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Kansas City Council Committee Says 'No' To Public Vote On Convention Hotel Deal

The legal review committee of the Kansas City Council has accepted City Attorney Bill Geary's opinion and is recommending that the council not honor a recent petition drive that sought to force a public vote on the planned downtown convention hotel.

Geary opined that the state gives the council the power to approve Tax Increment Financing and allowing voters to overrule that would violate the state constitution. 

He also said that the memoranda of understanding the council has signed off on have the status of binding contracts. Though breach of contract itself is not a constitutional issue, he said, there are constitutional issues involved in asking a governmental body to break contracts that were within the scope of its powers to negotiate.

The committee unanimously approved a resolution to not send the hotel deal to the voters. The resolution also states that the council will not repeal the hotel deal.

Attorney for the developers Mike Burke urged the committee to expedite the resolution for full council vote this week. Burke said the issue is slowing the process of finalizing financing for the hotel and could result in increased costs.

Mayor Sly James strongly supports the resolution, but he told the committee that the council needs the full customary two-week period to come up to speed on the constitutional and legal issues involved.

A full council vote is expected Nov. 12.

Dan Coffey, spokesman for the group that gathered the petition signatures, said his group does not agree with Geary's legal opinion. He was not able to say at this time whether his group will file suit if the city does not put the matter on the ballot.

Coffey did say he thought such a vote would affect the political futures of council members and could result in petitions for recall elections.

Steve Bell is afternoon news anchor and business news reporter for KCUR.  He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or by e-mail at steveb@kcur.org

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