KCMO Mayoral Candidates Talk About Jobs, Crumbling Infrastructure

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There was a lot of talk about leadership, or what some perceive as the lack of it, during a forum of Kansas City, Missouri, mayoral candidates on Friday.

A group of seven candidates gathered at the Kansas City Bar Association forum to talk about why voters should make them the city's next mayor.

Much of the talk surrounded the city's earnings tax, job losses to Kansas and crumbling infrastructure. Development lawyer and mayoral candidate Mike Burke talked about bringing people back to Kansas City.

"I want to make Kansas City a young person's town," said Burke. "I want to encourage the creative class, the 20-somethings, to locate settle stay and come back to Kansas City."

Nearly all the candidates believe Kansas Citians will vote to retain the earnings tax, but Sports Authority president Jim Rowland criticized the mayor and council for not treating the earnings tax as critical funding.

"Last September, the council gave away money, the earnings tax, just to keep a company in Kansas City," said Rowland. "So which is it, is it critical or is it so frivolous you can just give it away? We didn't get any phone calls. They didn't ask us, did they, can I refund your tax?"

Former mayor Charles Wheeler says poor management at City Hall keeps costing taxpayers.

"We've lost millions of dollars because of the way we've treated people," said Wheeler. "This past week, the acting city manager had two lawsuits against him for not treating people well. I think that didn't happen in any of the eight years I was mayor. There's no reason for it to happen."

Mayor Mark Funkhouser defended his record saying he's the only leader who's focused on basic services, while previous mayors were dazzled by glitzy projects.

"If this downtown hotel gets approved it's going to suck money away from basic services, one way or another," said Funkhouser. "What happens if it's half-done and they run out of money, who are they going to turn to? They're gong to turn to the taxpayers."

Candidate Henry Klein says that public safety needs to be a priority for the city.

"Crime is pervasive," said Klein. "It's gotten worse. Crime has got be the number one priority of the mayor going forward."

Candidate and City Council member Deb Hermann says that the mayor and city council needs to work together better for the city to move forward.

"City Hall does not work well for business," said Hermann. "We don't welcome business. We've developed a very adversarial relationship. That has to stop."

Candidate Sly James says that it's time for the city to pull together.

"I think the very first thing that we have to do is recognize that Kansas City is one city," said James. "It is not six council districts, it's not six little fiefdoms and kingdoms."

The primary election is scheduled for February 22nd.

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