A visit to KC Spirit Playbook helps shape city’s future

By Jill Draper

What one thing would improve Kansas City the most? What one thing have you enjoyed about visiting another city that might be incorporated here? What one thing concerns you the most?

Do you want more equity in housing? Better community centers? More public transit?

What if downtown had an elevated linear park like New York City’s High Line? What if schools, parks, libraries and public health centers shared more resources? What if there were more public places to create art and music and hold showcases?

City planners are asking for answers to these questions and more as they begin to develop a new comprehensive plan to set policies and priorities for the next 20 to 30 years. They had expected to hold public meetings nearly every day during April, but COVID-19 put a stop to that.

Now they’re encouraging people to visit playbook.kcmo.gov to help shape the future of the city. The initiative, named KC Spirit Playbook, is at the wish book stage this summer. Residents can take a poll of the week, balance an imaginary budget or browse through data that compares us to 19 other cities in “similar” and “competitive” categories. They also are invited to post their own short videos in a section titled Share your Perspective.

Another section, the Data Book, depicts decade-by-decade population changes as well as detailed information on things like land use, job growth and types of housing. Under “Then and Now” viewers can zoom in and out on side-by-side aerial maps of the city in 2018 compared to 1990.

“You can spend hours exploring the Data Book,” says Bobby Evans, long-range planner for the 5th City Council District. During an online presentation at the 6th District Second Friday meeting on June 12 he called the platform super fun. “Everyone becomes a planner and a geographer.”

In a nod to Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, KC Spirit Playbook provides different images of others sharing the same pose. 

Described as “a living, breathing social media tool,” KC Spirit Playbook is named after Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting that depicts a determined middle-aged white man rolling up his shirtsleeves to deal with the devastating West Bottoms flood of 1951. In a modern-day nod to diversity, rotating images show others in the same pose, including a young black woman.

Evans said the City Planning and Development Department wants to reach out to groups that tend to be under-represented, and is asking for suggestions. The department’s goal is to eventually use community centers and libraries to engage residents, but “right now everything is orbiting around the KC Spirit Playbook website.”