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.
City Council 4th District in-district incumbent Eric Bunch is seeking re-election, but his campaign did not respond to multiple email requests regarding the survey or for a photo.
Challenger Henry Rizzo responded to KSHB 41’s questionnaire and his answers are below before the April 4 primary.
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?
Rizzo: The city needs to work closely with local developers and social-service providers to come up with solutions that work for everyone. The permitting process needs to be more efficient and easier to navigate for developers.
Q: What role, if any, do think affordable housing plays in other issues facing the city?
Rizzo: It plays a role in countless ways. Inadequate housing affects worker availability for employers, it affects access to federal dollars for our schools, it affects our transportation systems and future development. It affects our tax base and general revenue.
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?
Rizzo: Tax incentives should only be used as originally designed, for distressed areas that would not have new development “but-for” the addition of incentives.
Q: Should KCPD remain under control of the Board of Police Commissioners? Or should the city resume local control? Please explain your position.
Rizzo: I favor local control with a group effort that includes leadership in the city, with citizen participation.
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?
Rizzo: I am encouraged by the direction Chief Graves is currently undertaking and I want to give her a chance to implement the changes she has begun. I would like to see a renewed emphasis on true community policing, but we need to hire adequate officers to accomplish this.
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?
Rizzo: Having enough officers so we can reduce response times is priority No. 1. Community Action Centers in neighborhoods with officers that have the time to get to know residents and each neighborhoods’ specific needs can help build trust with the community.
Q: Kansas City has seen record numbers of homicides in recent years. What can the city council do to stem the tide of violence?
Rizzo: I have heard other candidates say that police don’t prevent crime; I don’t believe that. If there are adequate numbers of officers on duty, then community police can have time to get to know residents and interact with them, not just in times of crisis. They can be a bridge to connect resources to individuals who may need intervention by health-care or mental-health professionals.
Q: What other factors do you think drive the increased violent crime and how can the city council address those?
Rizzo: A lack of good-paying jobs, inadequate transportation, affordable housing, and education are all factors that we know influence crime rates. We need to work together as a community to address all of these issues.
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?
Rizzo: During the pandemic, businesses, nonprofits and government alike all experienced staffing issues which affected all types of services. We need to stop and refocus on the basics before we jump into any new projects. Streets, sidewalks, safety, trash, housing — all need our immediate attention first.
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?
Rizzo: The KCATA is currently facing some challenges that need to be addressed, financially and operationally. I look forward to learning more about what their plans are to address these issues. The Streetcar needs to complete the Main Street extension, which will help, but it is doubtful there is enough time or funding to go beyond that before 2026, so we need to focus on what goals we can reasonably accomplish.
Q: Do you support building a new baseball stadium downtown? Where should it go and how should it be paid for, if so?
Rizzo: I would have to see a plan and the proposed funding mechanism before drawing a conclusion. I know the current lease does not end until 2030. I was on the (county) legislature when those agreements were finalized.
Q: What other issues are important to you? And what would your top handful of legislative priorities be if elected?
Rizzo: I want residents to feel as if they are partners with their city government, not victims of it. The only way to accomplish this is to actively listen and respond to their needs and concerns. I am a coalition builder and know how to build bridges and create true partnerships with citizens, businesses and government at all levels.
Q: What qualifications/experience do you possess that you believe will help you be an effective and successful KCMO council member?
Rizzo: Several friends and neighborhood leaders approached me and asked me to run for City Council because they felt their concerns were being ignored by their current council rep. I have long been active in my neighborhood, Columbus Park, and have had to respond to common neighborhood issues regarding codes, houselessness, infrastructure, safety, transportation and development issues.
As a former state rep and county legislator, I know what it takes to build coalitions to pass meaningful legislation. We can do better. We need to get back to basics.