Why is Kay resorting to the boob tube? Well, despite the Pitch's warning before November's election (Casey Logan's "Busted," October 23, 2003), some of Kansas City's average Joes and Janes realized only recently that about $2 million of the $22 million generated annually by a sales tax increase that voters approved for transportation will instead help cover the city's nut when it decides to hand out tax-increment financing breaks to wealthy developers who want to put up spanking-new buildings. The Area Transportation Authority tax backers didn't bother to mention that little detail during last fall's campaign, however, and now plenty of folks are feeling betrayed -- including several state representatives, who are pushing for a new law to prevent developers from getting any of the bus money.
That attempt to freeze TIF out of the bus cash has Barnes and her pally Andi Udris, director of the Economic Development Corporation, in a panic. They think TIF has gotten a bad rap, and they figure it's time everyone heard a pro-TIF message. At a January 16 EDC meeting, they even proposed an idea for a developer-friendly TV show. They made note of the convenient fact that, KCPT Channel 19, the local PBS station, still hasn't paid back the $7,000 it got in TIF money when it expanded its studios on 31st Street, so perhaps they could trade for a little production time! Channel 19 honcho Bill Reed tells the Strip that Kay and Andi have even pitched their idea to him, for a show that would run on the city government channel.
But even though she already stars in her own Saturday-afternoon propaganda show on Channel 2 (the grippingly named From The 29th Floor), this tenderloin figures herroner doesn't know the first thing about must-see TV. That's why this meat patty is submitting its show treatment as early as possible, hoping that the city can take advantage of this flank steak's creativity. To wit: television's next reality show sensation ...
MY BIG FAT OBNOXIOUS MAYOR
In this wacky game show, nattily dressed developers try to win $2 million by convincing cranky citizens that it's honestly in their best interest to divert increased sales taxes to for-profit business schemes. The catch? The person they have to rely on to sway the public is none other than ... our big fat obnoxious mayor! Hilarity ensues as Queen Kay, her corsage in full bloom, stumbles into camera range.
Kay and her handlers are brimming with confidence, figuring their task isn't a difficult one. The camera catches Kay speechifying that TIF is a good thing because:
1. It's used only for public infrastructure, helping to build garages and sidewalks and other things that encourage companies to invest money where it's needed most -- in the city's most blighted, crappy, rundown areas (like the booming Northland!).
2. Other cities use similar tax incentives to entice developers, and Kansas City can't afford to be left behind.
Nice spiel. But the producers of My Big Fat Obnoxious Mayor aren't about to let herroner get away with things that easily!
In a classic reality-TV twist, the mayor's audiences will be stacked with actors posing as regular citizens. And just watch herroner squirm as they begin peppering her with questions we've prepared ahead of time!
Actor in a blue uniform, posing as an ATA bus driver: "Isn't it true that in other states, cities borrow money to help out developers but then get the money back when the property taxes go up on the places they've built? But because Kansas City also uses sales taxes, poor folks have to shoulder part of the burden. Besides, we don't even know where a quarter of the TIF money has gone. Are we ever going to get our money back?"
Whew! We'll have a tight shot on Kay's face when that one lands! But the next bombshell we've prepared is especially for Andi, who's running around like Chicken Little telling city officials that cutting TIF out of the bus money could spell doom for all TIF everywhere!
Actor carrying plastic grocery bags, posing as a beleaguered bus rider: "But Andi, isn't it true that TIF awards to developers are approved based on existing revenues, so cutting off the money from the bus sales-tax increase wouldn't affect any current TIF building project?"
Whoa, Nelly! That should send the room into an uproar! But we've saved the best for last. Just watch Queen Kay try to dodge this haymaker:
Actor in frayed jeans and a flannel shirt, posing as a taxpayer: "Wait a minute, are you saying I'm going to pay more for just about everything I buy so you can hand over $14 million to some guy so he can fix up the President Hotel and then charge $250 a night for a room I'll never be able to see the inside of?"
Oh, think of the ratings bonanza! This porterhouse is so excited, it's already cooking up a sequel, featuring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie spending a month acclimating themselves to how things work in Kansas City government. Call it The Stupid Life.