Government & Politics

Another Kansas City council member throws her hat in the ring for mayor's office

Alissia Canady represents Kansas City’s Fifth District on the City Council.
Alissia Canady represents Kansas City’s Fifth District on the City Council.

In an announcement punctuated by calls for improved mental health services, affordable housing and uniting a city beset by geographical boundaries, Alissia Canady announced on Tuesday she will run for mayor of Kansas City in 2019.

Canady joins a growing field of mayoral aspirants; before her announcement, seven candidates had formed campaign committees for Kansas City mayor with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Canady becomes the fifth current Kansas City council member to announce their intention to run for the city's highest office.

Canady represents Kansas City's 5th District, which covers much of southeast Kansas City and is one of the two council district that comprises what's often referred to as the East Side. The East Side is predominantly black; development has been slow to occur there and poverty has persisted for generations.

"We are going to continue to build, to develop Kansas City, we are going to continue to build the momentum," Canady said. "We're also going to intentionally make sure we create bridges of opportunity, making sure that resources are accessible, that we're not rolling out the red carpet for developers and pulling out the red tape for small businesses. We have to make sure we're doing fair development."

Canady was joined by religious leaders and family members as she made the announcement at Ilus Davis Park, between City Hall and the Charles Evans Whittaker Courthouse. She chose to make the announcement at the park named after Kansas City's mayor from 1963 to 1971, during the height of the Civil Rights Era and during Martin Luther King's assassination and the ensuing riots in Kansas City.

"Mayor Davis used his position as mayor and an attorney to uplift Kansas City," Canady said.

When asked what prompted her decision to run for mayor, she pointed to City Hall's decision to fund a $17.5 million parking garage for the Three Light luxury apartment development at the Power & Light District. The project is also due to receive a property tax abatement.

Canady said property tax abatements redirect tax revenues away from services like the Jackson County Mental Health Fund, public schools and other taxing jurisdictions that provide services in the area.

Canady was part of a minority of Kansas City council members who protested the abatements for Cordish, the Maryland-based developer of the Power & Light District. A majority of council members said the deal to fund Three Light's parking garage was baked into a development agreement struck in 2004 and that the city should honor its agreements.

"This last deal with the Cordish agreement, we were told it was a deal we made a long time ago, we have to honor it," Canady said. "I am an attorney, I understand contracts can be renegotiated, that the deal had been amended 14 times. Each time, particularly this last time, we did not negotiate as aggressively as we should to protect the other interests of Kansas City."

Kansas City prodigiously awards tax incentives and tax abatements to private developments. For the fiscal year ending April 30, 2017, Kansas City redirected more than $83.2 million in various taxes, including sales and property tax, to tax incentive programs like tax increment financing and other programs.

More than $51 million in property taxes across all taxing jurisdictions, including school and library districts, were abated that same year through tax abatement programs for development projects.

Canady is an attorney in private practice. She was formerly an assistant prosecutor in Jackson County. She was elected to office in 2015. A Kansas City native, Canady graduated from the University of South Dakota School of Law in 2010.

She joins fellow council members Scott Taylor, Scott Wagner, Jolie Justus and Jermaine Reed as candidates to take over for Sly James, who is termed-out.

Others running for mayor include attorney Stephen Miller, businessman Phil Glynn and Rita Berry.

The election is in 2019; a primary will whittle the field down to two candidates, followed by a general election.