Missouri's new governor, Mike Parson, wants to spend a day in Kansas City to get a ground-level view of our biggest issues.
That's an uncommonly gracious offer, made during his first visit here last week since becoming governor, and we hope Mayor Sly James takes him up on it soon.
Parson, who also made an unexpected pledge to back state funding for a new UMKC conservatory, is clearly interested in re-establishing ties between the state Capitol and the state's largest city. Those bonds have withered in recent years.
But where should Parson go? What should the state's 57th governor see during his visit? We've got some ideas:
- One of the growing issues on the Kansas City agenda is the pressing need for more low-income housing, especially downtown. To that end, we suggest that you begin your day over breakfast with Joe Kmetz, a young man who benefited mightily from the opportunity to live downtown on a limited income. As many as 5,000 apartments are under construction these days, but few of those will be income-restricted. Governor, we respect your decision to review the effectiveness of the low-income housing tax-credit program, but Kmetz is a good example of why the program shouldn't remain mothballed for too long.
- Next, hop aboard the streetcar and check out the route of the proposed 3.5-mile extension from Union Station to UMKC. The mayor can fill you in about why he's so concerned about the availability of federal money to help finance the $220 million project. In a perfect world, the state would also make a contribution.
- While you're in the neighborhood of UMKC, swing by and take in the university's growing footprint. You'll want to meet the campus' new chancellor, C. Mauli Agrawal, and have a conversation about how UMKC can grow into a world-class institution, the need for which was outlined in a recent report. While there, check out a faculty parking lot, and that will rid you of any notion that professors are too well-paid. Also, visit the conservatory, which remains in dire shape, and you'll see why the city is pushing so hard for a new one.
- It's time for lunch, and we'll let the mayor shoulder the political burden of picking the barbecue joint. Afterward, swing over to the 18th & Vine Jazz District to check out a part of town that continues to struggle. During your visit the other night to the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, you emphasized the importance of tourism. In fact, you pointed out that tourism is the state's second-largest industry and that Missouri needs to do more to back it. That could give the jazz district a needed shot of adrenaline.
- Now for the emotionally wrenching part of the day — a meeting with Rosilyn Temple, the head of Mothers in Charge, the crime prevention and family support group that helps those who have lost loved ones to violence. Temple gives voice to what it's like to lose a son to Kansas City's ongoing, and utterly senseless, streak of homicidal madness. This city and St. Louis continue to rank among the nation's deadliest cities. The mayor will explain to you his conviction that the proliferation of guns is wreaking havoc in his town. You have a starkly different view. Surely there's room for compromise.
- You'll need a break. You love the Chiefs as you demonstrated the other night by wearing team socks to the chamber meeting, so the mayor should now deliver you to the Truman Sports Complex. Kansas City's twin stadiums receive $3 million a year in state subsidies, and lawmakers occasionally question that money. But if that funding disappears, the city and county likely would have to make it up, and both already are stretched. You already know how much this town loves its teams.
- Next, a visit to Melcher Elementary School at 3958 Chelsea Ave. Despite all those stories about unaccredited districts, you may well be amazed by the challenges that students face and the commitment of teachers and staff to improving lives. It may well change the way you think about urban education. Melcher brings all of this to life in vivid detail.
- You're a farmer, so you will be interested in our next East Side stop where Nile Valley Aquaponics at 29th Street and Wabash Avenue is demonstrating the impact that urban farming can have on a downtrodden neighborhood. The idea here is to help a community rebuild from within. It's a neat concept.
- Later, check out the Buck O'Neil Bridge. Renovations are underway, but a new bridge will be needed someday, and state assistance will be crucial. Also, drive downtown and check out what the historic preservation tax credit program has meant for Kansas City with the renovation of building after building. The state has capped that program, and it, too, needs reform. But its benefits also are apparent.
There's more. But you've been more than generous with your time. We recognize that our needs are great, and we hope we didn't overwhelm you. Know that we pride ourselves on not being a bunch of bellyachers.
But occasionally, we do need state help.