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.
Former Missouri state legislator Wes Rogers is running unopposed for the City Council 2nd District seat, but we asked for his responses anyway as a service to voters.
Councilman Dan Fowler is term-limited and cannot seek reelection.
The top two vote-getters in next week’s primary advance to the June general election, which will set the council for the next four years.
Answers have been lightly edited for AP style and grammar, but we hope the answers help voters better understand the issues and candidates ahead of the April 4 primary election.
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?
Rogers: We clearly have a housing affordability issue in this city. The simplest answer is that we need to build more to increase supply and, in order to build more housing, we need to make sure the permitting process is efficient.
Q: What role, if any, do think affordable housing plays in other issues facing the city?
Rogers: It plays a major role. If people don’t have secure housing, it is difficult for them to reliably make it to work or school.
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?
Rogers: Like anything else, tax incentives can be incredibly effective when used appropriately. The Northland has grown tremendously over the last 30 years and that is in large part due to well-designed tax incentives.
Q: Should KCPD remain under control of the Board of Police Commissioners? Or should the city resume local control? Please explain your position.
Rogers: The issue is a non-starter. It requires a statewide vote, which can only be put on the ballot in two ways — by the legislature or through initiative petition. As a former legislator, I can tell you, for better or worse, there is no chance that they will put it on the ballot and I do not believe any kind of initiative petition is being organized.
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?
Rogers: I have been acquainted with Chief Graves for many years going back to when I was an assistant prosecutor in Clay County. I believe she will be a great chief and I look forward to working with her.
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?
Rogers: In the 2nd District, which is the district I will represent, most people are incredibly supportive of the police. They want the police to show up when they call 911 and they want them to be well-trained and adequately funded.
Q: Kansas City has seen record numbers of homicides in recent years. What can the city council do to stem the tide of violence?
Rogers: If I had the answer to this, I would not wait until I was on the City Council to start telling people what we need to do. Obviously, we need a robust, well-trained police department to reduce violent crime, but we also need to invest in our community in ways that will prevent violent crime before it happens — affordable housing, safe access to schools, early childhood programs, mental-health services, stuff like that.
Q: What other factors do you think drive the increased violent crime and how can the city council address those?
Rogers: This is a national problem. Violent crime has been up all over the country in both urban and rural communities over the last few years, so most of the factors at play are much greater than any single city.
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?
Rogers: When I ran for state rep the first time in 2018, I knocked on 16,000 doors in southern Clay County and personally walked every single residential street in the 18th House district, most of them multiple times. The southern part of the Northland desperately needs better streets and sidewalks. In many neighborhoods, including neighborhoods close to schools, we don’t even have sidewalks at all.
Another issue that is important to me is broadband internet, which in 2023 should be part of any infrastructure conversation. I worked closely on this subject with both Democrats and Republicans during my time in the legislature and intend to continue working with Jeff City on this issue when I’m on the council.
Most Kansas Citians have access to broadband internet, but there are plenty of people who have no access at all. In addition to accessibility, the other key is affordability.
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?
Rogers: The streetcar expansion will be helpful and so will the IRIS rideshare program. Another big issue we are facing is a critical shortage of bus drivers. Bus drivers have a dangerous job and we need to do everything we can to keep them safe if we expect them to stick around until the World Cup and after it.
Q: Do you support building a new baseball stadium downtown? Where should it go and how should it be paid for, if so?
Rogers: Yes, so long as it’s fair to the taxpayers. Taxpayers are rightfully skeptical of public funding for a ballpark, so whatever proposal comes forward will have to be a persuasive one. It’s too early in this conversation to speculate too much because we don’t have much detail yet, but I’ll add a couple more things:
- The Royals are not going to keep playing in Kauffman Stadium. My understanding is that the cost of renovating the stadium is at least half of building a new stadium. So, the conversation is not “Should the Royals keep playing at Kauffman Stadium?” The conversation is “Will the new Royals Stadium be in Kansas City or somewhere else?” I do not want to be on the council when Kansas City loses a big-league ballclub;
- Imagine if the Chiefs were the only big-league franchise in town and the Oakland A’s were considering coming back to Kansas City to be our second major league franchise? I imagine we would do quite a bit to get them to come here. We are a very small market to have two major league sports franchises and they are a big part of what makes our midsize city so great;
- Bottom line is this: Let’s come up with a deal that is fair to everybody, get this done, and keep the Royals in Kansas City.
Q: What other issues are important to you? And what would your top handful of legislative priorities be if elected?
Rogers: Please respond below:
- The city can be a tough place to do business, to start a business, or to build something. We need to be a city that wants businesses to come here and grow. Instead of creating hurdles, we should be allies and do what we can to make businesses want to be in Kansas City;
- I recently spent four years in the legislature, so several of my former colleagues are still in Jeff City. I would like to work with the state as much as we can on projects that both the city and the state believe in.
Q: What qualifications/experience do you possess that you believe will help you be an effective and successful KCMO council member?
Rogers: I am a lifelong Northlander who attended Missouri public schools all the way from grade school through law school. I am now raising three kids in the Northland, so Kansas City is my home. Any decision I make on the council will be with the goal of making Kansas City a city where my kids want to raise their own families.
Prior to running for the City Council, I was a public defender in Buchanan County then an assistant prosecutor in Clay County. Over the last few years, I have worked for our small family business selling and leasing commercial dishwashers. I also spent four years in the state legislature.
I would say being a lifelong Northlander with a background mixed between business, law and politics makes me a good fit for the council.