I love my hometown, Independence. I know it’s not cool to give yourself a nickname, but I sometimes call myself the unofficial “Ambassador of Independence.” I love my city for its pioneering and presidential history, and the small town feel with big city opportunities. Mostly, I love connecting with its people.
As I am reminded by this month’s experiences at my church, the new commandment He gave to us is to love one another, or think of it this way, “Love the you, next to you.” I say this not to preach, but to share my belief that if we remembered the you, next to you, or as our city’s strategic plan states, “Independence for all,” we would make the headlines for community growth, economic development and achievements all in the name of our city.
Instead, I find myself disappointed and often embarrassed by the behavior at council meetings, stories in the news, and on Facebook’s ridiculous gossip sites that I will not dignify to mention by name. City politics should not be partisan. We don’t have to continue to call everyone we disagree with “corrupt.” I don’t think it’s silly to believe that we can love our neighbor, work together, and continue to steer our city to greatness despite opinions, mistakes and differences that occur. We are better than the negatives, so today I state my case for a positive Independence and it starts with supporting our elected mayor, Eileen Weir.
We have so much to be proud of in Independence. We are very fortunate to be one of the few cities to have a presidential library and chosen home for one of our greatest presidents. We are the start of the Trails to the West. The pioneering spirit lives on in us today. We have been an All-American city, and recently won the Capstone award for our beautiful Uptown Market. We host one of the top school districts in the state, through the ISD Academies Program. We are diverse, strong and embrace the past but welcome technology. We also have one of the most respected mayors in the state, as she was named one of the most influential leaders in a recent publication.
I ask you to consider these truths: Since Weir was elected mayor in 2014, the city negotiated the demolition of the American Inn to reduce criminal activity and provide development opportunities on the I-70 and Noland corridor, including retaining Price Chopper, which was planning to close. Look at the new quick-service food options that have sprung up there recently, encouraging I-70 travelers to stop in Independence.
One of the top goals of the Strategic Plan was to raise the median income to $50,000. Mayor Weir’s focus on this goal has been instrumental in seeing more citizens move toward financial security. This has also been the largest median income increase in the past two decades.
Mayor Weir and the council used Chapter 100 incentives to retain Unilever. An industrial utility rider keeps the plant operating in Independence and kept hundreds of union jobs here. Most recently, Unilever recommitted to stay in Independence and expanded its plant and employment numbers.
The Indebus service was expanded and free public Wi-Fi was provided, which assists residents in getting to work and accessing the internet.
And, not to be lost on citizens, Mayor Weir supported the change to council rules of procedure to allow citizens to speak at meetings without signing up in advance. This has allowed for more community dialogue and communication publicly to the council.
These are just a few of the positives, but I attend a lot of council meetings and observe the mayor in our community on a weekly basis. Whether to thank volunteers, read a proclamation, attend a networking lunch or encourage a business owner, Mayor Weir is in our community. I never doubt that she cares about “we the people” and her adopted home.
Today I ask you to join me in supporting the mayor by showing love to “the you, next to you,” and that includes the mayor and our city council. In fact, let’s start by saying, a simple, “How can I help?”