I remain grateful to the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, and to its president Gwen Grant, for including my essay on economic development incentives and efforts to study the costs and benefits in their new publication, 2019 State of Black Kansas City: Urban Education, Still Separate and Unequal. This is the second time the Urban League has published one of my essays of economic development incentives, the first time being in 2015.
Many cities are failing their primary task to provide basic services, and one big reason they are failing is because too much time and money is being spent trying to attract big projects such as airports, convention hotels, stadiums and the like. As a result, money that would go to schools, libraries, roads and police is diverted away. It’s true in Kansas City and St. Louis and most cities across the country.
There is plenty of opportunity to debate how public dollars should be spent to provide better services—and plenty of room to disagree. The Urban League and Show-Me Institute agree on at least this much— public dollars should be used for core services and not diverted away to private developers to do what the research tells us they were going to do anyway.