When Kansas City voters go to the polls on June 20, their choices have the potential to dramatically change the way the City Council does business. At least six of the 12 seats will be filled with a new member, including two positions in this election guide.
This includes at least two of the at-large races where candidates from districts south of the Missouri River will replace incumbents who are ineligible to run for reelection.
In at-large races, candidates must live in specific districts, but they are selected by voters citywide. The districts look different this election, since the city redrew its council district boundaries following the 2020 census.
In advance of the election, The Beacon is publishing election guides introducing the candidates and printing their responses to a three-part questionnaire. The election guide includes biographical questions, four lightning-round yes-or-no questions and five short-answer policy questions. Some responses have been lightly edited for length or clarity.
This election guide includes candidates for the at-large races in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Districts south of the river.
Some candidate responses come from a previous Beacon election guide compiled for the April 2023 primary.
6th District at-large candidate Jill Sasse did not submit responses prior to publication.
Click on a link to jump to a question in the election guide:
- 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
3rd District at large
In this race, incumbent Brandon Ellington is fending off a vigorous challenge from newcomer Melissa Patterson Hazley.
Ellington is a full-time City Council member.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: The Freedom Fountain
Melissa Patterson Hazley
Patterson Hazley is a researcher with a Ph.D. in educational psychology who works with nonprofits, schools and governments.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: The Freedom Fountain
4th District at large
Crispin Rea and Justin Short emerged from a five-candidate primary to compete for this seat, which is being vacated by Katheryn Shields, who cannot run because of term limits.
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
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
5th District at large
This seat is hotly contested by candidates hoping to replace incumbent Lee Barnes, who is out because of term limits.
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 United Auto Workers Local 249.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: The one in Anita B. Gorman Park
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
6th District at large
In this race, incumbent Andrea Bough is running against a first-time challenger. Jill Sasse did not return a questionnaire.
Bough is a lawyer who has experience in real estate and economic development.
Favorite Kansas City fountain: Meyer Circle Seahorse Fountain
Lightning round questions
Candidates were asked for a yes-or-no position in response to these four questions:
- 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?
Ellington (3rd District at large): There are several cities that I believe we can model, such as Chicago’s Home Buyer Assistance Program or New York City’s Housing Preservation & Development HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program, to name a few. I look forward to working with a new council to draft policy that allows for investments such as these.
Patterson Hazley (3rd District at large): I would work to make building housing in Kansas City easier. This can be done by working with the city manager to develop ideas to better streamline the various approval processes needed to start a project. I would also continue to advocate that affordable housing projects are invested in by the city of Kansas City from multiple sources.
Rea (4th District at large): 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 (4th District at large): 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.
Curls (5th District at large): 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 (5th District at large): 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.
Bough (6th District at large): The primary way in which we can increase affordable housing is through continued funding of the housing trust fund. Providing gap funding to those that are constructing new and rehabilitating existing housing is key. However, in order to meet our housing needs at all levels of affordability, we will need to find a continuing funding source and/or other means of financing affordable housing. That will be the primary goal in the next term, and it will need to come from a variety of sources, including philanthropic, to be sustainable.
How should the city collaborate with a police department that cannot be held accountable to city regulation?
Ellington (3rd District at large): The first step, local elected leaders should start speaking honestly and clearly about the powers that are granted to the police board in Chapter 84. It grants exclusivity, meaning we can have a department constructed however we want. But by allowing confusion, we get no movement on changing police policies. I think there are several leveraging points. However, because of political pressure by the Fraternal Order of Police and a lack of understanding of how the board works, the council has not used leverage to enforce changes that the community has repeatedly asked for.
Patterson Hazley (3rd District at large): By building relationships with leadership beyond the chief of police and finding ways that regular community people who need and expect police service have effective ways to give feedback and be assured the police department takes action on that feedback.
Rea (4th District at large): 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 (4th District at large): 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.
Curls (5th District at large): 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 (5th District at large): 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.
Bough (6th District at large): Violent crime is a great concern to all. I have been impressed by the leadership of KCPD Chief Stacey Graves, and I am hopeful that relationships can be rebuilt. Addressing crime will take a multifaceted approach to include the city, the Board of Police Commissioners, the police department and the Jackson County prosecutor, but also our private and nonprofit sectors. Each plays a role, with some focusing primarily on prevention and intervention and others focused more on investigation and enforcement. As long as we are all at the table working together, and our primary focus is on prevention and intervention, then there can be accountability.
What deciding factors would convince you to ask city taxpayers to subsidize a downtown stadium for the Royals?
Ellington (3rd District at large): None really. They would have to come with a really strong community benefit agreement for me to even start to entertain the aspect.
Patterson Hazley (3rd District at large): I could support the project if there are material benefits to the city. It should not be approved by voters if there are not serious investments in affordable housing and protection of existing homes. Voters should also expect union jobs, as well as minority- and women-owned business participation. The permanent jobs (businesses) should include family-friendly options, places for teens to have fun, and green spaces (including an adequate tree canopy). All jobs should pay livable wages into the future. Everything should be built with public transit and pedestrians in mind, while preparing for the reality that some people will inevitably drive there.
Rea (4th District at large): 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 (4th District at large): 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.
Curls (5th District at large): 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 (5th District at large): 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.
Bough (6th District at large): Any taxpayer subsidy of a new downtown stadium should have some relation to a public benefit and should also include a community benefits agreement that ensures that workers employed by and on behalf of the project, including workers employed after the construction of the project, such as service and janitorial workers, are protected. Public benefits should include affordable housing, workforce programs, minority- and women-owned business opportunities.
Is Kansas City taking the issue of missing Black women seriously enough? What can city government do to address this?
Ellington (3rd District at large): No. Some of the organizations started speculating about the potential serial killer or trafficking of women — I have spoken with and even worked with one to return a 14-year-old girl whose father reached out to me after failing to get assistance from KCPD detectives. So, I can say with confidence that they have not received the support from law enforcement that you would think they would get.
Patterson Hazley (3rd District at large): People in the Kansas City community are saying that Black women are missing and all leaders, including those at City Hall, should amplify this issue. When a Black woman is missing, it is the job of the Police Department to find out what happened to her. That is a bare minimum expectation. Community feedback about missing Black women should be treated as real, actionable information anytime it comes forward and should prompt swift and thorough investigations. Everyone should pay attention and believe the community. Reactions from law enforcement that include diminishing the possibility that this is happening should never occur.
Rea (4th District at large): 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 (4th District at large): 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.
Curls (5th District at large): 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 (5th District at large): 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.
Bough (6th District at large): The appearance and perception is that we are not. Concerns have been raised and too readily dismissed. Very little has been said about this issue since the end of last year. While it is possible that an investigation has begun and cannot be discussed, I think that it is important to the community that the concerns are taken seriously and that the department undertake an investigation or provide specific information concerning their position, and not simply dismiss the concerns. Legally, the city cannot do much to start a police investigation, but collectively we do have a strong voice in which elected officials can stand together to call attention to the issue.
If elected, what issues will you make your own?
Ellington (3rd District at large): Budget, increasing neighborhood strength and infrastructure, enhancing the Office of Citizen Engagement.
Patterson Hazley (3rd District at large): I have some experience bringing millions of dollars to the 3rd District already for economic development projects, and I want to build upon that success. A focus on vacant lots can have multiple benefits. 1) Remove blight. 2) Put rooftops back into the community, increasing our tax base. 3) Positively impact the financial stability of our education system because we can increase the number of families living here and sending children to school. 4) It could increase public safety because more people will be living in our neighborhoods and building the community. 5) Overall increase our housing stock, potentially driving down housing costs.
Rea (4th District at large): 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 (4th District at large): 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.
Curls (5th District at large): 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 (5th District at large): 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.
Bough (6th District at large): During my term, I have worked on issues related to housing — the housing trust fund, the set-aside ordinance, right to counsel in evictions. I plan to continue to work on issues relating to affordable housing, because I believe that housing is a basic human right. I will also continue to work to ensure that the city continues to improve the delivery of basic services, such as trash pickup, sidewalk and road repairs.
Mili Mansaray contributed reporting for this story.
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