Archive for August, 2022

The national press is gushing and fawning over tennis star Serena Williams, who has announced she will retire after this year’s U.S. Open, which began this week in New York.

People on hand for her opening match tonight, which she won in straight sets, included former President Bill Clinton, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Martina Navratilova (and her dog Lulu), Mike Tyson, Katie Couric, Matt Damon, Hugh Jackman, Spike Lee, Gayle King and Lindsey Vonn.

On StubHub, tickets for Monday night’s match accounted for more than 40 percent of sales for the first round of the tournament, and ticket prices were in the thousands of dollars for lower-level seats.

No doubt Williams is a fantastic tennis player and that she changed the nature of the women’s game, ratcheting up the power factor several times, but a lot of the people queuing up to pay big bucks to see her last hurrah have turned a blind eye to the breathtaking mean spiritedness and appalling displays of poor sportsmanship that she unleashed at times against umpires and line judges.

Let me give you a couple of examples from previous U.S. Opens.

In 2009, in a tightly contested match, a line judge called Williams for a foot fault — one foot going across the serving line before she made contact with the ball.

Irate, Williams turned to the line judge and said, “I swear to God I’ll fucking take the ball and shove it down your fucking throat.”

In case she hadn’t made herself clear, she added, “You don’t know me.”

The outburst resulted in a one-point penalty and a fine of $175,000, and she was placed on two years probation. She was also disqualified from the match because it was her second violation; earlier she had been issued a warning for slamming her racket to the ground.

Two years later, she unleashed a verbal assault on an umpire who called her for a “hindrance” after she hit a ball and loudly exclaimed “Come on!” while her opponent was attempting a return shot.

She told the umpire, “If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way, because you’re out of control…You’re a hater, and you’re just unattractive inside…Really, don’t even look at me, don’t look my way.”

She lost that match, too.

As far as I can tell, there were no further incidents in her career that rose to that level of seriousness. But from that point on, I never did like her and would not root for her.


Today, Sports Illustrated has a big story about Williams and her U.S. Open career. The upshot of the story is in the headline, which says of her history in the Open, “It’s Complicated.”

The last paragraph accurately assesses her history at the U.S. Open:

“Serena Williams is an unprecedented athlete. She is also perhaps an unprecedentedly complicated athlete. In that sense, it’s fitting she concludes her glorious career—game, set, match—at a venue filled with so many personal ghosts and so much personal success.”

I agree that she is an unprecedented athlete who changed the women’s game. At the same time, I’m afraid those verbal explosions in 2009 and 2011 may well have showed us what she’s really like. Maybe she has changed. I don’t know, but I can’t bring myself to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Whenever I think about her, I think about those four words she uttered in 2009: “You don’t know me.”

I don’t want to know her any more than I already do.

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Although you would never know it from the Kansas City media, the Kansas City Council on Thursday approved an ordinance authorizing a Nov. 8 election on a two-part, $175 million.

Although this is the biggest Kansas City issue election since voters approved the $800 million G.O. bond issue in 2017, not one of the six major local news organizations — The Star, KCUR and the four TV stations — has reported it.

The lack of coverage is almost incomprehensible, but, on the other hand, it gives me a chance to give you readers the “scoop.”

Where the 2017 bond issue came with a gradual property-tax increase, this proposal is billed as a “no-tax-increase” initiative because, to quote the ordinance, “the authorization will be used over a five-year period to match the roll off of existing general obligation debt.”

The ordinance provides for two ballot questions, each of which will require four-seventh approval by voters, or about 57 percent of those casting ballots.

This proposal mushroomed quickly — within a week — but every Council member except Brandon Ellington voted to approve it Thursday.

Barring unanticipated revelations, I plan to vote “yes” on both questions.

The smaller of the two proposals — Question 2 on the ballot — calls for borrowing $50 million for affordable housing “through the rehabilitation, renovation and construction of houses and buildings, including blight removal, to provide affordable housing for very low- to moderate-income households.”

Affordable housing and its corollary, homelessness, is our biggest social problem, and it cries out to be addressed.

The larger of the two proposals — Question 1 — calls for borrowing $125 million for a variety of projects, including many in the “deferred maintenance” category. For example, the issue would include $44 million for repairs and improvements at Bartle Hall and Municipal Auditorium and $80 million for community center improvements, swimming pools and other amenities.

Some of you know that I am president of the City of Fountains Foundation, and it’s the proposed $80 million for Park Department projects makes my blood run faster.

Very possibly, several million dollars would go toward major fountain repairs. One fountain that has not operated for several years and needs considerable work is the Garment District Fountain at Eighth and Broadway. Another major fountain that is working but needs about $2 million in repairs is the Firefighters’ Fountain on 31st Street, just west of Broadway.

Garment District Fountain

Our organization, which works hand in hand with the Parks Department, is also discussing what to do about the Westside Fountain, S.W. Boulevard and Summit, which has not operated for about eight years. With the Parks Department, we have to decide whether to renovate it, build a new one at another Westside location or provide the Westside with another cultural asset, such as a major sculpture.

Firefighters’ Fountain

Our foundation’s top “new” project — as distinguished from “deferred” — is to relocate the William Volker Memorial in Theis Park. The memorial, which features Carl Milles’ St. Martin of Tours Sculpture, was in the body of the park from the time it was dedicated in 1958 until the mid-1990s, when it was moved to the southernmost extremity of the park to make way for the Brush Creek flood control and improvement program.

St. Martin of Tours Sculpture

The memorial, very inaccessible because of its remote location, has languished for the last 25 years and needs to be back in the body of the park to get the attention it deserves and to generate more activity in that 14-acre park.

We are hoping that if voters approve the $125-million bond issue, we will have enough public and private money to finance that estimated $2 million project.


As I said, I plan to vote “yes” on both questions, and I hope many of you will do likewise. I think both bond issues will give the city a boost and improve the quality of life here.

…Now, with any luck, The Star and the other local news organizations will snap out of their slumber and report on this significant development.

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From all appearances — hiring new people and hiring a well-credentialed editorial page editor — The Star is making money, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how.

I’ve tracked The Star’s circulation figures for years, and they just keeping looking worse.

The Star’s circulation reports to the Alliance for Audited Media, a trade publication financed by the publications it serves, are a big muddle and have been for years.

I suspect the reports are intentionally confusing. Take a look…

For the six-month period ending March 31, The Star reported 14,512 paid, “digital replica” subscriptions, meaning subscriptions that give the subscriber the ability to see the print edition online.

At the same time, the paper reported 18,166 “non-replica” subscriptions, meaning, theoretically, that those subscribers could not see the print, or “e,” edition online.

But that is absurd because The Star does not sell “non-replica” subscriptions: everyone who buys a digital subscription gets the “replica,” or “e,” edition automatically.

Moreover, regardless of how the paper categorizes its subscription sales, the totals are ridiculously low for a metro area of about two million people. A very small percentage of area residents are getting any kind of KC Star product.

Print circulation is hardly worth talking about any more. As of March 31, paid Sunday print circulation was down to 45,349, 16 percent of what it was in the year 2010 — just 12 years ago — when paid Sunday circulation stood at 283,000.

I think the only reason The Star’s owner (McClatchy) continues to publish a print edition is that some people in the 70- to 90-age range are willing to pay whatever it takes to get that flimsy, light-as-air paper thrown in their yards. Some of those people don’t know how to use a computer, but a larger portion consists of those who insist — and I hear this all the time — “I just like to feel the paper in my hands.”

So far, The Star has been very willing to accommodate those suckers. And why not? Some people are paying $1,000 a year or more for a print subscription.


For a comparison, I checked circulation figures for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which is still owned by a newspaper company — Lee Enterprises — rather than a hedge fund, which is the situation with The Star (Chatham Asset Management, out of New Jersey).

For March 31, 2022, the P-D reported 37,610 “digital replica” subscriptions and only 3,587 “non-replica” subscriptions.

Although I’m still at a loss to know exactly what a “non-replica” subscription entails, it sounds to me like the Post-Dispatch is being much more forthcoming. By my reading, The Star had 14,512 paid digital subscriptions as of March 31 and the Post-Dispatch had 37,610.

At The Star, sorry to say, circulation has become a shell game, with the goal being to hide the real numbers. They’ve been doing it for years, and I don’t expect it to change.

I’ve told people again and again, Do not take the print edition. It’s a complete rip-off. If you pine to have print in your hands every day, take a print subscription to the Sunday New York Times. There’s enough in the Sunday edition that you can pick it up every day for a week and find something new and interesting with each pass.

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A little over two years ago I dubbed Kylr Yust and David Jungerman as “co-Public Enemies No. 1.”

A Cass County jury and judge took care of Yust in June 2021, recommending and sentencing the tattooed hooligan to 45 years in prison for the killings of Jessica Runions and Kara Kopetsky.

Up next, nearly five years after KC lawyer Thomas Pickert was gunned down in the front yard of his Brookside home, is Jungerman.

Jungerman’s long-delayed trial in Jackson County Circuit Court is scheduled to begin Sept. 12. Presiding will be Judge John Torrence, who has nudged this case along carefully and perseveringly. I doubt that Torrence will tolerate any more delays.

The odds are good that Jungerman will be convicted, but I do have some concerns. One is that one of the two lead prosecutors, Dan Nelson, left the Prosecutor’s Office in February to take a job with a private law firm. I expect the lead prosecutor to be Lauren Whiston, a top assistant to Jean Peters Baker. From what I’ve seen, Whiston is very good, but she’s carrying a big load and will be under tremendous pressure.

Another concern is that I don’t have much confidence in the homicide detectives at KCPD. The division has a low murder-solution rate, and, overall, the department has been poorly managed under the last two chiefs — Rick Smith and Darryl Forte.

On the other hand, it would take a major screw-up by either the police or the Prosecutor’s Office for Jungerman to escape conviction. He stupidly admitted to the killing on tape, having failed to turn off the recording device after taping a court proceeding, and he was the only person in the world to have a strong motive to kill Pickert: In 2017, Pickert won a $5.75 million civil judgment against Jungerman while representing a trespasser whom Jungerman shot in 2012.


Jungerman is a millionaire many times over, but the prospect of handing over $5.75 million was too much for him to stomach. So, on the mornng of Oct. 25, 2017, he apparently sat in his van across the street from Pickert’s house and shot Pickert with a rifle after Pickert had walked his two young sons to school and was standing in his front yard, talking on his cellphone.

Jungerman, 84, has been in the Jackson County jail since March 2018. He’s got some health problems, and he said in a court filing that he nearly died of Covid-19 a year or two ago.

I’m glad he survived because, even though this trial is going to be very difficult for his widow, Dr. Emily Riegel, their two sons and other family members, this case needs to go to trial, and justice cries out for Jungerman to be convicted.


I met Jungerman one time. It was at a court hearing in January 2018 in Nevada, MO, two months before he was arrested in Kansas City. At the time, he was facing an attempted break-in charge in Vernon County.

Just by sheer coincidence he got on the elevator I was on as we headed up to a second-floor courtroom. I introduced myself in the elevator, and we talked for a few minutes before the hearing began, and we talked again after the hearing.

I don’t remember whether it was before or after the hearing, but at some point, while we were in the courthouse, I looked straight at him and said, “Did you kill him?”

He hesitated slightly and replied: “My attorney has told me not to answer any questions, so I’m not going to say I did, and I’m not going to say I didn’t.”

If he was smart, he would have stopped after the word “questions,” but he’s not smart; he just thinks he is.

What he is is an extremely reckless and violent individual who apparently has no real concern for anything other than his wealth, which consists partly of the value of land he owns in southwest Missouri.

Next month, with any luck, the long-running saga of David Jungerman will wind down, with a jury finding him guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of a lawyer who did a good job for a client and paid for it with his life.

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