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Kansas City Council Approves Infrastructure Bond, Marijuana Ordinance For April Ballot

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
On Thursday, the Kansas City Council agreed to put an $800 million infrastructure package on the April ballot. Part of that money would go to build and repair sidewalks around the city.

On the deadline to approve items for the April ballot Thursday, the Kansas City council reached a compromise and unanimously approved an ordinance for an $800 million dollar infrastructure bond package.

The plan includes a property tax increase over 20 years for the purpose of repairing, rebuilding and maintaining the city's existing infrastructure. 

The agreement comes after 43 days of back and forth between council members and Mayor Sly James.

Councilwoman Jolie Justus says the ordinance doesn’t give everyone what they want. 

“But what it does is it puts in something that we as a city can be proud of and everyone can go the ballot and say you know what, this isn’t exactly I wanted but it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

According to ordinance language, the $800 million would be divided into three different questions:

  1. $600 million for bridges, streets and sidewalks. 
  2. $150 million for flood control projects.
  3. $50 million for public buildings, including the construction of a new animal shelter. 

A separate resolution details more about how that money would be spent. 
Under that resolution, a maximum of $150 million is allocated for sidewalk construction and repair. How to distribute that money remains the biggest point of debate. The Council will now have to craft a separate ordinance to solve the issue. 

Even councilman Quinton Lucas, who challenged the mayor's plan over the past several weeks, and even introduced a competing plan last week, came around.

"Frankly, I'm almost in love with this now," Lucas said. 

The Kansas City Council also agreed to place a marijuana ordinance on the April ballot.

The petition initiative calls for lower penalties for marijuana possession in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Under the proposed ordinance, if someone is caught with less than 35 grams of marijuana, they would get maximum fine of $25 and wouldn't be arrested. 

Several council members expressed severe reservations about the measure, saying that it could mislead people to think marijuana was decriminalized, which it would not be. 

However, since the ordinance was brought by a citizen's petition initiative, the council was obligated to put it on the ballot.

The only person who voted against putting it on the ballot in April was James.  He worried that rather than hire an attorney, as one might do under the current penalties, a person would instead choose to pay the fine.

Paying the fine would still mean a drug conviction on your record, and could have a negative impact on job or scholarship applications. 

"The people who would be most affected by it have less protection for their record than they do now. That bothers me," James said. 

Lisa Rodriguez is the afternoon newscaster and a reporter for KCUR 89.3 Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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