Today marks the end of an era. This was Mayor Joe Reardon’s last State of the Unified Government speech. Mayor Reardon, who decided not to run for reelection, has held the office of mayor of Kansas City, Kan., for eight years.
In his speech he not only spoke about his accomplishments but he also spoke of where he anticipates Kansas City, Kan., to be in the future.
First of all he thanked his wife, Amy, sons, Connor and Jack, for their love and support. “And my boys are the best blessing anyone could ever have,” Reardon said. He also thanked his staff, Administrator Dennis Hays, and the Unified Government staff as well.
As he spoke he mentioned a look at the future, not the past.
He said he wouldn't spend too much time on his accomplishments, but listed a few. The mayor mentioned more development in Kansas City, Kan., in the past eight years than any other eight-year period in its history, topping $1 billion in new investment through 2012. He included the $600 million General Motors Fairfax expansion that was recently announced. Also, Wyandotte County is one of the top 40 counties in new job creation in the United States, and that was before Cerner announced 4,000 jobs would be created here in the coming years.
Another accomplishment he mentioned was crime has been reduced during the past eight years, with the community safer than it has been in nearly 30 years. The response to medical emergencies here is the best in the metropolitan area, he added.
"But our accomplishments are remarkable. And they have defied the conventional wisdom about Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. My objective today, though, is to talk to you about us, our community, the changing world we dwell in, and our unique qualities that make us poised for success and ready to address legacy challenges. You won’t find anyone more bullish about KCK and Wyandotte County than me but today it's not just about our success, it’s as much about us addressing our future," he said.
"And I am honored and proud to say that we have a solid foundation to build upon as we look at addressing the challenges that confront us. One of the themes I want to talk about today is how technology can transform our community, our neighbors, and our connections to one another," he said.
"The Google Fiber Project has opened a new door to our community to begin to integrate technology into our neighborhoods and government. I believe this will provide us with an amazing innovative platform for improving our quality of life," Mayor Reardon said.
The mayor touched on the east-west divisions and the have-have not divisions, and said the key to success in the future would be to focus on one another and then erase the lines. He said the community should develop an overreaching strategy for community development and then execute it. He discussed the sidewalk and trail master plan as an example of this. He noted there was a plan with information about where dollars should be invested over time.
"The challenge going forward is to execute the plan and stick to it over time. If we focus on a strategy that erases the lines and looks at impact and benefit, all parts of our city will succeed. It removes us from the winner and loser mentality that can come when decisions become influenced by politics and not good policy," he said.
"Often we look at the physical stature of a part of the city to judge the quality of life that might be found there. And particularly in a sprawling region like Kansas City, newness can be equated to better quality of life. This superficial view of the nature of a neighborhood can belie the true dynamic that is occurring. Beauty is often not skin deep," he said.
"So too in Kansas City, Kansas. Our neighborhoods have wonderful character and history that tell fascinating, diverse stories about who we are and where we come from. The real challenge for us is not to re-develop to a suburban 'newness' model but to accentuate the unique characteristics found in each neighborhood," he said.
As he ended his speech, Mayor Reardon said, "As I wrap up 8 years as mayor, I am proud to say that the State of the Unified Government is strong. We have weathered the financial storm while achieving record growth in new business development and new job creation. We have challenges that remain. Many are decades in the making. But in the coming years we will have financial opportunities to address these challenges that haven’t existed here in the past. We have the ability to leverage technology and innovation to further our quality of life. We possess the tools to further the educational achievement of our children. And we have developed a well thought out strategy and collaboration to improve the health condition of our citizens."
As he ended his speech, he made one final comment, "I am excited to see what the future holds for us, together."