email@example.com.