The following is a transcript of an interview with Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas that aired on Sunday, July 25, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
JOHN DICKERSON: We go now to Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas, who joins us from our CBS station KCTV in Fairway, Kansas. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
KANSAS CITY MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: Good morning.
JOHN DICKERSON: The chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System said that they are past the tipping point. We talked last week with the Springfield mayor who said he was asking the governor for extra space to handle the COVID patients because they had already passed the tipping point as well. Is that something you’re considering with the uptick in COVID cases in Kansas City?
MAYOR LUCAS: Abs- absolutely. We continue to work with our hospital leadership and ask our friends in Jefferson City to help us out not just with outreach on vaccines, but to make sure that we’re ready to handle any type of crisis that would come to our hospitals. None of us wanted to be in this position. That’s why we have been pushing and clamoring for months for positive messages about vaccines, but certainly now making sure that we’re ready with hospital resources in case we need more and more ICU space to address the current crisis.
JOHN DICKERSON: You- last month you said you were concerned about the inability to break that 40% threshold of vaccination. There’s been some help from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that Health and Human Services have- have helped in Kansas City to get people vaccinated. But the rates are still low, 38.8% of the population has been fully vaccinated. What’s been the sticking point to improve those numbers?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, I think they’re painfully low. We have continued to message, perhaps to- to populations that haven’t needed to hear that message. We need to make sure that we’re reaching out to young people. Young men of color is a place where we have incredible weakness right now. That’s why we’re not only being as creative as possible in how we reach out through traditional media, but also concerts. We’ll be appearing and giving away tickets at hip hop concerts, country music concerts, any number of things that say to people that the vaccine is around, the vaccine is safe and it’s important for you to take. But another part of that is that we continue to have to push back against negative messaging, some of that messaging from people from this state running for United States Senate that are saying that the federal government is trying to kick down your door, force you to get a vaccine. What we’re really trying to say is it is safe. This is not compulsion. This is instead something that’s important for yourself and your family.
JOHN DICKERSON: You talked about compulsion. Over in St. Louis they’re reinstating the mask mandates in some instances. Are you rethinking that as- as the Delta variant spreads? And how does the mask mandate question coincide and conflict with the message you’re trying to pass about getting vaccinated?
MAYOR LUCAS: Well, you know, I think every mayor of a major city in America right now is wondering if it’s a time to return to mandates. We have thought at this point thus far that it is not necessary for Kansas City. As the secretary of commerce just noted, 97% of the cases that we’re seeing in hospitals are from those who are unvaccinated. So breaking through to that population. And I think when you think about that population, maybe about half of our unvaccinated folks are those that want to fight and think that this is all just fake. But there’s another half of folks that just haven’t done it yet for whatever reason. So we are trying to make sure that we push that message. In terms of compulsion, we are giving more consideration to requiring all of our 5,000 city employees to be vaccinated. I think that is something. I do encourage more American businesses, more American local and state governments to consider that as an important step for how we can show how important it is to our jurisdictions.
JOHN DICKERSON: I’m going to switch to the topic of- of crime and- and violence. When you came into office, you- you were- said you were committed to having fewer than 100 murders in Kansas City. The homicide rate went above that and- and set records. What’s been the biggest challenge for you in terms of combating those homicides?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, we can say it forever, but- but firearms, firearms trafficking into our state. Most of the guns used in crimes in Kansas City, indeed, all of the guns used in crimes in my city, Chicago, St. Louis, so many others don’t start out in Kansas City or St. Louis or Chicago. We need an ATF that will work with us in terms of fighting firearms trafficking. But I will note something in my state and it’s happening in more American states, red states in the South and the Midwest. They’ve passed new laws that prohibit or make it a crime for our local law enforcement to work with federal agencies on certain issues, particularly as it relates to gun trafficking. We’re running into more and more hurdles in terms of how we fight violent crime in our major cities. These are things that have not been helpful in turning around this crisis. We will continue to work with our young people and opportunities and everything under the sun. But most of our murders are committed by firearms. We have too many flooding the streets of our city, too many that are sold illegally in gun shows and we need to make sure that we limit that.
JOHN DICKERSON: The attorney general was in Chicago that- they are focusing on-on five cities. Kansas City is not one of them. Could you use a little-a little more federal attention on that issue of gun trafficking?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, we’ve had a wonderful relationship with the White House so far. I’ve appreciated this administration and I will note something different than from the last administration. When they’re working with us, they call us in advance. We have a chance to have a long conversation about what our cities need. We’re not just sending federal agencies and federal forces in to say, you must take this. And so we will continue to reach out to the White House and many others to make sure that we can have more resources. But back to the point from before, we just want an ATF that’s able to do what it is supposed to do, stopping the illegal trafficking of firearms. We need an FBI and others that are focused on preventing violent crime. Those are the things they can help us in all of our cities because, look, we’ve had generations of doing the same thing. Traditional enforcement efforts don’t work the same way that actually working with communities, getting the tools of weapons, working with young people are in terms of changing our violent crime numbers in Kansas City.
JOHN DICKERSON: One of the ways to- you’ve talked about in terms of changing those crime statistics is community programs getting in, particularly with teenagers that were decimated or shut down during COVID. How many of those are coming back online and how much time was lost, how much was harmed that’ll- that’ll last long after the pandemic is gone in terms of those community efforts to help with teenagers?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, I don’t think any of us would mislead the viewers in saying that this was not a tough year in terms of losing very important community programs with young people who were excited to be a part of them. Here in Kansas City, we brought back memories, night hoops, a basketball program. We’re trying to engage with young people as much as possible. But this is kind of the challenge of COVID-19, which is that as we have a Delta variant rising, as we’re seeing more concerns with community events, particularly indoor events, as we at some point get to the cold weather months, we want to make sure we can keep doing them. And so we are bringing them all back. We hope we get to keep having them. And so part of that is getting people vaccinated, including these very young people, so that we can make sure we’re looking out for them.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Mayor Quinton Lucas, thank you so much for being with us. Good luck to your community. And we’ll be right back in a moment.