State of the city is dynamic, mayor says

state-of-the-city-2014Kansas City excels in efficient government, jobs and development, but works to combat violent crime and some education failures, Mayor Sly James said today in his state of the union message.

The city is dynamic now, he said, when he spoke and took questions from students at Park Hill High School in the northland.

It will be students who inherit the consequences of city decisions made now, he said, and “they’ll lead this city when the rest of us are gone.”

He spoke in terms of city efficiency, employment, education and law enforcement.

“We are rocking and rolling regarding efficiency and employment,” he said.

Various publications have named the city among the top 10 travel destinations, the top 20 places to raise a family and more, he said.

“Newsweek has also said Kansas City’s mayor was one of the top five innovation mayors in the country,” he said, “and clearly they know what they’re talking about.”

Tech startups and the arts and creative businesses are flourishing in the city, he said, and massive development projects are underway or being announced regularly.

The Cerner project planned for the old Bannister Mall area will create 15,000 jobs alone. More than $700 million in projects are taking shape downtown thanks to the downtown streetcar starter line, he said.

A new grocery store has opened east of Troost Avenue and the new police station under construction on the east side will be “a redevelopment catalyst in a neighborhood in bad need of a redevelopment catalyst,” he said.

Violent crime is a big problem but he noted that almost half the city’s murders are in a 13-square mile area.

The No Violence Alliance of police, prosecutors and community groups attacks the problem in a new way, he noted. It helps minor offenders escape crime before violent acts that could lead to their deaths or others and it sends repeat violent offenders to prison.

Criminals have a choice, he said. “Change, dead, prison – I think change sounds pretty cool.”

The city will do more to provide activities for youths to avoid recent disturbance problems like those at the zoo and the Country Club Plaza.

The problems were caused  “by small numbers of goofballs, idiots and malcontents,” he said, “but it kind of stains everybody else.”

The city and educators also must try to help children earlier in their lives, he said.

James has been active in the Turn the Page KC reading program, which pairs children with volunteers to help them read proficiently at 3rd grade levels.

A third of third-graders in the city are not at that level now, he said, and children need ‘to learn to love to read so later in their academic years they can read to learn.”

Some people slight education because they don’t feel it is their responsibility to help raise the children of others, he said.

“As far as I’m concerned,” James said, “as long as I’m mayor every kid in the city is my kid.”

Kansas City is dynamic and moving forward, he said, and has shed a past in which people said it never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

“That’s changed,” he said. “We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into second tier status and thought processes.”

Leave a Comment