KCMO Mayor Funkhouser promotes ambitious plan to improve neighborhoods, sidewalks near schools

KCMO's Mayor Funkhouser has presented a plan to address infrastructure issues around schools, especially lack of sidewalks, straight on.  He is looking at a bond issue to raise $100 million for improving infrastructure near schools.

The plan also includes funding and programming that KCMO has been working towards for some time, to start Safe Routes to School and other similar programs supportive of schools throughout the city.  Those programs go far behind construction of sidewalks and crosswalks to engage a wide range of community members, school officials, city officials, law enforcement officers, community leaders, parents, and students in working to make their neighborhoods safe for walking--and then to help and encourage students to safely walk to school.

Funkhouser met with school superintendents from across the city--fourteen of them at last count.

He reports, "I said, 'What do you need your city government to do? How can I help?' And I got a totally different reaction. ... For an hour or so, they told me the city has not been a very good partner. They've got issues with safety. They've got issues in infrastructure. They have issues with transportation that they need help with."

The city doesn't have a direct role in running area schools, but the Mayor's plan is designed to address these issues and help the city become a "good partner" with schools by providing these basic services.

More details about the plan are in the Business Journal and Funk's Front Porch.

Of course, the Mayor's plan has a few critics, though many are simply waiting for more details about the proposal.

In addition to making neighborhoods safe and more inviting, and improving the health and academic success of students (because fit, healthy students have better behavior and learn better), improving safety of students who walk or bicycle to school, Safe Routes to School programs help save school districts millions of dollars in unnecessary transportation costs.

And every dollar saved on school busing is another dollar that can be spent in the classroom.

Progress in all of these areas--and more--is outlined in this report highlighting what ten states have done by engaging in Safe Routes to School programs (PDF file) of the sort Mayor Funkhouser is proposing.