Former Kansas City Star newsman Jim Fitzpatrick has registered a campaign committee to oppose a November 5 ballot measure in Jackson County to increase sales taxes for translational medical research.
The Committee to Stop a Bad Cure, as Fitzpatrick has dubbed his organization, is the first local committee going up against political muscle advocating for a half-cent sales-tax increase to fund research at St. Luke's Health System, Children's Mercy, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.
So far, Fitzpatrick's committee has only $500 in hand, donated by the retired Star writer and editor himself.
Like most Kansas Citians, Fitzpatrick learned about the proposed $800 million tax (probably more if counting inflation over the 20-year life of the measure) in the pages of the Kansas City Star the morning of August 8. The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, a nonprofit governed by top local businesspeople, is advocating for the tax as a means to hire well-regarded researchers to build on basic research to pursue and commercialize treatments and cures for various human diseases and disorders.
But there's not a lot of time between August 8, when the news of the tax surfaced in a big way, and November 5, when the tax gets decided upon by Jackson County voters. And that's a big part of why Fitzpatrick is concerned.
"I sensed a bit of an ambush about this...I just thought there isn't going to be a good public discussion or airing of this," Fitzpatrick tells The Pitch.
Proponents of the tax say the issue has been simmering for about six years, although it hasn't reached widespread public discussion until early this month.
"I think the people who are behind this have good intentions and I think the goal of making Jackson County a highly recognized center for translational medical research is admirable," Fitzpatrick says. "The way this has come about, dropped so quickly, and where is this money really going to go and made sure it's spent wisely, those are my major concerns."
Springfield personal injury lawyer Brad Bradshaw has also formed a committee called Citizens for Responsible Research in opposition to the Jackson County tax proposal. He wants to put a statewide medical-research tax before voters instead.
Both committees will face stiff head winds from experienced political operatives recruited to push for the approval of the tax, including Steve Glorioso, Pat O'Neill and Jeff Roe.