• Mayor lauds city's efforts in State of City address

  • While the city of Independence and the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team are seemingly unrelated, Independence Mayor Don Reimal says the two offer similar lessons learned.

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  • While the city of Independence and the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team are seemingly unrelated, Independence Mayor Don Reimal says the two offer similar lessons learned.
    “While certain events may take the headlines, capture the imagination and be remembered for a long time, they are often only possible because of seemingly less important events, which are frequently overlooked and forgotten,” Reimal said Wednesday during his annual State of the City address at Ophelia’s Restaurant. The 20-minute speech took place during the monthly Independence Chamber of Commerce luncheon and included the attendance of a handful of other area mayors.
    The city and that hockey team, Reimal said, also showcase that valued opportunities are earned and not given. Take, for example, the Little Blue Parkway, Reimal said, which will open its final stretch sometime this year, making way for 20,000 additional Independence residents and a large variety of commercial and industrial development.
    A $55 million, 7-mile roadway more than 30 years in the works, many community partners worked together to achieve the Little Blue Parkway planning, funding and development, Reimal said.
    “The Little Blue Parkway is, in some ways, our version of the Olympic hockey victory over the Soviet Union,” Reimal said, “but just like the U.S. gold medal victory, something like the Little Blue Expressway doesn’t just happen. ... It is our obligation and opportunity to keep working in partnership for the betterment of this community, even when a spotlight is not on and rewards seem relatively small.”
    Another significant opportunity took place, Reimal said, with the opening of the new regional animal shelter, which is slated for early April. Negotiations for an operating agreement took place throughout most of 2012, while the City Council and Jackson County Legislature finally agreed upon a contract within the past month.
    “I think we can be very proud of the no-kill commitment that has been made,” Reimal said. “A large county-owned facility, built on city-owned land, operated by a third-party, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of animals – that is a complex but necessary solution to a long-term standing community problem.”
    Jackson County and Independence also continue to work together with the new Emergency Operations Center, the renovation of the Truman Courthouse and commuter rail across Eastern Jackson County.
    “It will change the way people think about communities,” Reimal said of commuter rail, “as it promises to bring new opportunities for economic growth and access to employment and areas of destination.”
    Reimal, 71, was elected mayor in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010 after running unopposed. A resident of Independence since he was 6 months old, Reimal is a retired Union carpenter who graduated from Van Horn High School and was first elected to the City Council in 1994.
    Prior to his address, Reimal asked for a moment of silence in respect of those affected by the Kansas City fire at JJ’s Restaurant near the Country Club Plaza.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We have called Sly (James, mayor of Kansas City) and offered our services for whatever we can do for his city, as I’m sure we would for us,” Reimal said.
    Continuing on the theme of opportunity, Reimal said the city often seeks out opportunity, such as the Parks and Recreation Department master plan update in 2010 and the development of an all-inclusive playground at McCoy Park.
    The $1.6 million project will include two playgrounds, a ballfield and a spraygrounds, allowing children of all ability levels the opportunity to play among their peers. While fundraising efforts were launched about three months ago, nearly half of the money needed is already promised or collected, Reimal said.
    “If you believe in miracles, it is an opportunity for you to personally get involved with all of the rest of us to become part of a meaningful project,” he said. “We are more than ready to see this get built. These kids deserve to have a place where they can go play and enjoy life.”

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