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Archive for the 'Election' Category

Clay Chastain at Union Station

Clay Chastain
Photographer Eric Bowers captured Clay Chastain during his petition drive at Union Station on Saturday, which was also National Train Day. Chastain gathered about 1,000 signatures, but announced today he'd be scaling back the proposal.

Earlier in the week, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders made a competing pitch to the Kansas City City Council; the Council tentatively agreed to support the Sanders plan [PDF] and is considering a change in the petition process that would require a financial statement from the city auditor for each petition initiative submitted to voters.

Photo used with permission.


Chastain returning with one-two punch

Chastain Map

Punch #1 – Another light/commuter rail plan. PrimeBuzz has the details.
Punch #2 – Strip the City Council's ability to invalidate petition initiatives.

We've maintained that Chastain's motivation actually seems quite pure and is valuable in keeping the city's feet to the fire on transit improvements. Our system is undeniably underfunded and has yet to make the leap from poor-people mover to economic development engine.

BRT, commuter rail, and streetcars are all great proposals, but none of them will ever come to fruition if our operational funding isn't significantly increased (and preferably on a truly regional basis).

Regarding Punch #2, the Council will never live down repealing the only successful vote on light rail, flawed as it was. Since that first repeal of a petition initiative didn't go so well, expect voters to do some punishing.


Chastain appeal rejected

The Missouri Court of Appeals put the final nail in the coffin of Clay Chastain's only successful light rail petition initiative today by denying his appeal. Chastain argued that the city council's repeal of the petition initiative was unconstitutional, but the robes disagreed.

The city's charter was amended years ago to allow the council to undo any petition initiative. Opinions on the wisdom of applying that option in this situation vary. It was, at a minimum, short-sighted to reject Chastain's plan entirely (which was approved with 53% in a low-turnout election) than to put all of our eggs in a similarly-problematic basket in a replacement ballot question (which was swept under the rug with only 44% approval in a tide of "change").

Of course, it all seems obvious in retrospect. The council was simply not given adequate information on the options.

In the interim, KC transit riders endured a fare increase and an unsuccessful attempt to secure state funding to prevent service cuts. Brights spots actually exist, however: County leaders are poking around in the commuter rail attic, the city is getting somewhat serious about bike and pedestrian issues (vital to supporting transit), and SmartMoves is progressing with our Bush-era BRT-lite template (the Troost Avenue corridor is next in 2010).


Light rail post-mortem: Other views

  • Urban Society's Kevin Klinkenberg chimes in with a Think Smaller approach at The Kansas City Post.
  • The Star's Yael Abouhalkah and Kevin Collison also have it figured out. Also of note: the Star retracted its support for Mayor Funkhouser — who confirmed he will carry forward with a regional transit vote in 2009 — and buried it on Saturday's editorial page.
  • Fox 4's Monica Evans attempts to do the issue justice, barely raising the very low bar set by local broadcast news.
  • Prime Buzz points out that we're definitely in the minority of transit-hostile cities last week.

Hindsight: The Epic Fails of the Starter Line

We're not going anywhere, in case you were wondering. There's lots of potential in the aftermath of Tuesday's vote. In order of importance, here are the major fuck-ups with the starter line campaign:

Epic Fail #1: RIDERSHIP

A complete and total unknown before the election. Original schedule was June.

Epic Fail #2: CITY COUNCIL

Bickering with each other and constantly pointing the finger at Mayor Funkhouser. Yeah, we all know they want to be the next mayor, but come on. Fall in line behind the regional plan next year and put your petty differences aside… all of you. Make sure the ATA has the money to finish the Alternatives Analysis, even if you have cut the stadiums subsidy to make it happen (they're doing fine, financially… the city and transit are not).

Epic Fail #3: EXTENSIONS

The election results by ward suggest that none of the politically-motivated extensions (Water Works to I-29, Plaza to Prospect, Brush Creek to 63rd) garnered any additional real support at the ballot box.

Epic Fail #4: OAK

Who? What? When? Exactly. Right before the election the project team started dropping Oak Street as an option through downtown, unquestionably to keep Cordish out of the fray. This option was not vetted with the public and should not have been mentioned. Period.

Epic Fail #5: SEWERS

One phrase sums this up: RED HERRING. Submit the plan on time next year and get it out of the way before the next transit vote.


Don't make people add fractions ever again. Assuming a voter wasn't aware light rail was on the ballot, the question's language was too wordy and confusing. It did, however, have the correct amount of route detail, regardless of what the opposition said. The failure to garner a majority vote had more to do with the economy and the regional discussion (and lack of a clawback if no federal funding came through). Kudos to The Star for doing the educational legwork the project team did not make time to do.


Light rail question fails with 44%

It's hard to say with any certainty, but last night's upset against the 3/8-cent KCMO-only light rail sales tax could be a referendum on the local vs. regional discussion for transit in Kansas City. In a strange twist, the North Kansas City 1/2-cent question passed. We'll be following up in the next few days with post-election analysis and next steps. Fortunately, the Alternatives Analysis is funded and will continue through the first of next year.

And in case you hadn't heard, the most pro-transit duo ever won the race for the White House last night.


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