Kansas City, Mayor Sly James, Bloomberg discussed on Bloomberg Businessweek
This is Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Jason Kelly from Bloomberg radio. We're going to continue looking back at the Bloomberg equality summit was held this week at Bloomberg headquarters. Lot of buzz here in world headquarters. Great couple of days you've got up with James. He's the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri. We talked about diversity housing technology, and especially education. Here's some of that conversation. So when you first took office in twenty eleven I'm curious what were they inequalities air James that you face that bothered you the disturbed you the most. I had the great pleasure of within a month of being inaugurated little more than a month being inaugurated. I was in Baltimore or my first US conference mayors meeting, and at that meeting, I met Rao Smith of the Casey foundation a grade level reading, and he really did educate me about the absolute importance of third grade reading proficiency of what it meant to a child's academic life and to their life thereafter. So when I came back to Kansas City, we have fifteen school districts in whole or in park, Kansas City. It's a ridiculous number. And we took a data dump of what was going on with third grade reading and on average. It was thirty three point eight percent, proficient third grade readers, but in one third one third and in the in the predominantly African American school district the namesake school district. It was nineteen percent it what drove me nuts. What's that? Nobody was upset about. So I thought that if it right with my personality, I have this. Marvelous ability to upset people. So I went about going my job. I just love that. That's a bumper sticker. So we started to turn the page Casey with the goal of trying to get all children reading proficiently at third grade, regardless of zip code age color socio economics and over the years that we've been doing it now almost eight years. Is a collective impact model we work with a ton of groups we've managed to get that thirty three point eight percent up to fifty five percent. But still the predominantly African American school district is lagging far behind their suburban more suburban type peers. So now what we're pushing as early pre K because the bottom line is kids born in poverty here. Thirty million words middle middle income peers by the time, they're three years old thirty million thirty million fewer work, right? That's an enormous amount of not talking and people not socializing children not necessarily because they're mean or evil sometimes they don't know the important sometimes they're busy trying to make a living. There hierarchy of needs may be different here. Bloomberg we like to keep some data. So I wanted to just show the impact of some of the seeds that mayor James has sewn and when we have on the percentage of people living below. The poverty level in Kansas City. It's been declining since twenty fourteen doesn't feel like it doesn't feel like no, it doesn't feel like it because they're still way too many people who are living below the poverty level and must've been back because you talk so much, of course, about education. Gotta start young are our education system has failed generations of people and those people because they're they're educations have failed them don't necessarily put the same emphasis on it for their children. But the school districts haven't changed methods of teaching having changed. It's the same old same old and somehow expecting a different result. So I think that's one of the problems. I think there's also institutionalized racism that definitely has an impact. I think that there are places Kansas City, frankly is one of is a segregated city. I'm a member of the board of trustees of urban land institute, one of the people that sell found the urban land institute, he also was responsible for. Segregating the city by putting covenants in real estate contracts minorities in Watertown, another job not a new problem now and you've had eight years. What do you feel like has made the biggest impact on improving an individual an African Americans economic situation in your city, we've been very diligent and intentional about skilling people up after the recession trying to get them into new areas of work. We've been very intentional about trying to do some things in the community that would generate jobs and economic activity. We've been very intentional about putting money into the community in terms of infrastructure, which would then allow businesses to come in and operate and we've been very intentional about focusing on kids in school and in the process of doing that drawing parents into that conversation, which has helped somewhat. How did you prioritize these kinds of things safety education, affordable housing jobs? You were looking at all of this stuff. How'd you prioritize it because that's a pretty full plate? Well. Well, my agenda was a four year gender education, governmental efficiency enforcement of the laws and employment. So we for e agenda, but if evolve the things if I had to pick one thing that I would focus on I would go for education because I think that if you have education if we instill education and make it make high quality education available to everybody. I mean, really how many times do you see PHD shoot? Master's degree candidates on the street corner. You just don't I I now know what you're doing after you're out of mayor's office. You're you've got a circuit riding homage a comedy circuit. Right right education for the most education is a great equalizer. To the extent that you have equalizers. It's one of those things get you past the door. It gives you options you don't have to necessarily be engaged in risky behavior. If you have a good education, you have more options than if you don't our problem is is that we have too many people who've had failing educational outcomes, and because of that we have a higher level crime. The earlier chart that show the level of black versus non black involvement in crime. There's another overlay to that. And that is location because crime is some of our crime is disproportionately located in areas where there is poverty, which are almost per se people of color and in the thirteenth thirteen mile area in a city that is three hundred and eighteen square miles was pretty big five San Francisco, spitting Kansas City. We have about seventy percent of all the homicides in gun violence in that one area, and guess where it is in a place where there's lowest educational attainment with the lowest median income where there's the highest rate of poverty and assistance needed where there is just about every negative thing that you could say is concentrated there. And when you have people who are trapped in a hopeless cycle, then they're going to do things. They shouldn't do if they can't get their own stuff. They're going to come in. Thank yours. That's Kansas City, Missouri. Mayor sly James. And Jason what I love about these stories is so often you have conversations, and it's often at the macro level. This is somebody who's out there talking to folks at his city and just trying to tackle so many of the problems that they're facing. Yeah. It's right there there really at ground level. And there are a lot of challenges. But know, we'll see how it goes for him. Exactly. You're listening.