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KC’s bid to defund police requires endorsement of eight pro-law enforcement candidates in heated Kansas City Council races

A failed effort to recall the Kansas City mayor and several council members for trying to defund the police has evolved into a new movement to elect a more law enforcement-friendly council.

A political action committee called KC Citizens for Public Safety is approving a slate of eight pro-police city council candidates for the April 4 municipal election. The candidates are:

In the district (voted by district voters only):

1st District: Nathan Willett

District 4: Enrico Rizzo

6th District: Dan Tarwater

Overall (voted by all city voters):

1st District: Ronda Smith

2nd District: Mickey Younghanz

Neighborhood: Grace Cabrera

5th District: Theresa Cass Galvin

6th District: Jill Sasse

“We hope to get all of these people to one City Council seat,” says city activist Shannon Bjornlie, who helped lead the recall effort and also heads KC Citizens for Public Safety. “They are all like-minded people. I’m all for public safety. They want to fix our infrastructure problems.

“They are all against many of the secret meetings that the mayor holds. They’re not afraid to stand up to the mayor. He doesn’t scare them. These are people I believe will never be intimidated by him.

The group also opposes passing the ordinances on the same day they are presented to the public, a tactic that has been used to try to siphon off $42 million from the police budget in 2021. A judge later ruled that it it was an illegal move by Mayor Quinton. Lucas and eight of the 12 board members, as the Kansas City Police Department’s budget was already set.

“They’re people who aren’t going to get same-day passes,” Bjornlie says of the eight approved candidates. “They’re all going to do what’s best, not just for their constituents, but just for the city at large.”

KC Citizens for Public Safety hopes to rally support for the eight nominees through its Facebook page and other social media, as well as door-to-door campaigns. Bjornlie says the recall effort has also raised awareness of the need to support the police and resulted in thousands of citizen signatures in favor of law enforcement.

“Even though we didn’t achieve our goal (on recalling signatures), I don’t consider it a success because we made people aware of what was happening. And now we have a whole bunch of (supporters).

“It’s been a long time since Kansas City has had a group of (applicants) who say, ‘OK, that’s enough. We will all run.” We have excellent candidates running. And you know, usually people don’t just step up and run.

However, pro-police voters also need to go out and vote on April 4, he said.

“One in four Northlanders vote. We could change the whole election if two out of four voted. Northlanders have more say than they realize, and they just don’t go out and vote.”

How does Kansas City look different if these eight candidates take office?

“Oh my god, in so many ways,” says Bjornlie. “First of all, we will have a city council in favor of public safety, which will support our police and hopefully help them. We have lost so many officers. We hope they help us get our staff back on their feet. I hope they will work better with the boss than the current board has worked with the boss in the past.

“I think they are all very enterprising. Instead of pet projects, I think we’ll get things that benefit the entire city. I just think it will get better all around. (A reduction in) unnecessary expenses; the support law enforcement needs. Instead of being fought over all the time, they (the police) will actually have some people on their side.”

With a survey by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry citing crime as a top overall concern of business owners, support for the police is on the rise. Indeed, in response to the KC’s effort to divert police funds, the Missouri Legislature passed legislation last year — and state voters confirmed it in November — to set a minimum police budget at 25 percent. of the Kansas City General Revenue Fund.

“The areas with the highest crime,” Bjornlie says, “you would think those people of all people would like a change.

“I think people want change. Just being out there, making the call and talking to people in all areas of the city — not everyone we talked to, obviously, but a lot of people — about 10,000 people we could get to wanted a change.

“They weren’t happy with the way things are going. And it didn’t matter where we were in the city. Nobody was happy.”

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