Since January the entire world has been rocked by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. Our response to this crisis will be the true measure of our humanity as a country. Thus far the Federal response has been erratic and unreliable. During times of crisis we must look to our leaders, and they must step up.
As mayor it is my responsibility to keep the public informed about the virus, its impact on our community, and the city’s response. Strong leadership during a crisis means providing consistent and clear messaging, so I stepped up and became the Topeka’s voice on Shawnee County’s Incident Command team. Our job was to meet regularly with stakeholders, including school boards, religious leaders, the health department, and other state and local officials.
As a team we prioritized the safety of our residents, but we also made sure they had access to the facts and to mental healthcare. We started a “warmline” (cooled down version of a hotline), for people to call if they were living alone and had no one to talk to. Social isolation in this crisis is a big challenge, and our taskforce was able to respond quickly to our community’s needs.
Invest in Reliable Research
We must rely on our scientific experts to come through this pandemic as quickly and safely as possible. Our scientists have been telling us to stay home, to social distance, to invest in testing and contact tracing, and to wear masks. In times like this, the job of our leaders is to step up and make tough decisions. Scientists are telling us how to stop community spread of the virus and giving us a way to carefully open the economy with proper precautions and measures in place. It is time to listen and implement these recommendations at every level of government. This does not mean that we “fear” the virus. It means we respect the hard work of scientists and that we respect and value each other so that we can defeat the virus and fully reopen the economy.
Invest in Small Businesses
Unemployment is at an all-time high, some of our families have been without a paycheck for months and small businesses are struggling. Now is the time to use stimulus money to ensure stability for families and small businesses. It is also important to have strong oversight and accountability in place, so that stimulus dollars are going where they are most needed.
Investing in business, especially in Kansas, means investing in infrastructure in rural communities. I have felt for a long time that we as a country must invest in our rural communities by supplying access to broadband. The pandemic has re-upped my commitment to providing broadband across the 2nd District. Whether we are talking about small businesses that need to communicate globally, or healthcare that can be provided on screen instead of in person, we must think creatively about expanding our broadband network. Now, more than ever, it is vital that people are able to work and learn from home.