Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Holland calls for innovation, downtown Healthy Campus

By NICK SLOAN, nick@kansascitykansan.com

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Wyandotte County has much to celebrate.

However, challenges remain for the future.

That was the message of Unified Government Mayor/CEO Mark Holland's first State of the Government Address, given Tuesday at the Jack Reardon Convention Center.

Holland first addressed the positive results Wyandotte County is enjoying, particularly in the area of economics.

Over the past five years, over 6,000 jobs have been created in Wyandotte County. And in 2013, nearly $1 billion in capital investment was made in the county.

One area the county needs to address in that area, Holland said, is connecting Wyandotte County residents with all of those jobs.

“Wyandotte County continues to be a place where private sector investment continues to grow," Holland said.  "In 2013 we saw nearly a billion dollars of capital investment in our community and thousands of new jobs created. Moving forward our goal will be to make sure our residents have the skills and training they need to access those high-quality positions. The Unified Government should set the standard for recruitment and hiring of our citizens.”

In a speech that addressed three core ideas - economic development, civic innovation and health - Holland also said the county needs to get innovative in dealing with finances, particularly those in the area of public safety.

Since 2006, public safety spending has averaged a 36 percent increase in the budget, while non-public safety budgets increased over the same time span by under two percent.

"The greatest threat for Wyandotte County is if this cannot be sustained," Holland said, highlighting the successes of public safety in Wyandotte County.

Among other fire departments in the area, the Kansas City, Kan., Fire Department ranks high when it comes to response times. Crime is also at a 40-year-low in Kansas City, Kan.

“The safety of our residents and employees are of up-most importance, which is why we need to regain a sustainable spending trajectory and continue providing the exemplary service delivered by our Public Safety personnel," Holland said. "If we are going to create meaningful tax relief for our residents, we need to embrace innovative practices, based in data, to guide our budget choices."

Holland called for the county and public safety unions to work together in a similar way the United Auto Workers and General Motors worked together during the low-points of the Great Recession.

"The UAW and GM got together to make business sustainable," Holland said.

Other highlights of his speech:
  • Holland called for the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. According to Holland, 10 percent of the state's uninsured residents reside in Wyandotte County. 
  • He called for the proposal of a downtown Healthy Campus. The Healthy Campus would be anchored by a proposed community center and grocery store.