By Stephen Mayer, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
It was a packed house at a local church as Kansas City Mayor Sly James held an unofficial State of the City address.
James spent a lot of time talking up the city's accomplishments Sunday at All Souls Unitarian Universalist, but also addressed some major challenges coming ahead and faced some tough questions from the crowd.
James began his 30-minute speech by highlighting what he calls some major achievements by Kansas City over the past several months. He cited a Forbes Magazine review ranking Kansas City in the top 10 when it comes to downtowns as proof of progress made.
James also touched on the controversial Power and Light District defending the fact that the area gets a large amount of taxpayer money.
"It was an investment that needed to be made and one that is paying off. Not just in monetary terms, but in terms of making the city attractive to thinkers to come here and work," said James.
James also touched on the many challenges facing the area including an aging infrastructure throughout the city saying a long-term plan must be developed to solve a mounting problem.
"We have over $600 million in delayed infrastructure maintenance. It would cost us $2 billion to replace all the pipes," said James.
James finished his remarks by weighing in on what is arguably the biggest concern: a failing education system.
The mayor stressed the need to develop a reading program geared toward the youngest students hoping to steer them down the right path early on.
"We are much more keen to invest in incarceration than education. That is a bad investment," said James.
After the speech came a chance for the congregation to voice their questions and concerns.
Jeff Lewis wanted to know the mayor's stance on a possible sales tax hike designed to support some inner city neighborhoods. Lewis likes to idea of being able to hear directly from the mayor.
"Positive example of real democracy ... can come in, ask questions and direct a straight answer, and I appreciate that," said Lewis.
The mayor's staff said they like these types of forums not only because it gives the mayor a chance to hear directly from the people, but also because it is a dry run for the official State of the City address coming up in March.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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