Kay Barnes puts the smackdown on fellow City Council members and their annoying questions.

Kay's Buffet 

Kay Barnes puts the smackdown on fellow City Council members and their annoying questions.

Kansas Citians are so freaking generous.

Maybe it's the good feeling going around because the Chiefs look practically unbeatable. Or maybe it's the rapidly approaching Christmas season. Or maybe it's just some heartland kind of thing.

Whatever it is, look no further for an example of the bleeding-heart nature of your friends and neighbors than the November 4 election, when KCMO voters chose to increase taxes on each and every purchase they make, just so they could help out not themselves but a needy class of locals who no doubt feel fortunate to live and work in this city: Wealthy developers.

Starting April 1, a little extra gets piled on the price of every mattress, milk shake and motorcycle you buy so the city can add about $1 million to the tens of millions it showers on rich landowners each year.

Yes, this tenderized T-bone understands that generous Kansas Citians actually voted for the sales-tax increase to bail out the crappy local bus system.

But as Casey Logan pointed out in these pages recently ("Busted," October 23), part of the reason the Area Transportation Authority needed rescuing in the first place was that millions of dollars of transit money have been siphoned away to pay for millionaires and their erections.

The three-eighths-cent sales-tax increase approved by voters only adds to that generosity. About 6 percent of what the city collects from the new tax will go to tax-increment-financing breaks for developers.

And developers do love TIF, which stands for "Receipt? We don't need no stinking receipt."

As a recent audit by the city's resident spoilsport Mark Funkhouser shows, Mayor Kay Barnes' handpicked minions appointed to the TIF Commission have been playing fast and loose with taxpayer money -- cutting checks for developers who, instead of submitting verified receipts for their construction projects, have been reimbursed millions based on no more proof than numbers stated in spreadsheets, expense reports, business letters and, hell, as far we know, martini-stained napkins.

The meatheads at the Economic Development Corporation, who supply personnel to the program and hand out TIF checks, couldn't account for about a quarter of the $31 million we paid in fiscal 2002 to the builders and attorneys on the TIF gravy train -- who also just happen to be major contributors to Queen Kay's coffers.

Herroner herself, not surprisingly, has done what she can to stifle any discussion of the audit, which, in any other city -- particularly one with a daily paper that wasn't comatose -- would amount to a major scandal.

Councilwoman Becky Nace found that out when she tried to bring up the findings of the TIF audit in an October 2 City Council business meeting. After the council had finished hashing out the items on its agenda, Nace raised the topic under "general discussion," which is traditionally when our leaders get to ramble about whatever's on their minds.

"I'm shocked that this didn't cause an earthquake, but a whimper," she said.

"There are reasons," Barnes replied with a tone that this meat patty, after listening to a tape of the meeting, can only describe as icy.

"OK, I want to hear them," Nace responded.

At that point, Councilman Jim Rowland -- who was once so out of favor with Barnes that he considered running against her but, after receiving a plum committee assignment, has become her lap dog -- stepped in to note that Andi Udris, head of the Economic Development Corporation, has vowed to do a better job.

But Nace wouldn't be dismissed so easily.

"This seems criminal to me," she said. "I'm wondering why we're not calling for an investigation.... Is there criminal activity?"

"No," Barnes replied sternly. "There is no criminal activity."

The Strip loves a decisive public figure, but unless she has a law degree we don't know about, Herroner is hardly in the position to make such a pronouncement.

Once again, suck-up Rowland stepped in to protect Her Majesty: "I will reiterate. Mark [Funkhouser] never said anything about criminal activity."

This slab of protein hardly needs to remind Rowland that Funkhouser, an auditor, has as little standing to identify criminal activity as Barnes has to dismiss it.

When Rowland tried to change the subject, saying that time was running out, Nace sounded stunned.

"I think we have time to talk about $228 million," she said, referring to the amazing amount of cash that's still promised to Herroner's cozy circle of developer friends and their attorneys.

But if Nace got the brush during that meeting, she really got shut out after it.

Queen Kay has made sure no one will be asking those kinds of nasty questions in her presence in the future. At a recent meeting, she cut off Alvin Brooks when the mayor pro tem tried to bring up new business, saying that doing so was against the law. Turns out she's right. By statute, only prearranged topics can be addressed by council members at public meetings.

And now that she's got something she doesn't want brought up, Queen Kay's sticking to the rules like Courtney Love two days before a custody hearing.

Plaza Frights
Notorious cyberpirate John Barry appears to have struck again, and this time his victim is the Country Club Plaza.

Barry's in the racket of registering Internet domain names faster than legitimate businesses can reserve them for themselves. The Bronx man looks for well-trafficked Web sites, then reserves domain names that are only slightly different, hoping to catch unwitting Internet surfers who miss the legit site by a few keystrokes.

The prestigious South Orange, New Jersey, university Seton Hall, for example, operates a Web site (shu.edu) that contains the familiar ".edu" suffix associated with colleges.

Barry, however, reserved setonhalluniversity.com to catch the unwary. He's done the same with many other sites, registering Web addresses under the name of his business, Anti-Globalization Domains.

Unlike other Web scavengers, though, Barry does not simply reserve domain names -- he puts them to work pushing his wing-nut agenda.

When you type in a Barry address, you're immediately whisked away to the gruesome anti-abortion site abortionismurder.org and an image of an aborted fetus.

Seton Hall officials decided not to sue Barry, but others have. And Barry doesn't miss a trick. He e-mailed one victim that it would be less expensive to send him $1,000 to purchase one of his sites than to take him to court.

A tourist staying in Kansas City recently stumbled on Barry's scheme after typing kansascityplaza.com. Rather than finding a guide to shopping at Armani Exchange or lunching at Houston's, the visitor was surprised to see a decapitated fetus.

Web registration records show that in March, Barry registered kansascityplaza.com for three years. The Anti-Globalization Domains phone number listed in those records has been disconnected, and Barry did not respond to the Strip's e-mail.

Thomas Finch, who operates the anti-abortion site that benefits from Barry's scheme, says he's never spoken with Barry or asked him to send surfers to his site. But the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, man is not about to mess with a good thing -- he says he has no plans to ask Barry to stop sending him traffic.

The Plaza's director of marketing, Gayle Terry, is not amused.

"We don't want people to go by mistake to such a shocking site," she tells the Strip. "I'm not sure how often it happens, but even if it's minimal, we don't want it to happen." Terry adds that the Plaza's management is consulting with its lawyers.

In the meantime, this lean steak thinks it might be wise to inform all those small-town relatives who are making plans to visit for the Plaza's annual Thanksgiving lighting ceremony that the correct address is countryclubplaza.com.


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