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.
Four of the five candidates — Jess Blubaugh, Justin Short, Crispin Rea and John DiCapo — for the City Council 4th District At-Large seat responded to KSHB 41’s questionnaire.
Grace Cabrera did not respond to multiple emails to his campaign.
Councilwoman Katheryn Shields 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?
Blubaugh: We have to solve our affordable housing problem by attacking it from multiple angles:
- Build more housing — we are in a housing shortage nationally and, in order to have affordable housing, we have to build more housing;
- We need to leverage tools like the Land Bank and mixed-income housing to diversify our housing inventory and ensure that there are options available;
- We need to work proactively with developers to build housing that we have determined at the district level, what is wanted and necessary;
- We need to tax and better regulate short-term rentals to ensure that our neighborhoods are stabilized and that we are applying those taxes to funding our affordable housing needs.
We need the smartest people around the table to help us solve this problem by finding new, innovative solutions to this incredibly complex problem. Ultimately, we must work with and push our state and federal officials to do their part in solving this problem as well. We cannot solve this problem at the municipal level alone.
DiCapo: The city should build affordable housing. Bring into the city experienced developers and give them incentives to build these units.
Rea: I am committed to keeping Kansas City an affordable place to live and raise a family. I will work to expand our housing stock for various income levels that is affordable for working families and seniors. I will support the use of the city’s Land Bank and other tools to fund the development of affordable housing.
Short: First, I will ensure that we continue to fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. We have a duty to create truly affordable housing in this city, using metrics that are Kansas City specific. Currently the “affordable” rate is calculated using the entire region and is listed at $1,200 for a one-bedroom (apartment). For most working-class Kansas Citians, this is not reasonable.
Realistically, affordable in KC should be around $600 per month. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund allows regular developers the opportunity to subsidize developments in order to pull down the price per unit. These savings get passed along to the renter or, in the case of single-family homes, the buyer.
Next, there is growing support for community land trusts that assist with single-family home ownership. Currently, the average price for a newly constructed starter home is around $375K. With things like the affordable housing trust fund, community land trusts, etc. we could provide renovated, first-time homes for $175K. This is possible with a City Council willing to invest in housing that is affordable across all income levels.
Q: What role, if any, do think affordable housing plays in other issues facing the city?
Blubaugh: Our city and the issues that are within it are an ecosystem, interconnected and impact on one has an impact on others. Affordable housing impacts a multitude of other issues in our city.
DiCapo: It’s a big role — food, clothing and shelter.
Rea: Housing stability impacts all aspects of our city. Focusing on keeping Kansas City an affordable place to live and raise a family while expanding affordability options will have a positive effect on improving neighborhoods and other challenges we face as a city.
Short: Access to affordable housing affects every part of life in our city. It can mitigate blight, home insecurity, food insecurity, crime reduction, and school-success rates.
Access to a safe, reliable home can begin to help with all of these things. Studies show that students with stable and safe homes are far more likely to succeed and not begin a life of crime. Affordable housing helps to break cycles of poverty.
If this leads to home ownership, it can lead to generational wealth. Most affordable housing proposals directly involve the reinvestment of properties, this can allow us to continue to invest in areas of our city that have been historically de-invested.
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?
Blubaugh: They are a valuable tool that should be used wisely and strategically. We need to re-evaluate how they are granted, to whom and under what circumstances.
DiCapo: Incentives are good, if they benefit all Kansas Citians.
Rea: As a city council member, I will review each request for incentives on a case-by-case basis and judge each project on its own merits. I will balance the interests of the taxing jurisdictions and the benefits to the community while reducing and mitigating the risk to the city’s finances. I will also work proactively with developers to create development opportunities in priority locations and underserved parts of Kansas City.
Short: Tax incentives are a tool but, just like any tool, if they are not used properly, they can cause harm. If a financial study says a project is possible at 75% for 15 years, then giving 75% at 25 years is probably not a wise decision.
We should also be using them for what they are called — incentives. We should be incentivizing the type of development we want. For example, if you have found a way to finance 320 truly affordable units in the 3rd District, my incentive conversation would be different than the next high-rise luxury development. They are both valuable city assets, but the conversations would be different when it comes to incentives. Each of these projects should be looked at on a case-by-case basis for how they affect our communities.
Q: Should KCPD remain under control of the Board of Police Commissioners? Or should the city resume local control? Please explain your position.
Blubaugh: I am in favor of pursuing local control and supporting those at the state level who continue to try to get that on the ballot, but we cannot wait for local control to solve our city’s crime and public-safety issues.
We need to have a collaborative relationship with our police department and we need that department to want to work with the community, be accountable to it and also be supported by it. City Council’s role is to connect the voice and perspective and experience of the citizens to City Hall and its department, and to set policy that supports our community.
DiCapo: No, the police department should be home-ruled.
Rea: The most-efficient and streamlined model of governance would be for the city to have control of the police department. However, the political environment in Jefferson City is not conducive to the city accomplishing this goal at this time. I will advocate for the city’s interest in this regard, while working within the current structure to ensure we make the city safe for all.
Short: I believe the city should have local control of the police department. It should be controlled by a citizens board appointed by civic leaders. Policing should be by and for the citizens of the city it represents. As a supporter of public safety, this issue is complex; however, I firmly believe we should be controlling our city’s most extensive asset.
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?
Blubaugh: I would hope to have a collaborative, open, and communicative relationship with Chief Graves. I would hope to partner with Chief Graves on what changes she would prioritize, and would want to discuss things like training, addressing implicit bias, and new forms of community policing.
DiCapo: Hire and train more police. Put them in the communities where they live.
Rea: Kansas City is facing a crime and public-safety crisis. I will advocate to make Kansas City the safest city in America by working with neighborhood organizations, social-service providers, the police department and Police Chief Graves, and community members to implement a comprehensive and evidence-based, long-term public-safety plan.
Short: The city made a great hire in Stacey Graves. She has already shown such leadership in reaching out to the council and showing up at countless community meetings. She is going to be a wonderful leader for our city.
She appears to recognize that training and accountability are important, while also recognizing that there is community outreach to be done. Her first day on the job within a few hours she brought back the LGBTQ Liaison officer, a position that had been missing in recent years.
Decreasing response times is another way to better serve KC. Currently, if you are in the Northland, you might have an officer responding from South Patrol (Division).
Inefficiencies like this are often why we have such long response times. A strong public-safety system is essential for a functioning city, and we have work to do here.
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?
Blubaugh: KCPD has a mixed reception in our community — largely depending on what area of the city and community you’re a part of. Having a trusted, collaborative relationship with our community is the first step in KCPD connecting with our citizens.
DiCapo: Put officers in the areas where they live to work. Community policing.
Rea: As I talk to voters, nearly all agree that Kansas Citians deserve to live in safe neighborhoods and have dignified and fair interactions with law enforcement. I will work with the police department to continue to identify and implement trust-building policies and positive community interactions.
Short: I hope we can all agree that we want a strong relationship between the police and our communities. The perception many have of the police is often influenced by the loudest voices on both sides.
Public safety is one of the single largest pieces of our budget for a reason, because it is important. So, we need to find ways to make sure the public has trust in this system. There are steps being taken by the KCPD to engage the community in the decision-making process, and I hope to follow along closely on City Council as they work to improve public safety and build these relationships.
One step that might help begin to grow that trust and relationship would be for KC to have local control of its police department. With a local board of people actually living in Kansas City, it would make it easier to collaborate and hold all sides accountable.
Q: Kansas City has seen record numbers of homicides in recent years. What can the city council do to stem the tide of violence?
Blubaugh: City Council has started this process with Blueprint KC and the investment of $30 million in crime prevention. That type of work has to continue. We have to address the root causes of crime — poverty, homelessness, job loss, mental health and substance abuse — to adequately impact public safety and crime in our community.
DiCapo: Prosecute more criminals and keep them in jail.
Rea: In 2013, we came together as a community and created the KC No Violence Alliance, which was credited with reducing homicides in 2014 by 30% to a 42-year low. The program included law enforcement partners across local, state, and federal agencies; faith communities and neighborhood leaders; academic researchers; social-service agencies; and community activists.
As homicides and violence continue at a tragic rate into 2023, we must once again create a cohesive, comprehensive and long-term, evidence-based public-safety strategy that holds our criminal-justice system accountable, incorporates it with targeted use, implements community- based interventions, and focuses on the long term.
Short: Fully staffing our police department is important. There has been difficulty recruiting and retaining officers in KC. Working with the Police Department and building relationships with the Board of Police Commissioners will be another key. Kansas City just passed a $30 million crime-prevention plan called KC Blueprint as part of the KC 360 plan. This is $6.7 million per year over five years in an effort to reduce violent crime in this city.
It is based on the Omaha 360 plan where they saw over a 50% reduction in shootings. We need to make sure our plans are specific to KC, but I am hopeful it will lead to a decrease in violent crimes.
A strong relationship with public safety, accountability when necessary, and support for community resources are all essential parts of an overall plan. Finally, we need to involve the voices of those affected most in these discussions.
Q: What other factors do you think drive the increased violent crime and how can the city council address those?
Blubaugh: Common-sense gun laws.
DiCapo: More police presence. Put people to work.
Rea: When a violent crime occurs, it is often the end result of a number of factors — including poverty and a lack of opportunity, inadequate mental-health resources, poor conflict-resolution skills, retaliation, and under-resourced criminal-justice systems. These are all areas the city can play an active role in reducing crime.
Short: We need to make sure that we are building a city with opportunities for everyone. We need streets and sidewalks that are not crumbling. We need to support our schools and social programs. We need a strong community that lifts each other up and takes care of those in need. It sounds cliché, but I do believe, if we start tackling the root of some of these problems, we will start to see a reduction in violent crime.
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?
Blubaugh: Basic city services are vitally important to the daily lives of our residents — having your trash picked up regularly, addressing illegal dumping, filling potholes, and repaving streets and sidewalks. These are all things that we feel every day, especially if they aren’t consistent for us.
DiCapo: Fix streets and potholes.
Rea: A vast majority of Kansas Citians want better delivery of basic city services. In the budget process, I will prioritize maintenance and upkeep of roads, sidewalk repair, and timely and consistent pickup of trash and bulky items in all neighborhoods. In addition, I will work to develop a plan to clean up trash across the city so all are living in clean and safe neighborhoods.
Short: Improving the day-to-day lives of people in KC is a top priority for my campaign. The same things come up every time — fixing our crumbling streets and sidewalks, cleaning up our streets, and better connecting our city. The major projects are great, but we need to make sure we aren’t leaving people behind by only focusing on the big ideas. We need functioning streets and public transportation to get to those places.
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?
Blubaugh: We have to evolve our mass transit to be accessible to everyone across our community — both for big events we’re bringing in, and for the everyday lives of our citizens. That expansion needs to consider multi-modal options and must cover the vast geographical expanse of our city.
DiCapo: We will not have sufficient mass transport.
Rea: The transportation needs of the thousands of visitors for the World Cup will require the city to lead a bi-state and multi-county effort to get folks around the region to Kansas City. Additionally, we must make sure that we do not build systems that are not sustainable after the World Cup. As someone who grew up relying on public transportation, I will work to make sure we continue to connect Kansas Citians to jobs and amenities.
Short: Our transit plan for the World Cup is going to look vastly different than what our city usually needs. I want to provide a transit system that is on time and on task for both special events and your everyday commute.
We need to improve our stops, increase efficiency, and enhance access to our new on-demand ride-share program — project IRIS. Expanding the street car into North Kansas City and adding an east-to-west connection is going to be important as we look at the next decade.
I genuinely believe that we are moving in the right direction when it comes to the future of our regional transit systems. The World Cup is a whole different ball game and, if anything continues post-2026, I hope it’s a more effective public-transit system that folks can rely on with increased ridership.
Q: Do you support building a new baseball stadium downtown? Where should it go and how should it be paid for, if so?
Blubaugh: I love the concept of downtown baseball provided we know the details of both a funding plan and an infrastructure plan to support it. There are several options for locations — and I support a location that best serves the community immediately surrounding.
I believe in public-private partnerships and believe the voters will and should have the opportunity to weigh in if they are being asked to pay for a portion of it. I support an extension of the 3/8-cent sales tax that is currently in place — but again would want to know the full funding plan being proposed.
DiCapo: No, we should build a monorail from downtown to the stadiums and back. Develop KC’s east side. We are talking to Hitachi to develop the DiCapo Plan as we speak.
Rea: As we learn more about a proposed downtown stadium — such as proposed locations, timeline, finance and scope of the project — I will look to mitigate the risk to the city’s finances if tax incentives are sought, ensure union jobs are provided, and a community-benefit agreement is developed.
Short: Yes, I support the idea. However, the real question is, is it right for Kansas City? The Royals have made it clear publicly they are not renewing their lease at Kauffman Stadium. That means we need to prepare to keep them in Kansas City.
What it does not mean is that we need to ask the tax payers for $700 million. I would not support that, and we will need to find another way. Also, I am pro-development, but not pro-displacement. We need to find a site that is right for KC and does not involve displacing residents.
We must ensure we are preparing for the rise in property taxes to not price people out of their homes. I would look at an Urban Renewal Plan to keep property taxes near the stadium from skyrocketing. This project should include affordable housing, retail, commercial, office, parking, and effective connections to the rest of Kansas City. If they find a way to not ask the taxpayers for more public funding past the current 3/8-cent sales tax, it could work. What we need most right now is more information.
Q: What other issues are important to you? And what would your top handful of legislative priorities be if elected?
Blubaugh: [no answer provided]
DiCapo: Small-business development and support.
Rea: As I talk to voters, I hear primarily about public safety and crime. In 2022, we experienced our second-deadliest year on record. Our violence negatively impacts our ability to sell Kansas City as a safe place to do business and raise a family.
I will work to develop a comprehensive, long-term, evidence-based public-safety plan that holds our criminal-justice system accountable, incorporates it with targeted use, implements community-based interventions, and focuses on the long term.
In addition, in the budget, I will prioritize the delivery of basic city services and improved maintenance of roads and sidewalks across the city. I will implement policies to keep Kansas City an affordable place to live by expanding housing for working families and senior citizens, partnering with neighborhoods to find solutions to homelessness, and cleaning up Kansas City so we are showing our best to residents and visitors.
Short: We need to invest in trash services and cleaning up our city. Let’s start with bringing back regular bulky item pickup programs, neighborhood street cleanings, and addressing illegal dumping.
Next, our streets and sidewalks are an absolute disaster in many neighborhoods. There are even sidewalks leading to schools that can barely be used. I will prioritize improving neighborhoods across KC, supporting programs like the Rebuild KC grants that invest in these areas.
Another priority is public transportation — expanding access, investing in our public bus stops, and making sure the services are on time. There are also projects like Barney Allis Plaza, an essential asset to our downtown, now 35 years past its expiration date.
Finally, we need to invest in areas of our city that have been ignored, so we can continue to create a thriving city. There is simply a lot to be done.
Q: What qualifications/experience do you possess that you believe will help you be an effective and successful KCMO council member?
Blubaugh: I have a bachelor’s in communications and a master’s in organizational development and leadership — which means I am trained in how to listen, how to communicate and how to lead.
I have 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector advocating for educational equity, women and girls in sports, tourism and specifically our city. I have led projects big and small, and have spent my entire career gathering disparate groups of people, building consensus and moving toward a common goal.
Coupled with the understanding that I am not an expert on everything, and am only as good as those I surround myself with, I understand the value of many perspectives and voices around a table. We need council members who will think differently, who will have the hard conversations and continue to work together, and who know when to lead and when to follow. I have that experience and understanding.
DiCapo: : Business owner for over 25 years. Community activist. Eagle Scout. Honest. I have always paid all my taxes and support this city. Son of Carl J. DiCapo.
Rea: Growing up in the urban core, I witnessed the challenges of crime and poverty. As a prosecutor in the Special Victims Unit, I have seen the impact of crime on our city. I will use my experience to implement a comprehensive long-term public-safety plan to make Kansas City the safest city in America.
As a husband and father with experience working at City Hall, a former elected school-board member, an active volunteer in various nonprofit organizations, and a proud member of the firefighters union, I have the experience to work with partners in every neighborhood to develop our full potential as a city.
Short: Kansas City needs full-time leaders to provide real solutions to some of our city’s biggest issues. Being born and raised in the Northland and now working and living downtown, I understand more than most how different the needs are throughout Kansas City.
Yes, I have experience serving on boards and city-appointed commissions, but more importantly I am going to take my knowledge and passion for Kansas City and commit 100% to this job.
A few weeks ago I was attending a forum with other candidates where we were asked about the City Harvest development in the River Market. One by one, my opponents were unable to answer the question because they were not up to date on the facts. Each candidate in this race has impressive résumés or unique reasons that might make them a good fit, but I believe I am the only one who has shown the dedication needed to truly serve full-time on City Council.