Editor’s note: For candidates on the June 20th City Council ballot, visit our updated story.
Kansas City’s primary election is set for April 4. Councilman Lee Barnes Jr., who has represented the 5th District at-large on the City Council for eight years, is prevented by term limits from running again. Three candidates from the district are vying to replace him in the at-large, or citywide, election.
The newly redistricted 5th District spans a large chunk of the city, stretching as far west as Troost Avenue in some parts, and as far east as Lee’s Summit Road. Its northernmost tip is Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard and its southern boundary extends beyond Interstate 470.
In anticipation of the primary, The Beacon sent a three-part questionnaire to all three of the candidates running for the 5th District at-large seat. One candidate, former Jackson County Legislator Theresa Cass Galvin, did not respond to multiple messages. Her two opponents returned their questionnaires, which include three personal questions, five lightning-round yes-or-no questions and five short-answer policy questions. Some responses have been lightly edited for length and 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:
Curls recently retired from Ford Motor Co., where he served as the union steward and chair of the community action program for the political arm of the United Auto Workers Local 249.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: The one in Anita B.Gorman Park
Favorite ice cream shop: Baskin-Robbins
Kelley is the policy director for BikeWalkKC, a nonprofit that works to improve walking and biking in Kansas City.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: Delbert J. Haff Circle Fountain
Favorite Kansas City ice cream shop: The Borough on Paseo (in addition to the
rest of their delicious menu).
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?
Curls: The voters of Kansas City just approved a $50 million dollar bond to address this issue, which will fund up to 2,000 new affordable housing units. But that’s not enough. More money needs to be added to the affordable housing trust fund. We need to look at leveraging funds from state and federal grants, and working with developers from the real estate community and my colleagues on the council to find additional dollars for housing.
Kelley: There is much we can do, but two areas of focus for me will be 1) redefining “affordable,” and 2) expanding housing choices. First, our definition of affordability relies on a regional definition that includes places like Johnson County. We need to narrow that definition in a way that is more localized to KCMO. With housing choice, I will help refine our zoning code to move away from single-family development alone. Let’s explore ways to restore the “missing middle” of duplexes, fourplexes and other multifamily units that have disappeared in recent decades.
How should the city collaborate with a police department that cannot be held accountable to city regulation?
Curls: The city has to continue to work with the Board of Police Commissioners, the chief of police and the police union to ensure that the line of communication stays open and accountability is maintained. The mayor has to be the city’s advocate and make sure that that is the case. Unfortunately, until the city gains control, there isn’t much that can be done.
Kelley: The city should try to work with KCPD on new plans, such as KC 360 and Zero KC, that impact public safety. Beyond that, I believe the city should redefine the focus of police onto more pressing crime issues and away from low-level offenses. The City Council recently took this step by transitioning some parking enforcement responsibilities to the Public Works Department. This can ensure a greater focus on apprehending the most violent offenders while allowing the city to address the root issues which push people to commit crimes in the first place.
What deciding factors would convince you to ask city taxpayers to subsidize a downtown stadium for the Royals?
Curls: At this time, I don’t see any deciding factors. We are still early in the process and no definitive plan has been put forward for the financing of the project. So, I don’t see any reason to ask taxpayers for any money.
Kelley: The following elements must be satisfied to convince me on a possible downtown stadium: 1) More community engagement — three hastily scheduled meetings with little notice is insufficient. We need more meetings with neighborhoods and key groups. These meetings should be accessible and provide child care. 2) Scrutiny relative to other priorities — far too often, our city has said “no” to good projects because “we can’t afford it.” The proposed stadium must be able to weather similar scrutiny. 3) Alignment with the city’s vision — the project must align with our stated goals to prioritize good-paying union jobs, elevate multimodal transportation and help us combat climate change.
Is Kansas City taking the issue of missing Black women seriously enough? What can city government do to address this?
Curls: No, they don’t seem to be. City government can advocate that more attention be given to this. Work with the new police chief and board of commissioners in order for the police to pay more attention to this concern of the community. Work with the community, churches and neighborhood leaders and other groups. Maybe there could be some funding allocated to help organizations that have been working on this issue.
Kelley: This issue isn’t being taken seriously enough, and that needs to change. In the short term, I would explore ways to enable the KCMO Health Department to support Ryan Sorrell’s (of the KC Defender) missing-persons database being developed. This gets data collection away from KCPD while working to reestablish trust between KCMO and the Black community. In the long term, the City Council should urge state leaders to follow Minnesota’s example and establish the Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls.
If elected, what issues will you make your own?
Curls: Crime, job growth and infrastructure will be issues that will be high on my priority list. I will do everything I can to create job growth because having a good-paying job will help reduce crime. This means working with our youth and businesses to help with this endeavor. I will also be focused on infrastructure and basic services. These are essential for the continued growth of our city. These are just a few.
Kelley: There are four policy areas I will focus on as your next City Council member: 1) Public health — helping Kansas City recover from the COVID-19 pandemic while also working to address long-standing issues like mental illness; 2) Infrastructure — working to improve our basic city services, our roads and our sidewalks while also ensuring we stop leaving south KC in the shadows; 3) Neighborhoods — addressing issues related to quality of life, as well as the ongoing challenges we face regarding affordable housing and homelessness; and 4) Sustainability — taking steps to make KCMO a leader in the fight against climate change.
- A 15-year-old’s suicide while in Kansas foster care came amid a shortfall in mental health care November 27, 2023
- Kansas regulators give Evergy a smaller electrical rate hike than it asked for November 21, 2023
- Kansas City Public Schools face grievances from maintenance and cafeteria workers’ union November 21, 2023