Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Clay Chastain: anti-hero?

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 8:39 AM

click to enlarge Clay Chastain
  • Clay Chastain

Clay Chastain called last week to talk about his latest light rail plan, which he'll kick off at Union Station on October 14 at "high noon."

"We're going to try to repeat the political miracle of 2006," Chastain told me.

Chastain said he'll pimp his latest plan on the 14th with a short speech, answer some questions from

the media and then hit the streets to start his

latest petition drive -- or as he put it, "gallop to a new green horizon."


Chastain sounded like he's been watching a lot of old westerns, talking about "drama on the plains." There will be plenty of drama if the public backs his latest plan. He says it'll "reconfigure the infrastructure and the political structure," taking away the City Council's power to override a vote of the people.


The meat of Chastain's plan is an upgrade of Kansas City's "pathetic transit

system" to a "world class transit system," he said. It's a $2.2 billion

cap improvement project, "a big plan taking on a big problem," he said.



This time, he's promoting "a world-class,

light rail based transit system based at Union Station," Chastain

said. He's added five to six miles to the spine of his light rail line,

going from the airport to Kansas City's southern border with Lee's

Summit (gotta tap that suburban growth). There'd also be street car

lines running from downtown to the train station and east to Crown

Center and Gillham Road, Linwood Boulevard to Prospect. Another street

car line would run from Main Street to the train station to the Plaza

and Brookside and Waldo.

Electric buses would carry people to and from the rail line, cutting the number of park-and-ride lots.

Chastain can already hear the voices of his critics. He knows they'll say his plan

is too expensive. He answers that if Kansas City can pay to upgrade its

sports and entertainment facilities, then it can afford light rail. He

knows the critics will say Kansas City lacks the density for his plan.

"No shit, Dick Tracy," he says. He sees his plan pulling some

of the 142,000 lost taxpayers back into the city.


I had some news for Chastain. At least one reader had cast a vote for him as Kansas City's Best Anti-hero in The Pitch's readers' choice ballot for Best Of 2009 awards. (He didn't win; Mayor Funkhouser took that honor.)

"I'm not interested in winning awards," Chastain said. "I'm interested in winning a battle to save a city."

If his plan fails, he'll "figure this is a lost cause," "go out to

pasture" and build his wife a little Victorian home in Virginia. But

Chastain reminded me that he's coming off a victory in 2006.

"This is a battle we must wage," Chastain said.


Spoken like a true anti-hero.

Photo by Angela C. Bond

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