5 recall attempts later, Kansas City mayor is fighting Covid and Republicans

What challenges do you face when working in a weak mayoral system?

Policing in particular is an area where, frankly, you need that strong position and the ability to say, when voters vote for you, “We’re going to change.” You know, a lot of my opponents on the right like to say, “Look, that’s terrible because his goal was to get us under 100 homicides a year.” That was right and didn’t happen. In fact, exactly the opposite happened. We’ve seen increases.

But for me, nothing is more frustrating than when I’m talking to the people of Kansas City and they say, ‘We want you to make a new effort. We want you to try violence prevention. We want you to try and do the public relations right and find ways to break up gangs.” And we just sit back and say, “Oh, there’s nothing we can do.” And you know you basically have a police superintendent who is accountable to no one, that you have a committee of commissioners who are accountable only to the governor of Missouri, who I believe in many ways is not politically aligned with the Kansas City people at the managing public safety. It’s a real problem.

As a black mayor in this era of racial reckoning, can you talk about how this has affected you and how the crisis may or may not have been easier to navigate?

To be 100 percent honest, when I heard about George Floyd’s murder, I didn’t want to watch the video. I’ve been black all my life. I remember wondering as a kid why the LA cops were acquitted [after the Rodney King trial]. I’ve seen too many videos of black men being either beaten or dying on screen. And so at first I was kind of like, ‘You know what, I’m not even going to do it [watch it].” I didn’t comment. I haven’t done anything. But the protests came anyway because I think there was a real reckoning of justice, social justice, the criminal justice system in my own city.

In terms of what I was doing back then, I mean, not only are you viewed as a mayor, right, but you are viewed as someone who either stands up for your people or sells your people. The talks were tough, even with the police chief, who is white. I would say, “You know, these aren’t hooligans. There are many people who feel like they have never been heard.”

I kept that perspective throughout. And I think it helped me. It helped me to keep pushing at times when it was difficult. Our fight over the police budget last year was a challenge. And it led to another recall. …

I think it helps having a background that I had. I’m from downtown. I knew about homelessness growing up. I was raised by a single mother and I say this not out of sadness or shame, but out of pride. Someone who worked their tail off to get me and my sisters into the positions we are in now and it helps you communicate with people in a different way.

That means no matter the neighborhood, no matter the issue, no matter the people, it can be a room of 100 Trump Republicans hating everything I’m about. I will be in this room. I will show up i will listen I’ll make sure we do something to make a difference.

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