I feel like a displaced person. For the last several days, we’ve been having the hardwood floors refinished in our Brookside home, and I’ve been checking e-mail and writing blog entries at the library. (I have no intention of hanging out at the coffee shop or Panera like some sort of squatter.)
So, in keeping with my living-out-of-grocery-sacks lifestyle during this period (which ends tomorrow), here are a couple of random items.
:: My jaw dropped when I read the lead letter to the editor in Tuesday’s Kansas City Star. The letter, from DeWayne Steele of Kansas City, began like this: “Before serious consideration is given to building a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport, some questions must be answered. Who currently owns the land where the new terminal will be built, and who will profit the most from a new terminal’s location?”
He goes on to explain his cynicism by saying that in the 1960s “some individuals made a financial killing on buying up farm land and then reselling it to the city to construct KCI’s terminals.”
Why The Star would run a letter like this is beyond me. It’s completely baffling. No disrespect to Mr. Steele, but KCI is built on 10,000 acres. Ten thousand acres. The city would not buy any more land to build a new terminal; it would consolidate on the land it already owns.
One of the jobs of an editor is to keep embarrassing things out of the paper, and I’m afraid that this is an example of how the paper has become diminished through layoffs. One of those laid off several months ago was Julie Rehm, who edited the letters to the editor. She was very good at dealing with the public and keeping the letters page vibrant and interesting. It doesn’t just happen; it takes thought and work.
Her successor is Lewis Diuguid, an op-ed columnist who is a member of The Star’s editorial board. Under Lewis, it seems to me, the letters page has drifted and lost its edge. When you see a letter like Mr. Steele’s, it’s a clear sign that shoddy editing is at play. To save money, The Star simply dumped responsibility for the letters on Diuguid, and it probably isn’t a high priority for him.
(Since retiring in 2006, I’ve had several letters to the editor published. With this blog entry, there may be no more.)
:: The most provocative quote I’ve seen in the paper in a long time appeared Sunday in Scott Canon’s excellent take-out on the impending implosion (which didn’t happen, fortunately) of the Big 12 conference.
Canon touched on the “smarminess of college sports, its never-ending scandals and the manner in which money shoves aside concerns about academics and loyalty.” That set up this comment from Crosby “Chris” Kemper III, director of the Kansas City Public Library and a member of the city’s prominent banking family.
“What’s lost has already been corrupted,” Kemper said, referring to the expected break-up of the Big 12. “We need to stop looking at the Big Eight, the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the NCAA as things that bring prestige and make us a better community. They don’t.”
That brought my reading to a temporary, screeching halt. I was tempted, of course, to let out a knee-jerk, “Yes, that’s so right!” Certainly, if the Big 12 had broken up and Kansas City had been left in the lurch, from the college sports standpoint, I might well have fully embraced Kemper’s attitude.
But I think that would have been sour grapes…not to mention a bit elitist. Sure, big money drives college sports. But it also drives business decisions, such as where companies choose to locate and whether funds are sufficient to renovate a downtown bank building into a grand central library facility. (Fortunately for Kansas City, that money was available.)
In other words, if you want to attract companies, if you want a fine downtown library building, and if you want access to big-time college athletics, it takes money. And, luckily for Kansas City, the money (i.e., TV contracts) is falling in such a way that it became clear to the Big 12 schools — minus Nebraska and Colorado — that staying together made the most sense.
I’m not buying Kemper’s viewpoint, then. I think the Big 12 does make Kansas City a better community…even if greed is ultimately responsible. As a sports fan, I’m simply enjoying the fruits of the 10 universities’ association. I’m not stealing anything. No need for me — or you — to go to confession, is there?