Editorials

The Star endorses Eric Bunch for 4th District seat on the Kansas City Council

The Star’s Editorial Board with BikeWalkKC co-founder Eric Bunch

Star Editorial Board members Dave Helling and Derek Donovan talked with Eric Bunch, director of policy at and co-founder of BikeWalkKC, on Wed., Nov. 28, 2018 about their new electric-assist bicycle share program.
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Star Editorial Board members Dave Helling and Derek Donovan talked with Eric Bunch, director of policy at and co-founder of BikeWalkKC, on Wed., Nov. 28, 2018 about their new electric-assist bicycle share program.

Voters in Kansas City’s 4th City Council District have two good choices for their next in-district councilman. On balance, Eric Bunch is better qualified, and he deserves voters’ support in the June 18 election.

Bunch is a co-founder of what is now called BikeWalkKC, which focuses on sidewalks, bike paths, street crossings and pedestrian safety. One of the City Council’s priorities in the next four years will be figuring out how to smoothly integrate scooters and bicycles with cars and buses to make streets and sidewalks safe and convenient.

Bunch will be enormously helpful on that issue.

At the same time, a commitment to eventually spend $400 million on a network of bike trails and lanes, as contemplated in the Bike KC Master Plan, isn’t in the city’s best interest, at least not yet. In our meeting with the candidates, Bunch defended the plan, but said it would cost less than the estimated $400 million to implement.

“We’ve got many, many miles of streets that need to be re-paved,” he said. “That is the opportunity to install bike lanes. Not every street’s going to get a bike lane, but you can cut down the cost.”

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.

Bunch’s advocacy for alternative transportation has been impressive. At the same time, Kansas Citians will want to make sure his transit goals are reasonable and achievable if he’s elected to the City Council.

But Bunch is not a one-issue candidate, and he has thoughtful ideas on affordable housing and community health. His experience in other cities will bring a different perspective to City Hall, which needs it.

The other 4th District candidate, Geoff Jolley, is well known in Kansas City. He has served as a firefighter and an aide to U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and says that experience would serve him well on the council.

But the next mayor and council will have to grapple with several problems involving the fire service, including excessive overtime, pension costs and stubborn discrimination in some fire houses. It’s not clear that Jolley would bring needed independence to difficult discussions involving the Kansas City Fire Department.

Both candidates showed a solid understanding of the issues, but Bunch revealed a stronger command of the details. Bunch’s fresh approach and new ideas would be a welcome addition to the City Council.

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

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