Reimal, Schultz and Young get our endorsement for Independence city offices.
Independence voters face a steady-as-she-goes set of choices next week when they elect city leaders.
Mayor Don Reimal is unopposed for a second term, and two of the three people running for two at-large City Council positions are incumbents. So at most, the seven-member council will see a slight change in the lineup.
The city has pursued a steady path of progress for close to two decades, using city incentives to bring retail growth to the I-70/I-470 area where 20 years ago stood an underperforming mall surrounded by pasture. That development has led the way to such things as the new Independence Events Center, which is among the recent improvements to the area’s quality of life.
That path of progress became clearer three years ago with the transfer of western Independence to the Independence School District. The school district is tackling the educational piece of that welcome change, but a wide range of other issues – from neighborhood stability to jobs and economic redevelopment – needs the city’s close attention.
Mayor Reimal has shown he understands the demands of both: pursue development of the Little Blue River valley – with its promise of new housing and more retailers – while pouring an appropriate amount of resources into the tougher, block-by-block rebuilding of older parts of town.
The council has had its years of fractious debate and its years of broad consensus. We’re in one of those latter eras now. On the whole, that’s good, though every council needs members willing to say “Hold on a minute” when that’s appropriate. Incumbent Lucy Young has been that voice at times, and that’s healthy. Incumbent Jim Schultz has been that voice far less frequently, but again that reflects his buying into the city’s consensus about where to go.
Challenger Elisa Breitenbach would no doubt bring that questioning voice to the council – and would speak for some in the community who eternally feel City Hall ignores them – but there is a risk of confrontation for its own sake. A little of that is harmless, but it can spin out of control. We’ve been there before, and right now there’s no reason to go there again. For that reason, we support Reimal, Young and Schultz in next Tuesday’s voting.
The city really faces three big challenges: growth in the valley, renewal to the west and – hanging over everything – tighter finances that are hammering every local government in a down economy. The city has good parks and needs to maintain them. Ditto streets and sewers. It needs balanced growth. These things require vision and a steady hand.