Northeast residents pose pertinent questions to Kansas City mayoral candidates

Elizabeth Orosco
Northeast News

Eight Kansas City mayoral candidates lined the stage at Northeast High School Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, to address their plan of action if elected the next mayor. The panel discussed issues pertinent to the Historic Northeast, such as blight, incentivizing small businesses, trash pickup scheduling, transient camps, plans for revitalization, and the Pre-K tax.

The 2019 Mayoral Forum was hosted by the Northeast Chamber of Commerce, the Mattie Rhodes Center, Northeast News, and North-East Alliance Together (NEAT).

Candidates included 3rd district council members Quinton Lucas and Jermaine Reed, 5th District Councilwoman Alissia Canady, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner, 6th District Councilman Scott Taylor, 4th district councilwoman Jolie Justus, Steve Miller, attorney in Kansas City who previously served as chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, and Phil Glynn, who owns a small business in the Crossroads District which finances housing and development projects.

Incumbent mayor, Sly James, who has served as mayor of Kansas City since 2011, has reached his two-term limit and is not eligible for re-election.

The forum promptly began with questions from the audience after each candidate’s two-minute introductions.

The first question asked of the panel was how they plan to bring the Northeast, an incredibly diverse community, along in revitalizing the urban core.

Scott Taylor, Chair of the Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee, said the East Side Revitalization plan does, in fact, include all of the Northeast.

“We collaborate with neighborhoods all over the city to form solutions on any issue that comes in front of us, and I’ve enjoyed working with each of the neighborhoods represented here today,” he said.

Scott Wagner, who served as President of Indian Mound Neighborhood from 2008-2011, listed various projects that are taking place in the Northeast. He discussed the $30 million Paseo Gateway Project, $8 million from the General Obligation Fund to reconstruct the Kansas City Museum, several million dollars from Asian Americans for Equality, who took over the Hardesty Renaissance Complex, and the $40,000 that was used to create the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID).

“There are a lot of programs out there,” Wagner said. “But the projects that I just told you about, that is real money spent in this neighborhood because you all demanded that you see that come back to your part of the city.”

Quinton Lucas, Chair of the Housing Committee, said a number of the Public Improvement Advisory Committee (PIAC) requests have helped emphasize funding in areas of the Northeast.

“I’m proud to represent the Northeast, because it’s an exciting area, frankly, I think there is a lot of opportunity,” he said. “The Northeast, in my opinion, is really a guiding light for how we can do development, having a diverse community both socio-economically and also including our immigrant communities and others, and making sure that it is equitably invested in in our city. ”

Jolie Justus listed a few items that she said would need the help of the community to continue in developing the Northeast. She discussed the Independence MAX bus route as well as collaboration between the Economic Development Committee and the closed Armco Plant location to create jobs.

“It’s going to be a place where we can work and play, and it’s something we are all going to be very proud of,” she said. “We are going to need your input to keep that moving forward… Work with us to make sure that we are making the decisions that are best for your neighborhood.”

Steve Miller, attorney and small business owner, said one of the fundamental responsibilities of good government is doing the basics well. He mentioned trash pickup, keeping neighborhoods clean and safe, and addressing the homeless.

“The Northeast is what we want the whole city to look like in terms of diversity, and you’ve done a great job in being that welcoming community,” said Miller.

Another question posed to the panel was what ideas candidates have to address the growing transient problem in the Northeast and the trash left behind in parks and green spaces.

Wagner, who served as chairman of the Homelessness Task Force on the Mid-America Regional Council, pointed to the failed attempt to pass an ordinance that would have created a permit to hold those who offer food which creates trash accountable. He said the Parks Department should be more aggressive in cutting back the brush so people can feel safe in their neighborhoods. He added that the State of Missouri should allocate more funds and resources on mental health services and housing to help people get off the streets.

Lucas noted the City Council’s passing of the new Park Ranger program, that is set to be implemented this year. He also discussed offering more resources in connection to alternatives to incarceration, ensuring the provision of social services and mental health services that lead to homelessness.

In closing remarks, candidates were asked to list the strengths of the Northeast and what sets them apart as candidates.

Alissia Canady said the diversity of the Northeast as well as deep community roots have shown itself to be a strength.

“Opportunities,” she said “exist with the next administration of leadership and how it is going to respond to the needs of the community. There is no shortage of hard work and heavy lifting that’s been done at a local level.”

Quinton Lucas mentioned the level of community engagement and care exhibited by Historic Northeast neighborhoods.

“You have a community that is engaged,” he said. “It’s an honor to interact with this neighborhood because I know I’ll always get your opinions. I know we have people who are willing to organize and care about their neighborhood deeply, everyday.”

Scott Taylor said the increase in growth of the Northeast shows the strength of collaboration and celebrates diversity.

“These are all lessons that we can emphasize even more by taking the values of the Northeast, and quite frankly, it’s a model for the rest of the United States.”

All declared candidates will run in a nonpartisan primary on April 2, 2019. The top two candidates with the most votes will advance to the general election June 18, 2019.

To listen to the full forum, visit www.northeastnews.net.

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