"The People Won": Kansas City Voters Reject Billionaire Stadium Tax

In a blow against billionaire sports franchise owners, Kansas City voters rejected a 40-year stadium tax. It’s a victory for community interests over corporate greed.

Ryan S.

Mell Gray and Hartzell Gray of the KC Tenants Union canvas a neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo. to push for a no vote for a tax increase to support a new Kansas City Royals stadium on Saturday March 30, 2024. (Photo by Christopher Smith for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In a historic victory and demonstration of collective power, the citizens of Kansas City have rejected a proposal that threatened to exploit the everyday people of Kansas City in favor of billionaires and corporate greed. 

The vote count revealed a resounding victory for the opposition to a proposed stadium tax, with 30,791 votes cast against the measure and 22,399 in favor within Kansas City itself. The broader Jackson County mirrored this sentiment, with 38,862 votes for No’ against 28,282 for Yes’, based on reports from 81% of precincts. In total, more than 58% of voters in Jackson County rejected the plan, which would have added a sales tax to fund stadium renovation and construction.

The largest transfer of public funds to private enterprises in our region’s history, $2 billion over 40 years. The people took on the billionaires,” @KCTenants wrote in a victory tweet. The people won. Nothing is inevitable if we organize.”

The aftermath of Kansas City’s resolute no” to the billionaire-backed stadium tax proposal has prompted reactions from figures like Royals owner John Sherman and Mayor Quinton Lucas, who stand on the less celebrated side of this democratic victory.

John Sherman’s response — We respect the voters of Jackson County and the Democratic process. We will take some time to reflect on and process the outcome and find a path forward” — reads as a forced nod to democracy after a failed attempt to exploit public funds for private gain.

Mayor Quinton Lucas’s reaction, also after losing the vote he endorsed, similarly straddles the line of political diplomacy and veiled disappointment, stating, Over the months ahead, I look forward to working with the Chiefs and Royals to build a stronger, more open, and collaborative process that will ensure the teams, their events, and investments remain in Kansas City for generations to come.”

This statement, while forward-looking, can’t mask the underlying issue: the attempt to stronghold and threaten everyday people to provide our hard-earned dollars for a billionaire sports project. In the spirit of looking forward, however, this moment marks a significant victory for grassroots activism and is a promising sign of the emerging organizing power being birthed in the city.

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At the heart of this victory is everyday people of Kansas City and the tireless efforts of organizations like KC Tenants, Decarcerate KC, Operation Liberation, Standup KC, MORE2 and many more. Kansas City’s citizens have drawn a line in the sand, signaling a readiness to challenge and resist efforts that prioritize profit over community well-being.

The vote, and the reactions it has elicited, highlight not just a moment of failed policy but a broader dialogue about power, capitalism and how development impacts the everyday people of our city.

This story was first published at the Kansas City Defender.

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Ryan has a diverse background including working at one of the nation’s most esteemed Black think tanks, one of Chicago’s top B2B Tech PR agencies, a top 3 global PR firm, and founding Kansas City’s largest Black-led direct action group during the 2020 uprisings.

Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
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