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.
One of the two candidates for the City Council 3rd District At-Large seat, challenger Melissa Patterson Hazley, responded to KSHB 41’s questionnaire before the April 4 primary.
Incumbent Brandon Ellington did not respond despite multiple email requests.
With the field narrowed to two candidates for the June 20 general election next week, revisit the responses. Answers have been lightly edited for AP style and grammar.
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?
Patterson Hazley: Yes, of course more needs to be done. I would advocate for an easier contract process within City Hall so that projects get moving faster and I would continue to advocate for projects to receive supportive funding from City Hall.
Q: What role, if any, do think affordable housing plays in other issues facing the city?
Patterson Hazley: When people are housing insecure, it can impact public safety by increasing the need for people to commit crimes. High-stress environments are ripe for crime issues, including domestic violence, and being housing insecure is stressful.
Unaffordable housing also impacts our schools. When housing is too expensive, families live elsewhere and there are too few children per school building and, therefore, the ability to offer advanced coursework and extracurricular activities are impacted negatively.
Students who move around (due to evictions or high costs) also tend to decrease in academic performance resulting in low test scores and decreased graduation rates. Housing affordability can impact people’s ability to maintain jobs (a steady address), care for children and other loved ones as well. Housing affordability impacts the overall neighborhood, too, because people have a harder time putting down roots. Getting to know neighbors and relationship-building, an important aspect of community-building, decreases. As you can see, housing affordability impacts several environmental issues and that is why solving this problem must be a priority.
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?
Patterson Hazley: Incentives have their place in the economic-development landscape. They must be used responsibly and especially deployed in continuously distressed census tracts and in partnership with taxing jurisdictions.
Q: Should KCPD remain under control of the Board of Police Commissioners? Or should the city resume local control? Please explain your position.
Patterson Hazley: Local tax dollars should be controlled locally. Therefore, Kansas City, and not the state, should control the police department.
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?
Patterson Hazley: I plan to work with her and other members of the police department to solve problems. I cannot speak to specific reforms, because all of the reforms we have enacted have had limited success. I would look toward community partners who know more than me on the topic of reforms and try to formulate some new, feasible ideas.
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?
Patterson Hazley: The police are perceived differently depending on who you ask and when you ask them and the context in which you ask. The people that I see most of the time, the people who live near me, want the police as a “service.”
When something is a service, it is there when you need the service and not there when you don’t. A service is something we pay for (our tax dollars in this case) and people that I have come into contact with very much expect to have that police service.
However, some communities instead feel targeted by the police — but not in a service type of way. This targeting manifests itself in crimes being ignored or not diligently worked on, people being mistreated or disrespected by police or, worse, killed by police during some encounters.
The people I talk to want the police to come when they call, try to solve the crime that has happened (small crimes like mailbox theft and large crimes like murder) and to generally care about the things happening in the community without perceiving everyone in the community as a potential problem.
The relationship can be repaired by community members getting that “service” from police — actually solving crimes — while not treating community members like a problem or having the issue blown off as though it isn’t important.
Q: Kansas City has seen record numbers of homicides in recent years. What can the city council do to stem the tide of violence?
Patterson Hazley: Focus on upstream issues like affordable housing, job creation, youth engagement, trash and blight remediation, and supporting small businesses, which hire locals more than other types of companies.
Q: What other factors do you think drive the increased violent crime and how can the city council address those?
Patterson Hazley: Statistically, the main driver of violent crime experienced in urban areas is poverty. In addition to police solving violent crimes, we should be focusing on all aspects of poverty. Solve issues around poverty, and crime will go down.
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?
Patterson Hazley: By taking a more agnostic, data-driven approach to where infrastructure improvements have and have not been made.
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?
Patterson Hazley: Regardless of major events that come to Kansas City, transit needs to be improved for everyday citizens. It is still far too difficult to move about the city without a car. There are a number of ways to approach this but the starting point is to begin dialogue with ATA, bus drivers and the citizens who ride the bus to try and agree on some common-sense solutions.
Q: Do you support building a new baseball stadium downtown? Where should it go and how should it be paid for, if so?
Patterson Hazley: The voters will decide if they want to build a new stadium and will determine the funding mechanism. I do not have enough information about the location nor a community benefits agreement to say I support it or not.
Many forums have forced a yes-or-no answer on this, and it isn’t a yes-or-no question. There are too many unknown variables at this present time that need to be discussed in much more detail. But as I mentioned, it matters less what I think as an individual.
The Royals organization will need to convince voters this is a good idea and, based on what they decide, the job of the elected official is to negotiate the best community-benefit agreement possible.
Q: What other issues are important to you? And what would your top handful of legislative priorities be if elected?
Patterson Hazley: The issues already discussed are my top issues and I will be legislating around those things and others as important issues arise.
Q: What qualifications/experience do you possess that you believe will help you be an effective and successful KCMO council member?
Patterson Hazley: I am a researcher, mom, wife, homeowner and lifelong resident of KCMO. I have both lived and professional experience that I will bring to this job. To read more about me, please visit mph4kcmo.com.