Your Guide To The Kansas City Council Election In The Candidates' Own Words | KCUR

Your Guide To The Kansas City Council Election In The Candidates' Own Words

Jun 13, 2019

Voters in Kansas City, Missouri, will decide their new mayor and city council members in municipal elections June 18.

Eight of the 13 seats on the council are contested. Three current council members are facing challenges, while six races involve entirely new candidates. (Four candidates are running unopposed: newcomer Kevin O'Neill in the 1st District At-Large; and current council members Heather Hall in the 1st District, Teresa Loar in the 2nd District At-Large and Kevin McManus in the 6th District). The 13th council seat will be filled by the newly elected mayor.

In recent weeks, candidates in competitive races have debated on KCUR's Up to Date.

KCUR also asked for written answers from candidates in competitive races, sending them a questionnaire about two important issues — affordable housing and crime — and giving them space to discuss a third issue of their choice or other campaign priorities.

All candidates were given the same restrictions for the length of their responses. Answers been minimally edited for clarity.

At-Large seats are determined by city-wide votes, but only residents of a particular district may vote for in-district seats.

AT-LARGE RACES

3rd District At-Large
Listen to the candidates debate on KCUR's Up to Date.

Brandon Ellington

Brandon Ellington
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 38
Occupation/Background:
State Representative district 22. I was first elected in 2011. Since being elected I have served as vice chair of the Missouri Legislature Black Caucus, chairman of the Black Caucus, and I am currently serving as the Democratic Whip.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
Housing is a major issue in KC and as councilman I will fight to ensure that when we are doing development deals that we're freezing property taxes, cutting some of the developer red-tape and zoning regulations to reduce overall costs, make affordable units part of the deal.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Crime is systemic, institutional and culturally influenced. I plan on addressing the social and culturalistic aspects by providing various community events dealing with resources and education. Jobs are needed and I plan on working to increase the workforce as well as stabilizing the neighborhoods.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
Mix development. By creating an economically diverse city, we will reduce crime and increase tourism and providing basic services are huge to me as well.

Wallace Hartsfield II

Wallace Hartsfield II
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 25
Occupation/Background:
Pastor, Professor, & Community Advocate
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
I will advocate for the expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program; develop a housing trust fund to preserve affordable housing; utilize development incentives more strategically; and encourage the continuation of federal housing programs such as the Community Development Block Grant.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
I will work with public school officials and communities to reduce high school drop out; expand programs that prepare students for careers in trades and technology; improve the built environment where violence occurs using promising practices such as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
The KCMO Health Department reported there is a 13-15 year difference in life expectancy between black and white residents, most pronounced between communities east and west of Troost Ave. These disparities are not new but related to discriminatory housing practices over the past 50+ years.

4th District At-Large
Listen to the candidates debate on KCUR's Up to Date.

Katheryn Shields (incumbent)

Katheryn Shields
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 72
Occupation/Background: I grew up in K.C.'s northland, graduating from NKC High School. I attended UMKC received BA, masters, and law degrees. Worked at 3030 Prospect five years providing job training/placement. As attorney, I was an assistant prosecutor and an assistant county counselor. Also had private practice.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
The 2 issues are not in conflict. What is in conflict is spending $10 million on the demolition of existing housing. Over last 30 years, city has demolished 70% of housing in Wheatley Neighborhood. We need to stop demolition and invest $$ in rehabilitating our existing housing.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Never stop pushing for sensible gun safety laws. Focus on root causes, creating good jobs, funding mental health, funding social workers with police to follow up on issues that police don't have training/time to address. Train police on how to respond to a person in mental health crisis.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
Asset management of our existing infrastructure. 48% of city roads are in poor-failed condition. As county executive, I used asset management to improve the county road system. In 10 years the roads changed from 70% poor/failed to 70% good/excellent. The city manager refuses to adopt this method.

Robert Westfall

Robert Westfall
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 43
Occupation/Background: A graduate of the University of Missouri where I studied business and public policy. I've worked in the field of process improvement, fixing how things work, and learning development, helping people develop job skills to find gainful employment.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
Economic development and affordable housing must not be treated as separate and competing issues. They go hand in hand in the progress of our city. After decades of focus downtown, we must being equal opportunity to the other parts of our city.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Economic disparity and opportunity is something we at the city level can address by combining affordable housing, quality employment, education, and skills training development in a focused effort in areas chronically disadvantaged.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
For too long our political leaders have been reactive, letting developers and outside interests set the agenda for our progress. They have lacked strategic thinking and have avoided using real metrics of success to judge their decisions against.

5th District At-Large
Listen to the candidates debate on KCUR's Up to Date.

Lee Barnes, Jr. (incumbent)

Lee Barnes, Jr.
Credit Submitted

  

Years in Kansas City: Always lived in Kansas City.
Occupation/Background: Lee has served as treasurer of the KC School Board and Chair of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority and the TIF Commission. He’s worked as an engineer at Hallmark and managed small businesses. Lee is the director of operations for the Upper Room Inc. and is treasurer of Metro Missionary Baptist.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
I’ve worked to repurpose 24 of 30 surplus buildings with the Kansas City Public School District to spur new investment, create jobs, and let the buildings again benefit our citizens. We’ve created affordable housing for seniors, giving new purpose to the abandoned Blenheim Elementary School.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Access to better jobs and continued job training will help reduce crime, and focusing on increasing community engagement with existing neighborhood organizations to take aggressive actions to address neglected and abandoned properties will physically and socially revitalize our neighborhoods.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
Develop a plan to address infrastructure issues. Expand access to good-paying, stable jobs. Partner with businesses to reinvest in communities, explore creative startup avenues, offer financial support, mentoring, and find opportunities for developers to be involved in revitalizing under-served communities.

Dwayne Williams

Dwayne Williams

  

Years in Kansas City: 28
Occupation/Background: I have 30 years of executive managerial experience in operations with strong interpersonal, organization, and communication skills. It is these skills that have earned me a reputation as a skilled communicator with a demonstrated ability to excel in various environments.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
I would use incentive for developers to work with CDC to build affordable housing and public subsidized housing.I would also be open to evaluating other opportunities, such as the Abatement Credit Transfer (ACT).
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Inequality economics: Equality is the key to reducing crime especially violent crime. Education, jobs are the keys to reducing crime also along with community policing. Focus more on prevention. We need to focus more on changing the conditions that draw people into these acts of criminal behavior.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
Grow our local economy by creating workforce development programs and supporting construction jobs and local unions. Every citizen deserves to live in a clean, safe neighborhood, earn a livable wage, and have access to ample community amenities including grocery stores and health facilities.

6th District At-Large
Listen to the candidates debate on KCUR's Up to Date.

Andrea Bough

Andrea Bough
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: Almost 25 years.
Occupation/Background: I am an attorney, specializing in the area of land use and development, and a former small business owner. I served on Mayor James’ transition team and the most recent Charter Review Commission, as well as other civic/charitable organizations, and chaired the Mayor’s Commission on Ethics Reform.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
We must ensure that city policies balance economic development with access to affordable housing. Economic development can provide living wage jobs as well as a funding source to support affordable housing provided that the policies are implemented in a way that provides a community benefit.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Implement a multi-faceted approach that includes more officers on the streets for greater community engagement, increase the TIPS Hotline reward, and address underlying issues, such as access to mental health, drug rehabilitation, living wage jobs, job training, and affordable housing.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
The effective and efficient delivery of basic city services is a top priority. When the trash is not picked up, illegal dumping occurs, or snow is not removed, our neighborhoods suffer. The city must continually evaluate its operations and have the staff and resources to carry out its functions.

Stacey Johnson-Cosby

Stacey Johnson-Cosby
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 43 years
Occupation/Background: Realtor of 32 years, past neighborhood association president, vice presdient of umbrella neighborhood association, founder of South KC Alliance (economic development focus), board of Swope Community Builders, PIAC & NTDF. Represents councilmember, projects to eliminate homelessness among veterans and 700 students.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
I'm the only candidate with housing/real estate experience. I'll bring my ideas and industry partners together at a housing summit in my first 100 days in office to discuss realistic ideas to create more housing. I'll promote options: Opportunity Zones, PIEA, frozen taxes for the most vulnerable, etc.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Address root causes: Promote services to address mental health issues. Connecting people to the jobs that pay $15+/hr (with quarterly job fairs), creating a resource directory of recreational activities to keep young people occupied and increasing permanent housing. Host Violent Crime Reduction Summit.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
Quality of life issues: 1. Host an entrepreneurial/small business roundtable for creators of the majority of our new jobs to ensure support. 2. To engage millennials 3. Utilize my volunteer experience in city appointments and knowledge to bring resources back into the community.

IN-DISTRICT RACES

2nd District
Listen to the candidates debate on KCUR's Up to Date.

Kevin McEvoy

Kevin McEvoy
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 15
Occupation/Background: Certified federal contract negotiator and national sales manager for a small, veteran-owned, local business in the steel industry. Advisory committee member with Northland Career Center, Industrial Arts Program. Regional commissioner, coach, ref, and instructor for a local youth sports league.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
Economic development cannot be limited to only high rise apartments, hotels, and office buildings. Development can be supporting start-ups, fostering small business growth, and improving transportation options. We should be directing funds to rehab and maintain homes instead of demolishing them.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Improving the infrastructure (streetlights, sidewalks, roads) in high-crime areas can have a dramatic effect on crime, statistically (-36%). KCPD officers need to be integral parts of our communities. Proper staffing, training, and retention are necessities. KCPD works best when we work with KCPD.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
Development incentive reform. We need a total reform of the current system. Crucial terms need narrow definitions, strict standards need enforcement, caps must be implemented to limit negative impacts, schools need veto power to protect their budgets, and resources must be equitably deployed.

Dan Fowler (incumbent)

Dan Fowler
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 32 in Kansas City, 40 in metropolitan area
Occupation/Background: I am an attorney and a member of the law firm of Collins Fowler LLC. I graduated from Kansas State University and Georgetown Law School. I have been on the boards of directors of Northland Health Care Access, MetroCare, Northland Neighborhoods, Inc., Forward Kansas City.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
Affordability is not only impacted by rent direct housing costs, but by utility costs and access to public transportation to jobs. I do not believe that it is economically feasible to build our way out of the problem. I believe that the emphasis should be on rehabilitation of existing housing stock.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
One way to reduce crime is to provide jobs. To do that, we need to attract businesses from outside the metropolitan area and assist in the growth of existing business. We also need to spur job training. Another key appears to be community engagement with the police.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
I believe that Kansas City should continue to develop as a thriving cultural and business hub that enjoys strong neighborhoods, full employment, high-paying jobs, excellent educational institutions and is a regional center for technology and transportation.

3rd District
Listen to the candidates debate on KCUR's Up to Date.

Melissa Joi Robinson

Melissa Joi Robinson
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: My whole life.
Occupation/Background: Executive Director of the Black Health Care Coalition. Former Board President of Kansas City Public Schools. Former Board Chair of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime. UMKC Alumni and Robert Woods Johnson Fellow.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
Isn't an either or question. Both can work hand in hand! Will convene neighborhood associations, housing non-profits, government officials to look at variety of approaches to affordable housing, including neighborhood co-ops, property tax grace periods, new developments.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Increasing community policing by working w/ neighborhood assoc. & KCPD. Cooperation and resources must improve. Upping reward for reporting homicides, possibly using private funds. Increasing employment and post-graduation employment opportunities. Utilize health care levy for prevention programs.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
Main priority is ensuring the current economic boom is equitably distributed, benefitting all residents of Kansas City. I represent the 3rd District, proudly, but we are one city and we all must care for one another. We must move forward, together.

Joseph “Joey Cuts” Thomas

Joseph 'Joey Cuts' Thomas
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 36 since birth
Occupation/Background: Licensed barber for over 17 years. Business owner for over a decade. Founder of the Know Joey? Foundation, established in 2007. I've leveraged all three platforms to touch over 10,000 Families while providing food, resources, job opportunities, educational advancements and much more!
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
That's a tough question that I do not have a proven answer for. Exploring options and creating innovative ideas to achieve a solution will be priority. No one deserves to be displaced due to rising prices and financial greed. Creating a level of protection for those are even felt important to me.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Advocate for more police/community programs focused on stronger relationships between the two. Establish a sense of trust, effective communication and EXPECTATION. What are the police asking for and what are our constituents asking for. Where can we meet in the middle? Relationships matter!
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
To be transparent and to grow with Kansas City! Learn together, build together and progress together! Be an ear, a trusted advocate and set an example of expectation! Empower those that need it. After all, "what good is POWER if you're not willing to EMPOWER"?

4th District
Listen to the candidates debate on KCUR's Up to Date.

Geoff Jolley

Geoff Jolley
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 42
Occupation/Background: Born and raised in Kansas City, I currently serve our community as a firefighter. I spent over 13 years working for Congressman Emanuel Cleaver as an attorney, addressing community concerns, building consensus, and coordinating dozens of federal projects. My family and I live in Historic Northeast.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
Creating jobs and opportunities for growth are critical. However, employees must have affordable places to live to attract the talent we need. A more strategic use of our tax incentive policies, a dedicated housing trust fund and establishing set asides for affordable housing are priorities.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
This will take a holistic approach by the entire community, it is not just a police matter. By working with our law enforcement and community stakeholders, we will evaluate deployment models for uniformed officers, increase social workers and technology, like ShotSpotter and body cameras, to start.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
Overall, I want to ensure we have a City Council that proactively engages its citizens to give them a voice. I keep hearing about insufficient basic City services, infrastructure, and poor financial management. I would work collaboratively to address these additional priorities.

Eric Bunch

Eric Bunch
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 14
Occupation/Background: I am the policy director and co-founder of BikeWalkKC, which works to solve our most complex challenges — public health disparities, poor access to healthy foods and jobs, inequality, climate change — by advocating for safer streets and public spaces for all.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
We should incentivize the construction of workforce housing in our major public transit corridors. I would also explore partnerships with banks, developers, job training programs, and the land bank to redevelop the thousands of vacant properties that the city owns into housing and commercial spaces.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
I believe in treating root causes of our biggest challenges. This is especially true for crime. I will be an advocate for better mental health services. I will also fight for more support for job training, reinvestment in our most disinvested communities, and universal pre-K.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
KCMO needs to take the lead on curbing climate change. By reinvesting in our infrastructure, expanding public transit, building more housing options, and improving walkability, we can improve quality of life for all while fighting our greatest existential threat.

5th District
Listen to the candidates debate on KCUR's Up to Date.

Ryana Parks-Shaw

Ryana Parks-Shaw
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: Born and raised in KC. I have lived in the 5th district for 18 years. Occupation/Background: I have been a healthcare executive for 25 years. I currently work for a hospice agency but have served as associate administrator at Truman Medical Centers. As a small business owner, I have owned two Avon stores in the KC area.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
I will advocate for funding the existing housing plan. I support the establishment of community benefit agreements as a part of any development in the city to help fund the Housing Trust Fund.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
I will support neighborhood policing. I will help to organize neighborhoods who are not organized to spur neighborhood and police collaboration to focus on deterring the most prevalent crimes specific to that neighborhood.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
In addition, I will focus on improving our infrastructure and basic services. Focusing on our streets, curbs and sidewalks, sidewalks, trash, illegal dumping and bulky item pickup to clean up our city.

Edward Bell, III

Edward Bill
Credit Submitted

Years in Kansas City: 35
Occupation/Background: B.S in Public Administration and B.A Political Science from Park University, and Executive MBA from Benedictine College. Professional experience includes community relations specialists, non-profit executive director and project manager, K-12 educator and administrator, and business consultant.
How will you keep housing affordable in Kansas City while supporting economic development?
Utilizing approaches addressing common denominator needs and leverages shared resources. Purposed partnerships with potential developers and neighborhood-based organizations creating tools to implement housing policy with equity and affordability benchmarks for seniors and fixed income residents.
What will you do to lower violent crime?
Strengthen relationships between public service professionals and neighborhood organizations and leaders. Extend relationships with students in schools to their families and institute resource based community policing. Partner city departments to provide programming for youth.
Besides the two issues above, what is your top priority as a council person?
Leverage economic and workforce development creating new economy jobs, improve and expand existing infrastructure, and deter crime by providing means to livable wage employment and neighborhood enhancement and beautification. Expand multi-modal transportation connecting neighborhoods to amenities.

Christina Elias is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at christinae@kcur.org or on Twitter @eliaschristina4.