While Clay Chastain’s light rail proposal likely will not be on the ballot in November, voters in Kansas City will have a rail plan to consider before winter officially arrives. Early last week, the city’s newly created streetcar development district board decided to hold a vote by mail in the next few months to determine whether a tax will be levied in the district to fund the trolley. That the vote is being conducted by mail-in ballot almost certainly assures the passage of the tax; the vote that created the district was conducted by mail as well, and passed with almost 70 percent of the vote with an effective turnout of less than 8 percent. (To be precise, 460 voters out of 5,900.)
That the city will re-use the means of voting most favorable to moving the proposal ahead is no surprise. The city has been foursquare behind the trolley proposal even after losing its bid for federal funding for the project. (Not that federal funding would have been a good reason to go forward with it.) And despite the funding gap for the starter line, there have already been discussions about adding southern and eastern extensions to this hitherto non-existent trolley. To be sure, business owners in the newly created trolley district will not be the last ox gored in the city’s quest for streetcars. This looks like a vanity project that will raise taxes in a city that is well above average in municipal taxation already. And the project will probably grow even larger from here.
The trolley voting period will likely conclude Dec. 11. Whether the result will be a Christmas surprise or a lump of coal depends on your perspective.