Reflecting on community, giving & compassion this holiday season

Kansas City is a beautiful place to call home.  Beautiful boulevards, parks and neighborhoods are present in every area of the City – North, South, East, and West.  These assets maintain their beauty throughout every season of the year, even now as winter encroaches.

The holidays are a time when many people slow down long enough to reflect on things like community, giving, and compassion.  Winter temperatures and inclement conditions should also cause us to be even more acutely aware that not all of us are fortunate enough to have cozy homes with smoking fireplaces, warm clothes, and tables laden with holiday foods.  Those things are certainly top of mind for me right now.

Notwithstanding the holiday season, nor the falling temperatures, neither the business of the state or economic development slow down.  Therefore, when a rather extraordinary opportunity to compete for a Boeing manufacturing plant and the jobs it would provide Missourians presented itself, I was happy to support the effort to bring those jobs to the St. Louis area.  Sure, I would have loved those jobs in Kansas City, but that was not an option in light of the fact that Boeing is already established in St. Louis and has a workforce there trained to build its aircraft.  This is one of those opportunities to support our peer city to the East and the entire state and I was happy to do so when asked.

When I agreed to support the St. Louis effort, there was no discussion or consultation about using or bartering Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to finance the Boeing deal.

That’s why I was saddened to learn that one of the tools government has to promote ideas like community, giving, and compassion has been used to leverage political support for last week’s special legislative session.  LIHTCs are competitive, strategic State investments aimed at increasing the supply of safe, affordable housing units for local residents who otherwise would be, quite literally, left out in the cold.

The City of Kansas City has three important projects that are now in question because LIHTC were bartered by the Governor and some members the Missouri General Assembly in negotiations to seal the Boeing deal.  Let me be clear about the impact of this deal: the City’s ability to add over 100 units of housing for the residents who need it most will be compromised.  I am perhaps most perplexed about how these elected officials, who never seem to miss an opportunity to pose for a photo with a veteran and who constantly beat the patriotic drum, can justify jeopardizing a housing program for homeless veterans at the St. Michael’s Veteran’s Center.  That project is adjacent to the Veteran’s Administration Health Facility and would provide housing and supportive services to veterans who served this nation and now find themselves in need.

Two other projects impacted include the Ivanhoe Gateway at 39th Street, a strategic location within the Green Impact Zone, and the Rose Hill Townhomes, a location on Troost Avenue that could provide transitional housing for formerly homeless individuals as they work out of that situation.  This housing plan is specifically targeted to a needy population that is positioned near  public transportation and is located on the historical racial dividing line in our City.

I have and will continue to support reasonable economic development initiatives in this state, even when those projects might not be located in Kansas City proper, but would still benefit the our overall economy.  I am compelled, however, to speak up when those economic development efforts barter away efforts to provide basic housing and services to the most needy of us.

I want Kansas Citians to know that I was not consulted about this deal that may have a profound impact on these important projects in our community.  Frankly, I doubt that anyone outside of those in Jefferson City who struck this deal were consulted.  That leads me to question the long-term strategy behind the whole deal.  If stakeholders who are heavily reliant on LIHTC didn’t have a seat at the table in the negotiations, then how can we be sure the Boeing deal is truly as good as it seems? If we need to pit big business against the needy and the poor to strike a deal then is the deal really worth it?  In this time of year, where we oftentimes emphasize the true meaning of the holidays, and considering the stakes, I hope state officials can find a way to let these worthy projects move forward while still signaling that Missouri is open for business.  I hope that policymakers in Jefferson City have a change of heart when it comes to LIHTC. Even the Grinch, in the end, realized the true meaning of the holiday season.

Here in Kansas City, in spite of deals being struck in Jefferson City, we put action behind the ideas of community, giving, and compassion through the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund. That fund is dedicated to assisting the city’s less fortunate and last year it helped over 7,000 Kansas City families. Donations are used to provide gifts to elderly shut-ins and hospital patients, food and clothing for the needy, parties for needy children and much more.  You can be a part of this very special tradition by contributing to the Mayor’s Christmas Tree fund here.

To each and everyone of you, I wish you a very merry holiday season and the greatest of new years.  Kansas City is a special place to the special people who call it home.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on community, giving & compassion this holiday season

  1. Mayor James

    I applaud your position on the need for Kansas City to maintain its important tax credit projects that serve the homeless and at-risk-of homeless citizens in our community. The Homeless Services Coalition will support your efforts and we are happy to provide you with any data you need regarding the vulnerable citizens in Kansas City.

    Vickie L. Riddle, ACSW
    Executive Director
    Hoemless Services Coalition of Greater Kansas City

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