Sly James wins national award but for wrong reasons
The Kansas City Star
Newsweek has named Mayor Sly James one of the five most innovative mayors in the nation. That’s a great bit of news for James - as well as for Kansas City, of course.
But as with too many national stories that key in on Kansas City, the writer of the piece didn’t get enough facts right when giving James the award.
First, here’s the excerpt (find the whole story here:
“Mayor Sly James’s vision of building “Silicon Prairie” took a quantum leap forward when he successfully lobbied Google to partner with Kansas City in an exclusive test of its ultrahigh-speed fiber network, giving residents access to Internet service 100 times faster than average broadband speeds across the country. As a result, new businesses and entrepreneurs are already starting to come to this Midwestern tech mecca. James helped create the environment for this investment by embracing local tech startups and a business incubator that crowd-funds companies. James transitioned his City Hall office entirely to cloud computing and open-sourced the development of a new downtown streetcar project. These investments have already helped spur a resurgence in the downtown population, expanding the tax base while improving the quality of life. “Partnerships pay dividends,” James says. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Joe Reardon is the one who got Google to come to this area, along with other Wyandotte County officials. At first, it was going to be an “exclusive” experiment in KCK. But James - to his credit - then worked with Reardon and others to make sure the Google experiment jumped the state line.
The Google initiative has had nothing to do with spurring a resurgence in downtown population. It’s far too early for any noticeable increase in population to have occurred, especially since Google Fiber isn’t even working yet in the downtown area.
The development of the new streetcar project wasn’t done with any kind of “open source” application. It was done the old-fashioned way: with tax increases. I’m getting tired of people thinking it was done any other way.
Again, James does deserve all kinds of credit for embracing partnerships with new technology.
But if I were going to give him an award for something that really will help the quality of life improve for tens of thousands of Kansas Citians, you’d have to point to his convincing leadership on the half-cent sales tax increase last August.
When voters approved that tax, to raise $34 million a year, they voted for better roads and parks. That was the high mark for James in 2012, though it doesn’t fit Newsweek’s narrative of being an “innovative” mayor.