Lee Judge

An underdog to move Kansas City from good to great

City councilman Jermaine Reed is running for Kansas City mayor.
City councilman Jermaine Reed is running for Kansas City mayor.

We are almost one year into Donald Trump’s presidency and Eric Greitens’ governorship. In Washington, we have witnessed countless attempts to dismantle Obamacare, and we are on the verge of passing a tax reform bill that will constitute one of the largest transfers of wealth from working-class Americans in the nation’s history. And in Jefferson City, the assault against working families, labor and reproductive rights continues without an end in sight.

But as one of a handful of progressive cities left in Missouri, things are going well for Kansas City. Our economy is growing. Downtown is thriving. We are on the way to building a world-class airport. And with St. Louis City Hall literally at war with its residents, and families leaving Chicago in droves, this feels like Kansas City’s season. It is time to take our rightful place as the new economic hub of the Midwest and the conscience of Missouri.

Our next mayoral election will be about residents choosing the leadership that they want to usher the city into its season of greatness against the backdrop of the noise in Washington and the special interests in Jefferson City.

Moving from good to great is more than just having a city that is well managed. It is also about creating a City Hall that ensures that every neighborhood is in a position to shape its own future. It is about ensuring that every student in our public schools has an opportunity to fulfill their potential. It is about ensuring that we are just as vigilant about fighting crime as we are about providing alternatives to crime.

It is about fostering an economic environment that attracts investment and major employers but also invests in homegrown small businesses. It is about that unemployed resident or recent UMKC graduate seeing Kansas City as a place that can nurture their ambition. Moving from good to great is about being intentional about equity, inclusion and shared prosperity.

I declared my candidacy for mayor because I believe that transitioning from good to great will require that Kansas City measure success through the quality of life for our youngest generation, poorest neighborhoods, and smallest businesses. I believe these folks are worth fighting for.

The recent airport terminal expansion vote, which is a major step in the right direction, offers a glimpse into what inclusive leadership looks like. As chairman of the transportation and infrastructure committee, I led the fight to ensure that benefits of the expansion directly impact working families and small businesses. I made sure that the winning bid for the project engaged local leaders in a community benefits agreement and included goals for minority- and women-owned business participation.

Simply put, I believe that every major project in our city must be intentional about ensuring that every neighborhood has an opportunity to benefit from the city’s progress.

Whether it be the fight for a $15 minimum wage, ensuring that a world-class airport benefits everyone, eliminating blight or creating economic opportunities for all Kansas Citians, I have a record of fighting for our neighborhoods. Moving neighborhoods like Dunbar and Blue Hills forward is not something that I committed to simply because I am running for mayor. Serving these communities defines who I am, my politics, and why I will always fight to ensure a seat at the table for everyone.

We are over a year out from the next mayoral election, and many political insiders have already written me off. They questioned my age and asked if this is too big a leap too soon. Fortunately, I have been an underdog my entire life. I serve a district full of families and working people whom many would consider underdogs. But being an underdog creates a keen awareness of who is not at the table and a strong sense of justice for those of us on the margins.

Kansas City must begin measuring success by creating economic opportunities for people and communities who are usually on the outside looking in. A city needs to work for everyone, and I believe that my life and my record uniquely equip me to lead the city in a manner that does just that.

Over the course of the next few months, I will be launching a 100-neighborhood listening tour to hear about your concerns and what you want to see in your next mayor. I look forward to seeing you in your neighborhoods and being partners in the city’s progress as we embark on the next chapter in Kansas City’s history. Growing from good to great requires nothing less.

Jermaine Reed represents Kansas City's Third District on the City Council.