Friday, April 24, 2009

Credit Card bill advanced out of Committee

This week, we were able to achieve Committee passage of the Credit Card Bill of Rights, which I am proud to co-sponsor. The bill will be considered on the House floor next week.

The President sat down with credit card executives this week at the White House to ask them to voluntarily change some of their aggressive and unfair policies. This bill puts teeth to that request. The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights protects all of us against abusive practices of credit card companies. The bill addresses the most egregious policies like excessive credit card fees, sky-high interest rates, and unfair, incomprehensible agreements that credit card companies revise at will.

These practices are never acceptable, but are particularly horrible during these hard times when so many families are in economic peril.

For decades the government has let the credit card companies take advantage of their customers. I am proud to stand with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) who has worked to advance this legislation despite opposition from corporate interests.

This is a very good bipartisan and common-sense bill. I look forward to its passage by the full House next week.

Going to Greensburg

This is an exciting time for Kansas City. In order to recover from the current economic downturn, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to stimulate job creation, with much of the focus on environmental sustainability and energy efficiency. As you are probably aware, Kansas City has taken the bold and innovative step of creating a Green Impact Zone in the heart of the urban core to concentrate and deepen the impact of the ARRA funds in a particularly hard-hit area of Kansas City. These funds will help these neighborhoods rebuild green, saving energy and creating a more sustainable environment.

You may remember seeing stories in the news two years ago about Greensburg, Kansas, which was almost completely destroyed by a powerful tornado in May 2007. Greensburg took the historic step of committing to rebuild the entire town using green principles. I am convinced that we, as individuals working to rebuild the Green Impact Zone, can benefit from the wealth of experience and knowledge that the people of Greensburg now have.

And so tomorrow morning, bright and early, I will be leading a delegation of Green Impact Zone residents and community leaders to Greensburg. This fact-finding trip will, I hope, help build a comfort level with “green” and allow local residents to talk with the residents of Greensburg about the advantages of green.

I truly believe the problems faced by urban core, primarily African American and poor residents of the Green Impact Zone are remarkably similar to the issues faced by the rural residents of Greensburg. I think we will find a great deal of common ground, and join these plains pioneers as believers in green.

I have never been to Greensburg either, and so I am excited to see this model first hand.

Wish us luck!

Climate Center takes its first step

Today, I was proud to officially announce that the City of Kansas City, Missouri, through its Parks and Recreation Department, has been awarded a grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to study and plan for the development of a Climate Sustainability Center.

It is exciting to stand on the site and think about the opportunity to both change the way the world thinks about green and change the way we have historically seen the Eastside.
While was standing next to the yet undone piece of Brush Creek, it occurred to me that this creek was why I got involved in politics in the first place.

Specifically, it was September 17, 1977 that prompted my entrance in the race for City Council. Many of you can remember that a storm caused flash flooding as Brush Creek quickly spilled its bounds and flooded this entire area. In the morning, twelve people were dead and 5 feet of floodwater covered where we were standing this afternoon. I couldn’t understand how in a major metropolitan area 12 people could die due to rain.

And so I ran for City Council. And I was fortunate as Mayor to secure funding to nearly completely reconstruct Brush Creek and build the Bruce Watkins Drive.

Because of the stimulus we now have money to finish this portion of Brush Creek and replace the aging bridge that spans it now.

And if you drive on the Watkins, while the road is beautiful the neighborhoods along it are still crumbling.

But with the Green Impact Zone we hope to turn around those neighborhoods, reinvest in people and jobs and turn the corner we have long been looking to turn. Right here. Right now.

And on top of completing these long over due projects, today we stood on a cluttered piece of land to announce a project that represents the largest investment east of Troost since the Brush Creek Project and the Bruce Watkins Drive.

As you all know, I like big projects.

This, my friends, is a big project.

National Attention on Green Impact Zone

On Monday, Van Jones, the President’s Special Counsel for green jobs praised the Green Impact Zone plan on CNN’s Larry King Live. In a conversation with Robert Redford about grass roots efforts to go green with stimulus money, the founder of Green for All said:

“One of the things I think is important for people to understand, when you talk about grass roots, let's look at Kansas City right now. There is a tremendous effort right now, Representative Emanuel Cleaver said let's take stimulus money from the Obama recovery plan and give it to ordinary people. They decided in Kansas City to take 150 blocks, blighted, tough neighborhoods, weatherize every home there that needs it, fix mass transit and put people to work. Those are green solutions. They're going to save people money as well as helping planet Earth.” -Van Jones President’s Special Counsel for Green Jobs

The nation is taking notice and this is well deserved praise for the great deal of hard work everyone is doing in the Impact Zone. Congratulations!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Busy Weekend

Coffee with Cleaver tomorrow

After a snow storm last month that fell short of the hype, we are back in Grandview tomorrow for our rescheduled monthly Coffee with Cleaver. I always enjoy coming to Grandview and this is our fourth Coffee in town.

I hope to see you at Harry’s Mug, 12222 Blue Ridge Ext. in Grandview from 8-10 a.m. tomorrow morning. As always, looking forward to it.

Art contest tomorrow

Tomorrow afternoon please come help celebrate the talent of some of the District’s best young artists as we open the gallery at the beautiful Kansas City Public Library Central Branch in downtown Kansas City.

This year we have over one hundred entries in the Congressional Art Contest: A Voyage of Artistic Discovery. The judges have already selected those who will be honored tomorrow, and I am excited to announce the finalist and winner at tomorrow’s opening.

The winner will receive a plane ride for their family to Washington where they will be on-hand for the unveiling of their work of art in the U.S. Capitol. Every Member of Congress walks past the artwork representing each Congressional District every day, and I am always proud to point our winner out to visitors and colleagues.

The gallery viewing begins at 1:00 p.m. and the program will begin at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, April 18 at the Kansas City Public Library Central Branch, 14 West 10th Street in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Hope to see you there!

A Plea for Tips

Joined by former Kansas City Mayor Pro-Tem Alvin Brooks and Chief Fred Mills of the Raytown Police Department

On Wednesday, I was asked by the Raytown Police Chief to help refocus our community on four of our neighbors who were brutally killed last month. I, sadly, had the burden of burying three of these murder victims, and I will not forget the feeling of looking over a casket holding two little boys who will forever lie together.

The boys Amir and Gerard, ages 10 and 7 were found dead on March 16 in the apartment of their aunt, Precious Triplett, who was also killed. The fourth victim was Precious’s boyfriend, Andre Jones. The murderer left Precious’s 18-month-old son an orphan alone in the apartment.

Someone knows something, and anything I can do to encourage someone to come forward, I will do. The criminal who left that baby alone in the world is an animal and needs to be caged.

Anyone with information should call Raytown police at 816-737-6016 or the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).

Health Care listening tour

Conferring with Representative JoAnn Emerson (R-MO-08) at the Health Care Listening Tour event

Monday, I joined my colleagues Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson (R-MO-08) and Congressman Dennis Moore (D-KS-03) to listen to a group of health care providers, advocates for the uninsured and experts on reform at the Liberty Memorial. The nation has 47 million uninsured and the entire system is in need of a major overhaul. We simply cannot afford to continue down the path of skyrocketing costs. Health care is not a privilege; it is a fundamental right.

I am proud to say that this listening session, unlike many around the country, was bi-partisan and part of an effort to actually identify solutions as opposed to grand standing on promises. Congresswoman Emerson is a Republican and dear friend who represents the boot-heel of Missouri. I think all of us left the forum with a better idea of the complexity of the issue and some ideas on how to untangle the web.

We cannot afford to be partisan when it comes to health care. The need is great and the price tag huge, but we have to solve this problem. As I heard at the forum, we all know the system is broken, now we need to take the bold steps necessary to fix it.

Green Impact Zone updates

Meeting with with community leaders about the Green Impact Zone at the Mid-America Regional Council

A couple of things moved this project forward this week. I was able to attend the planning meeting on Monday at MARC, where I was proud to see nearly one hundred community leaders, neighborhood organizers and city officials reporting on their exciting progress and charting out their next steps. Later that day I joined Steve Kraske on his KCUR program Up to Date to talk about the program. You can hear the interview here (it’s in the second half of the show)>>>

I was also very glad to introduce the program at a Third City Council District community meeting Tuesday night. The idea was warmly received and the conversation focused on delivering what was promised in a timely and organized fashion. There were lots of questions after the meeting and also a great deal of excitement.

This morning, I was happy to read an endorsement of the plan from the editorial board of the Kansas City Star. They write, “The initial plan contains excellent ways to improve a part of the city — roughly 39th to 51st streets, and Troost to Prospect avenues — that has many low-income residents.”

You can read the whole editorial here >>>

Take me out to the ball game

I joined County Executive Mike Sanders at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Opening Day at the new “K”

I was proud to spend some time last Friday at the new Kauffman Stadium. It is beautiful. I remember when we opened the then-Royals Stadium and to see the park now, it is even better than it was then.

To be able to stand behind the outfield wall near the famous fountains and smell the bar-b-que pit smoking behind the bullpen is frankly…awesome.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Green Impact Zone passes 13-0

I am pleased and proud to say that yesterday the City Council of Kansas City, Missouri unanimously adopted Resolution No. 090245 to establish the City of Kansas City’s participation both financially and operationally in the “Green Impact Zone” Initiative.

My thanks goes to the Members of the Council and Mayor who all spoke in favor of the idea and voted to make an area that is usually last, first. Please understand that the Council, by acting unanimously, put their own interest aside for the good of this project. I think their faith is well put in people in these neighborhoods and that their willingness to advance this idea gives Kansas City the chance to shine on a national stage.

Special thanks to Councilwoman Cindy Circo, the chief sponsor and Councilwomen Sanders Brooks, Curls, Marcason, Jolly and Councilman Riley for their extraordinary efforts to move this cause forward.

With all that thanks up front, I would like to take a moment to gush a bit about the neighborhood and community groups that have come together around this project. At every challenge as they have urgently pressed forward with this plan, these leaders have chosen unity. Instead of asking, "what's in it for me" they have asked "how can this work for everyone". They have personified community and commitment.

I am both very proud and very happy for these people who have worked so hard to have this opportunity. Congratulations and thank you to all.

Now we begin the hard work of making this a reality that people can see and feel. It is time to give President Obama a poster child for the stimulus on steroids.

The plan in a nutshell:

As a result of meetings with community leaders, city staff, elected
officials locally and Cabinet and administration officials in Washington, D.C.
an idea has advanced that will target stimulus investments in a way that
maximizes and deepens the impact of every dollar in a hard hit area of Kansas

This designated section of the City is bounded by 39th Street on the
north, 51st Street on the south, Troost Avenue on the west and Prospect Avenue
to 47th Street over to Swope Parkway on the east. Directly affected are the
neighborhoods of Ivanhoe, Blue Hills, 49/63 and Manheim and Town Fork Creek,
some of the City’ strongest neighborhood organizations. The area is called the
“Green Impact Zone of Missouri.”

Through community discussions convened by the Mid-America Regional
Council, an overarching goal of training and putting residents of these
neighborhoods to work weatherizing every home that is eligible within the Zone
has been suggested. This is no small task, but has the potential of reducing
utility bills, conserving electricity and creating sustainable jobs for a
portion of the City where unemployment is hovering between 20-50 percent.

As the discussions of the Green Impact Zone have progressed, excitement
has built and partnerships have been forged. Kansas City Power and Light has
stepped up to the plate and committed that, if the city is willing to adopt this
plan, KCP&L is willing to invest and deploy a “Smart Grid” in the Zone. A
Smart Grid provides enhanced reliability and efficiency through real-time
information about electricity supply and demand. It also allows consumers to
manage their electricity use, and save money, by providing useful information
about electricity prices. Perhaps most importantly, a Smart Grid allows for
renewable energy sources, such as the power that will be produced in the Green
Impact Zone, to seamlessly feed into the energy grid. KCP&L’s commitment is
to create a model of the energy grid of the future unlike any in the

Committing to making neighborhoods east of Troost that have been
historically last now be first is long overdue.

I just received word that we should be receiving additional very good news next week that will play a major role in the Green Impact Zone. Stay tuned…

Mission to Cuba

This week, I joined the Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-9), and a bipartisan host of Members to introduce H.R. 874, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act. The bill calls for lifting of the ban on travel to Cuba from the United States.

In a sign of thawing relations and at the invitation of the Cuban government, I have joined six of my colleagues on a mission to Cuba. I left Andrews Air Force base this morning and landed in Havana early this afternoon.

Cuba is the only country in the world to which our government bans travel. It has enforced this ban for 46 years. We have an ineffective and incredibly disjointed policy toward Cuba, born of a different era and incredibly outdated today.

Americans can legally visit North Korea and Iran, Vietnam and China, but Cuba, which lies a mere 90 miles from U.S. shores is off limits. This policy has hurt both our nations for too long.America has long recognized that its people and commerce are our best diplomats. Cuba should be no exception.

This mission was encouraged by President Obama and upon returning from this fact-finding mission, we have been asked to deliver a report to the White House and Secretary of State. I look forward to both speaking with the President and you about the mission when I return next week.

While there is some benefit to the Fifth District in opening up ties with Cuba, this mission is more in my role as Vice-Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. There are certainly many upsides for our community as my colleagues entrust me with more responsibilities, but there is one significant downside. More responsibility means less time in the District.

Technology provides some great opportunities, like this newsletter and the telephone town hall, to stay in touch with you and deal with the increasing demands of a leadership role. But nothing replaces face to face contact, and I certainly know that.

I know you will be patient and understand as I try to adjust to my changing role. For that I thank you.