Editorials

The Star endorses Melissa Robinson for 3rd District seat on the Kansas City Council

The challenges facing the 3rd District neighborhoods that Melissa Robinson and Joseph “Joey Cuts” Thomas seek to represent on the Kansas City Council are numerous and daunting.

Reducing violent crime is at top of the list, followed by expanding affordable housing and spurring economic development. Aging infrastructure also will require immediate attention.

In this race to succeed Jermaine Reed on the City Council, voters should elect a strong leader who can work effectively to strengthen distressed neighborhoods after decades of disinvestment. The Star Editorial Board endorses Robinson, whose relevant experience and collaborative style would allow her to make an immediate impact at City Hall and drive progress in the 3rd District.

Voters will go to the polls on June 18.

Robinson is the former chair of the Kansas City Public School Board of Directors and president of the Black Health Care Coalition, a nonprofit organization focused on health equity in underserved communities.

She represented the 3rd District on the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC). There, her coalition-building skills were instrumental in securing $23 million in federal funding for redevelopment along the Brush Creek corridor.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

Who decides the endorsements?

Members of The Kansas City Star editorial board interview political candidates, as well as advocates and opponents of ballot measures. The editorial board is comprised of experienced opinion journalists and is separate from The Star’s newsroom. Members of The Star editorial board are: Star publisher Tony Berg, Colleen McCain Nelson, Derek Donovan, Dave Helling, Melinda Henneberger, Toriano Porter and Michael Ryan. Read more by clicking the arrow in the upper right.

What does the endorsement process entail?

The Star editorial board meets with political candidates. The interviews are largely focused on public policy, and each lasts about an hour. Board members do additional reporting and research to learn as much as possible about the candidates. The editorial board then convenes to discuss the candidates in each race. Board members seek to reach a consensus on the endorsements, but not every decision is unanimous.

Is the editorial board partisan?

No. In making endorsements, members of the editorial board consider which candidates are well prepared to represent their constituents — not whether they agree with us or belong to a particular political party. We evaluate candidates’ relevant experience, their readiness for office, their depth of knowledge of key issues and their understanding of public policy. We’re seeking candidates who are thoughtful and who offer more than just party-line talking points. The editorial board will endorse both Republicans and Democrats. We make recommendations about who the best-qualified candidates for these jobs are.

Why are endorsements unsigned?

Endorsements reflect the collective views of The Star’s editorial board — not just the opinion of one writer. Board members all discuss and contribute ideas to each endorsement editorial.

During Robinson’s four-year term on the school board, Kansas City Public Schools saw impressive growth and made notable academic gains. In February, the district celebrated its highest scores in the state Annual Progress Report.

Robinson, though, has not been on the right side of every issue. As board chair, she voted to enter into contract negotiations with Superintendent Mark Bedell before the board’s state-mandated dissolution from nine members to seven — a troubling maneuver aimed at taking decision-making power away from the incoming school board.

She eventually voted no on the contract extension that was approved in April. Robinson rejected Bedell’s extension because of a pricey buyout package.

“Looking back, the timing was extremely compressed,” she said. “We needed more time to best represent the district’s interests.”

Thomas is a long-time resident and small business owner on Kansas City’s East Side, who has a keen understanding of the community’s needs. A licensed barber, he owns 18OV Barber Salon in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, and started the Know Joey? Foundation in 2007 to raise money to provide food for the homeless during Thanksgiving.

Thomas brought new ideas and a genuine desire to serve to this race. While he has a bright future, Robinson is better prepared to take on this challenging role now.

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

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