Correction: An earlier version of this editorial contained the wrong title for Col Joel D. Jackson.
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer was wise to keep his 2014 State of the City address concise and businesslike. There is no competing with a Wichita State University men’s basketball game or President Obama’s State of the Union address.
Still, Brewer’s speech provided a good summary of the city’s accomplishments during the past year and the big decisions in its future. And citizens should take Brewer up on his call to help shape that future.
Though Wichita continues to struggle to climb out of the recession, Brewer was able to cite several significant economic accomplishments from the past year, both public and private. He noted the continued success of the greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition to attract and retain jobs and the city’s effort to expand exports in China. Two of the most visible accomplishments of 2013 were the entrance of Southwest Airlines into the Wichita market and the construction work on the new airport terminal, which is scheduled to open in March 2015.
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Brewer also noted the continued progress in redeveloping downtown. Among the projects completed last year was the Kansas Leadership Center, the first new downtown building on Douglas in 38 years. There also are several significant residential projects in the works, including the Value Place and River Vista apartments, which Brewers hopes “will help jump-start developments around the Arkansas River.”
Brewer also highlighted some road improvements and the good work being done by the Wichita Police and Fire departments, including efforts to help the homeless.
Some of the challenges that Brewer mentioned included providing adequate public transportation, investing in water and sewer systems, and deciding the future of Century II and the proposed new Central Library.
“We want a good return on our investments,” Brewer said.
A high point of the speech was when Brewer recognized Aldee Miller, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. Col. Joel D. Jackson, commander of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, presented a Congressional Gold Medal to Miller amid well-deserved applause.
Brewer then called on citizens and employers to do more for veterans. “Now it’s time for us to help them,” Brewer said.
An accomplishment of the past year that Brewer is particularly proud of is the city’s effort to engage citizens in helping set the city’s priorities. The city conducted surveys, held nearly 100 outreach meetings and provided online forums for citizens to provide input.
Brewer wants that engagement to continue this year. He called on citizens to “get into the game to move our city forward.”
Wichita faces some significant challenges. But, as Brewer noted, the city’s rich history shows that “we can do great things together.”
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee