Labor Advocate Online

When It Comes To Our Money They THINK BIG
by Bill Onasch

With the blood of victory in the great arena scam still fresh in their mouths the local Establishmentís insatiable appetite brings them back to the sales tax hunting preserve once more. When it comes to picking the pockets of workers every time we buy groceries or shoes for the kids, the area Chamber of Commerce urges that they THINK BIG.

County Question One is a super-sized version of the Bistate Cultural Tax that has been used to simultaneously restore and mutilate Union Station. The BIG THINKERS arenít sure exactly how much money this new metro-wide ľ-cent sales tax will generate. In addition to the built-in uncertainty of retail sales volume is the complication that the tax may be collected in as few as three, or as many as five counties.

It will continue for at least twelve years or until 360 million dollars for the top priorityĖthe stadium workĖis collected. As more is collected there is an unelected board that will determine how to spend more.

What could 360 million buy?

360 million could fund the budget of the Kansas City school district for about a year-and-a-half.
360 million could underwrite the Kansas City Fire Department for nearly five years.
360 million could cover present ATA transit operating costs for more than seven years.
360 million could support the Kansas City Health Department for 28 years.

But not a penny of the new tax would be spent to shore up our deteriorating basic public services. No, that would be thinking small. The two primary beneficiaries of the BIG THINKERS plan would be:

ē "Renovating" Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiumsĖhomes of the Chiefs and Royals.

ē Building a brand new, "world class" performing arts center just off downtown.

Not being a football fan I canít personally testify to the condition of Arrowhead. Perhaps the masses are suffering there. The most serious complaints Iíve heard though are long lines at rest rooms and concession stands during half-timeĖa problem that appears inevitable.

I am, however, an avid baseball fan. The depth of my addiction is illustrated by my continuing attendance at games played by those masquerading as major league players, d.b.a. Kansas City Royals. I have also attended games in ball parks currently in use in St Louis, Chicago (Wrigley), Atlanta, and New York (both Shea and Yankee). None of those are better than what we have right now. Kauffman is truly world class from the point of view of both player and fan.

The "renovations" will mainly consist of features such as new luxury boxes, cool scoreboards, new seats with cup holders, expanded concessions stands, and spruced up team corporate offices. Large thoughts indeed.

Are we deprived of venue for the performing arts? Well, letís see. Thereís a 2400 seat Music Hall, and its tiny sibling Little Theater, in the Municipal Auditorium complex. Also downtown are the Lyric, Folly, and Midland theaters. Out at UMKC thereís the Missouri Rep. There are smaller playhouses in Union Station and Crown Center. Thereís the Uptown Theater at Valentine & Broadway. And Iím sure thereís a lot more, especially in Johnson County and the Northland, that Iíve never personally visited.

All of these facilities are in pretty good physical shape. To the best of my knowledge none are regularly booked to capacity. I havenít heard of us being denied any cultural event because we lacked a "world class" center.

One of the selling points of the arena scam was that the car rental tax in that case was imposed mainly on out-of-towners. Even that wasnít true. Many local residents, including some of the poorest, occasionally find themselves having to rent cars as well.

This newest scheme hits everybody who makes any retail purchases in the counties that approve it.

Sales tax is the least fair form of taxation. It hits the working class hardest. Increasingly sales tax is used as a redistribution of wealth from working people to politically connected developers.

Sports and arts will not be enhanced by County Question One. We donít need what they have to offer. Itís unconscionable to divert public spending from essential services being cut across the board to enrich building contractors, real estate speculators, Lamar Hunt and David Glass. THINK BIG is a BIG RIP-OFF. It should be soundly rejected.

01/31/2007