The Buzz

Mayor Sly James plan for second term includes infrastructure bond issue

Kansas City Mayor Sly James laid out an lengthy second-term “to do” list Thursday that includes a likely call for voters to approve a major bond package for infrastructure improvements.

James didn’t have a price tag for his general-obligation-bond idea, though he suggested he would be ambitious.

“It (the bond package) has to be something that yields a considerable sum of money on a yearly basis so that we can attack this,” James told the editorial board of The Kansas City Star.

James said a push on a bond package would follow other priorities, including his bid to win a second term this year and passage of an extension to the city’s one-percent earnings tax next year. The city’s infrastructure needs include repairs to roads, sidewalks, curbs and bridges.

The mayor is seeking a second term this spring and is a heavy favorite to win again.

On other issues:

▪ The mayor wants to continue the focus on lowering the city’s homicide rate, which includes the doubling of a summer at-risk youth program. Eighteen young people completed the program last year, and none have been in contact with the authorities again, he said.

▪ James said he would continue the push to expand the streetcar system, but only if he’s joined by citizens who want the same thing. He remains convinced that a robust streetcar system has to be in Kansas City’s future.

He also said the defeat of an expansion plan last year largely at the hands of east-side residents was a loss for that part of the city. That’s because funding for the expansion east of Troost largely would have come from residents living along the Ward Parkway corridor, he said.

James predicted the starter streetcar line will be enormously popular.

“When we start to see what the streetcar does in terms of transforming downtown, there will be a demand for it,” he said. “I don’t have any plans to see it die.”

▪ James said he doesn’t expect to see plans for a new or refurbished terminal at KCI until next year.

▪ The mayor called the federally funded Green Impact Zone that resulted in new curbs and sidewalks and more energy-efficient homes on a portion of the city’s east side a limited success. He would have preferred to see funding for the project continue instead of being abruptly cut off.

“It’s too bad it was funded in an unsustainable way,” James said.

▪ He called the 18th & Vine jazz district “under-developed” and said the area should be seeing a lot more activity. He said a major project may be in the offing for the area.

He also said the museum, which faces a funding cut from the city, needs to become more self-sustaining. He called the district an “under-performing asset,” but one that remains the most visible project in the African-American community.

“The city cannot perpetually fund anything,” he said.

▪ The mayor said he hasn’t decided to what extent he might engage in electing council members in the spring elections. He may wait until after the primary to decide.

▪ James said the city is closer to getting a downtown convention hotel that it’s ever been.

“We really do need it,” he said.