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Archive for August, 2017

In cases of random, seemingly motive-less murders, the possibility of mental illness always has to be considered as a possible factor.

I theorized in a comment in my last post that 22-year-old Fredrick Scott, who has been charged with two murders and in all likelihood committed three others, was “a frustrated young man and a flat-out racist.”

Information made public before and after I made that statement confirmed the accuracy of that opinion, but new information I’ve come upon — as well as an interview The Star got with Scott’s mother — indicate Scott probably had mental problems.

Scott

His mother, whom The Star did not name, has said her son suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia include, among others, violent tendencies, anger, hearing things that are not real and emotional disconnectedness.

Well, clearly Scott had violent tendencies. And we already knew he  was angry because he told police he had been that way since his brother was murdered in 2015. (Killed by one or more black men, it should be noted.)

The information I received last night indicates he was also emotionally disconnected and perhaps was hearing voices.

The source of my information is someone who had spoken with two people who worked with Scott at a Pizza Hut at 103rd and Wornall, which is just a few blocks from where two of the five victims — Mike Darby and David Lenox — were killed.

Here’s what those employees said:

:: Scott, who was known as Freddie, “talked to himself all the time” but said very little to his fellow employees.

:: He was a terrible employee, couldn’t even bake a pizza. About all he could do was wash dishes and sweep.

:: He “creeped everybody out” and was transferred to another Pizza Hut.

The employees thought he might have a drug problem but never saw him actually taking drugs. (I am skeptical about the possibility of drug use or addiction because there is no indication any of the five victims was robbed. If he was a drug addict, you can bet he would have been taking whatever valuables the men had on them.)

Here’s another piece of information I found startling: Scott apparently knew one of his victims.

Sixty-six-year old David Lenox, who was shot down steps from the door of his residence at the nearby Willow Creek apartment complex, was a co-worker of Scott’s at the Pizza Hut. Lenox, a former Army medic, had “just started working there as a delivery driver,” I was told.

David Lenox, right, at a 2016 MU football game with son Mike and daughter Mindy

Lenox was killed on Feb. 27, apparently while either walking his dog or letting the dog outside…The “statement of probable cause” filed by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office says police responding to the scene found “a small brown dog on a leash standing next to the victim.”

The day after Lenox was shot by someone whose blood ran cold, Freddie Scott showed up for his shift at the Pizza Hut.

Further evidence of Scott’s familiarity with Lenox is the fact that Scott had become friends with a person who, at the time, lived at Willow Creek. Scott frequently came around to visit the friend.

This from the probable cause statement:

“The former tenant stated he and Scott would walk the complex sometimes and talk. Officers noted that the former tenant’s apartment was a short distance from the Lenox homicide. Scott would regularly stop by, sometimes daily, prior to the tenant moving out shortly after the Lenox homicide.”

I’m pretty sure I would have been moving out, too.

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All of us Kansas City residents can breathe easier tonight, knowing that, in all likelihood, the Indian Creek Trail killer has been apprehended.

Although it is not certain, it appears 22-year-old Fredrick D. Scott of Kansas City is a serial killer.

Scott has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and is suspected in three other homicides. He is in the Jackson County Jail — thank God — on $1 million bond. His last known address was in the 3300 block of Bridge Manor Drive, which is just south of Red Bridge Road, between College and Cleveland — very close to the Indian Creek Trail.

Indications are that Scott’s M.O. was arbitrarily selecting prospective victims, following them on foot and then executing them with one or more shots to the head.

Scott

In a tense and riveting 13-minute news conference — and in accompanying documents — Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker today laid out the chilling details of the most recent murder and uttered these extremely unsettling words:

“There is no motive that makes this make sense.”

No logical motive, that is.

But there is, I’m afraid, one awful, disturbing fact: Twenty-two-year-old Frederick Scott is an angry young black man who apparently took perverse satisfaction in killing white men.

The house where Scott was living. It is very near Indian Creek Trail, scene of four murders in the last year.

Why was he angry? He has told police he was upset about the murder of his brother in 2015. I don’t know — and Peters didn’t say — if his brother was killed by a white person. Watching the news conference, I did not hear any question relating to that point, although most of the questions were muffled because of poor audio.

I’d sure like to have the answer and hope reporters working the story want to find out.

Racially, this is a highly sensitive case, but reporters and their editors must not shrink from the facts. In the coming days, the public needs and deserves a lot more information about Scott’s background and the factors that may have motivated him.

**

Scott is charged in the slayings of 54-year-old John W. Palmer and 57-year-old Steven Gibbons.

A “probable cause statement” filed by the prosecutor’s office says Scott admitted killing Palmer, one of the four Indian Creek victims. Palmer was shot several times with a 9mm handgun on Aug. 16, 2016, near Bannister Road and Lydia. Scott told police that after shooting Palmer, he dragged his body away from the trail and into a tree line.

The three other Indian Creek Trail victims were 66-year-old David Lenox, who was killed Feb. 27 of this year near 99th and Walnut; 57-year-old Timothy Rice, killed April 4 north of Red Bridge Road just east of Lydia; and 61-year-old Mike Darby, who was killed May 18 in the 300 block of West 101st Terrace, not far from the bar he owned, Coach’s, at 103rd and Wornall.

The killing that broke open the case, however, did not occur along the trail. As often happens, once a serial killer gets going and building up confidence, his horizons expand.

Surveillance video shows that on Aug. 14 — two weeks ago yesterday — Steven Gibbons got on an ATA bus at 75th and Troost shortly before noon, and a man got on behind him. At 67th and Troost, Gibbons got off, and the other man followed him down 67th Street.

The probable cause statement says the man following Gibbons was drinking a beverage with a screw top. The camera, mounted on a building near 67th and Troost, then panned away about the time Gibbons would have been shot. A short time later the same camera captured the unknown man running from the scene.

**

Some good investigative work led police to Scott. Remember the line about “the unknown man” drinking from a screw-top container? Detectives found a bottle near the scene of the Gibbons killing. Police were then able to track the killer back to a gas station at 75th and Troost, where he had purchased the beverage (which The Star reported was iced tea). Surveillance footage from the gas station showed Scott purchasing the iced tea.

A few days later, a police officer saw a man resembling the presumed killer sitting on a wall, smoking a cigarette, near 97th and Holmes. When approached by one or more officers, the man identified himself as Frederick Scott. After the conversation, police recovered the butt of the cigarette, and undercover officers followed Scott to his home on Bridge Manor Drive. Later, police linked the DNA from the cigarette butt to that on the iced tea bottle. At the home, police also recovered a 9mm handgun that Scott said killed Gibbons.

Police also have DNA evidence linking Scott to Palmer’s murder. Searching the scene of that homicide, detectives found a T-shirt that was too small for Palmer.

On the shirt, police found DNA from two people: Palmer and Frederick Scott.

**

The probable cause statement says Scott mowed lawns to make money and that for a three-week period in July and mid-August he worked he worked at the Burger King restaurant, Red Bridge Road and Holmes. He did not have a vehicle, and the probable cause statement says: “His two primary modes of transportation were walking and the KCATA bus lines. But he had been known to ask for rides from neighbors or associates.” He told police he was familiar with the Indian Creek Trail.

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With the Royals in free fall, the nation’s fourth-largest city under water, the North Koreans firing missiles over Japan and a lowbrow boxing match in Las Vegas serving as entertainment for the nation, I’m looking desperately for things to be positive about.

I’ve had to brainstorm mightily for signs of hope, but you knew you could count on me — Mr. Poztiv — to come up with a few things. Some are a bit parochial, but in desperate times, you have to narrow the frame of reference.

So, here goes…

:: Daughter Brooks and son Charlie safely completed a marathon, two-day drive to Las Vegas over the weekend, and Charlie successfully enrolled today at UNLV in what should be his last semester (or two) toward a master’s degree in environmental health physics. Not the least of our worries was the fact that they made the trip in Charlie’s 2000 Malibu, which we inherited from my father after his death in 2007.

The Malibu has given us a lot of intrigue the last few years. It’s got about 135,000 miles on it, and the air conditioning has gone out twice. We replaced the AC control panel several years ago, and I’ll be darned if the “new” panel didn’t start acting up recently. With temperatures regularly exceeding 100 degrees in Las Vegas these days, getting that AC fixed before Charlie went back was imperative. Last week, I bought a new panel at Midway Auto Parts in the East Bottoms, and our niece’s boyfriend, a car whiz, offered to install it.

Friday morning, then, westward-ho went the “kids” (he 27, she 29). They made it to Albuquerque — about 800 miles away — that night, and they arrived in Las Vegas — 575 more miles — Saturday night. They stayed at an Airbnb Saturday and Sunday, and today Brooks flew home.

What a relief to have them in their respective cities safe and sound!

:: The price per share in “the failing” New York Times (NYT in the market listings) is up 38 percent this year…I bought a considerable amount of that stock (and kept adding) after the Great Recession. Years ago, I read where Warren Buffett advised amateur stock-market players to “buy what you know,” and that was my guidepost. (I have to admit, though, that an earlier newspaper investment didn’t turn out so great. After I retired in 2006 — before the recession — I bought McClatchy stock, telling people my intent was to demonstrate my confidence in the newspaper industry. I bought at 50 and sold at 7. Ouch!)

:: Inversely proportional to the NYT stock price, my golf scores have been going down. I shot a 77 — my lowest score ever — a few weeks ago, and last week recorded a 78, even while missing a few putts of three feet or less. I back slid a bit yesterday, hitting an 87. But I think I’ve turned a corner because of a swing change. I watch a lot of golf on TV, you know, and I got intrigued by the swing of outstanding Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama. He pauses for almost a full second — very unusual — at the top of his backswing, before starting the club on its downward path. After adopting the pause, I have been hitting the ball farther and more accurately than ever. Thank you, Hideki, and good luck in the season-ending FedExCup series!

:: Great progress continues to be made on renovation of the Sea Horse Fountain at Meyer Circle, a couple of hundred yards from our house. The expected completion date is now mid-October, and we should see a few bursts of water from that majestic fountain yet this year. Late last year and early this year, retired KPMG executive Dave Fowler and I collaborated on a private fund-raising effort, aiming to generate at least $250,000 for a permanent endowment. (We ended up raising more than $350,000).

The Sea Horse Fountain, under repair

In return, the city agreed to shoulder the brunt of the renovation cost. The cost of repairs has jumped from an estimated $605,000 to more than $900,000, and I expect the total to come in at $1 million or more…Everyone who drives by that fountain should be grateful, as I am, for the KC Parks and Recreation Department’s determination to do this job right. By the way, more than 40,000 vehicles pass the fountain every day.

:: Finally, I am looking forward to the Romanelli West Homes Association annual picnic on Sunday, Sept. 10, at Arno Park. As usual, we’ll have barbecue from BB’s on 85th Street, and for the kids we’ll have Kona Ice and Grateful Bubbles.

I ask you, how can you be downcast when shaved ice cups and giant bubbles are being served up?

Grateful Bubbles

 

 

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With the buyouts this week of three veteran reporters and the subsequent hiring of a high-profile reporter from Washington D.C., The Star has put on full display — once again — its regrettable and product-diminishing double standard on salary control.

I came back from a weekend trip to my hometown of Louisville to learn that three veteran reporters — Diane Stafford, Scott Canon and Donna McGuire — had been “offered” buyouts. Naturally, they took them, or they would have been laid off.

Horsley

A couple of days later, The Star announced the hiring of Washington Post reporter Bill Turque as the new City Hall reporter, replacing Lynn Horsley, who will stay with the paper and move to the Johnson County government beat.

The compelling reason behind Turque’s hiring is unfortunate: Less than a year ago, The Star hired Turque’s wife, Melinda Henneberger, to be a member of the revamped editorial board. Like him, she had been working in Washington, although not at The Post.

So, plain and simple, this was a package deal, probably arranged with a handshake or informal agreement when Henneberger was hired.

Turque

Several former Star journalists, including me, believe this trade-off — hiring Henneberger and Turque, while giving Stafford, Canon and McGuire their walking papers — is a net loss for Kansas City Star readers. According to a KCUR story, the three departing reporters had a combined total of 99 years experience at The Star. That’s a lot of talent and institutional knowledge walking out the door. It’s disappointing and distressing for many of us who plied our trade at 18th and Grand.

**

Before delving more deeply into packaged husband-wife hires — this is not the first — I want to give you a little history on salary suppression at The Star.

It got underway in about 2004, when top editors decided to reorganize the newsroom. I was right in the middle of it. At that point, I had been editor in the Wyandotte-Leavenworth bureau for nine years. In the reorganization, I was offered the job of Kansas editor, overseeing both the Johnson County and Wyandotte County bureaus. I would go from overseeing two full-time reporters and one part-time reporter to managing about a dozen reporters and two other editors.

When then-Assistant Managing Editor Randy Smith — a good friend to this day — offered me the job, I asked how much of a a raise I would be getting. He said none, adding that I should derive my satisfaction from the prestige of a higher perch in the managerial chain. I said that was nice but that I thought a raise was in order.

He said he would take up the matter with then-Editor Mark Zieman. A few days later, Randy came back and said he could give me a raise of one percent. My response was: “I see what’s going on here — salary suppression.”

Randy did not respond.

Despite the ridiculous raise, I took the job because it had been made clear to me I wasn’t going to stay in Wyandotte. My only alternative would have been to resign or retire, and I wasn’t ready and didn’t have a plan. Two years later, however — after another job change — I formulated a plan to become a teacher and retired.

I can’t say that when I left in 2006 I saw the bottom dropping out of the newspaper business, but, as I’ve told many people, I was feeling uneasy after The Star’s then-owner Knight Ridder agreed to sell out to McClatchy early that year. That unease was confirmed in 2008, when The Star began laying off veteran, higher-salaried journalists. The laying off and buying out hasn’t stopped, and I almost certainly would have been discarded somewhere along the way had I not left voluntarily.

**

After taking charge of the paper in early 2016, publisher Tony Berg began hiring young journalists at entry-level salaries to replace the higher-paid, experienced people who had been let go, and continue to be let go.

The Star has made some exceptions to the hire-young, hire-low regimen, however, namely in the hiring of perceived “stars” who they believe will bring great value to the paper.

Since 2013, The Star has hired three such people. First, came sports columnist Vahe Gregorian. Late last year it was Colleen McCain Nelson to be editorial page editor, and early this year it was Henneberger — although her star billing was certainly not as high as that of the other two.

But that’s not all…In each of those cases, Berg agreed to hire the spouses of the perceived stars. So, with Vahe Gregorian came Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian, a features writer. With McCain Nelson came Eric Nelson, who is in charge of The Star’s digital operation. And now Turque is packing his bags and joining Henneberger in Kansas City.

The first two package deals achieved the desired result: Vahe Gregorian has lived up to expectations as a standout sports columnist, and McCain Nelson has not only revived the editorial and Op-Ed pages but has proved to be a genial and genuine personality and an accessible leader.

Henneberger, on the other hand, appears to be struggling to develop a following. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone ask me, “Did you read Henneberger today?” Maybe it will happen, but the signs aren’t promising.

And now The Star is giving headline treatment to the hiring of Turque, who very early in his career worked at The Star for several years.

Until this week, I had never seen a story in the paper announcing the hiring of a “beat” reporter. Even more startling was the size and prominent display of the story, as if the incoming reporter was the reincarnation of war reporter Ernie Pyle. And yet, there it was, both in print and online.

**

Well, I wish Turque the best, but I seriously doubt he’s going to be as productive or as informative as Lynn Horsley has been during her many years at City Hall. Also, since Turque is part of a package deal, I doubt he’ll be held to the same standards of production as Horsley and the other non-coupled reporters. Nevertheless, he will probably start out at a higher salary than Horsley has been making. If that’s the case — and I would bet all the money I’ve ever lost at the racetrack — it isn’t right.

On the positive side, one thing I know for sure is that in her persevering, shoe-leather-burning style, Horsley will raise the profile of Johnson County government. The Star has virtually ignored JoCo government in recent years, and that is about to change.

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If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that for weeks I’ve been looking into the July 6, four-vehicle crash that killed 68-year-old, retired Johnson County firefighter Paul W. Scott.

Paul Scott

The Hyundai SUV Scott was driving was stopped at a traffic signal on westbound Parallel Parkway at the K-7 intersection when a Ford Expedition (also an SUV) slammed into the rear of the Hyundai. The vehicle Scott was driving plowed into the vehicle in front of him, and that vehicle struck a fourth vehicle.

As I reported Aug. 2, the driver of the Expedition was not charged because, according to the KCK police department, he apparently committed suicide sometime after the crash.

But the police department would not give me his name. Last week, I filed an open records request for the “accident report,” and I can now tell you who caused the chain-reaction crash.

Dylan Eull

His name was Dylan Matthew Eull. He was 24 years old at the time of the crash. He lived in southeastern North Dakota, in a town called Verona — population 85, according to the 2010 Census. He was a millwright for Eull’s Contracting, a small company apparently run by a relative. The Expedition belonged to the company.

On Monday, July 24, 18 days after the crash, Dylan Eull committed suicide at his home. He had turned 25 between the crash and his death.

His obituary said his interests included “designing tattoos, playing guitar, fishing and working on cars, especially his International pickup.”

The obituary also said: “Dylan was always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Behind his tough guy exterior, he was a teddy bear with the biggest heart you could imagine.”

North Dakota public records indicate Dylan Eull was a young man with an earlier history of irresponsibility.

He was fined for speeding in 2011, and he had seven misdemeanor convictions between 2011 and 2014. Among other things, he was twice convicted for driving with a suspended license, and he had three convictions for possession and/or consumption of alcohol as a minor.

It appears from the records he was never sentenced to jail time but repeatedly placed on unsupervised probation, as well as being fined and required to perform community service.

…Undoubtedly, you are now wondering if he was driving with a valid license on July 6 and if he was driving under the influence of alcohol.

As best I can tell, the answers are yes (he had a valid license) and no (he was not driving under the influence).

The investigating officer put a check mark in the box with the heading “No evidence of impairment,” and he entered the numeric code for “valid license” in a nearby section.

So, what was Dylan Eull doing when he slammed into the back of Paul Scott’s SUV? Unfortunately, the accident report does not shed light on that, nor does it indicate how fast Dylan Eull might have been going.

My own supposition is that he was speeding and not paying attention. Maybe he was doing something with his cell phone — texting or playing dial-a-tune. Maybe he was daydreaming. Maybe he was looking for something in the glove compartment. Who knows? It’s clear, though, he was not paying attention because, for God’s sake, he would have stepped on the brake and stopped his vehicle if he had been!

**

Another thing about Dylan Eull: He was no stranger to vehicular death. According to a story in The Jamestown (ND) Sun, he was one of five people in a Dodge pick-up that went out of control and overturned four years ago this month. The 18-year-old driver was killed, and the four passengers, including 21-year-old Dylan Eull, were injured. Three of the passengers (the story doesn’t indicate if Dylan Eull was among them) were ejected. None of the five was wearing a seatbelt.

**

Up until about a year ago, Dylan Eull’s Facebook page posts were mostly about tattoos and his libertarian propensities. (For example, a drawing he apparently created includes a raised middle finger between the words “drink” and “responsibly.”)

He apparently posted nothing between last Aug. 8 and this July 10, two weeks before his death. That day, he posted this:

“god loves us all and christ forgives all who truely (stet) seek him”

Later that day, two other people posted comments. One said, “Glad to know that you are going to make it you sacred the crap out of me.”

Another, apparently a relative, said, “Glad to see you out here, And super happy to know you are going to be ok.”

At 10:03 that night, Dylan Eull made his final post:

“any day spent with jesus at my side is going to be ok”

Those words were followed by a smiley-faced emoticon.

**

Note: I would like to give credit to former Kansas City Star and current freelance reporter Karen Dillon for prodding me to file an open records request for the accident report. I had asked the KCK police department for the report several weeks ago and was told it wasn’t available because the case was “under investigation.” After that, I forgot about the report, until Karen said it was an open record and that I would be able to obtain it with a formal request…Thank you, Karen!

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I have not read any of the four proposals for a new Kansas City International Airport terminal and, frankly, don’t know if they have been made public yet.

All I know is what I read in The Kansas City Star and elsewhere — and what I hear from people who know more than I.

But my first impression, from reading in today’s paper about the proposals submitted yesterday, is that Burns & McDonnell’s first proposal — the one it submitted when it appeared poised to get a no-bid contract with the enthusiastic support of Mayor Sly James — would have resulted in the city and the airlines paying the firm hundreds of millions of dollars more than necessary for a new terminal.

We taxpayers can be very grateful that several City Council members, especially Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, pushed for a slowdown and insisted that other firms be permitted to submit proposals.

More about the possible cost saving in a minute, but first an observation on the politics….The deeper into this we get, the worse Sly James looks. Bow-tie man was so desperate to get a new airport started during his second term that he dumped the customary process — time tested by governments at all levels — of presenting a project, soliciting bids and determining the “lowest and best bid.”

Burns & McDonnell came to James (or vice versa, perhaps) with the unconventional idea of giving the firm a short-arm contract to build the terminal and do so with money the firm would borrow privately at a significantly higher interest rate than the Aviation Department could get by issuing municipal revenue bonds. The big plus — as pitched by Burns and Mac — was the city wouldn’t be on the hook if debt payments outstripped airport revenue. (The prospect of taxpayer dollars being on the line is a phony proposition on its face because the airlines, not taxpayers, would have to make up any shortfall. But that’s another story…)

Now, it’s all ass backwards, and there appears to be little chance of getting this project back on the conventional track, which offers the best chance of getting a new, vibrant, functional terminal at the lowest possible price.

Here’s where we are:

:: Instead of the city issuing a thorough “request for bids” outlining exactly what it wants and then being able to compare proposals side by side, line by line, four firms are throwing out hundreds of pages of proposals about wildly divergent plans, leaving City Council members to wade through the mess and attempt to figure out, or guess, which plan might yield a good airport and which would waste the least amount of money.

:: If pursued to conclusion, this loosey-goosey process will essentially place the contractor, not the city, in charge of the project, with citizens reliant on the goodwill and honesty of the “winning” contractor to give the city a good product at a good price.

Do you like that scenario? I don’t. Putting the contractor in the traditional role of “owner” leaves way too much to chance, not to mention significantly increasing potential fraud and waste.

The initial proposals, submitted yesterday, show exactly how vulnerable the city is with this tails-up approach.

…The original “memorandum of understanding” — put forth several weeks ago — between the city and Burns and Mac called for the airlines to pay “approximately” $85.2 million a year to repay the project financing. Now, the airlines are currently paying about $33 million a year to retire the city’s airport debt costs, so jacking it up by $50 million seems like an incredible hike.

Under the memorandum (now on the shelf), it was impossible to tell how much of that $85.2 million Burns and Mac intended to use for debt payments and how much it intended to retain as profit. That was all supposed to be worked out. But it sure sounded like Burns and Mac was going to have about $85.2 million a year to work with.

Yesterday, another firm that submitted a competing proposal, Los Angeles-based AECOM, homed in on that sky-high figure, saying it could build a $1 billion, 35-gate terminal for an annual payment of $69.8 million. Over 30 years, the firm said, the saving (the difference between $85.2 million and $69.8 million) would be $462 million.

Burns and Mac promptly responded by saying, essentially, “Oh, what we were talking about in the memorandum was the maximum annual debt payment commitment (the firm’s exact words), not the exact amount that would be needed year in and year out.”

Recognizing it was now in a bidding war, Burns and Mac went on to say its own annual financial commitment could be as low as $58 million.

…So, that’s what you get when you open up a big project to competition: One company exposes another’s numbers as outrageously high, and, almost miraculously, cost estimates drop precipitously.

That’s why the formal bid process, with the Aviation Department issuing revenue bonds and the city overseeing the project as “owner,” is the safest and surest way to go. The other approach doesn’t come close to guaranteeing the “lowest and best” bid.

But because of Sly James’ impatience and frustration at a lack of progress on the airport, we, the citizenry, have been stuffed into a box where we are totally dependent on pledges and cost estimates put forth by private firms. It’s a shitty position to be in…I hate it. And the best thing to do now — the way to put the city back in the role of card dealer and casino owner — is to call in all the cards, reshuffle, change the game and deal again.

Yes, starting over would be a pain in the ass, and it would mean putting off the election until next year. But it’s the right thing to do. Sly James has put the city in a big hole, and it’s time to stop digging.

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I’m just back from the Boston area and Cape Cod, where we had a family reunion revolving around my last living aunt and uncle, Nanette and Jim Eckert, who are in their mid-80s.

When my Aunt Nanette, my late father’s sister, mentioned that the Eckert family was planning a reunion and invited me along, I jumped at the opportunity. Who knows? It could be the last time that part of my family would be intact and assembled.

Like the rest of us Fitzpatricks, Nanette was born in Louisville, but after she married Jim, who’s also from Louisville, they moved around because of his job with GE. Among other places, they lived in Kansas City (before I got here in 1969) and Omaha. More than 40 years ago they landed in the Boston area. That’s where they raised their four children and where they stayed. Now they live in a retirement complex in the Boston suburb of Needham.

One of their sons and his wife, Bob Eckert and Marie Therese Wolf, live in Milan, Italy, but have a large vacation home in the town of Yarmouth on Cape Cod. Another son and his wife, John and Elaine Eckert, have a vacation home in Plymouth, adjacent to Cape Cod, on the Atlantic Ocean.

Besides Milan, we came from California, from Nevada, from Missouri, from Kentucky, from Washington D.C., from Ohio and from New Hampshire. (I might be missing a state or two.)

On Saturday, about 18 of us gathered at Bob and Marie Therese’s house in Yarmouth. On Sunday afternoon, we loaded up and traveled west and north to Plymouth, where we met up with John and Elaine Eckert and one of their three children and her husband and two children.

All but one person attending the reunion stayed in one of the two “reunion” houses Saturday and Sunday. The exception was me…My days of sleeping on air mattresses, bunk house style, are behind me. I got an Airbnb room in a house strategically located between Yarmouth and Plymouth.

The reunion was very gratifying. The climax came Sunday night at dusk in the backyard of the Plymouth house. Aunt Nanette summoned everyone around, and we stood in a loose circle. She expressed her gratitude for the reunion and specifically thanked the two grandsons who instigated it, David Temming and Tom Parker. Then, in a voice halting and breaking, she said, “And I want to thank all of you for the joy you’ve brought to my life.”

It was a short speech, but one of the best I’ve ever heard.

Here are the photos…

The Yarmouth home of my cousin Bob Eckert and his wife Marie Therese Wolf. It was built in about 1850 by a shipmaster named Capt. Solomon Taylor.

Uncle Jim

Aunt Nanette

One of their two sons, Bob Eckert, who lives in Milan, Italy

One of their two daughters, Alice Temming of Cincinnati

My cousin Sharron Hilbrecht of Louisville and Doug Parker, of Napa, CA. Doug is a son-in-law of Jim and Nanette.

Grays Beach on Cape Cod Bay is less than half a mile from Bob and Marie Therese’s house.

The boardwalk adjacent to the beach

I took a chance and parked in a handicapped space and was lucky…as usual.

Alms House Road, between the house and the beach

One of Bob and Marie Therese’s daughters, Mailina, left, agitated for a baseball game.

Back at the house, Ralph Till, husband of Claire Till, a granddaughter of Nanette and Jim, got in a little basketball.

Just before we headed off to Plymouth, I got our Yarmouth hosts to sit still for a moment. That’s Marie Therese Wolf, Lola Wolf, Mailina Wolf and Cousin Bob.

From one spectacular vacation house to the next. This one, within easy walking distance of the Atlantic Ocean in Plymouth, is owned by John and Elaine Eckert. It was built by Elaine’s late father, Henry Sentola.

John Eckert, taking care of his guests

What’s a reunion without some corn shucking?

White Horse Beach, Plymouth

Ralph Till and Claire (Eckert) Till

David Temming (fore) and Tom Parker, reunion instigators, and Lola Wolf

I, too, am grateful…for this great aunt and uncle!

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