KC Convention Hotel Advances, But Picks Up More Critics

June 30, 2015 - Leave a Response

The plan to build a new 800-room convention hotel in downtown Kansas City moved ahead. In the process, however, it may have picked up some more opponents.
The Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Commission voted 8-2 Tuesday to approve the plan.
Representatives of the Kansas City School District and the Kansas City Public Library, however, raised their concerns.
Operations like school system, libraries and other agencies get a lot of their funding from property taxes. Those agencies are members of the TIF Commission.
The school district says the tax breaks over the life of the deal could cost the school 5 million dollars.
Debbie Siragusa of the Kansas City Public Library system said the TIF Commission seemed to spend more time talking about the potential rate of return to private investors rather than the impact of the lost tax money on schools and libraries.
“The city may be comfortable with that, I won’t give an opinion on that, but we’re not,” Siragusa said.
Attorney Mike Burke, one of the front men for developers said the city block where the hotel is to be built does not produce any real tax money now, so Siragusa’s library and the school system are not losing any money.
Under the terms approved by the TIF Commission today, the city contributes $35 million to the plan over the life of the deal. Burke says the money will come from convention and tourism taxes, not the city”s main budget, its General Fund.
Kansas City will also donate the land it owns near the convention for the 800-room hotel.
The terms also include TIF development deal for 23 years, directing it’s economic activity taxes back into the project; a Super TIF for 30 years.
The developers also met the ‘ but for”, requirement of the deal. That requires developers to prove the project cannot succeed ‘ but for’ the support of the city.
An analyst, Tom Denaway said without the city’s involvement in the plan the rate of return on the hotel project would be about 2%. With the city involved, it is over 12%.
“Nobody is going to invest in a $310 project with a 2% potential return,” said Denaway.
Patrick Tuohery of the show-Me Institute also criticized the city for rushing in to support the plan.
“it’s not a matter of do we build a hotel or do we not build a hotel? It’s do the taxpayers have to subsidize a hotel? And there are so many greater needs in Kansas City.

DOJ: Cops Antagonized Ferguson Crowds

June 30, 2015 - Leave a Response

(AP) – Police antagonized crowds gathered to protest in Ferguson, violated free-speech rights and made it difficult to hold officers accountable, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report summary obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The summary cited “vague and arbitrary” orders to keep protesters moving that violated their rights of assembly and free speech. It is part of a longer “after-action” report to be delivered this week to top police officials in Ferguson, St. Louis city and county and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The summary suggests that unrest that followed the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown was aggravated by the community’s hostility toward Ferguson police and worsened when authorities didn’t quickly divulge details of his death, the newspaper reported Tuesday.

“Had law enforcement released information on the officer-involved shooting in a timely manner and continued the information flow as it became available, community distrust and media skepticism would most likely have been lessened,” according to the document.

Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot Aug. 9 by officer Darren Wilson, who is white. A grand jury and the Justice Department both declined to prosecute Wilson, who later resigned, but another Justice Department report released in March was critical of Ferguson police and the city’s profit-driven municipal court system.

Kansas Court Says School Block Grants are Unconstitutional

June 26, 2015 - Leave a Response

Topeka Capital Journal:
A panel of Shawnee County district court judges on Friday declared Kansas’ latest school finance bill unconstitutional both in terms of equity and adequacy.

The court says that Senate Bill 7 — the block grant bill — violates Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution.

A key issue for the court is the way the Legislature changed the two types of funding that affect poorer districts.

The bill cut more than $50 million in operating and maintenance funds exclusively from school districts that qualify for equalization funding based on having weaker tax bases.

The judges say we “withdraw our previous finding of substantial compliance,” referring to its previous decision following last spring’s finance legislation.

In that decision the court found that last spring’s school finance bill addressed equity issues. Now, the court says the finding was “premature” and “incorrect.”

Gay Parent on Missouri Same Sex Marriage Case Thrilled with SCOTUS Ruling

June 26, 2015 - Leave a Response

Andy Shurman and his daughter Grace at KC news conference after SCOTUS ruling. Shurman has been married to his partner for 10 years.

One of the plaintiffs in te Missouri lawsuit challenging same sex marriages is pleased with today’s Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriages.
Andy Shurman says he thinks he may be in one of Missouri’s oldest same sex marriages.
He and his partner were married in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in July 2015.
Shurman says today’s ruling ends the perception that he has a second class family.
Gillian Wilcox of the Missouri ACLU says the sweeping ruling may not settle all Missouri cases. Wilcox says Mis our I still needs an anti-discrimination law.
The ruling ends two Missouri same sex lawsuits. One involved recognizing same sex married performed in state where is legal. The second was a direct leagal challenge to Missouri’s constitutional amendment that state marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Sent from my iPhone

KCK mayor Holland: “One of the Great Civil Rights Moments”

June 26, 2015 - Leave a Response

KCK Mayor Mark Holland’s statement:
“I celebrate today with our LGBT brothers and sisters all over America at the Supreme Court’s historic decision legalizing marriage for ALL people! This is one of the great civil rights moments in our nation as we finally recognize that marriage is an institution based on love and should be available to everyone.

The United States has always been a beacon of light for freedom and equality to the world. At a time when LGBT persons face discrimination, hatred, and even death in other countries, the United States now stands tall as a leader for justice.

Let us now commit ourselves to the ongoing work of justice for others who remain the least, the last, and the lost, because, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

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