publisher's note
July 28, 2004


'Arena-itis' and other reflections about the August 3rd ballot
by Bruce Rodgers

Depending upon your point of view, going to the polls on Aug. 3 is either a futile gesture where money wins out no matter what or part of that great democratic process demonstrating the people’s will at work. Like most ordinary voters, my feelings fall somewhere in between — an effort akin to panning for gold, i.e. trying to find some nugget (candidate or question) worth going to the polls for regardless of the hype and money.

Apparently, KC Mayor Kay Barnes feels the same way. She is taking a pass on attending the Democratic convention, even though she is a delegate, to stay here to keep pushing for passage of Question No. 1, the downtown arena proposal. I guess making sure the LA-based conglomerate Anschutz Entertainment Group gets its arena and car rental agencies get taxed more is more important than getting on the bandwagon to defeat President Bush. But hey, we all have our priorities. Since the Republican convention is after Aug. 3, maybe Barnes could attend that. Got to keep your political skills sharp.

Admittedly, I would find it hard not to vote for the arena. God knows downtown KC needs it. Trouble is, like most everything this town pushes, the proposal gives a big fat corporation a very good deal, with plenty of wiggle room if things sour, and gives the wealthy a showpiece to brag about while little economic benefit trickles down to ordinary Joe and Sally. Throw in the pure bull on getting a NHL or NBA team and the fan support it will supposedly draw, and the economic development that will supposedly happen around the arena, and its dé ja vu all over again when it comes to remembering all those rosy projections for Science City and Union Station. Let’s not forgot that nobody has a viable plan for Kemper Arena if the new arena gets built.

Like always, taxpayers will carry the load if this passes. In a July 22 Star article — conveniently placed on the Metropolitan page when other arena “news” have been front page items (now does that tell you where the paper is at?) — economist Robert Baade noted that the arena financing package has taxpayers providing 57% of the projected $250 million cost, a higher figure when compared to other cities that struck arena deals.

Proponents of the arena countered that the 57% figure is justified because Kansas City is a small market without a NHL or NBA tenant. That statement raises the question of how big of the sweetheart deal is some NHL or NBA team going to want because they know we have a new arena that we need to fill?

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have a team interested in KC before building a new arena? Or do we think monster truck shows and tractor pulls will carry us over until a team shows up?

Not spoken about much publicly is how passage of the arena tax will ease the nervousness the Cordish development company is having concerning the success of its proposed Kansas City Live district. If the arena question doesn’t pass, look for a scaling back of that development.

The Live district is like the arena in its near comic delivery of what the development will bring the city. In a July 1 article in the Star, the list of tenants — “News-time cafe” (whatever that is) to “Pan-Asian quick-service restaurant” to “Outdoor multi-tap garden brew pub” to “Upscale female day spa an salon” — appear to be Yellow Pages’ categories masquerading as sure things. Do these guys from Baltimore think we just got off the bus?

Another thing not contemplated is if AEG gets its arena and Cordish has is Live district, a good chunk of downtown will be under the control of two large corporations. Think about it. Not only will the streetscape look like every other downtown in the country, independent restaurant, gallery and retail shop owners might as well forget it. The corporate chains will be wooed and to stay in the game independents will have to pay out the nose.

As usual, no one tells the public all the implications of such corporate deals. It’s a public disservice and shows how lazy the news media is in this town.

Now on to a few other ballot items:

Constitutional Amendment No. 2 in Missouri is the “ban gay marriages” amendment. Passage will entrench bigotry and discrimination in the Missouri Constitution. Gay and lesbian couples have a right to marry. The threat to marriage as an institution is what it has always been: poverty and divorce.
It is shameful that this amendment is even being considered. Vote against it.

The Missouri Democratic primary race everyone is tuned to is between sitting Gov. Bob Holden and state auditor and challenger Claire McCaskill.

Holden is stubborn, generally right on important issues and honest. McCaskill is smart, ambitious and carries with her a butt-load of favors to pay back. If she gets elected, it’s cronyville in state government and the pursuit of special interest money to continue her political ladder climbing.

A few Democratic candidates I know personally or know people who are working for them that deserve support include Carol Jean Mays running in the 11th state Senate district, Rep. John Patrick Burnett seeking reelection in the 40th state House district and incumbent Rep. Vicki Walker in the 50th District. These are good people.

Over on the Kansas side in the Republican primary, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback is facing challenger Arch Naramore from Lawrence. I like this guy over Brownback. Why? He’s not afraid to list his membership in the ACLU in his online bio and was once an “organic subsistence farmer.” Now that’s a tough way to make a living!

Of course, U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore in the 3rd Congressional district will face the winner of a lively Republican primary between Kris Kobach, Patricia Lightner and Adam Taft. The likely winner is Taft, who will turn right in facing Moore during the general election campaign.

Moore, who is the best politician in Kansas, will prevail because...he’s the best politician in Kansas. The guy knows how to cast votes for political survival without completely turning off liberal Democrats or making moderate Republican angry enough to abandon him.

Perhaps the most interesting race in Johnson County is the sheriff’s race between incumbent Lynn “Currie” Myers and Frank Denning. Five Johnson County mayors have publicly come out against Myers, which shows the number of toes Myers has stepped on during his tenure. He has bullied his way onto other law enforcement agency’s turf, mainly the various city police departments, and frightened some people with his loud proclamations for “family values,” as if effective law enforcement isn’t that.

Myers is one of those spooky kinds of conservatives.

Go vote people, like your life depends upon it.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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