KCMO City Hall

Hyatt Hotels

Plans for an 800-room, $300 million downtown convention hotel continues to advance at a whirlwind pace. 

The full Kansas City council approved the basics of the deal Thursday, including a contribution of $13 million in city-owned land and $35 million in cash. 

Mayor Sly James said the hotel was part of his pre-election vision, but the plan is not about personal aggrandizement. 

“This was done because everybody on this council, I think, agrees that this was something we needed to get done,” he said.

With the August ballot deadline a week away, a group of faith-based and social justice organizations presented more than enough petition signatures to send a “living wage” initiative to Kansas City, Missouri voters.

That would allow it to pass before a Missouri bill forbidding cities from raising the minimum wage could take effect, assuming Gov. Nixon signs the bill into law.

The initiative would raise Kansas City's minimum wage to $10 an hour this year, and to $15 by 2020. 

A Kansas City, Missouri city council committee has endorsed a plan to require owners of buildings over 50,000 square feet to audit their energy consumption each year.

The ordinance requires calculating energy usage and making the data available to the public.

Supporters say that will encourage energy efficiency, but not mandate it.

Still, it would require owners of buildings over 100,000 square feet to start calculating energy usage in 2017 or face fines.

The smaller buildings between 50,000 and 100,000 square feet would have an additional year to comply.

The idea of a unified metro-wide emergency dispatch system for area law enforcement got a first hearing in a Kansas City council committee Wednesday. 

Assistant City Manager Mike Schumacher told the public safety committee that with existing separate dispatch systems, a crime can occur within a block of a police car, but those officers don't get a call because the need is in a different municipality. And the dispatcher for that municipality doesn't even know the officers are close.

A proposal to require Kansas City, Missouri building owners to make energy efficiency figures on the buildings public met mixed reactions at a city council committee hearing Wednesday. 

The plan would require owners to compile energy usage figures and submit them to the city or face a fine for not doing so. Proponents representing environmental groups, civic groups and some building owners said the ordinance would further enhance Kansas City's image as a sustainability-focused community while helping to improve air quality, reduce energy use and make lower rents possible for many low or fixed income apartment dwellers.

Kansas City and Uber have come to terms on regulations for the ride-hiring network and its drivers. 

The compromise ordinance was unveiled at the council business session Thursday and passed shortly after 5 p.m. It replaces one passed two weeks ago that prompted Uber to say it was being forced out of Kansas City.

The city agreed to drop the permit fee for individual drivers for companies willing to pay a $45,000 annual blanket fee. 

Rendering courtesy of Cordish Co.

A second Power and Light District apartment tower at Truman Road and Grand has won big dollar incentives from the Kansas City council.

The council Thursday approved underwriting construction of the 24-story Two Light luxury apartment tower and its parking garage for up to $17 million and endorsed what amounts to 50 percent property tax abatement for 25 years.

Councilman Jim Glover told colleagues to think of it not as a subsidy, but an investment.

In its business session  Thursday the Kansas City Council heard a report on the future of the now mostly vacant Bannister Federal Complex in south Kansas City. Kevin Breslin of Centerpoint Properties, which is assisting the GSA in repurposing the facility said the existing Bannister buildings, with the exception of the facilities occupied by the U.S. Marines,  will be torn down.

Breslin said the old structures have outlived their usefulness and starting fresh will allow for a more aggressive environmental clean-up while allowing private businesses to re-create the complex in a manner that suits its "next future."

Wikimedia Commons - CC

Two items that have been on the back burner for some time for the Kansas City City Council will move to the foreground next week. 

Ordinances were introduced Thursday addressing the future of Kemper Arena and regulation of ride-share services like Lyft and Uber. 

A committee will start refining an ordinance declaring Kemper Arena “surplus property” and starting a nationwide request for proposals on what to do with it. 

Zenoir/Creative Commons

A request from the hospitality industry to put an end to individual liquor server licenses in Kansas City, Missouri, gets thumbs down from a city council committee. 

Representatives of the Restaurant Association have argued that requiring liquor cards is burdensome for workers and inconsistent with policies of other municipalities in the metro. But the Public Safety Committee voted 3-2 for only minor changes. 

"You need a liquor card for the job” is something job applicants often hear in Kansas City, Mo. But City Councilman Scott Wagner has introduced an ordinance to change that.

Kansas City requires the personal licenses for people who sell alcohol in the name of public safety – protecting credit cards and personal ID information from someone who has a serious felony record. 

But at a committee hearing on Wednesday, Laura McDonald of the More-Square Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity was one of several witnesses who questioned that logic.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

In 2014, Kansas City, Mo., officials began the process of rewriting its taxi code, citing public safety concerns about ride-hiring companies such as Uber and Lyft, and a conflict concerning fairness in the cab industry. The response to a draft of the proposed changes has been mixed.

City permits

The Kansas City, Mo., city council votes Thursday afternoon on on ordinance that would keep a reserve fund for streetcar system expansion planning. 

It is part of plans for spending more than $8 million left over from the $10 million it borrowed to jump-start a streetcar system expansion that voters rejected.

The ordinance would devote most of the unspent bond money to already planned projects including a community center tornado shelter and Bartle Hall roof repairs.

Amayleben / Wikimedia-CC

The matter of digital signs outside of schools and churches in Kansas City, Mo., remains stalled in a Kansas City council committee after a second week of public hearings.

A lot of schools and churches like the idea of digital signs – capable of multiple messages that are easy to change without braving frigid or blistering weather. Some also say they are more effective at communicating with parents and parishioners than the old style letter-board signs.

Kansas City Police Helicopters
City of Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City, Missouri police helicopters will be able to transmit bird's eye video like media news and traffic copters.

The city has received a nearly $66,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to pay three-fourths of the cost of video capabilities many citizens may have thought the police already had.

Liaison officer Eric Winebrenner explained the downlink system to city council members.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Updated, 5 p.m. Wednesday:

In the wake of Kansas City, Mo., Councilman Michael Brooks' resignation, Mayor Sly James says his focus is on filling the empty 5th district seat. 

"We're not looking for someone who can warm a chair. We're going to look for someone who can do the job," James said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The Kansas City Council has come up with a compromise they hope will satisfy those who wanted the new East Patrol police station named after Leon Jordan, a former police officer and the founder of Freedom, Inc, while also satisfying those who opposed it.

Councilman Jermaine Reed explained the idea: name the campus, not the police station.

A parade of black community leaders and former council members spoke in favor of the naming to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  All cited the historic contributions made by Jordan to the city and to law enforcement.

Update, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11:

The Kansas City, Mo., City Council voted Thursday to extend city pension benefits currently offered to couples in conventional marriages to legally-married same-sex couples.

“So this is just one more example of our commitment to being inclusive to all of our citizens in Kansas City,” Councilwoman Jan Marcason said before the unanimous vote.

The original post continues below.

There have been no ads promoting the taxes and no campaign opposing them, but there are two questions going before Kansas City, Missouri, voters on Nov. 4.

So why are they on the ballot? Questions 1 and 2 are the legacy of a transit activist and a 3-year court battle. The 1/4-cent and 1/8-cent sales taxes are the ruins of Clay Chastain's successful 2011 light rail initiative petition drive.

Two Kansas City council committees are facing difficulties coming up with hard numbers as they delve into the mayor's request for a more consistent process in determining how large incentives for property developers.

Some school and library districts and many taxpayers complain that the city gives up tax revenues that could be put to good use. Some contend that for-profit businesses should pay their own way, without any tax abatement.

A Kansas City council committee began debate this week on Mayor Sly James's proposal to reduce tax abatement for developers. The ordinance he proposed would reduce the maximum for developers from 100 percent to 50 percent.

Concerns were immediately raised by some business and economic development leaders and several council members that cutting back on tax breaks would cast a pall over development, and businesses would build in competing communities.

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council modified the city's ban on open carry of firearms Thursday to bring it into compliance with a new state law. That law was passed by the Legislature over the veto of Gov. Jay Nixon.

Presenting the changes for a final vote, Councilman John Sharp explained that to continue to prohibit open carry for most people, the city now must exempt some persons.

City of Kansas City, Missouri.

Baltimore Avenue in Kansas City has a new name ... for now.

Mayor Sly James explained the temporary blue and white street signs to his fellow council members during Thursday's business session.

As his colleagues chuckled, James declared, “There are a number of people who live on Baltimore Avenue that do not want to live on Baltimore during the playoffs and they have asked that we try to rename it – so we will be introducing a resolution temporarily renaming Baltimore Avenue to "Royals Avenue.”

City of Kansas City, Mo.

A Kansas City Council Committee continues to debate the future of Kemper Arena. And this week's developments included a staff report, a consultant's opinion and a letter with a lot of signatures.

A consulting firm hired by the city filed a report saying a Foutch Brothers proposal to convert Kemper to a youth sports facility was dynamic and achievable, though challenging in part.

From those who side with the American Royal Association and would tear down the arena came a letter of endorsement signed by 75 business and civic leaders.

The Kansas City, Mo., City Council wants to know if current city rules regulating the taxi cab industry are unfair to women- and minority-owned businesses.

At issue is an agreement Yellow Cab has to act as an exclusive operator with most of the major downtown and Crown Center hotels. Councilman Dick Davis says that contract is keeping small taxi cab companies from operating in large swaths of the city.

The bills are totaled up on what the city of Kansas City, Mo., spent on the voter-rejected Phase 2 of the downtown streetcar system. 

The city council approved contracts with two engineering firms, HDR and Burns and McDonnell, for route planning, studies of construction obstacles and communication with the public.

In total, the two contracts came to about $8.1 million.

Streetcar Project Director Ralph Davis says spending stopped with the defeat of the streetcar expansion at the polls.

A Kansas City City Council committee has finalized an ordinance making it illegal to intimidate walkers and bike riders on Kansas City, Mo., streets.

Maggie Priesmeyer, who volunteers for an organization that helps provide bikes to needy people, was among those who shared stories about rude, intimidating and inconsiderate motorists.

She told the Public Safety Committee the story of a homeless, jobless veteran named Joe who came in for for help with bike repairs wearing a sling and brace of the type used to support a broken collarbone.

Kansas City, Mo., toughened its protections against domestic violence Thursday, giving city prosecutors the power to take violators of ex parte orders of protection to court.

The ordinance was back on the floor after a revision to address Councilman Ed Ford's insistence that it be modified to make it clear that persons could only be prosecutors if they had received notice of the protection order. He still objected that the revised ordinance could make it difficult for estranged couples to communicate about children or other important matters.

A biotech research park in south Kansas City and 25-year property tax abatement to support it gets the go-ahead from the Kansas City council.

The idea of the research park and rezoning to allow it sailed through on Thursday. But the council wrangled over the tax abatement for Oxford on the Blue for about an hour and a half.

Councilman Russ Johnson tried to convince the group it was time to stop - as he put it "giving away the farm."

Tax abatement for a 344-acre biotech office park south of the Cerner Three Trails Campus has cleared committee and advances to the city council floor.

The Plans Zoning and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday agreed with PIEA development authorities that Oxford on the Blue merits 26-year property tax abatement.

The proposal calls for 100 percent abatement for 10 years and 50 percent for an additional 15 year, but Councilman Ed Ford explained that not every part of the project is expected to get the full 25-year break.

Pages