Dave Helling of The Kansas City Star noted a while back that every ordinance approved by the City Council of Kansas City, must address a simple question: “Is it good for the children?” The vast majority of time it is answered with a one-word, “Yes.” The appearance of the question ranges from the somewhat defensible (capital improvements to Starlight Theatre) to the absurd (collective bargaining pay scales and convention and visitors center contracting).
This legislative afterthought was brought to mind after reading Councilwoman Teresa’ Loar’s guest column in the Star last month. She wrote.
We have spent an inordinate amount of time on this issue [building a new single airport terminal] at City Hall. And while it is very important, we are neglecting areas that are critical. Two of those issues that greatly affect all citizens of Kansas City are the escalating homicide rate in our city — currently 30 percent higher than last year — and the impact on families of higher water and sewer bills.
Loar is right; so much political attention is being spent on issues that are not important to Kansas City families. As this is being written, there have been 85 homicides in Kansas City, 50% higher than last year, the highest so far in a three-year spike. What good is a new airport terminal or a convention hotel if Kansas City has a national reputation for homicide? What could be more important than getting a handle on murders?
Our mayor likes to complain that Kansas City is the only major city in the country that does not control its own police board. But the mayor is not without his own considerable power over policing. In addition to sitting on the Board of Police Commissioners ex officio, Mayor James has veto power over the city budget. Not a dime is spent by any Kansas City department—including the police department—without his tacit approval. There is no greater power any politician can have than the power of the purse. Yet this power isn’t exercised to tackle the hard problem of violent crime; no, it is spent pursuing civic luxury items our city neither needs not can afford.
If the city officials at 414 East 12th Street have trouble focusing on their priorities, perhaps they ought to ask themselves with each ordinance, “How does this help reduce the number of homicides in Kansas City?” Would that be good for the children? Most definitely yes.