Low turnout at the Student Government Association’s (SGA) 4th District At-Large City Council Forum did not stop the lively debate.
Candidates John Crawford, Jim Glover and Anne McGregor attended the event Wednesday, Feb. 16 in the University Center Room 106.
The other candidates, Ed Pace and Annie Presley, were not in attendance. However, student Carrie Smith represented Presley by reading a prepared statement from Presley, who was attending a dinner held by the Heavy Constructors Association at the time.
The forum was moderated by SGA Intern Kaitlin Claren, who allowed each candidate a four-minute introduction and asked two discussion questions.
The first question was whether or not the city council should support the proposed Polsinelli Shughart PC office building on the Country Club Plaza.
The plan calls for the demolition of the Neptune Apartments and reallocation of 468 public parking spaces for the project.
The Polsinelli plan was blocked with a 3-2 vote by the Kansas City Plan Commission, meaning the proposal would require the passage of a special city ordinance to move forward.
Glover opposed the project on the grounds that it removed a residential building from the Plaza and would create excess congestion on 47th Street.
Instead, he voiced support for incentivizing a location on the periphery of the Plaza or Downtown.
Glover, along with McGregor, also dismissed the likelihood of Polsinelli moving to Overland Park, Kan. in spite of a generous offer from the city, citing that 50 percent of Poslinelli’s attorneys are not licensed to practice in Kansas.
Crawford, on the other hand, said he was not sure whether or not he would support the Polsinelli project.
Crawford voiced concerns over historic preservation and traffic volume generated by the proposed building, but pointed out that the Polsinelli proposal has been “the first project of its size that has not sought city assistance.”
He also cited support for the project from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and some city planners, who found the project to be consistent with the Plaza Plan, a set of guidelines that prevent the construction of high-rise buildings on the original Plaza blocks.
But McGregor, a fierce opponent of the proposal, challenged Crawford, stating the project violated the Plaza Plan by requesting three variances, which include reallocating public parking, increasing the height allowance for the project and rezoning the site of the Neptune Apartments from residential to commercial.
“Just because [Polsinelli Law Firm] want a 47th Street address is not significant enough to allow them to alter the land use of the Plaza,” McGregor said. “This is our crown jewel and we need to protect that.”
McGregor also cited strong opposition from surrounding neighborhoods to the project, and called Crawford out for having gone on the record as supporting the project.
Crawford defended his stance, which was in response to a Kansas City Star questionnaire, stating he would support the project only if he believed certain issues had been legitimately resolved.
Ed Pace, who did not attend the forum, also opposes the Polsinelli project.
“The current design does not comport with the architectural characteristics of the neighborhood,” Pace wrote in response to a Kansas City Star questionnaire.
Presley, who also did not attend the forum, supports the project.
“The third design, traffic study and parking capacity all meet or exceed the Plaza Plan,” Presley wrote in response to the Star questionnaire. “These jobs need to stay in Kansas City.”
The second question was what candidates would do to improve blighted neighborhoods.
Glover’s response focused on creation of jobs and retail development, citing past experience as councilman.
In the late 1990s, Glover spearheaded the Midtown Marketplace, which brought Costco and Home Depot to Main Street and Linwood Boulevard, and used revenue from the project to redevelop housing in surrounding neighborhoods.
Glover said he would adapt the approach, known as the “Glover Plan,” to neighborhoods on the East Side of Kansas City.
Crawford also cited his involvement in the Midtown Marketplace, and in developing the Community Improvement District Act.
“Every time you create that kind of a district, crime will drop and the area will start to look greater,” Crawford said.
Crawford also voiced support for neighborhood preservation and designation of a portion of the city’s general fund for community reinvestment.
McGregor advocated a multi-prong approach, which would include the creation of public-private partnerships, improving public transportation and taking the city Housing Authority out of receivership.
McGregor said few private organizations receive funding from the city, and specifically addressed problems facing the city’s East Side, which suffered from discriminatory housing policies leading to the choking off of investment in the neighborhood.
Pace’s website, www.electedpace.com, states he will work to strengthen community institutions, protect neighborhoods from intrusion/encroachment, allocate resources appropriately and responsibly and create walkable and sustainable neighborhoods. Presley’s website, www.ap4kc.com, emphasizes business development.
“City Hall isn’t open for business,” Presley’s website states. “Rather than help retain and recruit new Kansas City businesses, the city council and the mayor blame Kansas for poaching our employers, while begging the cash-strapped Missouri government for more incentives. Meanwhile, KCMO business owners are being strangled by red tape and bureaucracy, waiting months and sometimes years, for permits, certifications or variances needed to create jobs. Business owners simply cannot create jobs in such an irresponsible environment. This needs to stop,” Presley stated on her website.
The third question, asked by audience participant and UMKC professor Mona Lyne was what Kansas City should do to address crime and wehether the city should have local control of the Police Board.
Crawford voiced support for local control, and stated he believed community policing is the most effective way to reduce crime.
Crawford also stated Kansas City’s low homicide clearance rate, half the rate of other large cities, is problematic.
Increasing the diversity of the police department, Crawford said, would be effective at building trust between the police and residents of the city’s East Side, where the vast majority of the city’s homicides occur.
Glover, however, opposed local control of the police board, stating it would be difficult to obtain and potentially problematic.
Glover, who said he has been shot at twice, said creating jobs in high-poverty areas would be the best approach to reducing crime.
“Neither of the people who shot at me had a job,” Glover said.
McGregor agreed with Glover on the issue of jobs, but stated she supports local control of the police.
“The fact of the matter is that no one is being held accountable for the crime rate in this city,” McGregor said. “At some point, we’ve got to develop a way to hold the police department and board accountable for the crime rate.”
Both Pace and Presley support local control of the police board.
Pace’s website outlines several steps he would take to reduce crime, which include hiring officers from the community and reducing quality of life offenses, such as vandalism, graffiti and abandoned vehicles.
Presley’s website does not specifically mention her plan to reduce crime, although she stated her support for increasing efficiency of funds allocated to the police department in her questionnaire response to the Star.
All five candidates will be voted on city-wide in the Feb. 22 Municipal Primary Election, as are all at-large council races.
The two candidates with the most votes in each contested council race will compete against each other in the general election.
Meet the candidates
A look at the people running in the 4th District At-Large city council race
- Age: 63
- Neighborhood: Crestwood
- Experience: Development attorney, pushed legislation that created Community Improvement Districts
- Political role model: John F. Kennedy
- Website: www.friendsofjohncrawford.com
- Age: 59
- Neighborhood: Hyde Park
- Experience: Attorney, former councilman, spearheaded Midtown Marketplace development
- Campaign slogan: “Jim Glover: The right fit at the right time”
- Website: www.glover4kc.com
- Age: 53
- Neighborhood: Southmoreland
- Experience: Owner of MC2 Consultants, public service experience
- UMKC connection: Graduated in 1981 with degree in business
- Website: www.mcgregor4kc.com
- Age: 32
- Neighborhood: Hyde Park
- Experience: Retail merchandiser, community organizer, youth counselor/advocate
- UMKC connection: Graduated from UMKC in 2009 with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts
- Website: www.electedpace.com
- Age: 51
- Neighborhood: Brookside
- Principal and owner of the McKeller Group, Inc., fundraised for Union Station and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
- UMKC connection: Master’s in Public Administration
- Website: www.ap4kc.com