By Andrea Wood
Two things were made clear last Wednesday about the candidates in Kansas City’s upcoming election:
Mayoral candidates Mike Burke and Sly James agree. A lot.
But the differences were distinct between 6th District at-large candidates Scott Taylor and Tracy Ward, as well as 6th District candidates Terrence Nash and John Sharp, during the Southern Communities Coalition candidate forum.
On the topic of the new Bannister redevelopment plan for The Trails, both John Sharp and Scott Taylor felt the plan--with its mix of retail and office space-- was good for the community.
“I live here, and I’d like to be able to shop here,” Councilman Sharp said in support of the recently announced plan.
His opponent, Terrence Nash, said that retail hadn’t worked there in the past, so he found fault with the project.
“We need to get rapid rail in there [at Bannister] first,” Nash said.
The candidates for 6th District at-large also disagreed.
Taylor pointed out that private developers have already invested millions into Bannister through property acquisition and demolition. Therefore, he supported tax incentives to help the project become a reality.
“We need to take this chance while we have it,” he said.
Ward said she would not support city incentives for the redevelopment of Bannister.
“These are big corporations, let them pay for it,” she said. “I don’t want to add any more to taxpayers’ backs.”
Meanwhile, both mayoral candidates said they would support incentives for the project if that was what residents wanted.
“In a perfect world, this project wouldn’t need our assistance in order to happen,” Sly James said. “In reality, this is a competitive environment and sometimes you have to create incentives for businesses to come.”
Burke agreed, and said that he felt the Bannister area was a key opportunity for South Kansas City.
“We don’t want to have what happened with the Wizards,” Burke said. “We need a mayor who knows how to close a deal.”
The candidates fell along the same lines when asked about their support for incentives to bring a hotel to downtown Kansas City to help bring more conventions back to the city.
Councilman Sharp, Taylor and both mayoral candidates said they felt Kansas City needed a downtown hotel, but must be cautious not put the city’s general fund at risk to fund it.
Nash said he did not feel a downtown hotel was economically feasible.
Ward said she would not support incentives for it.
Ward was also opposed the earnings tax, and said that even if the tax is approved by voters in April, she would work to erradicate it.
“The world’s not going to fall apart if we don’t pass the earnings tax,” she said.
Her opponent Taylor, conversely, said that Kansas City must pass the retention of the earnings tax in order to maintain its public safety and infrastructure.
In closing, Taylor pointed out that while he had spoken to the Southern Communities Coalition on a number of times, it was usually to provide updates for his wife, the current 6th District at-large Councilwoman Cathy Jolly.
“You know me, you know my wife, you know my son, and you know I will work hard for you,” Taylor said.
In his closing statements, Nash said he has never run for a public office before, and had never been appointed to any committee due to his at times unpopular opinions.
“Many people disagree with what I say, but it’s a different perspective,” Nash said.
His opponent, Councilman Sharp, said he felt it was important for the 6th District to have have a representative with the education and experience to be effective.
“Otherwise, South Kansas City can tend to be forgotten,” he said.
Both mayoral candidates said they felt their strengths were the ability to be salespeople for Kansas City, to seal deals, even hopping on planes at the last minute to meet with a CEO or politician to help get something accomplished that would be for the benefit of Kansas City.
So what are their differences?
“I dance better than he does, and I know I sing better,” James said about his opponent. “Truthfully, the task of being mayor isn’t about me...it’s about the city.”
Burke called James a good friend, and noted that they both have an affinity for the people of Kansas City. He said he felt that his strengths were in his knowledge he’d gained both as a former council member and as the chair of PIAC.
“We need a mayor who can hit the ground running,” he said. “I know every part of this city through PIAC.”
Candidates for the other five at-large seats were also in attendance. Their thoughts on the biggest problems facing Kansas City were as follows:
1st District at-large
• Scott Wagner: jobs, more code enforcement officers
• Daina Kennedy: crime, cutting red tape for small businesses
2nd District at-large
• Ed Ford: hallowing out of the urban core
• Allen Dillingham: stop the squabbling at city hall
3rd District at-large
• Melba Curls: safe neighborhoods, better schools
• Brandon Ellington: apathy, crime, education
4th District at-large
• John Crawford: economic development
• Jim Glover: smart budgeting techniques
5th District at-large
• Cindy Circo: vision to tackle multiple issues
• Charlie Angel: jobs, crime