From endorsements to background checks — how The Star covers City Council, mayor’s races

With 11 candidates vying to be the next mayor of Kansas City and another 31 contenders seeking a dozen City Council seats this spring, voters will have a lot to sort through in the April primary election.

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board aims to help.

During the next eight weeks, the editorial board will interview and vet the candidates who want to lead our city, providing readers with insights into their views on policy, their backgrounds and key distinctions among them. The goal is to help voters make an informed decision on April 2.

Our endorsement and vetting process will be a transparent one — we’ll show our work and share with readers what we learn about the candidates. Editorial board members will meet with mayoral and City Council contenders before making endorsements. We’ll publish excerpts and video clips from many of our interviews. We’ll stream conversations with candidates for Kansas City mayor on Facebook Live, providing viewers a chance to assess for themselves the 11 people running for the city’s top office.

The Star also will be partnering with Verify More, a 501(c)(3), to conduct background checks on the candidates.

Just as applicants for nearly any job or volunteer position undergo a basic background check, we’re asking candidates who want to serve the public to participate in a similar screening process. The background check is voluntary, and candidates who opt in will provide basic information to Verify More to facilitate a search of civil and criminal records, verification of their resume and a check on their social media history.

Verify More works with Sterling Talent Solutions, which does pre-employment screenings. The nonprofit, which has a bipartisan board, posts the results of the background checks online and shares them with partner news organizations.

The goal is to ensure that voters have the facts they need about candidates before casting their ballots.

“An informed public and accurate media coverage play a vital role in elections, and Verify More’s background check system helps ensure that candidates are who and what they say they are,” said Ron Dotzauer, chairman of the board of Verify More and a veteran political operative. “We’re honored to help The Kansas City Star inform its readers and hold candidates accountable for their backgrounds in this election.”

The Star still will do additional vetting of and reporting on the candidates, but the background checks are one more tool that should help inform both voters and the editorial board’s endorsement process.

Members of The Star’s editorial board, which includes publisher Tony Berg, Colleen McCain Nelson, Derek Donovan, Dave Helling, Steve Kraske, Melinda Henneberger and Toriano Porter, decide our endorsements. The Star will publish candidate recommendations during the weeks leading up to the April election.

The next Kansas City mayor and City Council must be prepared to tackle a range of issues, from affordable housing to economic development, from violent crime to tax policy. Voters should carefully consider who is up to the challenge, and we’ll provide information to help answer that question.