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Wouldn’t you just love to see someone in the dominant party — maybe the President, maybe Mitch McConnell — stand up and say what is obvious about the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi?

That would sound like this…

“I don’t believe a word, not one word, of the ridiculous, contradictory stories the Saudis have put out about the murder of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. The truth is, in my opinion, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a team of trusted agents to Istanbul with orders to summarily kill Khashoggi, and the team carried out the order with ruthless efficiency.”

I say the hell with billions of dollars of (mostly prospective) in arms sales; the hell with Saudi Arabia being allied with the West against Iran; and, finally, the hell with Saudi Arabia’s oil.

(In  total energy consumption, the U.S. was about 90 percent self-sufficient in 2016, and that self-sufficiency is increasing all the time. We don’t need their oil, and we don’t need them otherwise.)

How our government can stand by and allow bin Salman to puppeteer a long-range assassination inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey is mind boggling. I understand that world order and international relations are tricky matters, but when an ally exhibits utter, deadly immorality on the world stage, it is time to call it out, condemn it and cut ties.

…In case you haven’t kept up closely with developments, here’s how Saudi accounts of the Khashoggi matter have unfolded:

First: Khashoggi wasn’t killed; he left the consulate safe and sound on Oct. 2 shortly after he entered.

Second: A fistfight erupted inside the consulate and a Saudi agent put Khashoggi in a headlock and accidentally killed him.

Third: A single intelligence agent on the scene — a man acting without authorization from his superiors in Riyadh — decided Khashoggi had to die, and injected a deadly dose of tranquilizer.

The only consistent thing the Saudis have put out, since admitting Khashoggi was murdered, is that his body was dismembered. The latest account, though, is that dismemberment was a spur-of-the-moment decision to get the body out of the consulate. The remains have not been found. The Saudis say the remains were given to a “local cooperator.” The Turks say it was dissolved in acid…Which account sounds more plausible?

Now, in a desperate effort to give bin Salman cover, the Saudis — undoubtedly at the crown prince’s direction — say they’ve charged at least 11 people in connection with the killing and that five of the defendants could be executed. None of the defendants has been identified, however, other than that none is a member of the “royal court.”

Ironic, isn’t it? Some of the thugs who dutifully carried out the crown prince’s order could find themselves sacrificed for a job well done.

But the truth is out there in plain sight. Even President Trump called the first Saudi explanation (accidental strangulation) “one of the worst in the history of cover-ups.” Yet, he hasn’t done or said anything to hold bin Salman directly to account…And I doubt that he or the Republican-dominated Senate will.

The Washington Post hit it on the head today with an editorial titled “Saudi Arabia’s latest account of Khashoggi’s death is shocking in its audacity.”

The editorial concluded with this paragraph…

“Congress should not allow this travesty to continue. It should suspend all military sales and cooperation with Saudi Arabia until a credible international investigation of the Khashoggi killing is completed. The Saudi cover story is just one more instance of Mohammed bin Salman’s arrogant and reckless behavior. The true murderers of Jamal Khashoggi must be named and punished.”

If a valid investigation is undertaken, it won’t take a Sherlock Holmes, Columbo or Perry Mason to determine who the main murderer is. Just look for the smug, shady-looking, mustachioed guy with the checkered scarf over his head.

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After little more than a year, the Bill Turque “era” as KC Star City Hall reporter is over.

A Star story this week said Turque, a 40-plus-year veteran of journalism, is becoming The Star’s political editor.

Succeeding him at City Hall, one of the three most important “beats” at the newspaper (along with the Jefferson City and Topeka correspondents), is 24-year-old Allison Kite, who has been with The Star for nine months. Before that, she covered Kansas politics for the Associated Press and later the Topeka Capital Journal.

Allison Kite

Bill Turque

From what I have seen, Kite is a solid, up-and-coming reporter, and I feel sure she will do well at City Hall. At the same time, it is disappointing to see Turque, whose arrival as City Hall reporter was announced with much hoopla, moving out of the limelight. (I can tell you from experience editors are important, but once you leave reporting, you’d better prepare yourself for public anonymity.)

Turque has had some ground-breaking stories, including a September story on extensive and questionable City Council travel, and he brought to The Star a deep and distinguished background. He had previously worked at The Washington Post, Newsweek and the Dallas Times Herald. He also was a familiar name to some Kansas Citians, having worked at The Star from 1977 to 1981 early in his career.

Not only was he a “big name” when he returned to Kansas City, he knocked out another big name at City Hall — Lynn Horsley, who had covered the city with distinction and determination for nearly 20 years.

After Turque’s return, The Star’s management moved Horsley to the Johnson County beat, where it appears she is now comfortable and getting accustomed to suburban reporting. (I can tell you from experience there, too, it’s a lot different than urban reporting. After I moved from the Wyandotte County bureau to the Johnson County bureau in 1995, I never could make the adjustment from being enmeshed in big-time political battles to scrounging around for “lifestyle” stories.)

Horsley’s displacement was awkward for The Star because management had hired Turque as part of a package deal and had to find a place for him. A year earlier, in 2016, The Star had hired Turque’s wife, Melinda Henneberger, to be part of the paper’s new editorial-page team, headed by Colleen McCain Nelson. I’m sure the deal was then, “Uh, yes, I’m prepared to take the job, but what about my hubby?”

Interestingly, Nelson’s hiring also had been a package deal: Her husband, Eric Nelson, was hired to lead The Star’s digital news operation.

**

Another change The Star announced in the story about Turque and Kite was that Jefferson City correspondent Jason Hancock will now cover Kansas politics as well as Missouri.

Jason Hancock

That’s a lot to bite off, and as good as Hancock is, I’m dubious about his ability to do spread his wings over Kansas and Missouri. Tapping him to handle politics in both states is another example of The Star trying to stretch its painfully reduced staff impossibly thin. It’s hard enough for one reporter to cover one big building, like City Hall, much less two states.

And, finally, The Star has thrown in the towel as far as having its own reporter covering state government out of Topeka. The paper is now shoveling that job off to Jonathan Shorman of The Wichita Eagle, another McClatchy paper.

Shorman is very good, but just as Hancock is going to have trouble extending his reach into Kansas, Shorman will find it extremely challenging to do justice to coverage of legislative developments revolving around Wyandotte, Johnson and Leavenworth counties. Residents in those counties who depend on The Star for legislative news may be sorely disappointed.

…In any event, good luck to these reporters as they try to bear up under back-breaking assignments I couldn’t have dreamed of handling when I was in my prime. I covered Jackson County government from 1971 to 1978 and City Hall from 1985 to 1995, and at both places I was one of three or four Kansas City Times and Kansas City Star reporters on those beats…I believe we also had at least two people in Jeff City and two in Topeka. My, how times have changed!

Election Day is almost upon us, and although a lot of information has been put out, the Missouri ballot is going to confuse a lot of people going to the polls tomorrow.

In a phone call last week, Shawn Kieffer, a director at the Kansas City Election Board, described the 42-question Kansas City ballot as “horrifying” and said he expected some voters to spend 30 minutes or more poring over it.

But at least three sources of information can help you have a low-anxiety voting experience:

:: The League of Women Voters has an online voters guide that summarizes the issues and lets people print out their own “sample” ballots, which they can take to the polls and use to register votes on their official ballots.

:: I expect The Star to publish a list of its recommendations for both Missouri and Kansas at least by tomorrow morning…In my experience, The Star has the best interests of voters in mind, and I usually follow its recommendations.

:: Finally, you’ve got me. I’ve studied the ballot carefully and voted absentee last week, and I covered elections for most of my 36 year-career at The Star.

Here, then, are my recommendations on the major races and issues on the Kansas City ballot. (I believe the only place where my ballot and The Star’s will be at odds is on the proposed Jackson County Charter amendments. The Star is recommending some amendments be approved and some be rejected, but I’m recommending all seven be rejected.)

U.S. Senator — Claire McCaskill (God spare us from the dangerous geek running against her.)

State Auditor — Nicole Galloway (No reason I know of not to give her a second term.)

U.S. Rep. — Emanuel Cleaver II (He’s flawed, but he’s ours. Plus, never forget he snapped KC out of the inferiority complex that had settled in during the 12 years Dick Berkley was mayor.)

Jackson County Executive — Frank White (He’s bad but there’s no viable alternative.)

Jackson County Sheriff — Darryl Forte (Guess we’ve gotta give this guy a few more years in office so he can get two public pensions.)

Jackson County Circuit and Associate Circuit Court judges“Yes” to retain every judge. (Judicial retentions always confuse people because they don’t know who the judges are and if they’re making the right move when they vote “yes.” Don’t worry; none of these judges has done anything remotely scandalous.) 

Constitutional Amendment No. 1 — “Yes” to placing limits on campaign contributions for state legislative candidates and to limit gifts that legislators and their employees can accept from individuals or entities. (It’s about time.)

Constitutional Amendment No. 2“Yes” to legalizing medical marijuana and imposing a 4-percent tax on sales, with the revenue to be used to provide care for military veterans and to administer and regulate marijuana retail facilities. (Of the three marijuana proposals on the ballot, this one has the backing of longtime legalization activists; trust them.)

Constitutional Amendment No. 3“No” to legalizing medical marijuana and imposing a 15-percent tax on sales to fund a cancer research institute headed by Brad Bradshaw, a Springfield lawyer and physician. (This is a power grab by Bradshaw, who likes to put up big billboards of himself.)  

Constitutional Amendment No. 4“Yes” to removing language from the Constitution that limits bingo-game advertising. A court has ruled the prohibition unenforceable. (If lottery advertising hasn’t killed us, we can live with bingo advertising.) 

Missouri Proposition B“Yes” to raising the minimum wage to $8.60 an hour, with an 85-cent-per-hour increase each year to 2023, when the minimum wage would be $12 an hour. (Investment in low-end workers will lead to long-term economic growth.)  

Missouri Proposition C“No” to legalizing medical marijuana and imposing a 2-percent tax on sales, with the proceeds going for veterans’ services, early childhood education and public safety in cities with medical marijuana stores. (Consider the source: This proposal is brought to you by the Missouri General Assembly.)

Missouri Proposition D“Yes” to raising the 17-cent-per-gallon gas tax by 2 1/2 cents per year for four years — 10 cents over the four years — with most of the proceeds going for highway and road and bridge construction and maintenance. The ballot says $288 million a year would go for “Missouri state law enforcement” and $123 million a year would go for road construction, but that is misleading because the Missouri Transportation Department finances the Highway Patrol. Revenue from the higher gas tax would free up the money that has been going to the Highway Patrol and would redirect it to roads and bridges. (Finally, a road-improvement tax increase to be paid by those who use the roads, including those damned truckers.)

Jackson County Charter amendments (Questions 1 through 7)“No” on all. (As you will see, the ballot language is maddeningly vague on proposed pay increases for county officials. In addition, several of the questions are aimed at increasing the County Legislature’s power and reducing that of the County Executive…I believe it is best to continue centralizing power with the County Executive so voters can ultimately hold one person accountable for the county’s overall direction.)

Kansas City Public Library question — “Yes” to increasing the property tax levy by eight cents, from about 47 cents to 55 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. It would be the first such increase in 22 years. (Not only is this a meritorious proposal, its backers came up with the best political yard sign of the 2018 general election campaign. Tilting one book against the others was a stroke of genius.)

 

News reports have been floating around the last few months about the possibility of McClatchy, The Star’s deeply indebted owner, buying another newspaper chain, Tribune Publishing, which owns The Chicago Tribune and several other large papers, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Times.

On Friday, Bloomberg reported McClatchy was one of three companies that had submitted bids for Tribune, and that Tribune’s board is scheduled to meet early next week, possibly to consider the bids. I’ve seen estimates of a sale bringing $640 million to $700 million.

But as far as McClatchy is concerned, allow me to put this story in perspective…Ha! Ha! Ha!

(I could have added several more exclamation points, but it would have taken up valuable digital space.)

Not only can a newspaper chain with an $800 million debt not buy another newspaper chain, it can’t afford new office furniture.

Here are a couple of facts that illustrate the point:

— McClatchy has a stock market capitalization (total value of all outstanding shares) of about $57 million; Tribune’s market capitalization is about $570 million. So, we’re talking about one company buying another 10 times its size in terms of valuation.

— This is not the first time McClatchy’s eyes have been bigger than its stomach. Remember what happened after relatively small McClatchy bought the much larger Knight Ridder newspaper chain back in 2006? That was a move one industry analyst likened to “a dolphin swallowing a small whale.” The result was McClatchy saddling itself with the massive debt it has been laboring under ever since.

That being said, it’s still possible that we’ll see a headline saying, “Tribune agrees to be purchased by McClatchy.”

But what that would amount to, according to a friend who is an investment banker, would be McClatchy reorganizing without going through bankruptcy. And it wouldn’t be McClatchy money on the table; it would be somebody else’s.

There are at least two ways McClatchy could nominally buy Tribune.

:: This year, McClatchy has consolidated much of its debt with a hedge fund called Chatham Asset Management, based in Chatham, NJ. Chatham is now McClatchy’s largest shareholder, as well as its biggest creditor. Institutional Investor magazine has described Chatham as a firm that invests in companies with “distressed debt.” So, McClatchy would be little more than a stalking horse for Chatham. In addition, the New York Post reported that McClatchy had approached Apollo Global Management, a public equity firm, “to shore up its bid for Tribune Publishing.”

:: Five months ago, a Los Angeles surgeon, entrepreneur and philanthropist named Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune from Tribune Publishing for $500 million. Soon-Shiong also happens to be the largest shareholder in Tribune (a 25-percent share), and it’s possible he could end up controlling McClatchy by striking a deal with Chatham. Soon-Shiong is believed to be interested in McClatchy largely because of its string of California papers. If Soon-Shiong emerged as top dog, he could establish a 500-mile-long newspaper juggernaut from Sacramento (McClatchy’s home base) to San Diego.

**

Now let’s take a look at the other two companies that Bloomberg says have submitted bids for Tribune.

One is Donerail, an investment firm founded this year by a man named Will Wyatt, a veteran investor in media companies. Newspaper industry analyst Ken Doctor wrote on the Nieman Lab website in August that if Donerail succeeded in buying Tribune, it would take the company private “and then most likely sell the papers off to individual buyers — some of whom it already has lined up.” A Reuters story, also published in August, said that if Donerail succeeded, Tribune “would become the latest U.S. newspaper publisher to fall in the hands of a private equity firm or a hedge fund, as regional papers struggle with declining circulation amid the proliferation of online media.”

Halbreich

The other company reportedly in contention for Tribune is AIM Media, a fast-growing, private company that owns papers in at least four states — Texas, Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia. The chairman and money man behind AIM is Jeremy Halbreich, former president and general manager of The Dallas Morning News and former chairman and CEO of of Sun-Times Media. Among other things, Halbreich helped resuscitate the Chicago Sun-Times, a tabloid that had gone into bankruptcy in 2009 under previous ownership.

One thing you need to know about Tribune is it’s a certifiable disaster as a company. Since 2000, when it acquired the Times Mirror company (which owned The Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun, among others), it has suffered under terrible management, as well as experiencing the steep advertising and circulation losses that have left many metropolitan dailies shells of their former selves.

In my opinion, Tribune would have its best chance to survive and rebound under AIM, the only one of the three suitors led by a person (Halbreich) with a proven record of successful newspaper management.

I don’t believe McClatchy is going to end up with Tribune. It shouldn’t. It would be a farce. Like Tribune, McClatchy is an awful company. It shouldn’t be given a chance to swallow a second whale after puking up the first.

The Star has a tremendous “true crime” series going on its front pages this week, and if you haven’t been reading it, I suggest you start now.

The series began Sunday and will continue through Friday in the print edition. If you’re like me, though, and can’t stop reading it, you can read all six installments on The Star’s website.

Robert J. Gross, in a 2017 booking mug shot

It’s about a 67-year-old Kansas City man named Robert J. Gross, who has been linked to four sexually motivated killings between 1979 and 2016. He has not been charged in any of the killings, although it appears Platte County authorities are considering charging him in the 2016 murder of 52-year-old Ying Li, who worked in the massage business.

Gross is also suspected of killing an aunt, from whom he inherited money.

The lead reporter and writer on the series is Ian Cummings, a young reporter who has been with The Star only a few years. The second and third bylines on all six parts are longtime KC Star police reporters Glenn Rice and Tony Rizzo.

I have nothing but unequivocal praise for the series, hauntingly titled “Stalk. Murder. Repeat.”

What concerns me, though, is whether KC area residents are paying much attention. I haven’t heard one person talking about the series. At my house, neither my wife Patty nor daughter Brooks has said a word about it, and I know they’re not reading it.

At lunch today with two people with deep backgrounds in writing and reporting — one a former KC Star colleague, the other a freelance writer who has worked for newspapers in the past — I got blank looks when I asked if they had been reading the series. “I’ve heard about it,” the former colleague said after a pause.

Their reaction surprised me, partly because both have digital subscriptions to The Star.

And that — the digital dimension — is where I’ve been focusing my reflecting on how much impact the series is having.

Janet Manuel, pictured when she was a nursing student in the 1970s. Gross assaulted her but didn’t kill her.

This is the kind of series that, 20 to 25 years ago, before U.S. newspaper circulation began nosediving, would have been a blockbuster in any major city. People would have been waiting for their papers in their yards and in their pajamas to get the next installment. The newspaper might have had to print thousands of extra copies each day to keep up with demand. And it certainly would have consolidated the stories in a separate press run — to be sold separately — in the days or weeks following publication.

But now we’re in the give-me-the-news-quick era and the troubling times when a lot of people can’t stay focused on a friend’s or relative’s two-minute story.

Many people still read books, of course, but not many people sit down with their daily papers — or what remains of them — and give them a good read.

In addition, most people reading online are doing so on the phone, which is not accommodating to long stories.

…I hope I’m wrong and people are reading the shit out of this series and, like me, are in awe of the exhaustive reporting and investment of time and energy it took to assemble it.

(To give you an idea of how hard the reporters had to dig, the Kansas City Police Department, which investigated all four of the sex- or revenge-related murders, refused to cooperate with the reporters, as did the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which has prosecuted Gross for crimes other than murder. The reporters got loads of information, however, from retired detectives and other sources, such as relatives and friends of murder victims and victims who survived assaults by Gross.)

**

If, as I suspect, this series is not being widely read, it would be a damn shame. I would love to know — but probably never will — how many computer “hits” the series ends up getting. In the end, that will tell the readership story. If the number of hits the series gets is deemed disappointing by KC Star and McClatchy Co. management (and if it doesn’t win any significant journalistic prizes), editors will be less likely to commission such stories in the future.

And if that turns out to be the case, we the public will be the ones losing out, because it will mean the trend toward shallower, less resounding stories keeps gaining steam.

It’s been clear for some time now that the quality of Jackson County government has been going downhill.

Two examples:

:: The county executive who preceded the current county executive is headed to federal prison.

:: A legislator who formerly played for the Chiefs, Fred Arbanas, held office for 42 years and had a golf course named after him.

But now, instead of going downhill, I’m beginning to think Jackson County government has just about hit bottom. (I say “just about” because as we’ve seen with President Trump, just when you think he’s hit rock bottom, he shovels out another sub-basement.)

What I’m talking about specifically are the proposed Jackson County Charter amendments on next Tuesday’s election ballot.

In May, the nine-member County Legislature, headed by Scott Burnett (who has been on the Legislature 20 years) voted to put seven proposed Charter amendments before the voters. Despite minimal coverage in The Star, I’ve been aware that some amendments would be on the ballot…but I didn’t realize until today how bad they are.

What opened my eyes was the lead editorial in today’s Kansas City Star. The headline was, “Here’s how to vote to improve Jackson County government.”

Painstakingly, the editorial writer — whoever it was — went through each of the seven proposals and attempted to separate the wheat from the chaff. In the end, The Star recommends a “yes” vote on four of the proposals and a “no” vote on the other three.

Scott Burnett

The problem is the proposals contain so many contradictions, so much self-interest and such a lack of specifics that none of them merits approval. Where The Star recommends “yes” on some and “no” on others, I’m recommending an emphatic NO across the board.

While some of the proposals contain redeeming and positive features — such as term limits for all elected county officials — the proposals as a whole would further bloat an already-out-of-control government and would increase the power of the Legislature at the expense of the county executive.

I’ve got to hand it to the Legislature on timing: They are proposing beefing up their own power at a time when the current county executive, former KC Royals’ second-baseman Frank White appears to be inept and out of his depth.

…But I ask you, which of these would you rather have:

A high-profile county executive whose strengths and shortcomings are on full display most of the time or…nine county legislators with even more power than they currently have and who, largely because of a diminished press, are able to skulk around and operate in relative anonymity?

We’ve had good country executives in the past, including the late George Lehr, the first county executive under Charter government, and Katheryn Shields, and we will have more in the future. The framers of the Charter, which voters approved in 1971 and took effect two years later, had it right when they decided to vest a disproportionate amount of power with the county executive. Similarly, most municipal governments have a “strong-mayor” form of government (Kansas City being an exception) so that accountability is concentrated rather than dispersed.

With these proposed Charter amendments, the legislators are hoping that with a weak county executive in office, voters will opt to flip the balance of power. I say: Don’t fall for it!

The way to proceed is to vote all seven questions down and not approve anything until the Legislature comes back with something better than gobbledygook aimed at increasing its own power.

**

Now, let’s get to some specifics:

Question 1

Among other things, this proposal would take away the county executive’s line-item veto authority, which, in turn, would mean the executive would not be able to veto “pork barrel” projects inserted by individual legislators. It would also raise the salary for legislators by a whopping 43 percent — from $34,881 a year to $49,908. Did I mention that legislators work part time?

Naturally, though, the legislators didn’t see fit to tell voters how much of a raise they’d be getting; the ballot language just says Question 1 will “provide a salary increase for members of the County Legislature.”

The only bone the legislators threw voters in this smelly concoction is a two-term limit on legislative terms.

Maddeningly, though, the term-limit bell would not ring until next Jan. 1, giving current legislators the opportunity to serve eight more years.

Question  2

Among other things, this proposal would restrict the county executive’s ability to hire consultants without legislative approval. As compensation for the shakedown, though, the Legislature would kindly increase the executive’s salary by 9 percent — from $145,350 to $158,848.

(Again, of course, the amount is not spelled out in the ballot language; all it says is Question 2 will “provide a salary increase for the County Executive.”)

Question 3

This proposal would shift oversight of the jail from the county executive to the sheriff…This sounds good on its face, but I remember the days when the jail was run by the sheriff — before 1973 — and it was mostly a debacle.

It also would limit the sheriff to three four-year terms and would raise the sheriff’s salary by 53 percent — from $103,771 to $158,848…I don’t know about you, but that kind of pay increase makes me wonder if Sheriff Darryl Forte has photos of some legislators in compromising situations.

Question 4

This would give the prosecutor control over the COMBAT anti-drug sales tax…which is good because no one except those distributing that money have ever understood where most of it has been going.

The measure would also limit the prosecutor to three four-year terms and raise the prosecutor’s salary from $133,432 to $158,848, or 19 percent.

(If you’re wondering where the magical $158,848 figure came from, that’s what Missouri Appeals Court judges make.)

**

I could go on, but I think you get the drift: While some of these questions contain appealing elements, voters are being asked to consume a tray of turds before getting the main course.

Waiter, take this shit back!

(NOTE: I strongly suggest that everyone read and study the sample ballot before going to the polls or voting absentee. It’s long and complicated and challenging. You can see the Kansas City sample ballot here.)

 

On the heels of Tuesday’s post about the hazardous situation on I-435 before and after Chiefs’ games (and to a somewhat lesser extent, Royals’ games), I exchanged emails with a relatively high-profile police department official.

I initiated the contact because of my concern about this situation. The officer — whom I’m not going to identify because he responded to me as a friend and acquaintance — had an interesting and constructive suggestion.

If you’ll recall, I suggested two steps: First, MoDOT should put more electronic traffic-control signs on I-435 and, second, KCPD should have more officers and vehicles, with flashing lights, on the highway before and after games.

The officer said he liked my ideas but noted that finances are very tight for both MoDOT and the police department. With that in mind, he suggested the Chiefs should have a role in improving traffic control outside the stadium.

“Wouldn’t it be neat,” he wrote, “if they entered into an initiative to help supplement some costs of this?”

For me, that was an “ah ha” moment.

The answer is, “Of course!”

What can be more important to the Chiefs than doing all they can to ensure their fans arriving at games safely? If — God forbid — we should have another fatality on I-435 before another game this year, or even next year, attendance could be affected.

At left is the KCPD police van that crashed into a car being driven by 17-year-old Chandan Rajanna on I-435 last Sunday. Rajanna was killed and his father and sister seriously injured. The white SUV at right was one of the vehicles involved in the chain-reaction collision near the Stadium Drive exit.

I wrote back to the officer, broaching the possibility of Police Chief Rick Smith approaching Chiefs’ brass, perhaps owner Clark Hunt,  about the prospect of the team helping finance safety improvements.

The officer said he didn’t think that would be appropriate and explained why:

“Typically, when it comes to supplemental employment we wait to be approached by a business rather than solicit that business to contribute. That helps to avoid any perception that we are coercing or bullying any business to hire us for supplemental employment.”

On the other hand, the officer said, it would be appropriate for MoDOT to approach the Chiefs about a cost-sharing strategy.

**

I think that’s a great idea…And I would take it a step further. The one individual who is best suited to bring KCPD, Kansas City Chiefs and Department of Transportation officials to the table in a collaborative effort is Mayor Sly James.

As we all know and have seen, James is strong willed and gets things done. Last year alone, his exhortation helped get voters to approve construction of a new airport and an $800-million, general-obligation bond issue for infrastructure improvements. Surely, he could find a way to bring about critical, potentially life-saving improvements to Interstate 435 on game days.

…I don’t have a relationship with Sly — not even sure he knows who I am. But I just put in the mail a letter urging him to make game-day traffic improvement a top priority. This needs to get done.