The Kansas City Star today delivered a sledgehammer blow to the prospects for Jackson County’s proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research.”
In an editorial that will appear in Sunday’s printed edition, The Star said that “local taxpayers in a single county” should not have to bear the cost of “the emerging niche” of translational medical research.
In the medical sense, “translational” means reducing the time frame, as much as possible, between discoveries and getting products and pharmaceuticals into the marketplace.
The editorial, probably written by chief political editorial writer Yael Abouhalkah, eloquently explores the many flaws in the proposal, which was the brainchild of Kansas City’s civic elite.
The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, consisting of area business leaders, already has poured at least $600,000 into a TV-heavy campaign designed to win voter approval of the measure on Nov. 5.
The editorial said, in part:
“An extra half-cent sales tax, raising $40 million annually for the next 20 years, levied on the second poorest county in the area (after Wyandotte) puts an unfair, regressive burden on a limited slice of the region in search of national advances.”
The editorial noted that 10 Kansas City health-care institutions “already invest million of dollars in research annually and can claim 2,000 scientists among them.”
A separate institution, the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, “spends $70 million a year on basic research and has built an enviable reputation,” the newspaper said.
The editorial also made the following points:
— The Civic Council leaders “failed to reach out early to a broad swath of the community to reveal its effort” or rally public support for a drive to raise money privately, including from corporations.
— The three-week period between introduction and county legislative agreement to put the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot did not allow for public input.
Turning to “alternative scenarios,” The Star made these suggestions:
— “Build a larger private/philanthropic movement in advance of another, better-planned tax appeal.”
— “Encourage Stowers and the Kauffman Foundation, with its entrepreneurial interests, to help coordinate a push for added private funds and venture capital interest.”
— “Promote more spending on medical research by hospitals such as St. Luke’s and Children’s Mercy — which have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for building renovations in recent years — before they become recipients of large amounts of local tax dollars.”
The Star’s editorial board consists of Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish; Editorial Page Editor Miriam Pepper; Abouhalkah; and columnists Barbara Shelly and Lewis Diuguid.
Foreshadowing today’s editorial, Abouhalkah for weeks has been writing columns critical of the measure.
Shelly attempted to balance the scales on Friday, Oct. 4, when she wrote an Op-Ed column saying that the sales-tax measure “deserves at least to be judged on its merits and not on distractions.” The distractions she referred to included opposition contentions that the proposal was “a greedy cop-out,” in Shelly’s words.
In staking out its position, The Star joined several civic and political organizations in denouncing the measure.
Organizations opposing the tax are the east-side political club Freedom Inc.; the nonpartisan, city-oriented Citizens Association; and the local branches of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP.
Two registered campaign committees are working against the measure: Citizens for Responsible Research and the committee that I registered a day after the County Legislature approved the vote — Committee to Stop a Bad Cure.
You can read this same story on the stopabadcure.org.