Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Power and Light District Accused of trying to keep black people out -- Call for a Boycott by TKC

Calls for a Boycott by Tonyskansascity.com brings into question where we are going as a city
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Go into downtown on any given weeknight, and usually on many weekends, and you will see just a smattering of lights illuminated in hotel rooms.  On many of our walks downtown, we, (my friend Ken and I) have noticed empty hotel spaces and a completely empty Power and Light district.  When P and L first opened up, there was security everywhere.  Now, when P and L is empty, the security people are gone too.  All of this, of course, is anecdotal.  However, impressions have a lasting impact.  Sprint arena, Power and Light and the whole downtown development deal was sold to the voters in the early 2000's as a way to revitalize downtown.  "Build it and they will come" was the answer to many of the cities woes.  Now it is becoming obvious that we built it, but the only thing that is coming is the bill.

In the 1970's, a promo film was made that showed Kansas City as an up and coming place.  We had world class ball teams, brand new shopping districts, fountains and boulevards everywhere, midwestern values and a great place to live.  Oh, don't forget the 1976 Republican National convention in the then brand new Kemper Arena.  Kemper Arena was supposed to bring life to and re-develop the west bottoms.  Take a drive down there sometime, see how that turned out.  We were in a hurry then to prove that Kansas City is something.  I think that hasty idea came crashing down one night thirty years ago in a hotel lobby.  Now we are trying to repeat history.  If we build all these great convention facilities we can attract another big national convention and we will be on the map.  As my friend, Ken, likes to say everytime we pass by or through the empty Power and Light district -- "they built this area so that tourists could come downtown to look at other tourists."

Meanwhile, the bills keep coming in to the taxpayers of Kansas City.  $12 million a year to cover the Power and Light district.  How far would that go towards multi-modal transportation, sewers, streets, paying down debt, anything?  The past mayor is starting to look wise now.  The new mayor and council are paying for and asking for more, in a 1000 room hotel in an area where hotels have a hard time keeping their windows lit at night.

Tony Botello, of www.tonyskansascity.com is calling for a boycott of the Power and Light district for racial discrimination.  I don't know if I agree with a media outlet calling for a boycott of anything, but I do wish media outlets would do a better job illuminating the situation.

-We used taxpayer bonds to guarantee a district downtown which is basically a beer drinking party district
-We are paying about 12 million dollars a year for the party to continue
-arena's never -- that is NEVER pay for themselves  and the same goes for the accompanying party districts
-people who use these facilities often come from out of town -- Johnson County Kansas, usually or beyond
-people paying for these facilities are from intown -- many are urban, poor, and quite often minority
-the company that runs the district has pushed anti-competitive legislation and rules to kill competition from mostly locally owned established businesse
-In order to keep the district "respectable" for the out of towners, the people paying for the district are increasingly kept out of the district.

The last mayor kept saying one thing that is very important -- organic development.  I think that can partially be the answer, but not when big time banks, developers and power brokers try to artificially keep the rents too high.  Perhaps an empty square foot tax, blight tax, empty building tax -- whatever you want to call it is also the answer.  Bring the rents down to fair market value, and encourage local entreprenuership.  The city could help local small creative businesses by helping them through the codes process, and not looking for stupid reasons to shut small businesses down and out.  I also believe that we the people of Kansas City also need to start putting elected leaders feet to the fire.  I think a recall for a couple of council people is long overdue.

I think increasingly, Kansas Citians are getting dissillusioned with the whole deal.  Guess what, now they want more.  Hello thousand room convention hotel....

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