Issues

Neighborhoods:

Infrastructure Maintenance:

In many respects, infrastructure maintenance helps stabilize our neighborhoods. This includes capital maintenance, deferred maintenance, and street preservation / resurfacing, curbs, sidewalks, streetscapes and related basic infrastructure maintenance. Unfortunately, the City has not budgeted enough in recent years for this and as a member of the new Council, I will fight to increase funding for this priority.

Basic Services:

Code enforcement and addressing dangerous buildings and vacant homes is also a priority. As a former assistant prosecuting attorney, I coordinated the Drug Abatement Response Team which was in charge of working with law enforcement and city code inspectors to shut down drug houses. I have witnessed first hand the destructive impact homes with code violations and vacant homes do to a community. I am very familiar with Housing Court.
The City needs to improve its delivery of basic city services. Basic service includes those city services that only the City can provide. They are City empowered services. City services touch every aspect of our life; examples include, but are not limited to: police, fire, ambulance, water and sewer systems, parks and recreation, trash disposal including recycling, public health systems, neighborhood and community services, municipal court, codes, streets, snow removal, and animal control.

I am concerned about the delivery of these services. The public’s satisfaction of the delivery of many services is low.

Crime:

As a former assistant prosecutor in Jackson County, I have been on the front line fighting crime. I served as a coordinator of the Drug Abatement Response Team (DART), participating in numerous drug raids, closing drug houses, prosecuting criminals and making our neighborhoods safe. It is imperative that our law enforcement and first responders are equipped to deal with the protection of our citizens. At the same time, public safety goes beyond the police and first responders. The City can empower neighborhoods and help the public be a part of crime prevention. I am a strong advocate for community policing.

With the well publicized increase in crime rates the City has taken on some initiatives to address it. For example, there were suggestions provided by the Commission on Violent Crime and the City Council needs to ensure that funding is available so the police have the tools necessary to make those changes.

Education:

To stem the long-term trend of higher crime rates, Kansas City must begin the long overdue process of addressing the systemic causes of crime: education, employment opportunity, and neighborhood restoration. Every credible crime study points to education, or the lack of it, as a primary cause of crime in a community. Kansas City is no exception, and we must work with our school districts to improve the overall educational outcome without interfering with the governance of the school systems.

Debt Policy and Tax Incentives Policies:

The new Charter mandates that the City Council develops formal debt and tax incentive policies. The City has hired consultants to create comprehensive policies for debt management and economic incentives. The consultants should make recommendations which indicate how much the City should have in reserve and the Council should continually update these polices as needed. The policy should specifically formulate how the debt will be repaid and those payments should not be made in lieu of funding current neighborhood services / maintenance that the citizens have been promised.

The City’s policy on economic incentives should include a detailed discussion of not only does the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) project fit the “but for test” laid out by law, but also if it is strategically important to the City. When determining whether or not a project is strategic, consideration should be given to whether or not the project will add jobs, tax base, whether or not the project redevelops an area that is a priority, if the project fills in a “missing piece” in an area like housing and whether or not the incentive is really needed overall. Moreover analysis of the project must include the “useful life” of the project. The City needs to be cautious in their use of bonds and backing TIF bonds by diverting general revenue.

Equity for the public school district must also be a consideration. The Council plays a role in ensuring the proper balance between maintaining the tax base for the school district and helping the project.

Indigent Care:

The City plays a role in indigent care of its citizens. In order to have a healthy, safe and clean community the City must provide services. As a state representative I have seen the balance of providing indigent care shift dramatically to local governments. As the state has made severe cuts to Medicaid the City has had to ensure the safety net is there.

The citizens want this care. The voters approved health levies in 1989 and 2005.

It is important that there are coordinated services for indigent care and the homeless. The Margaret Kemp Center Project can fill this need for coordination. It will require partnerships for funding and coordination with the Paseo West Industrial District.

Responsiveness of City Hall:.

The City’s 311 new system has improved responsiveness along with the “We’re On It” campaign. The public wants access to City Hall and 311 will help them feel better connected with less bureaucracy to go through as well as alleviates calls to the 911 emergency dispatch. The City should continually monitor the system’s performance and evaluate its effectiveness.

A key component in being an elected official is making yourself available to your constituents. I feel very strongly that the public has a right to have access to their elected leaders and it is the responsibility of the elected leaders to be accessible. As state representative, it was my job to make people feel connected to state government and informed. I walked door to door in my district even in non election years to give the voters the opportunity to speak with me at their door step. I attended neighborhood meetings along with my husband. I have also put my home number on every piece of campaign and legislative mail. I personally answer every email. I will serve in the same manner when elected to the City Council. I will continue to attend meetings, and list my home number and do everything possible to let voters have accessibility to me and my office.

Zoning / Subdivision Ordinances:

It is critical that the zoning ordinances be rewritten. The current Council is considering new zoning ordinances. While the current Council may approve these changes, it will be the responsibility of the new Council to monitor and make changes as needed. It is important to update the City’s zoning to stay competitive and attract new business. It is crucial that the new ordinances be integrated into the City’s many Area Plans.

One example of a necessary change is for the ordinance to better include mixed use categories. Mixed use, such as Zona Rosa and Brookside, have been successful. The 6th District is looking at mixed use in the effort to transform Bannister Mall. The Three Trails CID has done several studies and designs for the area and they are based on utilizing mixed uses for the property, the combination of office space, retail and housing is key.

Public Transit:

Continuing to address our City’s long range public mass transit plan will help connect our community and will also help the success of attracting economic development opportunities throughout the City. The City has wisely implemented the MAX system. Additionally, the success of Smart Moves in Missouri is important to the vitality of our City. As a state representative, I voted for the Smart Moves Plan that was developed by the Mid America Regional Council (MARC) and the Area Transportation Authority (ATA). The State of Kansas has yet to approve the Smart Moves Plan.

The voters have made it clear they want light rail and the Council can not dismiss that the voters want light rail. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges facing the next Council is sorting this out and developing a mass transit plan that will work for Kansas City residents. State and federal participation must be a component of this analysis and implementation.

Flood and Waste Water Control:

The next Council must address the combined sewer situation. It is possible that the City could be under a consent decree soon. This will be a huge undertaking and expense which will require decisive leadership, and federal support.

There is not enough funding at the City to address this monumental cost. The Council must look at and be aggressive in securing other resources including federal and state assistance.

Equity between different parts of the City is an issue as some portions of the City have more combined sewers than others. There needs to be a discussion in striking the correct balance between the areas of the City.

Related of course, is the continued need to address drainage issues. In looking at this issue as a whole, both combined sewers and storm drains should be addressed. Kansas City One is taking a strategic approach to solving storm drain problems. Regional detention basins should also be examined.

Deferred Maintenance:

As I mentioned above, the City is getting further behind in funding deferred maintenance. The City must increase funding for capital maintenance needs and I support the goal of $60 million per year as recommended by the Community Infrastructure Report issued by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

I was pleased to see the Mayor and City Manager announce an increase in funding for deferred maintenance in the coming year’s budget ($54 million vs. $19 million in the current budget). However, this is an annual appropriation and it is up to the next Mayor and Council to continue this level of funding every year. I am committed to the $60 million goal.

Downtown:

I am excited about the progress of downtown and want to build on this momentum. There are “missing pieces” that still need to be worked on to continue its success. The City needs to address these missing components. I believe the City can continue the progress of downtown and meet its obligation to provide needed services to neighborhoods and infrastructure. I am not of the mindset that one comes at the expense of the other. Being successful as a City means taking care of the residents by meeting their needs and helping to grow and bring in development to attract new residents and tourists.

It is imperative that the development and growth of downtown expand to areas outside of the “traditional downtown” area. Other areas in our City including the urban core, have yet to benefit from our investment downtown. The Council needs to look at ways to capitalize on the revitalization of downtown to other areas like the urban core and the Northland. There needs to be a “ripple effect” of the success of downtown to the surrounding areas in the City.

Housing also needs to be a priority to continue the success of downtown. There are more opportunities that need to be developed.

The development of the Riverfront; Berkley Park is truly special for Kansas City and helps make us competitive as a destination. I have personally attended many of the public meetings to create our Riverfront and I am pleased there is a current plan for continued development of the park.
Strengthening our ability to attract and hold conventions is a must. A specific example is the need to increase available hotel space downtown to attract and host conventions.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF):

Development incentives may be considered when they are needed to further the City’s strategic plan and the developer complies with the City ordinances / regulations and state law which govern whether or not a project qualifies for incentives (one example is blight). It is imperative that if incentives are used they strategically to help meet the City’s needs and goals. Each project should be evaluated as to whether or not it is a strategic project in an area that we need to partner with.

The City’s process should include a detailed discussion of not only does the TIF fit the “but for test” laid out by law, but again that it is strategically important to the City. In determining whether or not a project is strategic, consideration should be given to whether or not the project will add jobs, tax base, whether or not the project redevelops an area that is a priority, if the project fills in a “missing piece” in an area like housing and whether or not the incentive is really needed overall. Moreover analysis of the project must include the “useful life” of the project.

Scrutiny should be given to where the money is being spent. For example, the Council must consider if the money is it going to the developer or to the project and if the greater neighborhood or area is benefiting.

The City has many new agencies or “promotional arms” of City hall to help with development and evaluate use of incentives such as the EDC. I think it is imperative that these agencies and City Hall are on the “same page” in their goals for the City and what is a strategic use of incentives. The Council should set priorities and give these agencies direction.

When considering use of incentives, equity for the public school district must be a consideration. The Council plays a role in ensuring the proper balance between maintaining the tax base for the school district and helping the project.