- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City leaders say they hope to decide this summer whether to raise the city’s minimum wage, but cautioned any move likely will be less than what local groups have been seeking.

A number of faith-based, labor and social justice groups gathered nearly 4,000 signatures of registered voters for a ballot measure seeking to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

But at a meeting Thursday, the City Council opted not to put the measure on the Aug. 4 ballot after being confronted with strong opposition from the business community, The Kansas City Star (https://bit.ly/1F0zSpG ) reported.

Mayor Sly James assured a crowd that had expected a vote on the petition that he would work for some type of minimum wage increase. Council members said they hope to reach a decision by mid-July.

“The mayor and the City Council have heard. We have a promise … that there will be a minimum wage ordinance that raises wages for working people in July. And that’s a victory,” said Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, who helped lead the petition drive.

The petition had sought to raise the city’s minimum wage above the state-set level of $7.65 to $10 an hour by Sept. 1, with annual increases until it hit $15 in five years.

James said he is more inclined to support an increase to $13 by 2020. The council will begin discussions immediately with a variety of groups to try to reach a consensus.

Conflicting opinions of the merits and pitfalls of raising the minimum wage to $15 filled three hours of testimony on Thursday.

Supporters argued that the city must do something to help the plight of the working poor, and raising the minimum wage would have a dramatic, positive effect on families without negatively impacting the overall economy.

Representatives of the city’s hotel and restaurant industry predicted the move could cost 3,000 jobs and cause an exodus of small businesses at a time when Kansas City is starting to gain national attention for its tourism, conventions and economic activity.

Nobody on the City Council thinks the current minimum wage is adequate, James said, but the petition drive forced the council to make a hasty decision to meet the deadline to put the measure on the Aug. 4 ballot.

“We believe this is an absolutely horrible way to make policy decisions,” James said, pleading with the petitioners to postpone their petition. “This is a huge policy decision.”

The petitioners said they were willing to wait.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com

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