Promoters of Kansas City’s $800 million bond issue — which I support — have used deceptive mailers to sell people on voting for the important projects next Tuesday. And Mayor Sly James wrongly went along for the ride.
The group behind the mailers, Progress KC PAC, didn’t disclose in its first four mailers that it would take a property tax increase to pay for the bonds that will build better roads, bridges, sidewalks, flood control and an animal control shelter.
James — the leading spokesman for the bonds — was featured in three of those ads.
“TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY. THAT’S KANSAS CITY’S PROMISE TO YOU,” one ad prominently promised, right above a photo of James.
Transparency? The mailer didn’t mention that it will take a property tax that — on average — escalates $8 annually for 20 years for owners of a $140,000 house and $15,000 in cars to pay for the projects.
Yes, it will take more money to provide better public services. But the city needs to be honest — and transparent — with people on that fact.
James Roberts, spokesman for the mayor, said in an email that James recognized the concerns I was raising. But he also thought that “his taking part in dozens of town halls, and answering any questions about this issue in any setting, along with great information available at kcmo.gov, and more than a month of council debate in public hearings last year means that residents have been supplied ample opportunities to get any information that they may want or need.”
I disagree. Given the mayor’s key role in passing the bonds, he should have made sure the tax increase was mentioned in all the mailers.
I asked Steve Glorioso, campaign director, about the lack of factual information in the mailers about the property tax. He said Tuesday that the promoters had wanted to stress the “the needs” of the city in the first mailers and the “very complex series of projects” that would be completed.
That’s a misleading excuse. It takes money to pay for the projects, and all the mailers should have provided that key information to voters.
When I complained last week on Twitter about receiving more mailers without this crucial information, City Manager Troy Schulte responded:
We listened. An upcoming mailer will mention that modest property tax is needed. https://t.co/hG0jx7ijXH
— KC City Manager (@KCMOManager) March 24, 2017
On Monday, I got in the mail the fifth ad, which finally included a clunky property tax explanation.
Glorioso said a sixth mailer to come out before Tuesday’s election would also feature the news that it will take a property tax increase to pay for the bonds.
That’s good to know. Better late than never.
But that information should have been available to voters throughout the campaign on promotional materials.