Did Clay Chastain help or hurt light rail?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Light rail advocate Clay Chastain's name was thrown around a lot Thursday at KCMO City Hall, even though he wasn't there.

Chastain collected thousands of signatures on petitions in favor of building a 22 mile, $2.5 billion light rail system.

Chastain had enough signatures to force a public vote, but a council committee voted against putting it on the ballot.

"Your plan is illegal. I can't change that. It doesn't matter who brings it. Whether it's Mr. Chastain or you or me or anybody," said Russ Johnson, the KCMO city council's transportation committee chairman.

Chastain has been trying to get light rail built for almost 20 years.

Some blame him for misleading voters who sign the petitions.

"It is essentially a frivolous petition, that is based on make believe numbers," said Dick Davis, another council member.

Richard Tolbert is on the petition drive committee.

He defended Chastain and blasted those who are tired of hearing from him.

"Clay may have been very specific, because he's been slapped around so much over the years."

Tolbert added, "I think when we build the thing we should name the main terminal the Clay Chastain memorial terminal. Because Clay sold light rail to Kansas City."

Davis used to run the bus system and says light rail might have been built by now if Chastain had gotten out of the way.

"Mr. Chastain's participation in transit, I frankly think that he's hurt efforts to build transit in Kansas City, not helped them," said Davis.

Tolbert responded, "He's been the prophet crying in the wilderness, or whatever, and he's taken his lumps for it. But he sold the community, the average people, that we ought to have light rail."

Chastain is threatening to sue the city and start recall petitions against city council members who block a public vote on the light rail plan.

The full council vote is expected next week.

Chastain says the council is trying to stop his plan because they prefer a competing two mile streetcar proposal that's also in the works right now.

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