As the calendar zooms toward December 31 and a new year, Kansas Citians find themselves reflexively looking backward and forward.
More than a few will note the heady rush of news that consumed our days in 2017, a barrage of headlines. And yet, at this most sacred time of the year, it’s appropriate to pause and remember the triumphs of human nature that defined this year.
There’s a lot to celebrate.
▪ The October release of Lamonte McIntyre, who was freed after serving 23 years for a double murder that he did not commit, tops the list.
McIntyre has been a force for good these last couple months, using his experience to aid others who have not been served fairly by the justice system.
Such a testament to human resilience was made possible only by legal perseverance. Many played a role, including a local treasure, the Midwest Innocence Project.
She’s long used her skills to tackle the cases that others would sidestep, deterred by the many barriers of proving innocence after a guilty verdict has been delivered.
▪ The shooting at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe thrust the area into national headlines. Two men of Indian descent were targeted, and one was murdered as a gunman shouted, “Get out of my country.”
Garmin engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla died; his best friend Alok Madasani was shot.
But Ian Grillot and others stepped forward to intervene, putting their own lives at risk. Grillot was also shot.
The acts of heroism reflected the best of our community, offering hope amid a tragedy in a world that can feel divided by racial and ethnic hatred.
▪ In any calendar year, there are daily acts of bravery by police and firefighters.
In the metro area, the drama and heartache that played out during the July flooding of Indian Creek near 103rd Street highlighted our local heroes as first responders rushed in to save lives.
People were trapped in stalled cars, carried by the rushing currents. Others found themselves unable to escape businesses and crawled into attic spaces, awaiting rescue on the rooftop.
Through it all, people’s faith in the first responders’ talents and training was steadfast. There was no loss of life, amazing given that the flooding was later deemed a once-in-a-century event.
▪ This year, more than any in recent memory, citizens engaged for the public good.
Many who had never thought of themselves as activists for civic progress filled auditoriums for town halls, engaged on social media, wrote their members of Congress, protested and more.
They took the time to learn about issues and decided to get involved.
Voters attended to the future of Kansas City. They made tough choices that will benefit Kansas Citians for generations.
Voters overwhelmingly approved $800 million in general obligation bonds to fund much-needed capital improvements.
They approved a one-eighth-cent citywide sales tax to spur development along the Prospect Avenue corridor, providing a desperately needed shot of adrenaline to an area that has long struggled with a lack of investment.
Mayor Sly James deserves credit for effectively using his bully pulpit and his political capital to push the bond package and the proposal for a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport across the finish line in separate elections this year.
To our west, the residents of Tonganoxie commendably stood firm against corporate interests seeking to ramrod plans for a Tyson Foods poultry plant on land south of town. The citizens won after voicing their concerns about the lack of transparency, as well as the impact on housing, schools and the environment.
The high engagement of an informed public led the way, nudging local leaders in the right direction.
That’s democracy at work. Applause to the people.
▪ Finally, as we close out 2017 and begin to prepare for 2018, it’s appropriate to remember those we lost this year.
In Kansas City, a particular trio of leaders stood out: real estate icon James B. Nutter Sr., Cerner Corp. CEO Neal Patterson and political guru Steve Glorioso.
Nutter, who was 89, helped create and nurture a village, founding his real estate firm in 1951. He was among the first to offer Veterans Administration loans and he worked to extend housing opportunities to minority communities often shunned by other lenders. His philanthropy was also as legendary as it was well-placed.
As a co-founder of Cerner, Patterson, who was 67, saw the health care company grow to become Kansas City’s largest private employer. The firm’s new campus in south Kansas City will be a catalyst for growth in that part of the metropolitan area.
His passion for the city also extended to sports. Patterson was a principal owner of Sporting Kansas City.
In an era of divisive and increasingly ugly politics, the steady voice of Glorioso will be missed. Glorioso, who was 70, spent four decades working primarily as a Democratic consultant.
A behind-the-scenes mover and shaker, Glorioso oversaw campaigns that led to the building of Sprint Center and the passage of bonds to fund infrastructure improvements for decades.
A 2004 comment by Glorioso was noted in a eulogy: “I got involved and stayed in politics because I believe it is a way to contribute to the community and country for the greater good.”
That’s a worthy blueprint as we head into 2018: Move forward together for the greater good of Kansas City.