Kansas City Voters Elect Quinton Lucas Mayor, Select A City Council And Reject A Cap On Tax Breaks
Quinton Lucas will be the next Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri.
Lucas is a private attorney, lecturer at the University of Kansas School of Law and in his first term on the city council. He defeated fellow councilmember Jolie Justus, 59% to 41%.
Lucas, who was homeless at times growing up, campaigned on a promise to build up Kansas City’s stock of affordable housing.
"Today we received, it wasn't a mandate for me, it was a mandate for our issues. It was a mandate that cares about affordable housing in every neighborhood of Kansas City," Lucas said Tuesday night. "It was a mandate that stands for the working man and woman."
During his time on the city council, Lucas, 34, backed an ordinance that lowered the amount of tax incentives the city can award to a developer. He also successfully resurrected a dormant measure to rename Paseo Boulevard after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lucas came under criticism for pushing the name change through the legislative process without getting sign-off from residents who live on what was then Paseo Boulevard. The change is currently being challenged by a group of petitioners who gathered enough signatures to put it to a city-wide vote.
Throughout the campaign, Lucas portrayed himself as a departure from outgoing Kansas City Mayor Sly James. He criticized James for doing business behind closed doors rather than in the public. Lucas repeatedly pointed to a deal James arranged with Burns & McDonnell to privately finance and build a new single-terminal airport. Several members of the city council said they didn’t find out about the deal until James announced it in a press conference.
By selecting Lucas, Kansas City voters indicated a change in priorities — a departure from big, marquee projects like the airport and a renewed focus on basic services like housing and crime.
For her part, Justus told supporters Tuesday night, "I'm not going to disengage just because I didn’t get the outcome I wanted tonight, and you shouldn’t disengage either. As a matter of fact, we have to work harder.”
A very different city council
Lucas will return to City Hall with a drastically different city council. Six current councilmembers were in the mayoral primary, leaving half of the council seats empty.
Four candidates ran unopposed — incumbent Heather Hall in the 1st district, newcomer Kevin O’Neill in the 1st district at-large, incumbent Teresa Loar in the 2nd district at-large and incumbent 6th district councilman Kevin McManus.
Three other incumbents, Dan Fowler in the 2nd district, Katheryn Shields in the 4th district at-large and Lee Barnes, Jr. in the 5th district at-large retained their seats.
They defeated challengers Kevin McEvoy, Robert Westfall and Dwayne Williams, respectively.
While many are new to politics, the six newcomers to the council are deeply engrained in their neighborhoods.
In the 3rd district at-large race, Missouri state Rep. Brandon Ellington defeated pastor and community advocate Wallace Hartsfield II.
In the 3rd district, healthcare advocate Melissa Robinson defeated business owner and barber Joseph “Joey Cuts” Thomas.
In the 4th district, BikeWalkKC co-founder Eric Bunch defeated firefighter Geoff Jolley.
In the 5th district, healthcare executive Ryana Parks-Shaw defeated business consultant Edward Bell III.
In the 6th District at-large, real estate attorney Andrea Bough defeated realtor Stacey Johnson-Cosby.
Voters reject a cap on tax breaks for developers
Voters also rejected a measure that would severely limit the city’s ability to give tax breaks to developers.
The measure would have capped at 50% the amount of property taxes the city can abate or redirect back to a developer. Supporters, fed up with luxury hotels getting generous tax breaks, wanted to bring incentives back to their original purpose, which is to encourage development in truly blighted areas.
But opponents said the measure was written too broadly and could actually discourage investment in economically distressed neighborhoods. They decried a lack of exceptions for projects in blighted areas or projects that create permanent jobs.
The new city council term begins August 1.
Lisa Rodriguez covers Kansas City, Missouri, City Hall and is the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.