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Coalition for Kansas City Economic Development Reform condemns proposed incentives as racist.

Photo Credit: Sophie Lile, KCPS Student
Troost is often considered a racial dividing line in Kansas City. Economic Development rarely happens east of this line.


June 23, 2020

“The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it—and then dismantle it.” Ibram Kendi, author, historian and scholar on race.

The Kansas City Council needs to recognize and do all it can to ameliorate the current racist-tinged, tax-incentive system that puts the interests of prosperous corporations and wealthy developers over the needs of their many Black and impoverished constituents.

Systemic racism is shockingly and depressingly evident in the disparity between predominantly white school districts north of the Missouri River and the city’s primarily black school districts south of the river. Equally unjust is the continued diversion of vital tax revenue away from schools, libraries and mental health organizations to wealthy white developers and thriving businesses in non-distressed parts of the city.

School districts in the Northland do not lose revenues when new development projects are approved. Those school children reap the benefits of new development in a timely manner, while central-city school children are left ever-farther behind.

An example of the contrast between the haves and the have-nots took place at the June 17 meeting of the Council’s Neighborhood and Community Development Committee. During consideration of BlueScope Construction’s demand for an extension of its 20-year tax abatement privilege, Councilwoman Teresa Loar, a Northland resident, made it clear she could not care less about schools south of the river when she stated that BlueScope’s proposal should be approved irrespective of its impact on schools and libraries south of the river, as well as on the mental health fund.

BlueScope is an enormously successful, Australia-based corporation with a market capitalization of $4 billion. Abating and diverting its property taxes from KCSD to BlueScope shareholders is unconscionable corporate welfare and, quite frankly, racist.

And then, there’s the planned Performing Arts Center Hotel, formerly known as Bravo Hotel. This 5-star debacle just won’t seem to go away! The developers want the Council to approve an outlandish $45 million in TIF and Super TIF revenue – benefits that once again would come at the expense of schools, libraries and mental health organizations with largely black clienteles.

The City Council needs to recognize Bravo’s request for subsidies for what it is – balderdash.

Almost inconceivably, Councilwoman Loar also supports the Bravo subsidy. Thankfully, she is only one vote, and it takes nine to pass.

Our coalition strongly urges the Council to overwhelmingly reject both these egregious projects. Showering tax benefits on wealthy developers and thriving businesses in non-distressed areas -- to the detriment of our school children, library patrons and mental health organizations -- must stop. If Black Lives (Really) Matter to this City Council, a strong Council majority will dismiss these brazen tax giveaway proposals. To do otherwise would be nothing short of racist.

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