Both Sides Of State Line Focus On KCMO's Problems

Feb 4, 2010

Kansas City, Mo. – Disgruntled people are finding a lot to be mad about within workings at Kansas City, Missouri City Hall. It's turned into a barometer for metro-wide feelings about the region. This appears in a newly released poll for the Greater Kansas City Area Chamber of Commerce. The governors of both states saw it freshly revealed to the public.

The governors opened to light banter of cross state rivalries before pollster Neil Newhouse tore open realities of his survey. The economy was top concern among those questioned.

"The second one which was a little unusual, I haven't seen it among all that many cities was the issue of crime. And this came through very clearly in our focus groups as well. Voters were very concerned about crime and it was violent crime," said Newhouse.

K- 12 education ranked third. Voters worried about funding education. About 10 percent of people were concerned about local government, corruption, and budget shortfalls.

The survey took in young and old, varying degrees of education and wealth. Newhouse says most agreed the area is a good place to live, but he described an overriding belief that the troubled Kansas City, Missouri government made the rest of the region looks bad. There were a dozen categories called: What's holding us back to progress. The prime fear was crime.

"Second and third, I thought was most interesting, of those 12 things what's holding the area back, is the level of cooperation among political leaders and quality of the region's political leadership," said Newhouse.

This was heard by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson and some half dozen members of the City Council of Kansas City. The Kansas governor finds himself talking about Kansas City Missouri politicians.

"What is the job of leaders in Kansas City? What are we telling them they need to get up every morning and fight for and go to bed at night thinking about? I don't know what that identity is, and this group has the gravitas to define that identity and then hold people accountable when they're not meeting it," said Newhouse.

Mayor Mark Funhouse wasn't there. He was out of town for meetings, but Councilwoman Cindy Circo told Governor Nixon it's not the mayor's problem. The council needs to get its legislative priorities in order, creating a plan with business to feed into better schools.

"If that plan isn't created cohesively with the elected leaders together, moving forward, then we've done nothing but look at some data today," said Circo.

To Governor Parkinson, the proper yardstick to measure the city's advancement is public schools.

"If the Kansas City Missouri School District is doing well, if somehow we have some exceptional leadership that turns that into a great school district, I will you that the city and the region will be doing well," said Parkinson.

Parkinson adds if the district continues decline, the city will not flourish. The Missouri Governor Nixon agreed.

"I think it's exceedingly important for civic leaders and political leaders during the times in which they are improving education not to down talk what is currently going on. We all know the facts. If we continue to say to parents that kids are graduating from this high school, that they are somehow not prepared to lead, somehow less able to move forward in their lives, we are sending a tremendously wrong message. That's not saying we don't need to improve. That's not saying we don't have problems."

The goal is to make this the first survey of several of its kind so there is a comparison.