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Kansas City Mayor Sly James Prioritizes Public Safety, Racial Equity For His Final Year

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Mayor Sly James doesn't shy away from talk of guns and violence in his 'State of the City' address Tuesday.

Coming off of a weekend where gun violence dominated headlines, Mayor Sly James didn't shy away from the topic at his seventh "State of the City" address Tuesday at Westport's Plexpod.

James touted the city's progress on infrastructure over the past year, including groundbreakings for both the new airport and new convention hotel and plans for a new Buck O'Neil Bridge underway. James then pivoted to guns, which police data shows are consistently the number one weapons used in homicides in Kansas City. And, he added, deaths by gun also include suicides and accidental killings.

"So if you don't care about the criminals murdering people, maybe we can at least care about kids getting killed accidentally and people blowing their heads off with a gun," James said.

With both concealed carry and so-called "stand your ground" laws, Missouri has some of the loosest gun regulations in the country.

"Rather than allow those of us who deal with the gut-wrenching, devastating, and expensive effects of gun violence every day to have any voice whatsoever in how we can reduce or prevent that violence in the first place, the state has substituted their distant judgment for ours," James said.

That's why, he said, community-based programs are so important right now. He applauded the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department for embedding social workers in every patrol station in the city and the work of KC NoVA's Teens in Transition program. 

He cautioned that leaders in violence prevention, public safety and the community need to get out of their silos and work together.

Another thing to work on: racial and gender inequities in both schools and the workplace. 

James announced that Turn the Page KC — a reading program he launched during his first term in 2011 — has started the KC Race & Equity Action Network, intended to remove racial and gender barriers to students' academic success. James pointed to one success. After partnering with the Women's Foundation to create the Appointments Project, he said women's representation on local boards and commissions has increased to 42 percent since 2014.

But he emphasized that results won't always be immediate.

"We're not just building the city for us for the next few years. We're building it for my grandchildren and your grandchildren," James said.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @_tudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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