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Kansas City just got a new city council. What exactly do they want to do?

A group of men and women stand outside on a stage, facing a judge, with their right hands rise.
Zach Perez
/
KCUR
U.S. District Court Judge, Stephen Bough, swears in the 2023-2027 Kansas City City Council.

Kansas City's new and returning lawmakers take their seats this week on city council — and on the committees that decide what ultimately goes up for a vote. Here's what you need to know about how that process works, and what councilmembers are likely to tackle first.

Tuesday marked inauguration day for the mayor and city council members, and the start of a new legislative session. Many of the issues that took center stage during the election cycle — housing, crime and policing, upcoming development projects — will remain priorities for this new council.

The June general election sent seven new faces to council — Nathan Willett, Wes Rogers, Melissa Patterson Hazley, Crispin Rea, Lindsay French, Darrell Curls and Johnathan Duncan. Mayor Lucas and five council members — Kevin O’Neill, Melissa Robinson, Eric Bunch, Andrea Bough and Ryana Parks-Shaw — handily won their re-election campaigns and will return to their council seats.

Eric Bunch was re-elected to represent the 4th District, which includes Midtown, downtown, the West Side, the Historic Northeast and a portion of the Northland.

“The energy and the enthusiasm that's coming out of the new and incoming council members is just really infectious,” Bunch said. “I think that we really have an opportunity to do some big things this term.”

Crispin Rea is the new 4th District At-Large council person. He said on KCUR’s Up to Date that he’s encouraged about working with his new colleagues.

“Having seen the personalities and interacted with these folks, I do think there's an opportunity to restore a sense of collegiality and civility that's been missing,” Rea said.

Three men in suits stand on a stage with their right hands rises, swearing an oath of political office.
Zach Perez
/
KCUR
Councilmen Crispin Rea, left, Eric Bunch, center, and Darrell Curls, right, are sworn in for the 2023-2027 Kansas City City Council term.

Legislative Priorities

Bunch’s legislative priorities for his second term are similar to his first: more affordable housing, support for public transportation and safety for people on the city’s streets.

“There's really good opportunity to accomplish some of those big objectives, like with Vision Zero or with a better affordable housing policy, that really works towards providing housing that is truly affordable for our most vulnerable citizens,” Bunch said. “And expansion of public transportation will be paramount in this next term.”

Wes Rogers will represent the 2nd District, which includes a portion of the Northland south of Barry Road. He thinks the city could make it more efficient for businesses to get licenses and permits. He is a member of the Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee, which often deals with how the city allocates money.

Rogers served on the state budget committee during his time in the Missouri House.

“You're dealing with investments in the city, you're dealing with being a steward of taxpayer dollars,” Rogers said. “It is the committee with the greatest reach and the greatest impact and I'm excited to be on it.”

Rea previously worked in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office. Addressing violent crime was one of the cornerstones of Rea’s campaign.

“We talked a lot during the campaign about focused deterrence and what we did with KC NoVa (No Violence Alliance) as an example — not necessarily a program to replicate but as an example — of a public safety strategy that was coherent, comprehensive and evidence-based,” Rea said. “I do believe there's an opportunity to incorporate some of those elements into what we're doing right now.”

Duncan is the in-district councilman for the 6th District, which includes the Country Club Plaza, Brookside and Waldo. Duncan, who has organized with KC Tenants, said one of his first priorities will be a ban on source of income discrimination, which would prevent a landlord from not renting to someone based on whether they pay for housing through vouchers or other means besides a salary.

“Studies have shown that if we want to actually decrease the concentration of poverty and allow people the mobility to move into more, higher opportunity areas, then we need to deal with that,” Duncan said.

Importance of council committees

Before Mayor Lucas and the full 12-member council vote on legislation, smaller committees review the bills. They include the special committee for legal review; finance, governance and public safety; transportation, infrastructure and operations; and neighborhood, planning and development.

Kansas City residents can testify about proposed legislation at these committee meetings. It’s also where residents can learn the most about what an ordinance or resolution would do, and where council members can ask questions about how a piece of legislation would work.

Here’s a breakdown of each committee, their council members and what legislation they focus on:

  • Special Committee for Legal Review

    • Meeting time: varies 
    • Members: Mayor Lucas (chair), 3rd District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson (vice chair), 6th District Councilwoman Andrea Bough
    • This committee hears any piece of legislation that has legal implications. Last session, the committee debated the ordinance proposing the creation of a municipal ID program called the Fountain Card before the full council passed it earlier this month. This is the only council committee that does not meet weekly. 
  • Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations

    • Meeting time: Wednesdays at 9 a.m.
    • Members: 1st District At-Large Councilman Kevin O’Neill (chair), 3rd District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson (vice chair), 4th District Councilman Eric Bunch, 6th District Councilman Johnathan Duncan, 2nd District At-Large Councilwoman Lindsay French 
    • This committee hears legislation related to the airport, water services and the public works department. Ordinances related to roads, public transit and bike lanes also fall under in this committee. 
  • Finance, Governance and Public Safety

    • Meeting time: Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.
    • Members: 6th District Councilwoman Andrea Bough (chair), Mayor Lucas (vice chair), 4th District At-Large Councilman Crispin Rea, 5th District At-Large Councilman Darrell Curls, 2nd District Councilman Wes Rogers
    • This committee debates legislation dealing with any budget allocations. When budget season rolls around in the winter, this committee will break down the city’s allocations and host hearings with city departments to discuss the money they get from the city and how they plan to use it. 
  • Neighborhood, Planning and Development 

    • Meeting time: Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.
    • Members: 5th District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw (chair), 4th District Councilman Eric Bunch (vice chair), 1st District Councilman Nathan Willett, 3rd District At-Large Councilwoman Melissa Patterson Hazley 
    • This committee discusses any legislation related to housing and development. The city planning commission, which will hear from developers about projects they want to pursue, makes recommendations to city council about each proposal. Those recommendations then become ordinances that are first heard in this committee. Everything from approving zoning changes to development plans for a new apartment building goes through this committee. Last year, efforts to change the city’s definition of affordable housing to about $1,200 for a one-bedroom apartment were first heard in this committee. 

What to look for this week

All committees except the Special Committee for Legal Review will meet for the first time this week. These are some ordinances that each committee will debate:

  • Finance, Governance and Public Safety

    • Resolution 230620: Sponsored by Mayor Lucas, this directs City Manager Brian Platt to solicit proposals to establish an “in-house” 911 call center. Right now, all 911 calls are routed through the Kansas City Police Department. But increasing wait times for service have frustrated residents, pushing elected officials to search for a better solution. 
  • Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations

    • Resolution 230265: Sponsored by Mayor Lucas and Councilman Bunch, this directs Platt to work with the Kansas City Streetcar Authority to explore giving the streetcar its own dedicated lane as it extends south from Union Station to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 
  • Finance, Governance and Public Safety

    • Ordinance 230590: This would give a developer the go-ahead to build a five-story apartment building on a surface parking lot in the River Market. The development would include 256 units and a one-story parking garage. 
Corrected: August 2, 2023 at 9:12 AM CDT
An earlier version of this story misstated Johnathan Duncan's office. He holds the 6th in-district seat.
As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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