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Examiner
  • Mayors say transit could bring region together

  • Several Jackson County mayors say they are working well together on several issues and that one in particular – a rail transit system – could bring the entire metro region together.

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  • Several Jackson County mayors say they are working well together on several issues and that one in particular – a rail transit system – could bring the entire metro region together.
     “What’s good for Blue Springs is also good for Independence and Lee’s Summit and all the region, and Kansas City,” said Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross, one of six mayors, along with Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, who spoke Wednesday at an Independence Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Arrowhead Stadium.
     The mayors spoke favorably about Sanders’ plan – probably on the ballot in 2013 – for a commuter rail system that initially would link Kansas City with Independence, Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit and other parts of Eastern Jackson County and eventually reach the airport and other points around the metro area.
     “We have got to stick our necks out and make a generational decision,” said Raytown Mayor David Bower.
     Sanders and others have repeatedly made the argument that a modern public transit system, as an alternative to the car-commute lifestyle, is something major cities shouldn’t look at as a luxury but rather as a necessary means of attracting and hanging on to young people with the drive and enthusiasm to make cities vibrant.
     “The younger workforce is demanding more options in their communities,” said Independence Mayor Don Reimal.
     Sanders put it this way: “What can we do to really make Kansas City competitive on the global stage? And transit can do that.”
     Mayors also see commuter rail as driving new economic development in their cities.
     “The personality of your city lies in its downtown,” Ross said, noting that plans include a rail stop in downtown Blue Springs.
     The mayors said they work together on a variety of issues and have become good friends who can easily discuss regional issues – something that hasn’t always been the case – but Kansas City Mayor Sly James said the conversation needs to be wider, with Platte and Clay counties as well as communities on the Kansas side of the state line.
     City boundaries – even county and state boundaries – are increasingly irrelevant in other major metro areas tackling regional issues, he said.
     “But our problem is we have not solved that regionalism issue,” James said.
     Bower said the regional rail plan is the one thing that could knock down those barriers, and he thanked Sanders for championing the effort. He also offered a prediction: “By Jackson County taking the lead, Johnson County will once again follow.”
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