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Council Repeals Chastain Light Rail Plan

By Steve Bell


Kanas City, MO –
No one at city hall could remember a Kansas City Council ever repealing a voter mandate. But the present council did yesterday, scrapping the Clay Chastain light rail plan voters approved by a 9-3 vote.

The council first wanted to pass a resolution assuring voters that repeal wouldn't mean the end of the city's light rail planning.

But during that debate, unanimity began to break down, as members argued over when they would promise to have a substitute plan on the ballot. Several favored a February date, which Mayor Funkhouser firmly opposed. Council members from east-side districts put demands in early that any plan would include a route east of Troost. Councilman John Sharp wanted to revisit the possibility of a bus-rapid-transit alternative.

At the legislative session, many remarks were addressed to Chastain himself, who was sitting in the front row. Council members cited his initiatives on Union Station renewal and light rail as visionary, but made it clear they would heed advice that his light rail plan was underfunded, unconstitutional, and in violation of the city charter.

After passing a resolution to have a substitute plan on a ballot no later than November of next year, the council took up the matter of repealing the Chastain plan themselves rather than waiting for a repeal election mandated by a Jim Nutter petition drive.

Mayor Funkhouser said there would be no backlash. But John Sharp and Cathy Jolly agreed with Beth Gottstein that repealing the plan would be an insult to those who voted for it. After a long debate, all but those three voted to repeal the Chastain plan.

Then Councilman Ed Ford had an added surprise. Ford explained that the repeal doesn't take effect for ten days, so Ford wanted the Nutter petition repeal election set to go on the February ballot in case Clay Chastain files suit before the repeal takes effect. The council complied and instruted the city clerk to prepare the repeal election measure for the ballot.

Speaking to reporters after the session, Chastain called the council's action a "rape of democracy", and said he will sue on behalf of the voters.

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