While Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar is determined to thwart officials and residents who believe a new single KCI terminal is in the city’s best interest, at least she’s got it right on a smaller matter — that the tradition of horse-drawn carriages on the Country Club Plaza should be halted.

This has been a bad idea from the start — I believe it began in the ’80s — and there have now been at least three accidents involving the carriages.



The most recent incident, Saturday night, was by far the worst. A horse pulling a carriage with a driver and four passengers began running out of control at 47th and Wornall. The carriage crashed about two blocks south after running into a fence on the Brush Creek bridge. The Star’s story said the driver was ejected and fell over the bridge onto the ground below. One of the passengers suffered a broken arm and required surgery. All four passengers suffered bruises.

The horse, which ended up lying on the sidewalk, was also injured and has been retired from carriage service.

One of the passengers, Rochelle Baldwin, told The Star she called the carriage company, Kansas City Carriages, and left voicemail messages but had not received a return call.

The company returned reporter Lynn Horsley’s call, of course, because a negative story — which ran online today —  could significantly impact the business.

The carriage rides have long impeded traffic on the Plaza, and, now, finally, there’s a growing realization that the horses are, indeed, unpredictable animals and not plodding, docile creatures.

Loar, whom Horsley described as “a longtime animal welfare advocate,” said she would push for banning the carriage rides. Horsley said another animal advocate, Councilwoman Jolie Justus, is not a fan of the rides but “wants to hear from all sides on the issue.”

Officials in some cities already have come to their senses. Cities that have banned horse-drawn carriage rides include Las Vegas, Reno, Biloxi and Asheville. Cities that still have them include New York, Philadelphia and Savannah.


I witnessed what I believe was the first carriage accident in Kansas City. To the best of my recollection, it happened in the mid- to late 1980s. I was walking along Nichols Road with a date one night and saw a horse bolt while pulling a carriage near what was then the Halls store. The carriage crashed into a car, as I recall, before coming to a halt. No one was injured, and the horse remained upright, but it sure was unsettling. I called The Star and told a reporter what I had seen, and a short story ran the next morning.

The carriage-ride business had another setback in 1996, when two horses collapsed and died from disease. Horsley’s story said the city tightened regulations after that.

A complicating factor back in the 1980s — and maybe into the ’90s — was that there were two competing carriage-ride operators, and one was a close friend of then-Mayor Richard L. Berkley and his wife Sandy. I don’t know what kind of connections the owners of Kansas City Carriages have with the City Council, but momentum seems to be turning against the carriage-ride industry nationally…Let’s hope sound reason prevails in Kansas City and that the Plaza streets will be returned — full time — to motorists.

It is getting increasingly difficult to rely on any single Kansas City news outlet to report and follow up on important news developments in the Kansas City area.

In recent months, I have written about two big stories on which I had to go to several different local news sites to piece together the stories.

One of those was the August murder of Julianna Pappas, a 46-year-old Overland Park woman who hooked up with a bad actor named Correy Rinke, a fellow participant in a clinical research study at Quintiles. Pappas agreed to spend time with Rinke one day and ended up raped and murdered near Indian Creek Trail in south Overland Park.

The other was the solving, in October, of the 20-year-old Sarah DeLeon murder case with the arrest of Carolyn Heckert, a real estate agent who is charged with killing DeLeon because DeLeon was dating a man she — Heckert — had dated.

Now we have the case of Louie Scherzer, a 29-year-old Kansas City, KS, man who was shot and killed about 12:30 a.m. Sunday in what appears to have been a completely fluky situation that unfolded behind a KCK bar.

A friend and former KC Star colleague, Mike Rice, first called the story to my attention Tuesday. The Star had carried a short story about the case on Monday, before the victim had been identified, and another short story (what we in the news business call a “brief”) on Tuesday. That story, which I had seen, identified the victim and the alleged killer, 18-year-old Efrain Gonzalez.

But The Star has gone nowhere with the story. As of Wednesday night, it had not explained the circumstances of the shooting; it had not reported any information about the victim, who, as it turns out, was a popular and well known community member; and it had not delved into the background of the alleged murderer.


I will get back to the Scherzer story in a minute, but first I want to say how frustrating this inferior reporting is to me. Frankly, it’s pathetic. And I’ve got to think many Kansas City area residents feel the same.

In bygone days, The Star would have been all over those three stories and would have published follow-up stories with every significant, new development.

No more. Now, we readers are lucky to get bare bones, initial reports of breaking news, then we’re often left to jump around to local TV websites to try to synthesize what happened from the TV stations’ mostly haphazard coverage of events.

People complain frequently about how thin the Monday through Saturday Star is these days. But that’s not the problem. There’s plenty of content in those papers, but much more of it is from national news services than it used to be, and there is much less advertising than there used to be. Then, of course, you’ve got the editorial page, which has turned into a joke, with column after column of letters to the editor and an occasional “As I See It” column supplanting what used to be well-written and well-researched editorials expressing the newspaper’s viewpoint.

The downward spiral for print newspapers began about 10 years ago, when advertising began falling precipitously as readers and advertisers migrated to the Internet. The spiral has not abated. Nationwide, newspaper print advertising is less than half what it was in 2005, and newspapers have lost billions and billions of dollars.

How long The Star will continue to publish a print edition seven days a week is a good and valid question — a question that would have drawn guffaws 15 years ago. The Star’s newsroom has been gutted by layoffs, and in recent months it has been hiring young, relatively inexperienced reporters to replace relatively high paid, senior reporters who were let go or fled the business.

It’s a sad state of affairs. I still take the print edition and expect to do so until I either die or they stop printing it. But The Star is a shadow of its former self, and it irritates the heck out of me — almost enough to make me swear, but not quite — when I have to go on a two- or three-hour Internet excursion to piece together the main elements of a story.


Now, back to the Scherzer story. Here’s what happened:

Scherzer, a Bishop Ward graduate who worked at the Board of Public Utilities, had been at Chicago’s bar at 6th Street and Central Avenue Saturday night. About 30 minutes past midnight, he walked out the back door of the bar — perhaps headed to his car — and came upon the 18-year-old Gonzalez. Minutes earlier — here’s the fluky part — police had been chasing Gonzalez in his car. Gonzalez dumped the car and had run behind the bar to hide.


Louie Scherzer

It’s not clear what transpired, but, in any event, Gonzalez allegedly shot Scherzer, and he died at a hospital later Sunday. Police apprehended Gonzalez, who is charged with murder and is being held on $1.5 million bond.

It wasn’t a drug deal gone bad, and it wasn’t a holdup. Scherzer was an innocent victim who happened to walk out of a bar when factors beyond his control were unfolding.

Tuesday night, a crowd of several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil on or near near the Bishop Ward football field, where Scherzer had played more than a decade earlier.

A photo taken at the vigil (below) was posted on a Facebook page dedicated to Sherzer. Too bad The Star didn’t bother to send a photographer to record and report the event. It was a pretty big deal…


I’ve been trying to give up pro football — what with the brain injuries and ee-long-gate-ed games (commercials, commercials, commercials!) — but, man, it’s tough to stay away from the TV when you have a game like the one last night.

At least two KC Star sportswriters called the game an “instant classic,” and who could disagree? The Chiefs, in case you somehow missed it, won the game against Denver on a last-second, overtime field goal that banged hard into the left upright and caromed to the right at a near 90-degree angle but somehow slid behind the right upright, meaning…THE KICK IS GOOD!

I alternated between watching the game — which I was convinced the Chiefs were going to lose — and doing my Spanish homework. (Patty and I take a Level 1 class Friday mornings at Second Presbyterian Church.) I gave up after the Broncos scored a touchdown with three minutes left in regulation, giving them a 24-16 lead.

With the Chiefs’ achingly anemic offense, eight points seemed impossible. So I turned off the TV and went back to translating Spanish sentences.

Then, with the intention of making sure the Chiefs had lost before going to bed, I went to the ESPN website and saw, almost disbelieving, that the game was in overtime. When I got back to the TV, Chiefs’ kicker Cairo Santos was about to kick a 37-yard field goal to tie the game at 27.

A couple of minutes later, the Broncos unwisely attempted a 62-yard field goal, which squirted low and wide left, resembling one of my snap hooks on the golf course.

That gave the Chiefs the ball near midfield, and soon enough they were in position to attempt the game-winning field goal.

Santos’ kick arched high and toward the left upright. At first I thought it was going to pass just inside the upright. Then I thought it was going to leak left. Then it straightened out. When it hit the post, I thought it bounced slightly back toward the field, in front of the right post. That would have meant it was no good because, for a kick to be good, the ball has to go through the two posts. Doesn’t matter if it falls through or caroms through; it just has to go between the posts and over the crossbar.

For a moment, even the TV announcers were confused. But then I saw that each of the referees standing under the respective posts was holding his hands upward and apart — the standard indicator that a kick is good.


…A lot of times when watching sporting events, I get very excited and yell and cheer and curse. With this game, though, I just sat on the edge of my chair and watched. My eyes were wide, and my mouth was open, but I didn’t utter a word.

Then, I went to kansascity.com to read the sportswriters’ tweets — which they post as a sort of running commentary throughout the game — and to see photographer David Eulitt’s photos.

Shortly before midnight, Eulitt posted this photo of Chiefs’ wide receiver Chris Conley hugging Cairo Santos. From their expressions, you wouldn’t know the Chiefs had just won the game. It’s a picture of spent emotions…And it reflects exactly how I felt.


On this Thanksgiving Day 2016, I’m thinking about:

:: The parents of the six children killed in the school-bus crash in Chattanooga and the injured children and their families…Twenty-four-year-old Johnthony Walker should not have been anywhere near a school bus, much less in the driver’s seat.

:: Jennifer and David Beaird, the Warrenton, MO, couple whose two children were killed in the horrific, Labor Day crash on I-70 in Blue Springs. David Beaird reportedly was paralyzed from the chest down, and the couple lost 13-year-old Gavin and 7-year-old Chloe. Solely responsible for upending the Beairds’ lives was a 60-year-old, drunken shithead named James Green of Odessa. Looking down at his phone and with his big, black SUV set on cruise control, he plowed into the back of the Beairds’ Hyundai Elantra while the Beairds were stopped in traffic. Green is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of assault and driving while intoxicated.

A couple of months ago, I sent a $100 contribution to a fund that had been set up for Jennifer and David. I got a handwritten response from the couple, probably written by Jennifer. It said in part: “Thank you so much for thinking of us in our darkest of times.” Yes, it’s hard to imagine a family going through times much darker…

:: Why on earth (on a lighter note) did Highwoods, the former owner of the Country Club Plaza see fit to add fireworks to the annual Plaza Lighting Ceremony? As I’ve said here before, fireworks detracts from the magic, solemnity and uniqueness of the lighting ceremony.

I am fervently hoping that tonight, with the Plaza under new ownership since early this year, we will be pleasantly surprised and — poof! — the fireworks will have gone away…Early this year after sale of the Plaza was announced, I sent a letter to Robert (Bobby) Taubman, one of the new owners (along with Dana Anderson of Lawrence), asking him to cease and desist with the fireworks. A vice president of his company, the Taubman Centers Inc., wrote back, thanking me for my letter and saying, “Please be assured that we will take your comments into serious consideration as we plan future programming.” Well, the FUTURE IS NOW, and I’ll be watching…

:: President-elect Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida…Who, I’m wondering, is going to be cooking the turkey? Melania? Ivanka? Jared Kushner? Or maybe Donald himself. Can you picture him wearing an apron bearing the words “Make American Great Again” and leaning into the oven to check on the browning of the bird? Somehow, I can picture that more readily than Melania or Ivanka striking the same pose with their long, straight hair and high heels…(I hope they’re padding around in house shoes today, instead of high heels.)

:: Gail Collins, New York Times Op-Ed columnist extraordinaire, who today had a hilarious piece titled “Carving Donald Trump.” Collins recounted that Trump once sent her a letter saying she was “a dog and a liar” and had the face of a pig. Noting his recent waffling on some of his key campaign promises, including climate control and the use of torture, Collins closed with this:

“Next year at this time, we’ll be watching President Trump pardon the Thanksgiving turkeys. Unless he reverts and winds up ordering the turkeys tortured.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone…Thanks for your readership.

As some of you know, I’m a substitute teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District. Consequently, the closest thing I have to a supervisor is the principal at whatever school where I’m working on a given day and the school district administration.

This week, the administration came out with a controversial statement, asking staff members to “refrain from wearing safety pins or other symbols of divisive and partisan political speech while on duty — unless such activity is specifically in conjunction with District curriculum.”

Let’s start with the confusing part of that statement: Why in the world would a teacher or other staff member be wearing a safety pin for any reason related to curriculum??? Is the administration trying to make allowances for home ec teachers who might be wearing safety pins in their lapels so they can whip them off to demonstrate the marking of dress hems?

Other than that…I agree completely agree with the ban. The district’s statement correctly prefaced the request by noting that “the wearing of a safety pin as a political statement” falls into the category of free speech. While simply wearing a safety pin was not a problem in itself, the statement said, “any disruption the political statement causes in the classroom or school is a distraction in the education process.”

And that’s the rub. The district has a strong mix of students from liberal and conservative families, and the district had received “concerns and complaints regarding political connotations associated with the wearing of safety pins.”

The safety-pin movement apparently goes back to the Brexit campaign in England, when some Brexit opponents began wearing safety pins to express solidarity with people who felt threatened by the Brexit movement. In that case, the message was aimed at immigrants. But here, after Donald Trump’s election, the message was extended to other groups, including gays, lesbians, transgenders and Muslims.

The first I heard of the safety-pin business was when Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith showed up wearing one at a post-game press conference last week. I didn’t think much of it, and it didn’t create much of a controversy for a couple of reasons. First, several NFL players have chosen to make political statements this season by not standing for the National Anthem. Second, Smith’s action was not going to offend any members of the news media — they don’t care, they just want good quotes and straight answers — nor was it going to pose any distraction or disruption to those proceedings.

As a liberal, my first thought upon hearing Smith had worn a safety pin was, “Great, I guess he voted for Hillary.”

But that reaction — which I’m sure others shared — confirmed that wearing a safety pin these days is, indeed, a political statement. Anybody who contends otherwise is just not being honest about it.

For Smith to wear one at the press conference is completely different from teachers and school staff members coming to school wearing safety pins. To me, it says, “In your face, Trump lover.” I can see how some students — and parents of some students — would recoil at the gesture.

In her Page 2 column in today’s Kansas City Star, Mary Sanchez criticized the Shawnee Mission School District’s message, but — as often is the case — her message was muddled.

She started off by saying district officials “decreed that wearing a safety pin is forbidden political speech.” Not so. The district’s statement clearly said the problem was not the actual wearing of a pin but the disruption it might cause.

She also said district officials had “bungled an opportunity to emphasize what every local district seeks — physical and emotional safety for all students.”

School districts’ concern for the physical and emotional well-being of their students goes without saying. Tacking on trite and platitudinous language like that suggested by Sanchez would have been meaningless.

As it should have, the school district focused on the issue at hand and, as far as I’m concerned, handled the matter very well…The only thing I would have tacked onto the statement was: “This ban also applies to home ec teachers; they may, however, wear clothespins to mark hems.”

Although I didn’t vote for Donald Trump and am a bit concerned about some of his early appointments to key administration posts, I’ve found myself reading and seeking out stories about this most unusual presidential transition.

From the continuous hubbub around Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, to Trump ducking the press and sneaking out to Club 21 for dinner last week, to who has the president-elect’s ear, to Trump’s daily routine, I find every aspect of the transition fascinating. Because of Trump’s outsize personality and his “outsider” status, this is a decidedly unique period in presidential politics.

Sunday, for example, The New York Times had an insightful story about Trump’s 35-year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who appears to be the single most influential person in Trump’s inner circle.


Jared Kushner with father-in-law Donald Trump

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, seems to have a sort of counterpoint personality to Trump: Where Trump is bold, brash and big — big about everything — Kushner is laid back and reflective. You can see how Kushner’s relaxed style would be calming to Trump, who undoubtedly gets worn out by the bombardment he must get from people like Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie and Stephen Bannon.

The Times story said: “Mr. Kushner projects a very different image from his…father-in-law. He speaks in a near-whisper, punctuated by long pauses, conveying both intimacy and awkwardness.”

And this: “Unlike most of Mr. Trump’s advisers, Mr. Kushner is unfazed by Mr. Trump’s frequent fits of anger, sitting silently rather than flinching or fighting back when he is being dressed down.”

His greatest value seems to be his ability to keep Trump positive in the face of adversity. The story opened with an anecdote about the low point of Trump’s campaign, the October weekend when the Access Hollywood recordings had been made public and many people across the country (including me) were thinking Trump’s death knell had sounded.

His inner circle — including Christie, Giuliani, Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus and Kushner– had gathered at Trump Tower to discuss what to do.

Where Christie, Giuliani and Priebus were urging Trump “to express contrition,” the story said, Kushner reminded Trump “of what he had built.” Trump left the meeting for a while to greet a group of supporters in front of Trump Tower. When Trump returned to the meeting, reporting that a large group of hard-core supporters were gathered outside, Kushner said, “Those are the people who are going to elect you president. Don’t worry about the other people.”

Trump, of course, did apologize for his offensive and outlandish remarks, but Kushner’s urging that he put the incident in the context of how far he had come almost certainly buoyed his confidence that he would overcome the setback. And, as we saw, Trump continued to push doggedly ahead and then steadfastly denied all ensuing allegations made by several women who came forward with accounts of Trump having inappropriately touched or advanced on them.

A vivid example of the clout Kushner wields was the recent trap-door-like descent of Chris Christie as a candidate for a plum Cabinet post. Kushner, it seems had a score to settle with Christie. When Christie was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey in the mid 2000s, he successfully prosecuted Mr. Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, on charges of tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations. Charles Kushner ended up going to prison.

During the presidential campaign, Kushner argued against Christies’s appointment to oversee the transition team, but Trump gave Christie the job anyway. Last week, however, according to The Times’ story, Kushner successfully urged Trump to oust Christie from that role.


Another dimension of Trump I find interesting is his daily, weekday routine. Yet another front-page story in the Sunday Times lent insight into that.

Trump apparently starts his day very early, about 5 a.m., by reading The New York Post and — somewhat surprisingly — The Times. Surprising because The Times campaigned against him in the news columns as well as on the editorial and Op-Ed pages, and Trump has been doing all he can to discredit and bring down the newspaper by repeatedly calling it “the failing New York Times.” (For the record, it is not failing. Although it is planning a staff reduction in the coming months, its stock price has gone up since the election.)

Trump lives on the 58th floor of the tower, amid ornate furnishings, but his office is on a corner of the 26th floor. There, The Times story said, “aides, his children and his longtime assistant, Rhona Graff, move busily in and out as he holds court behind his desk.”

You may have heard or read this: He does not use a computer or read online. On the other hand, as we well know, he’s a slave to Twitter.

It will be interesting to see how he takes to Washington D.C., where 93 percent of people who went to the polls voted for Hillary Clinton. The Times said Trump “continues to discuss with the Secret Service how much he can return on weekends to Trump Tower.”

My guess is this is going to be just as much a Big Apple as a U.S. Capitol administration.

…I don’t know how things are going to shake out, but I love watching the process unfold.

Finally, a measure of satisfaction.

Two and a half years after 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson of Iowa drowned because of a Missouri Highway Patrol officer’s negligence and indifference, the state has agreed to pay Ellingson’s family $9 million to settle a federal civil lawsuit.

The Star’s Laura Bauer, who has been on top of this story from the beginning, reported the settlement in an online story posted this morning.

This long-running saga of the state and the officer attempting to duck responsibility has painted Missouri as a place where you don’t want to fall victim to a problem in which state employees are involved.

One thing that has galled the Ellingson family — and me — is that Gov. Jay Nixon has never offered the Ellingson family an explanation or apology.

That should have come within days, but not a word. And I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. Being a lawyer, Nixon would tend to listen to advice to keep his mouth shut because, otherwise, he might expose the state to greater liability. And keep in mind this is the same governor who, when asked if the “buck stopped” with him on the state’s response to the Ferguson, MO,  crisis two years ago, replied:

“I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time personalizing this vis-a-vis me.”


Anthony Piercy

You know what? Sometimes, leadership means ignoring legal advice and just doing what’s right — doing what your gut tells you. It was clear in the days after the drowning that Highway Patrol Officer Anthony Piercy had catapulted Brandon out of his patrol boat — at high speed and in heavy wake — and then took his good, sweet time trying to “rescue” Brandon after he was in the water.

In a phone call with a Highway Patrol investigator within hours of the drowning, Piercy said: “I’m banged up a little bit, but I’m all right. I don’t know if I’m sore from treading water with the bastard, but I just feel spent… I thought I had run a marathon.”

You’ll notice the only thing Piercy was concerned about was how he felt. And his choice of the word “bastard” to describe Brandon made it abundantly clear how little he was concerned about having stood by — until it was too late — as a college student in his custody died in 70 feet of water.

The Star’s story today says the only person who offered an apology was retired Highway Patrol Sgt. Randy Henry, who turned whistle-blower and alleged that the patrol attempted to cover up the circumstances of Brandon’s drowning. Naturally, patrol administrators turned on Henry and demoted him to corporal, but he retired before the demotion took effect.  


Now that the civil case has been settled, the next big question is whether Piercy will be held to account in criminal court.

Nearly a year ago, a special prosecutor — a former Ozarks area Circuit Court judge named William Seay — charged Piercy with involuntary manslaughter, a felony that carries up to seven years in prison.

The case has slogged along in mid-Missouri, with two different judges tossing it back and forth and the parties now waiting for the Missouri Supreme Court to assign a new judge.

A year and a half ago, I wrote that the Ellingsons were being subjected to what I called The Ozarks Shuffle “a little-known dance performed to distract city folk.”

With any luck, the next judge might be from somewhere other than the Ozarks (that’s what Seay indicated earlier this month, after the last judge recused himself), and we’ll finally see Piercy have to pay a price for his rash and heartless actions on May 31, 2014.