Guest Commentary

KC needs a mayor with a volunteer’s heart and businessperson’s acumen

Kansas City mayoral candidate Henry Klein poses with students on a visit to Symington Elementary School in February.
Kansas City mayoral candidate Henry Klein poses with students on a visit to Symington Elementary School in February. Facebook/Henry Klein for mayor

To be certain, everyone working on my campaign for Kansas City mayor is helping me run both as an underdog and a change agent. We have the only platform among any of the candidates that outlines the problems and offers real solutions. And that’s what underdogs and change agents do: We stand for real progress.

I’ve lived here for over 30 years now, and two things have remained constant: We aren’t keeping our residents safe (and that includes all parts of the city), and we are letting down generation after generation of public schoolchildren. As someone who has worked for three Fortune 500 companies in my career, I can tell you we need a new decision-making structure at City Hall.

So how do we address these items?

▪  On safety: We make our priorities the police department’s priorities. And that begins with dramatically reducing response times.

▪  On education: We elevate how we work with and solve problems in the 15 school districts that are entirely or partially in Kansas City to determine the areas where we can and must help.

▪  On streamlining decision making at City Hall: We apply a business decision-making structure that isn’t there now.

And what are the specifics?

▪  We bring the Kansas City Police Department under local control. We are the only city in the United States that doesn’t have local control of its police force. So either this is a really great idea or it’s a really bad one, particularly in the 21st century. It’s not surprising that response times, both to answer calls and to get to crime scenes, are nowhere near where they should be.

▪  We create a citywide Office of Education and, as we do in the business world, we give it measurable goals. (Currently all we have is one person who advises the mayor.) One of the first projects I would like to see us pursue is something similar to LeBron James’ “I Promise” school in Akron, Ohio. It’s a holistic approach to helping at-risk children as well as helping their parents, and it’s absolutely fantastic.

▪  We move to a strong-mayor form of government where the mayor is the CEO, the city manager (an unelected position) is the COO reporting directly to the mayor, and the City Council is the board of directors.

If there were more space for this column, I would offer ideas on how we reduce — not increase — the cost of living in Kansas City, and outline environmental initiatives that would more than pay for themselves, along with a host of other objectives.

I’ve chosen to address issues first and give you background on myself second (as it should be). I currently work for Bank of America at 63rd and Prospect Avenue, and this incredible experience has given me so much more insight into our city. I’ve been board president for Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City, served on the advisory council of Operation Breakthrough and as board vice president for the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City. I’ve also been a CASA children’s advocate. I continue to help feed the homeless and work with people with special needs.

It’s up to you, the voter, to decide if you want a political insider (there’s lots to choose from in this race) or someone who has the heart of a volunteer with the acumen of a businessperson.

Wouldn’t it be something if the candidate with real conviction and a plan who raised very little — and I do mean very little — money won out over the politicians raising all those special-interest dollars? It would mean a victory for our children and our safety. And it would send a message here in Kansas City and across our country that we can elect a mayor based on something other than who panders the most.

I’m asking for you to help me fight for lost causes, because the impossible happens every day.

Henry Klein is a branch manager for Bank of America. This is one of a series of columns by candidates for Kansas City mayor.