Feeds:
Posts
Comments

I’m sure Michael Ryan, who joined The Kansas city Star’s editorial board in June, had only good intentions when he wrote an Op-Ed column titled “This JoCo church proves the power of community,” which ran in Sunday’s paper.

But nobody must have told Ryan, a Kansas City area native who is now back, about the lingering smell emanating from the church he wrote about — St. Ann Catholic Church, 73rd and Mission Road, Prairie Village. And Ryan certainly didn’t do any homework regarding the church he and his family belonged to when he was growing up.

His column was nominally about the clergy sexual-abuse scandal that has enveloped and diminished the Catholic Church the last couple of decades. Ryan wrote that he was watching the “still-roiling” scandal with a mixture of despair and gratitude — despair being his feeling about the pain the victims have endured and gratitude “for having been kept safe by whim or fate” when he was young.

He talked nostalgically about going back to St. Ann for the wake of a classmate’s father, and he waxed poetic about his trip down memory lane…

“So many years and so many roads later, I felt a renewed sense of belonging walking into my childhood church to comfort an elementary school classmate. I didn’t recognize anyone else there. Remarkably, I didn’t need to. I felt right at home.”

…I wonder if he noticed the new $8.5 million chapel facing Mission Road?

Surely, somebody on The Star’s editorial page remembers that chapel was built partly with significant funding from a group of parishioners who made millions on the backs of poor people who either borrowed from, or were fleeced by, payday loan operations run by those particular parishioners.

The chapel built partly with payday-loan revenue

It’s worth repeating part of this story, which I’ve written about before…Worth repeating because it’s not fair or honest to let Ryan’s idealized portrayal stand.

When then-pastor Rev. Keith Lunsford launched the capital campaign to finance the chapel several years ago, the group of early “lead givers” included at least five parishioners who were in the payday lending business: Tim Coppinger, Vince Hodes, Frampton T. (Ted) Rowland III and Stephen and Julie Zanone.

The Federal Trade Commission eventually shot down those payday lending operations and froze the assets of one or more of the individuals. Although none was ever charged with a crime, their reputations and personal finances were badly damaged. Coppinger and his wife, for example, sold their house in Mission Hills. (I think they moved to Leawood, so they obviously didn’t end up on skid row.)

The worst outcome was for Ted Rowland, who committed suicide in October 2016 at age 52.

In addition, when the story was making headlines, Lunsford took a medical leave of absence and, to the best of my knowledge, never resumed his duties as St. Ann’s pastor.

To the chagrin of many people, including some parishioners, Lunsford did not return any of the dirty money the payday lenders had contributed.

(In a Facebook post, a woman named Anne Pritchett wrote: “I went to St. Ann and my parents were members for 50 years. When I was a student there in the ’60s, we were known for our outreach to the poor. We collected food, we held school-wide fundraisers for the poor and we worked at the food kitchen in WyCo. To see this church now benefit from modern-day loan sharks is both disappointing and shameful.”)

Unlike St. Ann’s, another Catholic institution, St. Teresa’s Academy, took the high road when it came to a payday-loan windfall.

St. Teresa’s had conducted a capital campaign to build an athletic field and track, and Tim Coppinger was a major contributor. But after the payday-loan scandal broke, Nan Bone, then president of St. Teresa’s, summoned members of the Coppinger family and returned the money they had given for “The Coppinger Family Track.”

…So, when The Star and Michael Ryan say that St. Ann’s “proves the power of community,” I see it much differently. When I pass 73rd and Mission Road, I see a church that refused to stand up to greed and failed to return ill-gotten gains. For the integrity of the congregation, I hope Tim Coppinger, Vince Hodes and the Zanones are at least no longer in the pews.

So, what’s been going on in and around Kansas City these days?

Oh, not much. Just…

:: Two guys getting gunned down by a guy who apparently chased them in a pickup truck while pulling a riding lawn mower on a trailer

:: Four teenagers and a 20-year-old luring a drug seller to location in Belton and fatally shooting him after giving him phony money

:: The Kansas City Chiefs giving domestic- and likely-child-abusing wide receiver Tyreek Hill a $54-million contract

Let’s take a closer look:

Lawn Mower Cowboy

We see a lot of inexplicable violence in and around the city, but an incident that took place Tuesday in southeast Kansas City has to rank as one of the most incomprehensible crimes in recent years.

Apparently it started with an argument at a gas station or convenience store between two guys in a black Mustang and one or more men in a Dodge Ram pickup pulling a trailer with a riding lawnmower and perhaps other maintenance equipment.

The lawn guy couldn’t let the beef go and gave chase in his pickup after the guys in the Mustang left the store or station. After pursuing the Mustang a few blocks, the lawn guy opened fire near 79th Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard and hit both occupants of the Mustang.

Both died — 21-year-old Jalen Stevens and 20-year-old Makih Briggs.

Here’s a freeze frame from video taken of the truck…If this truck looks like one your lawn guy drives, I suggest you 1) call the cops and 2) get a new mowing company.

Funny money but no laughing matter

Five people, including four teenagers, have been charged in the shooting death of 25-year-old Timothy Hunter Wednesday night in Belton.

Charged with second-degree murder (they should also be charged with being imbeciles) are Crishon Marquese Willis, 19, of Grandview; Makayla Marie Davis, 18, of Grandview; Shane M. Pierce, 20, of Kansas City; Alea Marie Campbell, 18, of Belton, and Andre Alonzo McKinney III, 18, of Kansas City.

Seems that those five idiots set up a marijuana buy from Hunter, even though he was known to carry a gun.

When they met up with Hunter, they gave him $100 in realistic-looking “prop money.” According to The Kansas City Star, the driver of the car in which the teens and Pierce were riding tried to speed away before Hunter realized the money was counterfeit. One problem: The car was in reverse and lurched backwards. Unfortunately, that gave Hunter time to step in front of the car as it moved forward, toward him. Hunter moved out of the way, but somebody inside the car fired a single shot that hit Hunter in the chest.

Just like that, what could have been a keystone cops incident — minus the guns — turned out to be a murder case, with one person dead and one or more of the assailants’ lives probably ruined.

The $54-million man

It’s a virtual certainty that either Chiefs’ wide receiver Tyreek Hill or his former fiancee, Crystal Espinal, seriously abused their young son at some point during the off season. Unfortunately, investigators could not establish who did what, and no charges were filed.

Hill is now not only back on the team but the Chiefs last week gave him a three-year contract extension worth $54 million. He promptly got hurt and is now out for at least several weeks. Even if he never plays another game, he’s in line to get at least $35 million in guaranteed money.

I don’t watch the Chiefs any longer, but I’m glad they’ve got Patrick Mahomes and that they are once again winning a lot more games than they’re losing. What I don’t understand is how anyone could enthusiastically cheer for Tyreek Hill, regardless of how many touchdowns he scores.

I’ve written before that the danger of permanent brain damage has turned me away from football. Another thing that troubles me is seeing so many more of these bad actors, like Hill, in pro football than in pro basketball, soccer or baseball.

I think we need to hold this question up to what remains of our civilized society: Is this a good sport to send our children and grandchildren into?

Time for an update on our two Public Enemies No. 1David Jungerman in Jackson County and Kylr Yust in Cass.

Jungerman

Some of you who have been following this case closely know that Jungerman’s first-degree murder trial had been scheduled to start last Tuesday, Sept. 3. It seemed unlikely that would occur, however, given the complexity of the case and Jungerman’s insistence on not letting his lead attorney, Daniel Ross, do his job.

On Aug. 23, Judge John M. Torrence granted a defense motion to continue the case. The new trial date is Jan. 21, 2020.

In his order, Torrence put the 81-year-old Jungerman on notice that he’d better be ready for trial in January. “No further continuance will be granted,” the judge said in his order.

By January, it will have been more than two years since Kansas City attorney Thomas Pickert was gunned down in the front yard of his Brookside home while talking on his cellphone after having walked his two young sons to school.

Why was Pickert fingered for death? Well, in a lawsuit, he represented a man who sued Jungerman for shooting him in the leg. That led to the leg being amputated. Jungerman chose to represent himself at trial, and the jury returned a $5.75 million verdict in favor of the injured man.

That was three months before Pickert was gunned down.

The killer was described as an “older, gray haired, white male” driving a white van.

Although no one was able to specifically identify Jungerman, I expect the Jackson County prosecutor’s office to establish well beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the killer and that the white van was one he owns. He contends the van didn’t move from its parking place in Raytown the day of the murder, but the prosecutor’s office has indicated it will present video of Jungerman’s on the move at various points between Raytown and Brookside the morning of Oct. 25, 2017.

The defense case has been a soap opera from the outset, with Jungerman bad mouthing Ross, his attorney, and twice saying he was firing him. The first time he fired Ross was in January when he filed a hand-written motion to that effect. The next day, however, Ross filed a formal motion, obviously with Jungerman’s approval, to withdraw the motion to discharge.

History repeated itself on Aug. 1, when Jungerman filed another hand-written motion (below), saying Ross was no longer his attorney. Wouldn’t you know it, though? The very next day, Ross filed a motion withdrawing the termination motion.

Jungerman did, however, bolster his defense team by hiring at least one attorney with the well-known firm of Wyrsch, Hobbs & Mirakian. David S. Bell, of that firm, filed an “entry of appearance” on Aug. 1.

Hiring big-name attorneys is no big deal for Jungerman, who’s worth has been estimated at $33 million.  He owns thousands of acres of farmland in southwest Missouri and has a baby-high-chair-manufacturing business that apparently is — or was — very successful.

He also has a history of using guns, instead of calling the police, to settle matters with people he deems as threats to his property or his wealth. That has resulted in him moving from a heavily wooded part of Raytown to 1300 Cherry Street (see above photo), address of the Jackson County Detention Center.

Yust

Kylr Yust’s case has also been delayed, and the delay could be lengthy.

Yust had been scheduled to go to trial in November, but last week Judge William B. Collins ordered an in-patient mental examination by state psychiatrists. Results of the exam are to be submitted to the court within 60 days.

Earlier, the defense had hired a St. Louis psychiatrist named Jose Mathews to examine Yust. The defense says Mathews determined that Yust “lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense and…is mentally unfit at this time to proceed.”

…Now, I have no idea if Yust, who is charged with murdering Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions, is mentally unfit to stand trial, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Colloquially speaking, he is one crazy mother fucker, with a hair-trigger temper.

If you read yesterday’s post, you know Patty and I spent part of last week and this week in Manhattan and on Long Island. (I promised a second set of photos from the trip, and I’ll get to those in a minute.)

One thing that struck me was that once you get out of Manhattan, you can be in a relatively normal residential area in half an hour or so. For people not used to it, the transition is kind of mind boggling. Granted, those outlying residential areas are a lot pricier than Kansas City (and many other U.S. cities), but you can find normalcy and feel like you’re nowhere near hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

In the case of our friends Tom and Cheryl D’Antonio, they have lived for decades near Northport Village, about halfway out Long Island. (Shelter Island is near the easternmost tip.) Their house is on Northport Harbor. Their deck affords an idyllic view of the harbor and the boats either moored or tooling around in it.

For Tom and Cheryl, it’s a long haul into Manhattan, where Cheryl works and Tom used to work before retiring from the garment wholesale business a few years ago. From Penn Station, Cheryl takes about a 75-minute train ride on the Long Island Rail Road to the Northport Station and then drives another 10 or 15 minutes to her house. Having always been an urban dweller and worker, I couldn’t take that, but they have gotten used to it. Plus, as the driver who took me to the airport the other day said, “Once you get out here, it’s worth it.” He lives in nearby village of Huntington.

Almost all Long Islanders who live on or near the water are very serious about boating. That includes Tom, who was such an avid boater while he was working in the Garment District that he now has a business maintaining boats for clients and helping people buy boats.

Before I get back to photos from Manhattan, here are three related to Northport and boating…

This is a 50-foot-plus boat — a Vicem (pronounced Vee-Chum) Classic — that Tom maintains for a multimillionaire client. The boat is worth about $1.5 million, and the owner pays Tom very well to keep it in tip-top shape. Tom got to borrow it on Sunday and took us for a ride in Northport Harbor.

That’s Tom at the controls. Notice the gleaming wood interior and the fine leather bench behind Tom. The boat, made in Turkey, has two bedrooms and two “heads” (bathrooms).

Patty (left) and Cheryl. Surprisingly, this was Cheryl’s first boat ride of the summer…Now that her husband is taking care of other people’s boats, he doesn’t have much time to drive either of theirs.

Now back to more photos from Manhattan…

This is one of two reflecting pools at Ground Zero. The pools are on the sites of the former World Trade Center buildings that were brought down by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.

The new World Trade Center

This is the exterior of the Oculus subway station, which replaced the World Trade Center station that was destroyed on 9/11. The $4 billion Oculus station, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, consists of white ribs that interlock. It is meant to represent a dove in flight.

This is the interior of the Oculus station, which includes a mall on the main level.

You see commemorations of 9/11 elsewhere in New York, such as at this fire station on 8th Avenue. The sign above the engine at left says, “Engine 54, Ladder 9, Battalion 9 wants to thank everyone for their support.”

A subway station near Greenwich Village

In the Village

On Bleecker Street

One of the landmarks in the Village is The Stonewall Inn, site of the Stonewall riots of 1969, which, according to Wikipedia, “is widely considered to be the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.”

The day we were there, National Park Service rangers were putting up a tent in a park across from the inn.

Here’s another notable monument — the 16-foot-tall statue of George Washington in Washington Square Park.

Bidding goodbye to New York, I took this photo Tuesday morning from the deck of Tom and Cheryl’s house.

Oh, what a beautiful morning…and what a great trip.

I returned yesterday from the city where the fashion runway and parade of humanity never end.

It was the first time I’ve been to New York City in probably 20 years or more, but I don’t remember for sure. All I know after going back is that I should have gone sooner and intend to go more often.

Patty and I spent three days in the Manhattan — staying at a hotel on the Lower West Side — and then three days on Long Island with friends who’ve lived there many years.

While I came back yesterday, Patty stayed on. She and our friend Cheryl D’Antonio will be getting on a train Thursday for a three-day Amtrak ride to Salt Lake City…It’s a bucket list thing of sorts in honor of, and with, another friend who has a serious health problem.

In Manhattan, we saw two musicals — a stirring revival of Oklahoma! and a fast-paced show called Come From Away, about one aspect of the 9/11 tragedies. (Tip on buying theater tickets: Don’t buy online in advance; you pay about a 33 percent processing and handling fee per ticket. We went to the box offices the day of and the day before performances and got good tickets at face value.)

I’ve got a lot of photos to show you…so many that I’m splitting them up over two days.

Let’s get cracking with Part One!

After arriving last Tuesday, Aug. 27, we walked over to 9th Avenue and found this great Italian restaurant. It was noisy, but the food and lively atmosphere overrode that drawback.

Although it was pretty late when we finished dinner, we went over to The Algonquin Hotel and had a drink in its famous lobby. Famous for what? Well, it was the hangout in the 1920s for a group of actors, critics and writers who called themselves “The Vicious Circle.”

They had lunch daily at a round table — either this one or one like it. The titular head of the group was Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker magazine. In the painting hanging above the table, Ross is at the center. He died in 1951 at age 59.

Another landmark is The Dakota coop apartment building on the Upper West Side, across from Central Park. It has been home to many famous people, including John Lennon, who was murdered in the archway in 1980. Other residents have included Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall and Boris Karloff.

The greatest landmark in the world…the Empire State Building, 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Times Square, with its digital ticker tape…One of the big stories this night was the pending sale of the Kansas City Royals by David Glass.

Part of the Theater District. The Schoenfeld, on West 45th Street, was where we saw Come From Away.

Radio City Music Hall, on 6th Avenue

Patty, who is quick,, quick, quick, spotted this place not far from the Schoenfeld.

This Mid-Century-Modern era building near Washington Square Park closely resembles our former TWA building (except for the coloring) at 18th and Baltimore.

C

Here’s another striking-looking building — architect Zaha Hadid’s condo building on West 28th Street, along the High Line elevated park and south of a mega-development called Hudson Yards. According to Crain’s, sales of units have been slow, perhaps because Hudson Yards is still under construction.

This is what I mean when I say “still under construction.” It’s a veritable spaghetti junction of cranes. (Our hotel was adjacent to the development.)

If you like these photos, come back tomorrow and I’ll have more for you…

 

The Star was forced to write an embarrassing correction Monday after publishing an online story that said a federal judge had issued a preliminary injunction blocking parts of Missouri’s new abortion law.

The incorrect story was pulled from the website before I saw it; it was a major gaffe.

The corrected story, by reporter Crystal Thomas, began like this…

“CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that the judge had issued a preliminary injunction. The judge is still considering whether to do so.

“A federal judge said Monday he will consider whether to temporarily block parts of Missouri’s new abortion law, including a ban on abortions after 8 weeks of pregnancy, from going into effect.”

…Unfortunately, the erroneous version reflected on reporter Thomas, who has been with The Star four months. But it wasn’t Thomas’ fault. To its credit, The Star inserted a “Behind our Reporting” box explaining how the earlier version came about…

“When we anticipate that an important story will break, we often prepare material in advance. This allows us to move as quickly as possible to get a story to our readers once events unfold. In this case, however, an assignment editor inadvertently published advance material before the court hearing had concluded. The advance material was prepared based on how this same judicial circuit had ruled invalidating similar laws in Arkansas and North Dakota.”

I like the fact that The Star was preparing a story in advance. It’s too bad the editor hit the send button, but one of the benefits of online is that mistakes can be caught and fixed quickly…Nevertheless, I’m sure the editor with the itchy finger feels terrible.

One more thing: This correction shows the utter foolishness of The Star’s long-time policy of “not repeating the error” in corrections in the print edition. Can you imagine the semantic contortions the editors would have gone through to try to correct this error without stating the mistake? So, maybe the editors will come to their senses and start telling print-edition readers what they screwed up so that the corrections themselves don’t spawn confusion.

(Unlike some papers, The Star doesn’t make note of most corrections that have been made in online stories. Obviously, it couldn’t do that in this case.)

**

While we’re talking Star business, here’s news about some high-profile former reporters and editors:

:: Medical reporter Andy Marso, who, during his three years at The Star stamped himself as one of its top reporters, left the paper last Friday to take a job with Leawood-based American Academy of Family Physicians. Marso said on Twitter that he would be an editor for an AAFP journal called FPM (Family Practice Management).

Andy Marso

Marso said: “Family physicians are the foundation of medicine and our best hope for creating a system that keeps people well, rather than just treating them after they get sick. I’m excited to do my small part to move us in that direction. Also will likely do more meningitis vaccine advocacy.”

The Star will really miss Marso, but he’s making a move that is in his best long-term interests, in my opinion. The shakeout and consolidation that’s ahead for the newspaper industry is going to generate a load of anxiety for thousands of employees around the country. I wouldn’t want to be part of it.

:: Former Star business editor Chris Lester, who had been in AT&T’s marketing department the last several years, has become managing editor at KCPT. I don’t know exactly what that job entails or how many people he oversees, but it’s good to have Lester back in the news business.

Caitlin Hendel

:: Former assistant state desk editor (Missouri and Kansas) Caitlin Hendel has moved to KCUR, which has been on a major expansion run for several years now. Until several months ago, Hendel was CEO and publisher at Kansas City-based National Catholic Reporter. Hendel started work earlier this month as KCUR’s director of institutional giving and communications.

Donna Vestal

:: Also at KCUR, Donna Vestal, a former assistant business editor at The Star, is switching from director of content strategy to a job pertaining to KCUR’s collaborations with other public radio stations. The content-strategy position will be eliminated, and a new position — director of journalism — will be created. KCUR is now advertising that job. The person who gets it will oversee the station’s content team, including everyone who produces and works on the station’s news and talk shows.

It’s great to see at least one KC news outlet growing and going strong.

I’m glad I was a reporter in the days when you could pick up the phone and call CEOs, police chiefs, elected officials and other people you needed to get information from and often make direct contact on the first try.

For example, I remember once wanting to reach Paul Henson, then-CEO of United Telecommunications, before it became Sprint. I dialed the main switchboard and asked for Henson. The operator rang his office, he picked up and said in a near-growl, “Henson.”

Paul Henson

I was so startled at the way he answered it took me a couple of seconds to recover and state what I wanted. I don’t remember what the story was about, but I’ll never forget the sound of that voice.

Another time, I somehow got the private office number of Irvine O. Hockaday Jr., then Hallmark CEO. I held onto the number until one day I really needed a comment from him. I dialed it, he picked up, and that time it was the CEO, not the reporter, who was startled.

These days, that kind of thing wouldn’t happen. If you wanted a comment from an Irvine Hockaday or a Paul Henson, you would have to go through the Sprint or Hallmark p.r. machine and tell them exactly what you wanted and what you were working on. Nine times out of 10 you’d get some dull, scripted comment back from the p.r. office in an email. About the only chance you’d ever have of getting through to a Hockaday or Henson would be if another civic big shot died and you called seeking a comment about their dear, departed multi-millionaire.

But for any story that appeared to reflect badly on the company — or attempted to hold the CEO to account — forget it; no way you’d get through.

It’s gotten so bad that, as far as I can tell, any question a reporter has for the Kansas City Police Department must be submitted to the media relations office by email. I mean any question — like “What’s the status of such and such case?” or “I need a mug shot of the guy arrested for the carjacking on Gillham.”

The chief, Rick Smith, speaks primarily through his blog. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a quote from him that came from an interview or a phone call with a reporter.

But I’m not singling out KCPD. The hiding behind p.r. departments and insipid, emailed statements is pervasive. Why, it’s so bad that the bob and weave game (a deft boxer’s best friend) has now filtered down to college newspapers.

Jack Holland, a friend and follower of the blog, sent me a link to a recent story in The Atlantic about student journalists finding themselves stymied and made to jump through numerous hoops.

The story ran under the headline, “Bureaucrats Put the Squeeze on College Newspapers.”

Consider this paragraph from the story…

The decline of college newspapers has taken place against the backdrop of a decades-old power shift in the American university. As the Johns Hopkins University professor Benjamin Ginsberg chronicles in his 2011 book, The Fall of the Faculty, administrative bureaucracies at American universities have grown much faster than the professoriate, a trend that Ginsberg decries. “University administrators are no different than any other corporate executives or heads of government agencies,” Ginsberg said in an interview. “They’re engaged in constant spin designed to hide any shortcomings that they or their institution might have.”

Frank LoMonte, director of a free-speech institute at the University of Florida, told The Atlantic: “The concentration of resources into university p.r. offices has made the job exponentially harder for campus journalists. The p.r. people see their job as rationing access to news makers on campus, so it is harder and harder to get interviews with newsmakers.”

…I often hear people complaining that, more and more, newspapers often are doing much more editorializing in their news columns than they used to. “I just want to read the facts and make up my own mind,” people sometimes tell me.

Well, one reason the national newspapers, in particular, have gone to more analysis and editorializing in the news columns is the p.r. bulwark has become so big and so powerful that it’s very difficult to get legitimate, honest “testimony” from both sides of a given issue.

So much information is shaded, manipulated and offered up like chopped salad that the only way reporters can let readers know what’s really going on is just state it outright. In nearly every case, it’s the reporters — not the sources — who are the true, honest, information brokers.