It’s reasonable for residents of Independence to think their City Council will enjoy a breath of fresh air with new voices and new ideas. The new council is seated this evening.
Voters have turned out two incumbents, and a third – Scott Roberson, who served ably and well for several years – chose not to run again.
There is much to do.
The backdrop is that cities face steadily rising costs and crumbling tax bases. This is a particular problem in Missouri, where government relies so heavily on sales taxes, which are both regressive and unstable, as the economic shocks of the last dozen years have shown.
Still, it is incumbent upon leaders to resist the temptation to give in to a scarcity mentality and instead focus on what a community can do, with what it has, to create and sustain jobs and a healthy community.
Here’s at least the start of a to-do list:
• The city has effectively closed the door to industrial development with its dismissal of the Little Blue Parkway proposal last year. This new council needs to make clear what kind of proposals it would entertain and let the economic development people try to sell that. Last year’s mess just led to hard feelings and zero progress, zero jobs.
The city says it’s on the path to having the lowest electric rates in the metro area. Then let’s press our advantage and solicit development.
• Bus service. Let’s be clear: This is not an amenity. It is a basic service, getting people to and from work, the grocery store and elsewhere. The entire community benefits when buses are frequent, reliable and pointed to enough places to make use of them easy.
The city has found funding to keep IndeBus running for another year, but so much more is needed – long-term IndeBus funding and a better system overall across the metro area.
One more thing: It’s good that the city found grant money not long ago to add shelters at a handful of bus stops. We need a good deal more. It is distressing – and should be unacceptable – to see people all over town standing in the hot sun or in the cold and wind. Shelters at the busier stops are not too much to ask. What kind of community do we want to be?
• There is talk of revising the City Charter. It’s not a bad idea, and that review could start with looking at these words: “There shall be a department of health, the director of which shall be the director of health.” That’s in the charter, but the city effectively closed the Health Department two years ago and moved its services elsewhere in the city. This might very well be the time to reconsider that decision, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the crying need for a more robust public health system generally.