Mayor Bill Baird presented the annual State of the City address this week to a full room at city hall.
At the Sept. 24 event, he touted the more than $500 million in construction investments that have been approved by the city council this past year, including projects like the development of the former Lee’s Summit United Methodist Church into Cityscape’s multi-family residential complex, the new ReeceNichols building downtown, and a third Lee’s Summit branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library.
He also revealed that the city has come to an agreement to move forward with a permanent farmers market and outdoor performance venue.
The project, which got voter approval in 2004, has long been a dream for downtown Lee’s Summit. Baird said that the city has secured property just across Green Street from city hall, allowing the creation of a pavilion and adjoining conservatory, as well as a boutique hotel and additional commercial development.
“If you haven’t noticed, Lee’s Summit has arrived,” Baird said.
Baird noted that the city is continuing to work through its strategic planning processes and announced a slate of C4 committees that will begin meeting over the next six months to realize the strategic plan approved this past year. The “C4” represents community partners, citizens, council and city staff.
But he also acknowledged some of the challenges the city has faced.
He noted that when he moved to Lee’s Summit and his generation was between the ages of 23 and 38, they were buying houses, getting married and starting families. And then soon upgrading their homes, growing their families and starting businesses. Today, the generation that is between the ages of 23 and 38 is the Millennial generation, who is projected to overtake the Baby Boomers as the largest adult population at the end of 2019.
Baird said the stakes are too high to ignore this segment of the population and that the city should be considering housing and development that will make Lee’s Summit attractive to Millennials.
“We need to embrace them now,” he said.
He also referenced the strife the community has seen as the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District has grappled with issues of equity, racism and bias.
Baird called for a stronger relationship between the city and the school district and for members of the community to engage with different perspectives and opinions – without the vitriol that has become commonplace on social media.
Saying that social media is not a safe place to have these conversations and calling for the creation of such safe spaces, he announced a Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He will appoint nine members to the commission, which will be tasked with engaging a wider variety of perspectives and finding a long-term plan for creating community conversations.
“We all have bias,” he said. “But there’s a great difference between bias and racism.”