How Question 3 could impact Kansas City economy, NNSA

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News 
March 27, 2013 

Yard signs supporting Question 3 continue to crop up in Kansas City, asking Kansas Citians to vote “yes” on April 2.

In a nutshell, Question 3 asks whether or not the city of Kansas City should be prohibited from entering into or approving future contracts in which the city has financial involvement in facilities associated with nuclear weapons. If approved, Question 3 would also prevent the city from offering any financial incentives, like bonds, tax credits, loans, etc., in the future to nuclear weapons facilities.

The question stems from Kansas City’s involvement in the new National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) facility in south Kansas City which opened in November of 2012.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) began seeking developers for the site in 2007, but when the economy faltered in 2008, bidders could no longer meet GSA’s requirements. That’s when the City of Kansas City stepped in and provided funding from the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority (PIEA) to assist with contract monitoring for the NNSA project. NNSA also obtained a city building permit.

According to the GSA website, the south Kansas City facility employs nearly 2,500 employees who “manufacture non-nuclear mechanical, electronic, and engineered materials for national defense systems.”

Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies LLC operates the facility, and since the plant is not federally operated, it’s not tax exempt. During a previous city council meeting, City Council member Scott Taylor said the facility will generate approximately $1 million in annual earnings tax revenue alone.

Not everyone is enthused about the plant, however.

“I support Question 3 because my faith stands against it (nuclear weapons),” said Nick Pickrell of Cherith Brook Catholic Worker. “For me, if Jesus tells us to love your enemies and bless those that persecute you, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to drop bombs that annihilate cities. I couldn’t see Jesus building or pulling the trigger to launch a nuclear weapon. If I can’t see Jesus doing that, why would I do that? Why would I support that as a Christian?”

In addition, he said, the city unfairly categorized a soy bean field as blight and used municipal bonds to facilitate the construction of the new site in south Kansas City.

Eric Garbison, local pastor and member of Cherith Brook Catholic Worker, said he also supports Question 3 because of his religious faith.

“They (city officials) don’t want to talk about how this is a moral and religious issue,” Garbison said. “We’re not even building a nuclear weapon is what they’re willing to say. It’s a fallacy to say we don’t build nuclear weapons here.”

For nuclear weapons to function, it still requires non-nuclear components, just like a gun requires bullets to function, he said.

Both Garbison and Pickrell stressed that the nuclear weapons industry is a dying field and that investing dollars in the plant or similar plants doesn’t make sense. Both quoted U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who said he plans to reduce the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.

“The nuclear arms race doesn’t make sense anymore because everyone understands the implications of dropping a nuclear weapon,” Pickrell said. “It’s not only going to affect that one country, but all the countries downwind.”

E.E. Keenan of Keep KC Jobs said this Question 3 initiative was pushed by extreme anti-nuclear activists for years and finally made it onto the ballot.

“What they’re really going for is they think the United States should unilaterally unarm itself and get rid of its nuclear weapons,” Keenan said. “It simply isn’t going to make us safer. We live in a dangerous world. What it (Question 3) is going to do is hurt Kansas City’s economy, business environment and jobs… By taking away economic incentives, you’re just inviting contractors to go somewhere else.”

Pickrell argued Question 3 won’t hurt jobs.

“This doesn’t affect jobs. It isn’t going to close down the new plant that’s been built,” Pickrell said. “What it effects is the ability for the city to offer more financial incentives to anything that’s related to nuclear weapons. That’s what we’re stopping in the future.”

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