In my campaign I expressed my belief that Wichita is on the brink of big change.
Since I took office as mayor, that change is now undeniable in our city. The council and I outlined four areas of focus: quality of life, public safety, infrastructure and economic development.
Quality of life is a leading factor in how cities retain and attract businesses and residents. Other organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Development, have been leading partners in our mission of growing and supporting quality of life in Wichita.
We have some great amenities that have already proven to be an attractive feature to residents, such as expanded bike paths, the new splash pad in Buffalo Park, futsal courts in Fairmount Park or the restored train in Watson Park.
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Downtown Wichita, the core of our city, is in the midst of many growth initiatives. From the new riverbank development to the Broadway Autopark apartments to Union Station and many more, we are seeing a surge in investment in our downtown.
We are in a position where developers are competing for a chance to invest in our city. In fact, there has been $600 million in private investment downtown in the last 10 years, $95 million of which happened in 2015 alone. Maintaining a strong economic foundation for companies to thrive is another top priority for myself and the city council.
This past year, out of the entire country, Cargill determined that Wichita was the best place for them to grow and thrive, and we look forward to their future in Wichita. We love working on innovative solutions that benefit our entire community.
Infrastructure is the figurative and literal foundation on which we build our city’s growth. I believe in the power of public/private partnerships to benefit both citizens and companies and help position our city for future success.
A great example of this is the Spirit effluent water sale, which we began in 2016. Wastewater from Wichita, which would previously have been dumped into the river, is sold to Spirit to be recycled in Spirit’s factories. This provides an extra source of revenue for the city, saves Spirit money and protects our potable water sources for the citizens.
We continue to work toward making our city the safest it can be. I believe we have made vast strides toward that goal.
For instance, crime at this past year’s Wichita River Festival was the lowest it has been in a decade. We have a renewed focus on community policing, demonstrated in no better way than this past year’s First Steps Cookout, which garnered national attention. We wanted to start a different national conversation here in Wichita. One that focused on working together and conversation, versus divisiveness and shouting.
Millions of viewers saw the video of the barbecue and the dancing cop, and the event even caught the attention of celebrities and news outlets from across the nation.
More importantly, the discussions lead to delineated commitments to improve police and community relations.
All across Wichita, you are bound to see new development pop up. Get out there, get involved, and explore all the great things Wichita has to offer.
Jeff Longwell is the mayor of Wichita.