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Archive for October, 2013

Tonight, for the fourth time in the last two weeks or three weeks, I listened to proponents of the half-cent, medical-research sales tax make their sales pitch at a public meeting.

And for the fourth time, I watched the opponents present their case.

(Tonight’s meeting was of the South Kansas city Alliance in a fire station/meeting hall complex at 97th and Marion Park Drive.)

After watching and participating in those four meetings, I can tell you that a clear trend has developed.

Here’s how it goes:

The proponents — the speakers vary from one place to another — do a workmanlike job of laying out their cards.

The problem is they have a weak hand and that their selling points — “Jackson County could be a destination for health care”…”We could make ground-breaking advances”…”This is an investment that will generate a return” — are general and unconvincing.

On the other hand, we, the opponents, always make a much stronger case, with arguments such as:  “Forty million dollars a year could put to much better use than on a local medical-research program;” “Sales taxes are already too high, and they hit poor people the hardest;” and “The proposed tax looks like a money grab.”

But I have noticed another element that is Just as important as having a superior case:  Most of us opponents speak with passion. And that’s because, where the civic elite are propping up and dispatching their minions around the county, the opponents are fighting tooth and nail for what is in the best interests of their neighborhoods and their county.

As I said at last week’s Citizens Association meeting, we are in a street fight with very wealthy people. And we dearly want to kick their asses, partly because the civic elite were so cavalier about bringing this extravagant and foolish proposal forward and getting the County Legislature to slip it onto the Nov. 5 ballot.

Fleece10The civic leaders’ ambush — launched just three weeks before the Aug. 27 deadline for putting a measure on the ballot — was very calculated.

Their strategy from the outset has been very simple:

Rush the proposal onto the ballot without anything approaching a full, public airing; run a heavily financed, six-week campaign; and try to fool enough people — through TV ads and splashy brochures — to skim to victory in a special, one-issue election with a light voter turnout. 

The problem is that this arrogant, condescending strategy has started to make a lot of people really angry, and I think the turnout could end up being significantly larger than the 10 percent (of registered voters) that some election officials are predicting.

Tonight in Southtown, for example, a man named Lou Austin spoke in a raised voice as he recounted his own medical problems but asserted that a local sales tax should not go toward a bloated medical-research program. The city and his own south Kansas City area had many other, higher needs, he said.

He also drew nods and utterances of agreement when he spoke angrily about the proponents’ ability to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars with a few snaps of the fingers.

(I’m not sure one person among 50 or six on hand tonight was in favor of the tax proposal — besides, of course, the proponents’ presenters.)

Yes, this is a David and Goliath situation.

But our slingshot-launched pellets are opening big holes in Goliath’s flimsy armor, and they’re starting to take their toll.

…Wouldn’t it be great to see arrogance and entitlement brought crashing to the ground?

**

For much more about the proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research,” go to stopabadcure.org

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It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? This editorial splashed all across the top of the Sunday KC Star editorial page?

How could we opponents of Jackson County Question 1 ask for more? Can’t. Won’t. We’re very happy.

I called Clinton Adams of Freedom Inc. at 10 o’clock last night, after reading the editorial online. He was at his girlfriend’s house.

“Clinton,” I shouted into the phone, “Great news…”

He was equally excited.

Despite the precipitous decline of daily newspaper fortunes around the country, the big-city dailies remain the most credible molders of public opinion within their coverage areas.

Many, many people tend to follow the lead of their local paper, mainly because most people don’t pay a lot of attention to political and governmental developments, day in and day out. Instead, they rely on their newspaper to sort it out and point them in the direction of the best public interests.

Ohhhh, I can already hear the scoffing and howling at that idealistic assertion:

“Hardly anybody reads anything printed any more.”

“The paper is so damned one-sided (liberal, for sure) I don’t pay any attention to it.”

“It’s a bunch of elitists down there, sending out ultra-low-frequency waves and trying to control our minds.”

I’ve heard it all. (Maybe not that last one, but it’s coming.)

But I worked at The Star for 36 years, and I know that the newspaper’s editorial voice has always spoken in the best interests of the city and the region.

In fact, there’s only been one instance that I’m aware of when a publisher overruled an editorial-board majority. I think it was when Bill Waris was running for re-election as Jackson County executive in 1987. Then-Publisher Jim Hale wanted to endorse him, for one reason or another, while the editorial board was decidedly against it.

With gritted teeth, somebody had to write the endorsement editorial, not believing a word of what he or she wrote.

**

Besides the newspaper’s credibility, there’s at least on other reason that Sunday’s editorial was so important.

People who read the paper tend to vote…especially in special elections. The proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research” is the only thing on the county ballot, everywhere except Blue Springs, which also has a half-cent-sales-tax proposal for city parks. (How do you think Blue Springs residents are going to feel about the medical-research tax?)

More than anything else — more than TV and radio ads, billboards, mailers, public hearings — that Sunday editorial will influence votes on Nov 5.

In the past week or so, I’ve written about what a terrible job The Star is doing of reporting developments on the sales-tax campaign. It didn’t report, in print, the decisions of Freedom Inc. and the Citizens Association to recommend that voters reject the tax. It mentioned the developments online, but you had to be Inspector Clousseau to find those mentions.

But on the editorial page, Yael Abouhalkah is watching…watching out for the public interest, as he has for about 25 years or so, “covering” City Hall and Jackson County, to a lesser extent.

A lot of people don’t like Yael’s commentaries; they regard him as a guy with a funny name who’s trying to dictate public policy.

You know what? He’s more right and more credible than the politicians…

He doesn’t take campaign contributions or money under the table; he doesn’t go out drinking with the pols;  and when he writes the lead editorial on a Sunday paper that goes to more than 300,000 households, people pay attention.

Papers across the nation have editorial page writers like Yael — although probably not nearly as good, in most cases — evaluating elected officials, tax proposals and government trends, and trying to point the best way forward for their cities.

In the short term, right here in Jackson County, the best way forward is to turn back the civic elite’s goofball proposal that county residents pay for their extravagant pet project. You know it’s a phony-baloney deal — The Kansas City Star says so.

**

For much more on the sales tax, check out stopabadcure.org

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The Kansas City Star today delivered a sledgehammer blow to the prospects for Jackson County’s proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research.”

In an editorial that will appear in Sunday’s printed edition, The Star said that “local taxpayers in a single county” should not have to bear the cost of “the emerging niche” of translational medical research.

In the medical sense, “translational” means reducing the time frame, as much as possible, between discoveries and getting products and pharmaceuticals into the marketplace.

The editorial, probably written by chief political editorial writer Yael Abouhalkah, eloquently explores the many flaws in the proposal, which was the brainchild of Kansas City’s civic elite.

The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, consisting of area business leaders, already has poured at least $600,000 into a TV-heavy campaign designed to win voter approval of the measure on Nov. 5.

The editorial said, in part:

“An extra half-cent sales tax, raising $40 million annually for the next 20 years, levied on the second poorest county in the area (after Wyandotte) puts an unfair, regressive burden on a limited slice of the region in search of national advances.”

The editorial noted that 10 Kansas City health-care institutions “already invest million of dollars in research annually and can claim 2,000 scientists among them.”

A separate institution, the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, “spends $70 million a year on basic research and has built an enviable reputation,” the newspaper said.

The editorial also made the following points:

— The Civic Council leaders “failed to reach out early to a broad swath of the community to reveal its effort” or rally public support for a drive to raise money privately, including from corporations.

— The three-week period between introduction and county legislative agreement to put the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot did not allow for public input.

Turning to “alternative scenarios,” The Star made these suggestions:

“Build a larger private/philanthropic movement in advance of another, better-planned tax appeal.”

“Encourage Stowers and the Kauffman Foundation, with its entrepreneurial interests, to help coordinate a push for added private funds and venture capital interest.”

“Promote more spending on medical research by hospitals such as St. Luke’s and Children’s Mercy — which have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for building renovations in recent years — before they become recipients of large amounts of local tax dollars.”

The Star’s editorial board consists of Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish; Editorial Page Editor Miriam Pepper; Abouhalkah; and columnists Barbara Shelly and Lewis Diuguid.

Foreshadowing today’s editorial, Abouhalkah for weeks has been writing columns critical of the measure.

Shelly attempted to balance the scales on Friday, Oct. 4, when she wrote an Op-Ed column saying that the sales-tax measure “deserves at least to be judged on its merits and not on distractions.” The distractions she referred to included opposition contentions that the proposal was “a greedy cop-out,” in Shelly’s words.

In staking out its position, The Star joined several civic and political organizations in denouncing the measure.

Organizations opposing the tax are the east-side political club Freedom Inc.; the nonpartisan, city-oriented Citizens Association; and the local branches of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP.

Two registered campaign committees are working against the measure: Citizens for Responsible Research and the committee that I registered a day after the County Legislature approved the vote — Committee to Stop a Bad Cure.

**

You can read this same story on the stopabadcure.org.

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Greetings from the campaign trail!

I believe momentum is building on our side, and it’s a sweet thing to see and feel.

Wherever I go, people tell me they think the proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research” is not a county government priority or responsibility and that taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab for the proponents’ extravagant, $1 billion program.

One of the things that galls me about this tax is that it did not originate with county government. Our civic leaders hurled it at the Jackson County Legislature, and it crashed down on the courthouse steps like a meteor, hissing and smoking.

Almost invariably, proposed tax proposals start within governments. For example, let’s say that city officials are facing a backlog of road, bridge and curb repairs. The bureaucrats might take their case to the City Council and ask the council to put a quarter-cent sales tax on the ballot (or some other tax or fee) to finance the project.

Another example: The Parks Department needs more money for the zoo and for other park district improvements, and it asks the City Council to put a half-cent sales tax on the ballot.

By the way, that’s exactly what happened last year, and voters approved the new tax. Moreover, it passed with no help from the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City (the group that is behind the medical-research tax), which refused to endorse it.

The point is, the civic bigwigs foisted the latest tax proposal on the County Legislature in August, just three weeks before the deadline for putting a measure on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Pressured by wealthy people, the Cowardly Legislature voted to put the measure on the ballot, even though nobody seemed to like it except County Executive Mike Sanders.

Sanders is sucking up to the Civic Council in hopes that its members will shower him with large contributions when he runs for statewide office.

The whole thing stinks.

**

…Anyway, I wanted to tell you how the endorsement battle is shaping up and show you a couple of photos.

As you know, we — the opponents — have had a very successful two weeks, with Freedom Inc. recommending a “no” vote last week and the Citizens Association putting its “bullshit” stamp on the measure this week.

Earlier, the local branches of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP came out against the measure, which will be Question 1 on the Nov. 5 ballot. (It will be the only question on the ballot in all but one municipality.)

On the other side, here are the groups and organizations that have endorsed the proposal:

The Committee for County Progress, Firefighters Local 42, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Mattie Rhodes Center and the Latino Civic Engagement Collaborative.

Of those, the firefighter union is the most significant because the firefighters and their families go to the polls and vote. In their spare time, the firefighters should be teaching civics classes in our local high schools.

I have no idea why the firefighters have endorsed the issue, other than that, like Sanders, I’m sure they want to be in good stead with civic leadership when it comes time to battle with the city over salaries and departmental manpower.

Certainly they aren’t for it because they’ve got hearts of gold and want to see cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis stamped out right here in Jackson County.

**

Now on to those photos.

Here’s a photo of one of four billboards the Committee to Stop a Bad Cure has up around town. This one — and the board directly behind it — is at 80th Terrace and Wornall, on the east side of the street.

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And here’s a new photo of me, which I have put on the committee’s stopabadcure.org website.

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Be sure to check out that website periodically. New posts go up every other day or so. A new one — delving into what “translational research” is all about — went up today.

Pax vobiscum (Peace be with you.) But let’s continue fighting like hell!

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The Committee for Research, Treatments and Cures must be getting used to rejection by now.

Tonight, the Citizens Association, a non-partisan, Kansas City political organization followed the lead of several other political and civic organizations and recommended that citizens vote against the proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research.”

The Citizens Association is the fourth major organization to come out against the tax, which will be on the ballot throughout Jackson County on Nov. 5.

The others have been the local branch of the League of Women Voters, the local branch of the NAACP, and Freedom Inc., the powerful, east-side Democratic organization.

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Dr. Wayne O. Carter spoke Tuesday night in favor of a half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research.” Standing to the side was Pete Levi, who also spoke on behalf of proponents.

The Citizens Association has been in existence since 1934 and has long stood for progressive and honest government. The association was largely responsible for breaking the Pendergast organization’s stranglehold on city government.

The association usually limits its range to city activities, but it made an exception in this case. Association Chairman Dan Cofran came out against the tax proposal on this blog on Sept. 5.

Members of the board of directors said the board voted overwhelmingly to oppose the tax, which would extract $40 million to $50 million a year from the pockets of Jackson County residents.

A news release from the Citizens Association said:

While well intended and thoughtful, local sales taxes are regressive, are getting too high in our community, and in any event should be used carefully to provide services that only government can provide, for example, basic local government services.

In addition, the community would benefit from having more time to consider this relatively complicated proposal.

Proponents of  the tax — primarily the biggest business and law-firm leaders — dropped the tax proposal on the Jackson County Legislature three weeks before the deadline for the legislature to put a measure on the Nov. 5 ballot. After being heavily lobbied by the monied set, the legislature voted 7-2 to put Question 1 on the ballot.

…Before making its decision Tuesday night, the Citizens’ board heard from representatives of both sides of the issue.

Representing the Committee for Research, Treatments and Cures were former Chamber of Commerce President Pete Levi and Dr. Wayne O. Carter, president of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, which is a driving force behind the proposed Translational Medicine Institute of Jackson County.

Representing the opponents were Linda Vogel Smith of the League of Women Voters, Marcus Leach of Citizens for Responsible Research and yours truly, treasurer of the Committee to Stop a Bad Cure.

The board members had many questions for the proponents but none for the opponents.

Although the Committee for Research, Treatments and Cures is losing the endorsement battle badly, it has, as noted above, at least $1.5 million to spend on its campaign. Most of that has been contributed by the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City (from organizational coffers), construction and engineering firms, lawyers and wealthy individuals.

The proponents’ campaign will rely primarily on TV advertising and full-color, four-page mailers to frequent voters. They also have hired the area’s best local political consultants, including Jeff Roe, Steve Glorioso, Pat Gray and Pat O’Neill.

We, the opponents, will rely on appearances before neighborhood organizations, limited TV ads, newspaper ads, billboards, yard signs and flyers.

**

Of note to some of you, The Kansas City Star held fast with its apparent new policy of not reporting major endorsements immediately after they happen. Reporter Mike Hendricks attended the meeting, but he did not write a news story for the kansascity.com website.

Last week, the paper didn’t bother to send a reporter to monitor the Freedom Inc. board meeting and, on Friday, it relegated the Freedom Inc. development to a throwaway paragraph in an otherwise unrelated political column. If you could find it, Yael Abouhalkah also wrote a column for the website’s “Opinion” section. Neither piece made a printed edition of the paper, as far as I could tell.

It’s too bad that Star readers, most of whom VOTE, are not getting these significant news developments in a timely manner and on readily observable website pages.

The paper is missing a chance to connect with its core readers, baby boomers and elderly people, many of whom have subscribed for years and rely on the paper to keep stay informed.

Oh, well…let’s hope those readers hear the political news by word of mouth.

**

You can see the same story on the Committee to Stop a Bad Cure website…http://stopabadcure.org

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Fresh on the heels of shooting a big hole in The Star’s “coverage” of the proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research,” I’m now turning the big guns on The Examiner.

It used to be the The Independence Examiner, but I guess they now see themselves as a mighty journalistic force throughout Eastern Jackson County.

Ever so often, it seems, The Examiner publishes something called the EJC Business Review, which essentially is a puff-piece special section that strokes various business interests, including local chambers of commerce and economic development councils.

At The Star, we used to publish similar sections, calling them “Progress” editions. The reporters and editors hated doing them, but the cop-out wasn’t as transparent as The Examiner’s Business Review.

The idea behind such sections, from a newspaper’s standpoint, basically is: If you advertise in the section, we’ll give you some good press.

You might say, “What about that so-called wall between the ad side and the editorial side?” Well, sometimes the wall is conveniently ignored for the sake of money.

Anyway, a friend whose office is in Independence gave me the section the other day, and it is the mother of all suck-ups.

P1030053It’s 32 pages and has lots of ads, including what appear to be a lot of legally mandated notices, such as patent filings.

But what really galled me was a front-page story titled “The next BIG thing?” — about the proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research.” The measure will be on the Nov. 5 ballot throughout Jackson County.

As you know, I am consumed with the issue. It is the worst tax proposal I’ve seen during my 44 years in Kansas City, and I’m doing all I can to bring its many flaws to people’s attention.

(You can read all about it at stopabadcure.org, a website financed by a campaign committee that I’m leading.)

“The next BIG thing” was written by The Examiner’s main business reporter, Jeff Fox, who also edited the section.

Fox’s story covers 38 column inches, including a full inside page and part of another. The story features a photo of Dr. Wayne O. Carter, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, which is a big promoter of  the sales-tax increase.

The photo caption quotes Carter as saying…

“This is big. This is transformational for Kansas City.”

In the story, Fox does everything but beg readers to vote for the tax.

Fox quotes Carter extensively, but if you’re looking for balance — that is, the other side of the story — it’s in very short supply.

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Jeff Fox

Fox relegates the opposition to three inches — out of, remember, 38 inches. In that space, he paraphrases — doesn’t even quote directly — Brad Bradshaw, a Springfield lawyer and physician who directs an opposing committee called Citizens for Responsible Research.

It’s clear that  Fox didn’t even bother to call Bradshaw — just gave him a couple of throwaway graphs. Of course, Fox didn’t bother to call me, although he has met and interviewed me and knows about my Committee to Stop a Bad Cure.

Fox’s one-sided tribute is not just bad journalism; it’s dishonest journalism.

If a national journalism commission existed, it would put The Examiner on five years’ probation. And if The Examiner went on to publish a similar dog-lapping section, the commission would order the paper to stop the presses permanently.

Oh, and there’s one more thing you should know about that section: Page 15 consists of a full-page ad paid for by the Committee for Research, Treatments and Cures, which is spending $1.5 million to $2 million trying to convince voters to approve this terrible tax proposal.

The Examiner probably got about 500 bucks for that ad.

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I don’t believe what The Kansas City Star didn’t do…

On Thursday evening, well before The Star’s deadline, the vaunted east-side political organization Freedom Inc. voted unanimously to oppose Jackson County’s proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research.”

With the League of Women Voters and the local NAACP branch already on record as opposing the tax, Freedom loomed as a pivotal bellwether of which direction the tax would go.

And yet, Thursday night — and all day Friday — The Star was nowhere to be found.

All-purpose reporter Mike Hendricks, who has been “covering” the campaign, didn’t show up outside Freedom headquarters, 12th and Brooklyn, to wait and find out what the verdict was. And neither did any other Star reporter.

None of the city’s four TV stations bothered to send a reporter, and none had a story yesterday. But that’s no big surprise; local politics is about the last thing on their agendas.

jason

Slumbering while the house burns down

But The Star? Geez. After Hendricks’ no-show Thursday night, I thought surely he or someone else would call Freedom yesterday morning and at least get a short story on the kansascity.com website.

But, no. Nothing. (See correction in comments section.)

Holy crap, when I covered City Hall from 1985 to 1995, I would wait hours for political organizations to make decisions and come out of their closed-door meetings and announce the results. I’d race back to the paper, crank out a story and hope for good “play” (placement) the next day. (Long ago, an editor once said to me: “Fitzpatrick, you eat those bylines for breakfast, don’t you?)

Of course, things have changed a lot since then. The news cycle for The Star and the local TV stations runs about 16 hours a day (there is some down time between about 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.). Also, partly because of the TV stations’ indifference, The Star is under less pressure to cover political developments.

All in all, there’s a more casual attitude at 18th and Grand about getting news — other than stories involving death and destruction — online or in print in a timely manner.

On Monday, for example, I beat The Star to the punch on the Charlie Wheeler story — that is, Wheeler’s home being sold on the courthouse steps and mortgage banker Jim Nutter Sr. (who foreclosed) taking steps to ensure that Wheeler and his wife Marjorie and son Graham have a smooth landing in a Waldo area duplex.

When the threat of foreclosure first arose several months ago, political reporter Steve Kraske wrote a Page 4 story about it. (Page 4 is now the equivalent of what used to be the Metro section front page…Another sorry story.) But now Kraske has gone off to teach at UMKC — joining four or five other former Star editorial employees at the university — and nobody bothered to cover the Wheeler story the day it happened.

A good friend and The Star’s best reporter, Mark Morris, called me Tuesday morning, in the wake of my post, and asked for Charlie’s phone number. I gave him the number, of course, and Mark’s story ran online that afternoon and in print on Wednesday, although it was buried on Page 13.

On Tuesday, The Star will have a chance to redeem itself, when the Citizens Association, the city’s most influential, nonpartisan political organization, will hear speakers on sides of the issue and perhaps take a position on the tax. (The proposal will be Jackson County Question 1 on the Nov. 5 ballot.)

That meeting starts at 5 p.m. and should be over by 7. Maybe Hendricks can tell his wife Roxie to hold dinner awhile so he can cover the meeting and get a story up.

…By the way, I’ll be one of the opposing speakers at the Citizens Association meeting…But don’t waste your time looking for quotes from me in the paper. I think I’ve earned a lifetime ban. The only time you’re likely to see me in the paper again is after my family pays for my obit.

**

Editor’s note: For much more news about the proposed sales-tax for “translational medical research,” see stopabadcure.org

Also, Mike Hendricks’ wife’s name is Roxie, not Rosie, as I had it originally.

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Freedom Inc., a powerful African-American political organization that runs up large vote margins in the Kansas City wards where it works, voted unanimously tonight to oppose Jackson County’s proposed half-cent sales tax for  “translational medical research.”

The development was a bitter blow to the hopes of tax proponents, who, earlier this week dumped another $400,000 into their campaign effort, bringing their campaign committee’s total fund-raising to nearly $1.4 million.

It was also a seminal moment in the history of 51-year-old Freedom Inc., whose slogan is “No permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.”

With the Committee for Research, Treatments and Cures – the committee working for the tax – dangling a reported $200,000 in front of Freedom to promote the measure leading up to the Nov. 5 election, Freedom’s board stood on principal and turned its back on the money.

Asked about the deciding factor in the decision, State Sen. Kiki Curls, a Freedom board member, said:

“Feedback from the community. We found very few people who supported the tax.”

She added that over the last five years, central city residents have lost, not gained, community services and that if there was to be a tax increase, “it would better be put to use for basic services” than translational medical research.

Curls noted that if Jackson County were to become “a research mecca, it would be an awesome opportunity for the city.” But the financing method needed to be rethought, she said.

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State Rep. Gail McCann Beatty and State Rep. Kiki Curls, Freedom Inc. board members, at Freedom headquarters last night. They stood in front of a photo of the late Bruce R. Watkins, a Freedom Inc. founder.

Many opponents of the tax contend that most, if not all, of additional hundreds of millions of dollars for medical research should come from the private sector, such as corporations, foundations and wealthy individuals.

Proponents have acknowledged that 10 Kansas City area institutions, including Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, already are spending more than $550 million a year on research. The new tax would raise an additional $40 million to $50 million a year for at least 20 years.

Rodney Bland, a Freedom board member, said 36 of 72 dues-paying board members attended the meeting, which was held at Freedom headquarters, 12th Street and Brooklyn Avenue.

Curls led the meeting in the absence of former Freedom president Charles Hazley, who died recently.

Another board member said he had heard that the treatments and cures committee, anticipating Thursday’s board vote, had already begun to put together an African-American rump group, to be called something like African-Americans for Medical Research.

Historically, such groups have made very few inroads against the traditional, powerhouse political organizations.

Freedom’s strength is on the east side of Kansas City, from Independence Avenue all the way to Grandview.

Earlier this week, the Kansas City branch of the NAACP voted to oppose the proposed tax.

The local affiliate of the League of Women Voters was the first major organization to come out against the tax.

Editor’s note: The same story is on the stopabadcure.org website.

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On Monday, the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City tossed another $400,000 into the $1 million-plus pool of money that is being spent to try to convince Jackson County voters to approve a new half-cent sales tax for medical research.

That brings the Civic Council’s total contribution to its campaign committee — Committee for Research, Treatment and Cures — to $600,000.

And it brings the grand total of contributions to the committee to $1,357,000. And Election Day — Nov. 5 — is still more than four weeks out.

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Don Hall Jr.

The biggest pushers behind the proposal are the Hall family and the Hall Family Foundation. The Halls have long had the most clout with the Civic Council. Don Hall Jr., Hallmark Cards c.e.o., has contributed $100,000 personally.

It is puzzling to me why the Civic Council, consisting of the areas top business leaders, is dead set on the taxpayers ponying up $1 billion over 20 years for their pet project. My guess is that after having arm-twisted the County Legislature into putting the measure on the Nov. 5 ballot and now experiencing stiff resistance to their proposal, civic leaders are doubling down. They said initially that they planned on a $1 million campaign. Who knows? Maybe it will go to $2 million.

In any event, losing would be terrible for the Civic Council. After all, they’re the kingpins, right?

Their goal, I believe, is to fool just enough voters — with TV ads and feel-good brochures — to stick this tax on county residents for the next 20 years, at least. With inflation, it would generate $40 million to $50 million a year.

Here’s a closer look at the money being spent. For the sake of argument, let’s say that…

  • 50,000 people vote in the Nov. 5 election – about 20,000 in Kansas City and 30,000 in Jackson County outside Kansas City. (This might surprise you but the county has about a third more registered voters than the Kansas City part of the county.)
  • 24,999 people vote for the tax and 25,001 people vote against it. (Wouldn’t that be a bea-u-ti-ful thing?)
  • Based on the $1,357,000 invested so far, that would mean the proponents would have spent about $55 for each “yes” vote.

That’s a pretty, pretty penny, penny, as Larry David might say.

One more hypothesis: Let’s say the proponents do, in fact, lose…

It would be the most ignominious political loss in Kansas City history.

No wonder they’re throwing money around like it’s grass seed.

**

Here is your updated contribution report for the Committee for Research, Treatment and Cures.  (Under state law, campaign committees must report contributions of $5,000 or more within 48 hours of receipt.)

**The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City**, $600,00

**Children’s Mercy Hospital**, $100,000

**Donald Hall Jr.**, $100,000

**Hallmark Global Services**, $100,000

**J.E. Dunn Construction**, $100,000

**John G. Sherman**, chairman and c.e.o of Inergy L.P., $100,000

**Robert Kipp**, former Crown Center Development president, $50,000

**Burns and McDonnell**, engineering company, $50,000

**KCP&L**, $25,000

**Tom McDonnell**, retired DST c.e.o., $25,000

**Irvine O. Hockaday Jr**., former Hallmark Cards c.e.o., $20,000

**William Gautreaux**, a top Inergy LP officer (see John Sherman), $10,000

**Wagstaff & Cartmell** law firm, $10,000

**St. Luke’s Foundation**, $10,000

**St. Luke’s Health System**, $10,000;

**Husch Blackwell** law firm, $10,000;

**Dr. L. Patrick James**, of the KC Area Life Sciences Institute, $10,000

**The Polsinelli** law firm, $10,000

**Lockton Companies**, $10,000

**Stinson Morrison Hecker** law firm, $7,500

Editor’s note: You can see the same post on my campaign committee’s website — stopabadcure.org. (Be sure to tell your friends. The key to beating this proposal is voter turnout. The greater the turnout, the more likely the chances of the proposal going down to defeat.

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After months of uncertainty, the situation with former Kansas City Mayor Charles B. Wheeler’s Loose Park area home was resolved Monday.

The home was sold on the steps of the Jackson County Courthouse because the Wheelers had failed to pay the property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums as required by their reverse mortgage. They owed more than $500,000 on the note.

James B. Nutter & Co., which issued the mortgage note and still controls it, bought the house on behalf of a Texas property management company for $399,000, which is the appraised value of the home. That was the only bid.

charlieb

Photo by JimmyCsays

Jim Nutter Sr., founder of the mortgage company, is helping Wheeler and his wife Marjorie find a new residence. The Wheelers will have 30 days to leave the Loose Park area home, where they have lived since April 10, 1971, the day Wheeler was sworn in as mayor.

Wheeler, a Democrat, served two terms as mayor and later served a term in the Missouri Senate.

“Everybody’s been acting in a very honorable way in this situation,” Wheeler said Monday afternoon, sitting at “The Charles Wheeler Table” in his hangout, the Flea Market Bar & Grill on Westport Road. “The road is clear.”

Wheeler said he and a Nutter representative had identified a duplex in Waldo that the Wheelers would rent, occupying the first floor.

“I’m pleased with the way things are going,” Wheeler said.

Several months ago, when news of the situation surfaced, Wheeler was at odds with Nutter, who, for decades, has been a major contributor to Democratic candidates. Although he and Wheeler have not been close politically for many years,  Wheeler got a reverse mortgage from Nutter several years ago.

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Pat O’Neill

The threat of eviction loomed for several weeks, but Nutter softened his position and brought in Pat O’Neill, a veteran public relations consultant who is friends with both men.

With O’Neill in the picture, the situation improved immediately, but it still took several weeks to iron out all the issues.

Referring to the upcoming move, O’Neill said after the auction, “It’ll be a whole lot better for him.”

Marjorie Wheeler had been in St. Luke’s Hospital for about 10 days, before moving on Monday to Bishop Spencer Place for a rehabilitation stint.

Wheeler said that he, Marjorie and their son Graham, who has lived with them for many years, would occupy the duplex.

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