I am trying to write this from my heart, and I am struggling to get started. I want to talk about caring about a city, caring enough to fight for its future, caring enough to wonder why others don't care, watching divisions ruin neighborhoods with fear and distrust, watching leadership that is too busy sticking its nose in the trough to call people to account for their behavior, watching money wasted...
When we left New York City in 1974, the place was falling apart--at least that was the perception. The grimy graffiti stained streets gave the impression of a city out of control, riddled with crime. The news media and popular culture helped it along with their reporting and portrayals of the city. If you are old enough, you remember them: "Death Wish" "The Warriors" "Fort Apache: The Bronx" among others. In 1975, President Gerald Ford vetoed the bill that would have bailed out the city as it teetered on insolvency. (According to this article, Mr. Ford never did tell the city to "drop dead" as the New York Daily News reported.)
New York survived. The feds did help out with loan guarantees, not unlike the bailing out of Chrysler, the city eventually paid it all back. Gradually New York cleaned up its act and was once again a great city. Not perfect by any means, but taking care of its needs and making priorities. When 9/11/2001 happened, it did not happen to a city that would crumple under the pressure of the tragedy .
I have lived in the Kansas City metro since 1989: The first years in Grandview, and then a home owner in South Kansas City. It's not New York--only downtown reminds me of the city of my birth. New Yorkers would be amazed at the openness of the city, the fact of yards and houses. Kansas City would do well to remember that it is not a big city like New York or Chicago. The Kansas City experience is not the big city experience. Kansas City has its own unique vibe. And it is still a place where people can succeed, can meet goals, can find a satisfying life.
However, each day that headlines blare out about violent crime, each time someone is affected by property crime, each time that the infrastructure fails, each time public safety is cut instead of projects, each time City Hall shows selfishness and a lack of common sense in its planning is one more time where people start asking questions about how viable the city is, and how it will thrive, how it will turn things around and whether it can.
There is much that is good about our great city. However, we are suffering for a lack of people willing to take responsibility for their actions and hold communities to account. We are suffering for all the divisions--Black/White, leadership/people, rich/poor, etc. etc. It will not be easy to turn around, it will hurt and it will probably cost someone their political career.
I found it interesting that one of the conclusions of the article I linked above is that the way things worked out, it was for the best. Many thought that if the president had given in then, New York might never have recovered. But that big headline cost President Ford his reelection bid. We need that kind of strength now in our town.
Just a few thoughts from someone who still gives a damn, who likes living here, and wants to live in a great city.
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