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KCMO City Council 6th District At-Large candidates weigh in on key issues

Posted at 5:30 PM, Mar 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-31 18:30:07-04

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 — incumbent Andrea Bough and challenger Mary Nestel — for the City Council 6th District At-Large seat responded to KSHB 41’s questionnaire.

Jill Sasse did not respond to multiple emails to his campaign.

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?

Bough: While the City has placed a lot of emphasis on affordable housing, there is still much that needs to be done. During my first term on the council, I was an advocate for a stand-alone Housing Department, funding the Housing Trust Fund, and the lead sponsor for the Right to Counsel for eviction proceedings.

Recent estimates suggest that the City lacks approximately 16,000 to 20,000 affordable housing units and that 75% of renters in Kansas City at extremely low and very low incomes are “housing-cost burdened,” meaning they spend 30 to 50% of income on housing.

Through the Housing Trust Fund, the city has funded approximately 1,000 units to be rehabilitated or constructed, and will continue to fund affordable units with the proceeds of the $50 million bond issue recently approved by voters. If re-elected, I would continue to advocate for funding the Housing Trust Fund in order to meet our housing needs at all levels of affordability.

Finding both a variety of sources, including philanthropic, and a continuing funding source will be important to meet these goals and to be sustainable. Additionally, it will be important to update our Five-Year Housing Plan that was adopted in 2018 to continue to evaluate our housing needs as well as establish a guidepost to meet the needs.

Nestel: Of course, policies need to be reviewed and what is a dollar amount for affordable housing? What makes housing unaffordable? Increased property taxes, city regulations, crime.

Q: What role, if any, do think affordable housing plays in other issues facing the city?

Bough: Affordable housing impacts many issues facing the city. It can impact people’s lives through evictions, which can increase our houseless population. The lack of availability of affordable housing can force those who work in certain industries to live outside the city or to areas further away from their work, which may also be to areas that lack transportation. The lack of affordable housing can cause people to live in unsafe conditions resulting in health conditions.

Nestel: Affordable housing is important in that citizens believe there is value in living in Kansas City.

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?

Bough: Tax incentives are not inherently good or bad. There are examples in the city of how they have been used successfully to improve areas and there are examples of how they have been less successful. We need a new economic-development policy that prioritizes the use of incentives in certain underdeveloped areas.

Nestel: Have tax incentives and abatements been used to create affordable housing or to subsidize high-priced or luxury housing?


Q: Should KCPD remain under control of the Board of Police Commissioners? Or should the city resume local control? Please explain your position.

Bough: I think that control of the KCPD should return to the city and its citizens. Because the Board of Police Commissioners is appointed by the governor, there is no accountability to the people for which they serve and the citizens have no say in four of the five members of the BOPC.

Commissioners can make decisions with minimal input from the citizens for which they serve. Once the city approves the KCPD budget, which was over $269 million this current fiscal year, the BOPC can reallocate and use as it sees fit.

If our citizens are concerned about levels of staffing, we can pass that request along, but have no authority to compel the BOPC to make any decisions with respect to increased staffing at a particular patrol division.

If the council thinks pay should be increased to retain or attract more officers, we can provide additional funding in the budget, but cannot guarantee that funding will be used for increased salaries. These all have been concerns in the past.

Nestel: Remain under management of Board of Police Commissioners. It is important that the police department does not become political.

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?

Bough: I have been impressed at the level of engagement and leadership that Chief Stacey Graves has exhibited in the few months in which she has been the chief of police. I am confident that under her leadership relationships can be rebuilt to help all parties involved in public service better serve the city.

Nestel: The police department should be fully staffed with a minimum of 1,500 officers. The 1968 Mayor’s Report on Civil Disorder recommended this goal. If Kansas City is to be world class, Kansas City can’t understaff and overwork police officers.

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?

Bough: This answer depends on who you ask. There are some areas of the city that have a very favorable perception of KCPD, and there are other areas where the trust has been strained, at best. Hiring diverse officers, community policing and generally engaging community leaders can help build relationships.

Nestel: In south Kansas City, citizens support the police and want more police officers.


Q: Kansas City has seen record numbers of homicides in recent years. What can the city council do to stem the tide of violence?

Bough: Recently, the council approved $30 million over five years to address violence prevention and intervention. Adopting programs like KC 360, patterned after Omaha 360, which engages youth summer-employment programs and a multi-sector approach to violence engaging our public, private, business, nonprofit, civic, and faith communities will be integral in stemming the tide of violence.

Nestel: This is a county prosecutor issue.

Q: What other factors do you think drive the increased violent crime and how can the city council address those?

Bough: The lack of access to basic needs drives an increase in violent crime. Providing quality, good-paying jobs, safe and affordable housing, transportation, neighborhoods free of trash and illegal dumping, and access to mental- and physical-health resources are some of the ways we can address violent crime as a council.

Nestel: This is a county prosecutor issue. When you will not prosecute property crimes, they can turn into violent confrontations.


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?

Bough: It is important that we prioritize the delivery of basic services and the city’s infrastructure needs. The major projects are possible through special funding sources but should not be completed at the expense of the city’s basic needs. We have deferred maintenance for too many of our buildings, roads and sidewalks for too long, and we need to continue to make them a priority.

Nestel: What you stated lists infrastructure projects with an overemphasis on projects for tourists. Emphasis needs to be on fixing basic roads — Blue River Road (closed since 2007), bypass for Hillcrest Road (closed for Cerner), Wornall Road 63rd to 79th (especially 75th to 79th). These are basic roads that create connections for economic activity.

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?

Bough: As we begin planning for the World Cup, I hope we will improve our transit system to those areas of the city that do not have adequate transportation. It is important, however, that any improvements benefit the city long-term or at least can be easily altered to provide long-term service that is needed after the World Cup.

We should not be building extensive and expensive transit infrastructure solely for the World Cup, but using this as an opportunity to improve transit for our citizens to use for years to come.

Nestel: Do away with free buses and use buses for the event.

Q: Do you support building a new baseball stadium downtown? Where should it go and how should it be paid for, if so?

Bough: The concept of downtown baseball is one that I support. The details are something that I have not seen to date. Any taxpayer support of a new downtown stadium should have a public benefit and should also include a community-benefits agreement that ensures that workers employed by and on behalf of the project — including workers employed after the construction of the project, such as service and janitorial workers — are protected. Public benefits should include affordable housing, workforce programs, and minority- and women-owned business opportunities.

Nestel: There is no definite proposal, so it would be premature to comment on.


Q: What other issues are important to you? And what would your top handful of legislative priorities be if elected?

Bough: In addition to affordable housing and the reduction of violent crime discussed above, my priorities include climate protection and resiliency as well as safe neighborhoods (including sidewalk and street repair, trash and bulky-item pick-up).

Nestel: Cleaning up Kansas City needs to be a priority of the city and all citizens. In south Kansas City, citizens have been doing this for over a year. You can follow them on The Real Kansas City Facebook page. This would also include regularly scheduled bulky item pickup.

Q: What qualifications/experience do you possess that you believe will help you be an effective and successful KCMO council member?

Bough: As the incumbent, I have the experience necessary to effectively govern and advocate for the issues that are important to Kansas Citians. I have developed great working relationships with staff at all levels, including the director levels.

As a councilmember, I have demonstrated effectiveness in getting ordinances and policies adopted, a willingness to collaborate with colleagues on issues that are important to the city and, on more than one occasion, the ability to bring opposing sides together to find common ground.

My professional background as a transactional attorney has provided the training necessary to listen to both sides in order to form an opinion and make a rational decision based upon the facts present.

Nestel: I am a listener, a hard worker, a taxpayer and I solve problems on a daily basis. I work with people and bring people together in my daily business life and also in the volunteer events I have been a part of in Kansas City. I have no personal agendas and I am a we person, not a me (person).

I did not pay for any endorsements nor sign any co-governance agreements. I am not an attorney who at times must recuse themselves on important votes due to representing the developer or situation. I am a lifelong resident who is knowledgeable about all parts of the city and passionate about Kansas City. I do not want to see the city I love turn into a Portland, California, New York or Chicago as I continually hear in city meetings and webinars that our current leadership is trying to implement here.

I work with and lead people in a positive and healthy way with a goal to keep Kansas City, our Kansas City, the safe, friendly and welcoming city citizens love to brag about!

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New Kansas City, Missouri, City Council map (effective Aug. 1, 2023)