Freedom Inc., Kansas City's black political club, met last night and decided that they will oppose a November 5 ballot measure to raise sales taxes in Jackson County for translational medical research.
Proponents and opponents of the tax met with Freedom Inc. on September 19, trying to sway the organization. But Freedom Inc.'s leaders ultimately went against the proposed half-cent sales tax in unanimity.
"Our community has supported sales taxes in the past," reads a statement from Freedom Inc. "However, the general consensus is that this tax, at this time, and for this purpose is too burdensome and does not address the most pressing needs of the community. The translational research tax may create high paying jobs for people who already have high paying jobs. Now is not the time to ask the poor, the unemployed and the underemployed people who can least afford it to bear the burden of an additional tax for 20 years."
The Kansas City Star's
editorial writer Yael Abouhalkah proclaimed that Freedom's denunciation of the $800 million tax amounted to a blow against the pro-tax campaign. That prompted a Twitter response from Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders' right-hand-man Calvin Williford, who pointed out that Freedom Inc. comes out on the wrong side of elections with some regularity, like the time it endorsed Jim Rowland for Kansas City Mayor (didn't happen) and Charlie Wheeler for Jackson County Executive (didn't happen by a long shot).
The extent of influence that these types of local political clubs have in elections is impossible to measure. The Citizen's Association, for example, backed Mike Burke for Kansas City's mayor in the last election and Jim Glover in the mayoral election before that, and voters didn't seem to pay heed.
Meanwhile, the pro-tax campaign, perhaps sensing that Freedom Inc.'s endorsement wasn't coming its way, put out a statement on Thursday listing all of its endorsements. Many of them are who you would expect, like Children's Mercy, University of Missouri-Kansas City and St. Luke's Health System (all of which would get millions a year from the tax), the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (whose board members came up with the translational research tax idea), the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City (which is funding the campaign) and Cathy Jolly (an adviser to Sanders, who supports the tax). Others include the Latino Civic Engagement Collaborative, the Carpenters District Council, the Mattie Rhodes Center and the Westport Landing Democratic Club.