Editorials

Star endorses Katheryn Shields and Austin Strassle for KC Council 4th District at-large

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Kansas City’s 4th District stretches from multimillion-dollar homes along Ward Parkway south of the Country Club Plaza to the Northland’s distinctly less tony Crestview neighborhood and the historic Northeast. Its City Council members may serve the most diverse constituency in the city.

Voters are fortunate to have top-tier choices for the district’s at-large seat in Tuesday’s primaries. We give our nod to incumbent Katheryn Shields and political newcomer Austin Strassle.

There are few Kansas Citians better known than Shields, who also served in this office from 1987 to 1994. That experience, combined with her three terms as Jackson County executive, makes her one of the most qualified and informed candidates in any race this year.

Shields talks with authority about the the city’s big-picture needs. She realizes the violent crime epidemic is systemic and won’t be solved with a single stroke — though wresting local control of the police department from Jefferson City is vital, she said.

Her long government tenure has also given her mastery of the minutiae of making a city work: why chasing potholes with asphalt overlay is a payday-loan patch over what should be a blue-chip investment in rebuilding our streets, for example. And while her service hasn’t been without controversy, she has gained the public’s vote of confidence repeatedly.

Strassle, a Hickman Mills school district and UMKC graduate, would bring an outsider’s enthusiasm and a deep commitment to social justice to the council. The Truman Medical Center mental health caseworker sees firsthand every day how poverty, crime and a lack of education are intertwined, and how they eat away at an entire city’s well-being.

Noting the “outsize influence that corporations ... have in dictating policy in City Hall,” he says he would focus on neighborhood infrastructure needs such as sidewalks and easy access to transportation.

Fellow candidate Robert Westfall, whose sincere empathy for the district’s needs is informed by his own experience of going from straight-A achiever to city bus passenger for a decade after losing his driver’s license to Jack Daniels, would be a shoo-in if this field were not so stellar. We hope to see more of him in the future.

In this race, though, The Star Editorial Board endorses Shields and Strassle.

The Star is partnering with the nonprofit Verify More on candidate background checks, and you can see the results of that screening process here.

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