INDEPENDENCE, MO – Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders urged the county’s legislators and other elected officials at his inaugural address Thursday evening in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library auditorium to be “farseeing” when setting goals to improve the entire Greater Kansas City region.
“All should know our resolve is to govern our great county as one community with one future,” he said. “Together we pledge that we will never settle for anything less than excellence.”
Embarking on his third term as county executive, Sanders stressed specifically the need to improve mass transit service throughout the metropolitan area. The county currently has what he called a “golden opportunity” to secure more than 21 miles of Rock Island Rail lines that could be redeveloped for commuter rail and the expansion of bicycling trails.
“This opportunity would help propel our region into the future, making ours exactly the kind of community where young people will want to live,” County Executive Sanders said.
Jackson County has already secured $10 million in federal funding to go toward the $59.9 million total needed to acquire the rail lines from Union Pacific Railroad (UP). The county and UP have a memorandum of understanding giving Jackson County the exclusive acquisition rights to the rail corridors until September 30 of this year.
The trail expansion along the rail lines would permit the metro area’s trails system to link with the Katy Trail, making it one contiguous bicycling path across Missouri—all the way from St. Louis to Kansas City.
“This golden opportunity is at our fingertips,” Sanders declared. “Let’s, together, choose to grasp it.”
Transit and economic development were two areas in which Sanders noted “regional works.”He said, “The challenges we face and the opportunities before us are not neatly defined along county lines, city limits or even the state border.”
As proof “Jackson County government is working,” Sanders pointed to several successes the last few years:
• The restoration and reopening of the Historic Jackson County Truman Courthouse on Independence Square
• The current remodeling of the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse to create five new courtrooms to accommodate the expanding docket of cases being filed in Eastern Jackson County
• The opening of a Regional Correctional Center to save taxpayers millions of dollars through Jackson County, the City of Kansas City and Kansas City Police Department now no longer each operating separate jail facilities
• The ongoing effectiveness of the COMBAT program with anti-violence programs serving more than 3,000 new clients.
• And the county’s “sound financial footing,” which enabled Jackson County to re-establish its bond rating and refinance $360 million in the bonds issued to renovate the Truman Sports Complex, saving taxpayers approximately $34 million in interest.
“We have, in true Missouri Show-Me fashion, shown that county government can get things done. And get them done—even in the aftermath of the Great Recession—without incurring more debt or raising taxes,” said Sanders.
Sanders thanked returning County Legislators Scott Burnett, Greg Grounds, Dan Tarwater, Dennis Waits and Crystal Williams for being “dedicated to making Jackson County government work.” He said he looked forward to forging productive partnerships with the county’s four new legislators, Theresa Galvin, Alfred Jordan, Tony Miller and Frank White.
Sanders told the legislators, “Our success rests in our shared fundamental principles: keeping taxes low, being accountable for every tax dollar spent, balancing the budget, and pursuing every chance to raise efficiency—all while striving to improve life in our community.”