Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. May 8, 2024.

Editorial: Kansas City is not trying to defund its police. The Missouri Supreme Court was right

We’ve long held that Kansas Citians and Kansas Citians alone should have the final say in how the city spends taxpayer dollars on policing. After the recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling, we repeat: Missourians must say no to a do-over on Amendment 4 in November’s election.

Politicians in the General Assembly should not dictate how much we spend on law enforcement. Every other city in the state controls its own police budget. Kansas City should, too.

Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Kansas City’s favor, ordering a redo of a 2022 constitutional amendment that mandates the city spend 25% of its general revenue budget on policing.

Two years ago, 63% of Missouri voters approved the measure. But then, citing a misleading fiscal note in the summary for Amendment 4, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas sued Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and auditor Scott Fitzpatrick and won.

The opacity of the original ballot language may very well have led voters down the wrong path then. Fortunately, the new proposal is written much more clearly.

In its April 30 ruling, the state Supreme Court ordered a special election to take place Nov. 5, as part of the general election. The new measure, the state’s highest court ruled, must read:

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to authorize laws, passed before December 31st, 2026, that increase minimum funding for a police force established by a state board of police commissioners to ensure such police force has additional resources to serve its communities?

“This would authorize a law passed in 2022 increasing required funding by the City of Kansas City for police department requests from 20% of general revenue to 25%, an increase of $38,743,646, though the City previously provided that level of funding voluntarily. No other state or local governmental entities estimate costs or savings.”

We urge Kansas City public servants and community and civic leaders to raise awareness of the negative impact that a yes vote would have on the city’s ability to provide basic services to its constituents.

A valid argument could be made that voters outside Kansas City may have not understood the impact Amendment 4 would have on the city’s budget, said Lora McDonald, executive director of Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equality or MORE2.

MORE2 sued Kansas City after city officials refused to turn over communications between Mayor Quinton Lucas and a city attorney about the lawsuit Lucas filed against the state regarding the amendment, The Star reported last summer. Kansas City violated Missouri’s Sunshine Law open records statute, MORE2 alleged in the suit, which is still working its way through the courts.

“Since we are getting another shot at a statewide election, we need to be vigilant to ensure the ballot language and the fiscal note accurately depicts what is happening,” McDonald said this week.

We are not anti-police. Neither is Lucas or the City Council. Contrary to misleading statements from statewide politicians such as Ashcroft, there is no movement to defund Kansas City police, and never has been.

In fact, the department’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year is nearly $318 million, an 11.5% increase of more than $284 million the department was allocated the previous fiscal year.

A $33 million bump in police spending for new hires and retention is not chump change. And the increase falls in line with the city’s recent track record. By law, Kansas City must use 20% of its budget on policing. As pointed out in Lucas’ lawsuit, the City Council often goes above and beyond those minimum requirements.

For example, in fiscal year 2022, the police department received 24.8% of the city’s general revenue, according to court records. No government overreach was needed then or now.

“While @QuintonLucasKC went to Court to defund the police, I will never stop fighting to ensure the KC police are funded,” Ashcroft, a gubernatorial Republican candidate for Missouri governor, wrote in a highly misleading April 30 post on X.

The fiscal note on 2022’s amendment read: “State and local governmental entities estimate no additional costs or savings related to this proposal.”

By a majority vote, the seven-member Missouri Supreme Court ruled the note was inaccurate and misleading to voters because it was the last thing they read before filling out their ballot. In fact, city officials estimated Amendment 4 would cost Kansas City taxpayers about $39 million dollars per year until the mandate ends in 2026, according to Lucas’ lawsuit.

As a board, we are opposed to any measure that dictates how Kansas City spends taxpayers’ money on our local police department. Missourians unfettered by state oversight of their own departments should be against it, too.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 12, 2024.

Editorial: In a new low, Missouri’s AG defends defamation on the taxpayers’ dime

Even as Missouri continues to underfund basic public services like education, health care and infrastructure, one state official has decided the taxpayers should pay to defend the grotesque defamation of a private citizen.

Yes, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is at it again.

This time, Bailey is using state resources to provide the legal defense of three right-wing state senators being sued for tweet-slandering a bystander to the February mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl celebration, falsely alleging he was the shooter.

How bad is this latest self-serving stunt from Missouri’s worst major public officeholder? Bad enough that even Gov. Mike Parson, a fellow Republican who appointed Bailey as attorney general last year, isn’t having it.

“We’re just not going to attack citizens … just because we think we have the power to do such,” Parson declared Thursday.

He’s apparently not too familiar with the right wing of his own state party — or with the shameless demagogue he appointed as the state’s lawyer.

In the chaotic aftermath of the shooting that broke out during the Feb. 14 Kansas City event, killing one and injuring more than 20, Denton Loudermill, a Kansas man who had nothing to do with it, was briefly detained by police.

Someone snapped a picture of him handcuffed. It popped up on social media with a reckless allegation that he was the shooter — and was an illegal immigrant to boot.

So, naturally, three Missouri statesmen re-posted that defamation without anything resembling confirmation.

In since-deleted posts, Missouri state Sens. Rick Brattin, Denny Hoskins and Nick Schroer played some hedging little word games that didn’t excuse in the least the fact that they were sharing slander. “IF THIS IS ACCURATE,” wrote Hoskins, before using the false accusation to slam the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

Any decent public official — indeed, any decent human being — would rush to apologize after learning they had helped spread false allegations that had led to death threats against a private citizen. But these particular officials weren’t done demonstrating their abject lack of decency. Brattin, when asked at a news conference whether he would apologize to Loudermill, said, “There’s nothing that I even see even worth that.”

All three senators are members of the Senate’s so-called Freedom Caucus, a small klatch of hard-right political performance artists who have spent months holding up legislative business in their efforts to pass extremist laws. Though Missouri is nowhere near a national border, racially tinged rants about immigration are a key part of their arsenal.

As it is for Bailey. As we have deeply catalogued in our on-going “ Bailey Tally,” there is no other top official in Missouri who has so blatantly politicized his office in his zeal to woo the GOP base in the August primaries, where he faces opposition to his bid to win a full term.

Bailey’s initial filing defending the three senators argues they are protected by “absolute legislative immunity” — a popular construct on the hard right just now that should sound familiar to anyone following former President Donald Trump’s legal troubles.

Bailey made sure to specify that it’s not just the senators’ titles that give them the right to randomly slander a private citizen, but the fact that they did it in service to the culture-war obsession with immigration.

State legislators, he wrote, “should not be inhibited by judicial interference or distorted by the fear of personal liability when they publicly speak on issues of national importance.”

Or, more accurately, political importance.

It’s notable that even Parson, not generally known for standing up to the rabid right of his party, was apparently appalled at this latest Bailey stunt.

“This gentleman did nothing wrong whatsoever other than he went to a parade, and he drank beer and he was Hispanic,” said Parson. In fact, Loudermill is Black, but in the social media photos could appear to look Hispanic.

The tinge of racism is the least surprising element of Bailey’s involvement. His previous abuse of the legal system has included siding against prosecutors to defend a white cop convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a Black man, and threatening the Hazelwood School District with the baseless, vile allegation that its diversity policies somehow contributed to the severe beating of a white student by a Black student.

While it’s true that the attorney general’s duties include representing state officials in court, he has wide discretion as to what merits such defense.

Here’s an interesting thought exercise: Try — just try — to imagine Bailey marshalling the power of his office to defend a trio of hard-left legislators accused of, say, slandering an anti-abortion activist.

It’s not imaginable because, as always, Bailey decides whether and how to do his job based entirely upon ideology, partisanship and self-serving politics.

“Politicians have to be responsible and have to be held to a higher standard when you start attacking citizens in our state,” said Parson.

He’s right. Which is why removing this singularly toxic attorney general from office should be the single most important priority of any voter — of any party — who cares about public service.