KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City is set to inaugurate its new mayor.
Quinton Lucas will take office following a swearing-in ceremony Thursday at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall.
Lucas, a 34-year-old black man, will succeed two-term Mayor Sly James. He defeated outgoing Councilwoman Jolie Justus in the mayor’s race in June.
Lucas becomes the mayor of a city where he and his family were often homeless during his childhood on Kansas City’s impoverished east side. Despite those struggles, Lucas won academic scholarships to a prestigious private school in Kansas City and then to Washington University in St. Louis and Cornell Law School. He is a practicing attorney and a member of the University of Kansas law faculty.
Six new and six returning members of the City Council also will take office Thursday.
Read Lucas’ entire speech below:
Thank you, Your Honor.
Thank you to all of you for sharing this moment with our families, without peers, and with our great community today. I note the rain outdoors this morning. Some of you may recall that it poured rain on election night back in June, and it’s raining today. While clear, blue skies beckon good fortune for some,I’m starting to think I will always just hope for gray skies and rain in the forecast on days withmy big life events. It seems to be good luck. I want to start by acknowledging the many participants in today’s ceremony.
Bridgette Williams, a history maker herself, being the first African-American woman to lead one of our City’s great organizations and research suggests the first female host in a generation of inauguration exercises.
The members of our color guard and the women and men of the Kansas City Fire and Police Departments who serve our community in tough situations each day.
The many young performers from Oak Park High School with us today.
Bishop Johnston, a faith leader for us all, Catholic and not, in Kansas City and our region.
Brandonn, someone who has never forgotten and will never forget those who have served.
Judge Benton, a man who taught me always to read more closely, never fail to conduct research, but also never to forget where I’m from and my journey to get here.
And, my friend, Representative Davids, Sharice, whose presence today shows bistate cooperation between Missouri and Kansas, how we must all work together to see brighter days, but more than that, honors me and us as she is one of the most amazing, hardworking women this region and this country knows. Thank you.
Today we celebrate a new administration, new opportunities, and a new day in Kansas City, but we do that while recognizing those who have come before us. I am honored to acknowledge the work of leaders like Mayor Dick Berkeley, whose leadership and advice is something I have cherished as a candidate and now as a new mayor; city council people now and in the past; who not for compensation or fame, but for love of community gave hours and years to this great city;and I acknowledge the work of my predecessor, Sylvester “Sly” James. Local pundits and political watchers spend a great deal of time talking about Sly and I’s disagreements—and we’ve given them fodder from time to time—but few recognize the respect I have for the man. To wear the uniform of our country, to give decades of free, public service as a volunteer board member and civic advocate while raising a family, and to leave a lucrative law practice at the high point of one’s career to answer once more the call to service takes bravery, takes passion, and takes love for our community. Mayor James, I and we will be forever grateful for that love of community you shared with our city.
I also wish today to recognize the twelve outstanding women and men who spent the last year walking our neighborhoods, listening to concerns—ranging from potholes to trash pickup to job creation—and who I am proud today to call my colleagues on the City Council. Our Council features preeminent experts in state and local government, lifelong supporters of our service men and women, mothers, fathers, grandparents, engineers, millennials, baby boomers, Gen-Xers,community advocates, progressives, moderates, and a conservative… but more than anything,people passionate about the opportunities ahead for Kansas City. Lee, Teresa, Katheryn,Heather, Dan, Kevin, Melissa, Brandon, Ryana, Eric, Andrea, and McDreamy, thank you for caring so much about our community, thank you for giving me a chance, and thank you to you and your families for being willing to serve. As part of that service, I am calling for a reduction in the number of committees, down from ten to three, that allow council members to specialize in key areas; to attend other committees without missing their own; to have ample time for constituent services; and to have committee’s meet in a manner that allows the public to keep track of what’s going on at City Hall without needing an updated roster and scorecard week to week. We must have a goal of being ever-transparent and that means, not merely, sharing what we’re doing and where the money to do so is coming from, but making sure the public can participate, holding more meetings in the public and after hours, using technology to keep folks better informed, and never neglecting to remember that sunlight is the best disinfectant, openness and transparency a preferred default for all that we will do.
We all got into this endeavor to do something; not to be something. We recognize why City Hall matters in the life of Kansas Citians each day. At a certain point, this awesome crowd will leave.The number of press members will drop to just a few—and we do thank you for what you do—but we will still have important work to do… to ensure we’re continuing our steps toward free public bus transit for all in our City; toward making sure every dollar sent us by each taxpayer and each ratepayer in our City is spent wisely, fairly, and consistently with the promises we’ve made to the voters, to give more people who may have had trouble in the past a second chance,and to make sure a law enforcement officer, or a teenage worker, or perhaps one of our family members or friends, has the opportunity to get home safely tonight.
Over the next four years, we have some big things to do. Some expectations on us are continuations of work already started; some may be with challenges we don’t already know. We have to complete the new airport terminal project on-time—before the 2023 NFL draft—and on budget. We need to continue renegotiation of the EPA consent decree so that rapidly increasing water rates don’t continue to hurt so many of the poorest and working folks in our community.We have to commit to the rehabilitation and creation of affordable housing and stable neighborhoods in all Kansas City neighborhoods with the same vigor we’ve committed to hotel construction and central business district renewal. We must be consistent with our promise to taxpayers to address long-term, existing road repair and infrastructure needs—before the winter pothole season hits—and with a focus on taking care of what we have. And, we have to commit to compensating better, fairly, and adequately the thousands of employees that go to work for Kansas City, Missouri government each day. Pats on the back are nice, but paychecks that show one’s worth are even better. And, my friends, no issue is more important than preventing the tragic loss of lives to violence and drug addiction we see each year in our city. It’s been mentioned a time or two that I am a young mayor and I’m proud of it. The perspective that gives me is that for almost every year of my life, Kansas City, the city in which I was born, has been one of America’s most dangerous cities. For almost every year of my life, I have lived in neighborhoods where young lives—particularly young black lives—were cut short before boys and girls could reach their prime. For most every year of my life, I’ve lived in neighborhoods where people feel forced to abandon our city so that they can live, they hope, in peace. I don’t want to get to old age accepting that as an every day fact of life. I don’t want to be a city where we have ribbon cuttings for new stadia orbig infrastructure but simply shrug about the violence in our streets, the mental illnesses,particularly among the homeless, left untreated, and the drug addictions—among people of all races and all walks of life—that take away so many of our brothers and sisters. Yes, my friends,public safety is expensive, but the value of human life is much greater. I ask you, my colleagues,to stand with me as we commit by the end of this term to getting our city off the FBI list of most violent cities and getting our homicide number consistently below the still-too-high number of 100 lives lost per year.
- Public safety.
- Opportunity for workforce development and stable housing in all our neighborhoods.
- Fixing our broken infrastructure.
- Fiscal responsibility.
- Open and transparent government.
Although some have called this a time of change, I call this a time of renewal. Today, we renew our promise to our voters, to our citizens, to our neighbors to do what they expect of us… to run an efficient government focused on good service delivery, like picking up the trash, and improving the quality of life for every day Kansas Citians… to remember “momentum” has to include us all… to not forget where we came from and who needs help.
About twenty-five years ago, my mother was working hard to raise three children by herself. We moved frequently. Our cars broke down all the time. Walking and the bus got my sisters around during the height of school district desegregation and somehow my mother got me to the private, Barstow School, in south Kansas City every day. I didn’t know my father, so my mentors were my uncles, Don and Quinton, a proud airman and factory worker, respectively. The Kansas City I grew up in had similarities to the Kansas City they’d grown up in. It was an amazing place if your family had resources. If you didn’t, it was sometimes hard to succeed. But, my mother, her brothers, they all persisted. My mother caught that bus to work. She made sure her children spent time at the public library, first for air conditioning in the summer, but ultimately as a fountain of knowledge. I walked the streets of downtown Kansas City as a kid, which made for not the most exciting babysitter, but certainly an interesting one.
You see, I’m honored and lucky to have the mother, sisters, uncles, and family I did, but Kansas City raised me too. The adversity I faced here made me stronger. The public investment in our library system made me wiser. The churches, safety-net hospitals, and community organizations of our city made me healthier and safer. And, seeing people on television like Emanuel Cleaver and Kay Barnes let me know I could dream of doing anything.
Our work now is to expand that hope to every person in our city, young and old. Our work is to make sure that no one is left behind in Kansas City in our next generation and our work is to ensure that we leave this City—and its diverse neighborhoods—safer, healthier, and stronger than we find them today. I welcome the challenge. I welcome your prayers. I welcome the hard work ahead.
Thank you. God bless you and God bless our great city.