The Tuesday Kansas City, Missouri City Council election ballot features six races that do not have incumbent candidates. One of those is for the 5th District At-Large seat, where Lee Barnes and Dennis Anthony square off in their first bids for membership in the city's governing body.
Lee Barnes is Director of Operations of the not-for-profit organization the Upper Room, which provides educational programs for children and adults. He has served on the Kansas City, Missouri Board of Education and the Tax Increment Finance Commission, and is currently the chair of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.
Dennis Anthony joined the city of Kansas City, Missouri as a Code Enforcement Officer in 2000 after a career as an officer in the United States Navy. Since retiring from the city, he has worked as a substitute teacher in the Kansas City, Missouri School District. He has also been a small business owner in the Kansas City area.
The two opponents agree on many issues, but in conversations with KCUR reporters they framed the number one issue differently.
On the number one issue facing the city
Lee Barnes: Residential repopulation
“Repopulation of the city. How do we attract individuals back to the city and address the problem of our abandoned properties? When I'm talking about abandoned properties I'm talking more about houses. If we intend to repopulate the city, have some growth within the city, how do we incent individuals to purchase some of those properties and give some sort of incentive to rehab those properties ... kind of like we've been incenting the developers to build the downtown apartment complexes. Millennials are not going to be 18-35 forever. At some point they're going to want to go and live in houses and homes and raise families and apartment living is not that conducive to that.”
Dennis Anthony: Crime
“Crime is on everybody's mind. I think some of the at-large council people and the mayor should be meeting with the police chief on a regular basis, probably on a monthly basis and brainstorm... “Should we do things different here in this part of the city, should we think about a satellite station over here. It's not up to the police chief to fix all of the crime. That's why I talk about education. From being a teacher I'm just aware of so many kids coming to school hungry and angry. I want to meet with the Kansas City School Superintendent on a regular basis... do everything we can to give kids a good jump start in education. I would like to be a voice – along with the faith community – to speak of how important it is for families to stay together and raise their kids.”
On city infrastructure
Both Barnes and Anthony see deferred maintenance and crumbling infrastructure as one of the major challenges the city must meet. Each feels he is particularly well-qualified to approach these problems, Barnes because he has a degree in engineering and Anthony because of his city-wide experience as a code enforcement officer.
On whether the city should expand the streetcar system
Both take “wait and see” positions on streetcar expansion and approach that issue with a fair degree of skepticism. Both say the best course of action is to analyze what economic benefits the starter streetcar line does or does not generate after a year or more of operation.
On why they are the best candidate for the 5th District At-Large
“I served on boards and commissions. I currently chair the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority. I served on the TIF Commission. I was elected to the school board and was in that position. So I think my service and my understanding of city government and the surroundings of city government are, I think, a little more in depth than what Dennis may have.”
“I had experience all over the city. I was a city codes officer for 12 years. And for four of those years I worked as the city manager's inspector in the action center. And in that role, the city manager's office sent me all over the city to deal with citizen complaints north of the river and south. I was successful in helping to solve problems. 'Hey, can we take another look at this citizen's situation, maybe fix this for them?.' It was a neat role to be in because I tried to make city processes work a little more efficiently.”