Mayor James’ 2016 State of the City Address

The 2016 State of the City Address for Kansas City was presented by Mayor Sly James on March 29, 2016 at the Uptown Theater.

Mayor James discussed several key topics that are currently affecting Kansas City during the State of the City Address. Kansas City’s tech boom, the KC Earnings tax, city growth and development, education, the city budget, and crime reduction and prevention were all major themes in the speech. Highlights included organizers and programs in the city that are working to create jobs, reach out to the youth, and doing their part to make positive impacts in their communities. Attendees of the State of the City Address were also treated to a special mini concert at the end of the speech.

Calvin Arsenia set the tone of showing recognition to a new generation of creatives in Kansas City with a moving performance. His whimsically soulful artistic style features the folk harp, guitar, and piano as his main instruments. Arsenia says his musical influences range from Lauryn Hill to Andrea Bocelli.

Tech Boom
  • In 2011, Google Fiber chose both Kansas Cities as the first cities for its new gigabit Fiber.
  • KC Streetcar construction began in 2013 and, along with it, replacement of 2.2 miles of antiquated water and sewer lines.
  • A new infrastructure called Smart + Connected City will start with the grand opening of the Streetcar operations on May 6, 2016.  This partnership between Cisco, Sprint, and others has qualified Kansas City for a $50 million Department of Transportation Smart City grant.
  • In 2015, LaunchKC granted half a million dollars to 10 applicants in a business competition. During Techweek, in September, 10 more grants will be awarded.
  • HUD initiatives like ConnectHome and ConnectEd are bringing high-speed broadband to families in public housing.
KC Earnings Tax
  • Since 1963, the tax has generated revenue which the city primarily uses for public safety – police, fire, and ambulance services.
  • City residents and people who work in the city contribute $230 million in taxes to the general fund.
  • Without funds from the KC Earnings Tax, Mayor James estimates a doubling of sales taxes or tripling of property taxes would be required to compensate for the loss of $230 million. Another speculated possibility would be to lay off more than 200 employees each year for the next 10 years.
City Budget
  • $1.53 billion approved for 2016-2017 budget.
  • The budget will support neighborhoods, demolition of dangerous buildings, and investment in summer youth employment.
  • Public safety departments make up 75% of the $543 million general fund. 40% of which comes from the KC Earnings Tax.
  • The remaining 25% covers roads, snow removal, trash pickup, codes enforcement, and municipal court.
Employment and Redevelopment Projects
  • The city will receive recommendations for the modernization of Kansas City International Airport in the next few weeks. Modernization includes ending long restroom lines inside security, improving baggage handling, de-icing equipment, and fixing the crumbling infrastructure underneath.
  • The 800 room downtown convention center will bring hundreds of new jobs and increased revenue from visitors.
  • VisitKC estimates the passing of SJR 39 will put Kansas City at risk of losing billions of dollars in tourism, conventions, and sporting events.
  • Over $2 billion has been invested in housing, infrastructure, and capital improvements for the east of Troost, south of the river, and north of 63rd Street areas since 2011.
  • The Paseo Gateway northeast neighborhood received the $30 million Choice Neighborhood Grant.
  • The Twin Creeks sewer expansion opened up 13,000 acres of land for future development in Kansas City’s Northland.
  • The $14 million Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy will help thousands of kids develop character and skills in leadership and athletics.
  • The city is also making a direct, million dollar plus investment in the Linwood Shopping Center.
  • Through Women’s Empowerment, City employees will be eligible for paid parental leave. The program will join with the Women’s Foundation and the Society of Human Resource Management to conduct When Work Works, aimed at improving work life balance throughout the city.
  • Through City Year, Americorps works closely with students in Central Middle School and Kauffman School, keeping them on track to graduate.
  • Literacy Lab has trained literacy tutors in elementary schools and Head Start centers focused solely on growing children’s literacy, confidence, and ability.
  • Turn the Page KC was recognized by the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading as a Pacesetter program.
  • The city is also in support of making sure every child in Kansas City lives near a quality schools. (Show Me KC Schools recently hosted an elementary school fair featuring representatives from more than 20 elementary schools in Kansas City.)
  • Kansas City Teacher Residency trains teachers much like doctors are trained – through a residency model. Residency graduates outperform their peers in student achievement and overall teacher performance.
  • Kansas City is a new pilot community for LRNG, which connects youth to in school, out of school, employer based, and online learning experiences that align with their interests.
Public Safety
  • Domestic violence and child abuse were at the root of the increase of homicides in 2015.
  • KC NoVA, the KCPD, and the city’s prosecution office are working together to support better and more coordinated intelligence to focus on those who cause the majority of violent crimes in Kansas City.
  • Teens in Transition is a 10 seek summer program at ArtsTech, where at risk youth are given opportunities to work on community art projects. As a result, teens are ready for high school graduation and college.
  • A push for State level legislation that can coexist with the Second Amendment will continue, starting with an armed offender docket pilot program in the courts.

Mayor James concluded the 2016 State of the City Address by stating the framework of efficiency, employment, education, and enforcement is the platform the city uses to bring people together and sustain the momentum of growth we see today.


Have A SocialHeart

Have a SocialHeart

Today, February 15, 2016, marks Presidents Day or Washington’s Birthday, depending on who you ask. This is a day in our nation when we show honor to the 44 Presidents of the United States of America. However, I’m celebrating the holiday Kansas City style and sharing an interview with Jon Fizette, President and Secretary of the Board of SocialHeart.

SocialHeart is a 100% volunteer-based organization that provides contributions to Kansas City charities in an unique way.

SocialHeart Board Members

How did SocialHeart get started?
SocialHeart was created by co-founders, Luke Wade, Beth Ott, and Julie Ray, who were tired of the stuffy dinner fundraisers and wanted something more fun to raise money. They began throwing fun events with reasonable ticket prices.

How did the co-founders initially connect with each other?
They had a mutual friend that was running for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man/Woman of the Year and helped them with fundraising. After that campaign was over they decided throwing fun events was a great way for them to give back to the KC community so they formed SocialHeart.

A Day at Gillis
A Day at Gillis

What are the goals of SocialHeart?
Our overall goal is to help any and every Kansas City charity, and we would like to continue to add events so we can raise even more money. At each event we throw, we get everything donated (alcohol, event space, entertainment, etc.) so that 100% of ticket sales go to charity. Also, each event benefits a different Kansas City charity. In three years, we have raised $100,000 for 30 different Kansas City charities!

How does a local charity qualify to be a beneficiary of proceeds from a SocialHeart event?
SocialHeart only has two requirements to become one of our selected charities; they have to be a 501c3 organization and they have to be in the Kansas City area. We select a charity for each event by voting at our board meetings. Some charities need a lot of funding so we may look to have them as the benefactor at one of our larger events; some charities only need a small amount so we would look to have them at one of our smaller events. We try to find an event for each charity that would make the biggest impact for them.


What events does SocialHeart have planned for the future?
Volunteer Week is in April so we are planning to do our first volunteer month. We will have a different charity each week with volunteer opportunities (four different charities total) so instead of volunteering for one week, people can volunteer all month and we will help facilitate the volunteers. At the end of the month we will throw a fun party for everyone that volunteered their time during volunteer month (details of the party are TBD.)

What is the process of planning an event completely funded through donations?
To plan an event, each board member is required to run one of our events with the rest of the board supporting them. An event can have a sub-committee to handle all the details of an event; the chairperson of that event will then discuss the progress with the rest of the board at our monthly board meetings.


Have there ever been elements of an event that were not provided by donation?
With the growth of SocialHeart we have begun to encounter places asking us to pay them for their services/event spaces/alcohol, etc when we used to be able to get them donated. Since we have begun raising more money, some companies/individuals think we should pay them when they might not realize we donate 100% of what we raise to KC non-profits.

What are SociaHeart’s main areas of need when it comes to events?
Our biggest area of need is sponsors; if we have sponsors for our events we can then potentially get a more well-known band/DJ to play our events, or can pay for an event space that we can’t afford now but would book if we had the funding.


How can people in Kansas City get involved?
With SocialHeart we look to get any and everyone to volunteer. There are no restrictions on volunteers at all. We always have volunteer opportunities at our events, and we work with other non-profits that have recurring volunteer opportunities. Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to reach out to us and we can help them find as many volunteer opportunities as they would like. People can inquire on the website ( and we can provide them with a list of volunteer opportunities.

How were the remaining board members selected?
SocialHeart started to gain steam and a big following so the co-founders began to expand the board to have more people helping to throw events. They knew people that were already involved with KC non-profits (myself included) and invited them to a board meeting to see if they would have interest in joining SocialHeart. They were looking to add board members that wanted to make a difference in the community, not just join the board so it would look good on a resume.


What are the requirements of someone who volunteers for the Board of SocialHeart?
Board members are required to be active and hold a specific board position so they have responsibilities that have to be met in order for SocialHeart to succeed. Based on the level of someone’s performance volunteering, fundraising, etc., the board will vote to have a new member join the board.

There are plenty of opportunities to donate to charity in Kansas City. Why should people want to be involved with or donate to SocialHeart?
SocialHeart is a 100% volunteer-based organization that does not focus on one cause or charity, we like to spread the love around. Our demographic is young professionals in the Kansas City area that often times are simply unaware of the many amazing organizations our city has to offer. We give this demographic a peak into these organizations that need their help. It starts with simple awareness of what each of them are trying to accomplish. We are the link between those who need help and those who want to give back while having fun. We like to think that we are starting a connection between someone early so that in the future they will continue to stay involved, donate, possibly sit on that charity’s board even. And since we are 100% volunteer-based we are able to give back all of the proceeds from each event back to those local charities.

The most recent event hosted by SocialHeart was Mardi Gras KC which benefited the Alta Vista Charter School. What are you waiting for? Go volunteer! Have a SocialHeart!

Please share this with anyone you know is looking for exciting ways to make a difference in Kansas City.

Border Star Montessori Movie Night Fundraiser

Each year, 6th graders at Border Star Montessori take part in the Montessori Model United Nations program. The year culminates in March with a trip to New York to be a part of the Model UN conference. This year, the kids will be representing the Republic of India. 

Border Star Montessori MMUN Students 2016
Photo credit: Border Star Montessori

Students fundraise throughout the year at bake sales, school dances, movie nights, etc. The Border Star Montessori movie night featured Muppets Take Manhattan. Waldo Pizza provided pepperoni and cheese pizzas. A highlight of the evening was raffle giveaways of prizes from local Brookside businesses.

Raffle sponsors from Border Star movie night



The total cost for this trip is estimated at $24,000. Part of the fees for this trip are donated by the Kansas City Public School District and the PTA. Some fees are paid by the students but $12,000-15,000 has to be made in fundraising which helps pay for airfare, hotel, and Model UN registration. Family and friends of Border Star students, as well as those who wish to give contributions to furthering diverse educational opportunities are encouraged to support this cause. Donations are accepted through the Border Star MMUN GoFundMe page.


Press release from Montessori Model United Nations:

Montessori Model United Nations has partnered with the United Nations to inspire upper elementary and middle schools Montessori students to global citizenship through classroom or after school study which culminates in a two-day global education simulation experience in New York with the final assembly at the General Assembly of the United Nations.


The goal is to inspire youth by engaging them in learning experiences where students take part in jumping out of their skin into role-playing by becoming a delegate of their chosen country. They write, present and debate real issues affecting their nation and people of the world. By assuming the character of a citizen of their selected country, they fully develop an understanding of the needs and rights of a people.


Taking on their ambassadorial roles in a Model UN simulation, students research the issue that their UN committees will address. Model UN participants learn how the international community acts on its concerns about topics including peace and security, human rights, the rights of the child, child labor, the environment, food and hunger, economic development and globalization. Model UN delegates also look closely at the needs, goals and foreign policies of the countries they will represent at the event. The insights they gain from their exploration of history, geography, culture, economics and science contribute to the authenticity of the simulation.


When they arrive at the MMUN Conference students transform themselves into UN Ambassadors and assume the rights and responsibilities of world leaders. Their imaginations propel them to collaboratively create resolutions to our world’s most pressing problems. MMUN encourages students to know that they can make a difference.


Thank you for reading and please share this with your family and friends to help spread the word about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Border Star Montessori students.

How Uber Blockbustered Cab Companies in Kansas City

How Uber Blockbustered Cab Companies in Kansas City

Kansas City already had several “major” cab companies before Uber hit the scene. Yellow Cab, 10/10 Taxi, and Checker Cab to name a few. Unfortunately they all work the same crappy way. Call the number. Tell dispatch where you are and where you want to go. Hang up. Then wait… Naturally, you would presume you’re waiting for a taxi to arrive. However, with my last few Kansas City cab experiences, that was not the case. I was so thrilled when a drivers called to say he’d arrive in 30 minutes, only to never show!


Some of you reading this probably thinking how utterly ridiculous it is to have to wait 30 minutes or longer for a taxi. Even more of you are most likely surprised to learn that if you call a cab in Kansas City, it might not come. Trust me, I have stories!

Indeed, that was the standard for taxi service in Kansas City. That is, until Uber came along.


How Uber operates for requesting a taxi is amazingly better than any cab company in Kansas City! I’ll explain if you don’t know. Uber works by using an app for requesting a ride. Download the app then enter your information and a credit or debit card. FYI: Prepaid cards are not accepted. Now you’re ready to go! Once you make a request a driver accepts the assignment. This has happened almost immediately each time I’ve requested Uber. From the app you can see who your driver is, what their vehicle looks like, and when they will arrive. The app tracks the driver in real-time so you can also watch the path they take to get to you. I have never waited more than 10 minutes for a driver. Yet another reason it’s so amazing. For safety you can text your drivers information to a friend so they’ll know who your driver is too. Use my promo code, UberKiaraLovesKC, to get $15 off your first ride.


Uber drivers also make pretty decent wages. A friend of mine works as a part-time driver. Just take a look at some of his earnings.

Courtesy of Marek Bush
Courtesy of Marek Bush

Why wasn’t a business like this already in Kansas City? Why didn’t cab companies in Kansas City modernize their dispatch systems before Uber even had a chance to take over? I don’t know. What I do know is that taxis in Kansas City fell way behind the times. Uber has officially blockbustered EVERY cab company in Kansas City.

Meet Kansas City: David Smock

“Dreams can become a reality when we possess a vision that is characterized by the willingness to work hard, a desire for excellence, and a belief in our right to be equal members of society.” – Janet Jackson

Such is true of David Smock, who recently opened Dutchman Coffee Roasters in North Kansas City. What started as a creative outlet for Smock has become, what I can only describe as, an experience where science meets coffee. Alton Brown would be proud.

Dutchman Coffee Roasters in North Kansas City

What is Dutchman Coffee?
Dutchman Coffee is a coffee roasting company. We focus on high quality, direct trade and/or organic coffee. By roasting to high standards, using high quality coffee, stressing small batch roasting, and a continuously rotating selection, we try to bridge the gap between coffee enthusiast and casual coffee drinker.

Why did you choose this profession?
Coffee has been my creative outlet for years. Whether it was home roasting, experimenting with different brew methods, or traveling to different coffee roasters around the U.S., it’s something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed for years. It was a natural transition to make this passion a business.

Why should people care about what you’re doing?
I think in today’s society people are stressing the importance of quality in their products. I also think customers are more aware of the global impact of their purchases. So do we, which is why people should care about Dutchman Coffee Roasters. We use a biodegradable coffee bag, we focus on reducing waste and reusing whatever waste we can (we use our coffee grounds and waste as compost), and we try to always purchase our coffee with a knowledge of the farmers’ practices and impact.


List three things you want to achieve.
Our short term goals are pretty simple: 1) we want to offer a high quality product without cutting corners. 2) we want to make a positive impact in North Kansas City 3) achieve world peace… well that goal is simpler said than done.

What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge in starting this business is just that. I don’t have a background in business and I didn’t grow up in the coffee industry. While I am a coffee enthusiast and have been roasting for a while now; I don’t have the same background as many other people in my shoes. Sometimes I see that as an advantage, sometimes it’s a hurdle.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I have a hard enough time seeing five months into the future, let alone five years. I’ll say we hope to be the premier coffee roaster of the Northland in Kansas City, and we hope to be a part of an explosion of arts and entertainment in downtown North Kansas City.

If people had to have warning labels, what would yours say?
A warning label? Mine would probably say: warning, no filter. That’s not a coffee pun; I have a tendency to say what I think, and sometimes it’s with my foot in my mouth.

Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
Play me in a movie? Is this only actors alive today? Maybe Matthew McConaughey, due to our striking resemblance (I wish.)

What’s your greatest achievement and how has it shaped you? 
My greatest achievement is easily finding and marrying my wife of 3 years. She is what grounds me but also picks me up. Finding a soulmate should be on everyone’s to do list.

What would you do if you were the president of your own country?
If I were lucky enough to preside over my own country, I would focus strongly on the fitness and well being of its citizens. That would start with a push for bicycle commuting for everyone. One thing I wish Kansas City had more of was bicycle friendly streets, we are improving, but we are nothing compared to pioneering towns like Portland, OR.

Who is your personal hero?
My personal Hero? It’s somewhere between my Dad and my dog. My Dad was always quietly supportive and that really rubbed off on me in my own adulthood. My dog provides unwavering support and love for me, no matter how little I’ve accomplished that day.

If you could choose your last words, what would they be? 
My last words? Someone famous once said “am I dying, or is this my birthday?” That quote always made me think, and now I’ll steal it.

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to? 
I’ve been to so many concerts, and am such a music buff that I can’t choose just one as my favorite. I’ll say that the most fun I’ve ever had at a concert was seeing Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. This was her first tour since she was given an “in remission” diagnosis after a battle with pancreatic cancer. It was a very special night.

What book has influenced you the most?
I love to read, and I’d love to read a lot more than I do now. I’d say one of the books that has influenced me over the years is “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer. Something about a young man’s sense of wonderment and need to break free of society’s expectations to really experience America that inspires me. Even if he dies…

How would you survive a zombie apocalypse? 
A zombie apocalypse? What you don’t know is that I think it may be a realistic possibility, and I’ve put a lot of thought into my family’s evacuation plan. I’m not going to give any tips away on that one, you have to figure it out for yourself…

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I’ve done a lot of crazy things, it seems. I’d say that purely for the effort involved, it was my attempt at an Ironman triathlon. It was almost a year of dedicated training and that’s crazier than the event itself. There was something about a 9 hour workout in the 100 degree heat of a Texas summer that made me question my own sanity.

What are your three favorite albums?
See, I can’t choose just 3 albums as my favorite. Now if you asked me what are my three favorite post-prog rock albums of 2008? Then I may have an answer for you. For the sake of brevity I’ll say – Otis Redding – Otis Blue, because he is maybe the greatest singer the world has ever seen. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska, because every time I’m feeling down I listen to this album..and it makes me feel so much worse. The Faces – Ooh La La, because I think they are the most underrated rock group of all time.

If you were on death row, what restaurant in Kansas City would you want your last meal to from and what would it be? 
At risk of sounding cliché, I could not die without eating another Z Man with fries from Oklahoma Joe’s (I’ll never be able to call it Joe’s Kansas City).

What are you most grateful for?
I’m easily most grateful for the companionship of my amazing wife. She supports my every venture, whether that’s an Ironman triathlon or opening my own coffee roasting company. Who could ask for more?

What words of wisdom would you pass on to the next person? 
There is a famous quote, but I take it to heart. “Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative”. It’s helped me a lot in life.

David Smock hosts exclusive coffee tastings in a shared space with Cinder Block Brewery. Visit the Dutchman Coffee Roasters website or social media (#dutchmancoffee) for dates and pop-up shops at events in Kansas City. Dutchman Coffee is available at Nature’s Own Health Food Market (4301 Main St, KCMO) or online at Look for announcements for a full-time shop in early 2016.

Thank you for reading! You may also like Meet Kansas City: Michael Wheeler. Michael Wheeler has ran marathons across the United States for years but you may have recognized him working for a higher purpose in an unforgettable costume.

If you know someone who should be featured in Meet Kansas City send an email via the contact form above.