Archive for December, 2016

While Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar is determined to thwart officials and residents who believe a new single KCI terminal is in the city’s best interest, at least she’s got it right on a smaller matter — that the tradition of horse-drawn carriages on the Country Club Plaza should be halted.

This has been a bad idea from the start — I believe it began in the ’80s — and there have now been at least three accidents involving the carriages.



The most recent incident, Saturday night, was by far the worst. A horse pulling a carriage with a driver and four passengers began running out of control at 47th and Wornall. The carriage crashed about two blocks south after running into a fence on the Brush Creek bridge. The Star’s story said the driver was ejected and fell over the bridge onto the ground below. One of the passengers suffered a broken arm and required surgery. All four passengers suffered bruises.

The horse, which ended up lying on the sidewalk, was also injured and has been retired from carriage service.

One of the passengers, Rochelle Baldwin, told The Star she called the carriage company, Kansas City Carriages, and left voicemail messages but had not received a return call.

The company returned reporter Lynn Horsley’s call, of course, because a negative story — which ran online today —  could significantly impact the business.

The carriage rides have long impeded traffic on the Plaza, and, now, finally, there’s a growing realization that the horses are, indeed, unpredictable animals and not plodding, docile creatures.

Loar, whom Horsley described as “a longtime animal welfare advocate,” said she would push for banning the carriage rides. Horsley said another animal advocate, Councilwoman Jolie Justus, is not a fan of the rides but “wants to hear from all sides on the issue.”

Officials in some cities already have come to their senses. Cities that have banned horse-drawn carriage rides include Las Vegas, Reno, Biloxi and Asheville. Cities that still have them include New York, Philadelphia and Savannah.


I witnessed what I believe was the first carriage accident in Kansas City. To the best of my recollection, it happened in the mid- to late 1980s. I was walking along Nichols Road with a date one night and saw a horse bolt while pulling a carriage near what was then the Halls store. The carriage crashed into a car, as I recall, before coming to a halt. No one was injured, and the horse remained upright, but it sure was unsettling. I called The Star and told a reporter what I had seen, and a short story ran the next morning.

The carriage-ride business had another setback in 1996, when two horses collapsed and died from disease. Horsley’s story said the city tightened regulations after that.

A complicating factor back in the 1980s — and maybe into the ’90s — was that there were two competing carriage-ride operators, and one was a close friend of then-Mayor Richard L. Berkley and his wife Sandy. I don’t know what kind of connections the owners of Kansas City Carriages have with the City Council, but momentum seems to be turning against the carriage-ride industry nationally…Let’s hope sound reason prevails in Kansas City and that the Plaza streets will be returned — full time — to motorists.

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It is getting increasingly difficult to rely on any single Kansas City news outlet to report and follow up on important news developments in the Kansas City area.

In recent months, I have written about two big stories on which I had to go to several different local news sites to piece together the stories.

One of those was the August murder of Julianna Pappas, a 46-year-old Overland Park woman who hooked up with a bad actor named Correy Rinke, a fellow participant in a clinical research study at Quintiles. Pappas agreed to spend time with Rinke one day and ended up raped and murdered near Indian Creek Trail in south Overland Park.

The other was the solving, in October, of the 20-year-old Sarah DeLeon murder case with the arrest of Carolyn Heckert, a real estate agent who is charged with killing DeLeon because DeLeon was dating a man she — Heckert — had dated.

Now we have the case of Louie Scherzer, a 29-year-old Kansas City, KS, man who was shot and killed about 12:30 a.m. Sunday in what appears to have been a completely fluky situation that unfolded behind a KCK bar.

A friend and former KC Star colleague, Mike Rice, first called the story to my attention Tuesday. The Star had carried a short story about the case on Monday, before the victim had been identified, and another short story (what we in the news business call a “brief”) on Tuesday. That story, which I had seen, identified the victim and the alleged killer, 18-year-old Efrain Gonzalez.

But The Star has gone nowhere with the story. As of Wednesday night, it had not explained the circumstances of the shooting; it had not reported any information about the victim, who, as it turns out, was a popular and well known community member; and it had not delved into the background of the alleged murderer.


I will get back to the Scherzer story in a minute, but first I want to say how frustrating this inferior reporting is to me. Frankly, it’s pathetic. And I’ve got to think many Kansas City area residents feel the same.

In bygone days, The Star would have been all over those three stories and would have published follow-up stories with every significant, new development.

No more. Now, we readers are lucky to get bare bones, initial reports of breaking news, then we’re often left to jump around to local TV websites to try to synthesize what happened from the TV stations’ mostly haphazard coverage of events.

People complain frequently about how thin the Monday through Saturday Star is these days. But that’s not the problem. There’s plenty of content in those papers, but much more of it is from national news services than it used to be, and there is much less advertising than there used to be. Then, of course, you’ve got the editorial page, which has turned into a joke, with column after column of letters to the editor and an occasional “As I See It” column supplanting what used to be well-written and well-researched editorials expressing the newspaper’s viewpoint.

The downward spiral for print newspapers began about 10 years ago, when advertising began falling precipitously as readers and advertisers migrated to the Internet. The spiral has not abated. Nationwide, newspaper print advertising is less than half what it was in 2005, and newspapers have lost billions and billions of dollars.

How long The Star will continue to publish a print edition seven days a week is a good and valid question — a question that would have drawn guffaws 15 years ago. The Star’s newsroom has been gutted by layoffs, and in recent months it has been hiring young, relatively inexperienced reporters to replace relatively high paid, senior reporters who were let go or fled the business.

It’s a sad state of affairs. I still take the print edition and expect to do so until I either die or they stop printing it. But The Star is a shadow of its former self, and it irritates the heck out of me — almost enough to make me swear, but not quite — when I have to go on a two- or three-hour Internet excursion to piece together the main elements of a story.


Now, back to the Scherzer story. Here’s what happened:

Scherzer, a Bishop Ward graduate who worked at the Board of Public Utilities, had been at Chicago’s bar at 6th Street and Central Avenue Saturday night. About 30 minutes past midnight, he walked out the back door of the bar — perhaps headed to his car — and came upon the 18-year-old Gonzalez. Minutes earlier — here’s the fluky part — police had been chasing Gonzalez in his car. Gonzalez dumped the car and had run behind the bar to hide.


Louie Scherzer

It’s not clear what transpired, but, in any event, Gonzalez allegedly shot Scherzer, and he died at a hospital later Sunday. Police apprehended Gonzalez, who is charged with murder and is being held on $1.5 million bond.

It wasn’t a drug deal gone bad, and it wasn’t a holdup. Scherzer was an innocent victim who happened to walk out of a bar when factors beyond his control were unfolding.

Tuesday night, a crowd of several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil on or near near the Bishop Ward football field, where Scherzer had played more than a decade earlier.

A photo taken at the vigil (below) was posted on a Facebook page dedicated to Sherzer. Too bad The Star didn’t bother to send a photographer to record and report the event. It was a pretty big deal…


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