The new Kansas City Council will feature more women, blacks, youths and controversy than the current model now operating at City Hall.
Diversity is good: The new council will feature five women and five black members, up from four of each right now.
It’s also positive to see the arrival of younger members such as Quinton Lucas, Jolie Justus, Alissia Canady and Kevin McManus.
The upshot: Exciting and probably productive times are ahead after a puny 11.3 percent of registered voters made their choices on Tuesday.
Sure, local government could go off the rails if Mayor Sly James has too much trouble corralling a loyal group of followers. Or if voters get riled up by the city’s “solutions” for an upgraded airport or expanded streetcar. Or if some members with lots of potential don’t pan out.
But for now, let’s be mostly optimistic.
▪ James could be an even better mayor in his second term.
He’s still going to be at times the outspoken, in-your-face politician. With just four years left before term limits force him out, James can cement his legacy as a dynamic game-changer for Kansas City’s future. He can accomplish his priorities, one by one, year by year, if he can get the support of a council majority and, in some case, voters.
In particular, expect James to pay more attention to improving the economic vitality of the East Side. It’s a large challenge, but James has the opportunity in this term to create lasting success in some largely minority neighborhoods.
▪ Give it up for veteran politico Katheryn Shields, who beat incumbent Jim Glover by only 110 votes to win the 4th District, at-large seat.
Shields completed a great political comeback along the way; this is the same politician who got about 1 percent of the mayoral primary vote in 2007. Now, which Shields will show up at City Hall? I’m rooting for the savvy candidate from the campaign trail with strategies to provide better city services.
▪ The biggest improvement in quality of representation on the council will come in the 3rd District, at-large, where the smart and youthful Lucas replaces long-ignored Melba Curls.
Lucas has been embraced as a person who’s going to bring more dynamic leadership to better meet the needs of Kansas City’s East Side. But a reminder: Talk is cheap, and people eventually will want to see more vacant housing torn down, more new housing built and a lot more retail stores serving the minority community. Lucas has time to build his own reputation as an effective elected official.
▪ The biggest drop-off in quality of representation will be in the 1st District, where neophyte Heather Hall replaces good-government incumbent Dick Davis.
Police officers who congregate in the Northland were Hall’s biggest supporters, but she also deserves credit for her constant grassroots campaigning. Missouri state Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican, tweeted Tuesday night: “Nice to see a conservative voice back on the Council.” However, Hall will be marginalized if she continues to offer only platitudes about how the city must be more effective in how it spends tax revenues.
▪ One of the best outcomes on Election Night was Canady’s narrow victory for the 5th District seat.
Canady defeated Ken Bacchus, a former council member and handpicked candidate of Freedom Inc., the black political club. It’s a tribute to Canady, a Jackson County assistant prosecutor, that she won by providing a message of hope for struggling neighborhoods.
Starting Aug. 1, Canady, James and other council members must start delivering on their pledges to create a more vibrant and economically successful city.
You can be sure that even the 88.7 percent of registered voters who didn’t go to the polls Tuesday want that to happen.