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Mayor James Touts Kansas City's Successes During White House Stop

The White House

White House Press Secretary and Kansas City native Josh Earnest called Mayor Sly James one of the three best in America during Thursday’s briefing to reporters.

James is in Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Along with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Fresno, California, Mayor Ashley Swearengin, James participated in the daily briefing.

James says Kansas City has fared “quite well” under the Obama administration. The city received a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development last year and is also participating in its ConnectHome program.

But James says Kansas City’s most significant accomplishment during Obama’s time in office is in adding 80,000 jobs.

“I think as a mayor, I don’t create jobs,” James said. “We simply try to build an environment in which jobs can foster. We’ve done that by promoting entrepreneurism and startups.”

Asked by a reporter what he thought the president had done to improve race relations, James replied Obama got elected twice.

“That in and of itself says something about race relations because before his election, there were people who believed that was an impossibility,” James said. “A lot of older African Americans thought that you’d never have an opportunity to see that in their life.”

James also weighed in on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and said he agreed with the president that it could be seen as a cautionary tale.

“Infrastructure has been neglected in this country, and it needs to change because if it does not change, we’re going to be in serious trouble,” James said. “At some point, it’s going to become a national security issue if it’s not already.”

James added that much of the work Kansas City is doing now to improve its overflow control should have been done 30 years ago. The city is on track to spend $4.5 billion upgrading its sewer and stormwater system.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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