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What helped KC Tenants gain influence so quickly? One word: outrage

Dozens of Kansas City Tenants protested the end of the moratorium halting evictions during the pandemic.
Jodi Fortino
Not everyone loves the way KC Tenants goes about its business — the group has been criticized for being difficult to work with.

Grassroots tenant union KC Tenants has made affordable housing a top concern in Kansas City. Now, the political arm of the group, KC Tenants Power, has flexed some of its sway in city elections.

KC Tenants hasn’t been around long, but they sure have made an impact.

The citywide tenants union fights for safe, accessible and affordable housing and describes itself as led by a "multigenerational, multiracial, anti-racist base of poor and working class tenants in Kansas City."

Recently, the political arm of the group, KC Tenants Power, flexed itsinfluence when four out of the six city council candidates it endorsed were elected.

“I think they have really, really taken the time to listen to people's personal stories. And there is nothing more empowering than that,” Kansas City PBS senior reporter Mary Sanchez said on KCUR’s Up To Date.

Michelle Smirnova, a University of Missouri-Kansas City associate professor of sociology added that anger is an integral part of the group's work.

“We should all be angry that there's a mom raising a one-year-old who is in a house with a ceiling with holes in it, and birds are flying in and the carpet is soaked and covered in black mold," Smirnova said. "KC Tenants is outraged and saying you should be outraged, too."

Smirnova and Sanchez joined KCUR's Up To Date to discuss the political rise of KC Tenants and KC Tenants Power.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
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