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Kansas City Mayor Sly James On Convention Hotel, KCI And Streetcar Expansion

Cody Newill

For the mayor of Kansas City, life is not boring.

Fresh off a triumphant re-election campaign, Sly James is set to face a city council with nine new faces— something he says will be a challenge.

“It is difficult to integrate nine people onto a 12 person council,” James told Up To Date host Steve Kraske on Wednesday.

Among the other challenges facing the mayor is the battle over a single terminal concept at KCI, a downtown convention hotel up for a vote in the next few days and continuing talk of streetcar expansion.

Here are some highlights from the Mayor James' conversation with Kraske:

On the Navy naming a ship (the USS Kansas City) after his city

"I think it’s a kind of ship that kind of reflects Kansas City. It's sleek, it's not huge, it has interchangeable armaments and programs, it's got a well trained advanced technological platform and crew and it guards the coastal waters and as I said at the [Kansas City Royals-Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game] I think it's exactly the type of ship we need to hunt pirates."

On the proposed downtown convention hotel

"The truth of the matter is we have not been competing because we do not have the ability to bring in the conventions we've had in the past ... and it's been because we have not had a good lodging package.

"I don't care how you slice it, dice it, or look at it. We haven't built a new hotel in this city since 1985. Since that time, since 1985, we've built the Sprint Center, the Power & Light District, re-did Union Station, the World War I Museum is different, 18th and Vine, the Crossroads weren't there, family vacation attractions at Crown Center weren't there, River Market wasn't what is was, we didn't have a streetcar, we didn't have The College Basketball Experience, and I don't know if we had the Big 12 Tournament, but I know it's important if we want to keep it, that we start doing the things that we need to do."

On the recent recommendation by the airport study group for a new, single-terminal airport

“I'm gonna wait for the final numbers, but it's not lost on me that the task force that I asked of citizens who were involved ... came to exactly the same conclusion. Somehow or another people thought that I was Machiavelli and manipulating all of this. Now we get something that I've not participated in at all — they don't let me into the meetings, council is not involved, this is all airline and airport experts — who have looked at all of this and they know what they need ... and they're costing it out and doing those things and they've changed their minds from 'Hey we might be able to do a major renovation as opposed to new,' and now they're saying 'Hey we don't think we can do a major renovation without it costing a heck of a lot more than a new one.'

"Now that the experts, the airport people and the airline people are saying the same thing, maybe it has more credibility. But we were talking about these issues two years ago. They haven't changed.”

On the claim by the Kansas City police union that the department is understaffed and underfunded

“I take my cues from the chief of police and his staff and the board of police commissioners and I appreciate the union chief's position. On the other hand, he needs to appreciate ours. We do not have an unlimited pool of money.

"We're paying more money in [police] pension costs this year and last year than we did in the previous years and there's a dramatic increase. There's simply not enough money to do everything and they, like we, have to make some choices.”

On streetcar expansion

“There are a number of people who are very interested in [expanding the streetcar line] and I'll just say what I've told them: Let's get this one up and running so we can show people — particularly all those that have doubted us and have make untrue statements about it — that we will be on time, we will be on budget and we will be good. And then I think it will take care of itself.”

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.