I recently saw the map of the TIF projects begun or proposed in Kansas City and I was frankly shocked. According to the chart I saw, east of Troost saw two TIF projects totaling 49 million dollars. They included 44 million for the Vine Street area and 4.8 million for 39th & Prospect area. The rest of the projects, which numbered 35 projects in Kansas City proper and totaled 5.5 billion dollars were located west of Troost. So lets’ go to the scorecards please, that is 49 million for the eastside(traditionally black) and 5.5 billion for the Westside (traditionally white), is it me or is there something wrong with this picture?
If I am not mistaken, the people east of Troost pay taxes just like everyone else. So my question would be why are they not receiving an equivalent portion of the new development going on in the city? Judging from the figures, and granted mine or not the most accurate, but 5.5 billion to 49 million is ridiculous. This is the type of economic injustice that keeps the Northeast mired in poverty and anemic economic development. I thought the purpose of these projects were to bring economic revitalization to areas in the city that needed them. From the looks of it, this is just another way for wealthy developers to siphon money away from the neighborhoods that actually need it.
I have two problems with this whole state of affairs, the first being that the board that oversees the program would allow this inequality to proceed and the second is the representatives of these areas on the Council who have not raised any disagreement with how these funds are being dispersed.
Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a financing and development tool that allows future real property taxes and other taxes generated by new development to pay for costs of construction of public infrastructure and other improvements.
TIF encourages development of blighted, substandard and economically underutilized areas that would not be developed without public assistance.
The powers of TIF are exercised by its Board of Commissioners who are citizens of the city, appointed by the mayor, and representatives of the affected taxing districts. EDCKC
So according to the TIF’s own website, it was designed to encourage the development of blighted, substandard and economically underutilized areas. Areas that would not be developed without public assistance, so the Plaza, River Market, and Westport would not be developed without public assistance. If this weren’t so shameful, it would be laughable. Where will the next TIF’s be? Ward Parkway or Waldo may need some new development funding sources, since we all know how blighted they have become.
My question is what are the two Affirmative Action chairpersons doing while all of these tax dollars are being poured into these “blighted areas” west of Troost? And what about the Councilpersons that represent these areas, where is their outrage? There is no outrage because once again the black elected officials have chosen to side with big money developers than with their constituency. The purpose of electing people of color to the Council is so they can represent the interests of those that elected them. With over 5.5 billion dollars in tax payer financing being divvied up and your district only gets 49 million, I think someone owes us an explanation as to why this is.
The sad part about it is the 49 million was only the beginning of the redevelopment that needed to take place in the Vine Street area. There are still scores of boarded up businesses and underused space. It is as if that project fell off the radar in the rush to redevelop the Downtown area. The full job was never completed and I have yet to hear anyone say anything about if or when the project will be completed. Many of those same shops and restaurants that are Downtown could have been developed in the Vine Street area, but of course again this project is on the wrong side of Troost.
In the history of Kansas City, Troost was always considered the dividing line between white Kansas City and black Kansas City; it is a shame that in 2007, it is still fulfilling that purpose. It may not be done through Jim Crow or publicly sanctioned segregation as in the past, but today it appears to be done economically which is more covert and easier to deny.
My question is who speaks for the economically disadvantaged in Kansas City? Mayor Funk, campaigned on a platform to unite the city and “the city that works”. I hope that was meant for all of Kansas City and not just the economically viable areas of the city. Let’s begin to use some of that TIF development money for those areas that are truly in need and won’t get any development without public assistance. I am not advocating any special treatment, I am just asking for the program to do what it was created to do.
Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence. – Henri Frederic Amiel