Here are all the KCMO council candidate responses to questions from The Pitch ahead of Friday’s Raucous Caucus
In this week’s edition of The Pitch, we have a roundup of all the folks running for Kansas City, Missouri’s City Council. We figure more information is better than less for a voting public.
The piece, which you can read here, rounds up background information on candidates, who supports them (and for how much) and other pieces of information to help readers get somewhat better acquainted with the people showing up on the ballot.
All of this comes out ahead of a candidate event taking place Friday afternoon and evening at Barney Allis Plaza. Raucous Caucus is collaboration among us, MySidewalk.com and LiveKC. The goal is to bring candidates together — not to sit before an audience and ask moderated questions but rather to meet voters one on one. (Event FB page here and preview the ballot here.)
As part of the election guide, we asked candidates the following questions:
1. Among Kansas City’s strengths has been its affordability and high quality of life. But there are signs that the cost of living in Kansas City is increasing. Examples include escalating apartment rents, rapidly growing bills for water and sewer service, and growing tax burdens. Do you believe Kansas City residents are in risk of losing that high quality of life? Can city government help residents maintain an affordable, high quality of life? If so, how?
2. A joint report out last year by the Mid-America Regional Council and the Brookings Institution found that Kansas City has lagged behind peer metros in job growth, wage growth and recession recovery. What role do you believe Kansas City, Missouri’s city government can and should have in producing better outcomes in these areas?
3. The same report shows that the Kansas City region struggles to produce highly educated STEM-qualified (science, technology, engineering and math) workers to meet the business community’s needs, and that its ability to attract talent from elsewhere has diminished. Kansas City government has no direct role in education, but how can elected city leaders make the city more attractive to a talented workforce?
4. Much of Kansas City’s transportation discussion over the last two years has centered on the downtown streetcar. But how does improving Kansas City’s transportation outlay go beyond a 2-mile starter line? Do you support streetcar expansion? How else does Kansas City grow and improve its transportation system?
We got responses from most of the candidates, and below are their answers. The numbers in the responses correspond with the questions above.
DICK DAVIS (1st District)
1. Although you raise thoughtful concerns, I remain bullish on Kansas City. Escalating apartment rental rates are an outgrowth of more people opting for rental over home ownership following the Great Recession.
Empty nesters are downsizing. Young professionals prefer the flexibility and access to transit that apartment living often provides. Yes, we are paying the price for delaying action on aging water and sewer infrastructure.
And, regressive sales taxes play too large a role in our overall revenue structure. Yet, our tax structure is far more balanced and diversified than many of our peer cities and area suburban communities. City government, however, has less control over economic and market forces than the state and federal governments.
That said, Kansas City enjoys housing costs envied by many other cities. The relatively low cost of land in our geographically expansive city and sound zoning/development practices should ensure that housing costs remain stable for the foreseeable future. We have other positive assets:
* Strong, well-organized neighborhoods
* A magnificent park and boulevard system
* A motivated, hard-working labor force
* An improving central city school district and excellent public schools in the Northland and surrounding suburbs
* A burgeoning arts community
* Professionally managed, progressive city government
* A downtown exploding with commercial and residential growth
All these factors combine to make Kansas City an attractive option for business investment and relocation. That translates to jobs, prosperity and a superior quality of life.
2. My greatest concern with Kansas City’s economy: the failure to invest in our transportation system. MODOT’s resources have been reduced to “maintenance only” expenditures.
Failure to increase the state motor fuel tax or find a substitute means no new highway construction or major maintenance…and the very real risk of not meeting federal matching funds requirements—an enormous loss to our state and the Kansas City metro area.
In the Northland, Kansas City’s greatest potential for economic development, the City has made progress with the new Chouteau Parkway, Shoal Creek Parkway, and the Brighton Avenue improvements. But many of the Northland’s key arterials are state highways, most in need of major maintenance, widening and other improvements. Good roads are the key to residential and commercial expansion, not to mention the business and job growth created by road construction.
Kansas City has missed several opportunities to keep pace with other progressive cities in building fixed-rail transit to augment our road and bus transit systems. The downtown starter streetcar line is just that: a start. Until we can move forward with sensible expansion, the downtown line will remain an attractive novelty. We must push our state and federal officials to break the funding impasse on a total transportation system.
While we have no direct authority over public education, we must do everything in our power to create a compelling synergy from our existing educational resources:
* Two major universities
* Three area medical schools
* The Stowers Institute
* Significant area teaching hospitals
* A recovering Kansas City School District and excellent, award-winning schools in the Northland and surrounding suburbs
* A superior community college system
* The Kauffman Foundation
The key will be to urge these institutions to accelerate their collaborative efforts with a particular focus on business start-ups and creating well-paying jobs in health care, biosciences, technology, and engineering.
3. See number 2 above for a partial answer to this question. A more global concern is our neighbor to the west. The Kansas governor and state legislature enacted shortsighted tax cuts that have destabilized the state’s revenue structure and put Kansas on a collision course with budget disaster.
The result: disinvestment in government services, including public education and health care. Now, the governor is proposing increases in sales and other regressive taxes which will further cripple the Kansas economy. Inevitably this will impact negatively on the Kansas City metro area and diminish our ability as a metropolitan area to attract STEM talent.
Moreover, the failure of both Kansas and Missouri to expand Medicaid have put thousands of uninsured citizens at risk and deprived both states of significant federal dollars for health care.
4. As mentioned in my response to Question 2, the Kansas City metro area must strive for a total transportation system. We are hampered by MODOT’s revenue crisis, Kansas City’s late start on fixed-rail transit, and the backlog of road improvement projects in Kansas City’s Northland with its vast land expanses ripe for growth and economic development.
I strongly support an orderly expansion of the downtown starter line with the Main Street extension from Crown Center to the Plaza/University Complex as the first step. Since residents of that corridor voted yes on the previous street car initiative, a smaller taxing district should be prepared for consideration by voters in the corridor.
The street car system should be one that is continually expanded over the long term, helping to make the metropolitan area less dependent on the automobile.
HEATHER HALL (1st District)
1. The city council can work to manage the budget so that it is spent on basic services and infrastructure first.
2. High taxes and regulation discourage growth. The city can work with the private sector to research ways to help spur growth and keep wages appropriate for the standard of living.
3. The city council can work with the MU system to encourage STEM students through scholarships and other opportunities. Working with local entrepreneurs, incubators and local tech companies will encourage new talent to the city.
4. The streetcar is being built. It is reasonable to wait a few years to see how the initial line is received before putting more money into an expansion. The Bus system in the Northland needs to be improved for transportation to other areas in the city.
SCOTT WAGNER (1st District at-large)
1. I expect our residents to continue to enjoy a high quality of life that is economical, especially as compared to surrounding communities and other metropolitan areas. The reality is that a demand has been created, especially Downtown, for residents.
As long as there are 95+% occupancy rates in our current residential inventory the law of supply and demand would suggest that more units will come and the rental rates will be higher. The other impact of this will be that construction of new inventory will require less or no incentive to build them.
2. These discrepencies are due to a variety of factors that affect large and small employers alike. There are things that City government can do, some of which are indirect. These include active recruitment of firms for the employment areas that we have the greatest advantage in like logistics, manufacturing and engineering.
It means we need to continue to streamline our operations especially as to larger scale development. It simply takes too long to get larger developments off the ground. We also need to work with institutional partners to help create a workforce that is tech friendly and work with funding partners to identify and grow the venture capital available in Kansas City so that small firms that locate in Kansas City can find the resources they need to grow.
3. First the City can attract talent based on some of the companies that are already here. Sprint, Cerner and Garmin represent a stable of large companies from which new companies are spinning off from. Many firms are having to import talent for their growing needs and small firms that start here have to leave to chase talent.
The City can work with those companies to identify needs and institutional partners to help identify talent. But what the City can have a more active role in is creating the City that companies and talent want to locate in. We have to create the amenities that are attractive to this workforce. It is no secret that Downtown vibrancy is key to that desired aesthetic.
This last term has had many examples of companies locating downtown due to this very issue.
4. I hope our Streetcar lines expand, but not because we need to create a transportation alternative to busses or cars. Rather they will only expand as a result of increasing density and the need to more easily link destinations. Improving transportation, as it were, will only occur when people see those transportation alternatives as more desirable, or faster, then getting into their car.
JEFF ROBERTS (1st District at-large)
Roberts did not respond.
DAN FOWLER (2nd District)
1. I do not believe that we are at risk of losing our quality of life. I believe our quality of life is dictated largely by our attitudes and our largely Midwestern appreciation for one another. Our overall cost of living is still favorable when compared to other urban areas.
However, I believe that we can improve our quality of life my refocusing on strengthening our neighborhoods and continuing to work on road, street and bridge maintenance and improvement.
2. It is correct that Kansas City is behind in some, but not all, indicators of growth when compared to peer cities. Unfortunately, there is not just one solution. Instead it is a complex issue that must be addressed on multiple levels. It is also an area wide problem that requires cooperation across the state line.
Therefore, I believe that we need to address the “Border War” issues and try to work cooperatively with all regional governments to attract business to the area, not just to part of it. One area where we can make an impact is to reform our permitting and development process in line with the recommendations of the Zucker report from last summer.
In line with my response to Question 1 above, I believe that strong neighborhoods are an economic development tool that will make Kansas City more attractive to new business.
3. I believe that we are on a path toward addressing these issues. We have a thriving and active downtown, an outstanding arts community and a favorable cost of living.
While some of our public school districts struggle, even they are improving and we have others (Park Hill and North Kansas City, for example) that are among the best in two states. We are also at the crossroads of some of the best STEM oriented educational instructions in the country.
I believe we need to emphasize these strengths and continue to build on the technological advantages that we have such as Google Fiber and the availability of land to attract high tech industries.
4. We need to make sure we have an integrated transportation system as the street car comes on line. We need to encourage KCATA to expand its bus routes, especially to and from job centers.
I also believe that express routes and “park and ride” options should be explored. As far as street car expansion, I think we should wait and see how the starter line works. If it is successful then we should entertain expansion. If not then we will need to rethink our strategy.
TERESA LOAR (2nd District at-large)
1. People come to cities for economic opportunities, great schools, excellent public parks and cultural and recreational amenities. They want their neighborhoods and gathering places to be safe and enjoyable.
In terms of housing, we can go the way of New York, where developers are required to allocate a percentage of new construction units to lower income residents. The trade-off is in the form of tax credits to the developer but affordable housing is gained. By offering abatements, we can require developers, as part of incentive packages, to build more affordable housing structures that meet the needs of the overall population, especially the middle and lower classes.
We can give current property owners of apartment/condos tax breaks if they are willing to rent units at more modest rates. This will help to alleviate the problem of being priced out of quality, affordable housing.
I do not believe Kansas City is at risk of losing what makes it attractive. First, we need to make sure the functions of city government are working and providing optimum levels of basic services and savings in the form of public safety, sewers, road maintenance and lower taxes. One of my first priorities, if elected, will be to reign in the escalating water and sewer rates.
Kansas City offers many cultural and recreational amenities found in bigger cities and metropolitan areas. Our lower cost of living has been one of the reasons people want to stay and businesses want to relocate. I do understand that increases have arisen and it is the responsibility of city government to do everything in its power to maintain lower taxes and rates.
2. I am in favor of a $15.00 minimum wage by 2020. A living wage will lessen the burden on tax payers, who are currently subsidizing those who work multiple jobs but still cannot make ends meet. I am against the current practice of “poaching” jobs from either side of the state line, as this often results in a zero sum gain.
Because of the exploding entrepreneurial culture that Kansas City is becoming known for, we as a city-government need to foster an environment that is low on regulatory and bureaucratic- red tape. We should be steering new business to underserved and underdeveloped parts of our city, especially those areas east of Troost and within the urban core.
The purpose of TIF, is to entice development into areas that would otherwise see none. Kansas City ‘s geographical location make it ideal for logistical and manufacturing industries. We have to remember that the objective of a business is to make a profit. When companies are looking to start-up or relocate, we as a city government have to have what the business community needs: basic services coupled with low to moderate taxes.
By striving to become more efficient in delivering services, we can pass the savings to the businesses’. Growth happens because of disruptions in industry. We need to be very welcoming to new ideas and ventures as jobs are created.
3. The city government’s role in education has to be supportive in nature, while becoming a liaison between the academic and business communities. If we were able to expound upon the brainchild of Ewing Kauffman and his Royals Academy, with his premise of player development, but substituting baseball with business and industry, that are based in Kansas City, the results might be astounding.
The focus would be the public high schools, especially in the urban core, as a feeder system into direct employment upon graduation. The businesses’ would set up satellite offices inside schools with corporate trainers and teachers collaborating on curriculum and procedures that would best mimic company culture and expectations. By offering on the job training through afterschool apprenticeships and internships, you will have a student that is specifically trained to meet the demands of a 21st century workforce.
Because human capital is an organization’s most valuable resource, you start to build pipelines of expertly qualified workers ready to contribute on day one, while maintaining a sustainable supply of labor, which keeps students in schools, thus beginning to chip away at some of the social and economic barriers that often saturate the more underserved areas of our city.
There are a lot of students that bristle at learning science and technological concepts because of the way they are presented. If real-world situations and scenarios are applied to a student through empowering programs, you will begin to see students who had no interest in a STEM prescribed course of study, start to look at things differently.
Stakeholders from various sectors of the community stand to benefit because graduation rates improve, businesses hire home-grown talent, taxes increase because more jobs are created in the STEM fields, and ancillary businesses emerge because of the anchor industry. More investment and development start to come our way because organizations will realize Kansas City can deliver, on many levels, what is needed.
In terms of attracting top talent elsewhere it comes down to how the city scores on the quality of life metric. We have four top universities with in a two hour drive. We should constantly strive to offer the best services and amenities possible, so that talent looks at Kansas City, in the same way they would look at the Silicon Valley or other tech centric regions when making the decision where to work and live.
4. Kansas City needs to view itself in terms of public transit through a regional lens. Only through a bi-state, multiple county public/private partnership will we even begin to see potential benefits of intermodal transportation. Public transportation should be designed to complement our existing modes of travel. Because Kansas City is such a car-centric region, with some of the shortest delays in rush hour for a big city, and an area of over 300 square miles, collaborative, strategic planning is required to figure the best ways to entice riders to forgo their own vehicles and get on the bus or light rail. Public
transportation has to equate to ease of access. In other words it has to make more sense for someone to hop on public transportation than to hop in their car. If gas prices continue to rise and parking starts to become limited, then public transportation becomes more of a viable option.
New York and Chicago, for example, are very densely populated. In these cities, one can go their wholes lives not owning a car. Kansas City is different as it is more spread out. There has been talk of using existing rail lines going out to far Eastern Jackson County. This may be worth looking into but costs would have to be dispersed and a number of factors will need to be assessed.
As for the starter street car line downtown, we need to take a wait and see approach. Before it can expand, I am in favor of a city-wide vote, with city-wide approval. I am not a proponent of using TDD as the continuity of the lines and routes can become compromised.
I am for progressive capital projects when they benefit the city and in this case the region as a whole. But we need to shore up our responsibilities first as a provider of basic services and public safety and secondly as a catalyst for change.
JAY HODGES (2nd District at-large)
1. I do not believe that Kansas City residents are at risk of losing the high quality of life we have all come to know. The increase in water and sewer bills is largely due to the failure of past Council, on which my opponent served, to fund adequate maintenance which forced the federal government to engage. The sharp increases are to match the Consent Decree that was imposed as a result of this engagement as we repair infrastructure. If you love higher water bills, thank former Council Members.
As for rents increasing, this is a complex issue to discuss. Developers “require” tax incentives because they claim that they cannot make enough profit off of current rents to justify the project. So then by the developer’s logic, the rents increasing will decrease the need for tax incentives for these projects because they will earn enough profits off the rents to justify the project. That would mean an overall revenue increase to the City. But some of the complexities around the issue include the fact that wages are not increasing to match rent increases.
This means some people will struggle to live in these desirable areas. Another complexity is if the Council will have enough backbone to scale back incentives as rents increase. Let’s face it, past councils have not had the backbone to confront anything difficult. So if you want these problems addressed, it might be best to make a choice and vote for someone that has not made a career by kicking cans down the road.
Having said all of that I do believe that the city government can help residents and maintain an affordable, high quality of life. To do this, the city is going to have to be creative and think outside the box (which will drive the Old Guard nuts). In Holland, the government requires a specific percentage of housing in a development be for low income. In Gloucestershire, developments are designed to include community spaces (eating, play, lounges). These kinds of ideas increase the quality of life of citizens. The Council just needs to think outside the box and try new things.
2. There are so many different ways that the city can increase job growth. I will address a couple. First, streamlining the process that business must use to interact with the city can go a long way. Pretty basic idea that gets brought up a lot but truly this is impactful so it needs to be done. Second, the Border War has to stop. Our job growth is stagnate because politicians of the past could falsely pad their job growth stats by simply incentivizing a company to move three blocks. Third, with China’s economy on the verge of collapse (and their natural resources starting to decline), re-shoring manufacturing is a real possibility. KCMO needs to lead the region in focusing on bringing manufacturing in large amounts back into this area.
3. We need to focus on quality early childhood development and third grade reading. That will allow us to organically grow a talented workforce. In the short term, we need to actively recruit talent to fill those roles.
4. Kansas City’s transportation is more than just a starter line. It is moving people to work. Kids to school. The elderly to doctor appointments. And other people to fun activities. In short, transportation is about moving people to all the things they want/need to do. I do support the streetcar expanding into places where the people want it. But I think to grow our transportation we need to include more max bus routes, bike lanes, walking trails, etc. We need to find a holistic inclusive approach to more transportation.
JERMAINE REED and JAMEKIA KENDRIX (3rd District)
Neither candidate responded.
1. I do not believe that the overall financially based quality of life and affordability of Kansas City is in danger of significant decline. The city continues to compare favorably to our peer cities, particularly in terms of affordable housing options. I do think that decades of deferred planning in our water and sewer services and other basic infrastructure areas will create a burdensome financial hardship for many Kansas Citians as the city addresses infrastructure needs.
I think it is vital that the city avoid neglecting basic infrastructure needs that can lead to higher costs for consumers. I also think the city should be cognizant of an ever-growing tax burden upon many of its citizens, particularly in connection with the city’s sales taxes and city guarantees for certain municipal investments.
2. Kansas City’s government can and should play a key role in attracting jobs, increasing wages, and assisting our recovery from the recession. An initial role the city can play is in loosening municipal regulation that serves as a barrier to entry for new businesses and restricts the expansion of businesses in Kansas City.
In addition, I believe all incentive programs should have as a factor for approval long-term job creation prospects, not merely short-term opportunities. I think attention to infrastructure needs in Kansas City also will serve as a vital factor in retaining positions in Kansas City that we have lost in recent decades to our suburban neighbors.
3. The city can do a number of things to support education. Primary among those items is to ensure that any development incentive policies we approve do not substantially harm institutions such as our local school districts and our local libraries that eventually could decrease the supply of homegrown STEM-qualified talent.
Further, the city can attract STEM-qualified professionals, like all professionals, by continuing to address basic quality of life priorities in the city, such as public safety, parks and recreation investments, and policies that support modern planning and zoning targeting walkability, efficient transit options in all parts of the city, and non-burdensome taxing schemes.
4. The next City Council has to be concerned with public transportation in the basic sense—a way for people to get from home to work, no matter what part of the metropolitan area they are heading to. I would not support any decrease in funding for KCATA. I encourage KCATA to enhance bus routes in the urban core, particularly along Prospect by completing the often-discussed Prospect Max plan, and to enhance east-west routes, such as 39th Street, that have a good number of riders. I also think that we need to continue to encourage regional solutions to transit that can get people from their homes to jobs located in all parts of the metropolitan area.
Regarding streetcar, I wish to see the completion and operation of the streetcar route currently under construction before discussing further taxpayer-funded obligations to expand the system. In terms of long-term funding and planning, I prefer seeking citywide support where possible and would request greater ties between any future fixed rail plan and the city and region’s current transit infrastructure, which should continue to prioritize efficient transit options for citizens to get to work, home, and school.
In terms of broader fixes to the transit issue, I would encourage the city to revisit planning and zoning priorities so that developments in all parts of the city support walkability and biking as part of development options.
STEPHAN GORDON (3rd District at-large)
Gordon did not respond.
JOLIE JUSTUS (4th District)
1. There is no question that progress and development in Kansas City has resulted in an increase in the cost of living for all Kansas Citians. Nonetheless, Kansas City remains significantly more affordable than many major cities across the country and quality of life is significantly better than many of our peer cities. Our city government can and should help all of our residents maintain an affordable, high quality of life through innovative policies that encourage sustainable and equitable economic development, affordable housing options, workforce development, comprehensive business planning and safe and healthy neighborhoods.
2. The Kanas City region has traditionally been slower to feel the effects of an economic downturn and slower to feel the effects of an economic recovery. Our city government has taken solid steps to ensure that we continue moving forward as the region and the country continue to recover. The city’s 5-year Business Plan, KCNoVA and KCStat programs are just three examples of measurable tools that are already producing better outcomes in these areas. These tools set measurable goals, collect valuable data and create solutions to systemic problems. We must continue to adopt innovative and sustainable policies and incentives that keep our city moving forward.
3. Elected city leaders must collaborate with the private sector and civic community on a holistic approach to improving the overall quality of life for residents. Healthy, vibrant communities enable us to cultivate homegrown talent and attract new workers to fill our growing workforce needs. Elected officials, education leaders, private industry and civic and neighborhood leaders must work together to create a community with a strong economy, world-class schools, a vibrant arts and cultural scene and reliable infrastructure.
Attractive communities coupled with sustainable and equitable economic development tools will attract the workforce we desire. All these things are currently happening throughout the city. City government should assist these efforts when practical, remove obstacles when necessary, and remain flexible enough to get out of the path of progress as it naturally unfolds throughout the metro.
4. I support a regional, comprehensive, multi-modal, mass transit system that includes buses, sidewalks, bike lanes, roads/bridges, fixed rail and streetcars. I am generally supportive of expanding the existing streetcar line, but I need additional information including proposed route(s) and funding source(s) before I can support a specific streetcar expansion plan.
Beyond the streetcar, Kansas City must work with communities throughout the region to develop a multi-modal, accessible transportation plan that more effectively and efficiently moves our residents throughout the metro.
JOHN FIERRO (4th District)
1. Yes, I think one of the City’s roles should be to help residents maintain an affordable, high quality of life. I propose that we identify a new tool for conducting a biennial survey among residents that is focused on their satisfaction with Kansas City as a place to live, city services and city’s sense of community. The outcomes of residents’ opinions should guide the City’s goals, initiatives and outcomes.
I propose that one of our objectives as a City Council should be to create a City that is desirable by individuals of all ages, ethnicities, gender and languages. Our resources should be aligned with improving quality of life areas such as safety, education, health, the economy, recreation and mobility.
This starts with City government accepting the role as a convener of partnerships of the government, private sector, and community based organizations and residents, working collaboratively to maximize all of the resources available to address quality of life areas.
2. The way the City can do anything at all to help wages is in lowering the prices of big-ticket consumer goods. The largest expenses for most families are housing, transportation, food, and health care.
I propose reforming those policies that can improve Kansas City resident’s real incomes. I recommend working with MARC to form a committee to propose policies related to lowering expenses related to housing, transportation, education and health care – our ability to reduce costs will result in new economic investment & job creation as well as an improved economy where increased spending will occur.
3. We need to create systems of services designed to optimize the city around highly skilled, innovative citizens and communities, as well as knowledge-intensive businesses. Some specific areas to start with would be to improve public safety by reducing crime and emergency response time, streamline and tailor services for the residents and enable appropriate access to healthcare data for better quality of care, early disease detection and prevention.
4. Although I support the economic development that follows streetcar implementation, I recognize that there is considerable work to do to reconcile the voice of KC voters with considerations for multimodal transportation alternatives. I think we should engage a citizens’ group to study our financial options before proposing to the general public the expansion of the streetcar route. We should work to create a metro-wide multimodal transportation system that gets people to work and play in a timely, environmentally efficient way.
JIM GLOVER (4th District at-large)
1. When we consider the cost of living and quality of life issues, I believe it is helpful to borrow a phrase from President Kennedy: “A rising tide raises all boats.”
Since moving to Hyde Park in 1973, I have worked with my neighbors to achieve the “restoration for use’ of one of Kansas City’s great historic neighborhoods. In doing so, we restored a de-populated area into vibrant, diverse neighborhood.
Restoration for use approach expands exerts downward economic pressure on housing costs by expanding the supply of structures available for purchase or rent. In addition, even when this approach begins with an infusion of public seed capital, the ultimate aim must be to attract private investment capital to underwrite long-term needs.
For example, I have proposed restoration plan for the Bainbridge Building on Armour Blvd. – which I understand is the source of more police calls than any other structure in the city — which will double the number of affordable housing units in the immediate neighborhood. In addition, current residents will receive a real choice in where they live through the issuance of vouchers and the expanded number of affordable units. We need to move away from the assumption that poor people should be concentrated into “container-like” structures.
Beyond working to rebuild neighborhoods and real estate markets to repopulated economically-challenged areas, I work to enact policies that result in fair pay for work. I signed the proposal to establish $15 per hour local minimum wage, and I will continue to work to phase in a minimum wage increase going forward.
I also work to shape city policies that foster broad-based economic development programs that include strong provisions for neighborhood improvement and housing expansion.
My Jobs for Neighborhoods Program harmonizes commercial development incentives with efforts to recruit, hire, and train Kansas City, Missouri citizens. In the past, city economic development incentives ignored whether beneficiary-employers hired from within Kansas City, Missouri.
The Jobs for Neighborhoods Program provides strong incentives for employers who receive incentives from Kansas City taxpayers to recruit and hire from economically-challenged neighborhoods through the Full Employment Council. In addition, employee participants in the program qualify for housing programs targeted at repopulating challenged neighborhoods. The plan seeks to match people who need steady jobs with employers who need long-term employees, which will in turn expands purchasing power for consumers who do business with local firms.
In addition to the Jobs for Neighborhoods Program, the Midtown Redevelopment Plan — which brought COSTCO, Home Depot and Sun Fresh Market to Midtown – continues to produce expand the availability of affordable housing. When I designed the plan, I targeted the public revenue it produces for housing support. These revenues have funded the restoration of 500 residential homes, and 22 high rise buildings along Armour Blvd. between Main and Troost.
Furthermore, to improve quality of life in every Kansas City neighborhood, I proposed and secured adoption earmark of 7.5 percent of Earnings Tax Revenue to basic services, which increased the street maintenance budget by nearly $15 Million annually.
If the voters grant me one more term, I will work to institute a “Street Utility” as part of the city budget process. Think of this proposal as a Basic Services Protection Plan, which will set aside a portion of the city budget for street repair and maintenance, curbs, tree trimming, and snow removal.
Finally, I have worked and intend to continue working with the Parks Department to expand community center programs to foster educational programs coordinated with the school districts, libraries, and non-profits. The community centers can serve as a useful tool to build neighborhoods and improve the quality of life.
2. We need increase the city’s efforts to revive manufacturing jobs in Kansas City. This kind of effort will require coordination with state and federal officials. I bring a proven record of being able to work in a non-partisan manner with both state and federal officials.
I believe a progressive economic development process like the one I described above in the form of The Jobs for Neighborhood Program. When the citizens of Kansas City commit to provide economic incentives to attract business, I believe it is fair to ask those businesses to participate in the program. I believe businesses will be surprised pleasantly by the potential employees they can recruit, train, and retain with the help of the Full Employment Council.
Furthermore, as noted above I support identifying a phased-in process for raising the minimum wage, which I believe benefits the business community by increasing the purchasing power of local consumers.
3. I am interested in working with the US and Missouri Departments of Labor to study this finding of the two think-tanks cited in your question.
While the city lacks jurisdiction to compel action, with further study we might find ways to exert leadership across jurisdictional lines.
While the city government does not have a direct role in education policy, the shortcoming that your question describes seems to be the kind of issue that could be addressed by joint activity that harmonizes the efforts of primary and secondary education, vocational education, the community college system, government retraining programs, and the University of Missouri Kansas City.
4. The streetcar provides many well understood and vigorously studied benefits to urban citizens. It reduces automobile traffic and pollution, while increasing residential and commercial development along the lines.
I do support streetcar expansion as we build support from the neighborhoods serviced by the expansion lines.
The results of last year’s election documents strong public support for a north-south line extending from the Downtown loop to the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) main campus. This expansion will serve the public interest in connecting the UMKC Conservatory, the Crossroads Arts District, The Plaza, with the UMKC main campus.
I understand that more work must be done to build public support for east-west line expansions. From a technical standpoint, we understand the benefits to public transportation and commercial development of east-west line expansions. Supporters of the streetcar in City Hall and from the private sector must do a better job explaining those benefits to citizens in the neighborhoods who would be served by expansion lines.
KATHERYN SHIELDS (4th District at-large)
1. Even with the increases described, Kansas City remains one of the most affordable major cities and offers a quality of life at a truly bargain price. It is unfortunate that we are now paying a high price for ignoring the maintenance needs of our water and sewer infrastructure. One of the things I hope to bring to the Council is an insistence on an Asset Management System, because investing in maintaining our infrastructure – while not glamorous as new projects – saves money in the long run.
One way of mitigating rising rental rates is to insist that any tax incentivized developments include mixed-income units, as has been the case in San Diego and elsewhere. The failure of the City to require the Armour Boulevard developers to do so has had the undesirable effect of concentrating and isolating low-income housing and creating unnecessary problems.
We should always strive to keep taxes low and government efficiency high. But, taxes are the price we pay for the services and protections we need. We fund a health care safety net with Truman Medical Center and Samuel Rogers in a state that has stubbornly refused to expand Medicaid. A glance at the growing fiasco across the state line in Kansas should show the danger in thinking that a civilized society can somehow manage without a rational tax policy.
2. Sadly, Kansas City has the geographic disadvantage of sitting on a border with a neighboring state engaged in a seriously flawed social and economic experiment, one part of which is to engage in a “border war” that impedes recovery on both sides. That is something our “peer metros” do not need to factor into every effort.
One thing Kansas City can do is to require that anyone doing business with the City pay a Livable Wage and encourage others in the community to do so. Wage stagnation is the biggest drag on any economy, and wage growth would stimulate job growth. Henry Ford – hardly a bleeding heart socialist – once defended paying higher wages byobserving that it “makes little sense to build cars unless folks made enough money to buy cars.”
3. The supply of STEM-qualified workers is lagging demand everywhere in the nation – just as it was in the late 1950’s when the federal government responded to Sputnik with a student grant and loan program that made it possible for any American who wanted to attend college could do so for very little cost. Today, the cost is often prohibitive for many potential students. In some technical areas, the educational “lead time” contributes to the shortage, since no one can waive a magic wand and create a top-notch employee.
The City can keep our community safe, welcoming and affordable. We can encourage a vibrant and desirable life-style. But, businesses have to either train employees or attract them with competitive wages. One of the hallmarks of capitalism is that when workers have a scarce product in the form of personal talent and training, they can demand higher salaries.
4. If the Downtown streetcar is a success, other parts of the City will seek its expansion – probably first out to the Plaza/UMKC area. Expansion beyond that will depend on just how successful those segments are.
Realistically, no streetcar expansion is going to take the place of our bus system – and the MAX needs to be expanded to other heavily-traveled routes. Buses are going to remain the backbone of public transit.
But, we also need to think outside the box – and that may mean a heavy rail system like that being proposed by County Executive Mike Sanders to bring the suburbs closer and reduce traffic on the interstates. And, outside the box means encouraging non-motorized transport like bicycles – and making our City more “walking-friendly”.
ALISSIA CANADY (5th District)
1. I believe that the cost of living is increasing in Kansas City, however incomes and new job opportunities have not kept the same pace. City government to help residents maintain the quality of life we are accustomed to by encouraging business growth opportunities in emerging industries as well as attracting employers that pay a living wage. The council should also further investigate what a “living wage” is in Kansas City and support legislation and policy to push that at the state level.
2. Job growth can be addressed by attracting employers in emerging markets in healthcare, technology, and skilled trades as well as preparing a workforce to meet the growing demand for these jobs. We can work with the Federal Reserve Bank to understand the trends and areas of impact where we can stimulate economic activity at the local level.
3. We attract talented workforce by continuing to develop and create a safe and vibrant city. We also have the ability to influence and support the existing school districts by creating strategic partnerships with public school and community colleges to offer skills based programs and training.
4. I like the idea of a regional transportation authority to plan and collaboratively seek funding to pay for improved transportation access to connect residents to work. Any additional investment in rail transportation must serve a broader purpose. The discussion should be broadened to consider how any expansion would fit into long-term plans for regional rail transportation that should include Southeast Kansas City.
KEN BACCHUS (5th District)
1. No, I don’t believe KC residents are at risk of losing quality of life indicators as a result of affordability. There are many apartments in the Downtown area and along the edges of varying rates from affordable to middle and higher incomes. In fact, the first homes built new in Downtown were at Quality Hill many years ago and the first apartments rehabilitated were completed through the Missouri Tax Credit Program of 9% and 4%.
Further, the cost of entertainment, food and other quality of life indicators remain very affordable in Kansas City. Yes, by encouraging competition of different types. From supporting different types of restaurants to food stores, commercial merchandise and entertainment venues. Maintaining support of sports teams, the arts community and entertainment districts.
2. Kansas City Government through its many direct and indirect affiliations has many opportunities to be involved in metro job and wage growth. Clearly Kansas City must be viewed in the context of the Kansas City Metropolitan Region. However, Kansas City is the major driver of the region in terms of resources, business attraction opportunities and cultural as well as sports affiliations.
The relationship with the Area Economic Development Council, the KC EDC and other affiliated organizations and the various Chambers of Commerce and the KC Federal Reserve and other educational institutions create opportunities of identifying opportunities to the challenges identified by the Brookings Report.
3. There must be ample opportunities for professionals in the STEM and other areas for active places to Play, Recreation, Socialize and advance in any community. In addition, there must be available technology and other professional jobs available from which to choose.
Further, optional higher educational institutions must be readily available for career advancement as well as a variety of opportunities to volunteer in community and professional areas of interest are all necessary in recruiting new talent to Kansas City. Local governments and local elected leaders can make a difference in many of these areas directly and as partners with other institutions.
4. The two mile starter line is just a beginning. I do support an expansion of the streetcar to the Plaza. However, going forward, any plans for a Streetcar extension should be planned and include the following elements:
* A comprehensive public transportation plan based upon the needs of Kansas City and how it may integrate and support a regional public transportation system (integration of Streetcar, buses, park and rides, a potential commuter system, etc.)
* A financing plan with a variety of options to accomplish these needs.
LEE BARNES (5th District at-large)
1. I believe the things that add to a high quality of life are safe communities, good schools, well maintained infrastructure and access to positive wholesome entertainment. The city government has a responsibility to provide safe communities and a well maintained infrastructure but that does come at a cost. We are spending a significant amount of our budget on public safety, which is our responsibility but he have not addressed the maintenance of streets, curbs, sidewalks and other infrastructure items like we should.
2. The EDC must do a better job of promoting Kansas City to potential companies. We must also make sure that our regulatory agencies are not an obstacle to business growth.
3. The development of quality housing and safe entertainment venues are just a couple of things that attract young professionals to an urban areal. We have quality downtown living which should help attract millennials to the area. We should also promote STEM careers to our school age children so that they will have an interest in those fields of study when they are college age.
4. I believe we should analyze the affect that the initial streetcar routes have on our economy. I believe the cost of the streetcar infrastructure is too expensive to extend without having more data that can justify the cost. I think we should investigate a regional rail system. This will give us the ability to link all of the surrounding areas of the metropolitan area which will enhance the movement of people to jobs in the suburban areas.
DENNIS ANTHONY (5th District at-large)
1. We are, and have been losing ground for years. My understanding of the minimum wage is that it has not kept up with inflation. If it had, it would be close to $11 per hour. I am in favor of lobbying the State for that amount.
2. In spite of what we hear, IT jobs are not everything. Who will be the plumber, or the man who drives the Trash truck? Not to mention the Laborer in a manufacturing plant. I want to investigate companies who might locate in the kc metro and build manufacturing facilities and hire thousands of our people that have high school educations.
3. 20 years ago we should have worked to ensure that all 14 school districts had free preschool for every 4 yr old child. I would also like to be a public voice, with the Faith community, to market the advantages of Families who actually stay together, raise their children in the way that they should go, renew Faith and Family values. I will be a public voice for these things.
4. In late 2016, we should review the streetcar situation and judge what else to do with it. Not until then after reviewing the results. We should be looking at expanding bus service with low or zero emission advanced Buses thruout the metro.
KEVIN MCMANUS (6th District)
1. Council members serve a variety of roles, including that of a neighborhood advocate, city government liaison, and a representative that votes on city policy. However, one of the most important roles is that of a budgetary watchdog. Too often, city revenues are raised for one purpose and diverted to another. We need folks on the council who will be stewards of our tax dollars and ensure that revenues are spent wisely for their intended purpose.
This is no small task. It requires a relentless examination of each budget item, asking incisive questions, and speaking out when necessary. These are not always popular positions, but it is essential that we have members on the council who will fulfill this obligation so we can maintain an affordable, high quality of life in our city. My service on the Missouri House Budget Committee has provided me with good experience in this regard.
I have worked with members of both parties to balance our state budget, despite competing needs and limited resources. I will bring this approach to our city’s budget process to ensure that the city’s budget priorities reflect those of our residents and serve our most critical needs.
2. City government must create an environment that encourages job growth and economic development and communicate our strengths to the world. It starts with making it easier and more attractive for businesses to locate in Kansas City and by identifying and eliminating unnecessary burdens or barriers that exist.
Businesses, and their employees, expect the same things that our residents do: safe neighborhoods, well-maintained streets and infrastructure, and responsive city services. We need to make these items more of a priority in our city budget. Growing businesses also need access to a talented, educated workforce. We need to advocate for partnerships and pipelines among our educational institutions, vocational training schools and private employers so our residents are ready for the jobs of the future.
As we make progress in these areas, we need to make sure that businesses and trade groups are aware of it. We need champions for our city who will actively seek out private partners in growing industries to bring the jobs of the future to Kansas City.
3. We need city leaders who will advocate for increased partnerships between our educational institutions and private sector businesses, particularly through mentorship and internship programs in the STEM-related industries. Kansas City is home to a number of fast-growing businesses in these areas, and we need to give our students every opportunity to succeed in these jobs.
In addition to cultivating a talented workforce for the future, we need to attract and retain a talented workforce today. Our ability to attract these workers is certainly dependent on our ability to foster new job opportunities in STEM-related industries. But that alone is not enough. To compete for talented workers and job creators, we need to provide what they expect: safe neighborhoods, well-maintained streets and infrastructure, responsive city services, affordable mass transit, and a variety of good education options. We need to prioritize policies and budget items that will help us accomplish these goals.
4. I support the development and implementation of a regional transit plan for our metro area. A robust regional transit system needs to provide residents with a variety of options and multiple linkages so folks can get to where they need to go whether by car, bus, rail, bike or foot.
I favor waiting until the starter line is operational so we can measure the level of public support and determine how it best fits into a regional transit plan. In the meantime, the city and KCATA must continue to work with county and state partners to develop a transit system that will serve our region’s needs for future generations.
TERRENCE NASH (6th District)
1. Yes, I do think many residents in Kansas City have lost a high quality of life. A focus must be put back on neighborhoods. Funding basic services such as codes enforcement and regularally scheduled bulky item pick-up. KCNOVA must be continued and improved to ensure safe neighborhoods.
2. The City’s current tax incentive policies are not being used for the intended purpose. The policies need to focus on economically distressed areas. Economic incentives need to be capped at a certain percentage to allow for some funding of schools, libraries and other important responsibilities of government. When spending money on trophy projects such as streetcars, single terminal airports and downtown convention hotels are the City’s priorities instead of projects that create economic growth only decrease future opportunity for growth.
3. With the new Cerner and Burns & McDonnell projects in South Kansas City the demand for STEM workers will never be greater. I’m sure Cerner and Burns & McDonnell have a strategy to fill the new positions. Although we would like to believe that most new employees will live in Kansas City many will live in other local communities because of their quality schools and neighborhoods. The City must invest in neighborhoods if they want people to chose to live in Kansas City. That means spending on basic services and safe neighborhoods.
4. I support buses and expanding the MAX buslines. The main purpose of the KCATA is to provide transportation for people to get to and from work(76%). I do not support the expansion the streetcar, the cost of $60 million per mile is to expensive and the cost to operate would create another P&L situation.