The early years
Kansas City traces its beginnings to 1821, when Missouri was admitted to the Union. In that year, Francois Chouteau, a French man living in St. Louis, came up the Missouri River and established a trading post on the waterway in the area that is now the northeast industrial district. Another young trader, John Calvin McCoy, opened a store inland on the Santa Fe Trail. He considered his land a portal to the West and thus named it Westport.
McCoy and 13 other men purchased a farm in the area and formed the town/company that later became Kansas City’s downtown district. The new owners decided to name the township the Town of Kansas after the Kansa Indians, or Kaws, who inhabited the area.
The town retained its name when it was incorporated and granted a charter by Jackson County on June 1, 1850. When it was incorporated by the state Feb. 22, 1853, the town became the City of Kansas and in 1889, it officially became known as Kansas City.
The City of Kansas City, Mo., has a council-manager form of government and operates in portions of Cass, Clay, Jackson and Platte counties. A professional administration team (the city manager and his staff) handles daily city government operations in accordance with the city charter, ordinances and City Council priorities.
The city manager is the City’s chief administrator and is responsible for seeing that city government is run efficiently and economically. The city manager serves and advises the mayor and the City Council, appoints most department directors and prepares an annual budget for City Council consideration.
The city manager does not appoint the chief of the Police Department or the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, both of whom are appointed by the boards they serve. The city auditor and the city clerk are appointed by the City Council.
The mayor and the City Council
The 13-member City Council is the City’s legislative and policy-making body. Its members, including the mayor, are elected to four-year terms and may serve two consecutive terms.
Kansas City, Mo., is divided into six council districts that are revised according to population at least every five years. The mayor and six City Council members are elected at large. The other six members of the City Council are elected from within the districts they serve. Candidates for mayor and City Council positions must be at least 25 years old, qualified City voters, residents of the City for five years and of their district for six months, and have paid City and county taxes for two years before election.
The mayor is the chief elected official of the City, and president of the City Council. The mayor possesses all the powers and duties of a City Council member. The mayor appoints most members of council committees and the City’s advisory boards and commissions. The mayor signs all ordinances and bonds authorized by the City Council and is an ex-officio member of the Board of Police Commissioners. The mayor also suggests, for City Council ratification, one City Councilmember as mayor pro tem to serve during the mayor’s absence or a period of disability.
The City Council sets the overall policy for the City by adopting resolutions and ordinances, making appropriations and approving budgets for all departments and conducting public hearings on City affairs. After an ordinance or resolution is passed or the budget is adopted, the City Council continues to monitor the results of its actions through studies, surveys and hearings.
Resolutions and ordinances
The City Council, city manager, City department, resident or group may request resolutions and ordinances. Resolutions and ordinances are the tools the City Council uses to implement policies.
Resolutions state the opinion or the feeling of the City Council and are used to dictate policy to City employees, congratulate an organization or a person, express sorrow at the death of a well-known person or urge another governmental body, such as the U.S. Congress, to take a desired action. An ordinance authorizes the spending of City money, sets tax levies or establishes regulations that govern the actions of City agencies and residents.
Matters before the City Council are read once each week for three weeks. A reading consists of reading aloud the number of the resolution or ordinance and a brief description of its purpose. When a measure is introduced (its first reading), it is assigned to one of the committees: Finance and Audit; Legislative; Public Safety and Neighborhood; Housing; Planning and Zoning; and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. These committees hold weekly public hearings as necessary to receive testimony from people who support or oppose the resolutions or ordinances being considered. Testimony helps the committees decide to recommend passage or defeat.
After a committee reaches a decision on a resolution or ordinance, it is returned to the full City Council. The following week, it is read for the third time and unless there is a delay, the full City Council will take a final vote. Most ordinances and resolutions require seven votes for passage.
An ordinance usually goes into effect 10 days after passage. The City Council may declare an ordinance an emergency measure, in which case it goes into effect immediately.
The City Council often bypasses the required three readings, which can be done if at least nine members agree and if the ordinance does not make a grant, renew a franchise or regulate a utility charge.
City Council legislative meetings
The City Council legislative session is held every Thursday at 3 p.m. in the City Council Chambers on the 26th floor of City Hall. Prior to the legislative session, the council may discuss current issues and proposed ordinances or resolutions in a business session.
City Council business-sessions are at 1:30 p.m. on the 10th floor of City Hall. The public may attend any of these meetings, but public testimony is heard only at committee sessions.
All committee meetings and legislative sessions are aired on the Kansas City Government Channel, KCCG-TV2, via cable, or live online.