If the three new city council members – Diane Seif, Diane Forte and Trish Carlyle – truly want to be effective in city government, they could collectively stop one thing: the shooting out of ideas from the dais that have little rhyme or reason.
With all the madness and misunderstandings that have surrounded the voter-approved outdoor performance space in downtown Lee’s Summit, adding another dose of ill-advised rhetoric will only prove to further complicate this issue.
Specifically, I am referring to the ideas that were bantered about at the May 1 Lee’s Summit City Council meeting.
While we were breaking down the costs, shapes and other aspects of the new stage and surrounding area next to Arnold Hall (a building that still has no plan in this process) discussions of money and what we may or may not be able to afford were starting to surface, just as we knew they would.
Lighting (ultimately a safety issue) and use of restrooms were the main topics. And since we keep running out of money, $600,000, as we walk down every planning road, these are topics that are crucial to set in stone before we even start this process.
First, council members Dave Mosby and Allan Gray wondered aloud what would happen if Arnold Hall wasn’t around any longer. That’s a fair question if we are attaching restroom use to the outdoor performance space. But leveling Arnold Hall, an $80,000 or more expense, was never part of this bond issue or arts discussion.
Secondly, when Gray addressed restroom use for the hundreds and thousands that will likely visit the new outdoor performance area on nights and weekends, he simply offered up City Hall as the venue, leading to audible gasps in the council crowd that evening.
As whispers about the viability of that idea reverberated around the chambers, Gray noted that, before an issue of safety is brought up (because, you know, hundreds of people would just be darting across Third Street to use those City Hall restrooms) that we would close Third Street during any use of that facility.
I’m bewildered that such an idea would even be uttered in a public setting. Not only are we not 100 percent sure the performance area is going next to Arnold Hall, but the prospect of opening up City Hall and closing Third Street comes, seemingly, without an ounce of discussion with city staff, with Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street or any of the business owners that would be affected by such a decision.
Parks and Recreation can get away with closing a small area of Green Street in front of City Hall because that is not a major thoroughfare. And they do not open up City Hall for restroom use. That in itself is a disaster waiting to happen.
If the performance space is indeed built next to Arnold Hall and used as often as we plan, the prospect of closing Third Street every time is shocking.
We close the streets enough for other activities in downtown Lee’s Summit throughout the year. And part of what drives people downtown is the ability to drive Third from 291 to 50. If we start closing that block, drivers are not going to just automatically jump on Second or Fourth streets to get to their destination. They’re going to show frustration by avoiding Third altogether.
We simply cannot have that.
The discussion points thrown out at council last week underscore a bigger problem – a lack of planning and execution on the outdoor space following the failure to land the Dahmer property on the west side of the railroad tracks.
Before we make any rash decisions, let’s hope the stakeholders, citizens and elected officials can step back and make sure we have our best plan in place.
John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lees Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.