Henry Klein​, candidate for KCMO Mayor. Editor’s note: The staff of KC Hispanic News believes an informed voter is a responsible voter. With that in mind and in advance of the April 2 primary election, we will regularly profile candidates who are vying to be seated as the next mayor of Kansas City, MO. Keep an eye on KC Hispanic News in the coming weeks to get to know the candidates and their stance on the issues affecting Kansas City and its residents.



BY JOE ARCE


Kansas City mayoral candidate Henry Klein sees the job of running a major metropolitan city as very similar to managing a business. First and foremost, you need a strong pool of job applicants who will then grow into even stronger employees.


Those applicants, at least figuratively, are Kansas City’s schoolchildren, who eventually must gain the knowledge and tools necessary to end the labor shortage in Kansas City.


Education among the top three of Klein’s list of priorities to address as the city’s next mayor. Currently a branch manager at Bank of America’s location at 63rd and Prospect, Klein has also worked for two other Fortune 500 companies in his adult life, and his list of volunteer work is extensive, including serving as board president for HabitatKC and board vice president for the Human Society of Kansas City.


In Klein’s view, schools in Kansas City have underserved students for far too long, and one of the solutions he proposes is a greater involvement in schools through City Hall.


“How do you move the city with schools that are sub-par?” says Klein. “The mayor has to be involved in education here in Kansas City.”


A Klein administration, he says, “would have an office of education. That office would be charged with understanding what employers and school districts need, and making sure we get them those things.”


Klein continues, “Now, we only have an education adviser to the mayor. We need an office tasked with specific goals so we can interact with the different school districts that touch Kansas City. Each will have a different set of needs. We need to understand those needs so we can help offer options and solutions to them.”


Though Mayor Sly James’ pre-K initiative has proven controversial, Klein says government’s larger involvement in schools would arm students with the educational resources they need to better prepare for the job market – and thus help the city grow.


“How do I attract businesses to come to Kansas City if we don’t have the educational resources to deal with that?” Klein asks.


Klein adds that as a business leader and hiring manager, he knows the all-too-real struggle of finding good, qualified job applicants.


“(At Bank of America), I have a hard time hiring, and we need people,” he says. “Many of the people we try to hire cannot even pass the assessment test, and it’s not something you have to study for. It’s not particularly hard. We’re just not educating properly. We’re letting human capital get away from us.”


Klein, who says he believes city government and school districts naturally go hand in hand, places the blame for that lack of proper education on the local school system.


“For 30 years, we have watched our school system fail our kids, generation after generation,” Klein says.


Klein cites basketball star LeBron James’ establishment of a public school as a model for Kansas City to potentially follow. The schools focus on the needs of at-risk youths in an attempt to level the playing field – or, in this case, the court – for less advantaged children with their more privileged peers.


“LeBron James has started a public school that helps at-risk kids try to succeed as opposed to letting private schools pick up the kids who have the most opp – the most money and most involvement,” Klein notes. “What we can learn from that school would help us understand what kinds of services we can offer in our public schools here, which will give us a better opportunity to educate our kids.”


The issue of safety also can be found in Klein’s trio of top priorities. Citing high crime rates as a continuing problem for the city, Klein says he supports local control for the Kansas City Police Department.


“We need to be safer here than we are today,” he says. “The police department’s priorities need to be our priorities. We are the only city in the United States that does not have local control of our police department. The evidence shows that’s a really bad idea.”


Another top priority for Klein is one that no other mayoral candidate thus far has shared – addressing government functionality. As a candidate with a background in business, Klein says he envisions Kansas City’s government being run like a large corporation. The mayor, he says, would be the chief executive officer, the city manager would act as the chief operations officer, and the city council would be similar to a board of directors.


“We have a weak form of mayoral government, and I want to change that,” Klein says. “The person who controls the purse strings is an unelected official, and that’s the city manager. The mayor is only one person on the city council. We need change so we can be more effective.”


One such change, Klein says, will be a greater commitment to diversity in the makeup of his staff and committee members.


“(At Klein’s Bank of America branch), our staff is majority minority, and that includes Latino employees. Bank of America is committed to that. We cannot grow our business without significant diversity in our staff,” he says. “And my customer base is predominantly minority, and I love working there every single day. I have the best customers, the best staff, and I love it. There’s only one job I want to do more than the job I’m doing today, and that’s be the mayor of Kansas City.”


Outside of the three issues that make up the pillars of his candidacy, Klein has plenty to say about the Kansas City International Airport project, which he sees as largely flawed.


“This has been one of the most mismanaged projects that we’ve seen in Kansas City for a long time,” Klein says. “That project was supposed to be a $1 billion project. (Current city leaders) don’t have an understanding of how business works. This is only translating to bigger donations to their campaign. Still, Klein says, what’s done is done, and he has no concrete plans to push for a change to the current KCI project.


“It’s important as mayor to honor the deals my predecessors have made. You don’t want to renege on those contracts,” Klein explains. “But in the areas where we can make changes, we should make changes. If this project gets bigger than $1.5 billion, someone will have to pay for that. I’m worried that will be the voters.”


Ultimately, Klein says his background in business will be of great benefit to the city, and if voters are tired of more of the same, they should vote for him.


“We need to think of City Hall as a big business, not a small business. That (business ) experience will be necessary,” Klein predicts. “It’s going to be a great choice for a whole lot of voters.”


For more information, visit www.klein4mayor.com.