KCMO City Council Nixes Anti-Nuisance Billboard Tax Proposal

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Missouri City Council decided to pass on a proposed $100 annual tax on billboards across the city - a measure that would have provided funds for the city to go after what many across the city consider unsightly billboards and signage - after Mayor Sly James and some on the council decided that it wouldn't be enough to do the job.

The council voted 8 to 5 in favor of the proposal, but it needed nine "yes" votes to be presented to voters on the November ballot. The proposed tax would generate an estimated $60,000 a year for the cash-strapped city to inspecting outdoor signs and citing sign owners who are in violation of the city's tough anti-eyesore billboard ordinance.

City Council members say that nuisance billboards and signage are the biggest sources of complaints from citizens.

"Some throughout the city that I think anyone would agree are blighting influences, they haven't been rented out for months," said John Sharp, 6th District councilman. "They're all tattered. They're rusty. Some of them are leaning, dilapidated. Let's get them fixed up and rented out or let's get them torn down."

Scott Wagner, 1st District councilman, says that many across the city are interested in seeing the city tackle the billboard issue.

"I know there are neighborhood advocates out there who are very interested in seeing something happen," said Wagner.

But some on the council, along with Mayor Sly James, say that they question whether $60,000 is enough to get the job done, especially when Missouri law would allow the city to levy a tax that would generate nearly $112,000 a year from outdoor advertisers.

James says that he led other council members in blocking the measure after he learned the billboard industry had proposed the lower per-sign fee as a compromise. Some council members said that if battling billboards was truly a priority, then they want to budget for it to get the job done right.

"I think the thing that was most compelling to me was the fact we were having such a debate, which indicated there was a wide margin of disagreement about the method," said James.

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