Kansas City Council | KCUR

Kansas City Council

File photo by Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Taxpayers in Kansas City, Missouri, have a chance between now and March 3 to influence how the city spends their money.

Mayor Quinton Lucas released his proposed budget last week. The budget prioritizes fighting violent crime, increasing the city’s stock of affordable housing and fixing potholes, but it falls roughly $3 million short of another of the mayor's priorities: eliminating bus fares.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is set to release his proposed budget Thursday, and it’s roughly $3 million short of what transportation officials say they need to get rid of bus fares.

Kansas City, Missouri, got national attention last year when the city council pledged to find the money to go fare-free. Officials at the time estimated that it would cost $8 million to pull off.

Center School District / Facebook

School districts and churches in Kansas City, Missouri, will no longer have increased power to keep liquor stores and bars out of neighborhoods.

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council unanimously passed an ordinance saying that churches and school districts have the same level of input as homeowners and other property owners when it comes to approvals for new bars and restaurants.

Previously, bars and restaurants selling liquor could not open within 300 feet of a school or church without the consent of those schools or churches.

Waddell and Reed

Kansas City, Missouri, has finally agreed to hold up its end of the so-called economic border war truce with Kansas.

The move on Thursday came more than five months after Missouri and Kansas agreed to stop poaching companies from one side of the state line to the other.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City voters will decide in April whether to increase the city sales tax to help maintain buildings and buy new vehicles for the fire department.

The City Council voted 10-2 on Thursday to place the issue on the ballot in April. Councilmembers Melissa Robinson and Eric Bunch voted against the measure. Mayor Quinton Lucas was absent.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

While we’re glued to the news gushing daily out of Washington — impeachment, immigration, health care — the truth is we should be paying just as close attention to what local governments are up to.

Seg. 1: Vision Zero Proposal | Seg. 2: Far-Flung Chiefs Bars

Jan 16, 2020

Segment 1: Kansas City councilman is aiming for zero annual traffic deaths by 2030.

The goal of Vision Zero is simple: eliminate all traffic-related deaths through smarter engineering, education and enforcement. Despite various levels of success in other metropolitan areas, one city official who is convinced it can work explains how.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Council this week will discuss an ambitious proposal to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2030.

The measure, dubbed Vision Zero, was introduced following the death of a well-known Kansas City cyclist late last year.

The strategy, first implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, has seen success in Europe, but American cities that have followed suit have struggled to lower traffic fatalities.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar has come under fire for comments she made about a bike infrastructure plan in the wake of a well-known bicyclist’s death.

Pablo Sanders died last month after being struck by a car while crossing Southwest Trafficway on his bike on Christmas Eve.

KC Pet Project

Eight years ago, 70% of the animals that came into Kansas City, Missouri’s animal shelter were euthanized. 

“It was dreadful,” Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar said. “It was a death camp.”

But after the nonprofit KC Pet Project took over shelter operations in 2012 and converted it to no-kill, attitudes began to change, she said. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Council on Thursday resoundingly passed what advocates are calling a historic resolution, codifying protections for renters.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, who often talks about his lack of stable housing growing up in Kansas City, made affordable housing a flagship issue of his campaign.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City is poised to become the largest city in the country to eliminate bus fares.

The Kansas City Council on Thursday enthusiastically endorsed the idea, voting unanimously to direct the city manager to identify up to $8 million from the city budget to fund free bus service.

Fourth District Councilman Eric Bunch, who co-sponsored the measure along with Mayor Quinton Lucas, acknowledged the importance of the change.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

By the end of 2019, police expect 150 homicides in Kansas City, most at the point of a gun. Authorities say another 500 people will be shot and wounded.

Many of the survivors, plus their families and neighbors, will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the aftermath of a gunshot wound. A new program is seeking to give people the help they need to heal both their physical and mental wounds.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

There is no doubt Jackson County has some monumental, vexing problems.

The county jail is in desperate need of being replaced. The downtown courthouse needs to be renovated after flooding earlier this year. And the property reassessment process is a mess, with appeals that will stretch into 2020.

Riding in to apparently try and fix all of this is Troy Schulte, who in September announced he was stepping down as Kansas City's city manager after a decade on the job. The county legislature will discuss a proposed contract with him on Monday.

BNIM and HOK

A scaled-back incentives request for the proposed $133 million Strata project has been approved by the Kansas City Council despite becoming a lightning rod for how the newly elected officials will approach economic incentives for major developments.

The 7-4 vote came after tense and heated debate Thursday on whether to grant incentives to the high-end office tower that has been languishing in City Hall for much of the last year. The project was first announced in late 2018.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Two years ago, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority gave veterans free bus passes. The next year, students became the beneficiaries of the zero fare policy. According to KCATA, 23% of riders over the past several years have not paid a dime to ride the bus.  

Transit officials argue the policy gives individuals and families more money to pump back into the local economy and that it improves the safety and efficiency of the system.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Therapists who attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ minors through conversion therapy could be fined up to $500 and spend as much as six months in jail, if the Kansas City Council approves an ordinance passed by a committee Wednesday.

The proposed ban calls conversion therapy "ineffective" and "harmful." It’s also been debunked by the American Psychological Association.

But, opponents say outlawing it would infringe on the rights of people who want the therapy.

Segment 1: KC Tenants will introduce a set of guidelines and protections for tenant-landlord disputes.

Since February, a Kansas City tenants group has been pushing for safe, fair, affordable housing for all. Their latest efforts have been drafting and garnering support for a tenant bill of rights, which they will present to City Council on Thursday.

Avery Gott / KCUR 89.3

Voters throughout Kansas City, Missouri, are being asked to decide whether to reverse a city council decision from earlier this year and change the name of what is now Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard back to Paseo Boulevard.

EJ Holtze Corp.

A $63 million luxury hotel proposed near the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will face a tougher road to a city incentive package after a big rejection on Thursday.

Avery Gott / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas City, Missouri, city council committee on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure that would wipe out a municipal violation for anyone caught with 35g or less of marijuana after 180 days.

What started as an ordinance sponsored by Third District Councilman Brandon Ellington to decriminalize up to 100 grams of marijuana was changed considerably and passed without a second public hearing, angering dozens of supporters who showed up to speak.

Segment 1: Schulte talks of the progress and set-backs Kansas City faced during his term as city manager.

Troy Schulte's 10-year term as manager of Kansas City, Missouri, will in a few months come to a close. He said one of the hardest things about his job was finding a balance in handling pressing crises and working toward long-term goals. Schulte talked about things he's proud of, like the new airport terminal design, which is set to acheive net-zero carbon emissions. He also spoke of critical issues, like the overcrowding in city jails.

Kansas City Health Deparment

In the past, Kansas City officials had no authority to rectify health and safety problems in rental properties. But in August 2018, voters approved an initiative that allowed the health department to investigate complaints and to seek remedies.

In August of this year, the City Council expanded that authority to include federally subsidized Section 8 housing like the Englewood Apartments, as well as nonprofit rental housing.

File photo / BigStock Images

People from all over Kansas City packed a city council hearing Wednesday to support a change in the city's marijuana laws. 

The committee delayed a decision on the proposed ordinance, sponsored by newly elected Councilman Brandon Ellington, which would essentially decriminalize the possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 7:15 p.m. to include comments from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Kansas City, Missouri's longtime City Manager Troy Schulte will retire early next year.

Schulte served as city manager under former mayors Mark Funkhouser and Sly James. In his 10 years in the position, Schulte saw the city through a recession, helped guide the passage of an $800 million infrastructure package, and oversaw the creation of a streetcar system and groundbreaking on a new airport terminal.

BNIM and HOK

The future of a proposed downtown office tower is now in the hands of a new city council torn between fulfilling a 15-year-old contract and protecting taxpayer money. 

The 25-story tower would be the first multi-tenant, premium office building built downtown since 1991. It would be built on a speculative basis — meaning it has no tenants lined up — on the southwest corner of 13th and Main, above current retailers like Yard House. 

On Wednesday, 1st District councilwoman Heather Hall summed up what several councilmembers were feeling. 

Segment 1: Council rookies relate what the first month on the job has been like.

In her first weeks on the Kansas City City Council Andrea Bough realized, "it puts you in the position of ... making a decision based upon what's good for the city as a whole." She and other fellow first-timers talk about learning how the council operates, and the urgent issues, like gun violence, that were waiting for them when they arrived.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Zoo billed it as a big announcement—a remodeled home for its seven elephants—but it wasn't the huge announcement the zoo was hoping to make.

The zoo will spend $10 million improving the elephant exhibit. “The best way to do it is to just tear it all out and start from scratch,” said Randy Wisthoff, director of the zoo.

The renovations will make the pool easier for the animals to enter, add shade and make the ground a little softer by adding sand. Wisthoff says the current exhibit was good for the elephants but not great.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office / Wikimedia Commons

Update, August 29, 5:11 p.m.: The full Kansas City Council approved both ordinances on Thursday.

Kansas City, Missouri, could take a step toward stricter gun laws — despite loose state laws.

So far this year, there have been 99 homicides. Five victims were 16-years-old or younger and 29 were between the ages of 17 and 24.

On Wednesday, a Kansas City Council committee unanimously passed two ordinances which are aimed at keeping handguns and other firearms out of the hands of minors. Mayor Quinton Lucas introduced the measures earlier this month.

Rebecca Hange / KCUR 89.3

Since Kansas City, Missouri, transferred its inmates from the Jackson County jail to the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change in late June, one inmate has died and two have escaped.

An inmate was found dead Tuesday at the facility at 15th and Campbell, according to police. They have not disclosed the inmate's identity or provided other details. The incident is under police investigation.

Another inmate escaped from the facility overnight Tuesday.

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