Charles A. Hazley, one of the most important politicians in Kansas City for three decades, has died. He was 71.
Hazley served on the Kansas City Council for two decades, from 1971 to 1991. He rose to the chairmanship of the powerful Plans and Zoning Committee, where he oversaw scores of city development projects and urban renewal efforts.
But he was also known for his fierce advocacy for inner-city residents. He was heavily involved with the black political club Freedom Inc. for most of its history.
“He championed the cause of the poor people of Kansas City like no one else ever has,” said former city councilman Mark Bryant, who served with Hazley. “And he was a warrior in the City Council chambers each and every week.”
Other political veterans called Hazley one of the most significant council members in Kansas City history. He served in the 3rd District, which includes the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
“He was the most effective in-district councilman to serve on the council during my lifetime and maybe in the history of the city,” said Clinton Adams, a lawyer and 3rd District resident. “He was our leader who can’t be replaced.”
Hazley’s service did involve controversy. In 1988, he pleaded guilty to one count of failing to file a federal tax return. He served less than a month in federal prison for the crime.
Hazley apologized for the misstep but resisted calls for his resignation. He resumed his council service after his release.
He left office in 1991 after Kansas Citians amended their charter to limit council members to two consecutive four-year terms, making him ineligible for re-election that year.
But Hazley, who often tangled with reporters, continued to work behind the scenes on political issues, including attempts to revive Freedom Inc. as the predominant inner-city political organization.