Streetcar supporters and opponents get their day in court

Posted April 2, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
April 2, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The courtroom was split as some were for the streetcar while others were against the streetcar.

During Tuesday’s public forum before Marco Roldan, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge, nearly 50 community members had a chance to voice their opinions on the recently announced phase two of the Transportation Development District. On Thursday, March 27, the Kansas City council unanimously approved the streetcar phase two expansion plan and budget. The expansion includes additional service lines along Independence Ave. from downtown to Benton Boulevard, Linwood Boulevard to Prospect Avenue and Main Street to the campus of the University of Kansas City-Missouri. The cost estimate for the expansion is around $500 million.

Residents were encouraged to voice their opinions during the first of two hearings to determine the legality of the proposed TDD which could see a one cent sales tax increase and special assessments for residents who live closest to the expanded lines. The public forum began at 1:30 and lasted until 5 p.m., with a short recess around 3 p.m. When Roldan called for a short break, about 16 had spoken in opposition of the TDD, with nine people using their three minute time to speak in favor of the streetcar.

Those who opposed the TDD and streetcar shared the same sentiments; there is other city work – water and sewage improvements – that could be used with the money, the sales tax and assessments are unfair and $500 million for only about eight miles of light rail track doesn’t make sense.

One of those in favor of the streetcar was Pendleton Heights resident Linda Fleischman. She said at first, she and her husband were on the fence about the Independence Avenue line for the streetcar.

“We will be taxed,” Fleischman said. “But moving into the future, it’s necessary. It’s absolutely necessary and we don’t mind that we’ll have to pay.”

Before Fleischman discussed why she was in favor of the streetcar, she pointed out that the majority of those anti-TDD who spoke before her, announced they reside in Brookside, an area where she said, “that isn’t even going to be getting it [the streetcar].”

“I’m getting the impression, and I may be wrong, that they’re speaking on my behalf,” Fleischman said. “But they really don’t speak to my needs. I live in the Northeast part of the city and I know a lot about the underserved and those with special needs.”

Fleischman also brought up the point she’d eventually like to invest in the neighborhood she lives. With alternative means of transportation, new businesses will be more likely to move into the neighborhood.

“This is about options and serving my community and moving into the 21st Century with the rest of the country,” Fleischman said.

After she spoke, Fleischman told Northeast News although the opposition has given her some food for thought, she hasn’t waffled in her support of the streetcar. She didn’t understand why people who live in Brookside were trying to speak on behalf of the residents in the Northeast and other areas of the city.

“I’ve spoke to my neighbors who think differently [than those in Brookside],” Fleischman said, adding the general consensus of those she’s spoken to are in favor of the streetcar in the Northeast. “Just yesterday I was speaking to one who owns three, multi-family dwellings and their words were, ‘I’m glad to pay it because it’s going to make it better for all of us’.”