Why is KC Mayor Quinton Lucas filling independent boards with City Hall insiders?

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has started making appointments to city boards and commissions, including those with oversight responsibilities for subsidies awarded to private developers.

He made a great choice when he selected Alissia Canaday to chair the Tax Increment Financing Commission. The Star Editorial Board endorsed Canady in the mayoral primary in part because she is skeptical about public subsidies and abatements in parts of the city where they aren’t needed.

At the same time, Lucas made other TIF Commission choices that are head-scratchers. Three of his six appointments went to sitting City Council members Lee Barnes, Andrea Bough and Ryana Parks-Shaw.

All are fine members of the City Council. But loading up an independent city commission with so many current council members is problematic, for several reasons.

Commissions and boards are set up outside of City Hall for a reason. There is value in independent thought and analysis from appointees who can devote full attention to the matters at hand.

Kansas Citians should want engaged citizens who consider evidence and testimony, then make informed recommendations to elected leaders. Appointing sitting council members to those jobs severely limits the opportunity to solicit outside advice and bring more voices to the table.

It will also make for awkward debates at City Hall. Why should citizens try to convince the City Council to vote a certain way on a project when some council members’ minds are already made up?

Finally, filling outside boards with council allies will create two classes of council members: those on the inside, with extra votes, and those without. As a political matter, that will cause problems for the mayor.

Three council incumbents have also been named to the conventions and visitors bureau board. That’s a concern.

The mayor of course is entitled to nominate commissioners who share his political views. The decisions they make are important, and Lucas can’t spend his time in office waging battle with his own appointees.

Surely, though, Lucas can find supporters to fill the seats without leaning on City Council members who already have plenty to do. If the mayor lacks those outside names, that’s indicative of a problem on City Hall’s 29th floor.

Lucas may have other nominations to announce in the weeks ahead, including the Municipal Arts Commission and Port KC. He should seek true outside voices for the seats and leave sitting council members alone.

Related stories from Kansas City Star