Here’s why KC voters should be excited about the April 2 mayoral, council elections

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.
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Meet the candidates running for mayor of Kansas City.

On April 2, thousands of Kansas Citians will go to the polls and decide the city’s future.

Much is at stake. The city’s visible successes — a vibrant downtown, a new airport terminal, a short-route streetcar — are matched by ongoing challenges: a too-high murder rate, crumbling roads, high housing costs, a hit-and-miss transit system.

The next mayor and City Council will chart the city’s course for addressing those problems in the 2020s and beyond that. The choices are critical.

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board has been meeting with the mayoral contenders, as well as City Council candidates in contested primaries. Almost to a person, those candidates have been thoughtful, energetic, creative and concerned. They’ve offered unique perspectives on city issues, exchanging ideas with other candidates cordially but forcefully.

Reducing crime is at the top of every agenda. While support for the police department is high, candidates have argued that real crime reduction will depend on opportunity, education and communication. Local control of the police department is popular among many of the candidates. Violence won’t be fixed overnight, but every candidate promised to begin the work immediately.

The candidates have a long list of ideas for making housing more affordable in the years ahead. While details remain fuzzy in some cases, the commitment to make it easier for families to live here is clear. Affordable housing will be a top priority for the city’s new leadership.

The era of big subsidies for big projects is likely coming to an end. Would-be developers will face more intense scrutiny from the new mayor and council.

The candidates understand the credibility problem at City Hall, and they want to fix it. We heard significant support for outgoing Mayor Sly James, but also a clear desire to turn the page from his periodic go-it-alone approach. Transparency and public involvement in decision-making should be the standard for the next four years.

Beyond that, we heard an amazing array of specific plans and proposals, from support for the arts to central city development. We talked about city pensions, debt, tax policy, planning, downtown, neighborhoods, trash removal, vacant lots, home values, schools, criminal justice reform and more.

Polling suggests many Kansas Citians remain uninterested in the April 2 primary. Turnout may be low. That would be a lost opportunity to help ensure that the city has the right leadership for the next several years.

But it’s encouraging that voters who are paying attention and the people who want to represent them are deeply involved in making Kansas City a better place.

Candidates have knocked on doors, engaged in interviews, attended debates. Residents who want to know about their options have plenty of ways to find out, including our own background checks through Verify More, our editorial profiles of mayoral candidates, and interviews on Facebook Live. All are available online.

Later this week, we’ll add our official endorsements to the list. In each race, two candidates will emerge from the primary and advance to the general election. In contests with three or more candidates, The Star Editorial Board will endorse two candidates in the primary.

Our decisions have not been easy. In some races, we’d like to endorse several candidates. Alas, like voters, we have to choose.

But Kansas Citians should enter the voting booth April 2 optimistic about the future. The page is turning, and a new generation is ready to lead.