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KCMO City Council 4th District in-district candidates weigh in on key issues

Posted at 5:36 PM, Mar 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-31 18:36:50-04

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.

Two of the three candidates — Henry Rizzo and Crissy Dastrup — for the City Council 4th District seat responded to KSHB 41’s questionnaire.

Incumbent Eric Bunch is seeking re-election, but his campaign did not respond to multiple email requests.

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?

Dastrup: Housing affordability has continued to decline unabated in spite of the millions in tax abatements afforded to luxury developments. Our incentive-to-public benefit ratio is not working for our city or our housing capacity.

Affordable means HUD’s definition, falling around $650 or $850 if utilities are included. Redefining our definition of affordable is the only way to ensure incentives are worth granting in the first place. It's past time for the city to explicitly invest in truly affordable housing.

We need a coordinated affordable-housing plan with engagement every step of the way. As your full-time councilwoman, I will approach developers to build subsidized permanently affordable housing. You deserve a partner in City Hall who works hard every day to make progress on issues that are your top priority. If you elect me, you will see more affordable housing on the market through leveraging Land Bank properties and a long-term plan that includes enough affordable housing for everyone who needs it. In my first term, you can expect results.

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?

Dastrup: Affordable housing and houseless support go hand in hand. I think we can all imagine how housing instability negatively affects someone psychologically. If you’re housing unstable, you probably faced a combination of issues with employment, debt, domestic unrest, mental illness, and general poverty. The reason most of us understand how that feels is our collective proximity.

Someone might turn to doing illegal things to keep afloat, because they have no other option. We all either have dealt with these issues or someone we know has. It’s very common. The root of this problem comes down to how willing we are to prioritize safety nets.

Poverty would be much less stressful if we knew there is help if we need it. Our KC community cares for each other, and that’s why I know we are hurting for support for the most vulnerable among us.

We have the opportunity to provide housing for everyone regardless of income level to alleviate crime, strain on mental and physical health, kids moving schools, unemployment, and so much more. Housing is a human right, and it’s how we make sure our citizens have the opportunity to thrive.

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?

Dastrup: There are a lot of ways to spur development. Our leadership has relied on tax abatements, because they’re easy and because “that’s how it’s always been done.” We’ve got to get creative if we want it all — good schools, libraries, transportation, and affordable housing. Not one or the other.

Not to mention, abatements have been used for one-bedroom apartments costing $1.2K/month. That’s twice as much as should qualify as affordable. Incentives should only be granted if a developer is providing public benefit outweighing our financial investment because of where that money comes from. Incentives directly detract from our ability to educate children and provide resources for our community.

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.

Dastrup: It is impossible for the executive branch of our local government to function without proper checks and balances. The enforcement of our laws happens almost completely separately from their creation.

We have no regulatory power over the police, not only as a legislative branch, but half of the executive branch as well — the mayor. It’s simply not how it was designed to function, and is therefore dysfunctional.

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?

Dastrup: While we pursue local control, we have to build bridges. New leadership means a new opportunity to make progress on preventative solutions for crime that are not punitive. We have the opportunity to restore trust in our communities by investing in preventative crime solutions we know work and support for victims of crime.

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?

Dastrup: KCPD is perceived as punitive, uncaring and, at a base level, scary. I know through my relationships with community resource police officers that there are parts of the organization that work that need more investment.

Community officers who are present at neighborhood meetings, in City Hall, and in the community in general build relationships with our neighbors. It also puts officers in a better headspace to focus on protecting their community versus simply enforcing the law.

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?

Dastrup: The City Council has just appropriated $30 million to the Health Department over the next five years to address violent crime. I will work with the Health Department to implement KC Blueprint and make sure this money goes toward crime-prevention solutions that involve neighborhoods at a high level.

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?

Dastrup: Poverty is the root of violent crime. We need better support for our residents, and to do that we have to focus on their priorities as a City Council. Affordable housing, houseless support systems, investment in small business success, and neighborhood support are all very high priorities of the community. We simply haven’t been doing enough on those issues in the past four years.

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?

Dastrup: We’ve got to get the important things right. People are moving away because, if you don’t already own a house, it’s extremely expensive to live here. Potholes damage vehicles and, if you choose not to have a vehicle, you risk unemployment due to unreliable bus systems. Walking with your kids, you have to veer into the street every block to avoid the broken sidewalks. Child care is full and outrageously expensive.

These projects are big for the region and for the city, but they are not the priority of citizens. Shiny new projects are easy to chase as an elected official; they’re popular among people who

aren’t struggling as much and who tend to pay attention to the news. But these investments do not improve the day-to-day lives of our community. We need leadership that chooses to tackle the hard things rather than chase shiny new projects.

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?

Dastrup: Our bus systems are simply not adequate compared to peer cities. They may be free, but ridership has plateaued because there is always a chance your bus just won’t show up one or two days a month when you’re trying to get to work.

We need increased frequency east to west. There are multiple Max lines north to south and, even though we constantly talk about the divide of (US) 71 highway there are zero east-to-west Max lines. Connection across the river is also very important, especially constant shuttles to the new airport.

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?

Dastrup: My job as city councilwoman would be to represent the opinion of my constituents. The majority of community members I’ve spoken with over the last year have pointed out that we have more serious problems that should be addressed first. Downtown baseball is not our community’s priority.

I would only advocate for downtown baseball if the needs of the community are met at a level they are comfortable with — potentially including elements like affordable housing, spaces for small businesses, green spaces, etc. I’ll utilize polling, digitally and through canvassing, as well as empirical studies to back up my decisions.

Check out my guest commentary in The Star on the subject for more.

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?

Dastrup: Small-business support is incredibly important to me. Not only are we supporting the success of our citizens by making it easier to start and maintain a business here, but we increase the revenue of our city to make further investments. Every $1 we spend investing in small businesses, we bring in $4 in revenue. Job creation, community building, increased revenue ... so many benefits to investing in small businesses.

Communication is also really important to me; I will use my office budget to hire canvassers while I’m in office to collect data and bring information right to your door when I’m your councilwoman. You’ll always know what’s going on in your community before decisions are made.

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?

Dastrup: I’m unique from my opponents because I always have been and always will be accountable to the community. I’ve served Midtown and Hyde Park for 15 years, and

I served the 4th District as legislative aide to the City Council for two years.

Not only will I pick up the phone when you call and attend your neighborhood meetings as I did as a legislative aide, all of my actions will be based on your priorities — not mine, not the people who funded my campaign.

You will feel like you have a partner in City Hall; someone to trust and rely on in hard times. I have collaborative relationships in the community and within City Hall. I know what prevents problems from getting solved, I know what the priorities of the 4th District are, and I will be working full-time to make change as quickly as possible when I’m elected. I’ll tackle the hard problems because we need to make progress now, not in 4 years when I’m up for re-election.

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.

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