KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Newsweek named Sly James as one of the five most innovative mayors in the United States.
The magazine said the Kansas City Mayor gave Kansas City a "quantum leap" forward by partnering with Google last year.
James also pushed forward an increased sales tax in hard economic times and helped put a streetcar line downtown.
The mayor said he has even bigger goals for Kansas City this year.
James said Kansas City is well on its way to becoming a Midwestern tech mecca.
James aggressively lobbied Google to use the metro as an exclusive test market for its new high speed Internet access.
"We're putting into place the infrastructure and people are coming," he said.
The plan to bring tech jobs to Kansas City is working.
Forbes named Kansas City as one of the top 15 places for female entrepreneurs.
James supports property tax breaks for tech-focused entrepreneurs, a downtown Wi-Fi network and he instituted Launch KC last year.
The initiative is a think tank to bring information-tech businesses to the growing start-up village on State Line Road.
"You have to make sure you have other entrepreneurs in the city who are able to offer support and guidance; businesses that are willing to shepherd," James said.
The recent rash of mass murders, like the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., had mayors talking about gun control to Vice President Joe Biden last week.
James likened the problem in Kansas City to "slow motion mass murder."
This year, James said the city will work with police on "predictive policing," a computerized predictor of high crime areas.
He said the city will also build stronger alliances with the local and federal prosecutors to seek out high risk individuals with the potential of imposing stiffer penalties.
"We try to get to those who are on the verge of joining the criminal enterprises before they do so and offer them another option," James said. "We know who you are, we know who you are hanging with, we know what you're doing and you have a chance to get out now and if you do, we'll help you if you continue or we'll lock you up."
Education, though, he believes is his most important goal this year.
It is impossible to build a strong city, James said, without educated citizens.
The city has problems - only 19 percent of the school district's third graders can read at a proficient level.
Educators say the ability to read by third grade is a key predictor of how successful a person will eventually be.
"People who build jail cells look at third grade reading to determine how many cells they are gonna need," James said. "That's not by chance."
This year, the mayor has 50 business partners and he said the city will help fund hundreds of volunteers with the goal of 750,000 volunteer hours to teach an extra 450 children how to read proficiently by third grade.
"Our education system is not doing what it needs to do," James said.
Last year, the city and downtown citizens overwhelmingly passed a streetcar line. This year, he wants to work to expand those lines to other areas of the city.
"We also need to go east and west because we have a lot of lines that need to be broken that are north and south lines," James said. "We need to bring people together."
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