April 1, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

KC Council Puts Down Insurrection, Moves Forward on Convention Hotel

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It was not much of an insurrection in the larger scheme of things, but the resistance of three Kansas City, Missouri, city councilwomen to the proposed 800-room downtown convention hotel was insurrection enough to be newsworthy. It was also insurrection enough, given the fragility of the hotel’s financing, to throw the dealmakers into a semi-panic.

Katheryn Shields, Teresa Loar and Heather Hall drafted an ordinance seeking “clarification, transparency and accountability” in regard to the hotel project. The ordinance temporarily at least froze the city’s $35 million cash contribution to the venture, led by Loews Hotels and two equity partners.

On Wednesday, the councilwomen took their questions to the council’s government and finance committee. They wanted to know specifically the details of the $322 million deal: where the money was coming from, how much was the city at risk, and how were taxpayers to be protected if the deal went south.

A heated meeting Wednesday at City Hall.

Although Loar and Shields felt they got answers enough to yield, Councilwoman Hall resisted. Said Hall, “We’re not the ones holding this project up. We’re just wanting to get the data which we asked for eight months ago.” Unable to rescind the ordinance, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner recommended that it be sent on to the full Council with a “do not pass” recommendation. Once the ordinance is dispensed with, the financiers behind the deal can get back to business.

“The thing that bothers me most is I have never been one to give up leverage,” Citizens for Responsible Government spokesman Dan Coffey told the Sentinel, “but they gave it up yesterday.” He exempted Hall from the “they.” Said Coffey, “They totally threw her under the bus. It was almost like it was pre-planned.”

City Councilwoman Heather Hall refused to yield.

Coffey agreed with Hall that the problem was not the ordinance. The problem was the lack of information. Once the ordinance was drafted, “All of a sudden here comes the information, but it is still incomplete.”

“I’m very disappointed,” said Hall. “I’m having a resolution drafted to make the developers give us weekly financial updates with written documentation.”

Coffey commended the three councilwomen for the effort. “It was a strategic step in the right direction,” said Coffey. “There was just not enough support.”

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