Voters make good calls while lawyers whine

It’s time for a bistate wrap-up of interesting developments from the past week.

First, Missouri-side voters were in a positive mood Tuesday and deserve a pat on the back for endorsing several needed issues.

Second, Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson gets an atta-boy for playing a little hardball with the Kansas City Wizards and Cerner Corp. over their proposed projects at Village West.

And finally, Kansas City development lawyers — of all people — are whining about their lack of influence at City Hall.

• Voters in Jackson and Clay counties overwhelmingly renewed sales taxes for law enforcement purposes.

The COMBAT election — fueled by more than $200,000 in campaign spending — garnered about 71 percent approval for the quarter-cent tax. Supporters were giddy about that margin.

But note this fact: The almost-no-budget campaign for Clay County’s eighth-cent tax achieved almost exactly the same large victory margin.

Looking forward, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders and COMBAT officials need to keep their promise of developing a revised plan for using the anti-drug money in the future.

• Liberty voters approved a tough smoke-free law that will protect residents.

The decision to ban smoking in all restaurants and bars overruled the City Council’s weak ordinance from early 2009, which allowed cheap smoking cigarettes in too many places. Give credit to a dedicated group of residents who hustled to get this initiative on the ballot.

Now, Raytown shamefully becomes the largest area city whose elected leaders have refused to approve smoke-free legislation, mostly because of a few bar owners’ objections. The Board of Aldermen should change that position.

• In Kansas, many legislators are pressuring Parkinson to give away extra tax dollars to promote development in Wyandotte County.

Parkinson is wisely refusing to buckle to that pressure.

Instead, he says a package of $229.5 million in subsidies is as high as the state will go to help build a new Wizards stadium plus a nearby office complex for Cerner.

Both are worthwhile projects, but Parkinson defended his take-it-or-leave-it approach by pointing out something that’s troubled me for months about the incentive package: For many years to come, the deal would divert tax revenue the state and county badly need to provide basic services.

Republicans apparently want to make the deal a net loser of tax revenue for even more years. That doesn’t make sense.

• I seldom have laughed harder than when The Star on Tuesday featured complaints from developers about Kansas City’s new zoning ordinance.

No doubt the rules are bureaucratic in nature. They may slow some needed development, while also preventing some bad stuff from happening.

The ironic part came when development lawyer James Bowers Jr. moaned about how the staff and City Council hadn’t listened to him and others, even after they had formed a special organization to lobby City Hall.

Sorry, but if there’s any group that has had special, outsized pull at 12th and Oak for many years, it’s the long list of people who promote private development with public dollars in Kansas City.

Bowers, Michael T. White, Mike Burke, Jerry Riffel, Dave Frantze, Dave Fenley and other development lawyers consistently have had better access to the city staff and the City Council than the neighborhood groups, environmentalists, bike lane supporters and others who recently supported part of the city’s new zoning law.

Now, as they bellyache about a sudden and supposed loss of influence, these development lawyers are seeing how people who often get ignored by city government really feel.

It’s frustrating, right?

Editorial Board member Yael T. Abouhalkah can be reached at or 816-234-4887. He blogs at He appears on “Ruckus” at 7 tonight on KCPT, Channel 19.


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