Mayoral Candidates Talk Downtown: Councilwoman Jolie Justus

Downtown skyline from the Crossroads.

Editor’s note: Kansas City voters are preparing to elect a new mayor to replace Mayor Sly James, who has reached the end of his two-term limit.

The mayoral primary will be April 2 followed by the general election on June 18.  

CityScene KC has reached out to the leading candidates for their opinions on several downtown issues and is grateful for their responses.  

Each have been asked the same questions and their responses will be posted individually over the next two weeks.

What is your take on the current state of greater downtown today and what would your goals be for the area if you were elected mayor?


What is your take on the current state of greater downtown today and what would your goals be for the area if you were elected mayor?

The revival of the greater downtown area is key to the success of Kansas City and it is a story I want to replicate throughout every neighborhood in our city.

Downtown KC is a model of the diverse, inclusive, connected city that every Kansas Citian desires and deserves. And while we’ve come a long way, we are not done yet.

We must focus on housing, transportation, infrastructure, job creation and public safety if we want this momentum to continue.

More specifics are outlined in the following questions and answers, but in general, our planning, incentives, policies and ordinances must reflect our stated goals and we need to continue to push for a desirable, equitable and inclusive downtown where everyone can work, live, retire, go to school and enjoy everything our city has to offer.

What would be your approach to tax incentives to assist downtown redevelopment? If you don’t believe further incentives are needed, why?

Economic development policies have restored our downtown into an economic powerhouse. We need to continue that work and make sure that this success continues to ripple out throughout all Kansas City neighborhoods.

Goals should include identifying East-West corridors to interact with the well-developed North-South corridor. The city’s economic development initiatives can be used to build “economic causeways” between the “development islands” of the last twenty years.

To support travel along those causeways, the city must expand its creative work with the KCATA. Efficient public transportation broadens the number of customers, employees and neighbors moving along those economic causeways, without leading to gridlock, destroying our environment, or increasing the need for parking.

Additionally, priority should shift to job creation, attraction and retention of new industries and workforce development.

Councilwoman Jolie Justus

Are there types of projects (residential, office, hotel, entertainment, etc.) that you believe no longer need tax incentives? If so, what are they and why?

I do not think in terms of ruling types of projects “in-or-out” of eligibility for economic incentives. The focus must remain on the public interest in a project. The public interest aspect of considering these proposals should remain constant.

There are several ‘big ideas’ being discussed for greater downtown’s future. What’s your position on the following:

A downtown ballpark for the Royals?

If a funding mechanism existed, I would say let’s turn some dirt. Major league baseball should always be played in a downtown venue. Let’s restart the conversation.

Decking the South Loop with a park?

An excellent idea that should be a priority. I look forward to continuing conversations about public-private partnerships and how to leverage federal dollars to make this happen.

Reuniting the River Market with Columbus Park by lowering Missouri 9 to grade and reconnecting Independence Avenue?

I support the concept and look forward to learning how we can pursue this and other ideas that will facilitate increased mobility, creation of more affordable housing opportunities, access to employment and commercial interaction.

Encouraging development along the 18th Street corridor to help connect the East Crossroads and 18th & Vine Jazz District?

I believe the City should accelerate development efforts along the 18th Street Corridor. As a 4th District Councilmember, we have allocated PIAC dollars toward this effort.

Extending the streetcar to the riverfront and UMKC?

I have been a steadfast supporter of the streetcar and support expansion of the existing line. I worked hard to make sure that we had three successful elections for the Main Street
expansion, I have lead the effort on council to keep the project moving forward and I look
forward to continuing that work.

What’s your position on retaining City Manager Troy Schulte?

The retention or dismissal of any city manager rests with the council and the mayor casts one vote on council. I have a strong working relationship with Troy Schulte and look forward to addressing this personnel issue with Mr. Schulte and the new council.

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  1. The proposed 50% cap on incentives works if one assumes the same level of capital investment will occur as would have occurred with the current 75% cap. In addition, one must assume that properties adjacent to the incentivized development will not appreciate in value – that a vacant lot converted to a retail/office complex will not benefit neighboring properties.

    Their is a separate argument regarding government picking winners and losers, which government has always done through tax policy. In the context of a retail development, an existing landlord may rightfully oppose the grant of incentives to a new developer who intends to turn an adjacent greenfield into a retail use – on the idea that the grant of incentives will contribute to supply and that the new developer will be able to offer reduced rent, due to the government subsidy.

    However, the existing landlord may benefit from the increased traffic the new development draws. I don’t believe their are too many landlords who would prefer an adjacent shopping center be converted to a greenfield, but I suppose someone may even have an argument for that. In short, a site specific microeconomic analysis should be considered by all interested parties. A hard fast “one size fits all” rule regarding development incentives doesn’t work.

  2. Her answered are rather political, especially when contrasted with Phil Glynn’s answers, which could be good or bad. Sort of noncommittal. She ” supports” concepts and “looks forward to learning” about a lot of things, it seems. Lots of “should”s. Regardless, I think she would do a good job–if Sly and Kay Barnes like her I will get behind it.

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