By Don Bradley
Kansas City’s new council map means Hickman Mills and Ruskin areas will now be voting as part of the 5th district.
The district’s at-large seat is open with current office holder, Lee Barnes Jr., unable to run again due to term limits. “At-large” means voters throughout the city vote for the position.
The field to replace Barnes includes Michael Kelley, a community activist making his first run at elective office, Darrell Curls, part of a well-known political family, and Theresa Cass Galvin, who served eight years on the Jackson County Legislature and last year unsuccessfully challenged Frank White in the race for county executive.
Also, Chuck Byrd, who operates a trash business, is running as a write-in candidate.
The top two finishers will advance to the general election on June 20.
Michael Kelley, 31, graduated from Kansas State University and then earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is making his first try for elective office.
He is policy director for BikeWalkKC and serves on the board for the InterUrban ArtHouse. Kelley is fairly new to south Kansas City. He said he and his wife saved money until they could buy a house in the area, and that he is running for public office because of his daughters. Kelley lives in the Swope Park area.
The city’s current strategy to combat crime in the south Kansas City area is clearly not working, Kelley said. A beefed-up police presence is probably not the solution. He pushes jobs, affordable housing and youth activities as a means to lower crime rates.
He blames absentee landlords for many of the nuisance and codes violations on residential streets. He recently took a ride-along tour of the problem with a resident and saw first-hand trash heaps piled along streets, dilapidated houses and illegally parked cars. The city must find a way to strengthen penalties for code and nuisance violations. “You shouldn’t be able to acquire new properties until you take care of what you already have,” he said.
His plan is to pursue federal dollars as a means of making infrastructure improvements such as streets, sidewalks and curbs, which would then make the area more appealing for economic development. He says there is no reason why Blue Ridge Boulevard and other main corridors in the area should not be attractive locations to businesses looking to expand.
Darrell Curls, 64, comes from one of Kansas City’s best known political families. His father, Fred Curls, was one of the founding members of Freedom Inc., and Darrell Curls serves on the organization’s executive board. He also served on the Jackson County COMBAT board and the Hickman Mills school board. He has degrees from Longview Community College, Park University and Central Michigan University. He recently retired from Ford Motor Co. Curls lives in the Hickman Mills area.
Curls says his plan to reduce crime is to provide more resources for neighborhood crime prevention. He also says more job creation and support is needed to fight drugs and substance abuse which he says is a major cause of crime. The collaborative effort must involve neighborhood groups, law enforcement and school districts. “The average age of offenders is dropping so we have to catch them at an early age.”
He thinks the city can do a better job of providing housing choices for renters and potential home owners by rehabbing and renovation of existing homes. This would not only create housing options but also remove blight from neighborhoods. Of absentee landlords, he said, “We have to go after landlords and hold them accountable. The city may have to clean properties and send the bill to the property owners.”
Curls says the city needs to invest more funds to improve infrastructure as a means to attract new businesses which would provide jobs. Curls also pushes for job creation for youth. “We must work with developers to get them to look more closely at south Kansas City for good paying jobs and new housing.”
Theresa Cass Galvin
Theresa Cass Galvin, 57, served eight years on the Jackson County Legislature. Last year she gave up what was considered a safe seat to run against White for the county executive job. She viewed White as vulnerable because of problems with property reassessment. Galvin says she has worked 30 years in the construction industry. Galvin lives between Raytown and Lee’s Summit.
She says there are no easy fixes because crime is not an isolated issue but a consequence of other factors that blend into each other, such as poverty, drugs and lack of jobs. She does think more police on the streets would help, not just for enforcement but also to show young people where to turn for help. “But we don’t have enough police and they often get called away for something somewhere else. We don’t have enough young people applying to the academy. We need to make the job something kids want to be.”
She recently toured a Ruskin neighborhood with a trash problem and thinks something more could be done to force absentee landlords to take care of properties. She wonders if those landlords, some who live out of state, even are aware of the problem. “There needs to be some kind of repercussion. Right now, there is no ownership, no sense of pride in these neighborhoods.”
She pushes for the city to help start and support small businesses. “We need places and businesses owned by people in the neighborhood and where kids in the neighborhood can work.”
Chuck Byrd (write-in)
Chuck Byrd, 63, could not be reached for comment. On his campaign webpage, Byrd called for “second-chance hiring” as an economic development tool to create jobs, lessen recidivism and provide careers for persons released from prison. Byrd lives at the southern edge of Raytown.