Archive for December, 2020

Well, stop the presses!

Mayor Quinton Lucas has finally said he favors local control of the Police Department.

In a Dec. 22 interview with members of The Star’s editorial board, Lucas said that either the city or some plaintiffs acting on behalf of the city should file a federal lawsuit alleging that state control of KCPD violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

I couldn’t follow his reasoning on why state control violates the Equal Protection Clause — and I think such a lawsuit would probably fail — but at least he’s finally talking openly about local control.

Even though his criticism of state control was relatively tepid, he at least acknowledged that state control had outlived its usefulness, saying “It is not working.”

Until now, he has bobbed and weaved on the issue, mainly, I think, because he doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of the police union. But it sounds like he’s become so frustrated by the four other members of the Board of Police Commissioners ignoring his overtures for modest reforms that he is now getting serious about local control.

I’ve said all along that local control — which almost surely would require a statewide initiative petition followed by a statewide vote — will not come about without strong leadership from the mayor. To get traction and the public’s attention, Lucas would have to break out the megaphone and raise hell about this issue almost every day for a long time.

Even then the Republican-dominated General Assembly — which conceivably could vote to give up state control but probably won’t — would very likely ignore him. If he was able to get the public riled up, though, it would be a good start toward getting out of the wheel-spinning state we’ve been in since the Pendergast era.

The wheel-spinning state suits the Police Department (and the chief, the union president and the police board) just fine, of course, because it (and they) can continue rolling along without being directly accountable to the public or any local elected officials. (The governor appoints four of the five board members, and the mayor is automatically a voting member.)

Here’s the essence of state control: Chief Rick Smith can continue thumbing his nose at the mayor and City Council while spending tens of millions of dollars in city money; Union President Brad Lemon can continue negotiating outrageous protection from accountability for sworn officers; and the police board can continue bowing and scraping to the chief while remaining virtually anonymous.


It is maddening to me how disconnected the police board is from the public. Once again, here are the names of the four members appointed by recent governors: Don Wagner, Nathan Garrett, Cathy Dean and Mark Tolbert.

Unless you’ve been reading my posts regularly, chances are you’ve never heard of any of them. As far as I know, they’re all Republicans. Garrett was a state trooper before becoming a lawyer; Cathy Dean is a retired lawyer; and Tolbert is a minister. Tolbert, who is Black, is the only minority among the four.

As for Wagner, president of the board, he is more familiar with the pages of The Independent, the local society newspaper, than with the pages of The Star. The main reasons he gets his picture in The Independent are 1) he married a daughter of the late Bill Deramus, former president of Kansas City Southern Railway, and 2) he made a fortune in the steel tank business.

Don and Jean Wagner, as seen in the July 12, 2014, issue of The Independent

In 2019, Wagner and 11 other wealthy area residents donated $100,000 to a Tom Watson charity to play a round of golf with Watson, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and David Feherty. And where did they play? Why, at the Kansas City Country Club, the most exclusive country club in the KC area.

Wagner has served on various civic and community boards, but he is out of his element in the government and political arena and has no experience battling for the interests of middle- and lower-income people.

Not only is he out of his element, but he is presiding, in name at least, over a department that is swamped by a record number of homicides. As far as I can tell, the board has not pushed Smith to come up with a significant plan to counter the homicide rate. And, really, how could we expect a very privileged, extremely wealthy white man to make important policy decisions that affect almost 500,000 mostly average citizens?

The answer is we can’t. So I say, God help us.

But you, Mayor Lucas, you can relate, and you’ve got the bully pulpit to demand change.

It’s time for you to start shouting from on high…from way up there on the 29th floor of City Hall. Let the average people hear you; it’s they who elected you.

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Well, Santa Claus is a little late arriving at blog HQ, but he finally got here. (I’m not complaining, mind you, because it’s always Kids First!)

He has brought, and authorized me to dispense, candy canes for three examples of good writing and reporting. But he also left one big chunk of coal for New York Times national reporter John Eligon, who is based in Kansas City.

Since it’s Christmas, though, let’s start with the positives…



All year long, The Times’ Peter Baker has been calling out Donald Trump and analyzing, without taint of meanness or anger, the man’s small-mindedness and pathetic psyche. Often when I’ve been frustrated and worried about some of Trump’s actions, Baker has, to some degree, put frightening developments into somewhat soothing perspective.

He did it again today in a front-page piece on Trump’s sweeping and mind-bending pardons. In a “news analysis,” Baker summed up the situation by using a quote from Andrew Weissmann, a top lieutenant to Robert Mueller.

On Twitter, Weissmann wrote, “The pardons from this President are what you would expect to get if you gave the pardon power to a mob boss.”

That’s the maddening part. The soothing dimension — from Baker’s pen — is that if Trump really thought he wasn’t leaving office, he wouldn’t be dishing out pardons left and right now.

“(I)t also represents a final, angry exertion of power by a president who is losing his ability to shape events with each passing day, a statement of relevance even as Mr. Trump confronts the end of his dominance over the nation’s capital.”


Here’s another gem from NYT reporter Glenn Thrush, in a Dec. 23 story about Trump threatening to veto the $900 billion Covid-19 relief bill.

Like a coin flip that never lands, America’s double-headed presidency is queasily suspended in midair as President Trump threatens to veto a bipartisan, Biden-blessed bill intended to speed relief to families, businesses and governments in time for the holidays. Why is Mr. Trump doing this now? One reason: A no has always been more attractive than a yes for the disruptive Mr. Trump, whose 2016 presidential run was impelled by his dislike of President Barack Obama but turbocharged by his contempt for the Republican Party establishment.


The next one is from a Dec. 23, NYT sports section story that bore the headline “The Fall of the House of Belichick.” Reporter Mike Tanier displayed some felicitous phrasing in these two sentences:

Defeats at the hands of former Super Bowl conquests like the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams and against long-subjugated fiefs like the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Texans took on apocalyptic symbolism. Belichick began appearing before the news media in hoodies that were even more tattered than usual: the emperor now a penitent in sackcloth, muttering about past accomplishments and making uncharacteristic excuses.


Now, on to that chunk of coal.


In a Dec. 21 story about The Kansas City Star’s apology for “Racism in Decades of Reporting,” John Eligon made a flawed comparison regarding minority employment in The Star’s newsroom. He wrote…

While the ambition of Sunday’s series of articles has earned The Star praise, it also has placed new scrutiny on the newsroom’s demographics: About 17 percent of the reporters are Black in a city where Black residents make up about 28 percent of the population. Until it hired…Trey Williams this year to oversee race and equity coverage, the paper had been without a Black staff editor for more than a decade.

There are two problems with his statistical comparison. First, I have no idea why Eligon seemingly limited his comparison to “reporters.” A more representative comparison would be based on the total number of editorial staff members, which includes not only reporters but editors, photographers, copy editors and anyone else involved on the word and image side of the paper. Perhaps Eligon was including the other categories, but, in any event, saying “reporters” is puzzling.

Even worse, however, is using just the Kansas City, Missouri, population as the basis of comparison. The Star, of course, is a metro-wide paper, and according to last year’s U.S. Census Bureau figures Blacks accounted for just 12 percent of the area’s population of more than 2 million.

By that measure, The Star is exceeding the mark.

I’m all for fairness in proportional employment, but I have to wonder if Eligon allowed his personal agenda to override fair and accurate reporting. While I’m at it, I’m giving another chunk of coal to whoever edited the story; the distortion should have been caught.

(I have tried sending emails of complaint to Eligon and national editor Marc Lacey, but my stabs at their email addresses have been incorrect, and all have bounced back. I wrote a letter to the editor and sent it last night, but I doubt it will get in. I intend to call Lacey on Monday. It’s been my experience that NYT reporters and editors seldom return calls, but you can at least leave a message.)


That’s all for Christmas Day 2020, readers…I hope you all have a great day and a Happy New Year. Thank you for your readership!

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The Kansas City Police Department is essentially run by two people: Chief Rick Smith and police union president Brad Lemon.

The five-member Board of Police Commissioners is nominally in charge, but guess what? With the exception of Mayor Quinton Lucas, they are a rubber stamp for the chief.

I’ve written extensively about how bad Smith has been in his three years as chief. Murders are at an all-time high, and Smith has not come up with a substantive plan to combat the violence; his officers overreacted on several occasions during the recent Black Lives Matter protests in and around the Plaza; and, most important, he has no relationship whatsoever with the Black community. He’s beloved in the near-lily-white Northland and detested on the East Side.

Because he’s the chief, the spotlight shines brightest on Smith. Every bit as bad as Smith, however, is Lemon.

It has come out in recent days that as an officer, the former police chief accused him a few years ago of significant impropriety in a criminal case. (That investigation appears to have withered away under Smith.) And now, in a story published today in The Star, Lemon has been exposed as having used his position to attempt to pressure an individual on a personal matter.

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday released an audio recording that captured Lemon threatening the owner of a tow company if he did not release a car belonging to relatives of Lemon.

The audio demonstrates an astounding abuse of power by a police officer in dealing with a citizen. The Prosecutor’s Office did not specify the date of the call, but it apparently was sometime in 2019.

You can listen to the conversation here and you can read about the prosecutor’s investigation into the tow-company owner here (he was cleared), but  I want you to read some of the key excerpts between Lemon and Allen T. Bloodworth, owner of a company called Private Party Impound.

Brad Lemon

Lemon: “Hey this is Brad Lemon out of Kansas City Police Department. I’m president of the police union. I got a phone call from my niece that says you guys towed our family’s car from Two Light and now you’re requiring us to go get a…

Bloodworth: “We’re requiring you to comply with the law to get the car back. Correct. The owner of the vehicle is someone’s grandmother or something?”

Lemon: “Yeah she’s two hundred miles away.”

Bloodworth: “OK. The Kansas City Missouri tow lot wouldn’t release the car the way the circumstances are now, so I don’t know why we would. You have to be the registered owner of the car.”

Lemon: “She’s 91, dude. There’s no way we can do that.”

Bloodworth: “OK. I sent whoever called earlier a notarized power of attorney that will allow them to have her sign and notarize it, and then a third party can pick up the car.”

At that point, there’s an eight-second pause, followed by…

Lemon: “So, didn’t we investigate you at property crimes a couple years ago for felonies for doing stuff like this?”

Bloodworth: “You mean I was exonerated because you guys have a rogue cop that likes to jack with people, and OCC..”

Lemon interrupts: “It’s game on.”

Bloodworth: “…OCC or whatever. What do you mean it’s game on?”

Lemon: “We’ll start the same routine with you then.”

Bloodworth: “What do you mean you’ll start the same routine with me?”

Lemon: “I guarantee I’m going to talk to (unintelligible), this is going to be the last you tow them.”

Bloodworth: “What’s your name, sir?”

Lemon: “Brad Lemon, I’m the president of the police union.”


There’s your police union president, Kansas City. One of two people who run a department that has more than 1,300 sworn officers.

What a disgrace to the badge.

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When I got up Sunday and checked my email, first up was one from a friend who, with his wife, divides his time between his home in the Kansas City area and one in the Florida panhandle.

It read: “Good morning, Jim. The KC Star theme today is a powerful statement. What do you think of the apology articles?”

I was completely flummoxed…Apology articles? Apology for what? Had there been a massive error in a big story?

I immediately went to The Star’s website and saw plastered across the top of the page the words, “The truth in Black and white: An apology from The Kansas City Star.”

Then I knew what it was all about. Nevertheless, it was the most jolting and unexpected series of stories I’ve ever seen in The Star in my 50 years in Kansas City, including 36-plus years as a reporter and editor at The Kansas City Times and The Star.

It was disturbing, too, partly because it made me ask myself if I, who joined the paper in 1969, may have contributed to the paper’s failure to cover much of anything emanating from east of Troost Avenue or anyone living east of the longtime dividing line between white and Black Kansas City.

(I couldn’t think of anything I did overtly to contribute to the appalling situation, but, like nearly everyone else at the paper, I was definitely focused almost exclusively on the white community and white power structure.)

The Sunday package was a remarkable undertaking and a sincere mea culpa. It consisted of…

  • A formal apology from Editor Mike Fannin
  • Six separate “news” stories about different areas in which The Star had failed miserably, since its founding in 1880, to cover racial matters adequately
  • An editorial vowing that the editorial board would chart a new course on social justice
  • A separate story about The Star having formed an advisory group “to ensure fair, inclusive coverage of communities of color”

One of the most admirable aspects of this series is that The Star is not attempting to profit off it, at least directly. I believe the entire package of stories can be accessed without a subscription at http://www.kansascity.com. The Star rarely drops the pay wall, but this was an appropriate time to do so.

Mara Rose Williams

The person who pushed for the series was Mará Rose Williams, an education reporter who has been with The Star for 22 years. Williams followed her late husband, Ceasar Williams, to the paper after he was hired as an assignment editor in the late 1990s. Ceasar Williams died in 2010 at age 61.

The other reporters on the team were longtime employees Eric Adler and Mike Hendricks and relative newcomer Cortlynn Stark. Visuals were produced by Shelly Yang, Tammy Ljungblad and Neil Nakahodo. Chris Ochsner edited the photos and graphics, and Bill Turque and Sharon Hoffmann edited the stories.


I will not rehash the stories, but a couple of sources the reporters tapped seemed to capture the crux of The Star’s longtime failure regarding proportional racial coverage.

:: Gerald Jordan, a former editorial writer who has been a journalism professor at the University of Arkansas for many years, said that while he did not believe The Star was guilty of intentional racism, the paper did not assign reporters to cover specific neighborhoods, and that “put us at a disadvantage.” That effectively left minorities and poor people out of the paper because they weren’t running the institutions or setting the policies The Star and Times focused their coverage on.

Chuck Haddix

:: Chuck Haddix, host of KCUR’s “The Fish Fry,” and curator of the Marr Sound Archives at UMKC, said: “They covered the African American community just a little bit. The Kansas City Star always kind of covered classical music and opera and the fine arts, because that was their audience. They also covered country music, too. But they didn’t cover 18th and Vine because of segregation. I think it caused that community to be invisible to white people in Kansas City. You know, people who read The Star didn’t get a sense of what was happening at 18th and Vine or other African American communities.”


Because of the startling nature of this package of stories, I sought out reaction from several friends and neighbors.

One neighbor called it a “breakthrough.” Another said simply, “Long time overdue.”

A former Star reporter and friend, a colleague at the paper, said: “The Star has been dumping a lot of criticism on folks such as J.C. Nichols and Andrew Jackson for their racism. And I often have thought, ‘What about the racism that William Rockhill Nelson and other Star execs practiced? Should we take Nelson’s name off the Nelson-Atkins Museum?’ I admire the Star for airing its dirty laundry and acknowledging that it was just as guilty as J.C. Nichols in the promotion of racism in Kansas City.”

Clinton Adams Jr.

Another friend, Clinton Adams Jr., a lawyer and longtime civic activist who was quoted in the Sunday package, said:

“The chatter in the Black community today has been positive. A general refrain has been, ‘What now’? There is skepticism as to how they (The Star) will follow up and fulfill the commitments made.” Adams said he believed the package “could have some impact if other institutions and media outlets will also take an introspective look at their racial history and address their transgressions.”


Everything those people said is true.

The only thing I would add is that where Adams’ wonders how The Star will follow up, I wonder how much impact the package will have and how many people will see it or hear about it.

The problem is this: Where The Star once spoke with a bullhorn, its strong voice echoing far and wide, it now speaks with a crackling, dimming microphone.

The Star, like most major metropolitan dailies, has been slaughtered by the internet and the exponential proliferation of platforms and information outlets, many of which spew misinformation, disinformation and just plain junk.

The five-county metro area has about 1.8 million people, only about 90,000 of whom subscribe to the print edition of the Sunday paper. About 50,000 take the print edition of the weekday paper, and, as far as I can tell, a paltry 9,000 people have stand-alone, digital subscriptions.

…The apology package was remarkable. Congratulations to everyone involved, from Mike Fannin on down. I just hope a lot of people heard the cracking and felt the reverberations this redwood made when it fell, and I hope the cracking sound isn’t limited to an echo chamber.

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The last week or so, a few people have asked me why QuikTrip would want to build a store at 39th and Southwest Trafficway, in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Well, there are 72,818 good reasons.

According to the Kansas City Public Works Department, that was the average daily traffic volume at the intersection as of April 2017.

That made it the busiest intersection in all of Kansas City. The second busiest intersection is not far away, 31st and Southwest Trafficway, which handled an average volume of 71,384 vehicles a day.

Are you interested in knowing the third busiest intersection? Of course you are…75th and Ward Parkway, where the daily count was 53,347.

When it comes to selecting locations, I don’t think QuikTrip spends a lot of time analyzing whether a store is going to change a neighborhood or create traffic problems. As Patrick Faltico, president of the Volker Neighborhood Association, told me, “They’ve got an algorithm that says, ‘We’ll make money here.’ ”

As I’ve said before, QuikTrip is the best convenience store I’ve ever seen. The restrooms are almost always in good shape, the gas prices are the lowest in town and the clerks count money as fast as bank clerks.

Another thing: I won’t stop patronizing QT if they win the battle to build at 39th and Southwest Trafficway. I’m not switching to Phillips 66, 7-Eleven or Fast Stop. None compares with QT.

But like about 99.9 percent of the people living in the neighborhoods in that area — Volker, Roanoke and Coleman Highlands — I’m dead set against this proposal.

QuikTrip’s attorney, Patricia Jensen, of the politically connected law firm Rouse Frets White Goss Gentile Rhodes, has had an initial meeting with officials in the City Planning & Development Department, but she had not submitted a plan as of Thursday.

There were, however, two noteworthy developments Thursday:

  • The influential organization Historic Kansas City came out with a strongly worded and colorfully written release opposing the QT proposal.
  • At a Zoom meeting with Midtown KC Now (formerly MainCor), 4th District at-large Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, although not stating outright opposition, said she was “very aware” of the neighborhoods’ strong opposition and understood the concerns.

Historic Kansas City’s release —  signed by Lisa Lassman Briscoe, executive director, and Greg Allen, president — started like this…

For over 45 years, Historic Kansas City has worked for the advancement and protection of the scenic and historic assets of Kansas City. The community and economic revival power of historic places is demonstrated and real, and in the bedrock of it all is historic neighborhoods. Beginning with the back-to-the-city movement of the 1970s and over ensuing decades, the City’s prospects and future have greatly depended on the health of our neighborhoods. Intrusions and disruptive uses in or adjacent to our prized neighborhoods are to be avoided at all costs.

It ended like this…

We look to City government to join with so many citizens who reject this proposal. QuikTrip has untapped markets and unmet demands many places in the City — they need not be a menace to historic places. We applaud the neighborhoods for their leadership and urge all who love this City to lend their support.

Lisa Briscoe

Briscoe is no newcomer to thorny development issues. For 15 years she was a division manager in the City Planning & Development Department, and she later was administrator of the Kansas City Landmarks Commission.

She nailed it when she referred to a QuikTrip at 39th and the Trafficway as “a menace to historic places.” That’s a line that resonates and could become the rally cry.

As for Shields, she told me earlier this week she had not taken a position and was in the “fact-finding stage.” However, at the Midtown KC Now meeting she seemed to move closer to opposition. “It gets to be a question of how many QuikTrips do you need,” she said.

Good point. To be sure, QT already has three stores within a 5-minute drive of 39th and the Trafficway. The closest one is at Westport Road and Mercier. Another is at 44th and Main. The third is at 31st Street and Southwest Boulevard.


It will be interesting to watch Shields and her in-district counterpart, Eric Bunch, on this issue. They are pivotal because it is hard to imagine a Council majority voting to approve the proposal if both of them come down in opposition.

Shields and Bunch make for an interesting contrast.

Katheryn Shields

At 74, Shields is the oldest Council member, and this could well be her last go-round as an elected official. She is in her fourth Council term (although not consecutively), and she was Jackson County Executive from 1999 to 2006.

Over the years, she has received tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from special interests — such as development attorneys — as well as having enjoyed widespread support at the neighborhood level. If she was younger and eyeing higher office, it would be more difficult for her to go against QT and the deep-pocketed Rouse Frets attorneys, including another former County Executive, Mike White, and a former assistant city attorney, Jim Bowers.

But now, with her political horizon getting short, she will be freer to do what’s “right” and go with the neighborhoods…What better way to go out than as a heroine to neighborhoods? She would leave with a trough full of political goodwill and a secure legacy.

Bunch, on the other hand, is probably the youngest Council member. He’s about 38, and this is his first elective office. In 2019, he ran a low-financed, grass roots campaign and defeated a fire fighter named Geoff Jolley, who appeared to be the favorite.

Eric Bunch

Bunch has all the hallmarks of a champion of neighborhoods. He is an urban planner by trade; he lives in Midtown, near 36th and Wyandotte; he co-founded BikeWalkKC; and, naturally, he is an avid biker.

With his background, it would surprise me if he ended up siding with QuikTrip. So far, however, he’s keeping quiet. I have called and emailed his Council assistant, and Thursday I emailed him directly. No response.

He won’t be able to hide very long, though. This issue is already nearing the boiling point, even before QT has submitted a formal plan.

Where are you, Eric? Are you going to stand with the neighbors or the big corporation based in Tulsa?


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QuikTrip’s proposal to build at 39th and Southwest Trafficway and disrupt the surrounding neighborhoods erupted into public view last week, and both sides are digging in for an extended battle.

From two days of reporting, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • QuikTrip has a contract to purchase the UBC building, which would be razed, on the northwest corner of the intersection.
  • QuikTrip is refusing to answer specific questions about the project and probably will refuse to meet with large groups of neighbors.
  • The project will require City Council approval, which is where the neighborhood will have its best chance of prevailing.

Experience has demonstrated that QuikTrip is a determined and wily company. In Kansas City, they always use the politically connected law firm of Rouse Frets White Goss Gentile Rhodes (located, coincidentally, just south of the Trafficway on Belleview). It is home to such notable attorneys as Mike White, former Jackson County executive, and Jim Bowers, a former assistant city attorney.

Patricia Jensen

Handling the Southwest Trafficway project is another former assistant city attorney with Rouse Frets, Patricia Jensen, whom I reached by phone but was unwilling to comment.

Jensen has already stiff armed the neighborhood once. She helped set up an outdoor meeting Dec. 1, a meeting at which she and the QT project manager, Eric Eckhart, planned to meet with people whose homes back up to the site.

After word of the meeting got out, more than 70 people showed up in the UBC parking lot. Just a few minutes into the meeting, Jensen and Eckhart abruptly ended it on grounds it violated the provisions of the city’s latest ordinance pertaining to Covid-19 gatherings.

The ordinance prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 10 people but, to my reading, does not set a limit on outdoor gatherings. Two Roanoke Homes Association board members told me the people who had come out for the meeting were masked and were socially distancing.

Cancellation of the meeting gave lie to a statement made by a QuikTrip spokesman that appeared in The Star two days after the meeting. The QT spokesperson, Aisha Jefferson-Smith, said, “Our goal is to meet with the community and listen.”

The events of Dec. 1 made perfectly clear, however, that what she really meant was QT would be willing to meet with a very limited number of people and wanted to avoid contentious situations as much as possible.

Naturally, cancellation of the meeting riled the neighbors. The next day — Dec. 2 — the Roanoke Homes Association board adopted a resolution saying it “strongly opposes the proposed QuikTrip development at or near 39th Street and Summit Street.” (Summit runs parallel to Southwest Trafficway, just a few yards from the trafficway at that point.)

The resolution says, among other things…

:: The intersection already is “plagued by congestion and accidents” and a QuikTrip store would worsen that.

:: Traffic “cutting through” Roanoke on east-west streets, such as 38th, would significantly increase.

:: Roanoke was designated a Local Historic District in 1985, and the proposed development “would violate the architectural integrity of Roanoke and surrounding community.”


Yesterday and today, I got a first-hand taste of just how maddening it is to deal with QuikTrip.

First, I put in a call to Mike Thornburg, QT’s manager of public and government affairs. A person in his office said he was retiring in a matter of days and transferred me to Aisha Jefferson-Smith, the woman who was quoted in The Star’s story.

When I told Jefferson-Smith I had some questions, she immediately asked me to put them in writing in an email.

I sent an email in which I asked several specific questions, including how many square feet the store would encompass and how many gas pumps there would be; if any meetings were scheduled with neighbors; and when construction might start, assuming the company got approval from the city.

This morning, I called back and got Jefferson-Smith’s voice mail. I told her I’d like to get the answers to my questions today. An hour or so later, I got this email back: “First and foremost, thank you for contacting QuikTrip. Anytime we consider a new site we will always do our due diligence.”

She put those two sentences in quotation marks, just to emphasize, I suppose, there would be no misunderstanding about what she said.

I wrote back: “That’s it?? If so, why couldn’t you have said that yesterday?”


Today, Tosha Lathrom, president of the Roanoke Homes Association, said her group was teaming up with the Volker, Coleman Highlands and Valentine neighborhood associations — all of which are within several blocks of the site — to fight the proposal. (The site itself, oddly, is not within the boundaries of any particular neighborhood association.)

She said she also had also been in contact with the West Plaza Neighborhood Association, which jousted with QT on the expansion of its Westport Road store a couple of years ago. West Plaza won some concessions, but QT ultimately got a much larger complex, which straddles Mercier Street.

Lathrom said a QuikTrip store at 39th and the Trafficway would run counter to the urban movement of encouraging more walking, biking and use of public transportation. “I can’t imagine anyone thinking that’s a good location for a QuikTrip,” she said. “I can’t imagine the city letting a QT go there.”

This is the proposed site of a new QuikTrip. QT intends to buy the building and raze it.

To get final approval, the project would have to wind its way through a standard, deliberate process. First, a development plan would be submitted to the city. The plan would first go to the City Plan Commission, and then, regardless of how the commission voted, it would go to the City Council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee. The committee could send it to the full Council with a “‘do-pass” or “do-not pass” recommendation.

The proposed site is in the city’s Fourth Council District. Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, the at-large 4th District representative, told me yesterday she hadn’t taken a position on the issue. I haven’t heard back from in-district Councilman Eric Bunch, but Lathrom said she believed Bunch, too, has not taken a position.


This project is a loser for Kansas City. QuikTrip should call off its high-paid attorneys and pull back. But that’s extremely unlikely.

Everybody loves QT when you need gas or want an iced tea and a hot dog or piece of pizza. But when it comes to building a monstrosity at one of KC’s busiest intersections, and plopping it down amid several of the city’s most outstanding neighborhoods, it’s another matter.

So, QuikTrip must be stopped.

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Just how much political clout and muscle will Donald Trump have during the years after he leaves, or is escorted from, the White House on Jan. 20?

That’s a question a lot of people are asking, and some Democrats fear that because of his extensive, determined base and his outsize influence on other Republicans, he will be able to continue clawing at the fabric of democracy, or at least have a disproportionate impact on the national political scene.

Personally, I’m not worried about Trump looming large in American politics as we head into the Biden administration.

Yes, he’ll still be spewing those annoying, all-caps Twitter posts, and he’ll get inordinate attention — at least for a while — from Fox News. But time takes a hell of a toll on almost everyone’s aspirations to remain vigorous and ambitious, and I expect it to be no different with Trump.

Right now, he’s boiling mad and flapping like a big fish solidly hooked, but he’s facing three factors that will likely take most of the punch out of him: The pain of defeat, the passage of time and the dimming of his media persona.

Regarding the sting of defeat, Trump is obviously still in deep denial and hasn’t come to grips with the fact that he actually lost. Ultimately, he will awaken to his fate, though. There’s no avoiding it.

After he gets to Mar-A-Lago, he’s going to find life a lot different and a lot less exciting. His phone’s not going to ring as much, and when he makes calls, it will be mostly to people willing to indulge him, not heads of state. And I suspect he won’t be getting as many return calls from Republican senators and representatives.

I think he’s going to be pretty lonely, too. His children (and Jared) probably won’t remain at his beck and call. And, talk about cold fish…Melania? How much solace and comfort do you think she’s going to offer? I don’t think there will be a lot of, “Don’t worry, honey, everything’s going to work out.”

Then there’s the simple passage of time.

What Trump is facing is involuntary retirement. But it’s still retirement. Retirement at 74…not 54, not 64. Yes, President-Elect Joe Biden is 78, but when he left the White House in 2016 after eight years as Vice President, he did not leave defeated. Besides, he still looks pretty fit at 78.

Trump, on the other hand, is a model of un-fit. It takes a lot of tuning and toning to keep the color in his cheeks, and he has to take a wide golf swing to get around that big gut. I think we’ll see significant changes in him physically and psychologically in the years ahead. Who knows? He might be dead or incapacitated in four years.

But whatever time does to him, the biggest shock he’s facing — and probably doesn’t realize it — is the dimming of his persona.

Power, money and attention are what he lives for, and while he still might be able to cash in on his presidency monetarily, the power and attention he enjoyed will slide away. Once the votes have been counted (and in this case, sadly, that means the electoral votes), the arc lights will go out; the bully pulpit will be gone; and the headlines will disappear.

The intense coverage he got from right, left and center publications and networks will recede. Fox News will probably come to realize that Trump-in-exile is not its highest and best use of air time. And the Big Three national papers — The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal — will all focus their attention on Biden’s effort to set the nation on a new course.

Don’t fret, readers. Don’t stew. That all-consuming, noxious, Trump presence is about to recede. That discordant voice that echoed throughout the land will become a diminishing echo in his personal cave of vexation.

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In the past couple of days, two major development deals — one prospective and one underway — have cropped up, posing problems to a neighborhood in one case and to the well being of Downtown in the other.

Let’s start with QuikTrip, which is the Amazon of Kansas City. It’s based in Tulsa and is the best convenience-store chain I’ve ever seen. At the same time, it’s a behemoth, whose heavy foot sometimes comes down on neighborhoods resisting its attempts to build or expand.

But QuikTrip usually gets what it wants. A few years ago, for example, it won a big battle to double the footprint of its store on Westport Road just west of Southwest Trafficway. The only battle it truly lost locally was in 2014, when neighbors beat back its attempt to build at 33rd and Southwest Trafficway. But QT never took its eye off the Trafficway and now is back, seeking to build on the northwest corner of Southwest Trafficway and 39th Street.

QT proposes to demolish a massive, two-story building that appears vacant and apparently is or was part of a pharmaceutical services support company called UBC.

Pictured, looking east to west on 39th Street, is the two-story building QuikTrip plans to raze to build a new store just blocks from another QT on Westport Road.

Having a QuikTrip on incredibly busy Southwest Trafficway seemed like a bad idea back in 2014 and still seems like a bad idea. Southwest Trafficway is THE biggest artery from downtown to points south in Kansas City and eastern Johnson County. And that particular intersection is already very difficult to negotiate, especially if you’re going east-west and turning south onto the Trafficway from westbound 39th Street.

The Star reported that Patrick Faltico, president of the Volker Neighborhood Association, said most residents he had heard from were against the plan. They had concerns about traffic flow, loitering, trash and petty crime. Faltico pointed out that QT already has the store, apparently thriving, several blocks south on Westport Road, and, of course, there’s the Main Street store at 44th.

The Roanoke Homes Association, also opposed, issued a statement, saying in part: “This intersection is already a nightmare…Moreover, the new location would likely divert traffic onto nearby residential streets where speeding cars are already a threat.”

QuikTrip issued a statement, saying: “Our goal is to meet with the community and listen. We want to be a part of the community and we want to be good neighbors. Opening dates have not yet been determined.”

The fact that QT says “opening dates have not yet been determined” is a clear signal that the process is well underway and that the chances of QT backing off are very small.

I’m with the neighbors who are opposed, but I don’t like their chances of beating the Amazon of Kansas City.


Next we turn to the puzzling case of Waddell & Reed, the Overland Park-based, mutual fund company that is supposed to occupy an 18-story building under construction  at 14th and Baltimore. The news this week, however, was that Waddell & Reed is being acquired by an Australian company for $1.7 billion. The building’s developer, a firm affiliated with insurance magnate Michael A. Merriman, is in line to get about $100 million in city and state tax incentives, provided the project is completed and Waddell & Reed moves in.

Now, though, the company’s future is uncertain, and today The Kansas City Star published a story under this headline, “Kansas City says Waddell & Reed’s tower will be built. But will they actually move in?”

If and when it’s finished, this building is supposed to house 1,100 Waddell & Reed employees. (I took this photo from the corner of 14th and Wyandotte, looking southeast.) The glass building in the right background is the recently opened Loews convention hotel.

For its part, Waddell & Reed issued a statement that was not particularly encouraging: “We will be working with all the appropriate parties and reviewing plans closely, carefully and collaboratively and will provide updates over the coming weeks and months.”

My fear is we’ll end up with a half-built building that will be an eyesore for years. Remember what happened back in the mid-2000s when Bob Bernstein, of the marketing company Bernstein-Rein, tried and failed to construct The West Edge on the Country Club Plaza? The unfinished project sat vacant for several years until VanTrust real estate bought it in 2010, tore it down and started over on a new building that it leases to the Polsinelli law firm. The project ended up as a big winner, but it sure caused a lot of angst and hand wringing while in limbo.

The last thing Downtown needs is a white elephant next to the convention center on one side and the new Loews convention hotel on another.

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