Kay Barnes | KCUR

Kay Barnes

Image of a Kay Barnes, a woman with white hair, against a dark background.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's first female mayor might only vaguely remember her first day on the job, but she does remember knowing people had some doubts about her because she was a woman.

“I knew that there were comments behind my back about, 'Well, she might be OK as mayor in some ways, but she's not going to be able to do much with economic development,'” former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes told Steve Kraske, host of KCUR's Up To Date.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Former Kansas City mayor reflects on the impact of downtown development.

Much of the credit for Kansas City's current downtown boom can be placed at the feet of former Mayor Kay Barnes, whose efforts culminated in the creation of the Power and Light District and the construction of the Sprint Center. Nevertheless, parts of town east of Troost still struggle for invesment and redevelopment. We spoke with Barnes about her legacy and the community-building work that's left to be done.

NICOLAS TELEP/KCUR 89.3

Kay Barnes served as Mayor of Kansas City for two terms, from 1999-2007. Her name is now affixed to the Grand Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center.

The convention center sits between the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and Municipal Auditorum, spanning Interstate 635 near Downtown Kansas City. In a ceremony Friday morning, the ballroom's new name was unveiled along with a bronze statue titled "Woman Walking Tall," by metro-area artist Tom Corbin.

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In the 1920s and '30s, Kansas City was defined by the corruption of the political machine run by “Boss” Tom Pendergast. But the machine finally was brought down, in no small part through the efforts of reform-minded women.

Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes tells the story of these “civic housekeepers” whose fight came to a dramatic conclusion with the ballot-box victories of 1940, Pendergast’s imprisonment in the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, and the smashing of machine-mob rule.

Guest:

Commission Seeks Out Advice Of Former Mayors

Jul 29, 2013

The mayoral commission looking at how Kansas City should alter its basic operating doctrine hopes to get suggestions from all living ex-mayors, but the Charter Review Commission is having spotty success.

Because the outcome is so important to the basic layout of government function, members decided former mayors have a lot of valuable history to describe. The panel is trying to schedule former Mayor Charles Wheeler; former Mayor Richard Berkley is ill and unable to appear in the next week or two.

Jackson County voters will decide whether to approve revisions to the county charter on Tuesday's primary ballot. The amended charter was developed by a task force chaired by former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes.

Charter Sales Job Begins

Jun 29, 2010
Dan Verbeck / KCUR

Kansas City, MO – The head of the panel redrawing proposed changes in Jackson County, Missouri's charter sees new opportunities to fight discrimination at the courthouse.

Voters will decide worthiness of charter changes when they cast ballots in the August election. Changes range from ending no bid contracts, to eliminating automatic pay hikes for elected officials to limiting the county executive's power over the sheriff. And there is hiring staff to investigate discrimination and ethics breaches.