The Buzz

Buzz notes: two mayoral hopefuls in tense exchange over who benefits from KCI project

Who will replace Sly James as mayor of Kansas City? Meet the candidates vying for the city’s top job.

Meet the candidates running for mayor of Kansas City.
Up Next
Meet the candidates running for mayor of Kansas City.

With dozens of forums planned for the mayoral campaign, it would be impossible for anyone to go to all of them. To help you sort through who’s saying what and to whom, check out The Star’s series of cut-to-the chase summaries. Here are highlights of the most recent mayoral debate.

The event: Sponsored by the Kansas City and Jackson County chapters of the The Links, Inc., an African American volunteer service organization, at the Bruce R Watkins Cultural Center Thursday night.

Attendees: Kansas City Council members Alissia Canady, Jolie Justus, Quinton Lucas, Jermaine Reed and Scott Taylor; Crossroads businessman Phil Glynn; bank branch manger Henry Klein; Vincent “The General” Lee and construction attorney Steve Miller.

Top of the group’s agenda: Economic development reform, housing, education and questions from the audience.

Huge applause line: Thursday’s audience was relatively quiet. But several candidates broke through with impassioned remarks on development incentives and crime.

Canady drew a response when she said the current City Council has not done enough on affordable housing because it has given away huge tax incentives for downtown development.

“We cannot continue to build this city on the backs of the poor,” Canady said.

She added: “We’re trying to find money. We’re going to have to create a new revenue source to fund it, but we’ve already given away the general fund dollars that could have funded it.”

A question about gun violence appeared to light a fire in Lucas. He said he was troubled at forums where fellow candidates talked about broken people, homes and neighborhoods on the city’s east side.

“We’re not broken,” Lucas said.

He said his mom and two sisters worked hard, though they moved frequently when he was a kid. The city, he said, needs to support education and activities for children to give them hope.

“That’s how I think we address these issues long term,” Lucas said, “not by telling everybody that the community’s going to hell in a hand basket because we’re not.”

Heated exchange: Thursday’s event was among the first that allowed for candidate rebuttals, raising the temperature of the previously amicable forums.

A tense standoff emerged late, after the moderator asked Justus about boosting City Hall’s goals for employment of minority and women contractors. They are currently 10 percent minority workers and 2 percent women.

Justus touted the goals the city set for airport developer Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate to ensure at least 20 percent of the companies it contracts with are owned by minorities and 15 percent are owned by women.

“We need to make sure that we have equity and fairness in all of our workforce and so the good news is that the airport project itself has 35 percent goals, which is fantastic,” Justus said. “And it’s really important to note that this council actually stood up and worked together to make sure that we had those robust goals.”

But Justus was touting the wrong measure. The moderators had asked about workforce goals, which dictate the number of individual workers on a job. Those goals are 20 percent for minorities and 2.75 percent for women.

Both the employment and business ownership goals are higher for the airport project than other construction.

But Canady, who has stepped up her criticism of the KCI plan in recent weeks, argued the deal didn’t live up to its promises, though she incorrectly described the goals as 10 percent for minorities and 2 percent for women.

“We talk about making sure we’re intentional about the economic opportunities for black and brown, for women and minorities — it did not come across as strong as we intended, and we did not deliver on the commitment we made to the voters,” Canady said.

Miller took the opportunity to capitalize on Canady’s criticism.

“It’s concerning to me that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of those two very important issues,” Miller said. “They’re very different.”

Candidate gaffe: Her 2006 book may be called It Takes a Village, but Hillary Clinton did not coin the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Reed attributed the saying — believed to be an African proverb — to the former first lady, secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, much to the dismay of the audience at Thursday’s forum.

“I’m glad y’all are paying attention,” Reed joked as he recovered from the audience’s guffaws.

Reed made the incorrect attribution in response to a question about Mayor Sly James’ proposal to expand pre-K for four year olds through a 3/8-cent sales tax increase. He said if the proposal doesn’t pass, Kansas City needs to roll up its sleeves and find another solution.

“I know first-hand what it means, of course, to have a good education as my mom tried to instill in my brothers and I,” Reed said.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

Allison Kite reports on City Hall and local politics for The Star. She joined the paper in February 2018 and covered Midterm election races on both sides of the state line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in economics and public policy from the University of Kansas.