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It’s a go!

We’ll have an airport election on Nov. 7, and things are looking — if not up, up and away — at least up.

After a torturous, four-month process that has tested everyone’s patience and trust in City Hall, the City Council voted 10-2 this afternoon to enter into a terminal-construction contract with Edgemoor of Bethesda, MD.

As you regular readers know, I’ve called at times for dumping the process and starting all over again in a couple of years — next time putting the horse (design) before the cart (construction contract).

Nevertheless, it appears the Council made the right choice. One of the four competing firms, Jones Lange LaSalle, was never seriously in the hunt. Two others, AECOM and Burns & McDonnell, wore out their welcome by being whiny (AECOM) and avaricious (Burns and Mac).

**

Here’s how the council vote went. (You probably won’t get the full rundown in The Star, and it’s important.)

Yes:

Mayor Sly James
Heather Hall
Dan Fowler
Quinton Lucas
Jermaine Reed
Katheryn Shields
Jolie Justus
Alissia Canaday
Kevin McManus
Teresa Loar

No:

Lee Barnes Jr.
Scott Taylor

Absent:

Scott Wagner

**

Here are my observations on some of those votes:

:: For all the criticism Sly James has come under in this blog and elsewhere for supporting Burns and Mac’s flagrant push for a no-bid contract, he made the correct call in the end, getting off the Burns and Mac bandwagon and switching to Edgemoor. As I reported last night, he told me and Mary O’Halloran at Steve Glorioso’s memorial service yesterday he thought there would be nine votes for Edgemoor today. His forecast was pretty much on target.

:: My old friend (although I backed her opponent Jim Glover in the 2015 election) Katheryn Shields was very instrumental in redirecting the process away from Burns and Mac and opening the project up to other competitors. Her deep governmental experience (an earlier stint on the Council, plus two terms as Jackson County executive) was pivotal. Where James’ bold move cowed at least two council members (Wagner and Justus), Shields was one of several who did not flinch.

:: I am proud of Teresa Loar for voting yes, even though she probably still doesn’t believe we need a new airport. She saw the scales tipping strongly in favor of selecting Edgemoor, and she went along. Like Shields, she, too, had an earlier stint on the council, and I feel sure her experience was a factor in her final decision.

:: Lee Barnes Jr. is a problematic council member because he is heavily influenced by a longtime adviser (not going to name him) whose political instincts are not very good.

:: I really like Scott Taylor, 6th District at-large councilman, who is running for mayor. (Disclosure: A few months ago, I contributed $250 to his campaign.) He was in a tough spot here. Burns and Mac built its big, new headquarters right in the middle of his district, at the intersection of Wornall and Ward Parkway. I’m sure he felt a deep loyalty to Burns and Mac, and I can’t blame him for that. It’s notable, though, that Kevin McManus, in-district councilman from the 6th, left the Burns and Mac fold and went over to Edgemoor. Congratulations to Kevin; that took some guts.

:: Where was Scott Wagner? An early supporter of Burns and Mac, along with James and Justus, he was a no-show today. I hope he didn’t “take a walk,” as they say when an elected official ducks a big vote.

**

All in all, the council deserves a tremendous amount of credit for what it did today. The process was ugly, but now that the sausage is made, it looks a lot better. On Nov. 7, let’s chow down. We need a new airport.

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As you might expect, more than beer and wine was flowing at Steve Glorioso’s funeral service tonight at the Chamber of Commerce meeting room at Union Station.

Information was in abundant supply, too.

Here are some of the nuggets I picked up:

:: Mayor Sly James told me and Mary O’Halloran, a former panelist on the “Ruckus” show on Channel 19, he believed Edgemoor would get nine votes tomorrow when the City Council meets at 3 p.m. to possibly select a contractor to build a new KCI terminal.

If the council is to approve Edgemoor tomorrow, it will take a minimum of nine votes — a two-thirds majority of the 13 members — because the council will be taking up the ordinance out of the customary sequence. If the council waited another week, it would only take seven votes, but with the airport election scheduled for Nov. 7, every day counts.

This is good news. If Edgemoor is selected tomorrow, Burns and Mac may, at last, slide into the background. If it contested the legality of the Edgemoor selection, or if it decided to campaign against the Nov. 7 proposition, it could do significant and lasting damage to its reputation locally. Its reputation has been dented as it is, and I hope company officials come to their senses and realize the battle is lost and it’s time to unite behind Edgemoor.

:: I heard from another person that James has dropped his push for Burns & McDonnell and is on board with the special airport committee’s selection of Edgemoor, based in Bethesda, MD.

That’s more good news, obviously. The upside-down process the mayor set in motion by agreeing to support Burns and Mac’s push for a quick, no-bid contract has already damaged his reputation and legacy. If he wants to continue his political career after his term expires in 2019, he needs to get back in step with a council majority and then be out front in the election campaign.

:: JE Dunn Construction officials are very disillusioned with Burns and Mac, which recruited Dunn to be on its “team.” The relationship has not gone well.

This is problematic but not fatal for the airport election. It is hard to imagine Dunn not involved in construction of a new terminal. I believe it will happen, but some sorting out will need to take place.

:: James told me and Halloran that Edgemoor won’t have a proposed design until next month. “They can’t do anything until they have a contract,” James said.

Makes sense, but it’s not good, of course. It harkens back to the upside-down nature of the process, where construction proposals were sought before design proposals. Speaking avidly, Halloran told James people would be more likely to get excited about a new terminal if they were shown a design that looked appealing and also appeared to be convenient. Another element that would add excitement, she said, would be incorporating many “green” elements, including numerous solar panels.

**

Tomorrow should be a very interesting day at City Hall. I won’t be able to attend the council session, however. Patty and I are heading out of Union Station on the Southwest Chief tomorrow night, for a weekend at some friends’ cabin in southern Colorado. So, you’ll have to rely on the “traditional” media — The Star, the TV stations and perhaps KCUR — for your news. I’m sorry I won’t be here to try to help sort things out for you.

…As we all know, this has been an ugly process. Nevertheless, I have been convinced for several years we really need and deserve a new airport. We are a first-class city with a second-rung airport. An opportunity to change that appears to be at our fingertips. I hope Edgemoor gets the votes tomorrow and that it quickly produces a design that Kansas Citians will embrace…I hope the residents in other area municipalities will embrace it, too, but for the six-week campaign that appears to be on the horizon, my sole focus will be the town I have called home for 48 years, KCMO.

There’s so much to be mad about that tonight I’m just plain sad. Dispirited. Disillusioned.

Let’s take a few recent events by the numbers:

:: Two dead, one badly injured

That would be the aftermath of the horrible, horrifying crash on the 23rd Street ramp off I-435 Sunday afternoon.

A dickhead driving a black pick-up barreled down the northbound ramp about 3:40 p.m. and plowed into the back of a stopped SUV. Indications are the driver of the pick-up made no attempt to stop. The force of the crash thrust the SUV into two eastbound vehicles, including a red Hyundai. A beautiful 16-year-old girl in the SUV, Emely Raudales of Shawnee — a student at Turner High School — was killed on impact. Emely’s father, Geovanny Raudales, is hospitalized in critical condition. He suffered a brain injury.

A 3-year-old Independence girl, Ryan Hampel, who was riding in the Hyundai, was also killed.

The pick-up and the SUV continued across the four lanes of 23rd Street and crashed into a stone wall. Video taken at the scene by a bystander shows the driver of the pick-up — a scruffy guy with an unkempt beard and wearing scuffed boots and long red, polyester shorts — walking around picking up broken pieces from his truck and finally kicking a large piece.

He doesn’t appear to be the least bit interested in the havoc he just wrought on the lives of the other two families.

And one of the most disturbing things about this? Video and still photos appear to show he was flying a large American flag from his truck.

That flag must have been flapping hard and fast as this patriot flew down that ramp without a care in the world for anyone else in the world.

The patriot was questioned and released, but I fully expect charges to be filed. In the video, his reactions are those of a person in an altered state. Before the crash, witnesses told police, he was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic, presumably on I-435.

…Like I’ve said, every day we are out on the roads, we are all sitting ducks for the many irresponsible, law-breaking assholes out there. We need a lot more traffic enforcement. A lot.

:: Eight months.

That’s how long Randy Potter’s body sat unnoticed, in his vehicle, in Economy Lot B at KCI.

Thank you, SP+ Corp., for running such a tight ship!

Here are some things about the company…Until December 2013, it was known as Standard Parking Corp., a more familiar name perhaps. Its headquarters is in the Aon Center, formerly the Standard Oil Building (or Big Stan) in downtown Chicago.

According to Wikipedia, SP+ manages more than one million parking spaces across the United States and Canada. It employs more than 26,000 people to manage 4,200 parking facilities, as well as parking and shuttle bus operations at 75 airports.

Yeah, boy, that sure is a big company. Mighty impressive. Twenty-six thousand employees…But nobody notices a truck parked in B Lot for eight months? I wonder if all 26,000 employees are sleep walking?

:: Ten days

That’s how much jail time Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Anthony Piercy got for bouncing Brandon Ellingson out of his speeding Water Patrol boat on May 31, 2014, and then watching Ellingson thrash around in the Lake of the Ozarks waters and ultimately drown.

The Star’s Laura Bauer has done a great job of covering this debacle from the outset. I said two years ago Brandon’s family was going to be victimized again — the second time by a little-known dance called “the Ozarks Shuffle.” And that’s exactly what happened. The case was kicked around from one judge to another, one prosecutor to another, and ultimately Piercy was charged with a misdemeanor boating violation.

(Piercy also got two years of supervised probation and was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service.)

If it weren’t for Bauer’s dogged reporting and the strength and perseverance of Brandon’s father, Craig Ellingson of Clive, Iowa, no charges would have been filed and the case would have drifted away like a stray cloud.

“Ten days is like a vacation,” Craig Ellingson said after the sentencing. “It’s a joke.He knows he’s guilty and he’s damn lucky to get what he got.”

**

I guess that’s more than enough negativity for tonight. Sorry, but I can’t let these things go. My heart goes out to those who lost their lives and to the survivors and to the family members whose lives have been upended. And I think again, how lucky I am to be sitting here at my keyboard tonight, safe and healthy.

Now, I’m going to bed, and tomorrow I’m going to get up and try to put my Mr. Poztiv pants back on.

The guiding hand of Steve Glorioso is still with us, thank God. And all of us — particularly the Kansas City Council — should heed the advice he indirectly dispensed days before his death.

What he said, in an off-the-record-interview with me on Sept. 6, was that Burns & McDonnell had tried to pull the wool over city officials’ eyes when it made its play, in concert with Mayor Sly James, for a quick, no-bid contract to build a new KCI terminal.

Actually, he said it a hell of a lot stronger than that, which you know if you’ve been reading my posts. His exact words were that Burns and Mac had tried to engineer “the biggest scam in Kansas City history.”

The scam was of such an immense scale, he added, that “Tom Pendergast would have blushed.”

Tom Pendergast

I used that quote, but off the record at his request, in my Sept. 6 post. Off-the-record quotes carry far less weight than those on-the-record, but it’s not off the record anymore. It’s a damn shame Steve is gone, but the fact he is gone freed me to identify him as the author of the quotes.

And they say a lot, coming from a man who was at the epicenter of Kansas City/Jackson County politics for more than 40 years and who helped bring us the Sprint Center with a brilliantly run 2004 hotel-and-rental-car tax campaign.

What Steve was saying, although he didn’t say it explicitly in these words, was:

There is no way in hell that Burns & McDonnell can be awarded the airport job. Ever. It overplayed its hand; it tried to get the airport job at a tremendously bloated amount we airport users would have been paying off for decades.

When we do get a new airport (I think it will be a reality within 10 years), we, the flying public, will indeed be paying for the new terminal for a long time, but we probably won’t be paying nearly as much as we would have had Burns and Mac’s fast-break resulted in a slam dunk. It could have happened, but, fortunately, Councilwoman Katheryn Shields and a few other council members played defense.

So, here’s the deal that Burns and Mac tried to pull off, the rabbit it tried to produce from the hat:

:: The airlines are currently paying about $33 million a year to retire the city’s airport debt from a renovation some years back.

:: In its initial, proposed “memorandum of understanding,” Burns and Mac said it would build a new $1 billion terminal, but it wanted a payback of “approximately” $85.2 million a year to retire the debt and (although it didn’t say so) reward Burns and Mac with a handsome profit.

:: Look again at the two numbers in the preceding two sentences…The company wanted the airlines to pay more than $50 million per year more, for 30 to 35 years, than they are paying now!

:: From the get-go, the number seemed high on its face, and it would have involved a significant mark-up in air fares so the airlines could pass the additional expense on to their customers.

That’s all we knew until Burns and Mac was exposed. After the city opened the selection process to other firms, Los Angeles-based AECOM said it could build a $1 billion, 35-gate terminal for an annual payment of slightly less than $70 million a year.

Over 30 years, the saving — the difference between slightly more than $85 million and slightly less than $70) would be more than $450 million.

Game over!

Or at least it should be.

And yet, even now Burns and Mac contends it should still get the contract, that the airport selection committee unfairly eliminated it from consideration. What gall!

…I was relieved to read last week that City Manager Troy Schulte, a member of the selection committee, said the City Council cannot overturn the committee’s recommendation of Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate and select one of the three other companies, including Burns and Mac, the committee eliminated from consideration.

He said attorneys had advised the council that the city’s procurement ordinance requires Edgemoor to get a “fair and equal” opportunity to negotiate a development agreement with the city. If the council dumped Edgemoor and selected one of the other firms, he added, Edgemoor would almost surely file a lawsuit.

That’s all we need, right, a lawsuit?

This Thursday the council will probably take up the selection committee’s recommendation of Edgemoor. Edgemoor hasn’t made much of its proposal public, and we need to see their numbers and whatever tentative design they’ve come up with. (They’ve got to have some sort of design, right? How could they possibly come up with a reliable estimate without having some idea representation of what they propose to build?)

I’m not too concerned about the prospect of the council rejecting Edgemoor’s bid. As I’ve said many times before, I think the city needs to start over — under a new mayoral administration — first commissioning a design, then putting the construction contract out to competitive bids that can be compared side by side, element by element, figure by figure.

What we absolutely cannot have, though, is a shell game that hands the contract to the former “Hometown Team.” It has forfeited its right to play.

We should all remember the words my good friend Steve said on one of the last days he was upright in this world: “Tom Pendergast would have blushed.”

I am very sad tonight. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.

I learned from an email — and then The Star — that political consultant Steve Glorioso, a friend for about 45 years, died today.

Steve was one of the best political consultants to ever roam the political tundra in Kansas City. He knew politics at every level — city, county, state and national. He had the pulse of the voters, and he had incredible political instincts.

Steve Glorioso

He was a chief strategist on many big campaigns, including Kansas City’s successful $800 million general obligation bond election last spring and, in 2004, the hotel-and-rental-car tax campaign that fueled construction of Sprint Center, a key component in then-Mayor Kay Barnes’ successful crusade to rejuvenate of Downtown.

In the Sprint Center campaign, Steve managed to make the Enterprise car rental company, which largely financed opposition to the tax proposal, Public Enemy No. 1. He deftly painted Enterprise as the ogre from across the state (it is based in St. Louis) that sought to block Kansas City from having a state of the art, Downtown arena.

I remember being so mad at Enterprise that I vowed to never again rent from Enterprise. (A few years later, however, I found myself renting once more from Enterprise, whose commitment to customer service is hard to top.)

Steve wasn’t just a high-profile presence around election time, though. On an everyday basis, he was the go-to-guy for political and government reporters (and sometimes this blogger) who needed a good quote — a quote that was lively and summarized a situation in a few words. Steve was that guy; he could always be counted on for a quote, or for inside information about what was going on behind the scenes.

Pat O’Neill, a fellow political consultant, put it best when I talked with him tonight:

“His stock in trade was information,” Pat said.

The last time I spoke with Steve at length was a week ago yesterday, Sept. 6. I hadn’t talked with him in probably two months, and I wanted to pick his brain about the airport committee’s surprise recommendation of Edgemoor, over three other firms, including Burns & McDonnell, which had been the favorite for weeks.

As usual, Steve gave me a lot of good background information, and I quoted him off the record. (Just so you know, when you quote someone who later dies, the off-the-record commitment goes away because it is impossible for the information dispenser to suffer any repercussions.)

When I asked him what Burns and Mac’s biggest mistake had been, he said, “Trying to jam through a no-bid contract.”

He went on to say that Burns and Mac had attempted to engineer “the biggest scam in the history of Kansas City.”

Then he offered up this plum: The company’s attempted coup was so brazen that…“Tom Pendergast would have blushed.”

We both laughed heartily at that, and he said he was tempted to let me use it on the record because he liked the line so much. His fear of incurring the wrath of Burns and Mac overrode his infatuation with the line, however, and he held it off the record.

**

In that same conversation, Steve told me he was retiring and he didn’t expect to be involved in the November airport election — if it, indeed, takes place as scheduled. The campaign will be run by The Dover Group, which is based in Chicago and has been Mayor Sly James’ consulting group of choice since he was first elected in 2011.

I think one reason Steve was planning to “retire,” or at least sit out the airport election, is that he got crosswise with one or more Dover strategists during the $800 million general-obligation bond campaign. A mutual friend told me the strategist or strategists rejected recommendations of Steve’s that, in hindsight, turned out to be correct.

…Steve also told me in that Sept. 6 conversation that he’d undergone major intestinal surgery three weeks earlier and that he had been in Research Medical Center for a week. In the surgery, the doctor had removed an abscess from his stomach and a section of colon several inches long. Steve told me he was recovering well, however, and he sounded good. He did say toward the end of our conversation, which must have lasted about 30 minutes, that the conversation was wearing him out. I apologized and we rang off.

I talked to him briefly one more time, a day or two later, and again he sounded good and didn’t indicate he was experiencing any problems. He signed off on that conversation by saying, “Always good to talk to you, Jim.”

That line stuck with me because — good guy though he was — gracious and genial personal comments seldom came out of his mouth. He was always preoccupied with and focused on developments in the news and how political situations were playing out. Information and using it to his advantage animated his whole being.

So, it was nice to hear him say, “Always good to talk to you.”

To the best of my recollection, I responded by saying, “You, too, Steve.”

…Steve had a setback over the weekend and was readmitted to the hospital within the last several days. Then sepsis set in. Sepsis is a complication of infection that leads to organ failure. The University of Michigan Health website says anywhere between one in eight and one in four patients with sepsis die while hospitalized.

That’s what got Steve.

I’m really going to miss him…and so will Kansas City.

The shakedown for concessions in return for organized support of the new-terminal election is now officially underway.

On Tuesday, Clinton Adams, counsel to the black political organization Freedom Inc., and Gwen Grant, president and C.E.O. of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, went down to The Star and told the editorial board they wanted a guarantee that 40 percent of subcontracting firms on the airport project be minority owned and 40 percent of the actual workforce consist of minorities.

You could see this coming a mile away. A week ago, after the special airport committee’s surprise recommendation that low-profile Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate get the terminal contract, I wrote the following:

Edgemoor will have to move quickly to convince the Kansas City Labor Council that it will provide plenty of local jobs.

Every significant voting bloc, such as Freedom Inc., the firefighters union, the Committee for County Progress and the Citizens Association, will have to endorse it (for it to pass). Freedom Inc., the city’s leading black political organization, will be in a particularly enviable position because it will be able to extract just about whatever concessions it wants and will be able to demand payment of tens of thousands of dollars to help finance its get-out-the-vote effort.

So, here we are. Freedom Inc. is smacking its lips and getting ready to chow down. The Labor Council is surely poised to saw away at this big, fat hog, too. I bet we’ll be hearing from the firefighters’ union at some point. Maybe they’ll want leather La-Z-Boys in the fire stations.

This goose is laying dozens of golden eggs and a lot of hands are going to be reaching into the nest.

As has been clear all along, the vast majority of voters are not charging the doors of City Hall demanding replacement of the nostalgic dump up I-29. If this issue does make it to the ballot in November and it happens to pass, it almost assuredly won’t be by more than a few percentage points. So, like I said last week, proponents are going to need every conceivable constituency. And that puts every organization that has a constituency — however small — in an excellent bargaining position.

The unsettled nature of the situation is a big reason Freedom and the other influential organizations are wasting no time in striking.

Although the selection committee chose Edgemoor, the full City Council will have the final say on contractor selection, and the selection of Edgemoor is no sure thing.

Burns & McDonnell, the committee-spurned “Hometown Team” appears to be continuing to sniff around the edges, looking for an opportunity to elbow its way back into the picture. (A neighbor told me she had a call from a polling firm asking questions that seemed to be pushing her toward favoring a local firm. Now I wonder who that might be?)

And even if a council majority should vote in favor of Edgemoor, a memorandum of understanding (in effect, a contract) must be developed, and it, too, will require council approval. Developing and approving an MOU could take weeks, and then — whoosh! — we might find ourselves just days away from the Nov. 7 election.

It’s not a pretty picture, is it? So much has gone wrong already that it’s difficult to see how things are going to start falling into place and the pendulum is going to swing from opposition or indifference to avid enthusiasm for a new terminal.

With about half the sand already settled at the bottom of the hourglass, the two biggest questions are still unknown:

:: What will the new terminal look like?

:: Who will build it?

I’ve said all along this process has been completely ass backwards: Mayor Sly James and the other council members should have first chosen a firm to create a design and then put the project out for competitive bids. That would have positioned a selection committee to methodically compare bids side by side, point by point, before recommending the “lowest and best” bidder.

It wouldn’t necessarily be easy doing it that way, but it would be a heck of a lot easier and a lot less painful than what has taken place the last few months.

Let me say something nice about The Star before I start whaling away at the pathetic job the paper has done on three major stories in recent days.

We can be thankful for one thing, at least — that the paper’s editorial page is functioning at near full strength and very admirably.

(I say nearly full strength because when the new editorial board was introduced to readers months ago, readers were told one more editorial writer would be added. But that has not happened, and I fear funding for the job might have evaporated in the haze of owner McClatchy Co.’s wobbly financial situation.)

The editorial board’s performance has been particularly impressive on its analysis of the airport issue and its sound advice to the city through the various setbacks that have cropped up during the contractor-selection process.

From the beginning, right after Burns & McDonnell’s no-bid gambit emerged in public, the editorial board began hammering on the importance of allowing other firms to submit proposals. It held firmly to that position through all the head-spinning twists and turns the process took and through Burns and Mac’s chest-thumping, self-promotional campaign.

And then this week, when Burns and Mac cried foul and the whole dang process was on the verge of imploding, The Star continued to hold steady. Some people, including me, panicked and said it was time to trash the process and cancel the planned November airport election.

To its credit, The Star kept a steady hold on the rudder. Its pivotal editorial, which appeared on Wednesday, bore this headline: “Now Burns & McDonnell wants fairness?”

The editorial not only chided one of the city’s biggest companies for whining in the face of adversity, it also hammered Mayor Sly James for his leading role in trying to steer the contract to Burns and Mac. The editorial said, in part:

“He’s given every appearance of believing that…Burns & McDonnell’s interests and the city’s interests were one and the same. And however this goes now, he has a lot to answer for.”

And then, after the airport selection committee knocked the socks off nearly everyone by selecting the firm that had presented probably the lowest profile (Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate), a Wednesday editorial correctly reminded us, “Competition has given us a better airport proposal, and a real chance for a better airport.”

…This airport drama still has several more chapters, but the book is still being written partly because The Star’s editorial board has been doing exactly what a good editorial board should be doing: Weighing in on important public issues in a calm, steady and strong voice.

**

While the editorial page has been on the upswing, the overall decline on the news side has continued. In fact, I’m afraid we readers can no longer count on The Star to regularly break big, emerging stories. And that’s completely a function of the gradual erosion of the editorial staff and the diminished staff’s necessarily reduced reach.

I’ve seen three examples in recent days of significant stories not being sniffed out in advance or being missed entirely.

In the case of stories not being sniffed out in advance (which I will address in the first two examples below), I’m talking about stories that could have been, should have been, scoops. Until several years ago, The Star routinely scooped the electronic media. But no more. Most of the time, it seems, Star reporters show up for news conferences as clueless as the other media about what’s going to be announced. That’s embarrassing.

Those examples:

:: A week ago Tuesday, reporters were summoned to a press conference called by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. When the reporters got there, they heard from her and KC Police Chief Rick Smith the shocking news that a suspect had been arrested in the Indian Creek Trail murders and had been charged in connection with two murders and was suspected in three others. Peters Baker and Smith were flanked by more than a dozen prosecutorial and law enforcement officials. It was almost unimaginable to me that no KC Star reporter was able to cull out that story in advance and post at least an online story suggesting what was about to unfold. Nobody got a tip? Nobody heard anything? Or, worse, did somebody hear something and not bother to exercise their “little gray cells”? Whatever the reason for the breakdown, it was horribly telling.

The serial-killer news conference that took the Kansas City media, including The Star, by surprise

:: On Tuesday of this week, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback came to Tonganoxie to announce plans for a $320 million Tyson Foods poultry complex in Leavenworth County. Hundreds of residents showed up — many to protest the complex — and once again The Star was caught with its pants down around its ankles. Oh, The Star had a reporter at the announcement — a features reporter, curiously — but no advance tipoff to readers. It was, and is, a huge story because the plant could negatively impact the quality of life and schools in Leavenworth County. But The Star doesn’t have enough reporters to cover Leavenworth County. The Wyandotte-Leavenworth bureau, which I proudly headed from 1995 to 2004, has long been closed, as have all the other suburban bureaus. If The Star got a scoop out of Leavenworth County these days, it would be the journalistic equivalent of a miracle.

:: While reading a KC Star online editorial about the Tonganoxie situation, I learned tonight that the Kansas City regional office of the federal Environmental Protection Agency has a new acting administrator. The interim leader was not appointed yesterday. Nor the day before. No, Cathy Stepp — who, among other things, appears to be a climate change skeptic — was appointed by the Trump administration last week. Puzzled, I went to The Star’s online search box to see if I had missed a news story about Stepp’s appointment. The closest thing I found was an Aug. 29 Associated Press story about Stepp resigning as secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources. The story noted in the third paragraph — that’s what we in the news business call “burying the lead” — that Stepp would be assuming the top EPA job in Kansas City. What we have, then, is a situation where The Star did not bother to produce a local story about the assignment of a new top federal official in Kansas City…No big deal, I guess. Shrug, shrug.

All of this is very galling and upsetting. McClatchy has really done a number on The Kansas City Star’s reporting capabilities. Working as a reporter at 18th and Grand these days has to be a frustrating and dispiriting proposition for anyone who understands what a good metropolitan daily paper is supposed to do.