If some City Council members don't see the Downtown ROI, they aren't looking very hard

Walk the relatively small physical footprint of downtown Lee's Summit and tell me what you see:

  • Sixteen new businesses opened in the last 18 months.
  • More lunch and dinner options than we've ever had.
  • Massive investment — in the millions of dollars in the last three years — inside our buildings that reinforce the desire to be in our business district.
  • More events, artistic and entertainment options than ever before.
  • Near zero available square footage due to high demand; and an incredibly high occupancy of second floor office space.
  • Retail sales that have increased from a little over $1 million a year 25 years ago to nearly tens of millions today – and that doesn't include money spent with our accountants, insurance companies, attorneys and other service-oriented businesses (including mine) downtown.

Now here's the challenge: explain that to Councilman Bob Johnson.

At the June 7 City Council meeting, Johnson decided to use his valuable microphone time to question the relatively small amount that the City agrees to fund Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street — $60,000 (less than a 14 percent of its overall budget) due to the fact that the Community Improvement District board collects a penny tax on retail sales, which goes back to specific purposes for upkeep or marketing of our wildly popular downtown.

In other words, Johnson either doesn't remember the nature of the CID (which was approved the last time he was on council two short years ago) or he chooses not to acknowledge it.

Discussions at City Council

Lee's Summit City Council discussion on use of funds from the Business and Industry tax as it relates to the organizations receiving funds via a Public Service Agreement with the City of Lee's Summit. June 7, 2018.
Lee's Summit City Council work session discussion on economic development incentives policy as it relates to the downtown district. June 14, 2018.

As a refresher: the CID was approved by a "yes" vote of downtown residents in 2014 to provide funding and services for specific purposes, including capital improvements, clean and green and community development.

Coming after the public service agreement money is beyond short sighted. If Johnson needs to find $60,000 in the budget, surely he can. But really, it's not even about the dollars.

His assertion that somehow DLSMS is double dipping on taxes is ludicrous. And it sells short the absolutely tireless work of decades of past and present board members, DLSMS staff, business and building owners that worked to make sure the district has a means to do what other shopping areas in Lee's Summit and throughout the metro accomplish.

The buzz words that evening at council were "return on investment." You want to talk about ROI? Downtown Lee's Summit has exponentially returned the investment it’s been given. Look at the events, the crowds, the range of businesses clamoring to open in our core. To question that is to question how responsible Downtown Main Street has been with its dollars. That borders on offensive.

We must applaud Mayor Bill Baird, along with Council members Trish Carlyle and Diane Forte, for shutting down Johnson's motion that could have possibly cut dollars from Downtown Lee's Summit.

Downtown just hosted a nationwide Big Bash here. It encourages artistic endeavors through Fourth Fridays and Music in the Park. And it's as busy, sought after and relevant to community as it has ever been.

If Johnson or others need a refresher on the purpose of the CID, now might be a good time for that board to give a presentation at a future council meeting.

Johnson and the other newly elected council members have been granted a great responsibility over many areas of our city. Going after the heart of Lee’s Summit within the first two months of taking office is hardly what we had in mind.

Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.