Missing Funkhouser yet?
The Kansas City Star
Former Mayor Funkhouser is long gone, and Kansas City is once more “open for business.” The TIF commission has recommended a proposal for tax-increment financing of $33.4 million for a retail development at Shoal Creek. The city council will soon vote whether to approve.
Nothing has changed from the pre-Funkhouser era.
The TIF commission accepted the argument that a pasture was blighted because, according to a consultant, it had inadequate street layout and obsolete platting.
The same players are back. Development lawyer David Frantze said that the project wouldn’t be viable without TIF incentives. (Of course, $33 million would help a lot of businesses cross the line into viability.)
And, the project is for retail stores and a residential neighborhood, not for a new manufacturing plant or business that doesn’t already exist in Kansas City.
You may remember that the Bannister Wal-Mart closed the very day that the Blue Ridge Wal-Mart, made possible with TIF, opened. The city effectively paid $25 million to move a Wal-Mart within city limits. Wal-Mart even put up a sign saying, Your Wal-Mart Has Moved. It was taken down fairly quickly; salt in the wounds and all that.
Meanwhile, Kansas City is losing millions on the Power and Light District. The city of Independence had to lay off workers to pay for the revenue shortage from commitments to the Bass Pro store. Does anyone really believe developers’ revenue projections?
I’m all for the city partnering with business, especially in truly blighted areas. But I wish I could be convinced that Shoal Creek is the last pasture the city will spend millions of dollars on to add to the supply of overbuilt retail developments.
I’d really like for each TIF Commissioner and member of the city council to provide their rationale for voting for this TIF (assuming that they do). Please, explain to the taxpayer why this project is different from all the others. Send letters to the Star. I bet they’ll publish them.
Maybe there are political considerations that can’t be discussed publicly. The city has participated in the Briarcliff development. Twice. The Power and Light District. And the Bannister development, approved but not commenced. Talk about spreading the wealth. Maybe there had to be votes swapped to get anything done.
TIF Commissioner Philip Glynn was quoted by the Star’s Kevin Collison (KansasCity.com) saying, “Every time we create a TIF, we’re using a small part of our political capital and financial capital.”
And Mayor James wants tax increases to pay for long neglected infrastructure improvement. It’s really hard to support any tax increases when the TIF giveaways seem so ridiculous. Please, Mayor, please explain why a TIF for a pasture is good economic development.
And remember this. Laugh at Funkhouser for his terrible political skills. But consider the possibility that he kept or at least delayed the city from complete financial ruin.