Get ready for some big changes on the Kansas City Council. As term limits force out some members, voters will choose at least seven new people to guide policy and budget decisions.
Winners of the April 7 primaries will have 11 weeks to continue their campaigns until the June 23 final election.
That should benefit voters, who will gain more insight into the character of the candidates and what they would do if they win. Crucial matters facing the next council include choosing the best ways to upgrade Kansas City International Airport, attract new residents to the core, repair the city’s dilapidated infrastructure and, possibly, expand the streetcar system.
The Star today makes recommendations for the at-large seats and will offer recommendations on Monday for the in-district seats. The Star last Sunday strongly endorsed Mayor Sly James for re-election.
Each at-large council member must live within a separate district but is elected citywide.
1st District: Incumbent Scott Wagner is the obvious choice in this race. He has worked tenaciously on behalf of neighborhoods and tackled the tough issue of how to best provide assistance to Kansas City’s homeless population. His thoughtful approach to a wide range of issues is one of the current council’s top strengths. His opponent is Jeffrey Roberts.
2nd District: Both candidates — Teresa Loar and Jay Hodges — will make it through the primary. Voters need to hear a lot more about why each wants to be on the council. Loar served two terms from 1995 to 2003 and was not a true leader on many issues of importance at the time. Loar said she offers “institutional knowledge” of city government, some of it gained during her handling of a high-profile KCI renovation in the early 2000s. Hodges is the less-experienced, bull-in-a-china-shop candidate who pledges to get quickly up to speed on city affairs given his service in the office of Mayor James. The general election campaign will give both candidates opportunities to provide better-focused answers on how they would approach top city issues. Their strengths, and weaknesses, will become much more apparent.
3rd District: Newcomer Quinton Lucas has emerged as one of the best of a crop of young candidates running for office in 2015. Lucas promises to methodically look at how the city budget is used, especially when it comes to providing services to people who live in his district. It suffers greatly from too much vacant housing, a continued outflow of residents and high crime rates. His pragmatic approach should mesh well with others on the council. His opponents are Dee Evans, Karmello Coleman, Forestine Beasley, Carol Gatlin and Stephan Gordon.
4th District: Incumbent Jim Glover is extremely hard working, very opinionated and often battles for taxpayers, even if it creates enemies at City Hall. Examples include efforts to rein in excessive public incentives and to battle bloated Fire Department costs. Given his longtime dedication to urban-core neighborhoods and to economic development in general, Glover’s savvy could help the next council make a lot of progress in the next term. We want to highlight that newcomer Jared Campbell deserves attention for offering voters fresh ideas on transit issues and how to help attract younger people to the city. The other candidates are Katheryn Shields and Bryan Stalder.
5th District: Both Lee Barnes Jr. and Dennis Anthony will survive the primary. However, Barnes has experience as a school board member and as an appointee to several city economic development panels, which help make him the best choice in the general election as well. Barnes also offers good knowledge of neighborhood-improvement programs, which could boost beleaguered parts of the 5th District. Theresa Garza Ruiz’s name is on the ballot, but a judge disqualified her as a candidate because of residency questions, and any votes for her will not be counted.
6th District: Incumbent Scott Taylor is unopposed.
Monday in The Star: Choices for in-district council races.