BY DAVID MARTIN
The developer of the Power & Light District is threatening to sue if city officials continue to support a bill that would allow Westport and other business districts to sponsor festivals where alcohol can be carried freely.
As I wrote in February, the Cordish Co. opposes a piece of state legislation authorizing the Westport Business League and other promotional associations to apply for special festival permits. These 48-hour permits would make legal for visitors to imbibe in common areas tote drinks from one establishment to the next.
The bill is a more restrictive version of a law passed on behalf of the Power & Light District before it opened. In an effort to protect a competitive advantage, Cordish has come out against the new proposal. Cordish spokesman Jon Stephens suggests that that the legislation would create "multiple 'Bourbon Streets' throughout the neighborhoods of Kansas City." Stephens' prepared statement continues: "Festival license districts belong in downtowns, not in neighborhoods."
Cordish reps lobbied against the bill in Jefferson City and now they've brought out the lawyers. Earlier this month, Cordish attorney David Frantze wrote this four-page letter to City Attorney Galen Beaufort outlining the company's objections and accusing the city of acting in bad faith. The city, meanwhile, says it is under no obligation to protect the uniqueness of Power & Light District's liquor license.
It's not often that developers clash so openly with city officials. Perhaps the most amusing aspect of the disagreement is the passage in Frantze's letter stating Cordish's belief that the current proposal is "motivated solely by individual political contributions to individual political Council persons."
It's a somewhat strange position to take, given Cordish officials' willingness to throw around the campaign cash.
One of the main champions of the Power & Light District, former Mayor Kay Barnes, who is now running for Congress, has received $6,000 in donations from Cordish officials.
Frantze has also given to Barnes. Campaign-finance records indicate that he gave $4,600 to Barnes in 2007, with half of the money arriving on December 31, the same day the former mayor collected all the Cordish money.
Stephens declined to comment on the contributions. Frantze, a development lawyer who's done a lot of business at City Hall, did not immediately respond to an e-mail inquiring about the possible "motivations" behind his giving to Barnes and other candidates.