Tom Waters has some good ideas for Independence. They deserve attention and action, and they would result in a better business environment.
Waters, who owns Corporate CopyPrint on the Square, just started a two-year term as chair of the Independence Economic Development Council. He was talking the other day at an EDC luncheon, and he stressed that individuals can and do make a difference.
He laid out a five ideas:
• “Clean up your circle of influence,” he said. The homes, businesses and churches of a vibrant and healthy community look good and are well maintained.
“Economic Development 101 includes basic cleanliness,” Waters said.
• Embrace positivity. He mentioned projects ranging from new homes in the Little Blue River valley to the upcoming renovation of the Truman Library.
• Support the efforts of City Hall – while stressing that doesn’t mean blind or blanket support. Cheer officials on when they’re right, and let them know when they’re wrong. The city’s current strategic plan, “Independence for All,” has dozens of specific areas of focus for community improvement, and Waters said it’s a good plan.
• Business leaders should become partners with the Independence School District in its Academies program, in which students select and pursue specific career paths in their four years of high school. A crucial piece is hands-on learning in a workplace-like setting. This program has been around for four years, though a surprising number of people in the community seem not tuned in to this conversation.
“My challenge is not about awareness,” Waters said. “It’s about connecting.”
• He said he’ll urge the EDC to endorse Proposition P, as the Chamber of Commerce has. That’s an Independence ballot issue on Aug. 6. Voters are being asked to extend sales taxes to all sales – that is, the internet – not just sales at local brick-and-mortar stores. The city has earmarked the money for police and for pet services, i.e. the animal shelter.
The current system – taxes on some sales, nothing for others – amounts to “no more than legalized theft from our city revenues,” he said. He has a good point.
Waters has been there, done that, and he keeps doing it. He’s been the chair of the chamber and stepped in as interim president during a brief leadership gap a couple years ago. He’s been the main driver in the litter cleanup drives of the last three years. (Go to The Examiner’s Facebook page for a recent Facebook Live conversation about that.) He’s headed the chamber’s Santa-Cali-Gon committee, a tough and easily overlooked job with a thousand moving parts.
I’ve complained about litter in this town so long that when the first litter cleanup came along I felt honor bound to be there. Several of us spent a couple hours picking up bag after bag of trash in the Cool Crest/Gates Bar-B-Q area of U.S. 40. Did it solve the problem? No, but it made a dent and sent a message.
We have to do better for our community’s future. Could we start by not flicking cigarettes out car windows? Or trimming the sidewalks? Or using the trash can for its intended purpose? To borrow and adapt Waters’ phrase, it’s Community 101.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or firstname.lastname@example.org.