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Vision for KC

 

The next mayor has the opportunity to shape the future of Kansas City for generations. I’m running because I am up for that challenge.

Kansas Citians deserve a mayor who can guide the progress already underway in our city and help us reach the next level. I’m eager to take the reins on major issues that have developed in recent years – like building the new airport terminal, implementing the infrastructure improvements voters approved through the GO Bonds, and expanding the streetcar. And I want to make sure we continue addressing critical issues like economic inequality, crime, inclusive housing and economic development, and access to a quality education for every child in the city.

But I also want to tackle problems that aren’t talked about enough, like the fact that too many streets in Kansas City aren’t well lit and are therefore less safe, and that too many residents don’t have convenient access to grocery stores, banks and other basic services. There should be more racial and gender equity in city contracts and programs. City services – from fixing bridges, roads and potholes to customer service across departments – can always be more efficient.

We’ll know Kansas City is at its absolute best when no one feels they have to move from one part of the city to another, or out of town altogether, to live the life they want and deserve. I’m running for mayor of Kansas City because I want to make sure no matter where you live in the city or how you grew up, you have a chance to build a successful life right here. Under Mayor James’ leadership, Kansas City has made great progress, and it is crucial that whoever follows him builds on that success. That isn’t a short-term project, so our city needs a mayor committed to the job for the long haul. If I’m elected, Kansas Citians can count on me to work tirelessly for them every day for four years, and, if they’ll have me, four more years after that.

My wife Diana and I are proud to be raising our son as a sixth generation Kansas Citian. I want to do my part to make sure Kansas City is an even better place to live for him, and every other kid in our city, than it has been for my generation.

Kansas City Airport Terminal

As mayor, making sure the new airport terminal is built safely and efficiently using Kansas City workers, and focusing on giving opportunities to minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses and union contractors, will be a top priority of mine. This is a huge project for the city that will have an impact for decades, so we need a mayor that will do everything possible to ensure it gets done right and Kansas Citians are treated fairly during the process.

If elected, I will monitor closely to make sure the project includes local Minority Businesses Enterprises (MBE), Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and contractors that support workers with agreements with local labor organizations. We need to make sure workers are paid a fair wage and the folks across the city are included in the workforce – and that means making sure there’s transportation available so that no one is eliminated from the possibility of building our terminal just because they can’t get there.

The GO Bonds are a game changer for the city’s infrastructure and will be a major part of our progress going forward. The projects so far have been a great start, but I’d like to see a little more public involvement in the next round to make sure we’re spending the money as Kansas Citians anticipated we would.

While projects with matching funds and those with immediate needs should and have been given priority, it’s important that every part of the city gets its share. While that might be difficult every year, if over a three-year period these projects are not equitably spread across the city, the next year priority should be given to areas of need that haven’t seen as much of a benefit.

GO Bonds

Crime and Policing

While murder rates across the country are going down, we haven’t seen as much consistent progress in Kansas City. We should further enhance our focus on community policing. Police officers should have an even greater opportunity to know the communities they are protecting just like those communities should know who is protecting them. Building that trust will go a long way in making our city safer.

Gun violence obviously is a problem that needs to be addressed, and while the state and federal government keep making it harder, we need to look for solutions locally. We can start by increasing ShotSpotter technology in more neighborhoods across the city.

More lighting and cameras in high-crime areas should be deployed – some of which can be done in conjunction with the already planned expansion of the Smart City program.

It was good to see improvement in 9-1-1 wait times in Kansas City, but it’s still not good enough. At a minimum, we need to hit the national standard of 90 percent of calls being answered in 10 seconds or less. We need to make sure departments across cities are working together to keep the region safe. If more dispatchers would solve the problem, we need to find the money. This is a basic public service that saves lives, so we must get it right.

Kansas City has been a leader in Smart City technology, and should continue to do so. It not only makes the city more convenient and accessible to all, it makes us safer. We should expand this technology everywhere we can.

And finally, the situation at the Jackson County Detention Center is making Kansas City less safe. We need to work with the county to ensure that people who belong in jail are there, and people who commit offenses that don’t warrant being held aren’t taking up space for those who do.

It’s important for everyone in public office to remember that crime doesn’t just start out of nowhere. In many cases, challenged schools and a difficult job market in high-poverty areas at an early age are what make individuals turn to crime later in life. If we can fix that, our city will be safer for it.

The 311 program is vital to neighborhoods across our city, so the next mayor should build off the success we’ve seen. We should also add an additional 311 Mobile Van that is strictly proactive so the city can fix issues before they become a larger problem.

We have to make sure every neighborhood has convenient access to quality food options, banks and other basic services, and also can support new small businesses. This is essential not only to make all of our neighborhoods more livable, but to ensure new jobs are being spread across the city – not just in the areas of major new development.

Sidewalks, bike lanes and active transportation options can help connect neighborhoods across the city, so we need to ensure we are supporting those efforts. And as new forms of transportation come up, we have to make sure we have safe, complete streets no matter how we move across our city.

We’ll know Kansas City is at its absolute best when no one feels they have to move from one part of the city to another, or out of town altogether, to live the life they want and deserve.

Neighborhoods

Education

Money doesn’t solve everything, but we have to make sure our schools are fully funded. That means if school funding is going to be impacted by an economic incentive deal, the city should be able to explain how the deal benefits students.

While I don’t believe we should rely heavily on standardized tests and rankings to decide how we’re doing in public education, if you look at some of the major reasons KCPS couldn’t get fully accredited in 2017, it has to do as much with the city as it does with the schools. Students are missing too much class and too many families are being forced to move out during the school year, which is very disruptive to students. That’s something that needs to be addressed.

So the first step to improving our schools would be making sure we’re getting our public schools funded as much as possible and ensuring Kansas City is a livable place for everyone. No matter which of Kansas City’s 15 school districts a kid here lives in, he or she deserves a high-quality education. A good classroom starts with a good teacher and a good school starts with a good principal, so the city should do its part to help recruit talent here.

Programs like Turn the Page KC and others must be maintained and strengthened, as they’ve had a dramatic effect already on student preparedness.

The focus on STEM has been welcomed and appropriate, but we must also extend hope and opportunity to kids who demonstrate an aptitude for skilled trades. Whether a future worker aims for a STEM field or not, we should cultivate their talents with equal enthusiasm.

It’s encouraging to see growth across Kansas City. Obviously it’s been most dramatic downtown, and it’s great that so many people are living and working there now. We’re still far away from that work being complete. We have to make sure we’re smart about this development and there’s relatively even growth across housing, businesses, retail and everything else. But we also need to be attentive outside of downtown too, and get more quality food options, banks, and small businesses to areas where its lacking so people aren’t forced to leave their community just to complete daily tasks. We need to have an inclusive and equitable economic development plan to make sure no part of the city is being left behind.

In order to achieve equity, we have to be purposeful about it. We have to care that we’re including everyone in the city, and sometimes that could mean – in certain situations – prioritizing projects in areas of urgent need over projects in thriving areas. It really comes down to being committed to ensuring every community in the city is lifted up during a development boom. Overall, when it comes to economic incentives, we have to be equitable across the city and across projects. We can’t leave any part of the city behind as we grow. In my administration, we won’t leave anyone behind.

When the city makes investments, it needs to be sure it’s going to get a good return. It’s the same thing with economic incentives. If we aren’t getting something worth the cost, it clearly isn’t worth it. The city needs to ensure it is equitable and inclusive in providing support for projects that impact the most residents across the city, and also that we’re including more minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, contractors with union contracts, and locally owned businesses in the process.

As mayor, I’ll take a special interest in increasing union membership among communities of color, particularly the building trades. Union jobs come with good wages and benefits, and we need to see more of both throughout all of Kansas City.

Development

Streetcar

The streetcar is an important investment in our city, and now we should build on its success. Whether it’s making sure the current route is being utilized effectively or eventually expanding, we need to do everything we can to make it as useful as possible for Kansas Citians.

This latest vote is obviously a step toward a useful expansion, but now it’s up to the federal government to do its part because Kansas City can’t afford to expand this resource to impact more residents on its own.

This project should not just benefit people and businesses on the route. If this expansion makes current bus routes redundant, we should work with the KCATA to reallocate those routes and funding to add transportation options for residents who currently have a to walk over a mile to reach public transportation.

While new apartments popping up all over town are great, we need to make sure they are affordable. We can’t drive people out of certain areas because they can’t afford rent anymore because of development, or exclude people from other areas because of it. We need to do everything we can to encourage developers to create more affordable housing, especially when the city is handing out incentives. We should demand equity and inclusion when developers ask for help.

We also need to focus on the rights of tenants just as much as landlords. Tenants should be treated fairly in the eviction process. According to the Kansas City Eviction Project, 84% of landlords are represented by an attorney in eviction hearings, but less than 2% of tenants are represented. That creates an unfair system. The city should work with nonprofit organizations to ensure tenants have the ability to stand up for themselves when they’re treated unfairly.

I voted for Question 1, the Healthy Homes program, because the city needs to be pushed on this issue. I believe there some details in the proposal that still need to be addressed, but this is a good way to make that happen. The City Council needs to ensure that no fees related to inspection are passed on to tenants, especially in the form of an additional security deposit, because it could price people out of housing.

Housing is one of the biggest blind spots for most growing cities and I am determined to address it in Kansas City well before it’s too late.

Housing

Economic Inequality

Kansas City has seen tremendous growth over the past decade, but the city is still leaving some behind. About 18 percent of Kansas Citians live in poverty, compared to fewer than 13 percent of people in the United States. Addressing development priorities, improving public schools and reducing crime would clearly bring down the number of residents in poverty. Making investments in high poverty areas is just as essential as it is downtown. These areas also need more access to capital to grow and start businesses in these communities.

We should also build on the success of Mayor James’s Hire KC Youth program to help teenagers and young adults find employment, continue to promote the city’s Living Wage Registry to recruit more businesses to pay Kansas Citians a livable wage, and push forward on the Digital Equity Strategic Plan to ensure every resident can use the internet conveniently.

We should actively seek partners throughout the country to help us turbocharge the already thriving entrepreneurial culture of our city. And in doing so, we should utilize existing Kansas City companies to cultivate small businesses that hire at least two Kansas Citians from neighborhoods with high unemployment.

I want to see more business start and grow right here in Kansas City. We have awesome entrepreneurs with ideas and current small business owners that just need the opportunity. If we continue to make forward progress as a city, more businesses will be able to grow here. And businesses that start here are much more likely to stay for the long haul than ones that move here. So we should focus on growing what we have and helping Kansas Citians with ideas turn them into reality.

My goal is to make Kansas City the best place to live, work and raise a family in the entire country. If we can accomplish that, we won’t have to worry about losing companies or recruiting as many established ones. That’s a much better and lasting way to keep and attract businesses than relying solely on money and incentives.

Jobs

Transportation

At 319 square miles, we have a lot of ground to cover. But our city will not be truly connected until everyone can move across the city safely and conveniently. That means we have to make sure we're utilizing roads, bridges, buses, the streetcar, bikes, sidewalks, newer forms of transportation like scooters, and anything else that can make our city more navigable.

Too many people in Kansas City still face first/last mile issues, which makes it very difficult to make it to work, buy groceries and complete other daily tasks. And too many areas of the city that could be easily walkable aren't yet.

What it comes down to is right now if you don't have a car in Kansas City, life is harder than it should be. It doesn't have to be that way. As mayor I'll work to connect the city through a transportation infrastructure that includes everyone and every part of the city.

When people have to choose between paying for water or food, there’s a problem. Rates have increased more quickly than anyone would like. The EPA agreement is obviously a factor. Any time you add $5 billion in costs it’s going to have an impact across city government. The task force from 2017 had a lot of good recommendations, especially to help low-income families, but we have to reexamine all possible action items because we can’t sustain rates rising this quickly.

Water Rates

Government Transparency and Ethics

City contracts should be determined by experts that work in city government, not by politicians. That is why I believe that no members of the City Council should serve on a procurement selection committee. The City Council ultimately gets it say by voting on projects, so members shouldn’t be involved in the process twice. The City Manager is more than qualified to lead the selection process without involvement from politicians.

As a State Representative from Kansas City and as your Secretary of State, I never accepted personal gifts from lobbyists. I will continue that practice as mayor no matter how the City Council votes on the issue.

The next mayor should prioritize the Women’s Empowerment Initiative to build off the success of Mayor James. We need to ensure women are fairly represented across city government, boards and commissions, and work to help grow and promote women-owned businesses across the city.

The city should set a goal to recruit more people of color into city government. Especially when economic incentives from the city are involved, we should also ensure minority-owned businesses are fairly included in projects across the city.

Inclusive Government