On Wednesday evening (Feb 5, 2014) there was a meeting at the Wornall Baptist Church for the “Save the Trail” group (they have a Facebook page for reference). This organization wants to prevent the possible streetcar expansion south of 51st St. I attended this meeting to learn more about some Brookside residents’ opposition to the streetcar line. Personally, I am neither for or against the project as I want to know more details. This blog reflects my impressions of the meeting–all quotes taken from my written notes.
As far as I can tell, three people are leading the “Save the Trail” group (there wasn’t a formal introduction, just names mentioned): Cindy Hubbard, Sandy Jackson and Sherri Donovan (a lawyer). All are Brookside residents; Sherri led the meeting. She started off by stating the meeting would not be an open discussion of the project, or a debate–the purpose was to explain what the group planned to do to stop the expansion and how others could get involved. Sandy and Sherri stated various reasons the streetcar should not run through Brookside: the MAX buses are “half full”; young families are “used to having two cars and won’t use it”; they “doubt the streetcars will be full” and their speed will be 20-30 MPH with “stops every two blocks”. There are no “environmental studies” about the project. They want “everyone to know the sacrifices that will need to be made for the streetcar”.
Patrick Touhey of the Show Me Institute talked about the “tragedy of light rail”. He stated studies have shown having light rail doesn’t get more cars off the road. Development along the route generally comes from businesses taking advantage of TIF tax breaks, and the expenses of the system end up cutting bus routes. He also directed attendees to check www.showmedaily.org for more information.
Sherri talked about and distributed detailed, useful information about the proposed 1% sales tax for a new TDD (Transportation Development District) and the additional special property tax assessment for homes and businesses within one half mile of the streetcar line. A big objection is residents in the larger TDD district will vote on taxing only Brookside property owners near the streetcar line –the group leaders don’t feel this is fair. One flyer also outlines the Action Timeline to Defeat the expansion.
About thirty minutes into the meeting, emotions started heating up, voices were raised and Mayor James took over for several minutes, answering questions from the crowd. The Mayor stressed there is quite a bit of misinformation and confusion over the potential Brookside expansion and there are “three or four other routes” so “the Trail doesn’t have to be sacrificed”. At this point the meeting became a complaint session–just what Sherri said would not happen. Resident after resident talked about other more pressing issues in KCMO that need money and attention, including the public schools, aging sewer system, high crime and blighted areas; big corporations want the streetcar just to profit from it; property values next to the line will go down; the noise level will be high; crime will rise even more in the Brookside area. The Mayor suggested everyone read a press release issued February 5, announcing an advisory committee being formed to study all of the issues surrounding the expansion into Brookside. (Applications for the committee can be found at www.kcmayor.org/streetcar).
I left around 8:15pm. Nothing was getting accomplished at that point. It was disappointing that attendees were shouting, some ugly references were made and the meeting got out of control. A civilized presentation of the facts as they stand now, and an explanation of what still needs to be decided (and who will make those decisions) is what should happen at future community streetcar meetings, hosted by pro or con groups. Personal opinions on the matter can be presented at the April 1 public hearing, Jackson County Courthouse, 1:30pm on the second floor.
If the streetcars run through Brookside, there would be a significant, permanent effect on traffic, taxes, neighborhood atmosphere,and property values. It is every resident’s responsibility to become better informed by asking questions and listening to the answers — then decide how to proceed with your vote or other activities.