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Archive for October, 2021

I want to write about the hazards of Arrowhead Stadium during and after Chiefs’ games, but let me preface this column by acknowledging that I’m well into the “senior citizen” stage and am infinitely more careful than I was when I was in my 20s and 30s.

I remember going to Chiefs’ games in the 1970s and early 1980s when the place was half to three-quarters full (and, yes, the Chiefs were losing), sitting in the upper deck, enjoying the warmth of the sun on fall Sunday afternoons and relaxing as the game unfolded well below me. Often, I’d see some of the same people, and we’d acknowledge one another with nods or smiles, as if to say, “Good to be back at the club.”

There was some drinking, but I don’t ever recall seeing a fight, and I don’t recall anyone being killed going to or from their cars before or after the game.

My, how times have changed. Consider what has gone on out there at two recent home games…

:: During Sunday night’s game against the Bills, two “super fans” — one known as “Red Xtreme” and the other known as “X-Factor,” got into a big fight after X-Factor threw a cup at Red Xtreme’s wife. X-Factor got knocked unconscious. Before it was taken down, a video showed X-Factor cascading down a flight of stadium stairs as Red Xtreme stood over him.

X-Factor

:: In the Sept. 26 game against the Chargers, an all-out brawl took place. The Star reported one man was beaten until he appeared to lose consciousness. Four were arrested, two at the scene and two later, and additional warrants were issued for others involved. Charges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and providing false information to law enforcement were filed.

:: Worse than the fights, by far, was the hit-and-run death of 66-year-old Steven Hickle of Wichita, who was killed while trying to cross Blue Ridge Cutoff after he had left Sunday night’s game, apparently during a storm that suspended play for more than an hour. Hickle was first hit by one driver, who did not stop, and then he was run over by the driver of a second car. That driver also did not stop. Police have some evidence and are looking for both drivers. Police traffic crews were not in the area yet to help direct traffic away from the stadium.

Steven and Laurie Hickle

I haven’t been to a game in several years, and I doubt that I will ever attend one again, which makes me kind of blue because I had a lot of fun out there over many years. Arrowhead and the Chiefs are a significant part of life in Kansas City, and now I feel like the live-game experience is no longer a safe option for me.

Since Arrowhead was renovated 11 years ago, I’ve been to about three games. Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe the crowds had gotten progressively worse over the years, but the first game I went to after the renovation is when I noticed a distinct change in atmosphere. People were packed more tightly on the main concourse, which was narrower, and they seemed louder, drunker and ruder.

I didn’t like it at all. It was such a stark contrast to the laid-back feel of the “good old days.” After that, I wasn’t much interested in going back. I did go to a Raiders game a few years ago — a night game — with a friend who had seats in the plaza (yellow) level, and even there it was crazy. After the Chiefs scored one touchdown, the guy next to me — a really big guy — bear hugged me and raised me a few feet off the ground. He wasn’t mean about it, but I thought he could have registered his joy differently. High five, maybe?

Now I’m not the least bit tempted to go to an extremely loud venue where most everybody stands up for three and a half hours and I’ve got to worry about getting beer spilled on me or accidentally tipping a beer in somebody is carrying and getting punched for it. Or simply getting jostled on that main concourse that used to be so accommodating.

Nope, I’m sticking to the wide open, friendly spaces on the golf course…Speaking of which, here’s a photo I took this afternoon near No. 16 tee at Hoots Hollow golf course in Pleasant Hill. Give me this any day over the mayhem at Arrowhead.

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A couple of days ago, regular reader Mark Peavy posted a comment wondering why I had not weighed in on the dust-up over the concessions contract at the new KCI.

I followed developments on the issue fairly closely, but one reason I didn’t write about it — until now — is that it struck me as if it might be one of those hurricane warnings that get coastal residents very excited, but the storms dissipate before they make landfall.

Another reason is the concessions deal is a pretty thick business — lots of shoots and branches — and I couldn’t get much of a grip on it.

Today, I was satisfied the reasons I didn’t write were on target. In a decidedly anticlimactic move, the City Council voted to award the contract — which could be worth more than a billion dollars over the life of the 15-year contract — to the recommended bidder, Vantage Airport Group, on a 9-2 vote.

The only dissenters were Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, who apparently did not agree with the selection process, and Councilwoman Teresa Loar. (More about her personal corn cob in a minute.)

Councilwoman Heather Hall was absent, and Councilman Dan Fowler, who had been on the selection committee, abstained because a partner in the Vantage Group, Jason Parson, had done political consulting work for him in his 2019 re-election campaign.

The selection process triggered a great deal of huffing and puffing and rapid-fire heart beating. For example…

:: Fowler, the only elected official on the selection committee, took part in the recommendation process, even though his pal Parson was part of the Vantage Group. After that connection came to light, Fowler tried to redeem himself by seeking a belated opinion from the city ethics commission. The commission came back with the obvious: He should not have taken part in the process.

:: Mayor Quinton Lucas and The Star’s Dave Helling got into such a heated pissing match on Twitter that Lucas suggested The Star might be “on the take.” I can guarantee you The Star as an institution has never been “on the take,” and Lucas should not have suggested that. Helling likes nothing more than to get under politicians’ skin. He’s been doing it for about 40 years.

:: Loar, the most volatile and off-base council member, pitched a fit because, she said, not enough Northland businesses were included in the Vantage proposal…Now that struck me as exceedingly strange because one of her closest allies on the council is Fowler, a fellow Northlander. If Loar wasn’t able to convince the already-compromised Fowler (again, the only elected official on the selection committee) to add more Northland businesses to the Vantage mix, her beef should have been with him, not with the rest of the Council.

**

Okay, now that the hysteria is over and heart rates are back to normal, let’s take a look at some of the businesses that will have the opportunity to operate at the new terminal.

:: Auntie Anne’s…This is great, not only because their pretzels are fantastic but also because of an experience I had at the Auntie Anne’s at Boston’s South Station several years ago. After pulling out my wallet, I paid cash and forgot to put the wallet back in my pocket. Left it, containing $300 to $400, on the counter. I realized the mistake after I got to my destination at a nearby suburb and thought, “Well, that’s the end of that.” A couple of days later, my cousin’s son suggested I try to call. Well there’s a capital notion, I thought! I got through, and the person who answered the phone said, yes, they had my wallet. When I got to the stand, I found all the money inside and tipped the counter person $20. (So cheap…Should have given her fifty.)

:: Bo Lings Chinese Restaurant…Good.

:: Brown & Loe…Excellent.

:: Martin City Brewing Co…Some of the best pizza in town. Big winner.

:: Tay’s Burger Shack on Armour Road, North Kansas City…I ate there once and wasn’t impressed. The burger was nothing special, and there’s not a window in the place, to the best of my recollection. (I bet that’s where we’ll find Teresa Loar, though.)

:: Urban Cafe, a family owned restaurant on Troost. I’ve never been there, and the only time Patty tried to go, it was so crowded she couldn’t get a table. Tentative thumbs up there.

Finally, Chick-fil-A, which had been part of the Vantage proposal, got the boot because of concerns that it doesn’t promote an “inclusive environment.” That was a good call. I wholeheartedly recommend Go Chicken Go as its replacement. It’s local, and, to the best of my knowledge, it’s open every day. Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday for religious reasons.

Note: In the original post, I had Chick-fil-A in the Vantage proposal. They were dropped about two weeks ago.

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As most of you know, I came around to being a fan of Mayor Quinton Lucas in the wake of his decision several months ago to take on the Board of Police Commissioners and stop trying to suck up to the police union, which supported him for mayor two years ago.

However, in the wake of a Jackson County Circuit Court ruling today in favor of the police board, it is clear that the City Council’s attempt to reallocate $42 million after approving the Police Department’s 2021-22 budget was a rush job that ran headlong into the clear provisions of state law.

Now, Lucas and the City Council majority that rammed through the budgetary reallocation have egg on their faces, and it is likely to cost Lucas at the polls in 2021, assuming he runs for re-election.

I don’t think the misfire will cost him re-election, however, because he is extremely popular everywhere except the Northland, where, I feel sure, a majority of KC police officers and their families live. (The families are important because, like KC firefighters, members of police families vote in droves.)

But to explain this court ruling, let’s retrace what happened last spring. In March, the City Council approved a $224 million budget for the Police Department for the fiscal year that started May 1. In April, the police board approved the same budget. A month later, in May, nine City Council members — all except the four from the Northland — approved two ordinances reallocating $42 million from general operations to “community services and prevention.”

Lucas and the eight other council members from south of the Missouri River had become understandably frustrated with the Police Department’s, and the board’s, high-handed ways, and the ordinances amounted to a poke in the eye.

The police board wasn’t going to take that sitting down, obviously, and it quickly filed suit seeking to blunt the attempt to undo part of the budget that both parties had already approved.

I don’t know if the city attorney’s office gave the council bad advice or if the nine council members weren’t in a mood to listen, but, in any event, Circuit Court Judge Patrick W. Campbell handed the nine council members their heads on sticks today.

Judge Campbell

Here are some of the key elements of Judge Campbell’s ruling…

:: State law grants the police board “exclusive management and control” of the Police Department, and the two City Council ordinances at issue “interfere” with the board’s management of the department.

:: Although state law provides that the city does not have to appropriate any more than an amount equal to 20 percent of the city’s general fund, “the Court finds this discretion must be exercised during the appropriations phase.”

:: “The sole legal question before the Court is whether the City violated Chapter 84 in passing (the ordinances) after the Board adopted its budget for fiscal year 2021-22.” The answer: It did.

**

The irony is that it appears Lucas and the eight other council members who voted for the ordinances might have been able to get away with the budgetary switcheroo had they waited until next year’s budgetary cycle. And they just might succeed next year. The retroactive action was the big mistake.

Now, though, as a result of the aborted effort, the police board will be bracing for an attempted diversion of funds next year. If a similar effort does come, I suspect the police board will do battle on the Chapter 84 provision that gives the board “exclusive management and control” of the Police Department.

In the end, this all comes down to the issue of local versus state control of KCPD. State control is the root of all the tension, and, unfortunately, the chances of the city convincing the General Assembly to pass a bill relinquishing control to the city are zero now and will remain that way for a long time. A statewide initiative petition to change the system is equally unlikely…We’re fucked.

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