Editor’s note: This guest commentary appeared originally in The Kansas City Star, it is reposted with the permission of the author.
By Mayor Quinton Lucas
Kansas City has a lot about which to be proud. We have resurgent downtown and Crossroads districts, unimaginable a decade ago. Despite early hiccups, construction on the new Kansas City International Airport terminal is well underway and has safeguards in place to ensure the project is delivered on time and under budget.
But, as Kansas City welcomes a new mayor and City Council, I am emphasizing in my early weeks a few key areas crucial to our city’s and region’s success.
I have already begun working with leaders in business, government and our neighborhoods, regardless of political party or side of the state line. Earlier this week, I met with St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, and I am honored to host Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids as a speaker at my inauguration.
Our region is better when we recognize that we need to work together to create a talented workforce, fight violent crime and build a long-term healthy tax base. Not only must our region bring an end to the economic development border war between Missouri and Kansas that has squandered millions of dollars of potential tax base in our communities, but also it must work together to determine what our regional story will be.
We must work with our universities, trade schools, job training programs and school districts to develop a workforce that will attract employers looking for a region in which to invest. We have to collaborate on the best ways to spend our valuable infrastructure dollars as well.
Nothing holds us back more than the many lives cut short each year by violent crime and the pervasive fear of danger felt by many Kansas Citians.
While it’s not just a police conversation, we do have to provide the tools necessary to recruit and train a diverse law enforcement workforce.
We need to support their efforts through Police Athletic Leagues in Kansas City and Kansas City, Kansas, to provide more hope and investment in young people.
We need to make permanent our investment in the Kansas City Police Department’s social work program, to ensure we are prioritizing mental health, substance abuse treatment and prevention, and support for survivors of domestic violence as key elements in our fight against crime.
I commend Blunt for his advocacy both for increased funding for mental health and substance abuse addiction treatment. We need support for access to better mental health services in every community of our region.
Too often in Kansas City, different groups — including City Hall — create plans for their own entities without collaborating with other affected groups. At present, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is having a conversation about the use of tax incentives to attract development, while the school district is having its own separate discussion. So too is Port KC, the port authority, which is talking about affordable housing.
One wonders in these conversations what divergent, diverse and non-rubber-stamped viewpoints may exist. My plan, as we saw with the 2016 incentive reform ordinance I shepherded, is to bring groups with disparate viewpoints together.
Rather than a dozen different conversations, let’s unify and come to a plan that keeps development moving forward while taking care of our poorest. Our answer should be to create quality, well-paying jobs available to people of all skill levels and safe spaces to live for all Kansas Citians.
If we keep that viewpoint as a core, we will eliminate mere conversation, and instead see progress and projects with support across sometimes-opposing viewpoints.
My final point is the simplest: Government shouldn’t be secretive. City residents shouldn’t have to inquire about how their money is spent. We should explain where our street maintenance dollars go before another winter of failed roads.
Every day we will work to make what City Hall is doing more available and accessible to the public. Where taxpayer money is spent is everyone’s business, and I look forward to sharing more with you over the years ahead.
My Kansas City story, coming from poverty earlier in life to ultimately being mayor of this great city, is something I hope will inspire in children in this region. It’s up to us to encourage them.
Working together we can do it, sharing what we’re doing, and keeping folks safe is how we will get it done. Let’s get to work.
Quinton Lucas is the new mayor of Kansas City.
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