Judge will decide streetcar expansion's fairness

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - City leaders announced their final streetcar-related vendor Thursday afternoon as one metro organization continued its courtroom battle to stop the streetcar expansion.

The debate over the expansion of the streetcar line in Kansas City has moved from city hall to a Jackson County courtroom.

Opponents want to convince Judge Marco Roldan the streetcar expansion is illegal under Missouri law.   The special tax assessment to help fund the $55 million project would only apply to properties within one-third of a mile of the streetcar routes.  Opponents say that's taxation without representation because all voters within the district would decide on the property tax assessment.

Sherry DeJanes is the attorney for SMART KC, Supporters of Modern Affordable Regional Transit. The organization does not believe the proposed streetcar expansion is smart for the city.

"If you look at the corridors through which the new expansion lines are going to run they are actually some of the poorest areas of our city. These are people who live paycheck to paycheck and can least afford it they spend all of their money on necessaries. That's going to cut out some of the necessary that they can afford because the tax level goes up," DeJanes said.

Unlike regular property taxes, the special assessments would also affect churches and non-profits.

Father Brian Johnson with the Redemptorist Church testified that the special assessment would cost the parish more than $100,000 over the next 25 years and hinder their outreach to the community.

Attorneys for the city challenged his numbers and said it should be up to the voters to decide if the special assessment is reasonable.

"This is a question for our community to discuss and for the answer to come forward at the ballot box we don't believe the court should prevent that from moving forward when election. The streetcar project does provide economic benefit and will move to stabilize some of these neighborhoods," attorney Douglas Stone said.

The judge is expected to review the information presented in court and make his ruling within a week.

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