Gov. Mike Parson in KC to discuss violent crime crisis. But talk isn’t enough

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will spend most of Tuesday in the Kansas City area, including a morning visit to the J. Rieger and Co. distillery for, one hopes, a quality nip of local whiskey.

In the afternoon, the governor plans to meet with Mayor Quinton Lucas and several area pastors to talk about the area’s crime crisis.

Kansas City should welcome the governor. The visit comes a little later than we would have liked, but any time a governor can discuss urban issues with the people who live here, it’s a good thing.

But make no mistake: Talk is increasingly cheap. Kansas Citians have a right to expect actual progress on the challenges facing the city, especially the continuing scourge of violent crime.

There has been no shortage of meetings, press releases, statements and promises from state officials about reducing crime in Kansas City. Now is the time to begin putting some of those words into action.

The governor must lead. Parson, a Republican and former sheriff, is in a unique position to fashion remedies that a GOP legislature could accept.

“He can make this happen,” said Missouri state Rep. Richard Brown, a Democrat who will meet with Parson and the pastors Tuesday afternoon. “If he can set the tone, I believe other lawmakers in the state can follow his lead.”

What might leadership look like?

A greater state commitment to mental health services and school counseling would be a good place to start. Last week, Parson and the mayors of Missouri’s largest cities agreed that mental health and substance abuse treatment should be cornerstones of the state’s efforts to combat crime.

The governor’s next budget should reflect that commitment.

Economic progress in distressed neighborhoods will also reduce violence. The state must do more to encourage reconstruction in the urban core, a process that is underway here, but is still tenuous.

It’s highly unlikely that lawmakers will consider serious statewide gun legislation next year. But the governor must help provide Kansas City with the flexibility to implement its own weapons ordinances to address our unique problems with crime.

Kansas City remains the only major city in America without full control of its police department. Local control would not prevent every violent crime, but it would be a start.

The governor should avoid simply replicating efforts he’s launched in other places. In an earlier visit to St. Louis, for example, Parson offered additional to deploy highway patrol officers in an effort to free up St. Louis police for enforcement duties.

Kansas Citians will resist that approach. “We don’t want to live in a police occupied state,” state Rep. Brown said Monday.

We criticized the governor for ignoring gun violence when he called a special session to deal with sales taxes on used cars. At the time, he said gun violence would get the attention it needs in January when lawmakers convene for their 2020 session.

The mayor and others should remind him of that commitment when they see the governor Tuesday. Two of the most violent cities in the nation are in Missouri. That shame must be addressed.

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