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Archive for September, 2019

I’m sure Michael Ryan, who joined The Kansas city Star’s editorial board in June, had only good intentions when he wrote an Op-Ed column titled “This JoCo church proves the power of community,” which ran in Sunday’s paper.

But nobody must have told Ryan, a Kansas City area native who is now back, about the lingering smell emanating from the church he wrote about — St. Ann Catholic Church, 73rd and Mission Road, Prairie Village. And Ryan certainly didn’t do any homework regarding the church he and his family belonged to when he was growing up.

His column was nominally about the clergy sexual-abuse scandal that has enveloped and diminished the Catholic Church the last couple of decades. Ryan wrote that he was watching the “still-roiling” scandal with a mixture of despair and gratitude — despair being his feeling about the pain the victims have endured and gratitude “for having been kept safe by whim or fate” when he was young.

He talked nostalgically about going back to St. Ann for the wake of a classmate’s father, and he waxed poetic about his trip down memory lane…

“So many years and so many roads later, I felt a renewed sense of belonging walking into my childhood church to comfort an elementary school classmate. I didn’t recognize anyone else there. Remarkably, I didn’t need to. I felt right at home.”

…I wonder if he noticed the new $8.5 million chapel facing Mission Road?

Surely, somebody on The Star’s editorial page remembers that chapel was built partly with significant funding from a group of parishioners who made millions on the backs of poor people who either borrowed from, or were fleeced by, payday loan operations run by those particular parishioners.

The chapel built partly with payday-loan revenue

It’s worth repeating part of this story, which I’ve written about before…Worth repeating because it’s not fair or honest to let Ryan’s idealized portrayal stand.

When then-pastor Rev. Keith Lunsford launched the capital campaign to finance the chapel several years ago, the group of early “lead givers” included at least five parishioners who were in the payday lending business: Tim Coppinger, Vince Hodes, Frampton T. (Ted) Rowland III and Stephen and Julie Zanone.

The Federal Trade Commission eventually shot down those payday lending operations and froze the assets of one or more of the individuals. Although none was ever charged with a crime, their reputations and personal finances were badly damaged. Coppinger and his wife, for example, sold their house in Mission Hills. (I think they moved to Leawood, so they obviously didn’t end up on skid row.)

The worst outcome was for Ted Rowland, who committed suicide in October 2016 at age 52.

In addition, when the story was making headlines, Lunsford took a medical leave of absence and, to the best of my knowledge, never resumed his duties as St. Ann’s pastor.

To the chagrin of many people, including some parishioners, Lunsford did not return any of the dirty money the payday lenders had contributed.

(In a Facebook post, a woman named Anne Pritchett wrote: “I went to St. Ann and my parents were members for 50 years. When I was a student there in the ’60s, we were known for our outreach to the poor. We collected food, we held school-wide fundraisers for the poor and we worked at the food kitchen in WyCo. To see this church now benefit from modern-day loan sharks is both disappointing and shameful.”)

Unlike St. Ann’s, another Catholic institution, St. Teresa’s Academy, took the high road when it came to a payday-loan windfall.

St. Teresa’s had conducted a capital campaign to build an athletic field and track, and Tim Coppinger was a major contributor. But after the payday-loan scandal broke, Nan Bone, then president of St. Teresa’s, summoned members of the Coppinger family and returned the money they had given for “The Coppinger Family Track.”

…So, when The Star and Michael Ryan say that St. Ann’s “proves the power of community,” I see it much differently. When I pass 73rd and Mission Road, I see a church that refused to stand up to greed and failed to return ill-gotten gains. For the integrity of the congregation, I hope Tim Coppinger, Vince Hodes and the Zanones are at least no longer in the pews.

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So, what’s been going on in and around Kansas City these days?

Oh, not much. Just…

:: Two guys getting gunned down by a guy who apparently chased them in a pickup truck while pulling a riding lawn mower on a trailer

:: Four teenagers and a 20-year-old luring a drug seller to location in Belton and fatally shooting him after giving him phony money

:: The Kansas City Chiefs giving domestic- and likely-child-abusing wide receiver Tyreek Hill a $54-million contract

Let’s take a closer look:

Lawn Mower Cowboy

We see a lot of inexplicable violence in and around the city, but an incident that took place Tuesday in southeast Kansas City has to rank as one of the most incomprehensible crimes in recent years.

Apparently it started with an argument at a gas station or convenience store between two guys in a black Mustang and one or more men in a Dodge Ram pickup pulling a trailer with a riding lawnmower and perhaps other maintenance equipment.

The lawn guy couldn’t let the beef go and gave chase in his pickup after the guys in the Mustang left the store or station. After pursuing the Mustang a few blocks, the lawn guy opened fire near 79th Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard and hit both occupants of the Mustang.

Both died — 21-year-old Jalen Stevens and 20-year-old Makih Briggs.

Here’s a freeze frame from video taken of the truck…If this truck looks like one your lawn guy drives, I suggest you 1) call the cops and 2) get a new mowing company.

Funny money but no laughing matter

Five people, including four teenagers, have been charged in the shooting death of 25-year-old Timothy Hunter Wednesday night in Belton.

Charged with second-degree murder (they should also be charged with being imbeciles) are Crishon Marquese Willis, 19, of Grandview; Makayla Marie Davis, 18, of Grandview; Shane M. Pierce, 20, of Kansas City; Alea Marie Campbell, 18, of Belton, and Andre Alonzo McKinney III, 18, of Kansas City.

Seems that those five idiots set up a marijuana buy from Hunter, even though he was known to carry a gun.

When they met up with Hunter, they gave him $100 in realistic-looking “prop money.” According to The Kansas City Star, the driver of the car in which the teens and Pierce were riding tried to speed away before Hunter realized the money was counterfeit. One problem: The car was in reverse and lurched backwards. Unfortunately, that gave Hunter time to step in front of the car as it moved forward, toward him. Hunter moved out of the way, but somebody inside the car fired a single shot that hit Hunter in the chest.

Just like that, what could have been a keystone cops incident — minus the guns — turned out to be a murder case, with one person dead and one or more of the assailants’ lives probably ruined.

The $54-million man

It’s a virtual certainty that either Chiefs’ wide receiver Tyreek Hill or his former fiancee, Crystal Espinal, seriously abused their young son at some point during the off season. Unfortunately, investigators could not establish who did what, and no charges were filed.

Hill is now not only back on the team but the Chiefs last week gave him a three-year contract extension worth $54 million. He promptly got hurt and is now out for at least several weeks. Even if he never plays another game, he’s in line to get at least $35 million in guaranteed money.

I don’t watch the Chiefs any longer, but I’m glad they’ve got Patrick Mahomes and that they are once again winning a lot more games than they’re losing. What I don’t understand is how anyone could enthusiastically cheer for Tyreek Hill, regardless of how many touchdowns he scores.

I’ve written before that the danger of permanent brain damage has turned me away from football. Another thing that troubles me is seeing so many more of these bad actors, like Hill, in pro football than in pro basketball, soccer or baseball.

I think we need to hold this question up to what remains of our civilized society: Is this a good sport to send our children and grandchildren into?

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Time for an update on our two Public Enemies No. 1David Jungerman in Jackson County and Kylr Yust in Cass.

Jungerman

Some of you who have been following this case closely know that Jungerman’s first-degree murder trial had been scheduled to start last Tuesday, Sept. 3. It seemed unlikely that would occur, however, given the complexity of the case and Jungerman’s insistence on not letting his lead attorney, Daniel Ross, do his job.

On Aug. 23, Judge John M. Torrence granted a defense motion to continue the case. The new trial date is Jan. 21, 2020.

In his order, Torrence put the 81-year-old Jungerman on notice that he’d better be ready for trial in January. “No further continuance will be granted,” the judge said in his order.

By January, it will have been more than two years since Kansas City attorney Thomas Pickert was gunned down in the front yard of his Brookside home while talking on his cellphone after having walked his two young sons to school.

Why was Pickert fingered for death? Well, in a lawsuit, he represented a man who sued Jungerman for shooting him in the leg. That led to the leg being amputated. Jungerman chose to represent himself at trial, and the jury returned a $5.75 million verdict in favor of the injured man.

That was three months before Pickert was gunned down.

The killer was described as an “older, gray haired, white male” driving a white van.

Although no one was able to specifically identify Jungerman, I expect the Jackson County prosecutor’s office to establish well beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the killer and that the white van was one he owns. He contends the van didn’t move from its parking place in Raytown the day of the murder, but the prosecutor’s office has indicated it will present video of Jungerman’s on the move at various points between Raytown and Brookside the morning of Oct. 25, 2017.

The defense case has been a soap opera from the outset, with Jungerman bad mouthing Ross, his attorney, and twice saying he was firing him. The first time he fired Ross was in January when he filed a hand-written motion to that effect. The next day, however, Ross filed a formal motion, obviously with Jungerman’s approval, to withdraw the motion to discharge.

History repeated itself on Aug. 1, when Jungerman filed another hand-written motion (below), saying Ross was no longer his attorney. Wouldn’t you know it, though? The very next day, Ross filed a motion withdrawing the termination motion.

Jungerman did, however, bolster his defense team by hiring at least one attorney with the well-known firm of Wyrsch, Hobbs & Mirakian. David S. Bell, of that firm, filed an “entry of appearance” on Aug. 1.

Hiring big-name attorneys is no big deal for Jungerman, who’s worth has been estimated at $33 million.  He owns thousands of acres of farmland in southwest Missouri and has a baby-high-chair-manufacturing business that apparently is — or was — very successful.

He also has a history of using guns, instead of calling the police, to settle matters with people he deems as threats to his property or his wealth. That has resulted in him moving from a heavily wooded part of Raytown to 1300 Cherry Street (see above photo), address of the Jackson County Detention Center.

Yust

Kylr Yust’s case has also been delayed, and the delay could be lengthy.

Yust had been scheduled to go to trial in November, but last week Judge William B. Collins ordered an in-patient mental examination by state psychiatrists. Results of the exam are to be submitted to the court within 60 days.

Earlier, the defense had hired a St. Louis psychiatrist named Jose Mathews to examine Yust. The defense says Mathews determined that Yust “lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense and…is mentally unfit at this time to proceed.”

…Now, I have no idea if Yust, who is charged with murdering Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions, is mentally unfit to stand trial, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Colloquially speaking, he is one crazy mother fucker, with a hair-trigger temper.

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If you read yesterday’s post, you know Patty and I spent part of last week and this week in Manhattan and on Long Island. (I promised a second set of photos from the trip, and I’ll get to those in a minute.)

One thing that struck me was that once you get out of Manhattan, you can be in a relatively normal residential area in half an hour or so. For people not used to it, the transition is kind of mind boggling. Granted, those outlying residential areas are a lot pricier than Kansas City (and many other U.S. cities), but you can find normalcy and feel like you’re nowhere near hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

In the case of our friends Tom and Cheryl D’Antonio, they have lived for decades near Northport Village, about halfway out Long Island. (Shelter Island is near the easternmost tip.) Their house is on Northport Harbor. Their deck affords an idyllic view of the harbor and the boats either moored or tooling around in it.

For Tom and Cheryl, it’s a long haul into Manhattan, where Cheryl works and Tom used to work before retiring from the garment wholesale business a few years ago. From Penn Station, Cheryl takes about a 75-minute train ride on the Long Island Rail Road to the Northport Station and then drives another 10 or 15 minutes to her house. Having always been an urban dweller and worker, I couldn’t take that, but they have gotten used to it. Plus, as the driver who took me to the airport the other day said, “Once you get out here, it’s worth it.” He lives in nearby village of Huntington.

Almost all Long Islanders who live on or near the water are very serious about boating. That includes Tom, who was such an avid boater while he was working in the Garment District that he now has a business maintaining boats for clients and helping people buy boats.

Before I get back to photos from Manhattan, here are three related to Northport and boating…

This is a 50-foot-plus boat — a Vicem (pronounced Vee-Chum) Classic — that Tom maintains for a multimillionaire client. The boat is worth about $1.5 million, and the owner pays Tom very well to keep it in tip-top shape. Tom got to borrow it on Sunday and took us for a ride in Northport Harbor.

That’s Tom at the controls. Notice the gleaming wood interior and the fine leather bench behind Tom. The boat, made in Turkey, has two bedrooms and two “heads” (bathrooms).

Patty (left) and Cheryl. Surprisingly, this was Cheryl’s first boat ride of the summer…Now that her husband is taking care of other people’s boats, he doesn’t have much time to drive either of theirs.

Now back to more photos from Manhattan…

This is one of two reflecting pools at Ground Zero. The pools are on the sites of the former World Trade Center buildings that were brought down by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.

The new World Trade Center

This is the exterior of the Oculus subway station, which replaced the World Trade Center station that was destroyed on 9/11. The $4 billion Oculus station, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, consists of white ribs that interlock. It is meant to represent a dove in flight.

This is the interior of the Oculus station, which includes a mall on the main level.

You see commemorations of 9/11 elsewhere in New York, such as at this fire station on 8th Avenue. The sign above the engine at left says, “Engine 54, Ladder 9, Battalion 9 wants to thank everyone for their support.”

A subway station near Greenwich Village

In the Village

On Bleecker Street

One of the landmarks in the Village is The Stonewall Inn, site of the Stonewall riots of 1969, which, according to Wikipedia, “is widely considered to be the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.”

The day we were there, National Park Service rangers were putting up a tent in a park across from the inn.

Here’s another notable monument — the 16-foot-tall statue of George Washington in Washington Square Park.

Bidding goodbye to New York, I took this photo Tuesday morning from the deck of Tom and Cheryl’s house.

Oh, what a beautiful morning…and what a great trip.

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I returned yesterday from the city where the fashion runway and parade of humanity never end.

It was the first time I’ve been to New York City in probably 20 years or more, but I don’t remember for sure. All I know after going back is that I should have gone sooner and intend to go more often.

Patty and I spent three days in the Manhattan — staying at a hotel on the Lower West Side — and then three days on Long Island with friends who’ve lived there many years.

While I came back yesterday, Patty stayed on. She and our friend Cheryl D’Antonio will be getting on a train Thursday for a three-day Amtrak ride to Salt Lake City…It’s a bucket list thing of sorts in honor of, and with, another friend who has a serious health problem.

In Manhattan, we saw two musicals — a stirring revival of Oklahoma! and a fast-paced show called Come From Away, about one aspect of the 9/11 tragedies. (Tip on buying theater tickets: Don’t buy online in advance; you pay about a 33 percent processing and handling fee per ticket. We went to the box offices the day of and the day before performances and got good tickets at face value.)

I’ve got a lot of photos to show you…so many that I’m splitting them up over two days.

Let’s get cracking with Part One!

After arriving last Tuesday, Aug. 27, we walked over to 9th Avenue and found this great Italian restaurant. It was noisy, but the food and lively atmosphere overrode that drawback.

Although it was pretty late when we finished dinner, we went over to The Algonquin Hotel and had a drink in its famous lobby. Famous for what? Well, it was the hangout in the 1920s for a group of actors, critics and writers who called themselves “The Vicious Circle.”

They had lunch daily at a round table — either this one or one like it. The titular head of the group was Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker magazine. In the painting hanging above the table, Ross is at the center. He died in 1951 at age 59.

Another landmark is The Dakota coop apartment building on the Upper West Side, across from Central Park. It has been home to many famous people, including John Lennon, who was murdered in the archway in 1980. Other residents have included Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall and Boris Karloff.

The greatest landmark in the world…the Empire State Building, 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Times Square, with its digital ticker tape…One of the big stories this night was the pending sale of the Kansas City Royals by David Glass.

Part of the Theater District. The Schoenfeld, on West 45th Street, was where we saw Come From Away.

Radio City Music Hall, on 6th Avenue

Patty, who is quick,, quick, quick, spotted this place not far from the Schoenfeld.

This Mid-Century-Modern era building near Washington Square Park closely resembles our former TWA building (except for the coloring) at 18th and Baltimore.

C

Here’s another striking-looking building — architect Zaha Hadid’s condo building on West 28th Street, along the High Line elevated park and south of a mega-development called Hudson Yards. According to Crain’s, sales of units have been slow, perhaps because Hudson Yards is still under construction.

This is what I mean when I say “still under construction.” It’s a veritable spaghetti junction of cranes. (Our hotel was adjacent to the development.)

If you like these photos, come back tomorrow and I’ll have more for you…

 

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