The city finds $1.1 million to buy parkland it doesn't want or need 

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But I get the sense that Porrevecchio and his neighbors really want the racetrack and its revving engines to disappear. Any kicking of soccer balls that takes place in the future is incidental.

Acquiring the racetrack remains a top priority, Circo says. But the city hasn't been able to meet the owner's demands. "I can't buy the racetrack if the owners of the racetrack aren't willing to sell the racetrack," she says.

Instead, Circo has found a seller who also happens to contribute to local officials' political campaigns.

Kissick stays on top of city affairs. His company's equipment can often be found on public-project sites. Kissick Construction buried pipes beneath the Kansas City Power & Light District and helped with Bartle Hall's expansion.

Kissick himself is a former president of the Heavy Constructors Association of the Greater Kansas City Area, a group known in political circles as the "Heavies" — shorthand that speaks to the group's identity as well as its clout.

Kissick Construction donated $3,125 to candidates in the 2007 city election. The giving continues. Circo's campaign received a total of $750 from Kissick in 2008 and 2009. Kissick donated $1,500 to Riley in July, when the councilman made an unsuccessful bid to slide from the City Council to the Jackson County Legislature.

Construction interests give money to local elected officials as a matter of course. Politicians, after all, are the ones who approve and campaign for some of the city's largest construction projects. But it isn't every day that a man who runs bulldozers also happens to own property that the city's parks department is being encouraged to buy.

Kissick says the city is getting a good deal. "We came down quite a bit [on the price]," he says. At the same time, he acknowledges that he and his partners were unable to subdivide the land, as they had intended when they bought the property. This means that if the city relieves Kissick of his land, it would add 100 acres to an inventory of underused, insufficiently maintained parks.

Austere city budgets have forced the city to close community centers, eliminate programs and reduce mowing schedules. Last year, parks officials even considered shutting off the city's fountains in order to save a measly $160,000. This past summer, the entrance to Swope Park resembled a meadow for much of the season.

A parks department that has lost 20 percent of its work force over the past decade can't even keep up with undesirable shrubs. To remove invasive bush honeysuckle from parkland, the city relies on volunteers. "You see it everywhere," says Dona Boley, board president of the Kessler Society of Kansas City, a group named for George Kessler, the park system's original architect.

Other important functions are being neglected amid the cutbacks. Boley says she is concerned about the loss of forest cover. "You don't see much tree planting occurring in the parks," she says. "So when the trees die and are gone, that's it."

Parks officials have not held much public discussion about Kissick's property and their possible plans for it. Porrevecchio made his comment about the "gross misuse of tax dollars" during the section of the parks board meeting reserved for public comment. Porrevecchio argued that the city should make a play for the racetrack. He presented copies of e-mails that he said indicated the track owner's willingness to come to the table.

Porrevecchio stepped out of the meeting to take a phone call. When that conversation ended, he said it was the owner of the racetrack who had called. Porrevecchio said the two had scheduled a meeting for the following week.

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