Rockhurst alumnus and Kansas City mayor Sly James delivers final speech

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Rockhurst alumnus and Kansas City mayor Sly James delivers final speech

Photo: rockhurst.edu

Photo: rockhurst.edu

Photo: rockhurst.edu

Photo: rockhurst.edu

On Tuesday, March 26, Mayor Sly James delivered his eighth and final “State of the City Address” in Rockhurst University’s Arrupe Auditorium.

The primary topic of his speech was concerned with the work he has done for education in Kansas City. As the founder of Turn the Page KC, a third grade readiness program, James has helped close the academic achievement gap between statewide averages and what was once the city’s deficient standard.

I took office in May 2011. I believe everybody will agree that we are better off now than we were then. I am proud to tell you that the State of the City has surpassed expectation. Kansas City has arrived.”

— Mayor Sly James

During his 8-year term, the reading proficiency of third graders has increased more than 20 percent. His initiative directly battles with the statistic that 75 percent of students who cannot read by the end of third grade will not catch up, said James.

James acknowledged that there has been much progress for Kansas City regarding education, but there is still much to improve upon.

How do you feel about Young the Giant headlining the Rockstock spring concert? Will you attend?

  • I'm very excited! (33%, 19 Votes)
  • I'm disappointed, it should be a different performer. (19%, 11 Votes)
  • Who? I've never heard of them. (12%, 7 Votes)
  • I'm definitely going; I want to be in the front row! (12%, 7 Votes)
  • I feel neutral about it. (9%, 5 Votes)
  • I'm definitely NOT attending. (9%, 5 Votes)
  • I'll go if my friends want to. (7%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 46

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“By the age of 3, a child raised in poverty has heard 30 million fewer words than a middle-class child,” said James, rendering them “behind the achievement gap by time they step into kindergarten, and spending the rest of their lives trying to catch up.”

According to James, 10 percent of Kansas City’s population are Hispanic but many live in a “pre-K desert.” The average local income is $47,000 but the city’s average annual childcare amounts to $12,000. When it requires 25 percent of a family’s income, the cost of early childhood education is out of reach for most middle- and low-income families in Kansas City, James said.

The mayor encouraged listeners to better those statistics by “investing in high-quality education” by providing teachers and schools with more resources. We have a “moral responsibility to make sure everyone is educated,” said James.

James also addressed progress in the city’s public infrastructure, including construction on sidewalks, the commencement of building a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport, and the installation of the streetcar which may soon travel closer to Rockhurst’s campus.

James praised the efforts of individuals striving to build better community, such as city employees, the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy, and the group KC Tenants, seen in the audience sporting yellow t-shirts denoting “safe, accessible, truly affordable homes.”

After “eight years that included 18 elections,” and “seeing my security detail more than I see my wife,” James said, he is ready to pass the baton to the city’s next mayor.

With confidence James said, “I took office in May 2011. I believe everybody will agree that we are better off now than we were then. I am proud to tell you that the State of the City has surpassed expectation. Kansas City has arrived.”

In the June general election, James’ mayoral position will be succeeded by either Councilwoman Jolie Justus or Councilman Quinton Lucas.

Interested in joining the Sentinel staff? Contact our Editor, Kori Hines, at [email protected] to see how you can get involved.

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