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KCMO City Council 2nd District At-Large candidates: French, Manley weigh in on key issues

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Posted at 4:17 PM, Jun 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-15 17:19:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, faces many notable challenges and the next city council will have to weigh in on some critical issues that will shape the city’s next generation.

From affordable housing and violent crime, to the Royals' plan to leave Kauffman Stadium and the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the next four years promise to be transformative in KCMO’s history.

Both candidates for the City Council 2nd District At-Large seat, Lindsay French and Jenay Manley, responded to KSHB 41’s questionnaire before the April 4 primary.

With the field narrowed to two candidates for the June 20 general election next week, revisit the candidates' responses. Answers have been lightly edited for AP style and grammar.

Incumbent councilwoman Teresa Loar is term-limited and cannot seek reelection.


Q: The city has put a lot of emphasis on this in recent years. Does more need to be done and, if so, what policies would you advocate for on the council?

French: We certainly need to focus more on housing security. With that, I think we should recognize that what it takes to add affordable housing north of the river may not be successful in other areas of our city.

We need a comprehensive approach that accounts for and reflects the diverse neighborhoods all across our city. Overall, we cannot make it untenable to build more affordable and workforce housing. We should also ensure our land-use policies provide the housing supply necessary to keep pace with demand for more affordable housing.

A housing market that provides more choice and variety helps all residents. We should work with small local developers that want to invest in our city by rehabilitating homes, buildings, and blighted areas. We also need a long-term strategic master plan that would drive housing projects in a sustainable, equitable manner.

Manley: Housing is a human right; everyone deserves access to safe, accessible, truly and permanently affordable housing. My long-term priority for Kansas City is creating and implementing Municipal Social Housing, housing that is accessible to all, off the private market, and democratically controlled.

Beautiful working models of municipal social housing exist in places like Uruguay and Vienna. I am committed to bringing this vision to Kansas City. More immediately, my priorities to protect the people’s right to housing would be to:

  1. Secure an ongoing revenue source for the existing Housing Trust Fund;
  2. Fight for implementing the People’s Housing Trust Fund, a vision for housing built by poor and working-class tenants in Kansas City;
  3. Oppose any proposal that gives public money to private developers;
  4. Advocate for a tax for any developer seeking to build in Kansas City to make a profit from our housing needs;
  5. Implement a strict ban on source-of-income discrimination;
  6. Create engagement opportunities and resources for creating and sustaining housing cooperatives and Community Land Trusts that are publicly funded and democratically run.

Q: What role, if any, do think affordable housing plays in other issues facing the city?

French: Housing is a basic and essential need that every person and every family has. It’s difficult to concentrate on work, school, making a doctor’s appointment for preventative care or anything else if you’re not sure where you will lay your head at night. Housing impacts workforce needs, crime rates, and even the academic achievement of our children.

Manley: Our access to safe, stable, and permanently affordable housing affects every single issue in our lives.

Q: How do you feel about tax incentives, the city’s historic use of abatements to spur development and how they should be used moving forward?

French: I am a strong proponent of purposeful and equitable planning and development with upfront community and stakeholder input. We need to look at what is good for the city as a whole.

Abatements can be appropriate and very beneficial in certain areas of the city and not in others. For example, incentives do not impact the Northland school districts the way they impact KCPS. I think incentives should be used in strategic ways and not as a hand out. Tax abatements should benefit the economic drive and advancement of the city, be reflective of what the community wants, and not burden or take away from our communities.

Moving forward we need to consider abatements that positively benefit the community and improve conditions for blighted areas, businesses, infrastructure, land-use development, and public access while attracting new growth and providing working jobs. That’s why as a councilwoman, I want to lead a strategic planning effort with community and stakeholder engagement up front in order to develop a vision for our city that is equitable, pragmatic, and results-driven.

Manley: The only way to use TIFs responsibly is to center the voices of those most impacted. In addition, the city should be transparent and consistent in the public-engagement process. In my commitment to prioritizing people over profit, I would ensure that every tax incentive the city gives must be assessed and scrutinized by a thorough public-engagement process.

The public must be allowed to ask questions, and those questions must be answered before moving forward. If there is dissent because of the harm it would do to people, the developer should be responsible for addressing the harm and working with the community to identify solutions.

I will only champion projects receiving TIFS when there is a commitment to the following:

  • Guarantee that all incentivized projects will remain truly and permanently affordable to the community. The projects should all commit to determining housing affordability through renter income in Kansas City, MO, alone;
  • Ensure that all proposals for tax incentives always undergo a third-party analysis when brought to a committee. This will ensure no party has an unfair advantage when seeking an incentive;
  • Provide the public plenty of opportunity to engage with the decision-making process and provide factual, transparent information on the public resources that would be missing out on future revenue due to the incentive. This would ensure that the public understands that for whatever amount of years the tax break would be active, our public resources — such as schools, transportation, public works, housing, and more — would be missing out on potential funding;
  • Seek the approval of those most impacted when making the final decision on the proposal. As stated above, public goods are negatively affected when we give tax incentives to corporations, developers, and other private companies that do not reinvest in our communities. If and when the people most impacted by the incentive are clear on the cost and approve of the incentive, only then should the city move forward.

I am committed to building and implementing policies that create oversight over this process overall. Our city can and must ensure that we are not giving tax incentives to projects that will not benefit the people living here, as well as projects that take away from our already underfunded public resources, like schools and libraries.

Q: Should KCPD remain under control of the Board of Police Commissioners? Or should the city resume local control? Please explain your position.

French: I’m in favor of local control because I believe in accountability and transparency. The current system is not set up in a manner that delivers either. Our violent crime rate is a major issue I hear about when I’m on the campaign trail, so I think we must think differently about our system.

Manley: I support local control of the KCPD and, based on the November 2022 election, so do the people of Kansas City. Local control can only be won through the power of the people. The best option to achieve this is through a ballot initiative. As a member of the Council, I would practice co-governance to ensure we find solutions that address the root cause of harm in our city.

Q: How would you hope to engage new Chief of Police Stacey Graves and what sort of reform or resources do you believe KCPD needs to better serve and protect the city?

French: I would offer an open line of communication to Chief Graves. We have to work together to focus on data-driven crime prevention strategies and wrap around services within our communities that generate measurable outcomes. Both are needed and that work cannot be done in siloes.

The lives of people depend on public-safety professionals and their ability to respond to situations quickly, effectively, and safely and have the proper staff and equipment to do so. I would collaborate with Chief Graves to increase the recruitment of diverse officers so that we can fill our police department with individuals from different areas of our community.

I know that the police department has struggled to fill vacancies and addressing that need is a good place to start. We must also engage the community and build positive relationships and trust with law enforcement. Chief Graves is already showing up in communities and working on solutions and I look forward to working with her in that effort.

Manley: I see our communities thriving when our needs are met. We should be using our public resources to address the needs of our neighbors. We should also be looking to the community to find ways to create solutions that work for them. There is not a “one size fits all solution.” I would support fully funding and implementing programs that the community leads for transformative justice, mental health services, and support for harm survivors.

Q: How do you believe KCPD is perceived by residents? And what can be done to improve and/or strengthen the department’s relationship with the community?

French: I think it’s important for KCPD to listen to the residents themselves rather than having me pontificate about how our residents feel about the police department. I respect that Chief Graves has already talked a lot about her strong desire to see more public engagement between the police department and the community. I would encourage her to take the feedback to heart and engage in meaningful process improvement and culture change and a result of it.

Manley: Kansas City residents voted in favor of local control of KCPD. Our community cannot be expected to improve their relationship with a department that is expected to police them yet is not accountable to them but rather to the Board of Police Commissioners.

The first step is to gain local control so that our city has the ability, has the power to make decisions about how our money is being spent. Until we gain local control of our police department, the city should have a process to track and investigate complaints about policing since we do not have access to the complaints given to (the police board). Additionally, we can and should implement a complaints program through the city’s Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity (CREO) Department. If a resident has an issue with KCPD, we should direct them to CREO for complaints and investigations.


Q: Kansas City has seen record numbers of homicides in recent years. What can the city council do to stem the tide of violence?

French: We have to focus on data-driven crime prevention strategies and wrap-around services that generate measurable outcomes. Both are needed and that work cannot be done in siloes. Cities who invest in wrap-around services tend to see better long-term violence reduction outcomes than those that don’t. I’d like to see a substantial amount of the $30 million that the council allocated to fighting crime go to wrap-around services.

Manley: We should prioritize proactive solutions instead of reactive punishments. We should be using public dollars to invest in public services — mental health services, childcare, education, and housing.

All these resources and more would help our communities become safe and keep families whole. I would push for this funding to go into our community and the necessary resources.

Q: What other factors do you think drive the increased violent crime and how can the city council address those?

French: The fact that the Missouri Legislature prohibits cities from doing anything related to regulating gun use within our city limits is a disservice to those who are interested in seriously tackling our crime problem. The vast majority of violent crime involves the use of a gun, so the fact that the City Council is unable to enact common-sense gun legislation presents a serious impediment to change. Considering this, I’d like to see a statewide effort to roll back preemption provisions.

We can also address root causes of crime by providing access to affordable and safe housing, transportation, and affordable childcare, and investing in neighborhood beautification,

creation of jobs and workforce development through city-funded projects, and supporting economic opportunity and small, locally owned businesses.

Manley: The root cause of crime is poverty. Our city must take direct and immediate action to address the causes of poverty so that our people are not forced to make impossible decisions to survive.


Q: While there are numerous major projects proposed or in the works (e.g. new KCI terminal, I-670 cap/park, KC Streetcar expansion, Current stadium, Buck O’Neil Bridge), how would you improve the city’s infrastructure to improve the daily lives of residents?

French: Across our communities, the basic infrastructure needs to improve the daily lives of our residents are sidewalks and connectivity. There are areas of our city that lack sidewalks, have major gaps, or have sidewalks that are failing and are in need of significant repair. Connectivity and safety is key, especially in our neighborhoods, and safe routes to schools. This should be a top priority.

The city has been assessing sidewalks across our city with the GO KC Sidewalk Program and receives roughly $7.5 million from GO bonds each year. This assessment evaluates the condition of our current sidewalk network including neighborhoods that have gaps or areas where sidewalks are failing or do not exist. We need to continue engaging with our communities to identify and prioritize the repair and/or addition of sidewalks.

There is more need than the GO bonds can fund. Sidewalk projects may be funded up to 50% with GO bonds with a 50% match from other funds such as PIAC funds. The implementation of Complete Streets also improves pedestrian and multimodal connectivity within our city. Funding for these projects can work simultaneously with sidewalks.

Manley: We should prioritize meeting the needs of people in our communities over any recreational development. We are fortunate to have a thriving city with a wide variety of people from all walks of life. This means that the needs of people will vary in every community. I am committed to building deep relationships with people in this community to identify their needs and co-governing with them to find solutions that help them thrive.

Q: How do you envision the city’s mass transit evolving before the World Cup in 2026? How important is it to ensure that changes/improvements benefit the city beyond 2026?

French: Reliable transportation service and operations is essential for our city and connecting our people to jobs, residence, and amenities. There must be more access to public transportation in the Northland and Southland as well as connectivity in the core of the city and its surrounding neighborhoods.

A well thought out, holistic master plan approach is needed, not only for the World Cup, but for the future of our city. We must also work together regionally. The jobs and destinations that our residents and others within the KC metro area are looking for are not only within Kansas City proper but outside of it as well. Pushing our other regional communities to invest long term in connected mass transit allows Kansas City to spend its dollars better and more effectively.

Manley: We should build public transportation that prioritizes the needs of the people who depend on it in their daily lives and not build it around a one-time recreational event. Public transportation should be guaranteed, consistent, and safe for everyone who needs it to get to work, childcare, family, groceries, and community spaces. The city should ensure that our public transportation is reliable, on time, and running during all hours that people need.

Q: Do you support building a new baseball stadium downtown? Where should it go and how should it be paid for, if so?

French: I am supportive of the idea of a downtown stadium. I’m interested in continued conversations about how the stadium would be paid for, what partnerships would be involved, how it would benefit our communities and working families, where it will be built, and what type of development would be generated around it. We also need to know more about the long-term city benefits that we’d see as a result of it.

Manley: No, I do not support a downtown stadium and will never back public money going to private developments.


Q: What other issues are important to you? And what would your top handful of legislative priorities be if elected?

French: My time on the campaign trail, listening to the many diverse voices of Kansas City, has shown me our city cares about safe and healthy communities, housing security, equitable development, and basic services.

As an active listener, problem solver, and common-sense coalition builder, I will use my ability to work collectively to focus on data-driven crime prevention strategies and wrap-around services that generate measurable outcomes. I will work on a comprehensive housing approach that reflects the diverse neighborhoods of our city without making it untenable to develop affordable and workforce housing.

We will be more likely to deliver equitable development with more focused, long-range planning, upfront public and stakeholder input, and increased connectivity so that Kansas Citians can get to their jobs. Additionally, I will use my experience in strategic planning to increase efficiency for how our basic city services, like trash pickup and snow removal, are delivered.

Other issues that are important to me include:

  • Working collectively towards One KC: Kansas City is stronger when we work together. We must focus on ways to build up the city based on what is best for each community with a City Council that moves collectively for the whole of the city. Many of the challenges and opportunities we face have very real solutions but they require a willingness to listen to all voices, work together, and focus on finding common ground to pass good public policy that improves the lives of the people and workers in our communities;
  • Climate Action and Resiliency: Proactive strategies that will draw down greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen climate resilience, improve public health and quality of life benefits, and promote green infrastructure and stormwater management across the Kansas City region;
  • Economic Opportunity: Support for small businesses, innovation, entrepreneurship, and MBE/WBE/DBE.

Manley: I am running for City Council because I believe the city can and should practice co-governance with the people of Kansas City. Co-governance prioritizes making decisions with the people of Kansas City instead of making decisions for them and always centering the needs of the people most impacted.

This means that the people engage directly in the processes we have historically been left out of. It is going to take all of us. Young people, older people, single parents, and people from all walks of life who are just trying to survive. All of us need to come together to thrive.

My other priority is housing the people of Kansas City. Housing justice is tied to dependable, guaranteed public transit, education, green energy, economic justice, and more. When we build solutions in one area of our lives, we need to look at the entire system that currently exists and ask ourselves how we can build solutions that do not ask us to compromise our health and safety in other parts.

Q: What qualifications/experience do you possess that you believe will help you be an effective and successful KCMO council member?

French: I’m a lifelong Kansas Citian, a wife and mother of two strong girls, and the daughter of hard-working middle class parents who modeled my passion for being involved, giving back, and serving our community. Growing up in the southern Clay County portion of KC and now living in the southern Platte County portion of KC, make me an ideal and relatable candidate for the new 2nd District.

My 15 years experience working downtown for a firm focused on community engagement, city planning, landscape architecture, urban design and environmental planning gives me great perspective as an at-large candidate.

I understand the priorities of the diverse voices across our city and I am running for this seat because I believe Kansas City is stronger when we work together. As an active listener, problem solver, and common-sense coalition builder, I have a proven ability to work collectively to achieve goals and develop good public policy. With a background in public, stakeholder, and civic engagement, I have worked with various groups to build consensus among those groups with competing agendas while also fostering community buy in. I have developed strong relationships with communities, leaders, and organizations throughout the city as well as relationships with several area Missouri state legislators, county legislators, and other city governments surrounding our city and throughout our region. I want to bring this experience to City Hall and begin contributing to our community on day one. I’m the only candidate in the race with the experience to be immediately effective at City Hall.

I also believe to prepare for the office of councilperson and to truly listen you need to be active within your communities. I am an active member of the Northland Regional Chamber and recently served as chair of the Planning and Development Committee as well as a member of the Parks and Legislative committees. I serve as the chair of the Marketing and Promotions Committee with Platte County EDC, am on the North Kansas City School District (NKCSD) Pathways Advisory Council, and am highly involved in the Park Hill School District while also serving as treasurer of Hopewell PTA. I serve on the Engagement and Placement committees for the Parade of Hearts. I am active in organizations such as the Greater KC Chamber, South KC Chamber, the Historic Northeast Chamber, the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Northland Neighborhoods Inc., KC Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA), KCMO Downtown Council and Infrastructure Committee, Midtown KC Now, KC Downtowners, Climate Action KC (CAKC), Arts KC, American Institute of Graphic Arts Kansas City (AIGA), and American Institute of Architects Kansas City (AIA).

Manley: As an organizer, my main responsibility is to build deep relationships with people throughout the city and work with them to build solutions. I led a team of tenants to craft the People’s Housing Trust Fund (PHTF) — a vision for safe, accessible, truly affordable housing.

The PHTF brought together impacted people to form a solution to our life's problems. Our leaders continue to push for the implementation of the PHTF. Still, short-term wins include two seats on the HTF board being given to tenants and winning a tenant-built campaign to get $50 million into the existing HTF.

This will be what makes me effective in the Kansas City City Council. I will continue to build relationships with people across the city to identify the needs and solutions we need. I will invite them into the conversation around crafting, implementing, and evaluating policy.

KCMO City Council district map
New Kansas City, Missouri, City Council map (effective Aug. 1, 2023)