Speaker urges cooperative approach to urban challenges

by Murrel Bland

When everyone realizes his and her economic potential, a city truly progresses.

That was the message that Janis Bowdler brought to more than 800 persons who attended the annual meeting of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday, April 4, at the Reardon Convention Center.

Bowdler is president of J.P. Morgan Chase and Company Foundation. She lives in Washington, D.C. Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor David Alvey discussed community development and other matters with Bowdler and Gov. Laura Kelly.

The J.P. Morgan and Chase Foundation has made a commitment to invest $1.75 billion during the next five years to strengthen the workforce, revitalize neighborhoods, grow small businesses and improve the financial health of individuals.

Gov. Kelly used the opportunity to promote her legislative agenda. She favors expanded early childhood education, expanded Medicaid, improved infrastructure, a solution to the public school court case and reform of the prison system and the Department of Children and Families.

Bowdler is the co-author of the book “Building Equitable Cities,” published by the Urban Land Institute. The book argues that cities should combine nonprofit organizations, government entities and the private sector to create an environment in which all people have meaningful opportunities to move up the economic ladder. That will cause cities to expand their economies.

Bowdler said she realizes that such an approach may not be easy because of past bad experiences in neighborhoods. But it is still necessary, she said.

Gov. Kelly introduced her Secretary of Commerce, David Toland, who will be a key person in economic development in rural Kansas cities and counties. Toland, who is from Iola, Kansas, where he headed an economic development effort, was the target of conservative members of the Kansas Senate during his confirmation hearing. Nonetheless, last week he received a majority of votes needed for approval.

Mayor Alvey said that an improved tax base is needed to provide the services that residents deserve. He compared what one mill would raise in the Turner School District (about $160,000) with what one mill would raise in the Blue Valley District in Johnson County, about $2.4 million.

Mayor Alvey, Gov. Kelly and Bowdler all agreed that communities must invest in education to assure that there will be an adequate, well-trained workforce for the 21st century.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press.

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