KCMO wins 4-STAR community rating for national sustainability

Kansas City is a leader among U.S. cities committed to incorporating innovative operating practices that contribute to a healthy environment, a strong economy and enhance the overall well-being of the community.

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This commitment has earned the City a 4-STAR Community Rating for sustainability excellence, making KCMO the highest rated city in Missouri. Columbia and St. Louis have 3-star ratings. The STAR Rating system is three-tiered and based on an overall points score. Kansas City earned 480 out of a possible 720 points. KCMO is the 57th U.S. city to gain certification from STAR Communities, a nonprofit organization that evaluates and certifies sustainable communities. The median score for all certified cities is 380. Kansas City earned a perfect score on the Innovation & Process section, which highlighted the City’s emphasis on performance management and Smart City initiatives.

“This is a significant achievement for Kansas City, Missouri, and I have to commend the staff not only for the hard work they put into this extensive certification process, but also all the employees citywide who continuously strive to make sure we operate at the highest possible level,” City Manager Troy Schulte said.

Through open data and data sharing, KCMO is increasing its level of community engagement. This ongoing exchange is allowing residents, staff and elected officials to use the same statistics to open doors to a truly data-driven conversation. The City also has a digital equity strategy with a pathway to increase the number of residents with access to public Wi-Fi. STAR is the nation’s leading program for evaluating local sustainability, encompassing social, economic and environmental performance measures. It helps communities evaluate their strengths and weaknesses across seven areas: the built environment; climate and energy; economy and jobs; education, arts and community; health and safety; and natural systems. For instance, communities get credit for reductions in energy use or increased transportation access. STAR Communities provides support as localities benchmark progress, and a robust third-party verification process ensures accountability.

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Accountability and transparency are paramount to KCMO officials. Since receiving the score, the City has created a Sustainability Dashboard (kcmo.gov/greenstats) to highlight some components of STAR, as well as some recent achievements of the KC Green teams. STAR will be a resource to identify targets and programs to incorporate into the Business Plan.

In 2015, Kansas City launched a yearlong certification program. Information and data was gathered for the application with the assistance of dozens of staff members, community partners and other agencies.

More than 50 staffers from nearly every City department, as well as about a dozen community nonprofits, provided support for the City’s effort. Aaron Shroyer, the lead for this project, said, “As a new city employee [when I started the project], I can’t think of a better way to learn about the many programs in Kansas City that make our city more sustainable and livable. The work relationships and project management experience that I gained throughout this ratings process are invaluable. Our 4-star rating is a testament to the good work that is being done by the City and in the community as a whole.”

Highlights from the City’s application include:

  • Built Environment: Kansas City’s robust park system was a key component to a strong score in this goal area. The park system provides residents with 37.9 acres per 1,000 residents and 96.7% of households are within three miles of an off-road trail.
  • Climate & Energy: The City has installed 25 kW solar generating systems on the rooftops of 59 municipal buildings without adding any capital expense, opting instead to utilize long-term leases and a long-term solar services agreement.
  • Economy & Jobs: In recent years, the Kansas City economy has experienced growth. More than 1,000 new businesses were established from 2012-2014 and unemployment has also dropped over that same time period.

“We appreciate the leadership and contributions that Kansas City has made to the development of STAR and are proud to award the City with the Certified 4-STAR Community Rating,” said Hilari Varnadore, Executive Director of STAR Communities.

Hundreds of communities around the country are actively using the STAR Community Rating System, with more than 70 engaged in the certification process.

The City will renew its STAR rating in three years, at which point it hopes to show even more progress on sustainability and livability initiatives.