Monday, March 09, 2009

We don't owe $2,000,000

Mark Funkhouser has taken a lot of heat for his proposal that the City should stop paying $2,000,000 out of its general funds to support the Truman Sports Complex. He's absolutely right. We have no contract or law obligating us to make such a staggering gift, and it is insulting to the poor citizens of Kansas City that we would reduce basic services while subsidizing suburban entertainment.

According to news reports, Mike Sanders and others are claiming that if the City of Kansas City does not bail out the stadiums, it will be violating the leases, freeing the Royals and Chiefs to leave the area. That is an absolute lie, and I have the proof.

I have read the lease agreements, and found something amazing. The City of Kansas City did not sign the leases. In fact the agreements (page 13, section 14.a.ii, of the Royals contract and page 21, section 10.5.2(ii)(a) of the Chiefs contract) to be precise) refer to payments by the City as "currently" $2,000,000, which clearly anticipates that the amount could change in the future. Mike Sanders is playing with other people's money.

Kansas City cannot violate a lease it never signed.

I have spent a lot of time looking at the City's budget, and this is not a good year for us to be giving money away when we are under no obligation to do so. In a time when we are looking at cutting the police, closing community centers and jacking up the property tax, it's impossible to justify spending such a huge amount of money for stadiums. We are in the process of firing people - city employees are losing their jobs - and Mike Sanders wants us to spend $2,000,000 to cover an obligation owed by the County??

Will Mike Sanders be willing to walk into the offices of $2,000,000 worth of those City employees and tell them that he'll be thinking of them when he's watching a Chiefs game from the fat-cat suite after parking like a rock star? (Check out page 16, Section 7.4.)

The simple fact is that the City of Kansas City owes no money whatsoever under the leases. If anybody wants to claim that we are so obligated, I would ask that they show us the legal documents that back up their claim.

If, on the other hand, they resort to bogus claims like "Kay Barnes promised . . .", ask them if they really, truly believe that is how government works. Did "Credit Card" Kay Barnes really have the ability to obligate the city with a speech? If you believe that, you really have no idea how the process of government works. If Mark Funkhouser announces in a speech that the City will, without any sort of ordinance or documentation, or signing any contract, give $2,000,000 to me every year forever, because he likes my writing, is the City on the hook?

And don't let them trot out the old "economic engine" argument, either. Of course there are tangential benefits to having the Chiefs and Royals in town, but that's true of any employer or tourist attraction. And a lot of those benefits go to Lee's Summit, Independence, Blue Springs, Liberty and Overland Park. How about if the City of Kansas City matches the tax dollars chipped in by those municipal governments?

Sadly, this is a very difficult budget year. I would love to see the City in a position where it could make a $2,000,000 charitable contribution to help the County live up to its contractual obligations. Especially if we could do that AFTER helping the truly needy in our community, with things like better police protection and codes enforcement. But, really, we cannot do that this year.

Those two millions dollars to not come out of thin air. They represent choices. If we put $2,000,000 into the stadiums, when we are not obligated to do so, we need to take $2,000,000 from somewhere else.

Why should we pay what we do not owe?

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Anonymous Sophia said...

I saw some reference to "gentlemen's agreements" between the City and the County that could be disrupted if we don't give them 2 million. Anybody know what those deals are, or is Sanders just blowing smoke?

3/09/2009 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Observer said...

The issue is that the city's $2M contribution has been a de facto policy on the part of the city.

It's how business has been done and how budgets have been structured.

The issue is that a significant change like this should be planned and discussed, because as a pratical matter (right, wrong or indifferent) the City has built the expectation that they will contribute $2M.

If the $2m goes away, the County and other entities need the time and opportunity to plan alternatives.

Introducing an issue as large as this, with no advance planning, and just three weeks before the final budget is due is last minute, irresponsible planning.

People knew this was an issue 6 months ago, and those people who want to make this change should have brought it up 6 months ago.

Unfortunately, with this knee-jerk approach they have assured that the $2M will not be taken out of the budget because they tried to pull the money out at the last minute.

You can only get away with these 11th hour shennanigans when you've got both the votes and a well-thought alternative to put on the table.

The mayor has neither.

3/09/2009 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Nick said...

@ Observer


I've spent a good number of years with the Feds and what you suggest is what everyone expects. And the reason they expect it is so they can backfill, delay and obfuscate until such time as it is too late to back out and those pimping for the teams get to do the “Well, it’s too late this year: we’ll pay and talk about it next year” dance.

I’ll say it again. BS.

If the City is not contractually obligated to pay the $2 million, it should not do so.
Every dollar of that money can easily find a more worthy home.

If the teams feel they can get a better deal elsewhere, let them: the money Jackson Countian’s have been stripped of over the years can either stay in their pockets or, if voted on and approved, go to more deserving projects.

If JOCOites would like to make a play for the teams, all the better; just don’t bring up any Bi-State tax idea to pay for it…

3/09/2009 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cities and counties are public entities. If someone entered into a "gentlemean's agreement" in a back room somewhere and failed to get legislative or voter approval, too damned bad. Not my problem.

And, Observer, if you really think the Council needs more than three weeks to decide whether $2,000,000 should be given away to help the County live up to its own obligations, or if it should be spent on city services, you have an even lower opinion of them than I do.

Funkhouser is right about this one, and every City Councilperson should support him on this point.

3/09/2009 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I timed myself, It took me 2.1 seconds to decide that we should spend two million tax dollars on basic services instead of Mike Sanders' fat cat suite. Granted, I'm a lot smarter than the average councilperson, but I think they ought to be able to make up their minds in under three weeks. Don't you?

3/09/2009 9:53 AM  
Blogger KC Sponge said...

Tough times call for tough measures. I feel that the city is obligated to me and my family and my neighbors to provide me with basic services, with a minimal sense of safety and security, with programs carried out to better my life and the lives of others who live among me - budget cuts happen, people lose their jobs, services get cut, we're forced to do more with less, and yes, even poor little sports teams get a little fat cut from their hide. and if it does make them go away . . . really, we could use one less distraction these days.

3/09/2009 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not know if the city is obligated to pay the $2 million but I do know that this city council will go against anything that this mayor wants. This mayor is weak and by going against him and winning it only further weakens him. This is not what is right and wrong, or even what is in the citys best interest, this is about politics pure and simple. Most council members think that they will run for mayor and will not help this one any more than need be.

3/09/2009 11:59 AM  
Blogger Hyperblogal said...

We need police, fire and trash pickup. We don't need baseball and football.

3/09/2009 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Sophia said...

Nobody even acknowledged my question. It's easy enough to say we're not contractually obligated to pay the 2 million. What are the real consequences of not paying it? If there aren't any, I say go for it. But if there are, they should be factored into the analysis.

3/09/2009 9:03 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Sorry, Sophia. The main consequence of the City spending its money on basic services is that we don't cut back on basic services as much. Then, finally, the Kansas City caucus in Jefferson City will have to do some work to get us some additional state money.

Or we can get the county to come up with the money. Who knows what kind of money that unethical legislature is hiding!

3/09/2009 9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan Tarwater spoke out against Funkhouser at the Legislative Meeting today. He threatened, as always, that his friends on the city council will convince the mayor to change his tune.
The fact remains, KC is not obligated for an additional $2 mil. Residents already pay for the sales tax which goes to the stadiums.
Legislators gave away more than $2 million to organization heavy with campaign contributors and gave "plum contracts" to their friends and legal partners.

3/10/2009 1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, let me get this right...I'm paying twice for the stadiums because I'm a Kansas City resident? That just seems wrong and the council should do what is best for the people they represent not what the county want's them to do. Our roads and sidewalks are awful, our police service is going downhill, the sewer district needs some serious attention...boy, the list of issues that $2m could be applied to is long!

3/10/2009 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For once the City Council should do what is right for the largest number of people, rather than provide for the Millionaire ball Players and the Billionaire Team owners.

Call deb Hermann and Skaggs and let them know that you do not like this deal.

3/10/2009 9:48 PM  
Anonymous Pappy said...

It is easy for all of the people who live outside the city limits of Kansas City to throw stones at our mayor who is trying to work out a very difficult budget in the wake of the huge mess that the former mayor left us in. I remember clearly mayor Barnes stating that the basic services of the city would not be compromised during her term. What a joke! I am a huge sports fan, but if it comes down to 2 million dollars being used to fund the basic services of this city or going to the upkeep of the sports complex, it is a no brainer, BASIC SERVICES! If that 2 million dollar would save one city worker's job, then do what is right! Mike Sanders and the county will just have to suck it up and honor their lease.

3/13/2009 9:52 PM  

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