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Kansas City Residents Ask The City To Spend On Services And Supporting Entrepreneurship

Laura Spencer
KCUR 89.3
The city of Kansas City, Missouri, hosted its third public budget hearing on Saturday.

Funding for the Kansas City Health Department. Support for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Timely trash and bulky item pickup. Enforcement of the city's ordinance to crack down on scrap metal theft.  Nearly 50 area residents broached a wide range of topics Saturday morning at the Gregg/Klice Community Center in the 18th and Vine district.

Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Lots of area residents wanted to voice their opinion at the public hearing on the 2019-20 budget.

This third budget hearing, which was attended by nine city council members, drew an overflow crowd of more than 125. The public provided input on the $1.73 billion fiscal year 2019-2020 budget for the City of Kansas City, Missouri.

Public health funding was a concern for Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center CEO Faisal Kahn. 

"I would urge you to consider restoring the property tax revenue, amounting to about $882,000, to the Health Department as well the capital funds that they desperately need to restore elevators, as well as a leaky and damaged roof," said Khan.

He added, "You cannot expect an A-grade response from a system that is funded at a C-grade level." 

Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Trash by the curb is not an uncommon site in Kansas City, Missouri. The bulky item pickup was suspended through March as staff continues to retrieve winter storm debris from January.

For Margerita Taylor, president of the Santa Fe Neighborhood Association, trash and bulky item pickup were top of mind. Taylor said she didn't want to see more punitive measures, like tickets or code violations.

"Giving the neighbors an opportunity to make sure their trash is going to be picked up, that their bulky items are going to be picked up," Taylor said. "If it's as if to say, 'If it's out there, just pick it up,' You know? Just pick it up."

Retired social workers and teachers, public health board members, small business owners and both high school and college students also shared their thoughts. 

"There's been a lot of talk in the entrepreneurial ecosystem about the amount of jobs that we provide the city and how the city wants to be the most entrepreneurial city in the U.S.," said CEO of CitySmart Donald Hawkins, "yet a lot of the early stage companies are struggling, and we really need your help."

The city has budgeted nearly $600,000 for KC BizCare, which provides resources for businesses.

"Sometimes I think small business gets glorified as this amazing thing, but it's not, it's hard," said Rise Fast founder Eze Redwood. "All we want is to see the city as committed to us, as we are to the city." 

Nigel Shipley, 10, was the youngest to provide public testimony. 

"I walk home from school. And it's really dangerous," Shipley said. "People don't use their turn signals." 

The City Council will continue to gather more public comments at the finance and governance committee on March 6. The budget is scheduled to be adopted on March 21 at the meeting of the full Council. 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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