Archive for December, 2017

This will be the second New Year’s holiday that David and Jennifer Beaird will experience since the Labor Day 2016 vehicular homicide that took the lives of their two children — 13-year-old Gavin and 7-year-old Chloe — and left David confined to a wheelchair.

And although they suffered a wound that no amount of time will heal, the Beairds, I am glad to report, are doing significantly better as they turn their calendar to 2018.

They have left Missouri and started a new life in upstate New York, where Jennifer is from and where some members of her family live. After selling their house in Warrenton, they purchased a house outside the Town of Canajoharie, about an hour west of Albany, and moved in about two months ago.

It’s got three bedrooms, hardwood floors (good for David’s motorized wheelchair) and a fireplace.

Also to David’s liking are the nearby outdoor attractions, including woods, trails and the Mohawk River. Not far away are the Catskill Mountains to the south and the Adirondacks to the north.

Jennifer and David in a recent photo submitted by David

David has always been an outdoorsman — a hunter and fisherman — and his last job was patrolling power lines in three St. Louis area counties. Although he can’t go deep into the woods any more, he has been exploring the area in his wheelchair, going up and down hills and checking out ball fields and other points of interest.

The biggest advantage for Jennifer is being close to family, including two brothers who helped with renovations to the house they bought.

Having a house that meets their physical (wheelchair friendly) and emotional (away from the state that holds bitter memories for them) has been a godsend.

“It’s been great,” David said. “It works for both of us.”

Their home in upstate New York

As she did in Warrenton, Jennifer is doing season work for H & R Bloch. She also continues to handle the payroll for a hotel-refurbishing company one of her brothers has in New York City.

David’s health is good and he has taken up a new hobby — photography. “That’s going to keep me busy for a while,” he said.

Of course, they still think often of their children and, as David said, “we have our ups and downs.”

The important thing now, however, is that they are resettled in a place where they want to be — a place that is comfortable and soothing for them — and where they can get a new fresh start on a life that turned tragic — in an instant 15 months ago on I-70.


I am intentionally not rehashing the details of the tragic crash that changed the course of David and Jennifer’s lives and stripped them of the joy of raising their two children and watching them grow into adulthood. If you want a refresher on what happened that fateful day, you can find it in a blog I posted last February and in a few other posts I have written since. (Just enter their last name in the search box and you’ll find all the posts about them.)

This New Year’s Day is about hope for renewed happiness for a couple that has been through, as David put it in our conversation, something “most people wouldn’t go through in two lifetimes.”

I’m sure I speak for all readers of this blog when I say, “Happy New Year,” David and Jennifer!

May 2018 see you healthy and with newfound peace of mind and soul.

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Writing about — and getting comments on — the holiday lull that descended on The Star’s newsroom decades ago got me reflecting on my early days at the paper, particularly how I happened to land a job here.

It was a fantastic time to get into journalism, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, with circulation strong and lots of big political stories swirling around, including the Watergate scandal.

Before going onto active duty for several months in the U.S. Army Reserve, I had been working as a reporter at a paper in northern Kentucky, The Kentucky Post and Times-Star, which was the sister paper to The Cincinnati Post and Times-Star. Subscribers in northern Kentucky got our one-section paper wrapped around the Cincinnati paper, which went to residents living on the north side of the Ohio River.

After my brief active-duty stint in the Army, I wanted to go to work for a major metropolitan daily. So, my father kindly financed a two-part fly-around to various cities — the first leg being to St. Louis and Kansas City, the second to Washington D.C., Boston, Providence and Philadelphia.

I didn’t have appointments or connections at any papers in any of those cities. It didn’t matter. Also, I didn’t have a journalism degree; I majored in English Lit. That didn’t matter, either. Back then, if you presented yourself well and had some decent “clippings” from work you’d done at a smaller paper, you had a good chance to catch on with a large newspaper; they’d give you a chance.

Upon arriving in those cities, I would make my way to the newspaper buildings, present myself at the reception desk and tell whoever greeted me I was looking for a reporting job.

In St. Louis, I got an interview with the executive editor, a stately, gray-haired man who sat behind a huge, shiny wood desk. At the time, the Post-Dispatch was one of the top papers in the country, and I knew I was biting off a big chunk, trying to get on board there, with only about seven months of reporting experience under my belt. But the editor was intrigued by me and talked to me for 20 to 30 minutes.

He eyed me closely, sizing me up, and kept coming back to the matter of my limited experience. Later I realized he was giving me a chance to convince him I would be a quick learner and would be able to do the job despite my lack of experience. But I wasn’t quick enough or aggressive enough — and certainly not very experienced in the art of the job interview — and finally he shook his head and sent me on my way.


When I got to Kansas City, I went to The Star’s building at 18th and Grand early one afternoon and found out that the man I needed to talk to, Donald D. “Casey” Jones, came in at 4 p.m. Casey was night city editor of The Kansas City Times, the morning edition of The Star.

To kill time, I walked downtown and took in a matinee of “True Grit,” starring John Wayne, at the old Towne Cinema. (Still one of my favorite movies ever.) When I came out, workers were spilling out of the office buildings onto the streets, having finished their day’s work and starting to head home. One of the first thoughts that went through my mind was, “This town has a lot of beautiful girls. This is pretty good.”

When I arrived back at The Star building, I was sent right up to the second-floor newsroom to see Casey Jones. He sat at an uncluttered, metal desk. Across from him, facing him at a similar desk, sat the assistant night city editor, Paul J. Haskins. Casey, a pudgy man with jowly face, thinning gray hair and relaxed manner, was an easy, non-threatening presence. But Haskins…he was something else.

He had a long, thin face — rather handsome — and hair combed up in a gentle wave and then straight back. The handsomeness was counterbalanced, however, by other factors. He constantly jiggled a leg, was missing a couple of teeth and had a searing, intimidating look in his eyes. He smoked and drank coffee almost continuously. And those eyes…They kept darting around — at senior editors in an area behind Jones, at reporters seated at desks in the back of the room and, occasionally, at me.

To the best of my ability, I kept my eyes trained on Casey Jones. When he interviewed job candidates, he took notes with a felt-tipped pen — blue, I believe, although it could have been red — on what were called “half sheets” of grainy paper that reporters sometimes used instead of notebooks. Those sheets were bound together in such a way you could rip off whatever thickness you desired, usually about an inch. The half sheets were OK in the office, when reporters were making notes from phone calls, but they didn’t work well at all in the field because they were floppy, with no backing.

As I recall, one of Casey’s first questions was, “How did you know we were hiring?” My answer: I didn’t…But the question gave me a jolt of optimism.

Casey was a sophisticated, well-traveled man who loved the arts and had a special affinity for the Nelson-Atkins Gallery. One of his favorite questions to ask job candidates, to test the breadth of their curiosity, was what magazines they read. I didn’t know about that habit, of course, but when he asked me what magazines I read, I said, “Sports Illustrated, Time and The New Yorker.”

When I said, “The New Yorker,” his eyes opened a little wider, and the felt-tip pen went quickly to the half-sheet pad.


I didn’t get a job offer at The Kansas City Times that day, but Casey said he would call me in a week or so.

I then made my East Coast swing…I got nowhere at the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Boston Globe. I got an offer from a second-rung paper in Washington — can’t remember its name — but rejected it. I also was offered a hinterlands bureau job at the Providence Journal-Bulletin and turned that down, too. (I recall the editor who interviewed me saying, “You think you’re hot shit, don’t you, and want to work in a big-city newsroom?” I guess I blanched at the “hot shit” line because he immediately came back with, “I mean that in a good way.”)

A couple of weeks later, back in Louisville and having heard nothing from Casey Jones, I put in a call to him. The only reason I called was my father strongly urged me to. “You’ve got nothing to lose,” he said. “They expressed interest in you. Go ahead and call.”

When I got Casey on the phone, he said, “Oh, yeah, uh, let me call you back in an hour or so.”

I stewed around the house for well over an hour — more like three or four hours — and Casey finally called back.

“Yeah,” he said, “we can offer you a general assignment job for $550 a month.”

I had been making $92.50 a week at my old job in northern Kentucky, and my mental computation was fast enough to tell me Casey’s offer was a winner.

“I’ll take it,” I said.


I started in September 1969. Drove out here in a driving rain in a white, big-finned 1959 Pontiac my father sold me for “$1 and other valuable considerations.” Spent the first night in a sketchy motel at Admiral and The Paseo. Rented a furnished apartment at Armour and Cherry and lived there for a few months…until somebody stole about 10 pairs of my socks that were drying on a communal line in the basement, where the clothes washer was located.

Then I moved into a rental house with four other guys — including a fellow KC Times reporter — at 5840 McGee. We split the $250-a-month rent five ways, making it even more reasonable than the apartment on Armour.

Once I landed in Brookside, I was on my way to becoming a Kansas Citian.


I worked for Casey and Paul for several years. Casey died of leukemia in 2000. Paul died of pneumonia and other complications of emphysema in 2003.

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When I read in The New York Times today that there have been fewer than 300 homicides in New York City this year, compared with 2,245 in 1990, my first thought was that New York officials had discovered some law enforcement technique or strategy that magically brought the number crashing to earth.

After all, as of Christmas Day, Kansas City’s homicide count stood at 148, which is within shouting distance of New York City’s count of 285.

And while NYC is headed for the lowest murder rate in the city’s modern history, KC could still tie or surpass its all-time high of 153 murders in 1993.

The Times’ story was not buried down page. In fact, it was the lead story on the paper’s digital edition. That tells you the level of importance that Times editors assigned it.

The obvious questions the story triggered were: How could this possibly be? What factors were responsible for this incredible drop?

Beyond the raw numbers, however, the story, unfortunately, was woefully and exasperatingly unenlightening. It is a prime example of a reporter missing a golden opportunity to explore the reasons for a dramatic situational shift on a matter of high public interest.

Reporter Ashley Southall so buried her curiosity and her responsibility to help readers see the full picture that she, at one point, stood back in awe and allowed a source to say the reasons for the sharp decline were “utterly mysterious.”

Utterly mysterious! No clue!

Only once, for a fleeting few words, did Southall touch on a point that merited significantly more consideration and reporting. That was when she said:

“More broadly, research suggests that crime trends are closely tied to economic conditions. Interest rates, inflation and unemployment are among the macro-level factors influencing crime, according to James Austin, the president of JFA Institute, a criminal justice policy nonprofit.”

But then, in a flash, she was back on her statistical horse, reporting that the New York reductions were part of a crime-rate decline “across the country’s largest cities.”

It wasn’t until I got to the readers’ comments that I and other readers found out what’s really at the root of the declining statistics — radically altered demographics.

Take a look at excerpts from three reader comments:

CommonSense ’17, from Califronia

“Gentrification is the more likely cause of the drop in crime rate. How many 65-year-old-plus millionaires and billionaires residing in Manhattan do you know running around the streets holding up banks and gas stations (if you can find a gas station, that is)? The middle and lower classes have been pushed out by exorbitant rents and stagnant wages — which leaves the area sterilized and stripped clean of its once storied and diversified cultures.”

Worried but hopeful, from Delaware

“Seriously? Does someone need to tell this criminologist that expensive havens for the wealthy (i.e., New York in 2017) always have lower crime rates than tough inner cities (i.e., New York in 1990) do?”

Paul, from Brooklyn

“(W)hat history has taught us, imo, with all things remaining equal, crime rates, especially murder rates, go up or down for three main reasons: Demographics, Demographics, Demographics…The overall drop since 1992 was due to the aging of the baby boom pop. In recent years it has been the tremendous gentrification of minority areas in NYC and also Asian and Indian migration. The above groups do not suffer from America’s cultural abuse gun sickness that most second generation Americans do on all sides of the spectrum — black and white and Hispanic.”

A quick Google check confirmed that the Big Apple has, indeed, experienced significant demographic changes the last couple of decades.

A 2016 Huffington Post story said this:

“Gentrification has swept through two-thirds of New York City’s formerly low-income neighborhoods in the last decade and a half, according to a report released Monday…New York City has seen alarming increases in rent, stagnating incomes, a rise in the number of people paying more for housing than they can afford and other significant demographic shifts in the 21st century.”

A blog called “6sqft,” which focuses on NYC real estate and architecture said this last February:

“By now, we’re all well aware that New York City is changing, becoming ever more expensive and far less friendly to its middle and low-income inhabitants.” It then linked to a map that showed how upper-income New Yorkers had multiplied through the city’s five boroughs between 2000 and 2010 “to alter the face of the city’s demographics.”


A lot of workers — at least a lot of those who don’t take vacations at this time of year — sleep walk through the week between Christmas and New Year’s. And in that respect the newspaper business is no different from any other business. For that reason I really can’t blame Ashley Southall too much for mailing it in. But I do fault her editors.

Even if her main editor was walking around the office chatting it up and eating fudge, one look at that story should have been sufficient for him or her to say, “Hey, Southall, this is an interesting report, but your story doesn’t address, in any depth, the possible reasons behind the statistical drop. Take it back, make some more calls and beef it up…Okay?”

Instead, her editor reached for another piece of fudge…

Truth be told, 15 years ago it could have been me.

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It’s starting to look like Jackson County Executive Frank White is not only paddling in political waters too choppy for him but also that his inability to manage his personal finances has indebted him to people who could take advantage of him and the taxpayers.



Those are the two obvious conclusions from the latest Jackson County political expose produced by the kick-ass, KC Star team of Mike Hendricks and Steve Vockrodt.

Two weeks ago, the same reporters blew open a kickback scheme involving former County Executive Mike Sanders, and today they notched another huge scoop with a story about a prominent Independence attorney bailing White out of a mortgage jam last year.

The gist of today’s story is White and his wife Teresa had fallen so far behind on the mortgage payments on their Lee’s Summit home that it was scheduled to be sold on the courthouse steps in April 2016. Hendricks and Vockrodt reported that Ken McClain, a lawyer and who owns or co-owns much of the Independence Courthouse Square, “provided the funds to catch White and his wife up on their mortgage.”

McClain’s involvement was hidden, however, because he has direct business dealings with the county. First, the county rents office space in a building McClain owns on the Square and, second, the county allows McClain to house part of his art collection, free of charge, in the Independence Courthouse.

So, rather than write the check himself to cover the Whites’ back mortgage, McClain got another lawyer to provide the money, Hendricks and Vockrodt said.

Under terms of a new, five-year lease that took effect earlier this year — and which White presumably approved — the county is paying McClain $56,888 a year for the space in the Courthouse Square building. Before that, McClain was paid $49,869 a year.


Perhaps as troubling as White’s compromised position in regard to McClain is his inability to manage his personal finances. He had a big-paying, front-office job with the Kansas City Royals until early 2011, when the Kansas City Royals decided to cut his pay because he was giving the team less time due to broadcasting Royals games on Fox Sports. Rather than take the pay cut, White quit, but then later that year he also lost his broadcasting job when Fox Sports did not renew his contract.

Still, he had made very good money when he was playing for the Royals — $1.15 million his final season, 1990 — and as county executive he has been earning a salary of $145,000 a year. In addition, Hendricks and Vockrodt, he was eligible for a Major League Baseball pension of more than $9,000 a month, or more than $108,000 a year, and he has a sales and marketing job with a roofing company and is a paid spokesman for a non-profit agency.

Hendricks and Vockrodt did not report this, but White was previously divorced, and that certainly could have had a significant bearing on his financial situation. Nevertheless, it seems almost certain he and his wife were living beyond their means when they fell behind on their mortgage payments.


Now, everybody loves Frank White. He and George Brett are the greatest two players in team history. Each is memorialized with a statue at Kauffman Stadium, along with legendary manager Dick Howser. White was an outstanding commentator while he was with Fox Sports, and he is — or was — first base coach for the Kansas City T-Bones.

That said, the last thing you want in an elected official who is overseeing millions of dollars in taxpayer money — besides being a straight-out crook — is someone who can’t manage his personal finances. This is a bad situation, and it might cost him his job; it will make him vulnerable if he hopes to be re-elected in 2018.

In any event, congratulations are in order to The Star and the team of Hendricks and Vockrodt. Their two Jackson County exposes, along with the paper’s series on secrecy in Kansas government and its hammering on Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ clandestine ways, are making for a pretty merry Christmas at 17th and McGee.


Note: A point of particular interest to me in today’s story was Hendricks’ and Vockrodt’s reporting that the late James B. Nutter Sr., political kingmaker and mortgage banker, had refused to bail out White, whom Nutter had supported politically. Even though Nutter’s company didn’t hold the mortgage — it was through U.S. Bank — White sought help from Nutter.


Nutter probably contributed millions of dollars to political candidates during his lifetime, but from what I’ve seen and read he always played it very straight on mortgages. In White’s case, Nutter drew the line between political supporter and financial savior. He did the same several years ago after former Kansas City Mayor Charlie Wheeler fell behind on his mortgage payments.

Nutter, whose firm held that loan, gave Wheeler a lot of latitude but ultimately foreclosed on the home on West 53rd Street, near Loose Park. Nutter sold the home to an out-of-state company. The home was under renovation for years but remains unoccupied.

I knew Nutter very well and was always impressed with his honesty and above-board dealings with politicians. His main interest in contributing to candidates was not generating more money for himself but seeng elected to public office candidates he believed would work for the betterment of Kansas City, Jackson County and Missouri.

Nutter died in July at age 89, but his legacy of integrity and commitment to community endures.

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Sometimes the “oldies” seem to jump up out of nowhere and grab me.

That was the case last night when Patty and I were at another couple’s house and were introduced to the TV series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which is available on Amazon. The show is set in the 1950s, and one scene was set to the backdrop of one of my favorite songs, “Teach Me Tonight.”

Many artists have recorded the song, but the best version — the one that reached the highest rank on the pop charts, No. 2 in 1955 — is by The DeCastro Sisters. And that’s the one, wisely, the creators of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” used in that scene.

My heart soared when I heard the first notes of that song, and I was disappointed it was such a brief cut. But no problem; I’ve got it on vinyl…45 RPM. (And, yes, by all means, I do have a working turntable!)

So today I went down to the basement and dug out several 45s that were at the front of a plastic crate, otherwise filled with 33 RPM records.

With the able assistance of YouTube, I’d like to play some of those songs for you now.

We’ll start, of course, with “Teach Me Tonight.” It was written by Gene De Paul, with lyrics by the incredible Sammy Cahn, who wrote the lyrics to dozens of memorable songs, including two big Sinatra hits, “Call Me Irresponsible” and “Love and Marriage.”

Here you go…

“Starting with,
The a-b-c of it.
Right down to,
The x-y-z of it.
Help me solve the mystery of it.
Teach me tonight.”


Now let’s pick up the pace and go to a song I bet you haven’t heard in years, maybe decades — “Bony Moronie.”

Written and recorded by Larry Williams on the Specialty label, it peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 1957 and got to No. 4 on the R&B chart.

Williams, from New Orleans, was a longtime friend of Little Richard. The Beatles and several other “British Invasion” groups recorded some of Williams’ songs. According to Wikipedia, “Williams’ life mixed tremendous success with violence and drug addiction.” He died at age 44 of a gunshot wound to the head…very likely self-inflicted but “there was much speculation otherwise,” according to Wiki.

“I want to get married on a night in June,
And rock and roll by the light of a silvery moon”


Next up is a Roy Orbison classic, “Blue Angel.” It will always be special to me because I got my first kiss to it at a party in a schoolmate’s basement when I was in high school. The girl’s name was Sharon Bridger. We were dancing behind a sheet that was hung out on the line, and somehow, magically, our lips found each other’s. In 1960, “Blue Angel” rose to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

“sha-la-la, dooby wah, dum-dum-dum
yeh-yeh, um, wah-wah-wah-wah”


Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach were a phenomenal musical team, and one of their big hits was “Alfie,” written by Bacharach and Hal David to promote the 1966 movie by the same name. Wiki says the composers weren’t keen on writing the song because, in David’s words, “Writing a song about a man called ‘Alfie’ didn’t seem too exciting at the time.” The inspiration for the song’s opening words was a line in the film uttered by lead actor Michael Caine: “What’s it all about?”

The song got to No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel”


A personal favorite of mine — can’t really tell you why, except I love most of the old the droopy drawers songs — is “A Million to One” by Jimmy Charles and The Revellettes. It was written by Phil Medley, better known for co-writing “Twist & Shout,” which both The Isley Brothers and The Beatles had hits with.

“A Million to One” was released in 1960 and topped out at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Interestingly, most of the sites I went to for the lyrics said that one stanza goes like this…

“They’re betting everything that our love won’t survive
They’re hoping
In time we’ll forget
Each others’ lies”

But that last line makes no sense. For 57 years I’ve been singing it like this “…each other’s alive.”

If Medley was alive — he died at age 81 in 1997 — I’m sure he’d set the “record” straight.

Hope you enjoyed the show! Tell me about some of your own favorites…

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For the first time since the city’s renewed effort to get a new KCI got underway, Mayor Sly James has broached the prospect of having to start over on the selection of a contractor.

At 11:01 a.m., James sent out an email suggesting that the selection process might be so mired down now that it would necessitate a do-over. Here’s the seminal paragraph in this seven-paragraph notice.

I’m proposing that the City Manager continue engaging in good faith negotiations with Edgemoor and bring back a revised MOU (memorandum of understanding) for City Council consideration. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the City Manager must report back to the Council why an agreement could not be reached, and the process for selecting a developer will start over. At that point, I would propose that the process be open to the public.

This is very significant, partly because James sees closing a deal on a new KCI as the key to his legacy as the mayor who was able to break ground on a new, modern airport. But if he’s serious about starting over, a deal might not be concluded on his watch. (His second and last term ends in early 2019.)

He would have to swallow very hard to allow that opportunity to get away, but he’s so pissed off at the council’s 9-4 rejection of the proposed Edgemoor MOU last week it just might happen.

His threat is a last-ditch attempt to pressure a council majority to resolve its differences with Edgemoor, the airport construction firm city officials selected. As I said in my previous post, however, I don’t think there’s any chance of salvaging a deal with Edgemoor. The Maryland firm has managed to alienate a council majority — partly with a demand for a $30 million “break-up fee” if a final deal cannot be reached — and I think it’s extremely unlikely that three of the nine members who voted against Edgemoor will reverse their positions…That’s what it would take to turn the vote from 9-4 “no” to 7-6 “yes.”

At the same time, I think it’s unlikely that a seven-vote coalition can be put together for the recently engaged team of AECOM and Burns & McDonnell. Burns & McDonnell keeps scratching at the door, but we must remember that after the Council opened the proposal process to firms other than Burns and Mac, its no-bid proposal was shown to be nearly a half billion dollars higher than what AECOM proposed. In fairness, it’s uncertain a final deal with AECOM would have been nearly $500 million less than what Burns and Mac proposed, but it was apparent, in any event, that Burns and Mac was trying to pull off what amounted to a bank heist.

The only way I see Burns and Mac getting back in the picture is if the first round of proposals is thrown out altogether and the city starts afresh, next time starting with getting a design, then taking construction proposals, based on detailed specifications.

I would prefer one more change: Financing the project with city-issued revenue bonds rather than having the construction firm handling the financing.

That would be a significant change, not in the least because it would require a second election. The ballot language from the November election specifically stated the job would be done “without the issuance of general airport revenue bonds unless such general airport revenue bonds have received prior voter approval.”


It’s very difficult to predict what will happen from here. The city put itself at the mercy of the construction firms when it agreed to allow them to propose just about whatever they wanted and to finance the project as they saw fit. It was ridiculous, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that chaos now reigns. We’ve got chaos because, with the city’s backasswards approach, it is negotiating from a position of weakness and the contractors can call the shots.

The best way to get the best deal — a modern terminal with plenty of amenities built at a fair cost — is to scrub the two proposals still on the table and start over. I hope Sly will swallow his pride and do what is in the best interests of the city, which is this:

When the deal with Edgemoor officially falls through, call not only for a redo but also for commissioning an airport design, then taking construction bids and, finally, issuing municipal revenue bonds (the cheapest financing available by far) to complete the project.

Yes, it would require another election, but — you know what — the hardest part is behind us: Kansas Citians demonstrated by a 3-1 ratio they want a new airport.

The atmosphere enveloping the airport issue is full of toxins. For the good of future generations, let’s go all the way; let’s do what it takes to clear the air completely and get this billion-dollar-job done in a way we can be sure the public, not the contractors, will benefit the most.

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What had been controlled friction between Mayor Sly James and several City Council members has now erupted into a gaping fissure, and as a result we might be looking at a delay of several years on any contract for a new KCI terminal.

Here’s my take:

:: Edgemoor is out. Finished in KC and at KCI.

:: AECOM has an outside chance of getting the contract, but probably not.

:: Burns & McDonnell remains on the outside looking in but could get back in the hunt if this round of construction proposals is thrown out and if a “friend” is elected mayor.

But with James charging he was the victim of “an ambush” and saying “you can’t lead people you can’t trust,” the most likely scenario now is no airport deal will be accomplished during the last 16 months of James’ second and last term.

I’m not much of a poet, but I’m going to attempt to put into rhyme how we got to this messy juncture:

When without a design a terminal project goes forth
And a deal no-bid points the course
Trouble lurks afore every tenuous step
Until, at last, beckons the murky depth

Reverting to plain prose, here’s what could well unfold over the next few weeks:

A council majority votes to end negotiations with Edgemoor.

Most of the nine council members who all but eliminated Edgemoor on Thursday (the vote was 9-4), come back with a proposal to begin negotiating a deal with AECOM.

A council majority — but probably not a veto-proof collection of nine or more — approves a measure to engage with AECOM.

Sly James vetoes the measure, and council is unable to override.

The prospect of a new KCI goes dormant until a new mayor and several new council members are elected in 2019.


Now, let’s look at some of the people responsible for preparing us for a couple of long winters’ naps.

  • Barnes

    Councilman Lee Barnes Jr. Until KCI came along, Barnes had been a low-key, low-profile council member since being elected in the spring of 2015. But he has been openly agitating against Edgemoor and in favor of AECOM ever since the council decided to solicit proposals from firms other than Burns and Mac. Barnes is the leading advocate of a demand for minority contractors to get 40 percent of all subcontracts, as well as 40 percent minority workforce participation. Those are extremely high numbers, probably the highest ever in any big municipal construction project. Barnes would have more credibility on this front were he not carrying water for his pal and political mentor Kelvin Perry, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City. Perry, a businessman, has never held office, has never had to compromise and always holds to a hard line.

  • Adams

    Clinton Adams. Adams, attorney for the black political group Freedom Inc., is in league with Barnes and Perry, railing against Edgemoor. Because Adams has significant influence with Freedom Inc., some of the council members who either are running for mayor in 2019 or are thinking about that possibility are mulling how their positions on KCI could benefit or hurt them in 2019. Adams has a long history of enmity toward James because he thinks James has not put a sufficiently high priority on East Side economic development.

  • Taylor

    Councilman Scott Taylor and Councilman Kevin McManus. Taylor and McManus were among the nine who voted against Edgemoor on Thursday. Both live in the 6th District in south Kansas City. Taylor, an at-large councilman (meaning he runs city-wide, not just within the district) is not only an announced candidate for mayor but far and away the leader in campaign funds. I am convinced Taylor and McManus are firmly committed to Burns & McDonnell, which has its headquarters building in the 6th District, and were greatly disappointed when the selection committee eliminated Burns and Mac from consideration. My guess is that with this situation plunged back into uncertainty, Taylor and McManus will play a chess game aimed at getting Burns and Mac back in the picture. The only way they win this game, though, is if Taylor is elected mayor.


Personally, I don’t care if Edgemoor gets the boot. My indifference to the firm goes back to late October, when my homes association, Romanelli West, hosted a pre-election, issue-education session for our members at The Well in Waldo. The campaign committee person I worked with in arranging the event lined up a top-notch trio of presenters: City Manager Troy Schulte, Councilman Quinton Lucas and Stricker, who, as I said earlier, is Edgemoor’s managing partner.


The evening of the event, Schulte and Lucas appeared as scheduled and made informative and impressive presentations. Stricker, however, did not show up. I was irked, and so were some of the 50 people who attended. Stricker made no effort that night to contact either the campaign committee or me to extend his regrets or explain his absence. The next day, I got an email from my campaign contact, telling me Stricker had been “taken ill.” I don’t believe it. I think he stiffed us, so screw him.

…As I have said more than once, this long, troubled dance got off to a stumbling, bumbling start. Six months ago, what was needed was a design RFP (request for proposals). After a detailed design was selected and approved, the city could proceed to advertise and accept construction bids — bids that could be compared, if not line by line, at least element by element. Most important, the city would finance the project with revenue bonds, so the city, not the contractors, would be in the driver’s seat.

It still needs to happen that way. So, let’s just back off for a few years, let the bad taste in our mouths recede, and then make another run at a new, single terminal. And next time, right up front, before we get carried away, let’s see what that terminal would look like.

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Lamar, Mo. — Local journalists like myself love to have a dateline at the start of stories once in a while because it means one thing: You’ve gotten out of town and reported from the road!

And so it was that the JimmyCsays journalistic juggernaut roused itself out of the comforts of Kansas City and headed down I-49 early this morning for court business related to the case of David Jungerman, the Raytown man who was questioned in the Oct. 25 murder of Kansas City lawyer Thomas Pickert and is separately facing an attempted burglary charge in southern Missouri.

Everyone who has been following the Pickert case is now focused on the attempted burglary case because it appears to be the best chance the state has to get Jungerman off the streets and into prison.

Despite Jungerman having a strong motive to kill Pickert (Pickert represented a client who won a $5.75 million civil judgment against Jungerman last summer) and despite the fact Jungerman has a history of shooting people, authorities apparently do not have enough evidence to charge Jungerman in Pickert’s slaying. Police questioned him, but the interview ended after he requested an attorney.

Stymied on the murder case, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office is cooperating with the Vernon County Prosecutor’s Office — Nevada, Mo. — on the attempted burglary charge. The hope is to gain a conviction and get the 79-year-old Jungerman into prison. Fortuitously for the public as well as the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, the attempted burglary charge has been hanging for a year and a half, and now authorities hope to get the maximum seven-year sentence against Jungerman, if a jury convicts him.

A trial date is not set but appears to be coming early next year. Today a pre-trial conference was held in the Barton County Courthouse in Lamar, where the case would be tried. (Although the Vernon County Prosecutor’s Office is handling the case, it was moved to nearby Barton County last year on a routine “change of venue.”)


Barton County Courthouse (JimmyCsays photo)

I said I started out early this morning…but not early enough. The conference was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at the Barton County Courthouse, and I didn’t arrive until shortly after 10. (If I’d still been working for The Star and had been assigned to cover the case and had missed the conference, I might have been fired, but, you know, I’m on JimmyC time now.)

A bailiff told me the hearing had concluded a few minutes before I arrived. At that point, Judge David Munton, presiding judge of the 28th Judicial Circuit, was hearing subsequent cases. As I’m wont to do, I chatted up various people and found out what had come out of the hearing.

So here’s the development: A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 9, in Vernon County, at which time Judge Munton will take up two motions Jungerman filed recently.

One motion is to dismiss the attempted burglary charge, as well as a misdemeanor charge of harassment.

The other motion seeks the return of a .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun — loaded with hollow point bullets — that Vernon County Sheriff’s deputies recovered from Jungerman’s vehicle the day of the alleged burglary incident, June 28, 2016.

A tenant of Jungerman’s — along with two other witnesses — allege that Jungerman attempted to kick in the door of the tenant’s residence and, while brandishing and touching a gun in his waistband, yelled at the tenant, “When are you getting out of here, you mother fucker?”

From my perspective, it appears Jungerman has zero chance of getting his dismissal motion approved. One reason is that, as in the civil case that resulted in the $5.75 million damage judgment, Jungerman is representing himself — “pro se,” in legal jargon. Judge Munton has strongly encouraged Jungerman to hire an attorney, at one point saying something to this effect in open court: “If you have appendicitis, you can cut yourself open with a knife and remove your appendix, but most people seek help.”

For his part, Jungerman contends he doesn’t have access to adequate funds to hire an attorney — even though he admitted in the civil trial that he was a multi-millionaire– and at one point he asked Judge Munton to appoint an attorney to represent him at state expense. (The motion was denied before the proverbial ink had dried.)


To some extent, Vernon and Bates counties are Jungerman country. In the course of the civil trial, he said either he or a family trust owns about 7,000 acres of farmland in those two counties. Several years ago, Jungerman took the opportunity to promote his political philosophy on the side of a tractor-trailer that sits on the west side of I-49 in the southern end of Bates County. The tractor-trailer has been in the same place for at least seven years, and I photographed it today, on the way back from Barton County.

Here it is:


Also on the way back from Lamar, I stopped by the Vernon County Courthouse in Nevada, hoping to meet Vernon County Prosecutor Brandi McInroy, who is handling the burglary case. I was not optimistic, primarily because Jungerman has unnerved McInroy to the point she has requested beefed-up security at the Vernon County Courthouse and has asked Judge Munton to order Jungerman to keep his distance from her in court.


When I first called McInroy a couple of weeks ago, I left a message, but she didn’t return my call, which further made me think my chances of getting a face-to-face meeting with her today would be slim. I was right. When I got to her office, a receptionist greeted me behind a “top-and-bottom” door that was open at the top. She told me McInroy was eating lunch in her office but took my card, and I sat down in the outer office. About 15 minutes later, the receptionist reappeared at the door and told me McInroy would not see me because she “cannot talk about active cases.”

“But she’s got your card,” the receptionist added, smiling. I smiled back and departed.

McInroy graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law in 2005 and worked for the 28th Circuit’s Juvenile Office before being elected prosecutor in 2014…She’s probably never had a case as sensitive as this.


The non-judicial highlight of my day was having lunch at a diner called Cap’s Cabin (“Home of the Crispy Cod”) on the Barton County Square, across from the courthouse. Waitresses were running tray after tray of fried cod from the kitchen to customers’ tables, and oldies from iHeartRadio were playing on the speakers…The place was vibrant.

On the bathroom wall hung a likeness of a fish — a fish that carries a message that could soon be invoked in court and bring David Jungerman’s days as a free man to an end.

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In my last post, examining the state of local newspapers, Mike Waller, a former editor of The Kansas City Star, commented on the high quality of a privately owned paper in the state where he now lives, South Carolina.

The paper he spoke of was The Post and Courier in Charleston, SC.

That got me wondering if the remaining big-city newspapers that are family owned are faring better, in terms of circulation, than the papers owned by the three largest newspaper chains — Gannett, McClatchy and Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing), which are publicly owned.

So, I did a little comparing, based on statistics assembled by the Alliance for Audited Media, an industry-financed trade organization. But before comparing the Sunday circulation statistics at some big-chain and family-owned papers, a little background…

Like many major dailies, The Star was locally owned for much of its history. In fact, it was employee owned for decades, until an up-and-coming media company named Capital Cities Inc. bought it in 1977. Since then, The Star has changed hands three more times, first going to Walt Disney Co., then to KnightRidder and finally to McClatchy in 2006 (which, somewhat coincidentally, is the year I retired).

Over the last several decades, most family-owned papers sold out to one or the other of the big chains, and I would daresay that a significant percentage of employees at those big chains is very unhappy. I can guarantee you that if a private buyer came along and bought almost any one of the chain-owned papers, the employees would be running around hysterically, whooping with joy. (At The Star, they would be doing cartwheels.)

A handful or more of modest- to good-sized papers have managed to hang on and remain in the “family-owned” category. Here are several examples Mike Waller and I came up with:

:: Arkansas Democrat Gazette, based in Little Rock, and owned by Walter E. Hussman Jr.

:: The Post and Courier in Charleston, SC, owned by the Manigault family.

:: The Seattle Times, a majority of which is owned by the Blethen family.

:: The Register-Guard in Eugene, OR, owned by the Baker family.

:: The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, WA, owned by the Cowles family, which is distantly related to the Cowles family that formerly owned The Des Moines Register.


As I said in my earlier post, Sunday print circulation at The Star, owned by McClatchy, dropped a stunning 26 percent between September 2016 and September 2017. A spot check of a leading paper at each of the other two chains, the Los Angeles Times (Tronc) and the Louisville Courier-Journal (Gannett), showed significant losses but not as hefty as those at The Star.

The Los Angeles Times’ Sunday circulation dropped 15.3 percent between 2016 and 2017, and The Courier-Journal’s fell 10 percent.

Now, let’s look at the Sunday losses for the five family-owned papers mentioned above:

— Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Minus 10 percent

— The Post and Courier: Minus 8.8 percent

— The Seattle Times: Minus 6 percent

— The Register-Guard: Minus 5 percent

— The Spokesman-Review: Minus 2.4 percent

Four of those five lost a smaller percentage of subscribers than their big-chain counterparts.

In an email, I asked Waller if the difference might be that residents of cities with family-owned papers felt a deeper loyalty to their hometown papers than residents in cities with large-chain ownership.

Here’s how he answered:

“The difference is that these papers…have had to make cuts, but did it much more carefully than Tribune, McClatchy and other big chains. The family papers tried to limit the damage; the others simply butchered their papers for short-term profits. In doing so, I believe they have effectively killed their papers, because none of them are making much money in the digital world and seem unlikely to do so in the future.

“Unless a miracle business model surfaces somewhere, many of those big-city, chain-owned papers will be dead in 15 to 20 years.  Most of the smaller dailies (with circulations of 10,000 to 40,000) will survive because they have a monopoly on local news and information…and not that much competition from broadcasting and even from the internet. They have already absorbed the loss of classified to the Internet and still are making reasonable margins.”


Mike Waller

In my last post, I quoted Warren Buffett, “The Oracle of Omaha,” as saying much the same thing about the difficulty many major metropolitan dailies have had transitioning from print to the Internet. Equally as credible is Waller, whose career also included stints as publisher at the Hartford Courant and The Sun in Baltimore.

For today, then, I’m dubbing Waller “The Sage of South Carolina.”

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When I look at my thin and featherweight Kansas City Star Monday through Saturday (Sunday remains an exception), I feel like I’m looking into a freshly dug hole that is waiting to receive the corporate remains of local newspapers.

Sure, things have been going downhill for years, but it struck me with extra force only recently how bad the situation is.

Here in Kansas City, we all hear complaints and grumblings about how The Star has shrunk and its coverage has contracted. But it’s just about as bad in almost every other metro area. As surely as the glaciers are melting, local newspapers are fading and failing.

You can count on exactly three fingers the papers that are prospering: The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. But they are national papers benefitting not only from the decline of local papers but also from the upsurge in public interest in the altered political landscape. (Some call it the Trump Bump.)

Many dedicated newspaper readers have either dropped their local papers and purchased subscriptions to one of those three papers, or they have continued to subscribe to their local papers and augmented them with online or print-and-online subscriptions to one or more of The Big Three.

The Star is just a microcosm of the trend. Let me show you some of the ways in which The Star and its corporate owner, McClatchy, symbolize the overall descent of the daily newspaper.

:: I wrote about The Star’s precipitously falling circulation last month, but it warrants a recap. The Star’s Sunday print circulation now stands at less than 120,000, and daily circulation is below 80,000. Sunday circulation fell by a startling 26 percent between September 2016 and September 2017. The drop in daily circulation during the same period was 12 percent. That kind of loss is not sustainable very long, and it prompted a retired, longtime reporter at The Star to analyze it in these words, “What we’re talking about now is a long, ugly drag to the bottom.”

McClatchy Co., based in Sacramento, and the other newspaper chains have pinned their hopes on a transition from print to digital. But it’s just not working; there are too many other places for people to go to get what information they want without paying for it.

According to the Alliance for Audited Media, The Star actually lost stand-alone digital subscriptions between this September and last, falling from 12,288 to 10,219. Either number is paltry in a metro area with 1.7 million people. The transition to digital has gone much better in some cities, such as Boston, but I believe many papers are facing the same struggle as Kansas City.

Source: “The Financial”

:: For years, The Star has been dropping stand-alone sections, such as FYI and Business, and funneling material from discontinued sections into the A section, which, until about 10 years ago, was reserved for national and international news and the editorial pages. Initially, Star management tried to sell the changes to readers as beefing up the A section. For a year or so, the A section did grow, partly with the addition of four pages of “In Depth” coverage several days a week. Now, however, “In Depth” is down to a single story on a single page and might as well be called “In Shallow.”

For thumbnail evidence of what I’m talking about, check out this “bottoms-up” photo I took of Saturday’s A section…

In essence, there are four “sections” — national, local, business and FYI — crammed into the 14-page section. That is a total embarrassment. But, like I say, it’s not exclusive to Kansas City; other papers are doing the same thing. Not all of them are owned by a chain that is drowning in $800 million of debt — McClatchy — but none of the major newspaper chains is prospering.

:: I didn’t realize until last Thursday just how desperate The Star’s chase for readers was. I had heard that The Star had begun evaluating reporters partly on the basis of the number of “clicks” their stories were getting, but I thought that was designed to motivate reporters to go after big, substantive stories. But Thursday I saw on The Star’s website a story that struck me as odd for a number of reasons. Carried under the heading of “latest news,” it was about a white guy who tried to run down a black man in a Wal-Mart parking lot in the Ozarks. But it was written by a local reporter, Max Londberg, who had dressed up and repackaged an old Springfield News-Leader story as if it was original reporting. When I Googled the incident, I found the incident had occurred more than three months ago — and 175 miles from Kansas City.

After I wrote about that, a commenter posted a link to a story that longtime Star reporter Matt Campell had written about a woman in Virginia who saw a house on fire “and immediately went into full TV journalist mode on Facebook Live, creating a video that has made her something of a sensation.” Sensation, yes!

So, it dawned on me that, at least on its website, The Star has its reporters trolling for “clickbait” stories — akin to those you see linked at the bottom of mainstream stories, trying to lure readers with headlines like, “Celebrities that are falling down drunk” and “LiAngelo Ball explains why he shoplifted in China.”

This go-for-the-clicks strategy did not emanate from 18th and Grand — that would be bad enough — but with McClatchy executives, who have directed managers at all 29 of its daily papers to pursue stories that theoretically will attract wide readership. Reporters have been given checklists, and if potential stories don’t meet certain specific criteria, they should not pursue them. I presume that includes grass-roots, no-glitz stories like those a reporter would get covering school boards, city councils and courthouses. Unexciting though those stories are, they have long helped keep politicians and elected officials honest and have provided citizens with important information about what’s going on in their cities.

I can guarantee you that the go-for-clicks strategy will not lead papers to prosperity in the Internet era. Major metropolitan newspapers and newspaper companies that stoop to appealing to the lowest common denominator will quickly lose what credibility they have left, and they will go out of business. I don’t know what the answer is — maybe there is none — but if I had my own newspaper, I would go down swinging, filling my paper (and the website) with a blend of substantive, informative and entertaining stories…It would be JimmyCsays times 10. I might call it The Pizza Report: If you didn’t like it, you could eat it.


I will leave the last word to Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha,” who knows a thing or two about newspapers. His Berkshire Hathaway company owns several papers, including The Buffalo News and the Omaha World-Herald.

I came across this quote of Buffett’s in an August 2016 story on the Politico website:

“Newspapers are going to go downhill. Most newspapers, the transition to the Internet so far hasn’t worked in digital. The revenues don’t come in. There are a couple of exceptions for national newspapers — the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are in a different category. That doesn’t mean it necessarily works brilliantly for them, but they are a different business than a local newspaper. But local newspapers continue to decline at a very significant rate. And even with the economy improving, circulation goes down, advertising goes down, and it goes down in prosperous cities, it goes down in areas that are having urban troubles, it goes down in small towns – that’s what amazes me. A town of 10 or 20,000, where there’s no local TV station obviously, and really there’s nothing on the Internet that tells you what’s going on in a town like that, but the circulation just goes down every month. And when circulation goes down, advertising is gonna go down.”

Yep, the “long, ugly drag to the bottom” is well underway, and McClatchy, unfortunately, appears to be leading the descent.

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