There are a variety of initiatives I’m working on currently. This page is a reference for you to get updates on them.
This page was last updated on Oct. 20, 2013
Trade with China – During the last term Kansas City closed its international office. Over the last year I’ve worked with the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation and other agencies to restart our relationship with China. We currently have Xi’an, a city of more than eight million people and the ancient capital of China, as one of our Sister Cities, a relationship we’ve had for 20 years. Kansas City actually does a billion dollars worth of business with China, primarily in the area of agriculture. This effort culminated in a visit to Beijing in October 2012 to represent the City of Kansas City at the Edgar Snow Symposium. Edgar Snow was the first western journalist to cover Communist China. Snow was born in Kansas City and was a student at the University of Missouri’s Journalism School.
Since the visit we have been in the process of culminating our Friendship City relationship with Yan’an, the city where Edgar Snow first met with Mao Tse-Tung and from whose meetings Snow wrote the book Red Star Over China. The Snow relationship is very significant and as a result of Kansas City being his birthplace we are well on our way to establishing our relationship. I will be leading a delegation of Kansas Citians including representatives of the Kansas City Sports Commission to our Sister City Xi’an and Yan’an from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5. The visit to Xi’an will coincide with their marathon where we will have area winners from our Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon participate.
Meanwhile in September we were visited by Mr. Wang Quo Ming from Inner Mongolia, China. Mr. Wang was part of the Business Panel of last year’s Edgar Snow Symposium. Mr. Wang had a variety of business interests that he shared with us and researched. After spending the better part of September with us we anticipate his return by end of year to solidify some of those plans and we hope to have announcements about these initiatives during the first quarter of 2014.
CID Revolving Fund – The City Council passed Ordinance 110423, for which I was lead sponsor. It created a fund for organizations attempting to create Community Improvement Districts. Sponsoring organizations can access funds that can assist them with their legal expenses. Once their CID is formed, those organizations will repay the fund back, making funds available for additional organizations. As part of this effort, the City is working on a variety of tools that can assist organizations in the formation of their CIDs and keep their expenses down. The Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is the first organization to work under the CID Revolving Fund ordinance. Ordinance 130186, creating the Independence Avenue CID was passed on March 21 by the City Council. On June 7, that area celebrated the beginning of the CID as local voters in the corridor voted to levy a one cent tax to finance area improvements. The Council recently passed an ordinance creating the second area that the CID Revolving Fund will be working in; the Troost area from 47th to 75th streets. The Southtown Foundation is the sponsoring organization of that CID.
Rich Noll Pacesetter Award – One of the most important assets the City has is its workers. They are the codes enforcement officers, water service employees, police officers and 311 Call Center operators that make Kansas City operate. For the last few years those workers have seen layoffs, wage freezes and other things that have affected morale. The Rich Noll Pacesetter Award is a program that recognizes City workers who have done outstanding service for the people of Kansas City. It’s namesake, the late Rich Noll, was known for his dedication and hard work in every job he took during his 26 years with the City. Congratulations to our latest Rich Noll Pacesetter, Stephanie Boyer of the Municipal Court. Nominate someone here.
Renew the Avenue – For many years I had the opportunity to live in Kansas City’s Historic Northeast area before joining the City Council. Since joining the Council I have had the opportunity to work with a group of Northeast stakeholders reflecting many neighborhood, business and social service organizations for the betterment of the area. As a contribution to that effort I sponsored Ordinance 120852, which used the funds made free with a refinancing of the Century Tower escrow account. The $250,000 identified in this program will do a variety of things to benefit the Northeast area in terms of both business and residential development from Cliff Drive to 12th Street with Independence Avenue acting as the ‘spine’ to this activity. It is the intention that the money be used primarily as leveragable dollars, that is to say that the money invested in the program can be used to draw addtional money and programming in the area. With the passage of Ordinance 120852 we are working on all of the items identified for funding and will be publicly unveiling the full program in the first quarter of 2013. Already, though, part of the funds within the program has resulted in an additional grant of $150,000 to the Mattie Rhodes Center for additional benefit to Northeast neighborhoods and $30,000 of the $250k has resulted in a committment of $300,000 in additional business loans from Justine PETERSEN, one of Kansas City’s new business micro-lenders. The work of the grant won by the Mattie Rhodes Center is due at the end of the month.
Special Committee on Small Business – This Special Council Committee that I vice-chair is looking into Kansas City’s various processes for working with businesses. The committee’s objective is to find ways that the City can be a better partner with small businesses as they form and grow by streamlining our permitting operations where we can.The committee has had a variety of evening meetings at City Hall, the Westside, Eastside, South Kansas City, Cascone’s Restaurant in the Northland, and the Well in Waldo. A report with 67 individual recommendations was presented to the Mayor and City Council on Dec. 8, 2011. To date 90 percent of the recommendations have been done including a microloan fund, a local buying initiative and many others. A report has been provided to the Mayor providing the status of these recommendations. A meeting was held on June 25 at the OfficePort location in the Crossroads area of the city to review the City’s effort to promote and attract tech start ups. In addition, the meeting pointed out the City’s effort to be a place where companies can beta-test their products.
Housing – A variety of stakeholders have come together to discuss our increasing vacant, foreclosed and abandoned housing problem. To date we have more than 12,000 properties that fit these categories with the potential of more on the way. These stakeholders include other government agencies, the Federal Reserve, Legal Aid, UMKC and the private sector. Our collective objective is to create program and financing strategies to deal with this problem in a far reaching way. We are also looking into how the data we have access to from a variety of sources (county, city, KCPD, etc) can help us find the best ways to target our funds and match properties with the best programs for them. This effort, which I’ve been championing, has been completed. The new data system was formally introduced at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City on March 16. To see the system go to http://maps.jacksongov.org/edev. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Urban Homesteading Authority has been reactivated to act as a receiver of abandoned properties and help build a strategy for revitalizing properties. This is a quasi-government organization with seven board members including myself. In December we are celebrating our first vacant home reconversion. Land Bank legislation passed through the Missouri legislature allowing the city, working with county partners, to have a more effective tool for dealing with vacant and abandoned properties. The Land Bank legislation took affect on Aug. 28. Ordinance 120967 passed the Council last month, establishing a fund within city government for the Land Bank. The governing body includes three appointments from Kansas City, one from Jackson County and one from the Kansas City Public Schools. The governing body is made up of these entities because the bulk of the properties that will go into the land bank will come from Jackson County Land Trust. That body has met, created policies and procedures and approximately 3900 properties have come from Jackson County Land Trust. Their website is now operational.
Meanwhile, after eight years the Housing Receivership that the City has been embroiled in is finally coming to a conclusion. This receivership was brought on by the issues associated with the mishandling of Federal Funds by the Housing & Economic Development Financial Corporation (HEDFC) on various projects, most notably Beacon Hill. Over the past two years a number of projects have been moving forward and as a result the receivership’s day to day operations will conclude at the end of March and the receivership will end operations by the end of October 2013. There are still obligations the city will have as outlined by an agreement the city has with HUD and spelled out in Ordinance 130200 but the City is making progress.
Stopping the Crime Pipeline: Gateway Crimes – This Mayor and Council are making a commitment to addressing crime. While there is an effort that will soon be announced concerning violent crime, I will be working with another group on what I consider “gateway” crimes that feed the violent crime pipeline. Those crimes and conditions: drugs, graffiti, gangs and prostitution, were issues that I dealt with as a neighborhood president in the Northeast. This working group, made up of various government jurisdictions and organizations, will be working through the end of the year on strategies to deal with these issues. Those strategies and programs will then be introduced as ordinances, statutes and budgetary items in time for the City and state’s budget cycles. The group has met on its first issue, graffiti, on three occasions and a strategy plan was released on July 31 and a training was held on Aug. 25, 2012 for neighborhood volunteers. A second training will be held on July 13, 2013 showcasing products and services available to neighborhoods.
On prostitution, Ordinance 120885 was passed, which made it a crime to support and promote prostitution in Kansas City. Two ordinances that should assist us in dealing with businesses that sell synthetic drugs have been passed including a process for business license revocation and Cigarette Licensing and Enforcement. The Cigarette Licensing and Enforcement ordinance was passed by the council unanimously on Jan. 31. The Business License Revocation ordinance was passed on Feb. 7. Currently the group is working on additional strategies for dealing with prostitution and will be working on a video in the near future for parents to make them aware of the dangers of Synthetic Drugs.
Parvin Road Improvements – The work being done on Chouteau Parkway is critical to the continued viability of the older neighborhoods of the Northland. Just as important as this improved north/south connection is an equally improved east/west connection. That’s why I worked to finance a study, as outlined in Ordinance 110519, As amended, that will look at NE Parvin Road from N. Oak Trafficway to I-435. It’s my hope that we will have a plan that will allow us to make curbs, sidewalk and other improvements vital to the neighborhoods touching Parvin while making a great compliment to Chouteau. A public meeting was held on Nov. 30, 2011 at 6pm at Northland Neighborhoods, Inc. More than 30 residents were in attendance. Another public hearing was held at Northland Neighborhoods on March 11 and a final plan for Parvin should be done in the next couple of months. Work continues on the overall plan for the NE Parvin Corridor, however; new curbs and sidewalks were constructed from N. Bennington to N. Brighton as part of the overall improvement package for N. Bennington.
Updating our Scrap Metal Ordinances – As stolen copper and other metals continue to be an issue in our neighborhoods and our City assets. the need for updating our scrap metal ordinance is important. We are working with law enforcement and the scrap metal industry to revise our ordinances and bring the sale of stolen metals down by dealing with HVAC units, catalytic converters on cars and certain categories of telecommunications wiring. That ordinance was passed. With the ordinance was an accompanying resolution asking the City Manager to work with the police department to create a better strategy to communicate stolen property information to the scrap industry. Progress is being made on that and a new information sharing plan should be introduced in the near future. Already, though, the Kansas City Police Department has seen a marked decrease in the number of catalytic converters stolen from vehicles. New improvements on our ordinance specifically on HVAC unit issues as well as the use of a 3rd party database known as Leads Online to help our police department identify copper thieves was passed this month.
In addition, SB 157 was passed by the Missouri Legislature and is on its way to Governor Jay Nixon for signature research paper help. This will be a positive step in our effort to deal with Scrap Metal theft especially with catalytic converters.
Winwood Initiative – This neighborhood initiative is a partnership between the City of Kansas City, Northland Neighborhoods, Inc., Heartland Habitat for Humanity and others. The objective will be to take a three block area on N. Jackson, bordered by Chouteau Trafficway and Northeast Parvin Road and leverage our investment in infrastructure by assisting homeowners in updating their properties. The outcome of this approach is to bring noticeable change with our public dollars that will attract private investment and new home ownership in one of the Northland’s oldest neighborhoods. Work has already begun on this project and funding has been identified with the passage of Ordinance 120947 (Sub.) which will provide funds for housing through the Chouteau TIF. Additional funds were identified from the Chouteau TIF and have been moved toward the Winwood housing projects. A volunteer cleanup workday was held on June 22 and homes are being identified for work to be done by Heartland Habitat for Humanity.
Redevelopment of the GSA Hardesty Site – Since World War II and until last summer the federal government owned an 18.25 acre site along at 607 Hardesty in the Historic Northeast area. The site was purchased by Asian Americans for Equality (AAFÉ) from the General Services Administration (GSA). AAFE is a residential redeveloper with over 40 years of experience in the New York City area. Our office is working with them as they study uses for the site, now dubbed “Hardesty Renaissance”. We are currently waiting for a final determination by the EPA and Missouri Department of Natural Resources that would allow AAFE to move forward with the redevelopment of the largest building in the complex. A meeting is scheduled by GSA for Thursday, June 20, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Northeast Library at 6600 Wilson Road to go over some groundwater findings that may be of interest to local residents. Clean up of the site’s largest building should begin in earnest with the passing of Ordinance 130585, which passed in September. It is expected that the largest building may be cleaned up and ready for occupancy by the end of 2013.
Food Hub Development – For the past year we have helped bring together a variety of partners to discuss food policy as it relates to using locally sourced food for our nutritional programs. As the city for the past two years has made urban agriculture a priority and as more people are getting involved with growing their own food within the city, the city still has a challenge of helping growers sell to larger buyers. Without this, it is very difficult to use urban agriculture as an economic development tool or to provide enough supply to make a difference in the city’s food desert, primarily the city’s east side. There is opportunity to strike at all of these issues but the greatest impediment is to find enough land and bring all of these individual growers together to have the supply necessary. This became a project of interest to me when I noticed that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on child nutrition programs, yet we don’t locally source the healthy food we provide. It is possible to do, but the supply has to be there. That’s where a Food Hub has helped other communities across the country. On Jan. 19, 2012 the council passed Resolution 120046 which directs the City Manager and staff to work with the Kansas City Food Policy Coalition to work on this issue and other food policy issues. Two studies have been funded, one by the Health Care Foundation, the other by MARC to look at efforts to create hubs in Kansas City. Those studies should be completed by the end of the year.
Truancy – The Kansas City Missouri School District (KCPS) have been working with the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) on the issue of truancy. Currently there are high schools in the district that are as high as 18% truant. Unfortunately, the Missouri statutes that cover truancy have a high threshold when it comes to actually proving a truancy case. For that reason my office was requested to work on an ordinance that would allow KCPD and KCPS to have a tool that would assist them as they work on truancy. That Ordinance is 12`0180. The companion resolution, Resolution 120291 (sub.) was passed 13-0 by the full council on April 5. This resolution encourages school districts in Kansas City to institute more in-school suspension programs as well as asks KCPD and school districts to collaborate on truancy plans as they deal with their truancy issues. On April 9, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners passed a resolution supporting this ordinance. On April 18, the ordinance went to the Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee a fourth time and was not passed out. In response, I used my perogative under Standing Rule 28 that allowed the ordinance to come out of committee with the result that the ordinance will be voted on by the full council on May 3. In the interim the KC Police Department, Representatives of the Home Schooling Associations, Kansas City Public Schools and others have gotten together to forge a plan that allows the city to go after truants while providing protections. An amendment with these changes was presented to the council on May 3 and passed Ordinance 120180, As Amended, by a vote of 10-3. The effective date of the ordinance is Aug. 15, 2012. On Sept. 13 the Council received a briefing on what school districts, students and parents can expect this school year. Already, the Kansas City Public School District is working with the Police Department to perform truancy sweeps and are getting results. So far overall attendance in the 2012-2013 school year has increased by 3% over last year.