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Having grown up in Louisville and getting my education there, I don’t have a strong connection to the University of Kansas. But over the years, I’ve grown to love going over for football and women’s basketball games and getting more familiar with the enchanting town of Lawrence.

As many times as I’ve been there, however, I’d never really spent significant time in the heart of the campus. It always seemed a bit intimidating — ascending what looks, below from the east, like a mountain and trying to sort out which numbered streets yield access to the guts of the campus.

The tallest building on campus, seven-story Fraser Hall, has always loomed alluringly for me as I’ve approached Lawrence on I-70. Once I spot that stone bulwark in the distance, flags flying from the top, I feel a rush…I’m almost there! The fun and exhilaration of being in a big-time college town is just minutes away!

Until yesterday, though, I’d never been inside Fraser Hall, nor, for that matter, any of the other buildings along Jayhawk Boulevard, i.e., “Main Street KU.”

What took me to Lawrence yesterday was a determination to buy a suit at Weaver’s, Ninth and Mass — the best damn department store in the world, as far as I’m concerned.

I was in no rush on this mission, however, having the luxury of the entire afternoon to do my business. So, when I spotted Fraser Hall, through a misting ran, looming on the horizon, I determined this would be the day I explored the campus.

First, though, I parked on Vermont, a block west of Massachusetts, and had lunch at the widely known — and justifiably so — WheatFields bakery. It was a short walk to Weaver’s, where I spent $500 on a navy, Revelino suit and a pair of Peter Millar pants. (That’s more than I would have paid in Kansas City, but, what the hell — I was caught up in the exuberance of a fall day in Lawrence.)

Once back in the car, I headed south on Vermont, looking for a street to take me west, up the big hill to campus center. I turned on a numbered street that had a significant amount of traffic — I think it was 12th — and began the ascent. Pretty soon I was at the dead-end intersection of Jayhawk Boulevard, amid a sea of foot traffic and a nonstop flow of belching, crimson and blue buses carrying students from one place to another.

A friendly lady at a traffic-control booth adjacent to Fraser Hall directed me to a nearby parking lot, cheerily announcing,
“It’s free today!”

Once liberated from the car, I couldn’t have been more excited if I’d been magically deposited on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. The street was boiling with energy. Some students were scurrying about, others were just hanging out. And all the while, the buses rolled along in what seemed like a continuous, mobilized  procession…I couldn’t imagine Michigan Avenue carrying any more buses than what I was seeing.

As I walked, I took in the buildings — most of them stone and some with deep-red terra cotta trim.

From there…well, it’s time to let the pictures tell the story…

One of the many “Crimson and Blue” buses transporting students and others

In front of the Kansas Union building

From outside, the student union is not very imposing. But it is actually massive. The main entrance (here) is on the fourth level. Because the campus sits on a big hill, there are three levels below, in addition to the two above the entry level.

Just the kind of scene you would expect in a student union building

The vast bookstore is on the second level of the student union building.

This is Smith Hall, which houses the religious studies school.

The Oread hotel, at the north end of Jayhawk Blvd.

Dyche Hall, which houses the university’s Natural History Museum

A serene setting along otherwise busy Jayhawk Boulevard — Danforth Chapel

Lippincott Hall was the first home of the university’s first law school. Now it houses the study abroad program, the Applied English Center and the Wilcox Classical Museum of antiquities.

Imposing Fraser Hall towers above Jayhawk Boulevard and the nearby building. It houses the schools of psychology, sociology and anthropology.

Consisting mostly of classrooms, Fraser was named in honor of John Fraser, KU’s second chancellor, who served from 1867 to 1874.

From its seventh-floor top, Fraser affords spectacular views of the campus and the surrounding area. At left is the Campanile — bell tower. (Its bells chime every fifteen minutes from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.) At right, of course, is Memorial Stadium.

Lookin north on Jayhawk Boulevard, toward The Oread. That’s Dyche Hall on the left; the Kansas Union just north of it; Danforth Chapel at near right and Spooner Hall, right middle.

And so ended a memorable day on a bustling little street brimming with life. If you haven’t been there, I urge you to go. I guarantee you’ll love it.

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What reportedly has happened to journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi is shocking beyond measure.

Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian who had been living in the Washington D.C. area after leaving his homeland in September 2017, is believed to have been killed by a team of Saudi agents who flew in from Saudi Arabia and lay in wait for Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Jamal Khashoggi

Turkish officials believe Khashoggi was murdered at the consulate and that his body was dismembered and then taken elsewhere. One of the members of the Saudi team that carried out the apparent execution was a forensics expert.

If Khashoggi is dead, his murder was carefully planned and meticulously carried out.

Khashoggi, 59, had earned the wrath of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman by writing articles critical of bin Salman’s repression of activists and dissidents.

Video obtained by the Turkish government shows Khashoggi entering the consulate at 1:14 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 — he went there to obtain papers that would clear the way for him to marry his Turkish fiancee —  but it does not show him leaving.

Khashoggi entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

He has not been seen since. Saudi officials contend Khashoggi exited, not long after he entered, through another door. They have offered no surveillance footage or evidence to corroborate that claim, however. In addition, where Saudi officials initially said they would invite Turkish investigators to search the consulate, but they are now delaying.

Fred Hiatt, the Post’s editorial page editor, told The Associated Press, “If the story the Saudis are telling, that he just walked out…they ought to have facts and documents and evidence and tapes to back that up.”

Hiatt added that the “idea of a government luring one of its own citizens onto its own diplomatic property in a foreign country to murder him for the peaceful expression of his views would be unimaginable.”

Although, the murder, if that’s what it was, is shocking, the political circumstances that enabled it are perfectly understandable.

Partly responsible for setting an enabling atmosphere has been Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who has steadily moved Turkey toward authoritarianism the last eight years (Patty and I were there in 2010) and has jailed tens of thousands of dissidents and many reporters.

Also responsible for the “anything goes” atmosphere on the world stage is U.S. President Donald Trump, who has exhibited a keen disinterest in world affairs that do not help him advance his goals as president.

Mohammed bin Salman

He has also slathered praise on bin Salman, calling him “a great guy,” and after scores of Saudi businessmen and royal family members were detained and relieved of their assets in late 2017, Trump tweeted: “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. They know exactly what they are doing.”

Beyond that, Trump has called the free press “the enemy of the people” and has shown little concern about Khashoggi’s disappearance. He said nothing about it at all until Monday. Then, on Tuesday, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, he said,“I know nothing right now. I know what everybody else knows – nothing.”

The Post’s Dana Milbank noted that with his tepid response, Trump sounded like “just another passive consumer of Fox News,” despite having at his fingertips “a vast intelligence apparatus.”

Today, finally, Trump called Khashoggi’s disappearance “a very bad situation.”

**

This case is a terrible development for journalism and democracy. “If Jamal was murdered,” contributing columnist Asli Aydintasbas wrote in the Post, “it sends chills down the spine of every activist, journalist and dissident around the world.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization based in New York, reports that already this year 43 journalists have been murdered world-wide, compared to 46 during all of 2017.

At a higher level, the Khashoggi case is another step toward the disintegration of global order.

In his column, Aydintasbas said world order is “not about running the world according to Amnesty International” but about preserving “norms and rules established after two costly world wars.”

When global order ebbs, he said, lawlessness and disrespect for sovereignty set in.

It’s always cause for celebration when someone from the conservative ranks sees the light and joins “the angry mob” snapping at President Trump’s heels.

And so today we raise a glass to Max Boot, a noted author, columnist and military historian who has not only bailed on the Republican Party but says that as currently constituted the party needs to be “burned to the ground.”

Max Boot

Boot, 49, announced his defection in a Washington Post column bearing Monday’s date and titled “The dark side of American conservatism has taken over.”

The column was adapted from Boot’s new book, “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right,” so I presume he made his decision before the Kavanaugh debacle.

Boot explained his decision to bolt in particularly searing language that laid out the case against the goofy, hateful brand of conservatism that seems to hold sway outside urban areas, college towns and the states of California and Massachusetts. (And, yes, I realize that means most residents of the vast majority of the American landscape have lost perspective, but, unfortunately, is the state of the nation.)

Boot says:

Upon closer examination, it’s obvious that the history of modern conservative is permeated with racism, extremism, conspiracy-mongering, isolationism and know-nothingism. I disagree with progressives who argue that these disfigurations define the totality of conservatism; conservatives have also espoused high-minded principles that I still believe in, and the bigotry on the right appeared to be ameliorating in recent decades. But there has always been a dark underside to conservatism that I chose for most of my life to ignore.

Clearly, the dark underside has subsumed the good parts. Boot traces the rise of Republican extremism partly to Barry Goldwater, who won only only six states in the 1964 presidential race against Lyndon Johnson. Despite the trouncing, Goldwater’s extremism took root with many people and is now “embedded in the DNA of the modern conservative movement,” according to Boot, who goes on to say…

In 1964, the GOP ceased to be the party of Lincoln and became the party of Southern whites. As I now look back with the clarity of hindsight, I am convinced that coded racial appeals had at least as much, if not more, to do with the electoral success of the modern Republican Party than all of the domestic and foreign policy proposals crafted by well-intentioned analysts like me. This is what liberals have been saying for decades. I never believed them. Now I do, because Trump won by making the racist appeal, hitherto relatively subtle, obvious even to someone such as me who used to be in denial.

Extremism was ushered forward, Boot says, by Fox News, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and the tea party movement. The whipped cream on this perverse dessert, of course, is Donald Trump, who, Boot says, defines the Republican Party, “with his depiction of Democrats as America-hating, criminal-coddling traitors, his vilification of the press as the ‘enemy of the people,’ and his ugly invective against Mexicans and Muslims.”

In sum, according to Boot, “the extremism that many Republicans of goodwill had been trying to push to the fringe of their party is now its governing ideology.”

If and when the current Republican Party is “burned to the ground,” Boot says, moderates can start to rebuild a new center-right party from the ashes. But that, he says, “will require undoing the work of decades, not just of the past two years.”

…Thanks Max, I needed that.

OK, let’s review…

The mayor’s race turned upside down in late June when Jason Kander announced he was running for mayor.

The mayor’s race turned upside down Tuesday when Jason Kander announced he was getting out of the mayor’s race.

So, here we are, six months before the April 2019 primary election, and eight of the nine candidates who were in the race before Kander got in are still in.

The ninth candidate back then was Councilwoman Jolie Justus, who is now reassessing her options.

But not everything else — besides Justus being on the sidelines — is the same as it was shortly after Kander announced he was in.

With the Brett Kavanaugh debacle, the national political climate has changed a lot, and I don’t have any reason to believe it’s any different here. What many people seem to be tilting toward now (and we’ll find out more about the validity of this theory the first Tuesday in November) are female candidates (gay or straight), minority candidates and non-white, non-regally-bred-and-educated male candidates.

With that in mind, let’s revisit the existing field of eight candidates and also presume Jolie Justus gets back in the race.

Justus

Gay, smart and experienced (an unusual juxtaposition of adjectives, I realize), Justus has the right profile at the right time. I believe she will get back in the race. Even though she initially supported Burns & McDonnell’s airport power play, she bailed when she saw it was doomed, and she was out front, beside Mayor Sly James, in the hugely successful airport election. She’s got a winning personality and is very approachable. The first time I met her — years ago when she was running for her first office, state senate — I pulled out my checkbook after a brief conversation and wrote her a $50 check. Working against her is the fact that she has alienated a significant number of 4th District residents who say she has become unresponsive to them and to 4th District issues. Nevertheless, I think she could end up reclaiming her earlier role as the favorite in the race.

 

Councilman Scott Taylor

He’s a good man and has responded several times to projects and issues of concern to my neighborhood association, Romanelli West (along Ward Parkway south of Meyer Circle Fountain). Like Justus, he is friendly and likable, and, more important, he gets things done. He’s also raised a lot of money…But that’s because he’s in tight with developers and the law firms behind the developers. Being joined at the hip with developers is great for the campaign war chest but doesn’t sit well with neighborhood activists, and it will be interesting to see how the development-neighborhood factors balance out for him. One thing working against him in the current political environment is that he’s a white, middle-aged lawyer. In addition, he would never be described as someone who fires voters up, although he’s certainly got a strong constituency.

 

Councilman Quinton Lucas

Lucas is probably the most eloquent and charismatic candidate. Plus, he’s a good-looking black man and seems to be the kind of candidate who could make big strides in a short time. His personal story is appealing: He lives in the 18th and Vine area with his single mother and two older sisters; he teaches at the KU law school; and he volunteers in schools and non-profits. Fund raising is going to be a challenge for him, but he could gain a lot of traction if he were to get the support of a couple of mainline political organizations, like Freedom Inc. and the Citizens Association. He is a candidate to watch closely.

Councilman Scott Wagner

He’s a hard worker, doesn’t have a big head and knows City Hall from the inside out. The strongest card in his deck, however, may be that he’s the only candidate with roots in the Northland, although he now lives in northeast Kansas City. If Northland voters turn out for him, they could propel him into the June general election. He’s got these things working against him, though: He’s another middle-aged white guy; he’s not dynamic; he’s not very well known; he’s spent at least $11,000 of taxpayer money on travel the last two years; and, when The Star did a big story on affordable housing recently, he was the only mayoral candidate who did not respond to the reporter’s request for comment.

Phil Glynn

Along with his wife, Elizabeth, Glynn owns a business (Travois) that finances and supports housing and development projects in American Indian communities. He’s smart, good-looking and a good speaker. If he had previously served in just about any elective office, including school board, he might be considered a strong candidate. Part of his motivation for running, I believe, is that Sly James bounced him from the Tax Increment Financing Commission after he went against the mayor’s wishes on a proposed Crossroads redevelopment project. He simply seems to be reaching too far too soon. He should be running for City Council and serving at least one term there before raising his sights to the top city post.

Steve Miller

A Plaza-based lawyer, Miller is in the same boat as Glynn. In fact, they’re both from the same Catholic parish — Visitation — and tapping some of the same people for contributions. Miller is a former chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, but that’s not much of a name-identity springboard, to say the least. He’s another middle-aged white guy who had a dream about becoming mayor and let the dream supersede reality.

Councilman Jermaine Reed

Why Reed is in the race I do not know. He’s a low-profile council member who stood out recently only because he resisted sacking the failed executive director of the American Jazz Museum. (Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed.)

Councilwoman Alissia Canady

Why this first-term council member is in the race I do not know. The Star said in one story that she is running on an initiative to promote equitable economic development in all parts of Kansas city and on a push to increase funding for mental health programs. Those are noble ambitions, and — assuming she stays in the mayor’s race — I wish her the best as she continues to promote them as a private citizen.

Rita Berry

Like Glynn and Miller, Berry has never run for elective office. The Star says she helps out with her family’s funeral home business and has labeled her a community activist. She admits she is not interested in politics, so, like I said about Reed and Canady, her presence in the race is a mystery.

:: My heart is heavy for the family of Charlie Gillis, a KU student who was killed last week in yet another crash involving a big rig.

Gillis, 20, was returning to KU from his hometown of St. Louis on Monday when a 2015 Freightliner truck (don’t know if a trailer was attached) pulled out in front of his 2001 Chevy SUV at 166th Street and State Avenue (U.S. 24) in Leavenworth County.

Charlie Gillis

Gillis’ vehicle struck the middle axle of the truck, spun and then careened into a 2016 Ford van. Gillis was taken to KU Medical, where he was pronounced dead on Tuesday.

Neither the 63-year-old truck driver nor the 22-year-old van driver was injured.

Gillis had been in St. Louis for homecoming weekend at his high school, the Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS).

His obituary, which appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said in part…

Charlie was a talented artist and an accomplished athlete with a bright and curious mind. He played football, captained the track and field team and was an All-State pole vaulter in high school…His heart was enormous, and he loved his friends and family far and wide. Whether scaling a tree, strumming his ukulele, vaulting over a pole or careening down a ski slope, he lived in the moment with an unwavering sense of freedom, fearlessness, passion and joy.

Survivors include his parents Jack and Jenn Gillis, brothers Matt and Henry and sister Sara.

What a horrible, thoroughly avoidable loss…The ubiquitousness of these big rigs has me avoiding the interstates and other major roads as much as possible. Those truckers fly along like they’re kings of the road, and sometimes, if you’re not going fast enough to please them, they’ll bear down on your bumper to intimidate you and push you to go faster. A trucker did that to me one night this summer on an interstate in Des Moines — loomed within feet of my bumper. I gripped the steering wheel and accelerated to a speed I was uncomfortable with before he veered off at the junction of another highway. Then, I exhaled deeply.

Charlie Gillis, 20 years old. Didn’t make it to official adulthood. Didn’t live to graduate from college. Won’t get to ski down one more hill. Taken from his family and friends because of the careless action of a big-rig driver.

The crash is “under investigation.”

:: I saw City Councilman Lee Barnes Jr. at a Friends of the Library event last night at the main library. We got to talking about the new airport, and he told me he thought the price tag would ultimately rise to $2 billion. The initial estimate was $1 billion, but Edgemoor, the selected contractor, recently upped it to $1.4 billion after more gates were added.

Barnes, who supported the proposal of AECOM, the world’s largest airport contractor, also said he thought we’d end up with an unremarkable terminal. “Cookie cutter?” I asked. He nodded.

Lee Barnes Jr.

I sure hope he’s wrong, but, as I’ve said all along, once the mayor and council decided to accept open-ended proposals from four contractors, instead of commissioning a design and then advertising for construction bids to execute the design, the city effectively ceded control of the project to the contractor. We’re basically at Edgemoor’s mercy.

:: At the Brookside Price Chopper this evening, I saw a woman with several plastic bags of groceries at the service counter, going through the bags and picking out certain items to return. It appeared she had bought more than she could pay for and was trying to get the bill within her available cash. While the lady selected items, three small children — apparently hers — clambered around the grocery cart and chattered happily.

It was not pleasant, watching the woman scale back her purchases. But at the very end, something struck me as incongruous. On the bottom level of the cart was a 24-pack of bottled water. She looked at it, pulled it off the cart and put it on the counter. That put her under her cash limit.

I sympathize with the woman’s financial situation, but bottled water? Presumably, she has running water at home. No, it’s not free, but she doesn’t have to pay extra for it.

When I read in The Star last week that the half brother of Cass County murder suspect Kylr Yust had died in the Jackson County jail, apparently having committed suicide, I didn’t attach much significance to it.

The story was by longtime police and courts reporter Tony Rizzo, a versatile and reliable hand who has more than 30 years experience at The Star.

Neither the print nor the online version of the story indicated that Jessep Carter, the half brother, was in any way linked to the cases in which Kylr Yust is charged — the 2007 murder of Kara Kopetsky and the 2016 murder of Jessica Runions.

The victims had one thing in common: Both had dated Kylr Yust.

The story immediately took on much bigger proportions, however, after Steve Porter, a regular reader of the blog and a former reporter for the Olathe News, sent me an email saying he believed Carter had been expected to testify against Yust when the Runions case went to trial. (A date has not been set.)

Steve wrote, “Carter had told prosecutors that Yust admitted to him that he killed Runions, and Carter placed Yust at the scene of Runions’ burning car when he picked up his half-brother.”

If Porter was correct, I thought, it would dramatically ramp up the significance of Jessep Carter’s suicide.

Yesterday I did some checking and discovered Porter was absolutely correct when he said it appeared Carter was expected to be “the state’s key witness” in the Runions case. (He was in jail on an arson charge that apparently was not connected to either of the murders.)

**

Jessica Runions

The operative document in the Runions case is a “probable cause statement” filed by a Belton police officer in October 2017. The document says that on Sept. 10, 2016, a man whom the officer identified as “J.C.” had told police Yust had told him he had strangled and killed Runions.

Investigators had earlier determined that Runions was last seen the night of Sept. 8 leaving a party with Yust.

The probable cause statement says…

“Yust further told the witness that he (Yust) dragged the victim’s body into an undisclosed wooded area, but he could not drag her very far in. The witness further stated that Yust wanted help with burning (Runions’) car. J.C. was with Yust when Yust intentionally set the victim’s vehicle on fire.”

On the basis of J.C.’s account, law enforcement officers arrested Yust the next day at a mobile home owned by J.C. Yust has been in custody ever since.

…It’s fair to assume that J.C. is Jessep Carter. Making Carter’s suicide all the more pivotal is the fact that he was the only person, at least as of October 2017, who offered any highly incriminating evidence against Yust in regard to Runions’ death.

**

Now let’s look at the Kopetsky case.

Fortunately, Yust apparently told at least four people he had choked Kopetsky to death at a time when both were still students at Belton High School.

Kara was last seen at 9:19 a.m. May 4, 2007, leaving the school. Phone records show that Kara had called Yust at 9:13 a.m. and that he had called her at 9:20 a.m. Surveillance footage shows Kopetsky leaving the school but apparently does not show if she met someone.

The probable cause statement identifies by their initials four people to whom Yust allegedly confessed. The initials of the first three people are “K.F.”, “A.C.” and “S.D.”

The initials of the fourth person are “J.C.”

From the context of the probable cause statement, however, I believe that J.C. is not Jessep Carter. The officer who wrote the statement identified J.C. as a cellmate of Yust at an Oklahoma prison in September 2015.

I would find it incredibly coincidental if Yust and his half brother were in an Oklahoma prison together. Beyond that, I would think that if that had actually occurred, prison officials would not have allowed the brothers to be in the same cell…I doubt that wardens put family ties at the top of their priority list in determining cell assignments.

**

Taken together, the information in the probable cause statement and the apparent suicide of Jessep Carter point to two main threads of thought…

:: Unless police and prosecutors have developed additional incriminating evidence in the Runions case, that case could be in serious jeopardy. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that murder charge dropped.

:: The evidence in the Kopetsky case appears much stronger, but keep in mind that case is 11 years old. Time almost always works in the defense’s favor, with witnesses sometimes forgetting key elements, deciding against testifying or just disappearing or even dying, a la Jessep Carter.

It sounds like prosecutors have been trying to drum up new evidence against Yust. Checking records at the Jackson County Courthouse yesterday, I came across an Aug. 22 court order — requested by defense attorneys — prohibiting the state from “sending agents or informants into the Cass County Jail for the purpose of creating witnesses against defendant.”

That tends to indicate prosecutors may have tried to plant one or more people in the jail in hopes of getting Yust to yield incriminating information.

Jessep Carter

Watching how these two cases develop is guaranteed to be interesting, especially in light of Carter’s death.

The mystery of the moment, however, is why Tony Rizzo omitted from his story the pivotal fact that Carter had been identified in the probable cause statement as holding the most incriminating information against Yust in Jessica Runions’ murder. The way he wrote it, it was just another jail suicide.

Question: Do any of you remember the TV drama series Naked City from the ’50s and ’60s? Each episode concluded with the narrator intoning the iconic line: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

Kansas City isn’t New York, and we aren’t the Naked City. But there sure are a lot of strange stories coming out of 1601 McGee these days…

When Kansas City Star management decided in 1977 to sell the then employee-owned newspaper to an up-and-coming, New York-based, publicly owned media company called Capital Cities Inc., Star employees were torn.

On one hand, we knew that after the sale was finalized, The Star — and its morning edition, The Kansas City Times — would never again be the close-knit, family-type operation that made it a secure place to work and where we never had to look beyond Kansas City to track our fate.

On the other hand, every employee who owned stock was getting $2 for every $1 in stock he or she owned. Several people became overnight millionaires. I remember one top manager waving his six-figure check around The New Stanley Bar in Westport and saying, “It would have been a lot more if it weren’t for the two ex-wives!”

I had only been at the paper eight years at the time and had been investing very modestly in the employee-purchase plan. Nevertheless, my approximate $10,000 in Star stock immediately turned into $20,000 — enough for me to make a nice down payment on a two-story house at 51st and Grand. I was 31, it was the first house I had ever owned, and I was walking on air.

None of us who made a significant amount of money was complaining. The paper had enjoyed a good, long run under employee ownership, and the change of direction had been dictated by a handful of people who made what was then — and what continued to be for many years — a wise financial decision.

Where the company had been making something in the range of $5 million a year, the profit margin more than tenfold in several years under new publisher Jim Hale, whom Cap Cities had brought in from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The money was rolling in, circulation was up and the paper grew in thickness and substance.

And yet we employees always realized in the back of our minds that our destiny was no longer in local hands, not even those of the very popular Hale.

A lot of change occurred, gradually at first but then more quickly. And here we are now, more than four decades and three corporate ownership changes later (Walt Disney, Knight Ridder, McClatchy), and what do we have?

Truly, a big mess.

The Star is the most profitable of McClatchy’s 29 or 30 papers, and in some ways it’s a prisoner of its own success. McClatchy would be loathe to sell its biggest revenue producer for anything resembling fair market value. Thus, The Star and other McClatchy papers revolve slowly on the spit that impaled them 12 years ago.

My fondest hope and dream is that The Star, like a handful of other major U.S. dailies, will one day return to local ownership. What it takes, basically, is a “white knight” with oodles of money, a sense of outrage at what is happening to the once-proud local paper, and a commensurate sense of civic responsibility.

Fewer than a handful of people in Kansas City could pull something like this off.

Here are a few who conceivably could make a run at it…And let me preface this by saying I have no idea if any of these people has ever even thought about the prospect of buying The Star. Moreover, I’ve never heard any rumblings or rumors to that effect, which makes me think it’s extremely unlikely.

But nevertheless…

Don Hall Jr.

Don Hall Jr. Hall, chief executive officer of Hallmark Cards, ranks first for four reasons: 1) Incredible wealth; 2) Hallmark has a solid history of civic activism; 3) Hallmark already has a foot in the media business, with its ownership of Crown Media Holdings, whose businesses include the Hallmark Channel, and 4) Hall, who is in his early 60s, has age on his side.

Cliff Illig. Illig is vice chairman and co-founder of Cerner. He’s got the wealth, for sure, but unlike Hall he’s a first-generation success story and doesn’t have anything approaching the Hall family’s portfolio of civic activism. In addition, he already has a significant “extracurricular” investment, being part owner of Sporting Kansas City.

Barnett and Shirley Helzberg. Like the Hall family, the Helzbergs have a history of civic activism — especially with Shirley’s various projects — but I’m guessing the finances would be a tighter squeeze for them. Barnett was chairman of Helzberg Diamonds from 1988 until he sold the company to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 1995. He’s now in his mid-80s, however, and probably content with what he’s done and where he is.

…Remember, I’m just throwing out names here, and I’ve talked to none of them about The Star. However, there are precedents for “white knight” purchases of major metropolitan dailies. Here are three examples…

Patrick Soon-Shiong

:: Most recently, in June, Patrick Soon-Shiong, a Los Angeles surgeon, entrepreneur and philanthropist, purchased the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune from Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing) for $500 million. It was probably an inflated price, but he did it because he could and he wanted to. Soon-Shiong also reportedly has eyes on establishing a California-based network of major dailies and is thought to favor a sale of Tronc (in which he’s a 25 percent owner) to McClatchy.

If that came to pass, he could have a big voice in the management of five major newspapers stretching 500 miles, from San Diego to Sacramento. (A hedge fund I wrote about recently, Chatham Asset Management, would also be a major player if a McClatchy takeover of Tronc became a reality.) In addition to the San Diego and Los Angeles papers, the formidable California line-up would include McClatchy’s Sacramento Bee, Modesto Bee and Fresno Bee. The latter three are aligned in California’s densely populated central valleys.

:: The Minneapolis Star Tribune is a paper that managed to gain its freedom from McClatchy about the time McClatchy bought The Star and the other Knight Ridder papers in 2006. McClatchy purchased the paper from Cowles Media in 1998 and sold it to a private equity firm in 2006. It went into bankruptcy in 2009 and was purchased by an investment group in 2012. In 2014, a Minnesotan named Glen A. Taylor, who had made a fortune in printing and electronics, purchased the paper for $100 million.

Glen A. Taylor

Like Soon-Shiong with the LA Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, Taylor bought at a  premium. He did not take a managing role in the operation, although he appointed his daughter to the board of directors. In Sunday circulation, the Star Trib ranks among the nation’s top 10 newspapers.

:: The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News are two other papers that escaped McClatchy’s clutches. They were included in McClatchy’s purchase of the Knight Ridder papers in 2006, but McClatchy immediately turned around and sold the papers to a group of local business people. The group filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and the papers changed hands a couple of more times before cable TV entrepreneur H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest bought them in 2014 for the unbelievably low price of $16 million. (That’s how far the papers had fallen.) Two years later Lenfest donated the papers to The Philadelphia Foundation and created an institute — now called The Lenfest Institute for Journalism — to oversee operation of the newspapers and their website, philly.com.

H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest

Although the Philadelphia papers went through hell, the ultimate outcome was a big win for the papers and the community. The Lenfest Institute is headed by a board composed mostly of journalism school deans and academic and foundation executives. The new ownership structure allows the newspapers and website to receive philanthropic donations to fund local journalism but also insures the papers’ independence.

After buying the Philadelphia papers and before seeing them under the umbrella of an institute, Lenfest was quoted as saying:

Of all the things I’ve done, I can’t think of anything more important. If we can put the operation of the newspapers in good hands, with responsible leadership and a good board of directors, then I think I will have accomplished a lot for Philadelphia.

Gerry Lenfest died Sunday, Aug. 5, at 88.