Kansas City Councilwoman Accused Of Racist Remarks, Boycotted By Committee Says, 'It's About Money'
Members of the city’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee refused to attend Wednesday’s meeting, stalling city business. They’re calling on Teresa Loar to be removed as committee chair.
Updated at 3:42 p.m. September 16
Three members of Kansas City’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations committee skipped Wednesday’s scheduled committee meeting, effectively stalling city business, until Mayor Quinton Lucas removes Second District Councilwoman Teresa Loar from her position as chair.
Councilwoman Melissa Robinson and Councilmen Eric Bunch and Kevin O’Neil said they don’t think Loar is fit to lead the group, after a series of racist incidents and angry outbursts.
They first called on the mayor to remove Loar as chair in a letter on August 18.
“Nearly one month after receiving this message of no confidence, and after providing multiple verbal commitments to remove Councilperson Loar, Mayor Lucas has failed to act,” the three councilmembers said in a statement released today.
“Councilperson Loar is not the only person accountable for poor leadership and inappropriate behavior as long as Mayor Lucas retains her as chair.”
The absence of Robinson, Bunch and O’Neill leaves the committee without a quorum and unable to move forward on issues related to the airport, water department and street maintenance.
Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, who is also on the committee, did not sign the August 18 letter.
Outside city council chambers Wednesday morning, Loar said that the Robinson, Bunch and O’Neill, all in their first term on the city council, were being “duped” by outside influences, wanting contracts on the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
“This has nothing to do with me being a racist or incompetent of carrying out this committee,” Loar said.
Loar listed her previous experience on airport or transportation committees under former Kansas City Mayors Emanuel Cleaver, Kay Barnes and Sly James.
“It’s not for my lack of skills or knowledge about what’s going on. It’s about money. Follow the money, guys. That’s what this story is about.” Loar told reporters.
A season of discord
The escalation in the tension surrounding Loar and the councilmembers' follows a series of public incidents many viewed as racist.
On August 6, Lucas ordered implicit bias training for Loar, which she completed, after a July incident during which she appeared to mock Robinson during a floor debate. Robinson gave a floor speech, and Loar implied that Robinson, who is Black, did not write it.
“That was a very nice speech someone wrote you, Miss Robinson,” Loar said. “My guess it’s Labor somewhere.”
It was followed by a gesture in which Loar appeared to mock Robinson physically, by putting her hands on her hips — a move considered by many to suggest the “angry Black woman” stereotype.
On another occasion in June, Loar argued on the council floor that she was not racist by reading a list of prominent Black people she calls friends.
Loar apologized during a public meeting August 6, but Robinson told KCUR that her apology, and Lucas' response, fell short.
In the August 18 letter, Robinson, Bunch and O’Neill said those incidents are not the only reasons they lost confidence in Loar as committee chair.
“In addition to Loar’s attack on Robinson, Loar continues to have an inability to objectively represent the work of the committee; her actions are contradictory and she has, on several occasions, when becoming displeased, abruptly left meetings prematurely and without warning,” the letter stated.
Accusations of political gamesmanship
On Wednesday, Loar called the focus on her comments to Robinson a “diversion” and a “ruse” and said she had apologized to her colleague three times. She repeated that this was an effort to steer airport contracts.
“Lets go look over here while we steal you blind over here,” Loar said. She cited a vote by the city council in August to reject and re-bid an airport contract. She also accused the city council members of prioritizing their own agendas over the needs of the city.
“This is the most individual-agenda-driven council I’ve ever been on,” Loar said.
Several prominent civil rights groups in Kansas City have also called on Loar to be stripped of leadership positions.
Loar said she has no intention of stepping down from her position unless the mayor asks her to do so.
Lucas’ spokeswoman, Morgan Said, released a statement late Wednesday that the mayor has had challenging conversations with Loar “about her performance, about implicit bias, and about how she can and should do better in connection with the committee that she currently chairs.”
She said Lucas continues to evaluate committee assignments.
“The mayor’s top priority each day is ensuring that he and the City are doing good work on behalf of the people of Kansas City, and that he is fair in any determinations that are made along the way. Although she was duly elected by the people of Kansas City, the mayor expects the same standard of Councilwoman Loar and all of his colleagues,” the statement
Carlos Moreno contributed to this report.