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When I heard about the shocking shooting of KCUR reporter Aviva Okeson-Haberman, I initially accepted as plausible the theory espoused by many news outlets, including CBS News, that she was the victim of a “stray bullet.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how unlikely that was. A stray bullet would had to have been spectacularly stray. Think about it: One bullet traveling straight through a first-floor, bedroom window and striking a woman who was either sitting, standing or lying inside, close to the window. Plus, it was nighttime, and the bedroom light was almost certainly on.

I’ve since learned that Haberman, 24, was lying in bed reading. She was found in that position the afternoon of Friday, April 23, having been shot the night before.

Yesterday morning, I went over to 29th and Lockridge, near 27th and Benton, and did some reporting. I came away convinced that this was an intentional shooting. The bullet may or may not have been intended for Haberman, but it was almost certainly fired with intent to kill.

Yesterday, the New York Post published a story quoting a woman who lives in an apartment adjacent to Haberman’s as saying she believed the bullet was intended for her. The woman, 26-year-old Sadi Sumpter, told the Post she believes the shooting could have been a botched hit meant for her and arranged by her ex-boyfriend, whom she described as a drug addict and a convicted felon.

A KCPD spokesman declined comment on Sumpter or her allegations. The police department has only said “the round that struck her was fired from outside her apartment into her apartment.”

Dan Margolies, the KCUR reporter who wrote the station’s initial story about Haberman’s death, told me today he had not read the Post story and didn’t intend to. The Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has a reputation for sensationalism, with fleeting attention to accuracy.

To me, Sumpter’s story sounds credible, but who knows?

Regardless, I want to show you what I turned up in my visit to the apartment building yesterday.

The apartment Haberman lived in was on the west side of a three-story, red-brick building with six large, two-bedroom apartments — three on each side of the building, each unit extending from the front of the building to the back. Here’s the building…

You’re looking at the west side of the building on Lockridge, which runs east-west. Haberman lived in the first-floor apartment on this, the west side, Her bedroom was at the back of the building, between the two dark, parked cars.

Sadi Sumpter lives across the hall, in the first-floor apartment on the east side. The alley (keep the alley in mind) runs between Haberman’s building and another apartment building (left), which faces Benton.

Here’s a closer look at Haberman’s bedroom windows.

The bullet that struck Haberman pierced the far-left window a few inches from the bottom. The window is about six feet from the ground-level sidewalk. You can’t tell it from the photo, but between the rocky ground and the sidewalk is a downward incline of a couple of feet. A person standing on the rocky patch would have a relatively clear view into the window. It would be much harder to get a clear view from the sidewalk.

Now, here is the bullet hole…You can see it at lower left, in the reflection of a nearby building.

There is a screen over the glass. It appeared to me that the hole in the screen (hard to see here) was slightly to the right of the hole in the glass. If that is the case, it would tend to indicate the shooter was standing at an angle, rather than shooting straight ahead.

Now, here’s the kicker. A woman who was standing in the stairwell of the building behind Haberman’s told me that when police were scouring the scene the day Haberman was found, a cone was placed in the alley, as if to indicate the presence of a shell casing. The cone, she said, was in a position that would have given shooter a clear shot into the apartment.

The woman, Saundra Napper, said: “I don’t think it was stray.”

No, it was not stray. This was intentional, and an innocent young woman, a budding journalistic star, is gone forever.

After five days in Louisville, we returned to KC last night, just in time for the Fountain Day celebration this morning.

Fountain Day is an annual event that has a strong appeal because of Kansas City’s great inventory of fountains and also because of flowing water’s powerful symbolism: It lifts the spirit and soothes the soul.

Despite overcast skies, about 50 people attended today’s event at Haff Circle Fountain, Swope Parkway and Meyer Boulevard. The fountain, named for Delbert Haff, a park commissioner from 1908 to 1912, was renovated about three years ago at a cost of more than $1 million. More than $300,000 of that came from the late James B. Nutter Sr., self-made mortgage banker and longtime benefactor to civic causes.

I have more than a passing interest in Kansas City’s fountains, monuments and sculptures because I’ve been on the City of Fountains Foundation board of directors almost three years and currently am vice president.

The highlight of today’s celebration was a tribute to one of our longtime board members, Anita B. Gorman.

Anita, a Northland resident, has served Kansas City in many capacities for decades, including…

:: Member of the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners from 1979-1991 and board president from 1986-1991.

:: Member of the Missouri Conservation Commission from 1993 until 2005 and first woman to chair the commission. (The Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center on Troost is named for her.)

:: Member of numerous organizational boards, including Starlight Theatre, the National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial, the Kansas City Zoo, the Salvation Army, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the National Recreation and Parks Association.

I’m proud to say I’ve been a friend of Anita’s for many years. I got to know her in the mid-1980s, when she was on the park board and I became a City Hall reporter for The Star. When Anita went on the board, the president was L.P. Cookingham, who had been city manager from 1940 to 1959. Cookingham died in 1992.

Anita became board president in 1986 and served several years alongside restaurant magnates Ollie Gates (Gates Bar-B-Q) and Carl DiCapo (Italian Gardens).

That was quite a trio, and they were fun to write about because all three are powerful personalities. It was also easy to write about Anita because she was honest, straightforward and always had the city’s and the park department’s best interests in mind.

I don’t believe the park board ever lost a tax-increase proposal that it put to a public vote during the time Anita was on the board. Her abiding principle was: “Tell the voters exactly what the need is, what it’s going to cost and what the proposal is going to do, and they will be with you.”

After I left the City Hall “beat” in 1995, we were not in close contact, but several years ago we reconnected, and Anita began setting up “reunion lunches.” The group consisted of Gates, DiCapo, former Mayor Richard L. Berkley, who appointed them to the park board, and me.

How I managed to merit inclusion in that group I don’t know, except that Anita always thought I did a good job of explaining park board issues and why the parks department was important.

Those four outstanding public servants — Gorman, Gates, DiCapo and Berkley — are all around 90 years old now, and they don’t have the energy they once did. They remain keenly interested in their city and its direction, however, and we are still having those lunches.

The next one is scheduled for June 3. When I told Anita goodbye after today’s celebration, she said, “I’m sure looking forward to June 3.”

Here’s a photo from our last lunch, which took place at Gates’ Cleaver Boulevard location last Nov. 3, Election Day.

From left to right, Dick Berkley, Carl DiCapo, me, Anita Gorman and Ollie Gates

Today was a very good day for Kansas City and a great day to honor a person who has done so much for the city. God bless Anita Gorman.

There’s water in the Sea Horse Fountain pool at Meyer Circle, and that means one thing: Fountain Day is drawing near.

As some of you know, I’m vice president of the City of Fountains Foundation, a nearly 50-year-old nonprofit that promotes and advocates for public fountains, monuments and sculptures.

Before last year, turning on the fountains was a ritual almost as sacred as — and usually coinciding with — opening day of the baseball season.

But with Covid-19 setting its teeth everywhere early last year, only seven fountains of the 48 city-owned fountains were turned on because of budgetary constraints.

(It costs several hundred thousand dollars a year to prep the fountains, make repairs and attend to problems during the operating season. Fortunately, the water bill is not a problem because the Water Services Department reimburses the city for the cost of the water.)

This year, before Congress passed, and President Biden signed, the American Rescue Plan Act, we on the fountains foundation were told no fountains might operate this year. That came as a shock, and we began lobbying the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners and the City Council.

Our lobbying was making inroads and, then, fortuitously, the American Rescue Plan Act was signed, and it included $195 million for Kansas City. Half of that should have been received by now, and the other half probably will be coming by year’s end.

Within a week or two of that news coming out, Terry Rynard, parks and recreation director, informed us that eight fountains would operate initially this year, with the expectation that most or all of the others would follow after the first installment of federal funds had been received and worked their way to the various city departments.

The pool at the Meyer Circle Sea Horse Fountain

Ordinarily, Fountain Day would have taken place in early April, but that didn’t happen because of the financial uncertainty. Now it is scheduled. The event will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 4, at Haff Circle Fountain, Swope Parkway and Meyer Boulevard.

Fountain Day was celebrated at the same location two years ago, after a $1-million-plus renovation of that fountain, which is named for Delbert J. Haff, who was a parks commissioner from 1908 to 1912.

The Fountain Day delay caught the attention of at least one media member, and a couple of weeks ago a Fox 4 reporter did a story about it. In an interview at Haff Circle Fountain, Terry Rynard noted that the fountains are “part of our DNA.” Asked if the parks department had received any kickback because of the fountains not going on at their usual time, she replied: “People don’t always notice when they’re on, but they certainly notice when they’re off. We had a lot of feedback on that last year.”

Besides Haff and Meyer Circle, the fountains that are scheduled to start flowing May 4 (to the best of my knowledge, anyway) are…

  • Mill Creek Park Fountain, 47th and Main
  • Firefighters Memorial Fountain, on 31st, just west of Broadway
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fountain, 43rd and Broadway
  • The Children’s Fountain, off Burlington Street in Kansas City, North
  • The Seahorse Fountain at City Hall
  • Northland Fountain, North Oak and Vivion Road

So, if you’d like to be on hand for one of Kansas City’s sacred traditions, I invite you to join us at Swope Parkway and Meyer Boulevard, 10 a.m. May 4. After a short program, the valves will be opened and water will begin shooting in the air, officially signalling the start of spring.

Just one caveat: Leave the swim suits at home.

It was quite an image yesterday — Derek Chauvin placing his hands behind his back in anticipation of being handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom by a Hennepin County sheriff’s deputy.

We never did get to see him in a perp walk, however. When I was at The Star, we loved those perp walks. It was, generally, the only chance we had to view and photograph defendants charged with serious crimes before the long wait for their cases to be resolved.

So today, in honor of a now mostly faded tradition, I’ve assembled a perp walk of sorts of five politicians who deserve to be bathed in ignominy for either stupid things they said recently or long-term, disgraceful conduct.

Here we go…

:: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. At a Capitol Hill event Tuesday with the Congressional Black Caucus, she said of George Floyd: “Thank you for sacrificing your life for justice.” Later, after the blowback for that most awkward utterance, she went on Twitter and said, “George Floyd should be alive today.”

:: Former Missouri Health Director Randall Williams. Gov. Mike Parson apparently asked for Williams’ resignation Tuesday after four years of incompetent leadership of the department. Among other things, Williams once ordered up a spreadsheet to track the menstrual periods of women who had visited Planned Parenthood. The purpose? Try to identify those who had undergone failed abortions. 

:: State Sen. Amanda Chase, a Virginia Republican: After the Chauvin verdict, Chase (who describes herself as “Trump in heels”) met with supporters in King William County and said: “Today’s verdict makes me sick.”

:: U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. On Twitter, Greene asserted that the Black Lives Matter movement was “the strongest terrorist threat to our country.” Her reasoning? “D.C. is completely dead tonight (with the Chauvin verdict). People stayed in tonight and were scared to go out because of fear of riots.”

:: Former Missouri State Rep. Rick Roeber. This guy was even too much for his fellow conservative Republicans to tolerate. Credibly accused of of sexually and physically abusing his children, he was expelled from the House on a nearly unanimous vote, with one member abstaining. According to one report, Roeber accused his ex-wife and children of fabricating the claims because “all my children are Democrats.”

Kylr Yust’s attorneys cleaned up their client as much as they possibly could but, hell, it’s almost impossible to polish a turd.

The jury in his Cass County murder trial realized that, and the jury today convicted him in the strangulation slayings of Kara Kopetsky, 17, and Jessica Runions, 21.

Specifically, the jury, which was selected two weeks ago in St. Charles County and then brought to Harrisonville, found Yust guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 2007 death of Kopetsky and of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of Runions.

I didn’t attend any of the trial, but I could tell from the coverage that Cass County Prosecutor Ben Butler and his assistant, Julie Tolle, had a ton of circumstantial evidence, and they presented their case in very organized and convincing fashion.

The defense attorneys, including Sharon Turlington, an experienced public defender from St. Louis, did the best they could to establish a “look-over-there” defense (revolving around their contention that Yust’s now-dead step-brother did the deeds), but it came off as desperate and outrageous.

I don’t know why the jury settled on manslaughter in the death of Kopetsky, but KSHB-TV’s story suggests there was less evidence in that case, it being nine years older than the other.

The KSHB story says Yust faces five to 15 years in prison for the manslaughter charge and up to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years for the murder charge. He’s 32 now, so he’s going to be over 60 before he has the opportunity to be a free man again.

The sentencing phase begins Friday morning.

I’m sure the victims’ mothers are tremendously relieved tonight. Rhonda Beckford and Jamie Runions became fast friends after Jessica’s death, and they and other family members turned out in force at every hearing that was held in the case the last couple of years.

Jamie Runions (left) and Rhonda Beckford

I attended a few of those hearings, and after each one, assistant prosecutor Julie Tolle would meet with family members and tell them where things stood and what to expect. I covered many cases and trials in Jackson County when I was with The Star, but I never saw one where the relatives and friends of victims bonded like they did in this case.

I hope this verdict gives Beckford and Jamie Runions a semblance of peace of mind. Those women’s daughters were snatched away by a thoroughly evil young man who resorted to murder when he was getting dumped. Referring to Kopetsky, Yust told a woman friend, “If I can’t have her, nobody can.” Chilling stuff.

**

I’ve called Yust and David Jungerman — who is charged with killing Kansas City attorney Thomas Pickert in October 2017 — public enemies No. 1 and No. 2. (Both are so rotten it’s impossible to distinguish between No. 1 and No. 2.) I’m very gratified that one of those guys’ cases is now resolved — assuming, anyway, that Yust’s conviction holds up on appeal.

Now it’s time to get on with Jungerman, whose case seems mired down in endless motions while he sits in jail.

Judge William Collins

A lot of credit for getting Yust “to the dock” goes to Cass County Circuit Court Judge William B. Collins, who, battling defense delays and logistical challenges stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, kept pushing both sides toward a trial.

Now, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John Torrence should follow Collins’ lead and get the Jungerman case to trial. Yes, Jungerman, who turned 83 last month, could die in jail before getting his day in court, and that would be alright. But it would be tremendously gratifying to hear a verdict read in open court, like the verdict that was read today in Cass County.

“We the jury find the defendant guilty.”

Three years ago, Kansas City civil rights leaders could not get a meeting with the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners regarding their push to rename The Paseo after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The park board president at the time, Jean Paul Chaurand, was holding fast to a decades’ old park board policy of naming parks and boulevards after people “who have made significant and outstanding contributions of land, funds, good or services” to the city. With King never having lived or made a lasting mark here, he would not have a parkway or boulevard named in his honor, as far as Chaurand was concerned.

At the time, Steve Kraske, then a columnist with The Kansas City Star, wrote that “a political freight train is bearing down on him (Chaurand) at 100 mph” and that he could very easily become “roadkill.”

Five months later, he was off the park board. (I don’t know if his intransigence regarding honoring King had anything to do with it, but, suffice it to say, he was replaced by another of former Mayor Sly James’ park board appointees, Mary Jane Judy.)

We all know the circuitous route the path to honoring King took after 2018. James appointed a committee to look into the matter. After months of hearings and deliberations, the committee came up with a few recommendations, none of which took root.

A frustrated City Council majority then stepped in. On Jan. 25, 2019, then-Councilman Quinton Lucas stood and made an emotional and compelling speech, urging his colleagues not to “kick the can down the road for two years or three years or 10,” and saying it was time for the Council to get to “yes,” instead of a continued “no.”

The measure passed on an 8-4 vote. Interestingly, Sly James, who was not well liked by Kansas City’s Black ministers and was on increasingly tense terms with Lucas, was not in attendance that day.

Ten months later, however, in November 2019, voters overwhelmingly decided to restore The Paseo name after a group called “Save the Paseo” gathered enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

By that time, Lucas had been elected to succeed James and was ensconced on the 29th floor of City Hall.

He appointed four new park board members, retaining only one of James’ appointees, Northland resident David Mecklenberg. He named Jack Holland, a major Lucas supporter and a municipal finance expert, to head the board.

Holland and the other board members proceeded slowly but methodically on how to honor King, and Lucas gave them plenty of leeway. Last summer, a consensus was reached among the interested parties, including Lucas and the Black ministers, to put King’s name on a five-mile, east-west stretch of Volker Boulevard, Swope Parkway and Blue Parkway. It would extend from Brookside Boulevard on the west to I-435 on the east.

Wisely, the park board decided not to give short shrift to the legacy of William Volker — a humble philanthropist who donated the land that became home to University of Missouri-Kansas City — and to transfer Volker’s name to the section of Oak Street from 45th Street (by the Nelson Gallery) to 52nd streets, near the southern end of the UMKC campus.

This afternoon, about 30 people gathered at the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department offices on 63rd Street and watched as the park board unanimously — and at long last — resolved one of the most nettlesome dilemmas that has faced the city in many years. To sustained applause, the board unanimously approved the renamings.

At a news conference in the park board chamber immediately after the meeting, one speaker after another heralded the move as a momentous and pivotal development for Kansas City. At least one speaker noted the importance of renaming an east-west street that runs through both Black and white neighborhoods.

Lucas was on hand, and he, too, heralded the day as very special. It was lost on no one that the day came a lot sooner than it otherwise might have had he not been elected mayor two years ago.

…As you regular readers are well aware, I’ve been hard on Lucas for not doing more to push Police Chief Rick Smith out the door, but I’ve got to say, he — with the help of an enlightened park board and parks department — made this happen. Today, Kansas City, Missouri, announced, officially, how it feels about racial justice.

Kansas City Park Board Commissioner Chris Goode at today’s park board meeting. At far right is Park Board President Jack Holland. To his right is Parks and Recreation Department director Terry Rynard. Behind Goode, in the checked jacket, is Rev. Vernon Percy Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City.

.11 and 83

The numbers tell us just about everything we need to know about Britt Reid’s awful tailspin back into bad judgment and brain-clouded driving.

Reid was driving 83 miles an hour — 18 miles an hour over the speed limit — when he crashed into two cars stopped in the emergency lane when he was preparing to merge onto southbound I-435, near Arrowhead Stadium, the night of Feb. 4.

Worse than the speeding, though, was his blood alcohol content. Two hours after the crash, it was 0.11%, well over the legal limit of 0.08%.

The crash left 5-year-old Ariel Young with a traumatic brain injury — an injury that will probably significantly reduce the quality of her life from here on out. A KSHB-TV story says Ariel, now out of the hospital, is unable to walk or talk and has to be fed through a tube in her stomach. An attorney representing the family said, “She’s a 5-year-old, but she’s functioning like a baby.”

This is profoundly, maddeningly, unspeakably sad. This photo breaks the heart.

Yesterday, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker charged Reid, 35, with the strongest possible charge she could bring, DWI involving serious physical injury. It is a class D felony with a potential prison sentence of one to seven years.

Baker said changes to Missouri’s DWI laws in recent years limited the charges her office could bring.

In addition, you just know this isn’t going to go well for the prosecution. Very possibly, Reid will get out of this without a felony conviction, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him spend six months or less in jail.

He’s got one of the best criminal defense lawyers in town, J.R. Hobbs; he’s got his family’s money behind him; he’s Andy Reid’s son; and breaks he got in earlier criminal matters may well work in his favor.

For all those reasons, the case probably will be settled by plea agreement rather than a jury trial.

It shouldn’t be that way, of course, especially given Britt Reid’s previous record. In January 2007, he was involved in a Pennsylvania road-rage incident in which he pointed a handgun at a man’s face. While awaiting a court date, he was arrested again and charged with driving under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In November 2007, Reid, then 22, was sentenced to eight to 23 months in jail, to be followed by four years’ probation, after pleading guilty to simple assault, drug possession and possessing a firearm without a license. That was on the first case.

On the DUI charge, he was sentenced to one to six months in jail.

The stories I’ve read about those incidents do not say how much time he actually served, and they do not say if he was convicted of a felony in the gun case. I tend to think it was not because the stories I read reference jail time, not prison time. Jail usually equates to misdemeanors, prison to felonies.

If he does not have a felony conviction on his record, his punishment in the current case will be lighter than it otherwise would have been.

Moreover, I’m not sure that the Pennsylvania DUI case can be considered by a judge or jury. I believe it would have to have been in Missouri for it to be factored into sentencing in this case.

It’s all stacking up to be another case in which a defendant with connections and money slips away letting out a sigh of relief, spared from prison one more time. Meanwhile, little Ariel’s chance to live a normal life has been snatched from her, and her broken family will be taking care of her for however long she draws breath.

About Reid, all I can say is if he had been a good man…if he had been a good man, he would have learned his lesson in 2007. He didn’t take the chance that was handed to him, though, and now we know he just went back to his rotten ways, probably reasoning that being Andy Reid’s son probably would shield him in the event his failure to reform caught up with him again.

He was probably right.

A good friend believes Andy Reid will retire over this. Maybe he should. Maybe it’s time for the Reids to move on. For their own sake more than ours. Start over somewhere else. That taste in the mouth…those painful thoughts about Ariel…they aren’t going away anytime soon. Not for the Reids and not for most of us in Kansas City.

Last summer, as Patty and I were driving down U.S. 49 on the way to Table Rock Lake, we saw a lot of political signs for two candidates battling for the Republican nomination for state Senate in Missouri’s 31st District.

The candidates were Jack Bondon, a state representative who was term limited and had to go up or out, and Rick Brattin, a former state representative who had “termed out” in 2018.

I knew the Bondon name from Berbiglia, the longtime liquor store chain that went out of business a few years ago after having prospered for many years. Jack Bondon was a partner in Berbiglia with his brother Ralph, and both are originally from Kansas City. At some point, Jack Bondon moved to Belton and got into politics in 2014. I’m guessing Bondon was a Democrat when he was in Kansas City but shifted to Republican when he moved to Belton because, well, you know, there’s no longer any future for a Democrat seeking office in Cass County. (Former Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley can attest to that.)

Jack Bondon

I could tell from the signs that Brattin, of Harrisonville, was running to the right of Bondon. Every sign of his bore an American flag, and his basic message was he was the true conservative, implying that Bondon was a pretender.

Even though I don’t know much about Cass County politics, I figured Bondon would win, based on his name recognition.

I was wrong. In the August primary, Brattin won rather handily, drawing about 14,000 votes to Bondon’s 12,500. Brattin then went on to slaughter a Democrat named Raymond Kinney in the general election.

Rick Brattin

After Brattin beat Bondon, I knew Brattin would be stirring up trouble in Jefferson City. And, sure enough, last week, he popped up in a story in the Missouri Independent as the sponsor of a ludicrous bill that would force a statewide election on a proposed Constitutional amendment that would gut the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan.

Missouri has had the nonpartisan plan since 1940, after Missourians got fed up with longtime KC political boss Tom Pendergast’s political machine abusing the state’s judicial system.

The plan, one of the best things that ever happened in Missouri, greatly reduced the role of politics in the selection of judges in urban areas and at the Supreme Court and appellate court levels. Under the plan, which about 30 other states have adopted, a nonpartisan judicial commission reviews applications, interviews candidates and selects a panel of three candidates. The governor then selects from the panel.

The key is that judges and lawyers comprise a majority of all judicial panels, which vary in size depending on the level of the judicial posts in question.

The plan has been very effective at reducing politics in the judicial ranks, and that’s a good thing to everyone but Republicans, who, now that they have a vise grip on statewide elections, also want full control of judicial appointments.

The Constitutional amendment that Brattin is proposing would, if approved by voters, create a federal-style system where the governor appoints judges to the state Supreme Court and appeals courts, with state Senate confirmation.

Brattin and others of his ilk are cannily utilizing a pitch that just might sell with voters: they’re painting trial attorneys, who rank down there with politicians on the public popularity scale, as the bogeymen.

At a committee hearing on Thursday, Brattin said: “There is partisanship in these elections. It’s just where do we want partisanship? Is it by the people who were elected by the people, or is it the insider baseball elections within the Bar Association?”

He went on to say, “I would rather see a duly elected governor be able to choose, kind of like the president gets to choose.”

The kind of president he had in mind, of course, was not Harry Truman or Barack Obama. No, his kind of president is Donald Trump, who, with the help of the Republican-controlled Senate, pushed through more than 200 high-level judges, including three Supreme Court justices, 54 U.S. Court of Appeals judges and 174 U.S. District Court judges…A dump-truck load the nation will be suffering from for decades.

The upshot of Brattin’s proposal is that if his proposed amendment gets to the ballot and voters approve it, we probably wouldn’t see another Democratic Supreme Court or appellate court judge for decades.

The hopeful news is that the last time voters weighed in on the Nonpartisan Court Plan, in 2012, they soundly defeated a proposed amendment that would have given the governor the power to appoint a majority of commission members that choose nominees for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The way Missouri has changed, however, it’s very worrisome. I’m afraid a well-funded campaign aimed at those “nasty trial attorneys” (shades of Trump’s “nasty woman”) might take root with Republican voters and that we’d wave goodbye to one of the areas in which our state has been a model for progress and excellence.

…Rick Brattin. When I saw that guy on those American-flag signs — Mr. Super Patriot — I knew he could be big trouble.

The pace of news is fast and furious these days…

Let’s take a look at one negative and one positive. We’ll start with the negative because, of course, that’s what sells blogs and newspapers.

KC Police Chief Rick Smith

I knew this guy was a terrible chief — pays little attention to the East Side and goes out of his way to protect rogue officers on the force — but I didn’t know until today he was an idiot.

Unbelievably, Smith had accepted an invitation to be a guest of honor at a partisan political event — the Jackson County Republican Committee’s April 17 Reagan-Lincoln Day dinner.

Even more unbelievably, he was going to share the stage with disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens and the looney McCloskeys of St. Louis. You remember them — the paranoid couple who, on June 28, waved guns at a group of protesters who entered a private street while on their way to the St. Louis mayor’s home. Here they are, Patricia and Mark, the Bonnie and Clyde of Missouri.

Smith had every intention of joining these goofballs — Greitens and the McCloskeys — until Mayor Quinton Lucas called him out Friday morning.

“Never in Kansas City have I seen our apolitical appointees—be it a police chief, city manager, or fire chief—engage as featured guests/speakers in partisan political events or causes. The reasons not to do so are numerous and apparent. I would hope this does not change,” Lucas said on Twitter.

A short time later, Smith pulled out, saying, “It is becoming apparent that my attendance at the event would be a distraction.”

It should have been apparent to him the moment he got the invitation.

But now we know how really bad this chief is, and maybe this will prompt Lucas, a member of the Board of Police Commissioners, to accept a longstanding challenge from Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Kansas City. She has urged Lucas to simply make a motion at a meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners to fire Smith.

She knows — and Lucas knows — it won’t pass because at least three of the five commissioners — all Republicans, of course — are firmly behind Lucas.

But Grant, in an effort to get Lucas to show some guts, has told him privately: “Just make the motion and see what happens.”

Do it, Lucas, do it.

Homeless camps

Gotta give Lucas credit on this one.

For weeks, scores of homeless people have set up camps on the south lawn of City Hall and green space at the intersection of Southwest Trafficway and Westport Road.

These camps are an eyesore, and there was talk at City Hall of clearing them out. It’s a very knotty problem, however, because these are the lowest people on the economic scale and rousting them out would look terrible.

But today, the City Council came up with what appears to be a strategic and smart move: It unanimously passed a measure to provide temporary housing for up to 500 people in hotel rooms.

Right away, apparently, homeless people can start arranging temporary housing in hotels for 90 days.

Lucas, who was involved in several days of discussion with leaders of the homeless coalition, said the 90-day period will allow time to work on two other goals: a land bank for permanent housing and employment opportunities.

James Shelby, leader of the homeless coalition, called the hotel proposal a good first step. “The rest,” he said, “is contingent on the City Council continuing to work with us and to create systemic policies and different stuff that affect our lives for the better. That’s all we’re looking for. We’re tired of being on the bottom of the totem pole. It’s time to treat everybody with the same respect and dignity.”

Bravo for Lucas and the City Council. Looks like Kansas City is not going to make national news by tearing down tents and shooing people off public property.

James Shelby and Mayor Quinton Lucas talking on Wednesday

I said I was going to try to cover as much of the Kylr Yust trial as I could, but, unfortunately, I haven’t had time to cover it at all since it began Monday in Cass County Circuit Court.

There’s plenty of coverage, however, from The Star and some TV stations, and if you’re looking for blanket coverage, I recommend KMBC-TV’s website. The station is providing real-time coverage, from one witness to the next.

So far, testimony has centered around the disappearance of Kara Kopetsky, who had been dating Yust and went missing the morning of May 4, 2007, after leaving Belton High School, where she was a student.

Yust, 32, is also charged with murdering Jessica Runions, another woman he dated, in 2016. The remains of both women were found in a wooded area south of Belton in April 2017. Prosecutors have said the location was not far from a house where Yust used to spend time.

From what I’ve read, it sounds like the state’s evidence is coming in very well. So far, the defense has been nipping around the edges of incriminating testimony, trying to case doubt about the some witnesses’ credibility.

Kylr Yust, with defense attorney Molly Hastings, at his murder trial

Here’s some of the most incriminating testimony so far, accompanied by my observations…

:: Yust apparently told at least four people he had killed Kopetsky, including one woman who was wearing a wire to record what he told her. The woman has not testified yet, but a defense attorney said in her opening statement Monday that Yust told the woman he had killed Kopetsky because she was acting titillated by the possibility of being in the company of a murderer, and Yust thought that by telling her he had killed someone she would agree to have sex with him…I doubt if the jury will buy that story. How many people are going to confess to a murder to get laid?

:: Yust was a member of a “death metal band.” He was the lead singer, although indications are there was a lot more yelling than singing…If you’re going to end up charged with murder, I can’t imagine a worse type of band to have been involved with than a band playing music defined by “death.”

:: Yust had a very bad temper. Jennifer Smith, a friend of Kopetsky’s, testified Yust would be “screaming at the top of his lungs” at gatherings of friends…I guess it’s possible he wasn’t out of control. Perhaps he was just exercising his vocal chords to prepare for death-metal performances.

:: At her mother’s urging, Kopetsky applied for and got a restraining order against Yust on April 30, 2007, after coming home with cigarette burns inflicted by Yust. In the application for the order, she (Kara) wrote, “The abuse has gotten worse over time.” Her mother, Rhonda Beckford, also read from a poem her daughter had written, in which Kara said, “After all the pain and suffering, I am through.” She may have been through, but, as is the case in many abusive relationships, she wasn’t able to get away in time to save her life.

:: Amy Clark, another friend of Kara’s and the person who reported her missing the day she disappeared, testified she had seen signs of abuse on Kara, including a “choke mark” and a “fat lip.” Kara and Jessica are believed to have been strangled to death. A choke mark certainly won’t win Yust any points with the jury.

:: A former Belton Police Department supervisor testified he brought Yust in for questioning on May 6, 2007, because he was aware of the restraining order. Steve Edson, the former supervisor, said that in the interview Yust insisted he would never hurt Kara but admitted to having grabbed her and shaken her. Oddly, Edson said, Yust spoke about Kara in the past tense…Who else besides the killer would have known she was permanently gone and not just missing?

:: Amy Clark testified that two weeks before Kara disappeared, Yust told her (Clark), “If I can’t have her, nobody can.” The prosecution is establishing a picture of a jealous hothead who was under a restraining order and who supposedly confessed to a murder in the hopes of getting laid…Even with no physical evidence linking him to the crime, it appears that Yust will be doing most of his future singing in a Fulsom-State-Prison-type setting.