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Kansas City Mayor Sly James Spent His Last State Of The City Pushing His Pre-K Sales Tax

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Much of Kansas City Mayor Sly James final State of the City address Tuesday night centered around early childhood education.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James' term is rapidly coming to an end. 

At his final State of the City address Tuesday night, James reflected on his tenure, but spent most of the 40-minute speech campaigning for a sales tax to pay for universal pre-K.

"If we screw it up, we're the ones liable," James said. "You know what's far more regressive than a 3/8-cent sales tax? Poverty and crime. Winding up in jail and not being able to dig your way out because you don't have the skill set or money. It's time for a change."

With the endorsement of only one of the 11 mayoral candidates vying for his seat, and without the support of any of the public school districts, James has largely been campaigning single-handedly on the issue. Kansas City voters will have a chance to vote on the early childhood education sales tax April 2.

He also focused on gun violence, calling Missouri's resistance to gun control a "nonsensical ideology" that made it impossibe to get guns off of the streets. But he spun even that quickly back to access to quality early childhood education, which he said could help break the cycle of violence.

He touted accomplishments, like the downtown streetcar and the new single-terminal at KCI and the downtown convention hotel, both of which are currently under construction. 

It wasn't an emotional address. James told reporters afterward that he's looking forward to a vacation. But he had some parting words for the crowd.

"I've learned we're no one's understudy. We're not flyover country," James said. "Kansas City has arrived."

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope

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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