Midtown meets candidates at forum

march31 forum 2

Audience members voted on the top issues they think are important in the upcoming city council races at a Midtown candidate forum March 31.

By Joe Lambe

Kind of like speed dating, candidates for the April 7 city primary election introduced themselves and used a three-minute time allotment to make their most important points at a forum Tuesday evening.

More than 80 people attended the forum sponsored by the Midtown KC Post and the Valentine, Roanoke, Volker, Coleman Highlands, Hyde Park and Old Hyde Park neighborhood associations. It was held at the Writers Place.

All in-district candidates for the fourth district were invited, along with all at-large candidates citywide.

Before the forum, citizens were invited to give input into what issues they hoped candidates would address, making comments both on the Midtown KC Post website and the online site mySidewalk. Those issues were listed on large charts. Citizens who attended got three sticky dots each to put by issues they thought important, and were able to suggest additional agenda items for the next council to address.

They pegged transportation, like walking, biking, buses and streetcars. Also, infrastructure like sidewalks scored high, along with schools and jobs.

Map of council districts 

Here’s an overview of what the candidates focused on during the forum.

4th District in district (replacing Jan Marcason, who is term limited)

John Fierro is the CEO and president of Mattie Rhodes Center.

He has a Master’s degree in business, was previously on the city park board, served on the board of the Port Authority and as vice chair of the housing authority.

He said he sees his role as “a collaborator, we are all in this together, we need each other.”

Sidewalks, many crumbling from tree roots the city planted years ago, are a problem in a city that is encouraging people to walk, he said.

And a big part of that problem is that the city puts all costs of sidewalk repair on the homeowner, he said.

His role on the park board was much like that of a councilman, he said. “We were bombarded by community interaction and it was our responsibility to address those issues head on,”

With the past city service, he said, “I come to you ready to work and ready to move forward.”


Jolie Justus served eight years in the state senate and is a lawyer who directs pro bono services at Shook Hardy & Bacon.

She has lived throughout Midtown and is now in the Longfellow neighborhood.

She got her start in community work when she lived in Hyde Park, went to her first neighborhood meeting and they put her on their board, she said.

Because she helped rewrite state criminal laws, she wants to focus on public safety on the council, she said.

Other platform positions center on sustainable development and infrastructure and basic city services.

She also walks, bikes and uses buses and is a major advocate for public transportation, she said. “It is a personal issue to me and it will be a top priority.”


1st District at large

Scott Wagner is the incumbent, who listed accomplishments and ideas.

He said he helped create a revolving fund used to help set up Community Improvement Districts, like those now in Westport, along Main Street, West 39th Street and dozens of neighborhoods and developments.

A streetcar supporter, he said he also favors bikes and buses.

He is working on a plan to help people buy some of the 5,000 or so abandoned houses in the city, he said. They can be hard to buy and renovate now because many of the homes have titles clouded by liens or other problems.

He and others are looking at a program where the city would guarantee such loans, he said.

As for the $6 billion in deferred city maintenance on infrastructure, he said, he suggests that bonds from about 2005 that are gradually expiring could be renewed to provide about $1 billion without any tax increase.

Wagner’s opponent, Jeff Roberts, did not appear for the forum. Neither did 2nd district at large council candidates Teresa Loar and Jay Hodges and 3rd district at large candidates Stephan Gordan and Karmello Coleman.


3rd district at large

Forestine Beasley said she did work for outgoing Councilwoman Melba Curls and has been active in the community for decades. She is more than familiar with the problem of vacant houses, she said, and worked with the Land Bank and a foreclosure task force.


Carol Gatlin said she is running because of problems in the 3rd district, like crime, trash and vacant housing.

But “I’d like to unite all the districts,” she said. “I care; I’m one of you; I care about your needs.”

She would work to encourage home ownership, promote early childhood education and other needed improvements, she said.

“I would like for you to help me help you – vote for me,” she said.


Quinton Lucas is a law professor at the University of Kansas who served on the mayor’s charter review commission and is now on the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

He was raised by a single mother in the city, he said, and grew into an academic because he rode his bike to the library every day “because we didn’t have AC at our house.”

We need a city council that is as interested in how to restore communities as it is in doing big development projects, he said.

As far as managing the city’s massive infrastructure needs, he said, the city must set priorities and make sure funds planned for capital improvements are used for that.


4th District at large

Jared Campbell said he wants to improve all forms of public transportation and favors extending the streetcars down Main Street.

City officials should be more active in pushing for childhood education, he said. He added that a citizen group should create a 20-year vision plan for the city and that he would push for continuing to grow the city population.


Jim Glover, the incumbent council member, noted that he created the Midtown plan that led to the Costco and Home Depot.

That plan still goes on, he noted, with a percentage of funds raised from it going toward Midtown housing.

He supported the downtown streetcar and supports extending it. When it starts running downtown, he said, more people will want it.

He said he also helped the city bring in MAC Properties, the firm renovating the Ambassador hotel on Broadway that has also renovated more than 20 historic buildings along Armour.

Their effort is poised to extend to buildings east of Troost, he said. “Give me another four years and we’ll get it all done.”


Katheryn Shields is a former city council member and former Jackson County executive.

While with the city from 1987 to 1994, she worked to restore the 1 percent for art program that has funded much city art, she said, and she also worked to get funding for hospitals that serve the poor.

She also spoke to the KCI airport controversy, whether to renovate it or build a new airport.

As county executive, she said, she negotiated a deal with the sports teams to renovate the aging stadiums for a third of the price of building new.

“When we have a problem, the only answer is not to take a sledge hammer to it,” she said.


Bryan M. Stalder is an editorial cartoonist at the Northeast News and president of the Indian Mound Neighborhood Association.

He has been active in opposing the streetcars and worked to improve housing in blighted areas, he said.

Sidewalks are a major issue, he said, and the city should offer to split the cost of replacement with homeowners.

His plan involves stressing education, parks and interconnectivity, he said.

When it comes to maintaining infrastructure, the city should spend money for what it is earmarked for and not raid it for other costs.


5th District at large

Dennis Anthony is a retired Navy officer and a retired code inspector.

“I knew two years ago that I still have passion and energy to do more service,” he said, and he’s taking a meager war chest of about $17 in campaign funds and going for it.

“I think it is important to have ethical leadership,” he said, and council members should collaborate and brainstorm on new ideas and approaches.


Lee Barnes Jr. is an engineer who worked at Hallmark for five years and started companies and bought and sold them.

He said he has served on the Kansas City school board and is now director of operations at Swope Center Renaissance, which he said serves about 3,000 students in churches and community centers.

He has also renovated 10 houses and an abandoned school building, he said.

He questioned whether streetcar expansion spurs development, and said two cities have halted such expansion because it did not.

 6th District at large

Scott Taylor is running unopposed. But he spoke briefly, urging people to vote. Partly in hopes of increasing dismal turnout, the city for this year moved back voting times to spring and summer from winter and allowed more time between the primary and general election.

“Hope to see you all at the polls,” he said.


  1. Rose says:

    Great turnout! Interesting to hear each of their ideas, especially in such a consolidated way 😉

  2. rhonda says:

    This all sounds great. But where is the fine print? We all know that the Hyde Park Association has built themselves on power and the city backs them up no matter what. There are a lot of things that go on within the association that are heavily based on discrimination and politics. I think this plan would be great for the area, but I have to wonder if we are not feeding the problem by having it being controlled by the Hyde Park Association. I’d like to see the funds and the determination of how the community improvement project is executed and ran overseen by a third party organization.

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