Guest Commentary

Jolie Justus: Kansas City neighborhoods would come first

Jolie Justus
Jolie Justus

For the last eight years, Kansas City has been on a roll. That success is part of the reason that National Geographic calls our city one of the “Best Cities in the United States.”

From the downtown business and building boom, to the streetcar’s success, to the new cutting-edge single terminal at Kansas City International Airport, we’ve been on an incredible winning streak.

To take that momentum to the next level, though, we have to deliver that same success to every neighborhood in the city.

That’s why I created a plan for Kansas City called the “Neighborhoods First Agenda” — a plan to make sure Kansas City communities come first.

There are five pieces to the Neighborhoods First Agenda: fighting crime, improving our quality of life, supporting our schools and students, growing our local economy, and embracing diversity.

▪ Fighting crime

Crime, and particularly violent crime, is holding us back. When residents of any neighborhood are afraid to walk to the corner store or sit on their front stoop, the entire city suffers.

For decades, our state and city have gotten tougher on crime, but we have just started to get smart on crime. As a state senator, I brought Democrats and Republicans together to pass meaningful criminal justice reform that is making an impact in Missouri right now.

As mayor, I would continue to bring city leaders together to make Kansas City smarter in the fight against crime.

▪ Improving our quality of life

While we’re an incredibly diverse city, we generally want the same things: a strong, safe community, good schools, an affordable lifestyle, good jobs, and well-maintained streets and sidewalks.

My Neighborhoods First Agenda is designed to make sure that neighborhood needs are the priority for Kansas City.

▪ Supporting schools and students

In the 21st century, schools are no longer just buildings that hold classrooms. They’re community meeting centers. They’re after-school activity centers. They’re safe havens from difficult situations. They provide health care and nutrition. And they have the power to transform lives for the better.

If we want to push Kansas City’s success story into our neighborhoods, we have to make sure we’re supporting the schools in those neighborhoods, and also the students and families who attend them.

▪ Growing the local economy

Chasing giant companies to get them to consider moving to Kansas City isn’t a complete economic development strategy.

As Kansas City’s neighborhoods mayor, I would make it easier to start and grow new businesses in every neighborhood. That means helping existing companies and industries grow while also working to attract new businesses that will create more local jobs.

▪ Embracing diversity

If we don’t move forward together, we’re never going to achieve our full promise. To do that, we must confront the decades of apprehension and misunderstanding that continue to hold us back.

I believe in embracing diversity, inclusion and equality. As mayor, I have the ability to draw on a network of neighborhood and community leaders from across Kansas City to expand the circle of people who participate in public service. Diverse participation in making policy is the best antidote to the old societal ills of racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism and other forms of discrimination and hate.

Let’s make no mistake: Our Kansas City success story is a fragile thing, and we can’t afford to gamble it on big talk and no action. Some politicians start fires so that they can claim to save us from the flames. But what Kansas City needs now is a leader who delivers.

That’s why I hope you will join me. Together, we can take the next steps forward.

Jolie Justus is an attorney and a representative for the 4th District on the Kansas City Council.