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Kansas City Mayor Tears Down Walls In Urban Core

Kansas City Mayor Sly James and other city officials gathered Wednesday afternoon on the city’s east side to tackle a new program for the backlog of dangerous buildings.

On a street lined with 100-year-old bungalows, near Ivanhoe Park in Kansas City, Missouri, a few houses are boarded up with the words “dangerous building” stamped in black letters.  But, one abandoned house was torn down - by Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

A neighbor stood near the house at the corner of 44th and Brooklyn and asked, "Mayor, you taking this down?" Mayor James responded, "Heck, yeah."

Minutes later, the mayor, wearing a hard hat and safety vest, settled behind the controls of an excavator and - in a whirl of dust and debris - started tearing down the vacant house.

"This is just tear the sucker down, get a bulldozer, load it in a truck and haul it off," said James. "But we’re going to try to do this the right way."

The mayor’s plan calls for hiring 50 to 75 contractors to tear down nearly 160 dangerous homes by March in a target area, including the Green Impact Zone and the West Side. On average, the city demolishes 130 houses a year, so this marks a steep increase.

The goal is to clear the city’s backlog of 1000 buildings slated for demolition within the next 24 months.

Cost estimates for demolition range from $5,500 to $7,000 per house. Funds are available due to recent voter approval of Question 1, a 1/2 cent sales tax increase, expected to boost the city's revenue by more than $20 million a year.

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