Labor Advocate Online

Primary Concerns
Voting No On Question 1 and Amendment 2
by Bill Onasch

I usually skip primary elections. After all my party, the Labor Party, doesn’t have primaries. (Of course, we don’t have candidates either but that’s another question.) But sometimes the powers-that-be stick important questions on the primary ballot, trying to sneak them through when fewest voters turn out. That’s the case in Kansas City next Tuesday (August 3.)

We can get so wrapped up in how the ruling class uses government to advance their grand schemes of globalization that we sometimes overlook how they gobble up every last morsel at the local public trough as well. Their most profitable activities center on schemes to enhance their real estate holdings and no risk, high return ventures in large scale subsidized construction projects. Kansas City politicians in particular have never been able to say no to even the most outrageous scams. Why should this election be any different?

Arena War
Every major city should have an indoor arena for sporting events, circuses, rallies, etc. Boss Pendergast gave Kansas City a fine one in 1936, part of the beautiful Art Deco Municipal Auditorium complex that sits in the heart of downtown. Over the years it has hosted many basketball games, indoor track events, conventions, circuses—you name it. It’s 10,700 seats are still in use.

In the 1970s area boosters demanded a new, bigger arena that could attract NBA basketball. Kemper Arena was built in the West Bottoms. This was once the area of the second largest stockyards/packinghouse concentration in the world—totally abandoned by the 70s. Kemper was to be the key to a great renewal of the Bottoms.

It was opened in 1974 with a capacity of 19,000 seats. Its roof once collapsed but they seemed to get that straightened out. Kemper soon became the home of an NBA team that Kansas City had temporarily shared with Omaha—the Kings. (The Kings played two seasons at Municipal Auditorium before Kemper was ready, and another season at Municipal while the collapsed Kemper roof was rebuilt.)

But the Kings were noted for their wanderlust. The Kings were originally the Rochester Royals, who later became the Cincinnati Royals, before their stopover in the Midwest. In 1985 they continued their westward ho mission to become the present day Sacramento Kings.

Kemper also had brief hockey tenants. The NHL Kansas City Scouts lasted only three seasons before moving to Denver, and later on to New Jersey, where they are now the Devils. There was also a CHL franchise, the Blues, that moved on to Salt Lake City after a few seasons.

Bosses use runaway plants, and threats of runaways to extort concessions from workers, to pit plants, cities, even countries against one another in the race to the bottom. The capitalists in major league sports have adopted and perfected the same tactics. Franchises constantly move in pursuit of better stadiums, richer TV contracts, guaranteed ticket sales—whatever they can squeeze out of sports hungry communities.

The fact that Kemper was without a regular tenant didn’t deter local boosters who demanded, and got, a major Kemper overhaul in the mid-90s. The city still owes 19 million dollars for that renovation plus 14.7 million for a new parking facility built next door. These debts won’t be retired until 2022.

But now Kemper is so yesterday. To get NBA and NHL franchises to once again give our fair city a chance we need a better—though no bigger— arena downtown, we are told. The experts reckon 250 million ought to make us competitive with such big name rival cities as Omaha and Tulsa.

And they have such a sweet deal for us. Private investors stand at the ready: Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), a multinational giant; Sprint, who previously demonstrated their commitment to revitalizing downtown by moving thousands of jobs to suburban Johnson County; and the National Association of Basketball Coaches who are rumored to have a few millions in pocket money.

Sprint sort of, maybe will possibly commit an unknown amount of money for naming rights. The coaches might put together a college basketball Hall of Fame.

AEG, committing 50 million start-up, most definitely will run the show. While the city ultimately accepts all risks AEG pockets all revenues. Only after AEG gets a 12 percent—some claim the actual figure is sixteen— return on their investment will they share some of the profits with the city.

The city’s investment of 143 million is expected to come from a hotel fee of up to $1.50 per day and a car rental fee of up to $4 per day. In chuckling sotto voce asides the boosters tell us we’re really just sticking it to those obnoxious conventioneers and tourists we cleverly lure to town.

Seeing the need for civic unity, the Kansas City AFL-CIO jumped on the booster band wagon without raising any crass material demands such as a Project Labor Agreement.

While most would agree that a community should have an arena it is hard to think of compelling arguments for a city the size of Kansas City to have three arenas. Two of them would be about five blocks apart. Whatever the new arena attracts will be a case of robbing Peter and Paul to pay Mary.

In fact Kemper, still draining city funds, will likely be relegated to strictly horse shows

To even be talking about such a 250-million boondoggle, benefiting only construction companies and AEG, at a time when essential city services are being cut for lack of funds, is obscene.

No less obscene is the lack of principled opposition to this highway robbery. The only organized opponents are Enterprise Rental Car and the owners of the Kemper parking facility. As if we needed one, another good reason for building a party of our own.

Tuesday I plan to steel myself to the risk of having to live with only two arenas and will vote No on Question 1.

A Man and a Woman
"Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman"?

So reads Amendment 2. The proposal excites great passion among some, embarrassment for others.

The Kansas City Star opposes Amendment 2—but only because Missouri law already imposes this definition of marriage. Not needed, say the champions of human rights over at 18th & Grand.

But the pious puritans of the Missouri General Assembly don’t let their friends of the press off that easy. We must beware activist judges who could set aside current law and blaspheme the holy sacrament of matrimony by allowing homosexuals to participate, they warn. After all, they remind us, that’s exactly what happened in Kerry’s home state. Enshrining basic family values in the constitution, as was once done with racial segregation of schools and public facilities, will make it harder for the gays, lesbians, and liberals to undermine them.

This particular amendment is pretty much a stunt by the Republicans to divert voter attention from political issues to religious and sexual prejudices. They figure it will embarrass the Democrats—as indeed it does. They had hoped to get this on the November ballot but they were out maneuvered by the Democrat Attorney General, and a presumably activist judge, who forced them to squander their big issue in the primary.

But the question of lesbian/gay marriage is an issue that goes far beyond the petty shenanigans of the homophobic right. That’s because marriage is not so much a human right; it is a property right.

Quite a few "straight" couples live together without paying the state for a license to do so, much less asking for blessing from clergy. Many of them raise children in what very much resemble the heterosexual nuclear family considered sacred by so many politicians and men of the cloth.

Increasing numbers of same sex couples are also no longer hiding domestic partner relationships.

Both of these categories are still technically illegal in most states. But prosecutions under cohabitation and sodomy laws have virtually disappeared.

Senator Kerry, and many other politicians, have offered compromise solutions where homosexuals could register relationships short of traditional marriage. Even reactionaries such as Orin Hatch have acknowledged the right of gays to openly live together. But this olive branch has been mostly rejected because lesbian/gay couples understand better than most what marriage is really about.

Marriage keeps property relations orderly. Laws grants wives certain property rights, varying from state to state. Rights and obligations of domestic partners are hazy, to say the least. Only children born into a married household automatically acquire inheritance rights. Those born out of wedlock have tough times making claims. Wills, pre-nups, and divorce settlements all take these marriage codes as their starting point.

Same sex couples don’t have the same legal guidelines. Same sex couples are often prevented from adopting some of those children born out of wedlock. The gay population spans class lines and the property limitations of increasingly open gay relationships becomes more of an issue.

But just because this question revolves around capitalist property rights doesn’t mean those of us out to change the system shouldn’t care about it. Discrimination based on sexual practices is wrong, no matter where it is applied. The workers movement should oppose all forms of homophobia—property discrimination as well as physical attacks and name calling. To do otherwise is to play the bosses’ game of divide and rule.

That’s why I am voting No on Amendment 2.

7/31/2004