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08/07/01 - Kansas City Voters Turn Down Light Rail


The Kansas City Star
Date: 08/07/01 23:51

Voters soundly reject light-rail plan for Kansas City


Kansas City voters on Tuesday resoundingly rejected a $93 million light-rail transit system, but Mayor Kay Barnes hinted at another light-rail vote, possibly next year.

The city's plan garnered just 40 percent of the overall vote. It failed not only south of the Missouri River but also in the Northland, where voters trounced more than 2-to-1.

"The voters have said they don't think a billion-dollar gamble was worth it," said Councilman Paul Danaher, a Northlander and avid rail opponent.

With all precincts reporting, light rail lost 37,259 to 24,824. It failed 69 percent to 31 percent in the Northland, while in Kansas City south of the river it was turned down 56 percent to 44 percent.

"I personally failed to realize how much of a schism there is, north-south in this town," said Leonard Graham, who was co-chairman of a city steering committee that recommended the light-rail plan.

"Kansas Citians made a decision today," Graham continued, "a decision that the status quo is OK, that we can sprawl and the urban core can be neglected, and I think that's a very, very big mistake."

Barnes, though, indicated light rail could be brought back to voters again -- and her political consultants already are talking about doing that in November 2002.

"What I detected in the last days was as people grasped what this was about, they were shifting their opinion," Barnes said Tuesday night. "That suggests to me that this issue could have a life after this election."

The election marked the fourth straight year light rail was on the ballot in Kansas City. In 1998, 1999 and 2000, activist Clay Chastain lost on different rail petitions -- but Chastain's first rail petition won 45 percent of the vote, more than this year's City Hall plan …………..