When I took office two years ago, I assured Kansas Citians that I would get to work addressing the “4 Es” – Education, Efficiency, Employment, and Enforcement – that we spoke about throughout the mayoral campaign. Those “4Es” have driven my focus as Mayor, and the focus of my administration, every single day that we have come to work at City Hall. I truly believe we have made an impact on this City through those initiatives and I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on that and learn more details of our work by watching my latest State of the City Address:
This may seem like a social studies assignment, but we incorporated some pretty frosty audio visuals that help our residents connect more personally with the work of city government. Trust me, we don’t do things the same old way at City Hall anymore. I believe the past two years have been evidence of that fact.
To that end, and to the chagrin of some of my advisors, friends, and even family members, I have not shied away from making tough decisions or weighing in on controversial subjects: mayoral involvement in Kansas City Public Schools, examining the ways we fight crime to get better results, and advocating for more resources to invest in our crumbling infrastructure all come to mind. Honestly, I’m happier with the way some of those turned out than others, but that is what leadership and democracy is all about. You don’t get to win all the time.
And sometimes, it’s not about winning at all – it’s about bringing the community together to have a collaborative discussion. I am still surprised that is such a foreign concept for many in our community. There are several areas in which we have done that in the past two years:
Through our Turn the Page KC third grade reading initiative, we’ve rallied the community around the concept that we should invest as much in our local human capital as we do in our physical infrastructure. Children who can’t read at grade level by the third grade are unlikely to succeed academically in the future. We are now working towards building a community that values literacy unlike ever before.
Taking the idea of investing in people a step further, I have traveled to Jefferson City many times during the past two legislative sessions to advocate for economic development policies that put people with innovative ideas above unsustainable tax policies. It’s quick and easy to call a press conference to cut taxes, but more difficult and time-consuming to cultivate an environment where starts ups and entrepreneurs flourish and where underdeveloped sections of our City have a chance, once again, for greatness.
We also have started the discussion on how to best organize our economic development agencies and boards through Advance KC. Just because “it’s always been that way” doesn’t mean it has yielded us the best results. I am a big fan of history, but I’m a bigger fan of prosperity. If there is a better way to run our economic development engines then I want to know about it and I want to change some things.
We have also recently began two more contentious community conversations, one on the future of KCI and one on governance of our police force. These conversations have only just begun. In order to have true dialogue, we must have an open mind, detailed facts, and a collaborative attitude. Both of these issues represent important pieces of the fabric of this community, which means we must be deliberative in our examinations of them. We can’t fear change simply because it is unknown, but we shouldn’t automatically embrace it simply because it is something new. We should, however, always be open to doing those things that will propel us towards “best.” I am looking forward to both conversations and have complete confidence in our community’s ability to craft solutions that, if not all of us can embrace, then at least most of us can understand.
Intermix all of that policy work with a few snowstorms and squelching summer heat waves, a Major League All-Star Game, the opening of a state-of-the-art performing arts center, coordinating summer activities for youth, the installation of Google Fiber, a community conversation on the future of our local arts and culture scene, elevating Kansas City’s profile through the US Conference of Mayors, several trips to DC to advocate on the City’s behalf, a red carpet movie premier, hosting City Age: The New American City, empaneling a Challenge Cabinet, bringing to town Code for America Fellows, starting the process for a new streetcar system, participating in the Urban Land Institute and Mayors’ Institute on City Design, fulfilling our promises to voters who supported the half-cent sales tax and sewer bond, and it’s no surprise that I have a few more wrinkles and gray hair than I did before taking office. I don’t mind them, though. My fellow Marines understand the importance of embracing battle scars and my time as Mayor has taught me to embrace every moment I have to lead this amazing City. If the past two years are any indication, the next two years will be an unpredictable rollercoaster filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, good and, well, not-so-good. That’s just the way it goes. But I am ready to continue moving this City forward in spite of the not-so-good, the C.A.V.E.M.E.N. (Citizens Against Virtually Everything), and the background noise.
If you have heard me speak around town during the past two years (and my Scheduler will tell you that I have certainly been getting around town), then you know that I consider Kansas City residents to be our community’s greatest asset. You all also happen to be the best part of my job. That’s why I have made such an effort to openly communicate and interact with as many of you as possible. Twitter has probably given me carpal tunnel syndrome (Yes, I do my own Tweets), Facebook has given me a whole new appreciation of “liking” something, and because I can understand why young people are addicted to their iPads and iPhones, I recently launched my mobile app. I appreciate that these things led us to being named one of the 10 Most Social Media Saavy City Halls in the country. But most of all, I appreciate that they connect me to you. Thank you for the opportunity and honor to serve as your Mayor and thank you for all that you do to make Kansas City best.