We don’t owe $2,000,000

Mark Funkhouser has taken a lot of heat for his proposal that the City should stop paying $2,000,000 out of its general funds to support the Truman Sports Complex. He’s absolutely right. We have no contract or law obligating us to make such a staggering gift, and it is insulting to the poor citizens of Kansas City that we would reduce basic services while subsidizing suburban entertainment.

According to news reports, Mike Sanders and others are claiming that if the City of Kansas City does not bail out the stadiums, it will be violating the leases, freeing the Royals and Chiefs to leave the area. That is an absolute lie, and I have the proof.

I have read the lease agreements, and found something amazing. The City of Kansas City did not sign the leases. In fact the agreements (page 13, section 14.a.ii, of the Royals contract and page 21, section 10.5.2(ii)(a) of the Chiefs contract) to be precise) refer to payments by the City as “currently” $2,000,000, which clearly anticipates that the amount could change in the future. Mike Sanders is playing with other people’s money.

Kansas City cannot violate a lease it never signed.

I have spent a lot of time looking at the City’s budget, and this is not a good year for us to be giving money away when we are under no obligation to do so. In a time when we are looking at cutting the police, closing community centers and jacking up the property tax, it’s impossible to justify spending such a huge amount of money for stadiums. We are in the process of firing people – city employees are losing their jobs – and Mike Sanders wants us to spend $2,000,000 to cover an obligation owed by the County??

Will Mike Sanders be willing to walk into the offices of $2,000,000 worth of those City employees and tell them that he’ll be thinking of them when he’s watching a Chiefs game from the fat-cat suite after parking like a rock star? (Check out page 16, Section 7.4.)

The simple fact is that the City of Kansas City owes no money whatsoever under the leases. If anybody wants to claim that we are so obligated, I would ask that they show us the legal documents that back up their claim.

If, on the other hand, they resort to bogus claims like “Kay Barnes promised . . .”, ask them if they really, truly believe that is how government works. Did “Credit Card” Kay Barnes really have the ability to obligate the city with a speech? If you believe that, you really have no idea how the process of government works. If Mark Funkhouser announces in a speech that the City will, without any sort of ordinance or documentation, or signing any contract, give $2,000,000 to me every year forever, because he likes my writing, is the City on the hook?

And don’t let them trot out the old “economic engine” argument, either. Of course there are tangential benefits to having the Chiefs and Royals in town, but that’s true of any employer or tourist attraction. And a lot of those benefits go to Lee’s Summit, Independence, Blue Springs, Liberty and Overland Park. How about if the City of Kansas City matches the tax dollars chipped in by those municipal governments?

Sadly, this is a very difficult budget year. I would love to see the City in a position where it could make a $2,000,000 charitable contribution to help the County live up to its contractual obligations. Especially if we could do that AFTER helping the truly needy in our community, with things like better police protection and codes enforcement. But, really, we cannot do that this year.

Those two millions dollars to not come out of thin air. They represent choices. If we put $2,000,000 into the stadiums, when we are not obligated to do so, we need to take $2,000,000 from somewhere else.

Why should we pay what we do not owe?

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