Safer Communities are More Prosperous Communities
There’s no question that Kansas City has become a much safer place to live and work since the early 1990s. Lately, however, our numbers have been moving in the wrong direction.
In 2010, homicides in Kansas City numbered 106, unfortunately almost matching 2009’s 110 homicides. Though our excellent law enforcement community is working hard to address the homicide rate, we have to do more.
This is not a challenge limited to so-called crime “hot spots.” We’ve seen events that make residents and visitors feel unsafe in traditionally safe areas as well. The crime map at http://crime.kansascity.com/ clearly demonstrates that crimes of all types happen throughout our city.
The bottom line is that we need to empower our neighborhoods through sensible community policing efforts and provide cutting edge resources to our police department to prevent crime, not just react to it.
It’s not enough to simply put more officers on the streets. We need a comprehensive approach to dealing with crime throughout the city. Stopping crime in the 21st century requires enhancements in approach, technology, and communications.
Making Kansas City a Safer Place to Live
Mayor Sly James will work with the law enforcement community on a comprehensive approach to crime reduction by supporting new investment in technology and enhancing existing community policing strategies. There are two parts to taking on the crime problem: stopping it before it happens and responding after it happens.
Sly’s enforcement initiative would provide a comprehensive three-phase approach to crime reduction:
- First, community outreach to at risk youth and adults to facilitate both opportunity and lawful choices;
- Second, enhanced prosecution and sentencing of violent and repeat offenders to contain them and to deter others from engaging in similar criminal conduct; and
- Third, re-entry and re-integration of former felons into the community in a manner that facilitates both opportunity and lawful choices.
Many similar initiatives are funded, in part, by federal grants. However, the effectiveness of a crime reduction policy is not determined entirely by the amount of money spent on it. Instead, it is determined by the innovative and progressive partnerships that are formed to utilize existing resources.
In order to implement his enforcement program, Sly will:
- Adopt best practices that have proven to be successful in other cities. For example, Sly will work with the police department to adopt ideas from the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV).
- Utilize crime data to identify violent areas, groups, and individuals.
- Develop and maintain partnerships between federal, state, and local law enforcement, social service organizations, neighborhood groups, and homeowners associations, community leaders, and faith-based entities to provide outreach services for at-risk youth, adults, and former felons who are attempting to re-enter and re-integrate into the community.
- Provide targeted public outreach through the use of both digital and traditional media to increase community awareness.
- Employ digital and cutting-edge technologies such as CCTV and Shotspotter as a means to increase police presence in high crime areas.
- Increase diversity on the police force.
- Operate in a transparent and accountable manner through the public dissemination of information, the creation of a dedicated public website, and the periodic assessment of the efficacy of the city’s efforts.
The benefits of Sly James’s enforcement program include:
- A decrease in homicides and other violent crime rates,
- An increase in satisfaction scores and cooperation between the police department and Kansas City communities, and
- An increase in federal and state funding for prevention and re-entry programs.
Too Many Kansas City Residents are Out of Work
Mayor James understands how important it is for Kansas City to create jobs in this difficult economic environment.
Kansas City needs a healthy mix of jobs, from hard hats to hard sciences. That means we need to focus on using existing assets, supporting small and large business development, increasing capital projects, and generally creating a positive business climate.
There are solutions that provide immediate relief for Kansas City job seekers and businesses as well as long-term benefits for the overall business climate in Kansas City.
Creating Jobs and Growing the Economy
Mayor Sly James’s “Get to Work” Program
Sly’s “Get to Work” program for Kansas City is a strength-based approach to job creation, that uses Kansas City’s existing strengths to jump-start our economy.
Kansas City’s convenient, central location makes the metropolitan area a natural regional and national hub for intermodal transportation, warehousing, manufacturing, and distribution.
Located at the juncture of three interstate highways, four interstate linkages, and 10 federal highways, Kansas City is served by more than 300 motor freight carriers. Kansas City is the third largest truck terminal in the United States, the second-largest rail center in the United States and is served by four of the country’s eight Class I rail carriers, as well as three regional lines and one local switching carrier (Kansas City Terminal).
In addition to leveraging our geographic advantages, we must take advantage of the private investments made in new industries over the last decade. These industries – life sciences, health care, green jobs, and international trade, including light manufacturing – can help to grow a long-term workforce.
Kansas City must also fully support the Stowers Institute, UMKC, Midwest Research Institute, Cerner, along with several quality hospitals to be a major player in the health industry expansion. We have a real opportunity as jobs in the health care industry have grown even during this recession.
These are good paying jobs from lab tech to lead scientist. With the Full Employment Council and the Metropolitan Community Colleges working in conjunction to provide training in allied health careers, all Kansas Citians can have an opportunity for a career that is in demand and is sustainable.
In order to implement his “Get to Work” Program Sly will:
- Aggressively pursue life science research and development business growth. This includes serving as a positive ambassador for our city and supporting the Chamber of Commerce, area start-up businesses, and health institutions as they expand, recruit, and train new scientists and workers. It also includes working aggressively with federal and state government as well as private entities to support capital expansion as needed. Our city has tremendous building blocks like the Stowers Institute, Midwest Research Institute, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Animal Health Initiative, but we need additional wet-lab space, incentives for increased collaboration between institutions, and a science friendly environment that draws the most talented researchers to our area.
- Eliminate the unnecessary hurdles and reduce red tape for small businesses, start-ups, and development. This includes working with developers and neighborhoods to repurpose and retrofit older buildings for commercial use. This also includes streamlining and strengthening the Minority
- Business Enterprise/Women-owned Business Enterprise (MBE/WBE) programs to ensure more companies have the ability to start up, maintain, and grow a workforce. One of the shortfalls of the current program is its failure to continue to support MBEs and WBEs when they begin to achieve success. That’s a mistake and it’s time we reward those who do good work and help them continue to grow. In addition, by adopting a creative approach to tax incentives – such as tax increment financing and tax abatement – programs that are targeted, necessary, and vetted by the public – we will not only get the cranes back in the air, but we’ll invest in our community in a manner that makes sense for the entirety of Kansas City.
- Hold developers accountable to hire Kansas City workers if the company receives Kansas City tax incentives. It’s common sense. If a company gets a tax break in our community, then our community should get maximum benefit out of that investment. That means our city should monitor those developers and companies who get breaks to make sure that they are using Kansas City-based workers as often as possible.
- Encourage and support expanded international trade from our local businesses. It is long past time that the city encourages growth in this area. Kansas City’s strategic geographic location makes it prime for international trade and our manufacturing infrastructure lends itself to help grow this potential sector. Kansas City currently maintains 13 international Sister City relationships to help promote global cooperation, cultural understanding, and economic opportunities. These relationships need to be strengthened and leveraged.
- Work cooperatively with our representatives in Jefferson City and Washington, DC, and with those from St. Louis, Springfield, and even Topeka to push legislation that will create more incentives for companies that create jobs, and reward the ones that do. The Obama Administration has invested $80 billion in these types of programs and the Department of Labor has added an additional $500 million for worker training.
- Encourage green investments and infrastructure. Kansas City has shown that we want to be a model “green” city by not only adhering to greener infrastructure in its Sewer Overhaul Plan, but by exceeding EPA mandates. However, we can do so much more. We must aggressively pursue federal funding that helps make Kansas City a model of sustainability. Let’s start by making sure the Green Impact Zone becomes a reality.
The benefits of Mayor Sly James’s “Get to Work” Program for Kansas City include:
- Increased employment rates,
- Increased total wages,
- An increase in the number of small business startups,
- Increased city retention of small, medium, and large businesses
Restore Confidence in City Hall by Improving Accountability
Survey after survey makes it makes it clear: Kansas Citians don’t believe that City Hall is working for them, nor do they trust it with their tax dollars.
At the heart of the issue are three problems:
- The budget is too short-sighted,
- Tax funds are used for items other than what voters approved,
- We don’t have strong citizen participation in evaluating our tax revenue and prioritizing our programs, and
We need to prepare a budget that provides immediate results while making us a stronger, safer, smarter city in the future, the leadership to bring people together to support it, and the toughness to make it all happen.
It’s not enough to simply identify problems; we need action.
Making City Hall Work More Efficiently and Effectively
Every year the city passes a single-year budget, as directed by the city’s charter. But what’s to keep us from developing a budget that covers more than one year? What if we planned for three, five, or even ten years down the road?
According to a recent report from the Kauffman Foundation, multi-year planning is one of the keys to supporting strong municipal fiscal policy. Sly believes Kansas City’s city manager, mayor, and city council should borrow from best strategic planning practices and develop at least a three-year budget plan that can serve as a blueprint for success in the years ahead.
In order to develop a multi-year budget plan we must:
- Seek unanimous support from the city manager and city council to implement the process,
- Hold open, facilitated public forums to establish three-year budget goals and obtain citizen input on priorities,
- Use public input to craft a comprehensive, three-year budget and integrate the three-year budget into the annual process as outlined by the current city charter,
- Publish the three-year budget alongside the annual budget to ensure that we are on track as a city, and clearly explain any annual a deviations from the plan.
The benefits of multi-year budgeting for Kansas City include:
- Increased citizen involvement in setting budget priorities,
- Improved public communication of priorities, and
- Increased budget efficiency which will be reflected in improved citizen satisfaction surveys
Bringing Accountability to Government
Kansas City can learn from other cities and their best practices that have delivered results over the years. Baltimore, for example, implemented an innovative, data-driven system called CitiStat to track government performance, efficiency, and effectiveness. Independent evaluations of the system indicated that CitiStat saved the city tens of millions each year since its implementation. In addition, CitiStat improved the delivery of city services: illegal dumping sites were eliminated; potholes were filled within 48 hours of reporting; and Baltimore’s crime rate has fallen.
With the support of both the city manager and city council, Sly will work to implement CitiStat in Kansas City. Both the city manager and the city council must strongly support the program if it is going to succeed.
In order to implement the CityStat program, we must:
- Establish clear priorities and budgeting benchmarks in the following areas: basic city services, supporting social services, neighborhoods and housing, crime and safety, and job creation. The city needs to determine which programs are meeting or exceeding expectations for the amount invested. If the investment isn’t working, then we should consider cutting programs that don’t deliver.
- Work in partnership with the city manager to develop a business and citizen task force to review each of the city’s departments and operations to streamline processes and major cost centers. The city must become more efficient in its basic operations to truly excel and, using an outside review in partnership with city employees, generate new ideas and approaches.
- Develop a quarterly budget report card for citizens that clearly and simply reports whether the city’s budget is on-track or off-track and why.
- Organize online and in-person community forums that allow for citizen engagement on the budget and provide a venue to report waste, fraud, or abuse.
The benefits of CitiStat for Kansas City include:
- Increased transparency and accountability,
- Improved budget alignment and savings,
- Increased citizen satisfaction, and
- Measurable improvement in city services.
Making Municipal Revenue Accountable to Taxpayers
In addition to implementing the CitiStat program, special attention must be paid to how the city collects taxes and its tax incentive programs.
Too often, this is simplified into a debate over the earnings tax or tax increment financing (TIF) when the reality is that the issue goes much deeper.
Mayor James will re-establish the Citizen’s Commission on Municipal Revenue.
The Citizens’ Commission would give everyone a voice, even those who have been locked out of the process and kept away from the table. The commission will consist of representatives from diverse geographic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds recruited from among the business, civic, neighborhood, and non-profit communities.
It will also have a clear mission: to evaluate all city revenue and tax incentive programs, explore additional opportunities for improvements to both, and make recommendations to the mayor, council, and city manager.
The benefits of the Citizens’ Commission on Municipal Revenue include:
- Allowing taxpayers to hold the city accountable for municipal revenue,
- Assessing and quantifying the fairness and levels of current taxes,
- Providing a clear analysis of tax incentive equity.
Our Educational System is Leaving Too Many in Our Community Behind
When talking about education in Kansas City, the conversation tends to revolve around the Kansas City Missouri School District, and there’s a good reason for that: 84.6 percent of the students who live inside the boundaries of the district and attend traditional public or charter schools are performing below Missouri state standards. That’s 14,813 kids who are unlikely to graduate or graduate without the skills to be contributing members of our community. That’s too many kids left out and left behind.
Mayor Sly James is committed to providing the leadership and the vision to promote positive change.
While recognizing the real and symbolic importance of the KC school districts, however, it is time to move beyond talking about just “the school districts” and look at our entire education system.
It’s time to ask ourselves, from preschool to post-grad, how are we taking care of our kids’ educational needs? What are all of our school districts, charters, private, and parochial schools doing to prepare children for higher education? Do we have enough resources in higher education to meet the needs of tomorrow?
One of Kansas City’s great challenges, for example, is that it lacks a world-class research university, which is an essential requirement for competing in the knowledge economy.
Research universities help cities and regions attract and create a skilled workforce, which is an extremely valuable resource today. The discoveries of the university help drive the innovation and entrepreneurship that is the key to economic growth. The fastest growing industries in the information sciences, in biotechnology, and in nanotechnology tend to gravitate towards strong, basic research universities or private research institutions.
Mayor Sly James’s “Learn to Win” program is a comprehensive plan for improving our educational system.
Improving Kansas City’s Educational System from Pre-School to Post-Grad
Sly James’s “Learn to Win” Program
We know that education starts early. Advances in science have helped us understand how the brain develops, and we know that more than 90% of the brain develops in the critical years from birth to age five making early childhood education more important than ever. Early education prepares students to enter school ready to learn, which makes our K-12 system more efficient and effective.
Beyond the right start, students need a safe place to learn and flourish. Each of our school districts’ superintendents, board members, and parents need the full support of our community in this effort.
In addition, Kansas City needs to think more broadly about education. We’re not just competing against Kansas or Iowa; we’re competing against the rest of the world. In a global economy, our companies need the best and the brightest.
There are limits to what the mayor can formally do to directly impact our education system, but there are real and tangible things that a productive City Hall can do to support and move our system forward.
In order to implement the “Learn to Win” program, Sly will:
- Give every Kansas City family access to voluntary, high-quality early learning. Since we know that 90% of a child’s brain development occurs before the age of five, it’s crucial that we provide universal access to voluntary, high-quality early learning. Extensive research has proven that children who participate in early learning programs perform better in school, are healthier, are more likely to graduate from high school, and are more likely to attend college. Sly James will provide the leadership needed to bring public and private providers together to spur additional federal, state, and philanthropic investment to move toward a comprehensive system of early learning.
- Visit every school in Kansas City in his first four years. A mayor can’t claim to understand the challenges of our schools without seeing them first-hand. That’s why Mayor James will highlight his commitment to improving our education system by visiting every single school in Kansas City by the end of his first term.
- Use the power of the mayor’s office to promote the best elements of our school districts and work with school districts, state, and federal elected officials to better coordinate resources. Sly will also build a volunteer program to get city workers directly involved in the school districts through volunteer and mentoring programs. Finally, Sly will convene the area’s technology firms, school districts, and the library system to identify possible cost savings for current technologies and enhancements that support student achievement, such as better access to high speed internet during homework hours.
- Institute From First Steps to Graduation Walk and convene a monthly working group made up of representatives of relevant city departments along with leaders from early education, including Head Start and parent services; all K-12 public and private schools in Kansas City; Metro Community College; social service organizations; the police chief; UMKC and area private colleges; and the philanthropic community. The purpose of this group will be to facilitate better coordination from early education to post-secondary education that will lead to increased academic achievement and lifelong success. Sly will work collaboratively to appoint representatives from the above areas, ensuring geographic, racial, and ethnic representation. The representatives will be tasked with communicating and reporting back from each area with issues to address, success stories, and areas that need improvement. These monthly meetings will be transparent. Updates will be tracked on the city’s website.
- Work to secure a world-class research facility in our town. Some of our nation’s foremost leaders on higher education have recommended that the city aggressively partner with philanthropic and higher education assets in the region to make this happen. The city can convene a meeting with the University of Missouri, the University of Missouri – Kansas City, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and, perhaps, even some institutions outside our region to discuss how to create a consortia research institution in our city that could enhance our life sciences and urban education strategies.
The benefits of Mayor Sly James’s “Learn to Win” Program for Kansas City include:
- Improved school readiness. Students start grade school ready to learn,
- Increased academic achievement and school performance,
- Increased higher education retention and graduation rates, and
- The creation of a collaborative higher education research institution in the heart of the city.