When people ask why I am running for mayor, I think back to the opportunities I’ve had. I grew up here in Kansas City with a single mom who worked hard, catching the bus from the East Side to her job downtown.
When I turned 13, I asked her if I could go along with her and just walk around during the day. I remember marveling at a downtown that had office buildings — but it also had a haunted house, a wig store and acres of parking lots right in the heart of the city.
Much has improved in Kansas City since. Our population is rising. Our downtown and Crossroads areas have seen a resurgence unimaginable to 13-year-old me.
Too much, however, has not changed.
Many of the neighborhoods I knew growing up on the East Side look the same as they did a generation ago. Our crime rate remains disappointingly high. And infrastructure issues — from failing roads to illegal dumping sites — continue to challenge all corners of the city.
I’m running for mayor to ensure that our story of progress is felt not just downtown, but in all communities; that quality of life concerns in south Kansas City are addressed just as quickly as they are downtown; and that existing infrastructure needs in the Northland or in ZIP codes to the east get the much-needed attention they deserve.
I understand the impact high crime rates have on a community. I grew up in that community. That’s why I have worked not only to fund 911 operators to keep people from waiting on hold when calling in an emergency, but also to provide for more social workers and mental health services to support our police.
I understand the impact a vacant lot or poor trash pickup has on a community. I grew up on those streets. That’s why I have been proud to lead efforts to ensure tax dollars are spent to fix crumbling roads and infrastructure — before our next winter pothole crisis hits.
And I understand the impact of a tremendous education. That’s why I have stood with teachers and administrators to make sure our schools have adequate funding by creating fairness and equity in our business tax breaks and tax increment financing policies.
I am proud to be endorsed by our teachers, police and firefighters unions. They all know Kansas City is at its best when we are focused on quality of life: safety, education, and fixing our roads and infrastructure.
As mayor, I would keep making sure we take care of our citizens’ core needs: prioritizing a diverse, well-trained police force and making sure first responders have the resources they need; building sidewalks in neighborhoods that have gone too long without them; and preserving our housing stock and stabilizing neighborhoods, not demolishing and gentrifying communities.
Our city has improved mightily, but we can be at our best only when we’re bridging divides such as Troost Avenue, the Missouri River and State Line Road to address the issues affecting us all.
I care about the core issues affecting our city because I’ve lived them. I have known homelessness, having to rely daily on the bus, and what seeing abandoned properties and insufficient sanitation does to the residents of a city.
I’m running for mayor because if we are able to address our core quality of life issues such as crime, infrastructure and housing, we will have a city where every child has a chance to succeed — like I did.
I am glad that kids walking around downtown today have a better outlook than they did 25 years ago. Now we just need to make that improvement in every Kansas City neighborhood.
Quinton Lucas teaches at the University of Kansas School of Law in Lawrence. He represents the 3rd District at-large on the Kansas City Council.