Former reporter for The Kansas City Star who covered Johnson County government:
For too long, Johnson County has run on an assumed notion of excellence — that somehow it was our birthright to have a remarkable set of economic indicators that would put us at the top of national livability standards and ‘best of …’ media rankings.
Johnson County’s position as a southwestern suburb of Kansas City has given us an advantage because of the white flight of decades ago. But we can no longer simply rely on the happenstance of history to allow Johnson County to continue with the high quality of life that we have grown accustomed to living.
Kansas City Star columnist Yael Abouhalkah nailed it in an Oct. 9 column: ‘Five signs of trouble in Johnson County’s paradise.’
The veteran watchdog wrote that ‘Johnson County’s longtime success stories — strong public schools, booming population and often excellent city services — get plenty of attention.’
But there are ‘five challenges that deserve much more future scrutiny from the county’s civic leaders and residents,’ the columnist wrote.
- The county is aging and its core is losing population.
- Personal annual income has stalled.
- The rates of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches have been soaring, an indicator that more families are living on the edge financially.
- Recent job growth has been strong but average wages have actually declined.
- The county’s politicians are tilting more conservative, tightening the purse strings in an area long known for spending freely to pursue a high quality of life.
In the past, when someone would say they were from Johnson County a bit of a grin and then a paralyzed sneer would freeze on the face of the person receiving the message, suggesting to the outside community that JoCo was a Kansas City suburb of snobs.
Now it is time for us to meet the challenges of today, broaden our horizons of inclusion, cooperation and blind acceptance of all so that everyone — not just the economically affluent — have the opportunity to live the “Johnson County” life.
Under the leadership of Ed Peterson — a moderate with a common-sense, seat-of-your-pants style of calm and rational leadership, voters can expect an open door, open heart and open mind to make Johnson County a serious player at the table of metro, state and national politics.
It is a campaign of inclusion. It is a campaign of common sense. It is a campaign to convince voters that Ed Peterson is the right man at the right time for a county facing serious challenges as it now matures into adulthood and must face new and ever-vexing challenges.”