Archive for November, 2019

When I was young and single and starting my career at The Star, I used to give thanks at this time of year for totally different types of things than I do now.

I used to give thanks for things like…

:: New girlfriends…when I was lucky enough to get them

:: Front-page or Metro-front by-lines, especially in the big Thanksgiving Day paper. I remember one in particular about the late Jim Spainhower, who came to town the day before Thanksgiving in 1971, and I wrote that he was going to run for state treasuer. He ran in 1972 and won, and he served from 1973 to 1980. (Before he died last December, he was living at the Foxwood Springs retirement center in Belton.)

:: Pay raises

:: Some place to go on Thanksgiving Day, if I didn’t have to work. (Almost all of us reporters were on a holiday-work rotation. I remember either a Thanksgiving or Christmas when a photographer and I ate at a restaurant called the Snooty Fox, which was on the corner of Linwood and Gillham and later replaced by a 7-Eleven that has been at the site for decades.)

But, like I say, it’s different now.

I’m thankful, first of all, that I stuck it out in Kansas City the first couple of years, when I didn’t know many people and was having trouble adapting. I’m thankful every day, too, for Patty, whom I met in 1983 and married in 1985, and our children, Brooks and Charlie, and my other relatives and our many friends.

But, as I as thinking about it today — on the broader front — instead of being thankful for pay raises and by-lines, I’m now thankful for more mundane things — things that just make life a bit easier.

Let me give you three examples…

:: QuikTrip. I trust you, like me, have considered, periodically, how lucky we are to have such an efficient convenience-store chain. Many non-QT convenience stores are dumps, and the clerks are unfriendly and obviously unhappy to be doing what they’re doing. Not at QT. The stores are always clean and bright, and the clerks are almost always polite and efficient. And, they can count money as fast as bank clerks. Even though the Tulsa-based company operates primarily in only the Midwest and Southeast, it was ranked No. 33 on Forbes magazine’s list of largest private companies in 2016. The first QuikTrip was opened in 1958 in Tulsa by Burt Holmes and Chester Cadieux. Chester’s son, Chet Jr., is the current CEO.

:: Costco. Thank you, Jim Glover, for convincing Costco to open its Midtown store at Linwood and Gillham. I went there today, along with half of Kansas City, and, judging from how full the parking lot was, I thought I’d be there 45 minutes to an hour, even though I only needed three items. I was in and out in about 20 minutes. Every checkout line was going, and they had two people marking receipts at the exit…It’s hard to fathom now, but back in the 1990s some people were bitching about the composition of and lack of progress on “The Glover Plan.” In 1999, The Pitch had a story about an architect named Kevin Klinkenberg complaining about the area being “a parking lot with a lot of trees.” Klinkenberg went on to say: “At the beginning, back in the early and mid-1990s, they were going to have a Price Chopper and a Payless Cashways. Now they have a Costco and a Home Depot. The designs may be different, but they are just big-box stores that have no place in an urban environment.”

I can only imagine the mess we would have had if a Payless Cashways had gone in there, instead of Home Depot.

:: St. Luke’s Health System. I used to do most of my medical business in North Kansas City, with the Meritas network and North Kansas City Hospital. That changed this year after I had complications after a February knee replacement and had a couple of hospitalizations at St. Luke’s South. Along the way, I got a cardiologist and pulmonologist, who got me back on track. Then, after my primary care doctor at Meritas retired, I found I couldn’t get an appointment with the new Meritas doctor for several months. Now I’ve got an appointment with a new primary care doctor in the St. Luke’s system.

This Thanksgiving, then, as the year draws to a close, I’m counting blessings more pragmatic than years and decades past.

Being young and an asshole was a lot of fun — very exciting and invigorating — but this stage of life also has its rewards.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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There’ve been incremental developments in two big murder cases in our area.

In the Jackson County case of David Jungerman, charged with murder in the killing of lawyer Thomas Pickert, the prosecutor’s office has filed a motion opposing Jungerman’s attempt to either move the trial outside of the county or bring in a jury from another county. (I don’t think either scenario is likely.)

In the Cass County case of Kylr Yust, charged in the slayings of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions, Yust’s attorneys have redoubled their efforts to keep Yust out of court, saying he suffers from “anxiety and depression” and “extreme anxiety about appearing in court.” (I don’t blame him.)

Let’s take a closer look at these two cases, which are moving ever closer to trial.



Attorneys for the state and Jungerman met in Judge John M. Torrence’s chambers Friday to talk about the case. Since it was not held in open court, the conference was not open to the public, and I could not attend. I understand, however, the meeting had to do with jury selection.

Judge Torrence has yet to rule on Jungerman’s motion for a “change of venue.” Jungerman’s attorneys contend he can’t get a fair trial in Jackson County — or at least with a Jackson County jury — because of extensive publicity about the case.

In a Nov. 1 motion objecting to a change of venue, the prosecution said the murder — and Jungerman’s presumed involvement — got a lot of publicity at first but that “the publicity has subsided.”

The motion cited a Missouri Supreme Court decision that said the law does not require that jurors be ignorant of the facts and issues reported by the media.

“In these days of swift widespread and diverse methods of communication,” the court said, “an important case can be expected to arouse the interest of the public in the vicinity, and scarcely any of those best qualified to serve as jurors will not have formed some impression or opinion as to the merits of the case.”

The question, then, the high court said, “is not whether the community remembers the case but whether the actual jurors of the case have fixed opinions such that they could not judge impartially whether the defendant was guilty…There must be a pattern of deep and bitter prejudice or a wave of public passion such that the seating of an impartial jury is impossible.”

Partly because of that and partly because jury selection was the subject of Friday’s conference, I doubt that Torrence is going to grant the change of venue. Look for him to rule soon that the case will be tried at the downtown courthouse, with Jackson County residents comprising the jury.

Torrence has scheduled evidentiary motions to be heard Dec. 13 and non-evidentiary motions Dec. 20.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Jan. 21.

The two main lawyers representing Jungerman are David S. Bell and Dan Ross.


A medical doctor hired by the defense diagnosed Yust with anxiety and depression and said he was not receiving appropriate treatment while being held in the Cass County Jail. Twice in recent months, his public-defender attorneys have filed objections to Yust being forced to appear in court for hearings. Judge William B. Collins has overruled the objections, and both times — the second time being last Monday — Yust has appeared as required in Harrisonville.

I wasn’t at either appearance, so I don’t know how he looked or acted.

In October, the Missouri Department of Mental Health filed a report saying psychologists with the state had determined Yust was competent to assist in his defense. However, the psychologists also recommended that Yust be seen by a mental health professional and get appropriate treatment.

Subsequently, Judge Collins ordered that another evaluation take place by mid-December.

Meanwhile, two hearings are scheduled next month — one on Dec. 2, the other on Dec. 19.

A trial date has not been set.

Representing Yust are two public defenders out of St. Louis — Sharon Turlington and Matt Vigil.

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The last scheduled day of impeachment hearings featured the testimony of Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, and David Holmes, a top staff member at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.

As he has all week, Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, got the last word. His closing statements on Tuesday and Wednesday were stirring and unsettling, and Thursday’s was the same. A former assistant U.S. Attorney, he speaks without notes and weaves what comes off as a well-organized essay.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I ran his closing statements in their entirety. Thursday’s, however, lasted 20 minutes, and I’m limiting my transcription to the last seven minutes.

We pick up with Schiff after he finishes talking about the Republican complaint that most of the incriminating witnesses’ testimony has been “hearsay.”

He goes on to say…

The other defense…The other defense is, “The President denies it.”

Well, I guess that’s case closed, right? The President says, really quite spontaneously, not as if he was asked in this way: “No quid pro quo!” What do you want from Ukraine?  “No quid pro quo!”

This is the “I’m not a crook” defense. You say it, and, I guess, that’s the end of it.”

Well, the only thing we can say is not so much that the situation is different in terms of Nixon’s conduct and Trump’s conduct. What we see here is far more serious than a third-rate burglary of the Democratic headquarters. What we’re talking about here is the withholding of recognition — in that White House meeting — the withholding of military aid to an ally at war. That is beyond anything that Nixon did.

The difference between then and now is not the difference between Nixon and Trump. It’s the difference between that Congress and this one. And so we are asking where is Howard Baker (the ranking minority member of the Senate Watergate Committee)? Where is Howard Baker? Where are the people who are willing to go beyond their party to look to their duty?

I was struck by Col. (Alexander) Vindman’s testimony because he said he acted out of duty. What is our duty here? That’s what we need to be asking. Not using metaphors about balls and strikes or our team and your team. I’ve heard my colleagues use those metaphors. It should be about duty. What is our duty?

We are the indispensable nation; we still are. People look to us from all over the world — journalists from their jail cells in Turkey; victims of mass ex-judicial killings in the Phillipines; people gathered in Tahrir Square (in Cairo) wanting a representative government; people in China who are Uighers; people in Ukraine who want a better future, who look to us. They’re not going to look to the Russians, they’re not going to look to the Chinese; they can’t look to Europe with all its problems. They still look to us and, increasingly, they don’t recognize what they see. Because what they see is Americans saying, “Don’t engage in political prosecutions.” And what they say back, is, “Oh, you mean like the Bidens and the Clintons that you want us to investigate?” What they see they don’t recognize. And that is a terrible tragedy for us, but it’s a greater tragedy for the rest of the world.

Now, I happen to think that when the founders provided the mechanism for impeachment in the Constitution, they were worried about what might happen if someone unethical took the highest office in the land and used it for their personal gain and not because of deep care about the big things that should matter, like our national security and our defense and our allies and what the country stands for. I happen to think that’s why they put that remedy in the Constitution. And I think we need to consult our conscience and our constituents and decide whether that remedy is appropriate here, whether that remedy is necessary here.

And as you know, notwithstanding what my colleagues said, I resisted going down this path for a long time, but I’ll tell you why I could resist no more. And it came down to this; it came down to…actually, it came down to timing. It came down to the fact that the day after Bob Mueller testified…the day after Bob Mueller testified…Donald Trump invited Russian interference in the election: “If you’re listening, come get Hillary’s emails.” And later that day they tried to hack her server. The day after he testified that not only did Trump invite that interference but that he welcomed the help in the campaign; they made full use of it; they lied about it; they obstructed the investigation into it. And all this is in his (Mueller’s) testimony and his report…The day after that, Donald Trump is back on the phone asking another nation to involve itself in another U.S. election!

That says to me this President believes he is above the law, beyond accountability. And in my view there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical President who believes they are above the law. And I would just say to people watching here at home and around the world, in the words of my great colleague (the late Rep. Elijah Cummings), we are better than that. (Gavel slams down.)

We are adjourned.

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U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff of California closed Day 4 of the impeachment hearings with another gut punch to President Donald Trump. His seven-minute closing statement followed the day’s second session, which featured testimony from Defense Department official Laura Cooper and State Department official David Hale.

Here’s Schiff’s closing statement, which I recorded and then transcribed.


Democrat Adam Schiff and Republican Devin Nunes on at Wednesday’s impeachment hearing (NYT photo by Doug Mills)

I’ll be brief this evening. It’s been a long day, and I said most of what I wanted to say earlier in the day. But I did want to end this evening. And first of all thank you both for your testimony and your long service to the country. We are grateful that you answered the lawful process of a congressional supboena.

I wanted to share a few reflections on two words that have come up a lot in the course of these hearings. Those words are corruption and anti-corruption. We are supposed to believe, I imagine, listening to my colleagues, that Donald Trump is a great anti-corruption fighter; that his only concern about Ukraine was that it would fight corruption. But let’s look at that argument. Let’s look at the President’s words, and let’s look at his deeds.

Ambassador (Marie) Yovanovitch was an anti-corruption champion. No one has contradicted that that has come forward to testify here. She was a champion. And on the day she is at a meeting acknowledging in Ukraine another anti-corruption champion — a woman who had acid thrown in her face and died a painful death after months — she is called back to Washington because of a vicious smear campaign by the President’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, among others. She is recalled.

That is not anti-corruption; that is corruption. And one of the people responsible for this smear campaign, in addition to Mr. Giuliani — and it is a long and sordid list of those who were involved — is a man named Lutsenko (Yuriy Lutsenko, a former prosecutor general of Ukriane), someone who the minority’s own witness acknowledges has a poor reputation as self-serving and corrupt.

And what do we see about Mr. Lutsenko and his predecessor, Mr. (Viktor) Shokin? What does the President have to say about these corrupt former prosecutors? He praises them! He says they were treated very unfairly. That’s not anti-corruption; that’s corruption!

And when Ambassador Sondland testified today there was unquestionably a quid pro quo and everybody knew it, conditioning a White House meeting that Ukraine desperately wanted to show its friend and foe alike it had the support of the President of the United States, when that was conditioned — an official act was conditioned on the receipt of things of value to the President’s political investigations — that was not anti-corruption, that was corruption!

And when Ambassador Sondland testified today that he could put two and two together and so can we, that there was also a quid pro quo on the military aid — that aid was not going to be released unless he did a public statement of these political investigations the President wanted — that’s not anti-corruption; that is corruption!

And let’s look at the President’s words on that phone call — that infamous phone call on July 25. Does he ask President Zelensky, “How’s that reform coming in the Rada (the Ukrainian parliament)? What are you doing to root out corruption? What about that new anti-corruption court?” Of course not! Of course not! Are we really to believe   that was his priority. No! What does he ask? “I want you to do us a favor: Investigate this crazy 2016 server conspiracy, that the server is somewhere in Ukraine.” And, more ominously, “Investigate the Bidens.” That’s not anti-corruption; that is corruption.

And the next day, when he’s on the phone to Ambassador Sondland in that outdoor restaurant in Kiev, what does he want to know about? Does he want to know about how Zelensky is going to fight corruption? Of course not! The only thing he brings up in that call is the investigation he wants into the Bidens. That’s not anti-corruption; that is corruption.

Every now and then there’s a conversation that really says all you need to know. And sometimes it doesn’t seem all that significant, but I’ll tell you, this one really struck me. It was a conversation Ambassador Volker related in his testimony. It was a conversation just this past September, when he’s talking to Andriy Yermak (top adviser to President Zelensky). And he’s advising him, as indeed he should, “You know, you may not want to go through with an investigation or prosecution of former President (Petro) Poroshenko. Engaging in political investigations is really not a good idea.” And you know what Yermak says? “Oh, you mean like you want us to do of the Bidens and the Clintons?”

Well, there’s a word for that, too. And it’s not corruption or anti-corruption; it’s called hypocrisy. And this is the problem here: We do have an anti-corruption policy around the world. And the great men and women in your department, Undersecretary Hale, and in your department, Ms. Cooper, they carry that message around the world: that the United States is devoted to the rule of law. But when they see a President of the United States who is not devoted to the rule of law, who is not devoted to anti-corruption, but instead demonstrates in word and deed corruption, they are forced to ask themselves, “What does America stand for any more?”

That concludes this evening’s hearing.

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If you didn’t hear U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff’s closing statement Tuesday evening, at the conclusion of Day 3 of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings, you missed a great speech. Schiff spoke passionately, eloquently and without notes for nearly eight minutes.

The statement came after several hours of testimony by Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, who was a National Security Council official until he resigned on the eve of his private testimony last month.

Here is the transcript of Schiff’s statement…

I thank you both for your testimony today. I would highlight a couple of things about what we have heard this afternoon. First, Ambassador Volker, your written testimony, in which you say, in hindsight, “I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company Burisma as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden. I saw them as very different, the former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable.” And, in retrospect, you said, “I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.”

That’s where we are today. Ambassador, we appreciate your willingness to amend your earlier testimony in light of what you now know. I think you made it very clear that knowing what you know today that, in fact, the president sought an investigation of his political rival, Vice President Biden, and you would not have countenanced any effort by the Ukrainians to engage in such conduct.

I appreciate also that you are able to debunk, I hope for the last time, the idea that Joe Biden did something wrong and that he, in accordance with U.S. policy, sought to replace a corrupt prosecutor, something that not only the U.S. State Department wanted, and not only the European Union wanted, and not only the IMF (International Monetary Fund) wanted but was the consensus position of the United State national security infrastructure. You did not get a lot of questions about that because, I think, you effectively said that was all nonsense. We appreciate your candor about that.

Mr. Morrison, I think what’s most remarkable about your testimony is the acknowledgment that, immediately after the vice president met with President Zelensky in Warsaw, you witnessed Gordon Sondland meeting with Andrey Yermak, a top adviser to President Zelensky, and then immediately thereafter Sondland told you that he had informed the Ukrainians that if they wanted that $400 million in aid, they were going to have to do those investigations that the President wanted.

You were later informed — this is also significant as you testified here today — that Ambassador Sondland, in his subsequent conversations with President Trump, had informed you that it wasn’t going to be enough for the Ukrainian prosecutor general to announce the investigations the president wanted. President Zelensky had to do it himself if he wanted to get that aid, let alone the meeting with the White House.

You’ve been asked to opine on the meaning of the term bribery, although you weren’t asked to opine on the terms high crimes and misdemeanors. But bribery, for those watching at home, is the conditioning of official acts in exchange for something of personal value. The official acts we’re talking about here are a White House meeting President Zelensky desperately sought and was deeply important to his country at war with Russia, to show the United States had this new president’s back.

That meeting was important. That meeting is an official act. The military assistance is even more significant because Ukrainians are dying every day in their war with Russia. And so, the withholding of military assistance to get these investigations, which you now have acknowledged, Ambassador Volker, was wrong for the President to request. The idea of withholding that military aid to get these political investigations should be anathema, repugnant to every American because it means the sacrifice, not just of the Ukrainian national security, but American national security for the interests of the president personally and politically.

Now my Republican colleagues, all they seem to be upset about with this is not that the President sought an investigation of his political rival — not that he withheld a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine. Their objection is that he got caught! Their objection is that someone blew the whistle, and they would like this whistle blower identified. The President wants the whistle blower punished.

That’s their objection — not that the President engaged in this conduct — that he got caught! Their defense is, well, he ended up releasing the aid. Yes, after he got caught! It doesn’t make this any less odious. Americans may be watching this and asking, “Why should we care about Ukraine?” And this was the import, I think, of the conversation in that Kiev restaurant, with Gordon Sondland holding that phone away from his head because the President was talking so loud.

What does the President ask in that call the day after that call he had with Zelensky? What did he ask on that cellphone call? Not whether the Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) had passed anti-corruption. No…Are the Ukrainians going to do the investigation. And Sondland’s answer is…they’re going to do it; they’ll do anything, essentially, the President wants.

What’s more telling is the conversation, I think, the foreign service officer (David) Holmes has afterwards with Sondland in which the President says basically that President Trump doesn’t give an expletive about Ukraine. He cares about the big things. Mr. Holmes says, “Well, Ukraine’s at war with the Russians; that’s a big thing.” And Sondland’s answer is, no, he cares about big things that affect his personal interests.

That’s why Americans should care about this. Americans should care about what happens to our allies, who are dying. Americans should care about their own national security and their own President and their own Constitution. And they will need to ask themselves — as we will have to ask ourselves in Congress — “Are we prepared to accept that the President of the United States can leverage official acts — military assistance, White House meetings — to get an investigation of a political rival?” Are we prepared to say, “Well, I guess that’s what we should expect of a President”?

I don’t think we want to go there. I don’t think our founding fathers would have wanted us to go there. Indeed, when the founding fathers provided a remedy, that remedy being impeachment, they had the very concern that a President of the United States may betray the national security interests of the country for personal interests. They put that remedy in the Constitution not because they wanted to willy-nilly overturn elections. No, because they wanted a powerful anti-corruption mechanism when that corruption came from the highest office in the land.

We are adjourned.


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I’m starting to have a bad feeling about Quinton Lucas.

My fear is he’s going to be a lightweight mayor, one who doesn’t have the courage of his convictions.

Fueling that fear is the way he handled last week’s vote on the proposed $133 million, 25-story Strata office tower above existing buildings at 13th and Main streets.

It’s well known, of course, that Lucas beat Jolie Justus in the mayor’s race earlier this year in large part because he pledged to reduce city subsidies to developers.

A June 10 story on KCUR’s website paraphrased Lucas as saying he would severely limit the incentives available downtown and on the Country Club Plaza. It then quoted him as saying: “The greatest incentives should only be available — with a few exceptions — but should only be available in the East Side or in severely economically distressed parts of the city.”

Strata was the first major test of Lucas’ commitment to his promises…and he flunked.

The original plan included $63 million in incentives — $27 million for the office tower itself and $36 million for the parking garage. When it came before the City Council last Thursday, the office-tower incentive was out and the parking incentive remained…Nevertheless, it was still a huge giveaway.

Seven council members, the minimum needed for passage, voted “yes.” (I’ll give you that vote breakdown in a minute.) Lucas and three other council members — Brandon Ellington, Melissa Robinson and Teresa Loar — voted “no.”

The fattest arrow in the mayor’s quiver, however, is the veto power. On Friday, Lucas’ office said he would not use that arrow.

That action (or inaction) sends a strong signal to developers everywhere that he won’t erect a high wall against similar developments. He’s like the stand-up comedian who holds up one hand trying to stem the applause while subtly beckoning it with the other hand down low.

When he goes out in public and is questioned about the giveaway, Lucas can say, “Hey, I did all I could. I voted ‘no.’ I can’t control what my colleagues do.”

Had he vetoed the ordinance, as he should have, the Strata incentive easily could have been dead. Under the City Charter, it takes eight votes to override a veto. The Strata ordinance passed on a vote of 7-4, with council members Heather Hall, Kevin O’Neill, Dan Fowler, Katheryn Shields, Eric Bunch, Ryana Parks-Shaw and Kevin McManus voting “yes.”

Councilman Lee Barnes was absent, and the only other council member, Andrea Bough, recused herself because of a potential conflict of interest.

Had Lucas vetoed the ordinance, forcing a second vote, Barnes probably would have held the deciding vote, with Bough having to recuse herself again.

I don’t know where Barnes stands on the issue, but he’s a bit of a maverick, and my suspicion is he would have voted “no” — in which case the measure would have fallen a vote short.


So, that’s where we find ourselves: with a mayor who appears to want to be able to say he’s watching out for taxpayers’ interests while, in reality, sending smoke signals to developers that the city treasury remains accessible to the special interests.

It takes a very strong leader to stand up to the developers, who, collectively, are far and away the biggest contributors to council and mayoral candidates. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear Lucas has the spine voters hoped he had when they voted for him five months ago.

Correction: I initially wrote that it took nine votes to override a veto, but I was informed by a former city attorney it was changed to eight during Cleaver’s years as mayor.

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My $891.23-per-month McClatchy pension appears to be hanging by something between a thread and three-pound-test fishing line.

I’ve been predicting for months that the company, which owns 29 daily papers, including The Star, has nowhere to go but down and out.

The company finally admitted as much yesterday when it announced its third-quarter financial results.

The single biggest piece of news was not that the company lost $305 million between July 1 and September 30 (that was deceiving because it consisted mostly of a  required markdown of assets) but that its pension plan was underfunded by $535 million.

Of pressing concern, a $120 million pension funding payment is due in the spring.

Under the heading “pension matters and potential restructuring,” McClatchy ominously said in a news release, “The company and its advisors are exploring all available options to address these liquidity pressures.”

The steps the company has recently taken include hiring financial and legal advisers to explore options. The Poynter Institute for Media Studies quickly published a story saying such language typically means one thing: The company is “exploring the possibility of a sale.”

McClatchy has more than 24,000 pensioners, and it has begun discussions with the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and its largest debt holder, a hedge fund called Chatham Asset Management, regarding a possible “restructuring.”

“Should the PBGC and the company reach such a solution,” the McClatchy release said, “the assets and obligations of the qualified plan would be assumed by the PBGC, which would continue to pay the company’s pensioners their benefits. The company believes, under current regulations, such a solution would not have an adverse impact on qualified pension benefits for substantially all of its retirees.”

That’s the rosiest outlook. On the other hand…

“There can be no assurance that the ongoing discussions with PBGC, its debt holder, and other parties will result in any restructuring transaction, that the company will obtain any required stakeholder consent to consummate a restructuring transaction, or that the restructuring transaction will occur on a timely basis or at all.”

Or at all.

The likeliest scenario, according to the Poynter story, is that Chatham, McClatchy’s largest stockholder as well as its biggest lender, will move in and take over the company. Chatham already has a controlling interest in a large Canadian chain, and it is the parent company of the National Enquirer. (The fact that McClatchy and The Star are in the grip of the company that employs that greaseball David Pecker is hard to swallow.)


My hope is that if Chatham becomes the owner of McClatchy, whose stock is publicly traded, it will consider selling off at least some of the 29 papers to local owners. I’ve had my fingers crossed for a couple of years that might happen with The Star, but the fact is it’s unlikely, because most of the hedge funds that have moved in on newspaper chains have done so to suck out the revenue and invest it in other, non-newspaper assets that earn significant returns.

That strategy, as I’ve said before, is euphemistically called “harvesting market position.” (When I hear that term, I can’t help think of a thresher crawling through a field and churning up newspapers.)

A lot of harvesting is taking place in the newspaper business these days. Only a handful of major metropolitan dailies are doing well, and two of them, The New York Times and The Washington Post, have converted themselves into national newspapers. The Times, by far the most successful paper in the country, has been working at that conversion for at least two decades; The Post has made great strides in that direction since Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, purchased it in 2013.


Back to my pension…I worked at The Star for 36 years, and I’ve drawn that $891.23 a month since retiring in June 2006. While it’s a fairly piddling amount considering the number of years I put in, I’ve always been proud and pleased to get that automatic-deposit notification at the end of each month.

You can buy a lot of lunches on $891 a month, and I guess I might have to cut back if the pension goes away or is significantly reduced. One of the groups I lunch with periodically includes former Star reporters Julius Karash and Mike Rice and our politically conservative buddy John Altevogt. (Like Julius says, “It’s always good to know what the other side is thinking.”)

Last night, Altevogt sent the three of us an email in which he said, “Looks like we may have to pick up the tab for Fitz next time around, until he can get a gig as a Walmart greeter.”

The only problem is Walmart is getting rid of its greeters faster than newspaper chains are getting rid of reporters, photographers and editors.

Ah, well, on we go…onward and upward.

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One redeeming feature of a heartbreaking sports loss is that it presents a golden opportunity for great, emotional writing.

While a thrilling victory lends itself to descriptive and elevated prose, it doesn’t hold the same capacity for capturing the depth of the feelings and range of emotions that linger after a devastating loss.

That’s because the thrill of victory tends to be one-dimensional: It lifts one straight up, dispersing undiluted joy in all directions. A stunning loss, however, leaves one wallowing in a raw stew of emotions, including dismay, second guessing, anger, despair.

It is extremely challenging for a writer to wade through that stew in a way that helps the reader sort through his or her feelings and make the swallowing a bit easier.

But The Star’s Vahe Gregorian accomplished it in today’s column about the Kansas City Chiefs’ jaw-dropping, 35-32 loss to the Tennessee Titans yesterday.

Let me skirt you through this excellent, emotionally satisfying read…


Gregorian, who has been with The Star six and a half years, started off by neatly summing up the game as a “diabolical fiasco,” thus setting the overall tone and aptly signaling the enormity of this defeat.

Then, he quickly set up a two-phase approach, first describing how most Chiefs’ fans were safe to assume victory was theirs with less than two minutes to go but then proceeding to chronicle the numbing, nightmarish unraveling.

Gregorian quotes Chiefs’ defensive end Frank Clark on how a “gritty victory” seemed assured…

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, that’s a ‘W’. But it’s that 1 percent, you know, where it went in the other’s favor.”

All that was left for Chiefs to do, Gregorian said, was close out the game. But in a sentence that all long-suffering Chiefs’ fans can relate to, Gregorian noted that closing is “a simple-sounding concept that seems to elude them more often than it should.”

From there he segued into the horrifying details of the unraveling — the failed third-down play that forced an attempted field goal and then the jarring miscommunication between center and place kicker that resulted in a premature snap and holder Dustin Colquitt’s ensuing desperate (and illegal) attempt to pass the ball for a first down.

Explaining the miscommunication, probably the foremost mystery to Chiefs’ fans, Gregorian said long-snapper James Winchester misinterpreted Colquitt’s glance up at kicker Harrison Butker as the cue to snap.

Quoting Winchester: “I looked back, Dustin was looking forward. Then I started to see him look back. But I had already started the snap.”

Almost equally improbable was how the Titans were able to block Butker’s desperate, last-second field goal attempt. Again Gregorian was there with a logical explanation…

“Tennessee’s Josh Kalu zoomed in from Butker’s right with a running jump having read Colquitt’s cadence pattern.”

Wrapping up the column, Gregorian circled back to Frank Clark’s assessment that 99-percent of the time this would have been a victory.

Ultimately, Gregorian wrote, the game was lost because the offense fell short on the third-down play and because the defense couldn’t stop the Titans.

Then, going from micro to macro, Gregorian concluded “it’s still hard to ever exhale with this team or know what it’s really about…99 percent chance of winning or not.”

Not being able “to ever exhale.” Doesn’t that say it all about the Chiefs?

…Congratulations then to Vahe on a penetrating and satisfying analysis of a game that left Chiefs’ fans stomachs and minds churning.


Note: For all the beauty of this column, The Star managed, in all-too-typical fashion, to screw it up.

The online version was fine, but in the print edition, an editor cut the last four paragraphs of the column for space reasons. That left the print-edition column ending with a resounding thud and eliminating Gregorian’s facile return to the pivotal 99-percent theme.

A good editor could have nipped and spliced elsewhere in the column and saved the full-circle ending. But, no, this editor just picked up a cleaver and chopped from the bottom.

What a disservice to both Gregorian and the readers…In the journalistic sense you could call it a “diabolical fiasco.”

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KC voters are giving Mayor Quinton Lucas, the City Council and Kansas City’s black ministers a good spanking…Well deserved, too.

With 99 percent of the votes in, the count on Question 5 was 31,274 “yes” (got back to The Paseo) and 13,909 “no.” That’s a percentage difference of 69 to 31.

The roots of this go back to 2018, when the black ministers began insisting on changing the name of The Paseo, one of our most beloved boulevards, to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

A committee subsequently appointed by then-Mayor Sly James wasn’t too keen on the idea; the Kansas City Parks Department and the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners didn’t like it; and, most important, the vast majority of city residents who testified before the committee didn’t want it.

With the issue stalled, the ministers threatened to gather enough signatures to force the Council to put the issue on an election ballot. In the face of that threat — and with municipal elections on the horizon — the Council capitulated, and in January, the council approved the name change on an 8-4 vote.

But today it was the citizens who got the last word.

Hats off to the determined Save The Paseo group, which went out and got enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot and, with a fierce wind of voter discontentment at its back, charged to victory.

Look out for this group. They organized effectively, and, having proved to themselves that grassroots activism works, they might mobilize on other issues. You can check out their Facebook page here.

While voters and the Save The Paseo group are the big winners, the road is littered with big losers. Start with Lucas, who, in his first big issue election out of the box, suffered a humiliating defeat.

Move to the black ministers, who have too often gotten their way in Kansas City by screaming and howling.

Throw in the black political group Freedom Inc., which was reduced to milquetoast without the benefit of big bucks from candidates or special interest groups.

Finally, toss in The Kansas City Star editorial board, which lined up with the ministers mainly because, well, that’s where the board thought was the politically correct place to be.

…I could tell, and predicted in yesterday’s post, that this was going to be a big win for advocates of saving The Paseo. It was in the air, and the comments on my blog post foretold the outcome.

Wisely, for once, I wasn’t going to be left behind: I voted”yes” too.

Hey, hey, hey!

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When I first heard, early last year, about the black ministers’ push to do away with the name The Paseo and rename it Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, I took it almost as a personal offense.

As I wrote in a column last April, The Paseo has had a special place in my heart since I arrived here from Louisville, KY, 50 years ago and spent my first night as a Kansas Citian at the Admiral Motel (now a Rodeway Inn) at Independence Boulevard and The Paseo.

I’d never heard of a name like that; I’d never seen a divided boulevard that wide; and over the decades I never forgot where I’d spent that first night.

During the long period of uncertainty over what was going to happen to The Paseo — would it be renamed or would it remain the same? — my opposition to a name change gradually softened, and by the time the City Council voted in January to approve the change, I was resigned to The Paseo being consigned to history as far as KC was concerned.

But then the Save The Paseo group came along and got enough signatures to force a public vote on the issue — a vote the Council should have authorized on its own — and the issue is back on the table. Tomorrow, at the polls, voters will decide once and for all whether the name The Paseo should be restored or abandoned forever.

And you know something funny? I remain ambivalent about the possible reprieve…I haven’t even decided how I’m going to vote.

JimmyCsays photo

On one hand, I think a majority of African-Americans in Kansas City prefer the MLK designation, and if that’s what they want, who am I to try to impose my nostalgic memory on them?

On the other hand, when I think about how we voters were deprived of a significant voice on the matter (until now) and the black ministers were able to shriek and beg until they finally got what they wanted, I’m tempted to vote “yes,” that is, to vote to return the name to The Paseo.

I’m also tempted to vote “yes” to spite The Star, which, I feel, is strongly pushing to retain the MLK designation mainly because the editorial board wants to be able to tell the black ministers, “We were with you.”

The Star is also making a mountain of a molehill on this. A Sunday editorial said, in part: “Taking King’s name off the street…would be (a) self-inflicted wound for this city, telegraphing to the rest of the nation that Kansas City doesn’t value King’s memory or his message.”


However the vote goes, I doubt the story will get picked up anywhere else. This is strictly a parochial issue that doesn’t send any kind of message anywhere outside the city boundaries. If if goes down to defeat, it will be because former Mayor Sly James washed his hands of it and allowed it to dissolve into mush.

…Even though I’m not sure how I’m going to vote, I do have a prediction. I think the number of “yes” votes (to revert to The Paseo) will far outnumber the “no” votes.

The main reason I feel that way is many residents are still pissed off about the bait-and-switch-financial deal on the airport and are still itching to vent their frustration on something.

I think there’s also a general feeling, in our urban, Democratic area, of dissatisfaction with government at the national level, and that could trickle down to the local level. In other words: “Thanks for not consulting us on The Paseo, City Council…Up yours!”

And at a practical level, if this were a normal election, the black political group Freedom Inc. would be able to flex its muscle and turn out a large number of voters. At a normal election, Freedom’s leaders would be getting a boatload of money from candidates and from supporters or opponents of major issues. Freedom would use some of that money to produce yard signs and staff polling places.

But this isn’t a normal election. The Paseo is the only interesting issue on the ballot, and Freedom is on its own. All it’s got is word of mouth.

The Save The Paseo group, on the other hand, has scraped enough money together to put out a mailing to frequent voters last week. Along with general voter disgruntlement, that should be more than good enough to return The Paseo to good standing.

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