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Kansas City Council’s 4th District at-large seat is one of at least six positions on the Kansas City ballot that will be filled with a new City Council member after Katheryn Shields wraps up her second term in August.
In this crowded race, five candidates are competing in the April 4 primary, with the top two vote-getters proceeding to the general election on June 20.
All Kansas City voters will have a say in this at-large election, choosing among candidates who reside in the 4th District, which includes downtown, midtown, the northeast and portions of the Northland. This is the first election under the district’s recently redrawn boundaries that replaced neighborhoods around the Country Club Plaza with some sections of the Northland.
Given the high amount of turnover and the redrawn district boundaries, this year’s election could dramatically change the way the city government does business.
In advance of the primary, The Beacon is publishing stories introducing the candidates on the Kansas City ballot and printing their responses to a three-part questionnaire. The questionnaire 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 five candidates running for the 4th District at-large are Jessica Blubaugh, Grace Cabrera, John DiCapo, Crispin Rea and Justin Short.
Blubaugh is the chief philanthropy officer at United Way of Greater Kansas City.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: The Women’s Leadership Fountain
Favorite Kansas City ice cream shop: Betty Rae’s
Cabrera is a market point agent at Humana.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: Kauffman Garden
Favorite Kansas City ice cream shop: Truman General
DiCapo has owned and operated small businesses in Kansas City for decades, including a cookie factory and pizza shop in the east Crossroads.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: I love the Carl J. DiCapo spring and waterfall on Cliff Drive. I also like the Anita Gorman fountain in the Northland.
Favorite Kansas City ice cream shop: Flying Cow on the corner of 50th and State Line. It’s actually gelato, and it’s located in Kansas, but I do enjoy it.
Rea is an assistant prosecuting attorney in the special victims unit of the Jackson County prosecutor’s office.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: Firefighters Fountain and Memorial
Favorite Kansas City ice cream shop: Palacana
Short is a property manager for a downtown high-rise apartment complex owned by Worcester Investments.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: The Northland Fountain in Anita Gorman Park
Favorite Kansas City ice cream shop: It HAS to be Betty Rae’s.
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?
Blubaugh: We need to think differently about how to solve our housing challenges. Affordable housing is a national issue that affects us right here in KC, and we need to address the housing shortage we are facing. We need to leverage things like property tax freezes for residents to avoid displacement, and other modalities that will allow for us to ensure housing options and the cost. We need a comprehensive housing plan that assesses needs by district and proactively engages developers to build more housing, including under market rate as well as diverse housing inventory.
Cabrera: I would like to change the way homes are appraised. We are seeing property taxes skyrocket for residents who have to deal with terrible crime on a routine basis. This does not make sense. There are a plethora of factors which should be addressed simultaneously in order to decrease costs. We have to streamline the inspections department to share resources with residents who are clearly trying to maintain their properties. We also have to create a process with meaningful consequences for landlords who neglect their properties, without punishing landlords who do a good job. If we continue raising property taxes we will produce more homelessness in the most vulnerable communities.
DiCapo: We need to build or have developers offer one- and two-bedroom apartments in the $1,000 or below range so that service workers and low-income workers can afford to have liveable shelter and still buy food and maybe even save money.
Rea: I am committed to keeping Kansas City an affordable place to live and raise a family. I will work to expand our housing stock for various income levels, which is affordable for working families and seniors. I will support the use of the city’s land bank and funding for the affordable housing trust fund. I will also work to connect homeless families in our school districts to housing developments that pursue incentives to provide affordable housing units.
Short: I believe very strongly that we need to fund the affordable housing trust fund into perpetuity. This allows developers of all kinds to begin developing housing that is truly affordable (based on an area median income that is KCMO-specific, not regional). We have a duty to provide more dwelling units for all income levels. Also, we need to continue to support land trusts. We can do this by supporting the donation of city-owned parcels to these nonprofits, in order to bring the price of new home construction down. The average new-build starter home is $375,000 — we must do better.
How should the city collaborate with a police department that cannot be held accountable to city regulation?
Blubaugh: We need to develop relationships with Stacey Graves, Kansas City’s police chief, and her team to work together to solve our public safety issues. We have to collaborate on going upstream to interrupt crime before it starts in the areas of poverty, houselessness, substance abuse and mental health.
Cabrera: The decisions the city made when it instructed the police not to pursue a number of crimes proved to be one that incentivized and increased crime. Many car chases end outside the city or over the state line, since criminals know consequences here are much lighter. After observing the decisions by the city that have led to our current state, I do not think it would be wise to give them control. My hope is that in the near future the city recognizes the residents’ need for safety and how best to support the officers to achieve that, while simultaneously holding individuals’ misbehavior accountable.
DiCapo: We need to hire more officers and have them work directly with the communities they serve from the beginning. We have wonderful folks in the police department and a new chief that is homegrown. We can do it!
Rea: In 2013, we came together as a community and created the KC No Violence Alliance which was credited with reducing homicides in 2014 by 30 percent to a 42-year low. The program included law enforcement partners across local, state and federal agencies, faith communities, neighborhood leaders, academic researchers, social service agencies and community activists. As homicides and violence continue at a tragic rate into 2023, we must once again create a cohesive, comprehensive and long-term evidence-based public safety strategy that holds our criminal justice system accountable, incorporates it with targeted use, implements community-based interventions and focuses on the long term.
Short: We need to work on developing a better relationship between City Hall and our police department, including with the police chief and the city hall liaison to KCPD. While I have concerns about us not having local control of our police, we can work with KCPD and the Board of Police Commissioners on the programs specifically designed to curb violent crime in our city. We might not have local control, but we can still push for accountability from our leaders on a local level.
What deciding factors would convince you to ask city taxpayers to subsidize a downtown stadium for the Royals?
Blubaugh: A more detailed plan on the financing, the infrastructure and the location and its implications on the neighbors and businesses in the surrounding area.
Cabrera: The city should have a say in this decision after careful consideration of in-depth analysis.
DiCapo: No downtown stadium. No taxpayers’ funds to support it. We have a plan called the DiCapo Plan to build a monorail from downtown along I-70 to the stadiums and back. It will be a low-cost way for folks to get to the stadium and allow more development in the Truman Complex. We can build hotels, an amphitheater and much more to help develop the eastern part of Kansas City. People would stay at the stadium and ride into downtown.
Rea: As we learn more, such as the proposed location, timeline and scope of the project, I will look to mitigate the risk to the city’s finances, ensure union jobs are provided and the community is heard.
Short: As with any major project asking for incentives, we need to see a financial feasibility study to find out how we are going to pay for it. I want to make sure this is the right project for Kansas City. I would be hard pressed to approve a $500 million tax bill. We need to see significant investment from the ownership group in order to take this seriously. This could be an exciting project for the future of Kansas City, but we have a duty to ensure we are not doing it on the backs of the taxpayers.
Is Kansas City taking the issue of missing Black women seriously enough? What can city government do to address this?
Blubaugh: This is a clear example of where our city needs a collaborative relationship with our police department and to support the investigation and evaluation of this matter further.
Cabrera: With pronounced crime we should deploy task forces, and they must build a relationship with the affected communities in order to be more effective.
DiCapo: Missing Black women, missing white women, missing kids — we need to stop this madness and hire more police and detectives to solve these crimes. We need to build more jails to house these criminals and we need the prosecutors to charge people when they have been arrested. That is not happening!
Rea: As a special victims unit prosecutor, I have spent my career fighting for victims of domestic violence, kidnapping and sexual assault. On the City Council I will not tolerate violence against anyone in our community, including Black women.
Short: We need to be listening to our community members and actively engaging in the investigative process with allegations this serious. The City Council can and should have a relationship with KCPD, community crime organizations and the Jackson County prosecutor’s office to guarantee that we are working towards crime solutions. I believe in community-driven leadership that starts with listening and learning from our communities. I look to bring back community engagement meetings across all districts in our city, and this is the first step of many towards accountability and accessibility.
If elected, what issues will you make your own?
Blubaugh: Human capital; getting basic city services to everyone in our city; building vibrant communities by expanding transportation, getting proximate to neighborhoods and addressing crime; fostering growth and development for all.
Cabrera: Public safety, I’d like to help reduce crime. I’d like to improve the roads and ensure our taxes are being spent efficiently.
DiCapo: Crime and the police. It can be done. Safety is a principal responsibility of city government. If people don’t feel safe, they won’t live in Kansas City. Also, the small-business person has no voice in City Hall and makes up 90% of all business in our city. This is wrong, and I will be their advocate.
Rea: In 2022 Kansas City recorded its second highest homicide rate with 169 lives tragically lost. This violence affects all of us and disproportionately impacts communities of color historically plagued by disinvestment, concentrated and generational poverty and barriers to opportunity. I know this because I grew up in such a community on Kansas City’s east side. I have seen how violence traumatizes families and neighborhoods as a prosecuting attorney. I have talked with voters and city leaders about how our violence negatively impacts our ability to make Kansas City a safe place to do business and raise a family. I will work to make Kansas City the safest city in America.
Short: First up is basic city services, cleaning up our city, making an effective trash, bulky item and litter service. This includes supporting continued investments in sidewalk and street repair. I will also work on providing truly affordable housing options and further growth in our urban core to propel our city into a positive financial future. And finally, I am focused on bringing full-time leadership to our City Council. I promise that no one will be more accessible on the City Council than me.