Government & Politics

KC Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas pledges cooperation with Kansas during visit to Congress

Kansas City Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas made a point of meeting with lawmakers from both sides of the state line during a short visit to Capitol Hill ahead of his inauguration.

Lucas, who will be sworn in as mayor Thursday, said the meetings were intended to ensure regional cooperation once he takes office.

It’s the latest sign that leaders in the Kansas City region are eager to end the economic border war tactics that have pitted Missouri and Kansas communities against each other in the past.

“That’s something I’ve been working on frankly since I won the election. Talked to the secretary of commerce in Kansas the other day. I know staff’s been in touch with (Kansas) Gov. (Laura) Kelly’s office,” Lucas said Tuesday.

“We think for the future of the region it’s really going to be much better for all of us to work together to see we’re really needing to build one cohesive unit to build jobs, development for the future of Kansas City.”

Lucas met with Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran — along with the two GOP senators from Missouri, Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt — during his visit to Capitol Hill this week. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, was unable to meet with Lucas because of a scheduling conflict.

Lucas also had a meeting at the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss the 2010 consent decree that requires the city to make extensive upgrades to its sewer system, which the city is seeking to renegotiate in the face of rapidly rising water costs.

Moran said his impression based on his visit is that Lucas is serious about fostering cooperation between the two sides of the Kansas City metro.

“I know what happens in Kansas City, whatever side of the state line it’s on, is of huge consequence,” Moran said.

“I married a Missourian so I don’t have those normal biases of some Kansans,” he jokingly added.

Lucas said he spoke with the senators about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plans to relocate roughly 550 research jobs from Washington to the Kansas City area. The federal government hasn’t yet determined which side of state line to locate the new office.

“They’re all saying we’re working together as a region,” Lucas said of his discussions with the senators. “Instead of border war battles everybody’s trying to look for a win because we know 600 jobs in Kansas City, Missouri, or 600 jobs in Johnson County it’s a net benefit.”

In another sign of Lucas’ desire to promote regional cooperation, his inauguration will feature a speech from Rep. Sharice Davids, the Kansas Democrat who represents the Kansas counties that border the city.

Davids attended Cornell Law School with Lucas and considers him a personal mentor.

During his time in Washington, Lucas also stopped by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s Washington office to meet with the Missouri Democrat’s staff while Cleaver and other House members are on a legislative break this week.

Cleaver told The Star last week that he met with Lucas at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church following his victory over Jolie Justus in the mayoral race.

Cleaver, the first African American mayor of Kansas, said he’s given every incoming mayor the same advice since he left the office in 1999: “Go the extra mile to have strong relationships with the council.”

Lucas, who spent four years on the city council, plans to follow that advice closely.

“I have great respect for our current mayor, Sly James, but I think I’ll spend a little bit more time down on the 22nd floor with my council colleagues just like you’re seeing me spend time with our Missouri delegation, Kansas delegation,” Lucas aid. “I think cooperation is a key step to everything we’re trying to accomplish.”

The Star’s Allison Kite contributed to this report.
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Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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