I’ve been involved in a lot of political activity during my life. As a reporter at The Star, I covered many candidate and issue campaigns. Since retiring in 2006, I have done volunteer work for, and contributed financially to, several candidates, including Mike Burke, Jim Glover and an old and dear friend and idol, Charlie Wheeler.
But I had never formed a campaign committee expressly to campaign for or against a particular candidate or issue.
After jumping through the required, legal hoops — registering the committee with the Secretary of State’s office and opening a bank account (Country Club Bank) — I filed a Statement of Committee Organization with the Jackson County Election Board in Independence.
The Committee to Stop a Bad Cure has money in the bank — I contributed a whopping $500 — and is raring for action.
The goal? To help defeat what I have dubbed the Civic Council Sales Tax, a proposed half-cent sales tax for translational medical research. The proposal will be on the Nov. 5 ballot; it is the only issue on the ballot throughout Jackson County.
You’re going to hear me say this over and over because it is so important: The Civic Council consists of the c.e.o.’s of the Kansas City area’s leading companies. The tax proposal amounts to the rich trying to foist on taxpayers the cost of trying to make Jackson County a leader in translational medical research…Translational research essentially amounts to converting treatment and pharmaceutical advances into business ventures.
In my opinion, private funds should pay for most or all of a speculative venture like this. But the Civic Council, apparently unable to raise funds privately, pulled an ambush: They plunked their idea for a countywide tax on the Jackson County Legislature early this months, three weeks before the deadline for putting a measure on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The Legislature, under great pressure from the bigwigs, voted 7-2 Monday to put the measure on the ballot, with precious little opportunity for public discussion and consideration of the proposal before rushing pell mell to a public vote.
Late yesterday afternoon, I alerted The Star and the four main local TV stations about the committee filing. Within 10 minutes, an assignment editor from KSHB-TV, the NBC affiliate, was on the line asking if a cameraman could come by my house and do an interview.
A couple of hours later, I was sitting on the patio with a camera pointed at me, and less than halfway through the 10 o’clock news, voila, I was on the air asserting that the taxpayers should not have to pay the $800 million to $1 billion ($40 million to $50 million a year for 20 years) that civic leaders think it will take to make Jackson County a leader in translational medical research.
The committee name, Committee to Stop a Bad Cure, is a counterpoint to the proponents’ committee, the Committee for Research, Treatment and Cures. As we all know, though, it’s really the committee to support the Civic Council Sales Tax.
The business community intends to spend at least $1 million on the sales tax campaign. The committee already has $100,000 in the bank. Among other things, they have already bought off all of the area’s leading professional political consultants — Pat Gray, Pat O’Neill, Steve Glorioso and Jeff Roe. These days, you have to cut all those guys in on the deal up front or you risk the chance of an opposing committee hiring them.
(Don’t worry, the Committee to Stop a Bad Cure has no intention of paying for political consulting services.)
As is always the case in campaigns, money will be hard to beat. But in this case, I think the proponents face a long, hard slog.
Coming out of the recession, with many people unemployed and underemployed, this is a terrible time to put a measure like this on the ballot. I think resistance to any proposed tax increase would be strong. But this one, with its nebulous goals and sky-high price tag, is going to be greeted with tremendous skepticism.
Every person, except one, whom I have talked with about the tax proposal has said they don’t like it…The friend I talked to who favors it, understandably, is a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital…CMH is one of the three main institutions, along with St. Luke’s and UMKC, that would receive the most funds from the tax proceeds.
For me, it’s a day to celebrate, as well as get down to the business of running a campaign committee.
The committee will have a web site — stopabadcure.com — (it’s not up yet but I’ve registered the domain), and I plan to have yard signs and other campaign paraphernalia, such as buttons and flyers.
I’m willing to put several thousand dollars of my own money in this effort, and I’m hoping to attract contributions from others who see this like I do.
Campaign headquarters will be Fitzpatrick manor, 1209 W. 64th Terrace, KCMO, 64113. Drop by, if you’d like, or call me at (816) 668-0156.
Finally — and here’s the hard part of the preacher’s work — if you would like to contribute financially, send checks to Committee to Stop a Bad Cure, care of my address.
I guarantee you one thing: All contributions will be put to good use.