Six candidates are running on the April 2nd ballot for the 4th District City Council seats. At-Large candidates include current At-Large Councilwoman, Katheryn Shields was elected in 2015, who is running for a second term, as well as Robert Westfall and Austin Strassle. In-District Candidates include Geoff Jolley, Eric Bunch, and Jared Campbell.
Born and raised in Kansas City, Jared graduated from Truman High School and attended William Jewell College. Upon graduation with a B.A. in Political Science, he moved to Downtown to get involved with the burgeoning revitalization efforts. Jared began his career as a staffer at respected non-profit organizations, while simultaneously jumping in as a volunteer working to improve his neighborhood. He was elected as an inaugural board member of the Downtown Neighborhood Association; now, Jared is serving his third term as president of the organization. Other civic involvement, past and present, includes serving his council district on the Neighborhood Tourism Development Fund, the Board of Trustees of City Trusts, and graduating from the first class of the city’s Community Engagement University. He is an officer for the Downtown Community Improvement District, and a graduate of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Centurions leadership program, a member of Rotary Club 13, the Citizens Association and the Centurions Alumni Association, including a stint as president. Jared lives Downtown, now with his wife, Katie, a middle school principal, and their two dogs, Lucy and June. When he’s not working or volunteering his time, Jared enjoys combining in his love of travel and photography and cheering on Kansas City’s sports teams.
On the issues:
• Crime: Reducing crime needs to be one of the top priorities of the next mayor and council. I will work to appropriate funds to help add to the wrap-around services to bring a holistic approach to reducing crime. That means more social workers in the stations, more money for mental health and more exposure to the nonprofits trying to change the mindset of using violence to solve issues.
• Education: Depending on what happens on April 2nd with the Pre-k initiative, I think the city should continue to look for ways to ensure universal Pre-k in the city. I would also work as a council member to make sure every school is surrounded by well-maintained streets and sidewalks so children would have safe routes to and from school.
•Affordable housing: This is another top priority for the city. My ideas on this issue are to create mandates so all new multi-family has a percentage of affordable units, work to aggressively fund a housing trust fund, partner with the private and nonprofit community to create affordable houses in in-fill lots and maintain a robust home repair program so the current housing stock is well maintained.
•Economic development: As a downtown resident, I have seen the positive impact economic development has had on my neighborhood. As a council member, I would work to make sure such development ripples out to all parts of the city. Besides better scrutinizing the use of incentives, I would also strive to be a champion for small-business growth and development to help bring more jobs to the city.
Find Jared here: www.campbell4kc.com
Bunch received a Bachelor of Arts from William Jewell College in 2004, was an intern at BikeDenver in 2008, and became Director of Education for BikeShareKC in 2012. He is currently BikeWalkKC’s Policy Director and Co-Founder. His interest in pedestrian and bicycle advocacy dates back to his days as a cross country and track athlete in high school and college. Now, most of his time is dedicated to increasing public awareness on the topic of active transportation and the built environment. Eric serves as the chair of the Kansas City, Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. One of his current projects is SidewalksKC, an initiative to improve sidewalk policy through active engagement of a diverse stakeholder group.
On the issues:
• Education: I will ensure the city is a great partner with the 15 school districts that serve KCMO students. This starts with prioritizing public improvements that make our school zones safe and inviting. Schools should be neighborhood anchors and I believe the city should work harder to ensure that is true. I also believe that every parent should have the ability to provide their kids with quality early education. As a city council member I will work for universal Pre-K in our most vulnerable communities.
• Affordable Housing: A thriving, healthy community must have housing that is not only affordable but is close to great schools, parks, jobs, and public transportation. I will champion policies that ensure that housing is affordable and accessible for all. Kansas City is booming and I believe we can adapt to meet the growing demand for housing while continuing to honor and preserve our unique historic character. To stabilize rising rents I will work to encourage development of new homes of all types, especially affordable housing.
• Crime: Violent crime will not be significantly reduced unless we begin treating its root causes. We must build on the success of the Northeast — reducing homicides to zero is no coincidence. I will also work to ensure that innovative evidence-based programs like Aim4Peace are adequately funded and expanded. Also I will explore ways to replicate programs like One Summer Chicago Plus that puts at-risk youth to work revitalizing neighborhoods and showed a statistically significant impact on crime among the participants.
• Economic Development: We have two fundamentally different cities within the 4th district – one that is witnessing unprecedented growth and redevelopment while the other city continues to struggle with blight and disinvestment. We must protect residents from displacement in our rapidly redeveloping neighborhoods through sound housing policy but also make sure we reinvest in our more distressed neighborhoods. We must also continue to improve quality of life, particularly through expansion of public transportation and delivery of basic infrastructure, across the whole city to ensure that neighborhoods are livable and accessible.
Find Eric here: https://ericwbunch.com/
Born and raised in Kansas City, he currently serves as a Kansas City firefighter. Jolley received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Economics from Emory University and Law Degree from University of Missouri – Columbia School of Law. As an attorney, Geoff also served alongside Congressman Emanuel Cleaver for 13 years as Acting Chief of Staff and District Director. Currently, he is President of Jolley Strategies, LLC.
• Crime: As a Kansas City firefighter and Northeast resident, I have seen first-hand the aftermath of violent crime in our community and am committed to creating safer neighborhoods. We must continue to engage our law enforcement, stakeholders, and fellow neighborhood residents to identify strategies for addressing this issue, such as providing KCPD with additional tools, resources, and technology to fight crime, increasing community policing, and reducing potential locations for criminal activity, such as vacant buildings in the neighborhood. However, we must also acknowledge that addressing the issue of crime will take a holistic approach by the entire community, including helping people get out of poverty, by providing quality education and job opportunities with livable wages, affordable housing, and hope for a better tomorrow.
On the issues:
• Education: As a husband of a Kansas City Public School teacher and the father of two young daughters in the Kansas City Public School system, I understand the importance of quality education for our future generations. We must work in a collaborative manner with our partners at Kansas City Public Schools and other area schools, to ensure ALL children have the opportunity for affordable, quality education. I am committed to identifying tools and resources at the City to help support the efforts of our educators, by creating a safer, cleaner, healthier environment in the community around our schools, thereby allowing for better opportunities for learning inside our schools.
• Affordable Housing – As a resident of the Historic Northeast, many of my neighbors include multiple generations of family members living together in the same residence – some by choice, but many out of necessity due to the increased costs of housing and transportation on their family budgets. As a City, we must ensure that as we grow and thrive, that we don’t leave anyone behind; therefore, we can not continue to subsidize luxury housing for some, while others are struggling to make ends meet. During most of the nearly 14 years I worked for Congressman Emanuel Cleaver as his District Director and General Counsel, the Congressman served on the Housing Subcommittee and we learned that communities across our nation face this same issue, which is why I look forward to engaging stakeholders from Kansas City and elsewhere to identify best practices for addressing this growing issue.
• Economic Development: Fostering and encouraging economic development must be a priority for our community, including creating quality jobs that pay a livable wage, supporting innovation, workforce development, and promoting small businesses. The Historic Northeast has great potential for additional economic development, including capitalizing on a new federal program around Opportunity Zones. As our City has a $1.7 Billion annual budget, a $4.5 Billion obligation for the Overflow Control Plan (leading to higher water bills), a $1.5 Billion new KCI airport project, $800 Million GO Bonds for infrastructure improvements, and many more projects underway, we must be strategic, sensible, and sustainable with our investments and utilize data and performance metrics to ensure our fellow taxpayers are getting the greatest returns on their investments.
Find Geoff here: https://www.jolleyforkc.com/
Shields is the 4th District Councilwoman, elected in 2015. Mayor James appointed Shields to serve as Vice Chair of the Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee, Vice Chair of the Youth Development Committee and a member of the Legislative Committee. Born in Kansas City, Shields received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and a Master’s in 1971 and Law Degree in 1978. After serving as an assistant Jackson County prosecutor in 1978 and 1979 she went into private practice. She served on City Council from 1987 until 1994, when she was elected County Executive. While on the Council, she championed the 1% for Art Program and an ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
On the issues:
• Crime: It is important to remember that the City does not control the Kansas City Police Department, which is controlled by a Police Board appointed by the Governor of Missouri. The City can urge the Police Department to follow more efficient policies, but cannot compel such efficiencies The City can address some of the most significant contributors to increased crime – mental health, youth unemployment and lack of organized activities, abandoned houses – and I support such programs.
• Education: The City does not control any of the fourteen School Districts within our boundaries. Each School District is governed by an elected School Board. We can – and do – support the efforts of every one of these Districts. I support a strong pre-school program in each District, but I do not support the proposed 3/8th cent sales tax. NONE of the 14 School Districts were consulted on the structure of the proposed plan and all of them oppose it because it drains off tax dollars without significantly increasing the number of children to be enrolled in quality pre-schools.
• Affordable Housing: I am a strong advocate for affordable housing. Four two years, I was the Executive Director of the Westside Housing Organization, a non-profit that specialized in low-income housing in Kansas City’s Northeast and Westside. On the Council, I have worked to tie creation of affordable housing to the Downtown luxury housing developments. At a time when the federal government has all but abandoned its responsibilities, I have procured – for the first time ever – a specific City funding source devoted to affordable housing. I have worked with Legal Aid to see more housing repaired and reused – because it is better for a neighborhood to be built up than torn down.
• Economic Development: We need to encourage economic development and recognize that it is not a zero-sum game. Often it is a complex process that cannot be governed by simple, one-size-fits-all rules – when it comes to Tax Increment Financing or any other aspect of the City’s “tool box” needed to build our economy and create jobs. I have opposed some development projects I felt were unfair – but I have also used the flexibility afforded by the existing rules to force developers to respond more responsibly and get better deals for the City. Any attempt to end that flexibility would do far more harm than good.
Find Katheryn here: http://shieldsforkc.com/
Robert Westfall, a proud native of Kansas City, was born and raised in the Northland, and currently lives downtown. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri and has spent much of his professional career working in the Learning and Development field, designing programs to improve the skills and training of workers and job seekers. As a business owner, he has long been an advocate of entrepreneurship and small business creation, working with organizations such as the Kauffman Foundation on various initiatives. He has been involved in numerous efforts to combat homelessness and addiction, improve education, and reduce crime. When not working long hours, he spends quiet time with his partner Vanessa, an accomplished singer and musician, and her children.
On the issues:
• Economic Development: Not opposed to using incentives to generate development and redevelopment, but will not waver on belief that economic development tools, such as TIF, need to be used in the ways they were originally intended. Every proposal must be scrutinized and evaluated by objective people, and judged against a truly fair criteria to ensure that growth is occurring in the places most in need
• Affordable Housing: Says when it comes to the topic of affordable housing, we are playing catch-up because of the decisions of the City Council in the past and we are creating a scene out of medieval times, with the rich enclaves being staffed by the serfs, or in our case the bartenders, baristas, hotel workers, and so on that can’t afford to live where they work. Says t’s time we seek out and approve proposals for projects that will serve the needs of those doing all the serving. Surely, we can agree that we’re still trying to fix decades of segregation from the mistakes of the past, so why would we knowingly create a whole new segregation for the future?
• Crime: Says that while this this is tragic, we need to understand homicide is not the primary indicator of a city’s overall crime situation. Many homicides are committed by people that know their victims and as such they are not random acts. They may occur due to mental health issues, or situations that escalated, or a failure to resolve differences in a non-violent way. We need to bring real life opportunity to all of our citizens. We need to have those social and mental health services at the ready. We need to do a better job of teaching our youth that there are better ways to resolve conflict than with violence. And we need to reset the relationship between law enforcement and citizens.
• Education: Believes we need to work harder developing those public-private partnerships around job skills training that can help those who do not seek higher education to acquire marketable skills in trades, or healthcare, or technology. We have employers in the metro who lament a lack of workers for these jobs and as such we can spur immediate economic boost on both the employer and employee side with such partnerships. Says an extension of education is the movement into entrepreneurship, a topic that is not getting nearly the attention it deserves in this election. We need to make small business creation a primary focus over the next decade, because locally-owned businesses strengthen a community as much as home ownership does.
Find Robert here: https://robertwestfall.com/
Austin Strassle was born and raised in Kansas City, the first of three children. A native to the Kansas City area, Strassle attended UMKC from 2012-2016. He graduated with a B.A. in Urban Studies and Affairs. In 2016, Strassle spent his last year in school as a research and policy intern at the Kauffman Center. Today, he serves as a mental health caseworker at Truman Medical Center. He sees everyday the struggle that many across the metro face.
On the issues:
• Education: Believes every student should have access to high quality learning opportunities that prepare them for future success in college, trade school, or family-sustaining jobs. To achieve this, we must strengthen the relationship between City Hall and city schools to bring increased investments and greater success for students and learners of all ages. Supports expanding early childhood education for all 3-4 year olds who do not currently have access. Supports career and technical training programs, sponsored by city agencies and community partners, that support a student’s ability to learn and work in dynamic environments. We must develop alternative models and programs that lead to a Missouri High School Diploma and permanent and sustainable employment.
• Crime: Says we must be innovative in our approach and intentional about how we address addiction, violence, the role of law enforcement, and how we integrate the formerly incarcerated back into our communities. Is committed to reducing inequity and focusing on solutions to make Kansas City a safer place to live. Supports expanding the use of Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) officers who can better mediate and de-escalate situations that could result in violence, particularly with individuals experiencing mental health crises. Says we must build the capacity of community responders to divert those addicted to alcohol or drugs to treatment and rehabilitation services instead of jail, and we must use restorative justice as a primary means of addressing offenses committed by youth and create pathways to end all forms of juvenile detention in Kansas City.
• Economic Development: Believes we must eliminate barriers that prevent residents from finding and maintaining family- sustaining jobs. Will work with community partners to expand entrepreneurial opportunities, making it easier to start a business and create new jobs by streamlining regulations, licensing, and permitting processes that limit growth potential. Supports creating transitional work opportunities for youth and adults living in poverty, who were formerly incarcerated or homeless, to build 21st century skills and establish work history that ultimately leads to permanent job placement.
• Affordable Housing: Says with strategic investments and a comprehensive housing strategy, we can address the urgent and structural housing challenges many neighborhoods in our city face. An advocate to reform the Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) and other incentive programs, making them accountable to City Schools, Libraries, and other impacted taxing jurisdictions, while mandating strong investments in permanent, affordable housing near transit centers and jobs. Believes a housing trust fund would allow the City to work with developers, community partners, and neighborhoods to build and maintain quality affordable housing across the metro.
Find Austin here: https://www.austinstrassle.com/