Missouri Gov. Mike Parson arrived in Kansas City on Thursday for what he said was a commitment to working with the state's two biggest cities. He was joined by Democrats Kansas City Mayor Sly James and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson on a multistop tour of the city.
In a few weeks, the trio will spend a day in St. Louis, followed by another visit to a rural part of the state.
The idea, James said, was to "benefit by each other's knowledge and to make sure that we are closing the gap between those who have one belief and those who have another, those who live in one place and those who live in another."
One of the points on which the mayors and the Republican governor differ is gun control. Both Kansas City and St. Louis are struggling to curb high homicide rates. On Wednesday, nine people were shot in Kansas City in a six-hour span.
James is a staunch advocate of gun control. In an editorial published in the Kansas City Star in February, he wrote, “State government has aggravated the problem by refusing to allow cities like ours and St. Louis from doing anything to try to control the number and types of guns on our streets and in the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.”
Parson has a history of supporting pro-gun legislation, like the “stand your ground” law that allows people to use deadly force on their property in self-defense. After a stop at a police station, Parson said he would work closely with leaders in the two cities to address the issue.
“These crime rates and these homicides, they affect everybody in Missouri, it’s just not these cities, I know that they’re living it every day and its happening on their turf, per se, but it affects all people in the state of Missouri,” Parson said.
Parson also said he would consider legislation that gives cities more freedom to regulate guns — if a bill makes it to his desk. The Republican-led legislature did not send any gun-control measures to the governor’s desk last session.
Another issue on which the officials differ is right to work, which has become law in dozens of states, effectively banning unions from requiring that workers pay dues. The issue, called Proposition A, is on Tuesday's primary election ballot. The state legislature passed a right-to-work law in 2017, but pro-labor groups petitioned to put it to a statewide vote.
Parson said even if the ballot measure is defeated, it may not be the end of the discussion.
“I think it is an issue that’s been going on for many years before I arrived in Jeff City and will continue to move forward, I think it’s good for the state of Missouri,” Parson said.
Still, both James and Krewson said they were encouraged by Parson’s suggestion to spend entire days together touring their respective cities.
Parson met with James his first week in office; it took former Gov. Eric Greitens two months before he met with James.
In an address to the Kansas City Council on Thursday afternoon, Parson said his top priorities are workforce development and infrastructure.
“And there’s no way to sugarcoat it, it’s gonna cost something,” Parson said.
Earlier in the day, Parson emphasized his focus on transportation by visiting the Buck O’Neil Bridge, which is reaching the end of its projected lifespan. The Missouri Department of Transportation has said it can’t afford to replace it, so Kansas City is currently splitting the $7 million cost to temporarily repair it with the state and plans to front part of the cost to eventually build a new one.
Parson supports increasing the state motor-fuel tax by ten cents over four years to fund infrastructure projects. That issue will be on the November ballot.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.