City contends Chastain’s light rail vote won’t be for rail

city-hallClay Chastain would get the vote earned by his light rail initiative, but the ballot language submitted Monday by the city makes no mention of rail.

That is because the city contends it would not have to fund it.

City attorneys submitted the language Monday to Jackson County Circuit Judge Sandra Midkiff.

It states, “Shall the City of Kansas City impose a sales tax of one-quarter percent for 25 years for the purpose of funding capital improvements” and shall they impose one of one-eight percent for 25 years for public transportation purposes.

The city contends that properly follows rulings by the state supreme court and by Midkiff.

The courts found that Chastain’s successful 2011 initiative effort did not require the construction of 22 miles of light rail, 19 miles of commuter rail and 8 1/2 miles of streetcars.

Sarah Baxter, assistant city attorney, wrote in the Monday filing, “… it is indisputable that while Defendants thought they wrote a light rail ordinance, their ordinance simply enacts two taxes and does not require the construction of any specific project.”

The Kansas City Star reported Monday that Chastain said the city was acting in bad faith by not even mentioning light rail. His attorney has five days to respond to the city action.

The city had argued the ordinance was unconstitutional because the taxes would not pay for Chastain’s vast project. But in February the Missouri Supreme Court ruled it would not require the city to pay for it, just to put the taxes to a vote.

The city’s proposed ballot language is consistent with that ruling, Baxter wrote, and added,  “… should Defendants continue to seek an election.”

City officials are concerned that putting Chastain’s  tax measures on the November ballot will cause confusion. The city hopes to have on the same ballot its proposed tax increases for eight miles of streetcar extensions.

To do that, the city must get its streetcar extension approved in August by voters in a proposed transportation district. The proposal to create the district will be submitted then to voters who live in a large area south of the Missouri River.

Chastain, who no longer lives in the state, has proposed multiple light rail concepts since the 1990s, gathering signatures outside grocery stores and other places.

The Star reported Monday that Chastain said he is not willing to have his latest proposed taxes go toward the city streetcar extension plan.

To make things more complex and difficult, Missouri is asking for a ¾ cent sales tax in August for transportation.

Councilman Ed Ford told the Star, “Democracy is often messy.”

Leave a Comment