We were gratified to learn that members of the Kansas City Star editorial board read our humble blog. In a Wednesday afternoon column, Yael Abouhalkah took on the matter of the costly Power & Light District to respond to our post the previous day on the same topic.
Abouhalkah starts off where our post on the matter leaves off, a 2006 quote from then-Mayor Kay Barnes about how they’ll be seen as “geniuses” for saddling the city with a $15 million annual debt. He then moves on to conclude that, well, that’s okay.
City officials took bold moves to finally try to eliminate a lot of blight and reinvest in a more vibrant downtown through the Power & Light District, hoping it would lead to even more reinvestment in the city’s central core, wooing residents and companies.
While the downtown area has seen an uptick in residents, the city at-large is floundering. Even the creative-class millennials that we hear so much about are coming to Kansas City in much lower numbers than our peer cities. Some even suggest the trend of young educated people moving to urban areas has peaked.
As for jobs, even Abouhalkah admitted on last week’s episode of Ruckus that there hasn’t been job creation downtown. Tax revenue from restaurants and hotels has not kept pace with inflation, and the number of liquor licenses and bartender permits has decreased over the past several years. So much for a successful entertainment district. But hey, they respond, we built pretty buildings. (And built them near the Star‘s headquarters!)
As for a solution, Abouhalkah suggests more of the same:
Looking forward, I hope the city has learned its lesson and will help build a convention hotel with the lowest possible use of taxpayer subsidies.
Sadly, such sentiment is nothing more than the triumph of hope over experience. Time and again we read of awful city-negotiated deals like Power & Light, Citadel, and Burns & McDonnell while the real city core is left to fend for itself. We can’t wait another nine years for columnists to regret their current support of the latest taxpayer-subsidized scheme.
The mayor and city council seem to be waging a border war of their own, but instead of fighting neighboring states or cities, they’ve pitched downtown versus the rest of the city in an economic civil war.