Jeff City grabbed even more control over Kansas City police. Time for action, not words

·3 min read
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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill Monday to potentially raise Kansas City’s police spending, from 20% of its general revenue to 25%.

In the best Eric Greitens tradition, Parson used Kansas City police officers as props while signing the measure. “In Missouri, we defend our law enforcement officers who answer the call each and every day to protect and serve Missourians,” Parson said in a statement. “We don’t defund them.”

Let’s get this straight first: “We” had nothing to do with this particular law, which was foisted on the people of Kansas City by state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, who lives in Parkville. “We” did not vote on the increase. “They” aren’t paying a dime more for police service — it’s all on Kansas Citians, and local taxpayers.

“The bill represents the raw exercise of power by state lawmakers over the people of Kansas City,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said, and he’s right. And, to be clear, no other city in Missouri must deal with this kind of oppression.

We’ve called the measure colonialism. Upon closer review, it more resembles plantationism: a white governor, and an overwhelmingly white legislature, telling a Black mayor how the city should be run. It makes one sick to the stomach.

What to do now?

The first step is the courts. Kansas City should seek a permanent injunction to prevent any implementation of the bill, which is blatantly unconstitutional. The Missouri Constitution, through the Hancock Amendment, prohibits unfunded mandates imposed on local governments.

Luetkemeyer believes the amendment may not apply. It’s written in plain English, which may present a problem for the senator. Let’s hope Kansas City can find an unbiased judge to explain it to him.

Of course, a separate proposal is headed to the November ballot that would repeal Hancock and force Kansas City to bow to the state’s wishes. So the second step is an organized, statewide campaign against that change.

We must impress upon our neighbors how deeply offended they would be if their local spending decisions were subject to the whims of the cabal in Jefferson City.

We should also point out that Kansas City’s high violent crime rate is the responsibility of the unelected police board, and the governor who appointed its members, and the state Senate that confirmed them. Kansas Citians are largely powerless when it comes to police.

That campaign will take money. Local businesses that have spent millions on failed campaigns for local tax increases must step forward to defend the city’s sovereignty now. The target should be $2 million, raised by Labor Day.

The Chamber of Commerce, the Civic Council, local business leaders and political groups should step forward with serious funding for the “no” campaign. A committee should be established as soon as possible.

Finally, Kansas City’s elected leadership should prepare for the 25% requirement now, and show the people of the city and state exactly what the standard means. Strict reliance on the state-imposed threshold will almost certainly mean less money for the police department, not more. That fact should be made clear.

The new police chief, who will be hired regardless of what Kansas Citians think or want, should be made aware of the buzzsaw he or she will confront after accepting the job.

Mayor Lucas and other city officials have sharply criticized the police funding bill, but words are not enough. Kansas City must resist this usurpation of local autonomy, or it will happen again, and again. Luetkemeyer and his dictatorial cronies will see to that.

Action, not words, are needed. Fighting in the courts, resisting the state’s tyranny at the polls and insisting on the letter of the law are all important answers to the governor’s wobbly decision to sign this misguided, anti-democracy bill.

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