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SMART KC petitions for city council to get approval before spending more on streetcars

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KANSAS CITY -- A grassroots group is circulating petitions Thursday to prevent the city from spending tax dollars on expansion of the streetcar system. Voters overwhelmingly rejected plans to expand the streetcar network in August, but some fear city leaders are pushing ahead anyway.

Petition organizers claim there's $2.4-million available from a bond issue to pay for preliminary work on streetcar expansion. And they want to make sure that money is not spent on expanding a public transit system voters just rejected.

About 70 opponents of streetcar expansion call themselves SMART KC, which stands for: Supporters of Modern Affordable Regional Transit. As their name suggests, they're not opposed to improving or expanding pubic transportation, but they do believe the streetcar system doesn't serve people who need it, which is a page out of former Mayor Emanuel Cleaver's argument against light rail, when he called it "touristy frou-frou."

"They left over $2.4-million on the table for future streetcar expansion," said Sherry DeJanes, a petition organizer. "It wasn't expressly designated that way, but in the preamble it says in addition to using these bond proceeds for streetcar expansion we're going to fund other projects. It leaves the $2.4-million on the table for that purpose."

The group hopes to gather more than 4,000 signatures at seven libraries across Kansas City. The petition would require the city council to get approval from voters before spending any more money on expanding the downtown streetcar.

In a prepared statement, the city's communications director says: "The city has no expansion planning of any kind underway right now." Chris Hernandez says the city is focusing on finishing and launching the downtown streetcar line.