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Six members of the Kansas City Council are ineligible for reelection this year, meaning that at least half of the council’s members will be fresh faces after the City Council election, representing recently redrawn council districts across the city.
That expected turnover means that this year’s City Council election has the potential to dramatically change the way the City Council and city government do business and what issues will become priorities in the months to come.
Multiple candidates are competing for seven contested seats in the April 4 primary. The top two candidates for every district will proceed to a general election on June 20.
Over the next few weeks, The Beacon will publish stories introducing the candidates and printing their responses to questionnaires. This story features the race for the 4th District, which includes downtown Kansas City, midtown, the northeast and a portion of the Northland between the cities of Gladstone and North Kansas City. It is currently represented by Eric Bunch, who is seeking reelection.
After redistricting, the district now includes some areas of the Northland previously represented by Heather Hall in the 1st District. Several neighborhoods, including West Plaza, Country Club Plaza, South Plaza and Sunset Hill, have been moved to the 6th District under the newest map.
The Beacon sent a three-part questionnaire to each candidate. It includes three biographical questions, five lightning-round yes-or-no questions and five short-answer policy questions. Some responses have been lightly edited for length or clarity.
Click on a link to jump to a question:
- Meet the candidates
- Lightning-round questions
- How would you increase affordable housing in Kansas City?
- How should the city collaborate with a police department that cannot be held accountable to city regulation?
- What deciding factors would convince you to ask city taxpayers to subsidize a downtown stadium for the Royals?
- Is Kansas City taking the issue of missing Black women seriously enough? What can city government do to address this?
- If elected, what issues will you make your own?
Meet the candidates
The three candidates running in the 4th District City Council election are incumbent Eric Bunch, Crissy Dastrup and Henry Rizzo.
Bunch is an incumbent City Council member and a co-founder of BikeWalkKC.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: This might be controversial, but my current favorite is Fountain by Leo Villareal that was recently installed in the new KCI terminal. Ask me again in two weeks and I will have a different answer!
Favorite Kansas City ice cream shop: Another tough one! I would say High Hopes at 55th and Troost. My kids also like riding the streetcar to Betty Rae’s in River Market, so that is always a solid option as well.
Dastrup is the second vice president of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association and the owner of Dastrup Creative, a marketing and consulting business. She also chairs the Troost Market Collective and led KC Art on the Block: A Black Lives Matter Mural Project.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: I love the Colonnade Park fountain. It’s a great example of community building and it makes me smile to see kids playing on a hot day. When you’re a mom and it’s hot out, all you want is an easy way to have fun in the water with your family!
Favorite Kansas City ice cream shop: It’s got to be Betty Rae’s — their business model is as great as their ice cream. All of the employees are part owners. But I really want to try the place on Troost, High Hopes!
Rizzo is a former Missouri state representative and former chair of the Jackson County Legislature.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: The Children’s Fountain on North Oak always makes me smile. It evokes the joy of childhood innocence we would all benefit from remembering.
Favorite Kansas City ice cream shop: This has to be Betty Rae’s in the River Market, next to my neighborhood, Columbus Park.
Lightning round questions
Candidates were asked for a yes-or-no position in response to these five questions:
- Do you support a 3% tax on marijuana sales?
- Should Kansas City be granted local control of its police department?
- Should third-party “but-for” financial analysis be required to receive tax incentives in KC?
- Should access to information for the news media be restricted by the city manager’s office?
- Do you believe that $1,200 per month for rent is affordable?
How would you increase affordable housing in Kansas City?
Bunch: We must work to exhaust all revenue sources to provide sustainable funding to the housing trust fund and clearly define the housing types and programs we need to support with it. We need to invest in and develop community development corporations, community land trusts and neighborhood trusts. KCMO should strategically utilize its land portfolio to develop mixed-income housing. This shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach, but we should at least begin developing municipally owned mixed-income housing in high-frequency transit corridors. This could involve a lease-leaseback development model. We must develop supportive and transitional housing for people who need extra help to get out of homelessness.
Dastrup: It’s past time for the city to explicitly invest in truly affordable housing. We need a coordinated plan with engagement every step of the way. As your full-time councilwoman, I will approach developers to build subsidized permanently affordable housing. You deserve a partner in City Hall that is thrilled to work on issues that are your top priority. If you elect me, you will see more affordable housing on the market through leveraging land bank properties and a long-term plan that includes enough affordable housing for everyone who needs it. In my first term, you can expect results.
Rizzo: We need to work with local developers and social service agencies to create better incentives for developers to want to build more affordable housing. Our current system needs to be streamlined and made more responsive so projects don’t get bogged down in red tape.
How should the city collaborate with a police department that cannot be held accountable to city regulation?
Bunch: I am optimistic that under the new leadership there will be greater collaboration between City Hall and KCPD. I have seen progress in the few months that Chief Graves has been on the job. And despite the recent Missouri constitutional amendment dictating that Kansas City spend 25% of its general fund on KCPD, we still have the power of the budget. I will continue to challenge the state’s definition of “general revenue” used to determine the minimum budget allocation to KCPD.
Dastrup: Collaboration is key. Even though the city has very little power over the KCPD, it is certainly possible to find things to agree on. While we forge relationships, we must invest in real crime solutions outside of the police department. There are programs like community watch, video doorbells and more short-term crime prevention techniques that work. To address the issue long term, we must improve the conditions that lead to crime. We also have to keep organizing and advocating for local control of our police department. These problems are solvable — we need hard-working leaders to get them done.
Rizzo: Kansas City should have local control, and the City Council should work transparently and collaboratively with KCPD and the police board. I have confidence in the new chief. We need to give her the opportunity to implement changes in the department. I am fortunate to be endorsed by former Police Chief James Corwin and the Fraternal Order of Police.
What deciding factors would convince you to ask city taxpayers to subsidize a downtown stadium for the Royals?
Bunch: First, we need an ironclad community benefit agreement that ensures the development of affordable housing in the proposed stadium district and that the workers in the new stadium and district are able to unionize. Second, any redirection or abatement of new taxes must be focused primarily on improving public infrastructure in and around the new stadium district. Third, the location of the stadium must be thoughtfully vetted to minimize disruption to neighborhood walkability and should be well-served by public transportation.
Dastrup: My job as city councilwoman would be to represent the opinion of my constituents. The majority of community members I’ve spoken with over the last year have pointed out that we have more serious problems that should be addressed first. Downtown baseball is not our community’s priority. I would only advocate for downtown baseball if the needs of the community are met at a level they are comfortable with, potentially including elements like affordable housing, spaces for small businesses, green spaces, etc. I’ll utilize polling, digitally and through canvassing, as well as empirical studies to back up my decisions.
Rizzo: The current lease runs through 2030, which needs to be addressed. Only if it was put on the ballot and the people chose it.
Is Kansas City taking the issue of missing Black women seriously enough? What can city government do to address this?
Bunch: We should be taking all reports of missing and exploited Black women very seriously. I have requested and received updates from KCPD on their ongoing investigation into all of these reports. We should continue to demand more of our investigators to exhaust every lead in every potential case.
Dastrup: Citizens should feel safe in their communities. If they do not, it’s the responsibility of the city to address it. Victims who approach the city are not receiving the support they deserve. City Council must work with KCPD leadership and community members to address the barriers for reporting missing persons, the process of follow-up and resource guidance, and auditing treatment of missing person cases. Relationships are important in these situations where your power is limited; I am known for my ability to find common ground and find a way to get things done.
Rizzo: The number one responsibility of local government is public safety, I support making sure first responders have the resources they need to fully investigate cases.
If elected, what issues will you make your own?
Bunch: I have already made big strides on the expansion of public transportation, increasing the investment in streets and sidewalks, construction of truly affordable housing and implementing meaningful climate policy. In my second term, I intend to focus on the progress on these four major issues and any efforts that help support these.
Dastrup: I have been working on policy to support houseless people since I was the 4th District legislative aide. During COVID, I became the City Hall liaison to the Bartle Warming Center. Twenty-four hours after the press conference announcing the resource, leadership abandoned it. I stepped up and organized a team of volunteers to keep our unhoused community safe. After this experience, I gathered with leaders to develop a regional plan for houseless support. We took that plan to Jackson County and KCMO. Neither were interested. Since then, our extreme-weather plans for our most vulnerable population remain inadequate and unsafe.
Rizzo: Oftentimes the Old Northeast, the Westside and the Northland are left out of funding opportunities because the City Council is chasing after the newest bright shiny object (bike lanes, for instance). I believe we need to make sure we are getting basic city services completed before we are tempted to follow what is trendy.