‘Save the sauce’

Dozens advocate in support of art, film at the first budget hearing of 2020

The first of three public budget hearings was held Saturday, Feb. 22 at Northgate Middle School to discuss the proposed FY 2020-2021 budget. Residents packed the auditorium and addressed City Council and Mayor Quinton Lucas with concerns regarding where the funds have been allocated. The majority of the residents spoke in support of the arts, concerned with the cuts in funding for arts and film in Kansas City. Eze Redwood, Kansas City entrepreneur, shown here, spoke up about support for small businesses in the community.
PHOTO by ELIZABETH OROSCO

Elizabeth Orosco
Managing Editor


The first of three public comment sessions for the proposed annual City budget kicked off Saturday, Feb. 22 at Northgate Middle School and dozens expressed their concern at the cuts in funding for arts and film in Kansas City. 


The $1.73 billion budget includes hiring more police and firefighters, funds for a “Pothole Czar,” $4.8 million to fund the majority of the City’s zero-fare transit plan and cuts to other areas, including arts and film.


In his Inaugural State of the City address, Mayor Quinton Lucas called this the most “equitable budget the city has seen,” but after the first public comment session, many in the community seem unhappy with where these funds have been allocated. 


In a Facebook post, Mayor Lucas noted that, despite the $1.73 billion total budget figure, only 4.3 percent of that, roughly $74 million, is flexible, discretionary spending. Everything else has been spoken for. 


The current budget expenses are broken up into five categories: 


• Public Safety: $486.5 million
• Transportation and Infrastructure: $218.6 million
• Neighborhoods, Housing, and Healthy Communities: $210.7 million
• Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development: $142.2 million
• Finance and Governance: $117.4 million

Public Safety


Public Safety, the largest expense in the City’s budget, makes up 72 percent of the General Fund operating budget and 41.2 percent of the Governmental Activities budget, totaling $486.5 million. 


Expenses for Public Safety in this year’s proposed budget increased $16.8 million (3.6 percent) from last year. 


In response to the city’s violent crime problem, Mayor Lucas said the budget increases Kansas City Police Department funds by $10.7 million (4.1 percent), adding 10 new officers, two social media analysts, a social worker supervisor, and fully funds the current six social workers embedded at police stations currently. 


“All that we’ve talked about doesn’t really matter unless we start to address the [crime] issue. Nothing matters if we lose another 148 of our sisters and brothers,” Mayor Lucas said in his State of the City address. “We can never stop caring about kids, parents, people who deserve a chance to grow old in our community.” 


While more boots on the ground will not solve violent crime problems, he admitted, he pointed to the addition of more probation officers so convicted domestic abusers cannot keep firearms to terrorize, abuse, or murder their partners. 


The proposed budget also increases the fire department expense $6.4 million (3.4 percent), most of which are for wages and benefits. 


An addition of 15 firefighters is also included to match a federal grant to backfill Fire Station No. 40 in the Northland. 


Kansas City voters will also have the opportunity this April to decide on a 1/4-cent Fire Sales Tax increase that would bring in $21 million per year. 


Transportation


This year, the City Council passed a resolution that directed acting City Manager Earnest Rouse to find room in the budget that would help fund the city’s zero-fare transit plan. 


With the release of this proposed budget, $4.8 million of the $8 million needed has been allocated to fund free buses. 


In his State of the City address, Mayor Lucas said BlueKC would also contribute up to $1 million in year one. 


While this funds the majority of the money needed, it still falls short of the $8 million total. 


Where exactly did the $4.8 million come from? A budget presentation given to City Council on Feb. 13, broke down the source of the funds:


• $2.3 million in Parks and Rec maintenance transferred to Parks
and Rec Fund
• $1.0 million in Street Preservation moved to Street Maint. Fund
• $500,000 from Public Mass Transportation Fund Reserves
• $413,000 increase to base RideKC agreement
• $196,000 from Employee Bus Passes
• $125,000 in Streetcar costs transferred to Streetcar Fund
• $120,000 in dockless scooter license revenue
• $97,000 in streetcar line maintenance to Street Maint Fund
• $15,000 by maintaining BikeKC flat at $175,000 


“We are on track to launch zero-fare transit in Kansas City by this summer,” Mayor Lucas said.


Arts and Film


The proposed budget also includes cuts in funding to arts and film in Kansas City. 


It completely eliminates the Office of Creative and Cultural Services (OCCS), which was established in 2015 with the mission of “bolstering and catalyzing arts, culture, and creativity and by leveraging the arts as a strategy for economic development, neighborhood revitalization, and cultural vitality for its citizens.”


OCCS programs include Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund, micro-loans for artists, the Film Development Program, and Open Spaces, a “two-month arts event that featured art installations in open spaces across the city, showcasing the city’s famed parks and boulevards, as well as urban spaces and existing arts and cultural venues.”


The budget also includes a $175,000 cut in funding for the Kansas City Film Office, which leads efforts to attract film, television, and new media productions to the area.


The cut will defund the KCMO Film Development Program local film rebate incentive, which previously brought “Queer Eye” and “American Ninja Warrior” to Kansas City. 


Geoffrey Lind, an executive in charge of production at the ITV America at Queer Eye, wrote a letter upon hearing this proposed cut in funding.


“I believe this is a great error in judgment,” the letter reads. “I ask that you not only keep these invaluable programs but also consider expanding them. As a producer of countless TV shows, I’m always looking for city and state film incentives as well as a well-staffed TV and film office.”


One resident, quoting Mayor Lucas’ November 2019 interview with KC Studio, said “I think Mayor Lucas got it right when he said Kansas City without the arts is like barbecue without the sauce.” 


Dozens of residents echoed the phrase, ending their two-minute speech in support of arts and film with “save the sauce.”


Elizabeth Bettendorf Bowman, executive artistic director at Kansas City Public Theatre, said she was concerned to hear about the budget cuts and the elimination of the OCCS.


“Kansas City has received quite a bit of national attention recently for having such a lively and supported arts scene, in fact, the arts sector is the third largest employer in Kansas City,” she said in an email to the Northeast News. “To eliminate these services shows a lack of understanding for what the arts do for the well-being of our city.


Personally, the Office of Culture and Creative Services has been instrumental in taking Kansas City Public Theatre from an idea to a reality. Before we had our first performance, we met with representatives of Culture and Creative Services to work with them in making connections with other artists, businesses, and to learn about what resources are available. Because of this, we were able to apply for the Neighborhood Tourism and Development Fund grant which helps us to pay the artists who work with us and helps stimulate tourism in our city. This grant is through the Office of Culture and Creative Services, and seems to be on the chopping block, as well.”


In a recent podcast interview with Mayor Lucas, he pointed to his childhood growing up homeless and being raised by a single mother and said that is where his focus lies— with those residents of the city. 


“A lot of people who are engaged in the arts community have shown some discomfort with some changes we’ve needed to make based on a $4.4 million deficit on the convention center hotel. We are putting the money, I think, where it is most impactful and most needed. 


“People say, ‘Lucas you should have the Open Spaces festival again for the arts.’ I’m willing to sit on the phone with other art lovers and we will raise private dollars to do it because they’ve been able for years and years to get millions of dollars of investment in those types of areas whereas we can’t get several hundred thousand dollars in this city budget to provide rental assistance for people that are on the cusp of becoming homeless. 


“That’s money that’s not in the budget. So when people start yelling at me about the fact that there’s been some hit to an office that, frankly, can be supported from other sources, all I’m thinking about is the fact that that single mother right now may lose her apartment tomorrow… that’s what I’m worried about because they deserve somebody who cares about them for a few years,” said Mayor Lucas. 


If residents would like a further look at the budget, please visit Open Budget KC at www.budget.kcmo.gov. For a chance of submitting your own budget proposal, please visit Balancing Act at www.kansas-city-mo.abalancingact.com.


So far, nearly 60 budget proposals have been sent to the Mayor and City Council. 


The next two budget hearings are detailed here: 


Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Southeast Community Center (4201 E. 63rd St) and Tuesday, March 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at KCMO Health Department (2400 Troost).

Want Northeast News articles sent straight to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
Enter your email address and click on the Get Instant Access button.
We respect your privacy

Comments are closed.

  • Volunteers clean area parks as part of National Clean Up Day

    September 19th, 2020
    by

    As part of national clean-up day, mayor Quinton Lucas stopped by Troost Lake Park to do some cleanup and pick […]


    Deadline Extended for KC home repair, paint programs

    September 17th, 2020
    by

    After an overwhelming response, the deadline to apply for City of Kansas City, Mo., 2020 home repair programs was extended […]


    Problem building shuttered in 3500 block of Independence Ave.

    September 17th, 2020
    by

    Acting on a number of citizen complaints, representatives from the City of Kansas City, Mo., Health Department, Fire Department and […]


    Throwback Thursday Time

    September 17th, 2020
    by

    Want Northeast News articles sent straight to your inbox each week? Subscribe below! Enter your email address and click on […]


    Police investigate overnight shootings in Northeast, one deadly

    September 16th, 2020
    by

    Police are investigating an early morning homicide near Quik Trip at 6835 E. Truman Rd. According to the Kansas City […]


    Italian immigrant grows roots in Northeast to have a taste of home

    September 16th, 2020
    by

    Abby Hoover Managing Editor Making your way up the driveway to the garage door of Tony Liotta’s house on North […]


    Art installation to memorialize victims of human trafficking in Lykins Park

    September 16th, 2020
    by

    Abby Hoover Managing Editor A permanent public art installation is in the works for Lykins Square Park memorializing victims of […]


    Scimeca’s Deli: Where customers become friends and friends become family

    September 16th, 2020
    by

    Michael Bushnell Publisher For those who had the distinct pleasure of wandering into the old Scimeca’s Grocery Store at Independence […]


  • KC Streetcar awarded grant funds for riverfront extension

    September 16th, 2020
    by

    Abby HooverManaging Editor Just weeks after funding was awarded for a southbound extension of Kansas City’s downtown streetcar, a $14.2 […]


    ATF, KCPD search for arsonist

    September 15th, 2020
    by

    Police are searching for a man suspected of arson in Northeast Kansas City as part of Operation Legend. The Bureau […]


    Over $20,000 raised for Mesh Memorial Scholarship

    September 13th, 2020
    by

    Over 200 people turned out Saturday at the Powder Creek shooting range in Lenexa, Kansas to support the 5tgh annual […]


    Throwback Thursday at The House of News!

    September 10th, 2020
    by

    Want Northeast News articles sent straight to your inbox each week? Subscribe below! Enter your email address and click on […]


    EZ Child ID system aims to bring missing children home faster

    September 9th, 2020
    by

    Abby HooverManaging Editor When a child goes missing, minutes matter. Kansas City Police are using a new system to help […]


    Northeast street vendor on the road to recovery after robbery

    September 9th, 2020
    by

    Abby Hoover Managing Editor When beloved Northeast street vendor Roberto Govea was shot and robbed near Scarritt and Oakley on […]


    “Secret Kansas City” shares some of Northeast’s hidden gems

    September 9th, 2020
    by

    Abby Hoover Managing Editor “Secret Kansas City: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure” by Anne Kniggendorf is a […]


    The hopeful story of Healing House founder Bobbi Jo Reed hits the big screen

    September 9th, 2020
    by

    Abby Hoover Managing Editor The story of Healing House founder Bobbi Jo Reed may be familiar to Northeast residents or […]


  • Faces Of Northeast


  • Remember This?


  • retorts illustrated by bryan stalder


  • Want articles sent directly to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
    We respect your privacy and will not distribute your information.