This month marks the one-year anniversary of one of the most divisive pieces of legislation in recent memory to go through Kansas City Council without a single committee hearing – leaving the Northland portion of KC out.
On May 20th, 2021, eight members of the city council - all members south of river- and the mayor passed a “same-day” ordinance that aimed to reallocate $42 million of the KCPD budget. This prevented the four Northland representatives from bringing it to a committee and calling upon their constituents for feedback or questioning the legality, which would have saved the city millions in legal fees. Later, the ordinance was found to violate Missouri State statutes by a judge and thrown out.
City council decided on the original FY 21-22 budget of KCPD a couple months prior through the normal budget process of constituent and key stakeholder input. So why did nine members of the council decide to wait until May 20th to try to pull back a fifth of the police budget? It was after Kansas Citians already voted to reinstate the 1% earnings tax and the state legislature was out of session.
Proponents on council said this step would lead toward “local control” of the police department. Which leads to the question: Is this the kind of local control we want as a city?
Do we really think the Northland, 37% of our population and growing, would have been included in how the $42 million would be spent when they were shut out of the attempted pull back of money? Absolutely not. Based on the council’s past behavior, if the original ordinance would have been deemed legal, the council would have had a series of ordinances developed without constituent input from all parts of our city.
In light of last year’s actions, I recommend amending section 502 of the KCMO City Charter to require support of a councilperson in at least five of the six council districts to adopt a “same-day” ordinance. This would require at least one of the four Northland members in the two districts north to be knowledgeable about the ordinance and present an opportunity for all parts of the city to have input on our public safety measures. This amendment would be beneficial for all districts in the city for other policy areas, ensuring no one can be excluded the way the Northland was on this issue.