Thanksgiving was a great day to spend time with my husband, Tom, and our children, Nora and John, at our family farm along with my parents, my two sisters, brother in law, and Tom’s parents. This year’s celebration was especially meaningful to me after learning on Wednesday that I will not have an opponent as I seek re-election as the Mayor for Independence.
Serving on the City Council since 2012 and as mayor since 2014 has been the privilege of a lifetime. I ran for elected office to make Independence a place where people could be safe, healthy and more prosperous. Those goals motivate me every day, and I will continue to work towards improved safety, health, and prosperity as your mayor. Working with businesses and citizens on the things that make Independence an interesting place to live and visit makes my job a delight, and there are many exciting developments in the works to add an element of fun to our great historic town.
I am proud of what has been accomplished over the past 3 1/2 years. Median income is up, unemployment is down, capital investment is strong, and our city finances are stable. Since I took office, voters have supported tax renewals for police, fire, and streets, passed the motor vehicle licensing tax, and supported bond and levy issues for our school districts and libraries.
In 2017 “Independence for All” was adopted to set a course for the community over five years, outlined in 74 specific strategies www.ci.independence.mo.us/CityCouncil/StrategicGoals. Progress on the goals are tracked and reported to the public through the performance dashboard www.ci.independence.mo.us/CityCouncil/PerformanceDashboard
As I complete my first term as your mayor and prepare for 2018, my efforts will focus on expanding renewable energy options, improving neighborhoods and commercial districts through blight removal and investment, attracting new employers and growing existing businesses, balancing city revenues with the demands of the citizens, and improving public facilities to best serve the needs and expectations of residents. I have set a goal of raising the median income to $50,000 by the year 2020 and increasing our population to 120,000.
Strong, safe, attractive neighborhoods are the bedrock of Independence. In recent days the city has taken ownership of the former Rockwood Golf Club to prevent unwanted development and leverage 90+ acres in Western Independence for a positive use that complements the neighboring residences and schools. This is just one example of the bold decisions I am willing to make to preserve the quality of our city and attract future investment.
I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from the voters and taxpayers of Independence and am energized to serve a second term as mayor. Thank you for placing your confidence in me and for giving me the chance to work on your behalf every day.
Development and investment in Western Independence have been concerns of Independence residents for decades. When my family relocated to Independence in 2000, we chose to live in Western Independence, the neighborhood where my husband was raised.
In the last few weeks, the City Council has made big decisions to put a renewed focus on the west side. Year after year the annual citizen survey reveals that people want to see improvements west of Noland Road. Residents also place high importance on maintaining the historic Independence Square as the heart of Independence.
I have been actively involved with so many projects in Western Independence over the 17 years that I have lived in the city. I worked on the campaign to remove Independence schools from the Kansas City school district, assisted with creating the Englewood Arts District, and am active with Truman Gateway.
I have seen numerous plans for Western Independence focused on the Square, Englewood, Fairmount, Maywood, Noland Road, 24 Hwy and 40 Hwy. It’s time for one plan that works.
In the coming weeks the Council will choose citizens to serve on the Downtown Redevelopement Coordinating Committee. The committee will develop a plan and funding options for improving the commercial districts and neighborhoods west of Noland Road.
In 1998 the City Council led by Mayor Ron Stewart asked voters to approve a dedicated sales tax for repair and maintenance of city streets and parks. The City streets and parks were in bad shape and regular revenues were not enough to bring them up to the expectations of the community. A great grassroots effort took place and a coordinated campaign supported by citizens, the business community, and the City Council Voters approve the streets and parks tax by a whopping 69.9%!
The streets tax was put on the ballot for renewal in 2002, and again the voters of Independence saw the need to continue the streets maintenance funding and voted to continue the tax. Five years later, the streets tax went back on the ballot for renewal and passed again with 66.3% of the vote.
On August 8th Independence voters will once again be asked to continued the existing 1/2 cent streets sales tax. It will appear as Question 1 on the ballot and, if approved, will remain in place until repealed.
Street maintenance consistently ranks as the #1 priority of citizens. It is a matter of safety, community pride, and quality of life. Over the last 11 years of the existing sales tax, the City has repaved every road in Independence. This year the City Council adopted a new method of street maintenance and repair that is faster, more cost efficient, and delivers a greater impact. The first two projects under this new method were completed this weekend at the intersection of Truman Road and Liberty, and the intersection of Sterling Road and Winner.
Independence voters have a strong history in approving perpetual taxes for perpetual needs. In 2002, voters approved the perpetual guest tax on hotels, motels, campgrounds, B&Bs to support city tourism. Stormwater and parks benefitted from a perpetual sales tax in 2010 to ensure continued maintenance of these once threatened assets.
Street maintenance is a perpetual need. The existing tax generates approximately $8 million annually to maintain the streets in our city. Without this dedicated funding the streets we all use every day would rapidly decline.
The City uses some of the revenue from the existing streets tax to leverage federal funding. Independence competes every year for a piece of the federal grants for projects like improvements to 24 Hwy. and 40 Hwy. which are on-deck for 2019. The City is not able to apply for future federal funding without the assurance that the streets tax funds will be available two or three years from now.
In today’s political climate, taxes are not popular. I am not concerned with political risk but with what is right for the citizens I was elected to serve. This is why I am in favor of the perpetual renewal of Question 1 on August 8th and ask for your support.
The City Council recently adopted the City’s 5-year strategic plan that we are calling “Independence for All”. Creating the strategic plan is an important milestone in our community, and we could not have done it without the input of thousands of citizens, business owners, and volunteers who give their time and energy to making our City better.
“Independence for All” isn’t a plan that was created at City Hall, but, as I like to say, somebody had to write it down. This is not my plan, or the City’s plan, it is YOUR plan. We put it down in writing so that you know that your elected leaders have listened to your thoughts and concerns and are working hard to make Independence the place you want to live, work, and raise your family.
Visit the City website link below to view the entire plan and all 74 strategies.
“Independence for All” is based on four over-arching goals: Customer-Focused, Financially Sustainable, Growth, and Quality. In the next five years, we will strive to make Independence cleaner, safer, and more prosperous.
I need your help to make positive changes in the City we all love and call home. I am excited about the direction we are headed and inspired by the hundreds of small things people are doing day in and day out to make life just a little better for someone in our city.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like to talk more about “Independence for All”, and thank you for your dedication to our city.