Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s extraordinary daylong visit to Kansas City on Thursday was welcome and encouraging.
It was also a first step. Difficult work is still ahead.
Parson was joined on a tour of Kansas City by Mayor Sly James and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. The trio made a number of important stops — the Urban Youth Academy, Operation Breakthrough, the Buck O’Neil Bridge, the St. Michael’s Veterans Center Apartments.
The governor ate Kansas City barbecue, rode the streetcar and spoke to the Kansas City Council. We trust he enjoyed all three experiences.
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The agenda was obvious. James wanted the governor to fully understand the crime, education and housing challenges that bedevil the community.
Yet the three officeholders told The Star said they weren’t ready to detail a specific agenda to address those issues. Instead, the session was really meant to establish a strong working relationship among the governor and the mayors of Missouri’s two largest cities.
Mission accomplished. “We can work with this guy,” James told us Thursday.
Indeed, Parson showed a laudable depth of understanding and flexibility on several local issues. State tax credits for low income housing need serious reform, he said, but could have a place in addressing the affordable housing crunch in Kansas City and St. Louis.
The governor said he is open to being “part of the solution” on local control of the Kansas City Police Department. He suggested Missouri could play a larger role in funding early childhood education and workforce training. He strongly supported an increase in the fuel tax to pay for infrastructure improvements.
“I think we all picked up certain things today that ... I can take back to Jefferson City,” Parson said.
The state capital is, of course, where words will turn into action. James pointedly said Kansas City and St. Louis have primarily been engaged in stopping bad things from happening on the floor of the legislature; now, perhaps, good things are possible.
“We have a new governor,” James said. “We have a governor who’s willing to listen. We have a governor who’s willing to engage.”
The contrast with disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens could not have been more clear. Greitens spent his limited time in office actively ignoring the concerns of Kansas City and St. Louis.
Parson and the two mayors said the Thursday session was just the start of an ongoing outreach effort. All three will meet later in St. Louis, then travel to a rural community. Both sessions will be helpful.
We’re under no illusion that one visit from a governor will resolve Kansas City’s lingering challenges or turn Jefferson City into a pro-urban paradise overnight. There is much work left to do.
But we know — because we have evidence — that solving problems is impossible without the state and local governments at the table together. Mike Parson, Sly James and Lyda Krewson pulled their chairs up to that table Thursday, and all Missourians should applaud that.