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South Kansas City unites to get its fair share

Updated: 2013-06-26T03:29:33Z

By DONALD BRADLEY

The Kansas City Star

Forever, it seemed, south Kansas City felt slighted by City Hall.

It didn’t help that the area seemed a bit divided itself. Ruskin Heights and Hickman Mills on the east; Red Bridge, Martin City and Center and State Line neighborhoods to the west.

But residents on both sides united in frustration, often complaining they weren’t getting the improvements, amenities and development going to other parts of the city.

Then came a redrawing of council districts, which Southlanders viewed as weakening their clout even more.

“We already had a diluted voice,” said Stacy Johnson-Cosby. “Then redistricting literally cut neighborhood associations in half.

“We felt tremendously disrespected.”

They did something about it. Over a series of meetings in early 2012, the South Kansas City Alliance was formed to provide a united voice for Southland neighborhoods and organizations.

School districts, merchant groups, churches, businesses and neighborhood associations joined in.

“We want our fair share of city services,” said Johnson-Cosby, president of the alliance’s board of directors.

The group, which recently wrapped up its first year, has worked to promote economic development for the area and lobby for a rightful share of public improvement money. It pushed commuter rail and lobbied for trail expansion.

Its big victory so far?

“I think just getting everybody together is a victory,” said Terrence Nash, a longtime neighborhood activist who now serves on the alliance board. “I think we’re finally all on the same page.”

A few of the groups involved in the alliance: Martin City Community Improvement District, Southtown Council, Waldo Business Association, South Kansas City Chamber, Southern Communities Coalition, Ruskin Heights Homeowners, Royal Oaks Homeowners and Center Planning and Development Council.

Committees include government affairs, transportation, neighborhoods and economic development.

The alliance readily admits it modeled itself after the Northland Neighborhoods Inc., a grassroots group designed to advocate for that part of the city. It often is credited for promoting progress in the Northland.

Now, as the South Kansas City Alliance enters year two, it would like to establish itself with a big win, and nothing would be bigger than redevelopment of the vacated Bannister Mall site.

“No question,” Johnson-Cosby said. “It is a blighting effect and has no economic benefit to our neighborhoods.”

The SKC Alliance meets the second Monday of each month, usually at the Kansas City Police Department’s new south patrol station on Marion Drive. For more information about the group, go to southkcalliance.org.

To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to dbradley@kcstar.com.

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