Fidelity Security Life Request for Tax Incentives, Approved by City Council on December 9, 2021
Ordinance 211016 passed with an 11-1 vote. We thank Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw for having the courage to walk her talk.
Fidelity Security Life, a very successful insurance company located in Kansas City, Missouri, is seeking a 15-year tax abatement to build a new office building at 27th and Grand (six blocks from its original location), next to a planned streetcar stop.
The plan includes a parking garage, despite there being several empty garages nearby that could be utilized. It also requested 15 years of abatement when 3rd party analysis recommended 10 years. The request is being granted through Chapter 100 bonds which have very little oversight, and also based on "creating jobs". The insurance company isn't moving jobs to KCMO, which is the normal requirement for this type of abatement. As a matter of fact, they never even said they were planning to move OUT of KCMO so we are basically throwing money at them for no reason.
Following is the video taken from their initial request at the Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee Meeting on December 1, 2021.
Several people from the Union Hill Neighborhood were physically present to give testimony in opposition. This video (below) is the testimony from the Union Hill Neighborhood Association and the Union Hill Homes Association which included survey results from hundreds of people in the neighborhood (Click Here to Read the Transcript):
We also heard from another resident living within the project's boundaries who is also a retired urban development planner and active community leader. (Click Here to Read the Transcript):
And again, two more neighbors from Union Hill, both testifying against the incentive request due to its obviously prime location and the fact that the developer has not presented complete plans or even gone through the planning process.
[KC TIF Watch's take on this: It seems that more and more "regular" people are taking note when incentive deals stink this bad. City Hall's typical response, "sit down and leave it to the smart ones in the room to know what's best"]. (Click Here to Read the Transcript):
The project was also opposed by the Kansas City Public Schools as it stood and offered several possible amendments to the deal that would increase the support given for the project.
Not only were the points succinct and direct to certain pieces of the arrangement which showed the diligence of KCPS representative to find a way to negotiate a better deal, but they clearly outlined egregious errors within the incentive request. (Click Here to Read the Transcript)
The Kansas City Public Library, also in opposition for the request, wonders what type of precedent will be set when any company can simply ask for a new building and have our public services pay for it, even when they don't need it. (Click Here to Read the Transcript)
The Kansas City Public Schools District Advisory Committee Chair gave similar testimony in opposition. The KCPS DAC represents parents, teachers and community leaders who live within the KCPS boundaries. They advocate for equitable schools and understand that lack of funding is our number one threat to that goal. (Click Here to Read the Transcript)
Our very own Jan Parks gave testimony from KC TIF Watch (along with her canine companion, Gracie) (Click Here to Read the Transcript):
Finally some very pertinent testimony from someone who is an Economic Development Professional, living in the affected area, and who was pointing out the obvious discrepancies between what the incentive tools are supposed to be used for and the fact that Fidelity Security Life Insurance was figuratively seeking golden toilets for their successful firm.
This testimony was rudely cut short while Councilmember Lee Barnes, Jr (and chair of the NPD Committee) interrupted and then insulted the resident and insisted that no one should be telling him how to "do economic development in Kansas City" (Click Here to Read the Transcript):
The committee had some discussions on whether or not to pass the ordinance out, supposedly because of Eric Bunch's need to make sure that if he votes for this (like he did for Waddell & Reed), that he won't be screwed over by the developer's attorney (like he was with Waddell & Reed).
Councilman Bunch is right to ask for assurances that this won't happen again, but for some reason he has completely lost track of the lunacy of the request over his hurt feelings over Waddell & Reed, as we'll see later in this story.
In the days leading up to the Legislative Session, where the final vote would be held, a news report came out and quoted Councilmember Katheryn Shields (the original sponsor for the Fidelity Security Life incentive request) as saying, "I think trying to negotiate things with the school district has proven to be pretty much a useless activity."
KC TIF Watchers have always known this is how she feels, given the fact that the deals she pushes always come from the same developers who completely ignore our taxing jurisdiction's request for information, let alone "negotiate".
On December 9, 2021, the Legislative Council briefly discussed an amendment on the floor which was presented by Councilman Bunch, which was just more words to further protect him from not having a say in the final design of the building.
Following is the full discussion with the vote of 11-1 in favor of incentives:
Once the full council agreed to the amendment, Councilman Bunch gave rise to speak to why this request was a good example of why this council should do more to create a shared parking plan, noting that the primary cost of the incentive request was for a parking garage when there were hundreds of empty spaces a block away. None of this explains why he went ahead and voted in favor of it.
Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, who was the one lone vote in opposition to this request, reiterated the insanity of saying one thing while doing another. She refused to play that game and we appreciate her for walking her talk. (Click here to read the transcript)
Councilman Kevin O'Neill stood, supposedly in opposition to the parking, but then also voted in favor of the deal. We are confused but not nearly as much as we are over Councilwoman Melissa Robinson's vote in favor, which hurt KC TIF Watch fans the most.
We wonder why these council members couldn't have voted in opposition when the deal would have been passed anyway, given the votes it would always receive from the likes of Lee Barnes, Jr., Dan Fowler, Heather Hall, Teresa Loar, Katheryn Shields, Kevin McManus and Mayor Quinton Lucas - the biggest money spenders of Kansas City's History.
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Fidelity Security Life Insurance Request for Tax Incentives IN THE NEWS:
KC TIF Watch Exclusive Interview with Jackson County Mental Health Fund Director, November 4, 2021
Kansas City gives $7.5 million tax break to Fidelity Security Life for new offices on prime real estate, by Miranda Davis, December 10, 2021
Kansas City Star
Kansas City overwhelmingly OKs millions for company moving a mile into luxury offices, by Kevin Hardy, December 10, 2021
Seniors, We'll Pay, Letters to the Editor, by H. Jonathan Pratt, December 19, 2021
‘We’re sticking it to ourselves.’ Will KC set new incentive precedent at Crown Center?, by Kevin Hardy, December 9, 2021
On Our Dime, Letters to the Editor, by Rick Gray, December 5, 2021
Kansas City firm wants millions in tax breaks to move a mile into new, $83M offices, by Kevin Hardy, December 2, 2021