Anti-nuke group wants vote on Honeywell work

KANSAS CITY (AP) — An anti-nuclear group wants Kansas City residents to be able to vote on whether a plant being built for Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies should build parts for nuclear bombs or green power initiatives, such as wind power.

KC Peace Planters, a coalition of nuclear opponents and peace activists, turned in a petition last week seeking a public vote on how the plant in south Kansas City should be used after it opens in 2014, The Kansas City Star reported Monday. They want the proposed initiative on the ballot in November.

However, city attorney Galen Beaufort said a court likely will stop the petition initiative because of questions over whether it is legal, existing contracts and ownership of the plant.

Rachel MacNair, who coordinated the petition drive, said the group was required to turn in 5 percent of the votes cast in the recent mayoral election, or 3,572 signatures. She said 4,959 signatures were collected. The city election board will verify whether enough signatures are valid.

“Let the people of Kansas City decide this,” MacNair said. “The Cold War is over. The New START treaty has been passed. This is a poor investment for this city. What happens a few years from now when the country decides it will no longer build nuclear weapons?”

Jude Huntz, human rights director for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said in a statement that the initiative provides “the opportunity to decide what we wish to see built at this new facility, to decide what we will be as a city, a nation and as a global community.”

But Beaufort said changing the plant’s mission now, after construction of the billion-dollar plant is well under way, would conflict with contracts that already exist between the private developer, CenterPoint Zimmer; the tenant, Honeywell; and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

He said in a city law department memo that the activists are wrong when they contend that Kansas City will own the plant or the land it sits on.

“These are conscientious, good, smart people, but they are wrong on this point,” Beaufort said. The facility will be owned by the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, a state-chartered agency with members appointed by the mayor, he said.

Henry Stoever, an attorney for the KC Peace Planters, said he expects to argue those issues in court.

Councilman John Sharp, whose 6th District includes the new plant, supports the current project.

The project is well under way, Sharp said, adding that killing the plant now would “leave a giant hole in our local economy.”

Sharp said the 2,100 well-paying manufacturing jobs at the plant would just be moved to another plant in New Mexico if the petition initiative is successful.

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