Most voters understand I will shake things up from the top down if I am elected as Kansas City’s mayor. But when the dust settles, I promise a more trustworthy government with safer streets, more sound infrastructure, better schools, lower taxes and a brighter future secured. The road to that future calls for cooperation, bold visionary action and a mayor with backbone to spare.
Despite bright spots, our city remains plagued and stigmatized by excessive violence, unaccredited schools, broken infrastructure, deferred maintenance and sky-high taxes. The accumulation of those problems manifests into our primary problem: The city lost net population during much of the 20th century, and the remaining residents do not generate a sufficient tax base to take care of the city’s 319 square miles of infrastructure. We must make Kansas City more attractive to the outside world to get those people back.
A leader must define the problem (as I just did) and forge a vision to fix it:
▪ Reduce excessive violence. In 2017, Kansas City came in fifth in murders per capita in the U.S. Our residents have no chance of ever feeling safe, and our city has no chance of ever growing if we don’t stop the gun violence.
I propose immediately hiring 100-plus community police officers, which I would fund by closing down the Economic Development Corporation and Tax Increment Financing Commission. I would assign these new officers to crime-prone areas. To get illegally owned guns off our streets, I would also instruct the police department to begin initiating random checkpoints across the city. When stopped, if your credentials are not in order, your car would be searched for drugs and illegal guns and they would both be confiscated. Thousands of illegal guns that are now being used to harm, terrorize and murder Kansas Citians would be taken out of circulation.
I would instruct the schools to identify troubled youth early and place them in after-school programs where they would be given nutritious meals, counseling, exercise and homework help. Schools should develop a two-year trade and tech program in the 11th and 12th grade for students who are not interested in college but need marketable skills to make a decent and respectable living upon graduation. I would call upon all parents to teach their children values and respect for their neighbors and community.
▪ Improve our schools. I would call for the elimination of the stigmatized, costly and inefficient Kansas City Public Schools district, and instead create a new education system comprised of charter and private schools. Each family would be provided vouchers to send their children to the school of their choice. This would enable the city to offer a new and better school system while reducing taxes.
▪ Improve infrastructure. I would eliminate all tax incentives to developers and use our precious tax dollars on things that benefit average Kansas Citians: libraries, schools and infrastructure. I would initiate a new, quick, quiet and clean transit system, powered by electricity, to replace the city’s failed diesel bus system. It would tie the city together, improve quality of life and be a powerful catalyst to drive economic development and new population growth across the entire city.
▪ Reduce taxes. I would phase out the regressive earnings tax that stymies economic growth and hurts the working poor.
If we did all these things, Kansas City would not only become a better place to live, but would also have the selling points to attract back to our beautiful city the thousands of residents we have lost and desperately need.
The result of this mayoral election will determine whether I have inspired the people with this vision. But win or lose, no one can doubt I have stood up for this community’s well-being and against its secret, dishonest and fraudulent government, and I’ve done it with backbone to spare.
Clay Chastain is a retired engineer. He lives in Bedford, Virginia. This is one of a series of columns by candidates for Kansas City mayor.