BY DAVID MARTIN
This week’s column describes the blocks that road builders and Chamber of Commerce types have put in front of light-rail efforts in Kansas City.
In 2001, highwaymen and rich guys like James B. Nutter Sr. bankrolled a campaign against the one and only light-rail plan the city has taken to voters. A neighborhood leader helped the bigwigs defeat the plan: former city councilwoman and current parks board member Aggie Stackhaus.
In the days leading up the vote, Stackhaus, who lives in Old Hyde Park, participated in a newsconference where opponents made unsubstantiated claims that the rail route would take out the iconic J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain on the edge of the Country Club Plaza. Fears of fountain desecretion fit into a larger argument that light rail would ruin neighborhoods. The light-rail plan lost by a substantial margin, setting back mass transit efforts for years to come.
Stackhaus served as trustee to the Land Trust of Jackson County before Mayor Mark Funkhouser gave her a more visible post on the parks board. In naming the parks board last year, Funkhouser railed against “elitism and community divisiveness,” hallmarks of the anti-light-rail campaign in 2001. Doubling the irony, Funkhouser is trying to build consensus for a regional transit plan that would be a much easier sell if Kansas City had begun laying track in, say, 2002.
The mayor’s office had no comment when I asked about Stackhaus’ involvement in the 2001 campaign. Stackhaus did not return a message.