KC Light Rail

Your source for news and information on Kansas City’s light rail progress

Chastain v. Kansas City and The Hancock Amendment

During Clay Chastain's presentation to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today there was a lot of talking — seriously, a lot — but one of the few substantive things to arise was the fundamental disagreement between the City and Clay Chastain about the City's ability to simply amend the voter-approved light rail plan without going back to voters.

For those who aren't familiar with how taxation is regulated in Missouri, we have a wonderful albatross/blessing — depending on your viewpoint — called the Hancock Amendment (also known as Article X Sections 18-24 of the Missouri Constitution). Basically, according to city attorneys, the section that concerns local governments restricts the ability of a municipality to broaden (or change, in this case) the coverage of any tax collected without going back to voters. In short, even if Chastain is no longer concerned with gondolas or a wooden truss bridge it doesn't matter… if a tax is being collected it must be used for the explicit purpose that voters approved. Would anyone care if the truss bridge through Penn Valley Park was wooden or steel or that we use overhead catenary versus underground power? Doesn't matter, since Hancock provides that any taxpayer has standing to bring a suit against the city if they disagree with a variance that does not have voter approval. Ironically, the Hancock Amendment itself was a ballot initiative.

In short, there will be a new vote to allow the City to make route and technology changes. Will Chastain attempt to sue the City before that question gets on the November 2008 ballot? Chastain provided no factual support for the advantages of using Broadway instead of Main and basically dismissed the gondolas himself, so it's likely those changes will be part of the next vote. Will voters approve an amended plan and a new tax to continue funding the existing bus system and extend the capital improvements sales tax that will expire soon?

3 Comments so far

  1. mainstream July 19th, 2007 8:07 am

    Thanks for the great post! Finally we’re seeing some information that helps most voters begin to understand the issues pertaining to light rail.

  2. Dave July 19th, 2007 11:55 am

    you are quite welcome.

  3. northlander July 25th, 2007 6:04 am

    So how many tax’s can KC take with another transit tax and water/sewer tax and the large poperty tax people will star moving out. It’s 10% now at the boats and 9.225 in other parts of KC..

    Someone soon will go up aganist Clay’s plan to stop it.

Leave a reply