On June 18, Kansas City residents will go to the polls to elect school board members, an almost totally new city council and a new mayor, since current mayor Sly James cannot run again due to term limits. With so many open races, voter interest is high – but with little to separate the candidates, the way many people vote may come down to personalities. However, for many of the city’s core residents, earning their vote for mayor will depend considerably on how the two candidates say they will approach what are two core issues, affordable housing and violent crime.

We asked the candidates their thoughts on both of these issues. View the slides to see their answers.

The Issue: AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Compared to national numbers, housing stock in Kansas City is relatively affordable. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Kansas City is $915 and (based on trends) rising. According to Zillow, between 2010 and 2018, rents increased 28%. However, over the same time, income only increased 10%.

With housing affordability measured at spending no more than 30% of your household income the average KC rent is too high for too many, especially for the city’s low-income residents.

The city has been looking for a way to address the lack of affordable housing and last year adopted a five-year plan with the following main goals:

• creating 5,000 affordable units by 2023

• creating a $75 million housing trust fund to create and preserve affordable housing

• requiring housing projects receiving incentives from the city to include 15% percent affordable units.

They’re lofty goals, but the City Council still struggles with defining what is affordable rent and on how to fund the $75 million trust fund.

WHO IS JOLIE JUSTUS?

Jolie Justus, 48, was elected to the Kansas City Council in 2015. A Democrat, she served in the Missouri Senate from 2007 -2015. An attorney by profession, Justus works as the director of pro bono services for the Kansas City law firm of Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP. In this position she has helped champion the cases of many who might not have otherwise received quality representation.

If elected, Justus would be the first openly gay mayor of the city. She and her wife Lucy live in the Longfellow neighborhood with an energetic pack of rescue dogs.

Justus has been endorsed by outgoing Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

The Issue: VIOLENT CRIME

There is no city more synonymous with violence in the United States than Chicago, yet when you look at the population of Kansas City, its homicide rate outpaces Chicago’s. In fact, Kansas City currently has the 5th highest homicide rate in the country. In 2018, the city’s homicide rate was 32.5 per 100,000 residents while Chicago placed 11th with 21.1 murders per 100,000 residents.

Violent crime has never been higher in Kansas City, with the city’s current murder rate exceeding the previous all-time high rate of 30.9 per 100,000 reached in the height of the 1990s crack epidemic. It’s a trend that’s particularly disturbing considering the city’s homicide rate in 2014 was down to 19.3 per 100,000. These are numbers the city must get a hold of, or all of their efforts to position the city economically will be in vain.

Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...