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"We just keep chipping away at our sources of revenue," Griesheimer tells The Pitch. "At some point, there's not going to be enough revenue to go around." Griesheimer says he could support the proposal if it eliminated local taxes but kept intact the state tax on goods and services.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Yvonne Wilson, a Kansas City Democrat, plans to reintroduce the measure next year.
In addition to lost revenue, decision makers must also take into consideration those areas outside the duty-free zone.
Carlos Gomez, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, says he appreciates attempts to lift minority business. At the same time, it's hard for him to get excited about a program that does nothing for the Westside and other struggling sections of the city. "I would like to see that limit to one area taken off," Gomez tells The Pitch.
Jordan Rappaport, an economist at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, listened to Gates speak at the library symposium. Afterward, Rappaport drew a comparison between the unfortunate side effects of desegregation that Gates described and those that the Black Heritage District might create if, say, the rush to fill storefronts left vacancies in other parts of town. Rappaport encouraged Gates and the plan's backers to consider collecting the 7.725-percent tax and using the money for renovations. "You'd get the district but no competition with other areas," he said.
Funkhouser and Gates made the point that TIF has created competitive imbalances for years, only on a grander scale. "You give TIF to [ad man] Bobby Bernstein on the Plaza," Gates said, naming another well-known Kansas City executive.
Later, Gates will say he is open to ideas to improving the duty-free zone. "We thought of this and hoped it would work. If it don't, hell, give us something that will work.
"Because it's the city's loss. It's not my loss. It's the city's loss."
Gates is piloting his black Chevrolet Regency SUV along the Paseo when he sees something that annoys him.
"Now, see this stupid thing. Take a great corner like 18th and Paseo and put a parking lot on it," he says.
The offending lot sits at the edge of the 18th and Vine District, the taxpayer-financed residential area and tourist destination that isn't quite either. The lot at 18th and the Paseo was a gas station before the city acquired it. Gates can't comprehend the decision to use the land for parking. He thinks something more useful and visually interesting belongs on the corner. "Look at all this space. How many building fronts could you put there?"
Gates proceeds to point out all the vacant or underused pieces of ground more suitable for parking. "The guys are not thinking," he says.
The SUV pauses on 19th Street. Gates, who studied masonry at Lincoln High School, points to a smokestack stemming from his dad's original barbecue place. "I did it when I was 14 years old," he says.
Gates lived at 23rd and Campbell in his formative years. As he drives along Troost, he names the small grocery stores that occupied nearly every block. He made 92 cents a day working at Lipsey's supermarket.
Heading north, he approaches the Greyhound station that opened in the 1980s. "This bus terminal, you know where it should be?" he asks. "At the Union Station.... That's where it needs to be, down at Union Station. Why not? There's a depot. They've got everything down there."