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Archive for April, 2013

Dumping the three-terminal, KCI layout got a big boost today from Kansas City Star business editor Keith Chrostowski.

In a Star Business Weekly commentary, Chrostowski laid out, logically and unemotionally, why we need to build a modern airport terminal.

He acknowledged the “40-year love affair” that Kansas City has enjoyed with KCI and noted in the headline that “breaking up is hard to do.”

keith

Chrostowski

That was an excellent way to get the readers’ attention, affirming the warm feelings that many people have for KCI, before weighing in with a set of facts that makes it clear that KCI needs a complete overhaul and new design.

Here are some of the points Chrostowski made:

— As it is, KCI has lost any hope of becoming a hub and essentially is a “fly-over” airport.

— KCI has “16 security stations manned by hundreds of Transportation Security Administration staffers compared with one checkpoint and relatively few TSA staff at most big airports.”

— Once through security, passengers are “trapped” in the barren gate areas.

— Connecting passengers often have to go through security at KCI, even though they already cleared security at their origination point.

— The interior design is antiquated, and the curve of the terminals tends to give travelers the impression that they are in a small airport.

— The loss of flights over the years, coupled with KCI’s “underwhelming impression” has dragged the city’s economy down.

Just as I did yesterday in yesterday’s post, Chrostowski reinforced the point that the money to retire construction bonds would not come from the city’s General Fund but from “a designated revenue stream of fees on airlines and fliers.” Yes, $1.2 billion is a lot of money, but investing it in a new, modern terminal would be far from wasting money, as many people have suggested. It would put us back on the aviation map and would provide the local economy with a tremendous boost.

Finally, Chrostowski noted that most of the money spent on a new airport “would go into the pockets of local contractors and thousands of area construction workers.” Can’t beat that, can you? As the political consultants will tell us when it comes time to approve a bond issue in order to proceed, it would be a major investment in Kansas City’s future.

***

Bravo, Chrostowski! You did a great job of methodically ticking off the reasons why we need to “toss over” this decades-old romance with KCI.

And now, let me say it with a little less restraint:

Let’s dump this damn airport as soon as reasonably possible and get on with building an airport that our children can be proud of and that will serve Kansas City’s needs for decades to come!

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That’s it…the headline, I mean.

That’s the slogan — christened here today on your favorite blog — for the bond-issue campaign (God willing) that will determine if Kansas City builds a new single terminal at KCI or sticks with the one we’ve had for more than 40 years.

I’m hereby giving Pat Gray, Steve Glorioso, Pat O’Neill and other political consultants carte blanche to appropriate the slogan, which, I think, says all voters need to know about why a new, single terminal is a good idea…

“Soar into the future.”

***

OK, so the campaign isn’t going to be the slam dunk I first thought it was going to be. A Save KCI group has formed, and it has a web site. Letters to the editor tilt toward maintaining the status quo, and Mayor Sly James now seems to be hedging his bets.

A front-page story in The Star yesterday said that James supports “moving forward with a study on the merits of a new terminal.” That’s a long way from being unequivocal.

Here’s what he should say…

“This is what we need, Kansas Citians; this an opportunity for us to keep pace — as did with the Power & Light District and Sprint Center — with other top-tier cities. This is an opportunity to build a 21st Century terminal that will be more efficient and will make travelers open their eyes when they arrive in our city.”

That’s what he should say, anyway, if he wants to be remembered like former Mayor Kay Barnes, who gave us Power & Light and the Sprint Center. Or like the late former Mayor Ilus W. Davis, who moved air travel out of Downtown Airport and gave us a major-league airport in Platte County.

(A quick digression: Remember how “convenient” Downtown Airport was?)  

For the campaign to succeed, it’s going to need James’ strong backing. He has built up tremendous credibility with the public. I think that’s great; that’s what enables a mayor to lead. But if James equivocates on this, or if he throws in the towel, Kansas City is hosed. Another opportunity to modernize KCI probably wouldn’t come along for another decade…at least.

***

Earlier, when I put in the mayor’s mouth the words “make travelers open their eyes,” I meant it almost literally.

Look around the next time you go to KCI…Most people are trudging around soporifically, in the dungeon that is Terminal B, looking for someplace decent to get something to eat, other than a day-old croissant or a three-day-old sandwich.

Then, watch those who are “shopping” for items for friends and relatives back home. They flip through the KU, K-State and MU caps and shirts at the news stands, and they quickly move on.

Folks, this place is not far from being a dump!

The only difference between KCI and Kemper Arena is that Kemper Arena was always a dump. It held us back on the sports front for many years. Now, with Sprint Center, we’ve got one of the most successful arenas in the country, and when we have a big concert or basketball tournament down there, the streets, bars and restaurants are filled with happy people. A beautiful sight it is, if you love Kansas City and want it to rank up there with St. Louis, Denver, Indianapolis and Louisville.

Denver_International_Airport_terminal

Denver International Airport

The important thing to realize is that the “convenience” factor, which opponents of a new, single terminal continuously harp on, is an extremely narrow view. Yes, you can get to your airline fairly easily at KCI, but once you go through one of the security checkpoints, you are a prisoner in a smaller holding area where about all you can get are yogurt cups, crackers and bottled drinks.

I was in one of the holding areas recently, and to get to the restrooms I had to walk from one end of the enclosed area to the other and then down at least one long flight of steps. Convenient? Hell, no! A lot of people, like me, don’t have the knees they once did…You should never have to go down a flight of steps to go to a restroom at an airport.

***

Here’s the best thing about a bond election that would have to be held before the city could proceed: If voters approve (by a simple majority), the bonds would be retired solely with revenue generated by the Kansas City Aviation Department.

A lot of people don’t understand this, I fear. They hear that the new terminal is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and their knee-jerk reaction is, “We can’t afford it!”

Not so. Airport-construction bonds would not rely at all on the city’s General Fund, that is, on taxpayer dollars.

The Aviation Department is one of two city departments, along with the Water and Pollution Control, that do not tap the General Fund. They are called “enterprise departments'” because they pay for their operations, totally, with fees they charge.

In the case of the Water and Pollution Control Department, it’s the water and sewer bills we get in the mail every month. In the case of the Aviation Department, it’s fees charged to airlines and other businesses that rent space at the airport. The department’s largest source of income is airline “landing fees” — usually so much money for each 1,000 pounds.

I want to emphasize this point about how the bonds would be financed…Here it is again, straight from yesterday’s Kansas City Star:

“The bonds would be backed by aviation funds — paid by the airlines, passengers, tenants and other users — not general taxpayer dollars.”

No tax dollars…No, it’s not free, but the airlines and other users are paying, and they’re willing to pay because they know it will pay off for them in the long run.

***

Once again, I’m going to quote U.S. Rep. and former Mayor Emanuel Cleaver, who, I’m convinced, got Kansas City focused on the future when he was mayor, after a long period of belly-button gazing.

Here’s what Cleaver used to say — always in an insistent tone of voice:

“This is not some podunk town along I-70. This is Kansas City!”

People, it’s time to cut bait on the existing KCI, with its sodden, antiquated terminals.

Don’t look back; don’t be nostalgic. The KCI of the 70s, with its gleaming, parquet floors and its fresh, clean look, is a thing of the past. Look ahead; let’s Soar into the Future…

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A good friend, Kaler Bole, a businessman who also happens to be a hell of a news hound, called to my attention yesterday a Web site that rates the “best” and “worst” jobs from one year to the next.

Knowing what you do about me and this blog, can you predict what’s coming?

Yes…”newspaper reporter” is rated the worst by CareerCast.com, which claims to be “the Internet’s premier career site for finding targeted job opportunities by industry, function and location.”

jimmyoWith a median, annual salary of $36,000 and a projected 6 percent loss of jobs across the country in 2013, newspaper reporting is far from the promising, adventurous job that it used to be — except for those who have reached the top of the ladder, such as reporters at The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Naturally, the CareerCast report is disappointing to me, particularly since I never envisioned myself doing anything other than being a reporter for about the first 10 years of my working life. Thereafter, I would get a wild hair every once in a while and think about going into P.R., but nothing ever materialized. Besides, once my salary started getting pretty good, I was less interested in changing course.

Today, it’s a lot different. From the outside, newspaper reporting appears to be less interesting, less appreciated and more stressful than it used to be. And the prospects of working up to a high five-figure or low six-figure salary are low, indeed, for the average newspaper reporter. When I got out in 2006, salary suppression was well underway.

As disappointing as the CareerCast report is in regard to newspaper reporting, however, the other side of the ledger — the best job of 2013 — still looks no better, at least to me.

You’d never guess what’s No. 1…Actuary. Yeah, the people who analyze insurance risks and premiums. The median annual salary there, CareerCost.com says, is $87,650. Moreover, CareerCrest forecasts a 27-percent increase in the number of actuary jobs this year.

Follow me on a short side trip now…The worst job I ever had was working at the downtown Sears store in Louisville, KY, for about a week one summer during college. Along with two or three other young people, I sat on the edge of a huge wheel (I’m talking several feet in diameter) of index cards, bearing the handwritten names and addresses of customers who owned Sears appliances. I don’t recall exactly what we did with those cards, but I think it was basically putting them in alphabetical order.

I only made it a week, even though one of my co-workers was a really good-looking girl, who I was interested in getting to know better. Lust was no match for excruciating boredom, and away I flew.  

I have no idea what I was getting paid, but I wouldn’t have stayed if it had been $500 a week — a veritable fortune back then. Same thing goes for being an actuary now: I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it for a salary twice as large as what I made at The Star.

(I’m going to keep that actuarial info handy, though, for our 23-year-old son Charlie, who is tutoring kids in math in Tulsa. The $87,000 figure probably would get his attention.)

Anyway, back to the “best” and “worst” jobs…

These things always fascinate me for some reason, maybe because I like to think, “What if…?” What if I had gone into something else? How might that have gone?

***

For what it’s worth, then, here are the rest of “the best” jobs of 2013.

2. Biomedical engineer ($81,540 median salary; 62 percent increase in such jobs projected this year)

3. Software engineer ($90,530; 30 percent job growth)

4. Audiologist ($66,660; 37 percent job growth)

5. Financial planner ($64,750; 32 percent job growth)

6. Dental hygienist ($68,250; 38 percent job growth)

7. Occupational therapist ($72,320; 33 percent job growth)

8. Optometrist ($94,990; 33 percent job growth)

9. Physical therapist ($76,310; 39 percent job growth)

10. Computer systems analyst ($77,740; 22 percent job growth)

***

And here are the rest of “the worst.”

2. Lumberjack, ($32,870; 4 percent job growth)

3. Enlisted military personnel ($41,998 for employees ranked E-7 with 8+ years experience; job growth not predicted)

4. Actor ($17.44 per hour; 4 percent job growth)

5. Oil rig worker ($37,640; 8 percent job growth)

6. Dairy farmer ($60,750; 8 percent job loss)

7. Meter reader ($36,400; 10 percent job loss)

8. Letter carrier ($53,090; 26 percent job loss)

9. Roofer ($34, 220; 18 percent job growth)

10 Flight attendant ($37,740; no growth or loss predicted)

***

Armed with all the above information, if I were graduating from college next month, I think I’d still choose writing as a career. Probably not newspaper reporting, but some sort of writing. As you can tell, it agrees with me.

What about you…What would you do?

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Ever since the newspaper industry and TV began chasing the Internet Express, trying to catch up with the fast-changing way in which news was being gathered and reported, the news media’s credibility has sunk ever lower.

I don’t really know how it could have been avoided because if the old-line media organizations had not jumped on board — however awkwardly — they would have been left farther behind than they are. Still, this loss of credibility is just appalling to me and many other past and present members of the media.

What I’m talking about is the old media lowering the accuracy and editing bar that it had painstakingly established over generations. The first big belly dive into the mud occurred the night of the 2000 presidential election, when the major networks, including CNN and Fox, called Florida for Al Gore prematurely and later stamped George Bush as the winner of the presidential election — 19 days before the Florida vote count was certified and Bush declared the winner by 500 some votes.

As I recall, we at The Star were one of many news organizations that had Bush winning on our Web site. I believe that in the morning paper, we went with too close to call.

All in all, the media’s performance that night made the classic, 1948 Chicago Tribune headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman,” start to seem not so embarrassing in retrospect.

There have been many other erroneous, main-line-media Web site reports since the 2000 presidential election, but this week brought another new low: The Associated Press, The Boston Globe, CNN and Fox News all reported early Wednesday afternoon that an arrest had been made in the Boston bombings case, when, in fact, no arrest had been made.

A story by Bill Carter in yesterday’s New York Times said that CNN and Fox “spent about an hour discussing the news of an arrest with various correspondents and experts before backing off when they received further information.”

It was the same two networks that breathlessly reported — again erroneously — last June that the Supreme Court had overturned President Obama’s health-care-overhaul law.

I guess officials at some of these networks have come to the conclusion that if you don’t know for sure, run it anyway because it will seem to advance the story.

The last thing the network executives want, it seems, is anchors and reporters saying, “We’re waiting for new information.” The new credo at some networks and newspapers is There Can Be No Wait; It Must Be Now!

CNN’s John King was the first to set his network’s pants on fire when, at 12:45 p.m. Kansas City time, he reported that police had a bombing suspect in custody.

king

In his NYT story, Carter said that about 1:45 p.m., “one of CNN’s law enforcement experts…appeared on the air and reported and reported that he had three sources who assured him no arrest had been made.”

And how did CNN explain its screw-up? It issued this statement:

“CNN had three credible sources on both local and federal levels. Based on this information we reported our findings.”

Their “findings” were nothing more than “phantom findings,” and CNN should have apologized.

The Associated Press also didn’t see fit to extend its regrets about its messy reporting. Carter wrote: “Paul Colford, a spokesman for The Associated Press, said later in the afternoon that the news service did not ‘pull back’ from its original reporting, but only ‘added other reporting.’ ”

Well, now, that’s a fine kettle of fish, isn’t it? “Added other reporting…”

As the reactions of CNN and the AP indicate, the worst part of this “it-could-be-right-or-it-could-be-wrong” approach to Internet-era reporting is that there’s no need to apologize, no need to be embarrassed, just keep rolling out whatever some ding-dong whispers to the stressed-out, over-caffeinated reporters in the field.

Culminating his story, Carter quoted Judy Muller, a former network news correspondent who teaches journalism at the University of Southern California. She said:

“The rush to be first has so thoroughly swallowed up the principal of being right and first that it seems a little egg on the face is now deemed worth the risk.”

Quite often, people ask me if I miss working as a journalist. I always say that I don’t miss it at all and that I am happy to be out.

I respect the vast majority of journalists, especially my former Star colleagues, but I’ve got to say that when we started chasing the Internet back in the late 1990s, our “quality control” system — based on verified reporting, careful copy editing and several sets of eyes on every story in line for publication — quickly went to hell.

I could not come to grips with throwing under-reported, poorly edited stories up on the Web just to try to keep up with the local TV stations.

As a result of the free-wheeling reporting that has supplanted careful, verified reporting, the reputation of American journalism has, sorrowfully, slipped into a huge sinkhole, and I don’t know how it’s going to get out. It looks like it could go the route of that guy in Florida who was swallowed up by the earth and never resurfaced.

***

All that is not to say that some newspapers and networks have not done great things in opening new doors afforded by the Internet. For example, perhaps you saw that The New York Times won four Pulitzer prizes this week, for stories published in 2012, including John Branch’s spectacular feature “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek.” I wrote admiringly about that story in December, a few days after it was published. I quoted Rebecca Greenfield of The Atlantic Wire Web, who said that the project “makes multimedia feel natural and useful, not just tacked on.”

The Times, with pockets deep enough to hire experts in every dimension of news gathering and presentation, has done the best job of melding newsprint journalism and electronic journalism. It also has resisted the urge, for the most part, to go with unverified reports in the race to be first on big stories. But, alas, even The Times got sucked in on the Bush “victory” on election night 2000.

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Yael Abouhalkah had a very interesting column in yesterday’s Star, in which he touched on some of the biggest challenges facing Kansas City Mayor Sly James at the halfway point of his first term.

First off, Abouhalkah said James is in great position to get re-elected in 2015 because “no current City Council member comes close to matching the wattage of James’ personality or his ability to influence policies and programs at City Hall.”

In the past (with the notable exception of James in 2011), the strongest candidates for mayor generally have come from the council’s ranks, and none of this council’s other members seems to be establishing a high profile for himself or herself.

Some of the major challenges that Abouhalkah listed were:

— Construction of a new, single terminal at KCI

— Proposed local control of the KCPD

— City Hall pension reform

In brief, here’s what Yael had to say about each of those issues…and my observations (not as brief).

Single terminal

Yael: “If it (the single-terminal concept) remains as unpopular  as it seems with a large contingent of Kansas Citians, James could face a possible defeat on a major issue.”

Me: Organized opposition to a single-terminal is growing, with the formation of a Save KCI! (savekci.com) group, and letters to the editor continue to tilt heavily to the status quo. Yesterday, the City Council voted 9-3 to move ahead with further planning for construction of a new, single terminal. The mayor voted with the majority, but it appears that he has begun equivocating on his previous strong stance in favor of a single terminal.

In a report on the meeting, KSHB-TV, Channel 41, said that James “admitted he is not completely sold on the current proposal, but said since Kansas City is not obligated to anything at this point, the process needs to continue.”

I don’t think James’ position on this issue will be a major factor in whether he gets re-elected. If he is going to establish himself as a strong leader on difficult issues, however, and if he wants to be remembered as a bold and farsighted mayor, he needs to stay out front for a single terminal and resist the impulse to assuage those who are steadfastly parochial and nostalgic about KCI.

If you’ve traveled to just a few other major airports in the U.S., you know that KCI sucks by comparison in just about every aspect except the distance between parking and gate. Now, that is an important consideration, but the facts…that KCI is way too expensive from a security standpoint and that it’s a HOLLOW, DARK, BORING, ANTIQUATED PIECE OF SHIT... far outstrip the convenience factor.

The correct call on KCI is as clear as it was on Sprint Center and the Power & Light District. If Mayor Kay Barnes hadn’t led courageously and pushed hard for those two massive attractions, Downtown would be a fuckin’ wasteland, and we would be well below Omaha (not to mention St. Louis, Denver and Louisville) in the category of downtown venues that attract tourists and area residents.

It seems abundantly clear that if we don’t get a modern airport within the next several years, usage of KCI will continue to drop dramatically and the airlines will shift many flights to other cities.

Don’t let us down on this, Sly. This isn’t a re-election issue; it’s a legacy issue. Do you want to be remembered as a big, energetic guy with a big personality — another H. Roe Bartle — or as a mayor who catapulted us into the ranks of big cities with great airports? 

Local control of KCPD

Yael: “The mayor appears ready to embrace local control of the Police Department…But if the panel (a commission he has appointed) balks at local control — or the (Missouri) legislature gives James the cold shoulder next year — the mayor could lose out on a key issue of how taxpayers finance public safety.”

Me: Again, I don’t think this is a big deal either way as far as the mayor’s chances of getting re-elected. (Can we just acknowledge that he’s going to serve six more years?)

But, just as with the single terminal at KCI, local control is an issue whose time has come. In fact, it came about 15 years ago, but the police bureaucracy has such a stranglehold on operations and on the Board of Police Commissioners that it’s been difficult for the advocates of progress to get any traction. James has wedged a foot in the door with the appointment of the panel to review the idea, but my guess is that the police hierarchy (along with just about every brain-washed, puffed-up police board member who has served during the last 30 years) will stamp their feet and holler so long and loud that the change agents will back off for another decade.

Sly James just might end up leading the local-control retreat, too…If he does, it will be another missed opportunity to be remembered as a gutsy, decisive mayor whose first interest was the taxpayers, not police commanders or the fat-cat commissioners appointed by Missouri governors.

Pension reform

Yael: “He (James) is still working to reform the unsustainable pensions for firefighters, police officers and other city employees — almost 18 months after a citizens commission delivered a how-to report on the issue in late 2011. The cost to taxpayers for retirement benefits has reached $60 million annually, up from $54 million two years ago.”

Me: Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Turn on the laugh tracks…Pension reform involving the firefighters? After James rode high and tall in a fire truck at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade a week before the 2011 election? And after he donned a bright red KCFD jacket after the JJ’s tragedy and said, famously, “Fire (department) doesn’t do gas.” ????

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Mayor Sly James and Fire Chief Paul Berardi after the JJ’s explosion

The chances of meaningful pension reform involving the fire department during the next six years are slim and none.

The next mayor, though? The unfortunate, winning candidate who succeeds James?

Well, the pension situation will be at crisis point by then; the new mayor and City Council will have to do some incredible belt-tightening and make some mighty unpopular moves; and they’ll all serve one term and be thrown out of office.

Thanks in advance, Sly.

***

Editor’s note: You’ll recall that I wrote about the steps taken by the North Kansas City Mayor and City Council to put in motion a possible sale of North Kansas City Hospital. Well, last night KCPT ran a nine-minute piece, reported by special correspondent Sam Zeff. It featured, among other things, an interview with me, as well as video of Patty’s clothing manufacturing business on Swift Avenue. Here’s the link. If you watch it, I think you’ll find it interesting.

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Three things in particular have cropped up in the news in recent days that call out for closer inspection under the JimmyC microscope:

Charlie Wheeler’s financial dilemma

The amazing parallel between the Rutgers and Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese scandals

The Star’s telling story about why MGE didn’t shut off the gas valve to JJ’s

***

I’m proud to call Charlie Wheeler a good friend. I admired him and wrote a few stories about him during his years as mayor, from 1971-1979. Since retiring in 2005, I have worked as a volunteer in two of his last three political campaigns: county executive in 2006 and state treasurer in 2008. In the 2011 mayoral race, while working as a volunteer for Mike Burke, I helped arrange for Wheeler, who was also in the race, to throw his support to Burke shortly before the primary election. Burke, in one of the slickest political moves I’ve ever seen, also managed to reel in former mayors Dick Berkley and Kay Barnes. It wasn’t enough, of course, as Sly James, with his big personality and big head start, went on to beat Burke handily.

I learned several years ago that Charlie didn’t pay close attention to his finances, preferring instead to roam about town as an ambassador at large and dispenser of witty and insightful political observations.

P1000331

Photo by JimmyCsays

As far as I can tell, while Charlie helped quite a few people get rich (or richer) while he was mayor, such as the late Frank Morgan and lawyer I.I. (Double I) Ozar, he never made a dime off politics, other than his salary. He’s similar, in that respect, to the late, great House Speaker Sam Rayburn, who was one of the two or three most powerful men in politics for years but died with about $25,000 to his name.

So, last week, out comes the story on page A4 of The Star, saying that Wheeler is facing the loss of his home on 53rd Street, just west of Loose Park. He has fallen way behind on his house payments, particularly taxes and homeowner’s insurance, and the house is scheduled to be sold on the courthouse steps this week.

He and his wife, Marjorie, who is an invalid, are supposedly moving into a duplex on Pennsylvania, which, I understand, might be owned by a friend.

My arm’s length observation on the situation is that regardless of how beloved a person is or how clean his reputation is, he’s still gotta write the checks for what he owes. My less-than-arm’s-length observation is that I sure hope this turns out OK for Charlie and Marjorie and that we don’t see a photo in The Star of their personal property stacked up on the curb of West 53rd Street.

Charlie, if you’re reading this, listen to me: One story is enough.

***

I trust that most of you are aware of the situation at Rutgers University, where the athletic director, Tim Pernetti, failed last year to fire basketball coach Mike Rice after he was made aware of videos that showed Rice physically and verbally abusing players during practices. The Rutgers president, Robert Barchi, subsequently went along with Pernetti’s decision to fine Rice $75,000 and suspend him for three games. The key thing here is that Barchi did not view the videos, or at least says he didn’t.

barchi

Robert Barchi

The shit hit the fan last week, however, after ESPN got ahold of the videos. The clips prompted an immediate outcry, and late last week Pernetti resigned and Barchi was clinging to his job. He was apparently spared because he had not actually seen the videos. (It should be noted that some faculty members are continuing to call for his head.)

I was in Philadelphia over the weekend — Rutgers is close by in New Jersey — and I read everything I could get my hands on about the scandal. In Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, a sports columnist named Bob Ford explained in a single sentence how Barchi managed to slip the noose:

“One does not become a university president without cultivating a close relationship with deniability.”

I had already been thinking how closely the Barchi-Pernetti situation mirrored the scandal surrounding Bishop Robert Finn last year.  After it surfaced that the Rev. Shawn Ratigan had surreptitiously taken pornographic photos of elementary school girls at the parish where he was pastor in Kansas City, North, Finn attempted to shift the blame to Vicar General Robert Murphy, saying that he himself never saw the photos and that he relied on Murphy’s assessment that the photos were not pornographic.

In other words, Finn gave himself deniability.

That didn’t fly with a Jackson County Circuit Court judge, of course, who found Finn guilty of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child abuse. Now, Finn, who is on probation for two years, stands as the most senior Catholic official convicted in the church’s long-running child sex-abuse scandal.

Nevertheless, Finn has refused to resign, even after ruining the reputation of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese. Like Barchi, he’d rather carry on tattooed with shame than bow out gracefully and allow his organization to start afresh with new leadership.

***

The Star’s “Mr. Energy,” reporter Steve Everly, confirmed for readers on Sunday why MGE did not shut off the gas valve to JJ’s restaurant before the Feb. 19 explosion that killed server Megan Cramer and injured several others. The reason? It would have been costly and time consuming to restore service to customers in the area.

Restoring service involves utility employees going around from house to house, business to business, relighting pilot lights.

Everly wrote:

“Instead of shutting the valves when the smell of gas was in the air before the February blast that leveled JJ’s restaurant, Missouri Gas Energy waited for a backhoe to arrive from Raymore — more than 20 miles away — in a failed attempt to vent the leak.”

God help us…We’re on our own, aren’t we?

MGE employees tell a fire department crew that they have the situation “under control” — meaning they’re sitting on their hands waiting for a backhoe — and the firefighters get on the truck and drive off. All the while, several sitting ducks, mostly JJ’s employees, go about their business having no idea what’s in store for them.

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