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Is everybody sitting down? I’ve got something shocking to tell you: I might be voting for a Republican for Missouri governor in 2024.

Yes, indeed. Sometimes circumstances dictate a shift in political loyalties.

What made me almost gasp this morning was a headline in the Missouri Independent that said, “Lawmaker wants to use Missouri surplus to widen I-70.”

The story, written by Rudy Keller, said state Sen. Bill Eigel, a Republican from Eldon Spring, was proposing to use at least $2 billion of Missouri’s $6 billion budget surplus to widen I-70 to three or four lanes between Kansas City and St. Louis.

This idea has been long talked about, but this is the first legislator I know of who has stepped forward and said effectively, “Let’s do this.”

Before even reading the whole story, I looked up Eigel’s phone number, called his office and left a voice message saying I was 100 percent behind the project and would consider voting for him for governor if his plan was implemented.

Eigel

I’d never heard of Eigel, but just the fact that he came out with a bold proposal for a crying need at a time when money is cascading like water over Niagra Falls was enough to make me call his office.

Eigel, an Air Force veteran, owns St. Louis Skylights, a skylight installation company. From photos, he looks like he’s in his 40s. He’s a founding member of the Senate Conservative Caucus, which is troubling, but a conservative Republican is going to be elected governor, anyway, so what the hell? (In the race to succeed U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, I’m sure you noticed that the Republican candidates were falling all over each other to claim the mantle of “most conservative.”)

Eigel filed his bill Thursday, the first day bills could be “pre-filed” for the 2023 legislative session starting in January. It was one of several hundred bills filed. Eigel had to think his bill would upstage the vast majority of bills, and he was right.

Keller quoted Eigel as saying, “I don’t think it is necessarily a great thing for cash to be sitting in the government’s bank account. We need to invest those funds in actual big infrastructure projects like I-70.

The story went on to say: “Under his proposal, any general revenue funds in excess of a $4 billion cash balance would be transferred to the project fund. And from ongoing revenue, Eigel would dedicate about 2% annually — nearly $300 million this year — for 10 years.”

Eigel said the formula could generate as much as $9 billion for the project. MODOT Director Patrick McKenna told Keller he was not sure how much it would cost to widen I-70. This summer, the department estimated it woud cost $2.75 billion to add a third lane in each direction, primarily by building within the current right of way. An accurate estimate for four lanes would be extremely difficult to develop because four lanes would involve the acquisition of additional right-of-way, and many interchanges would need to be rebuilt.

…Well, I say, Bill, ol’ buddy, let’s just keep it simple and go with three lanes in the existing right of way. Just make sure they’re wide enough…I’m afraid with four lanes the far-left lane would become grounds for a daily Missouri Grand Prix, with people routinely going 80 to 100 mph. It could be a nightmare for law-abiding motorists and the Highway Patrol.

Yeah, just give us three lanes, and look for me in the far right lane; I’ll be plugging along at 60 to 65 and praying that the speed demons in the outer two lanes leave me alone.

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A friend and fellow board member of the City of Fountains Foundation got a tour on Monday, with a few other people, of the new airport terminal, which is expected to open in March.

I was at the airport last week and again on Monday and could only see the project from a distance. Several photos that my friend took give a much better idea of how well the new terminal is coming along.

There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly striking about the new terminal, architecturally speaking — and that’s too bad — but it looks like it’s going to be very functional. Certainly, it will be leaps and bounds better than the old crescent-shaped terminals, which are now about 50 years old and no longer practical.

Here are some photos, compliments of Casey Cassias, a retired architect with BNIM.

This is the outside drop-off area, with supporting “Y” beams, which might be the airport’s most distinctive feature.
Inside the terminal
This will be the security checkpoint.
A ticketing and check-in area.
One of two concourses
A gate area…Are you ready to board?
A section of terrazzo floor taken from one of the existing terminals.
Baggage carousels, lower level
Gates along a concourse
A closer look at several gates

**

We’ve waited a long time for a modern airport, and now, thankfully, the day is just about on us.

(Thanks to Casey Cassias for this exceptional phographic preview.)

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Former KC Star development reporter Kevin Collison has done a great job with his CitySceneKC website. If you don’t subscribe, I suggest you do so. At $6 a month, it’s the best bargain in town for keeping up with what’s going on in the heart of the city, between the River Market and the Crossroads District.

The thing you have to keep in mind about Kevin, however, is that he’s a cheerleader. First of all, like me, he loves Kansas City and wants to see it prosper. And then there’s the personal consideration: The more action there is downtown, the more it creates interest in his website.

The problem is that Kevin’s advocacy and rosy view sometimes get in the way of a clear-eyed look at a situation.

Take the prospect of a downtown baseball stadium…In general, Kevin has been a promoter of a downtown stadium, and at this point anyway that seems to be running counter to public sentiment.

In today’s edition of CitySceneKC, Kevin has an analysis of “parking, traffic and taxpayer costs” related to the downtown stadium idea being pushed first and foremost by KC Royals’ majority owner John Sherman.

Essentially, Kevin contends, there’s plenty of parking downtown and (fingers crossed) Sherman might not be planning to ask for a tremendous amount of help from the city — that is, from you and me.

Kevin

So, let’s take a look at some of Kevin’s specific points and assume that the preferred stadium site is the downtown “East Village,” which starts at about 12th and Holmes and extends north to about Eighth Street.

Kevin says…

First off, there is a lot of parking already available to the public downtown. Just within the Loop, there are 17,100 garage and 3,300 surface lot spaces, according to a survey done recently by the Downtown Council.

I say, get real, Kevin…The number of people who will park in a downtown garage to go to a stadium several blocks from the stadium will be ridiculously small. Some people would be interested in parking in a multi-level stadium garage, of course, but the prospect of being stuck in an exit queue for an hour or more would scare off many people…The price of surface-lot parking would jump from about $15 to $50, and you could forget about close-in street parking. All that street parking along Holmes and Charlotte (a great place to park if you’re going to City Hall or the Couthouse) would go away with a new stadium.

Kevin says…

There’s also the streetcar, which by the time a new ballpark would open, would extend on Main Street from UMKC to the riverfront. If the East Village is the site chosen for the Royals ballpark…it would be a less than a half-mile walk to the closest streetcar station at 12th and Main. That’s about eight minutes.

I don’t know how Kevin calculated eight minutes, but it takes the little stick-like pedestrian on Google maps 12 minutes to get from 12th and Main to 10th and Holmes. That’s seven long blocks — from Main to Walnut to Grand to McGee to Oak to Locust to Cherry and finally — “Ah, we can now see the stadium” — to Holmes. And, remember, that 12-minute walk just gets you to the vicinity of the stadium, not inside and to your seats.

Kevin says…

Fans could also use parking lots and garages along the streetcar route including Union Station, Crown Center, the riverfront and Country Club Plaza to reach their destination. People living near the route could leave their cars behind.

Oh, my. Pack your lunch and be sure to bring your credit card for dinner along the way. Such a trip would be in the category of a “great adventure.” About the only people I can see who’d be interested in going the streetcar route from Union Station or anywhere south of it would be members of the Kansas City Hiking Club, if there is such a thing. The vast majority of people attending games just want to park fairly close, get in their seats and get out as fast as possible.

Kevin says…

There’s also a notion that city taxpayers would be asked to be a big funder of a downtown ballpark. Nowhere in Sherman’s letter is there any ask from the city, although there will likely be a request for tax incentive help.

A notion? Duh! A $2 billion stadium project is clearly out of Jackson County’s league. County Executive Frank White might be on deck but he will never get to the plate…Will there be an “ask” from the city? You bet your ass there will. And it will be big. I’m guessing a sales-tax increase of at least one cent on the dollar, a city property-tax increase and scores of millions in property-tax breaks for the developer, Sherman and Co.

Finally, Kevin says…

Cordish, the operator of the Power & Light District, has had discussions with Sherman about potentially participating in the redevelopment plan.

The city is already supplementing the P&L District to the tune of $14 million a year because revenue projections didn’t pan out and development of the district lapped over into the Great Recession. The only way I can see Cordish participating in this plan is if the stadium site would be within easy walking distance of P&L. Sherman envisions a “Ballpark Village” type of development around the stadium, with bars and restaurants and perhaps office buildings. Such a development on the east side of downtown would be curtains for Cordish.

…There you go, Kevin. Sorry to burst your bubble. We’re still buddies, right? It’s just “business.” But, please, take off those rose-colored glasses and get Costco to order you some clear lenses.

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On Sunday, The Kansas City Star published one of its best stories in recent months. It was the heartbreaking story of a 14-year-old Afghan immigrant, Rezwan Kohistani, who committed suicide last May after he and his family were sent off by immigration officials to a small town in southwest Missouri, where there were no other Afghans and where no one spoke the Kohistanis’ native language, Dari.

Rezwan essentially died of loneliness and frustration.

Telling his story, and that of his family, were Matti Gellman, a reporter for The Star, and Kartikay Mehrotra, a reporter for ProPublica, a nonprofit organization based in New York. ProPublica was the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize.

One of the best parts of the story is how Gellman and Mehrota describe America’s “gutted system” of handling refugees — gutted in no small measure by former President Donald Trump’s decision to slash the number of refugees that the U.S. would accept each year by 80 percent. As a result, hundreds of nonprofits, which get a small payment for each refugee they relocate, had to cut their staffs or close.

Under President Joe Biden, the system’s cylinders are starting to fire up again, but many refugees are still getting lost in the shuffle.

After being passed along from one immigration organization to another, the Kohastani family ended up in Oronogo, MO, a town of 2,500 that is west of I-49 and north of Joplin. The family had asked to go to St. Louis, where a relative lived, but in the shuffle, the request got lost.

At Webb City High School, which Rezwan attended sporadically, he attempted to communicate with the few students who reached out to him through a telephone translation app, but most students simply ignored him.

Gellman and Mehrotra describe his last day at school like this…

On the last day of Rezwan Kohistani’s life, he ate lunch alone.

Three other boys were at his table in the high school cafeteria, two of their trays touching Rezwan’s, surveillance video shows. They laughed among themselves, seemingly oblivious to their classmate, even after one of the boys accidentally knocked over Rezwan’s milk carton. Rezwan, a tall and handsome freshman, had arrived at the school four months earlier, after fleeing Afghanistan with his family. He sat at the table for a few more minutes, at one point covering his face in apparent distress. Then he got up and made his way through the halls, past a bulletin board announcing, “You belong.”

Rezwan pushed open the school door, walked out into the rain and sent his mother a text in his native language, Dari, saying “goodbye.”

That was on May 4. The next morning police received a 911 call that a student had been found dead near the high school baseball field.

Rezwan

The preliminary autopsy report declared Rezwan’s death a suicide…The story does not describe the manner of death.

The story says that a few students who had befriended Rezwan grieved. One was quoted as saying, “I think this whole thing could have been avoided if there were other Afghan kids and he had a group to be in instead of being alone.”

Others, on the other hand, were completely indifferent. For example, when investigators asked the boys who had sat at Rezwan’s lunch table what they recalled, they said they had been unaware of him. One said, “What’s a Rezwan?

Sadly, Rezwan, the oldest of six children, had set his sights on moving to Dallas, where the family had relatives and where there is a large Afghan community that had offered to help the Kohistani family.

In mid-April, a few weeks before Rezwan took his life, he and his father had driven to Dallas to check it out. The trip went well, and the family decided to move. However, the executive director of the immigration organization that had brought them to Oronogo convinced Rezwan’s father to hold off until the end of the school year.

Rezwan must have been crushed…He had had enough of Oronogo, enough of life without significant connection to his peers, and despair overwhelmed him.

…Congratulations to Matti Gellman and Kartikay Mehrotra and The Star and ProPublica. I hope this story turns out to be a big prize winner.

Kartikay Mehrotra
Matti Gellman

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The New York Times published an absolutely devastating story Sunday that exposed how Kansas elected officials, including Gov. Laura Kelly, completely prostrated themselves to the promoters of online sports betting earlier this year.

The first three paragraphs of the story — which an investigative reporter and a financial reporter worked on for months — painted a stunning picture, almost a caricature, of an elected official on the take.

Here’s how the story opens…

TOPEKA, Kan. — Representative John Barker, a cattle breeder, retired judge and chairman of one of the most powerful committees in the Kansas legislature, had a glass of 30-year Redbreast Irish whiskey in his hand and a Don Tomas cigar from Honduras in his mouth.

Both had been passed to him as he entered a party a few blocks from the State Capitol. It was co-sponsored by lobbyists who had recently turned to Mr. Barker for help legalizing sports betting in Kansas.

“They keep a special bottle for me up there — they know I like it,” he said of the lobbyists as he surveyed the crowded room. “I’m in my element when I have a whiskey and a cigar.”

Barker, a Republican from Abilene, was the sponsor of a bill to legalize online sports betting. The House approved the bill on April 28 on a 73-49 vote, and the Senate approved it 21-13 in the early-morning hours of April 29. Kelly signed the bill on June 20 and placed Kansas’ first-ever sports bet in September.

Kansas City Star photo

So eager were Barker and other legislators to accommodate more than two dozen sports-betting lobbyists that, in the course of negotiations over the bill, they made significant concessions to the gambling industry. One provision insured that casino companies, like Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, KS, would get a cut of sports-betting revenue. Another expanded the list of venues where sports betting would be allowed. Those sites included Kansas Speedway and Children’s Mercy Park, where Sporting Kansas City plays its games.

The biggest concession, however, was slashing the state’s share of gambling companies’ sports-betting revenue from 20 percent to 10 percent.

The lobbyists claimed that the 20-percent rate would mean less money available to pay out to bettors, which, they said, would drive Kansans to illegal gambling websites.

The NYT reporters, Eric Lipton and Ken Vogel, debunked that claim, however, saying statistics show that residents of high-tax states, like New York, have spent as much per capita on gambling as residents in states with low tax rates.

Now, three months into sports betting, the results have tended to indicate that the legislators who approved it were bigger suckers than the bettors. In September and October, Kansans placed $350 million of bets and, of that amount, the state collected less than $271,000 in taxes.

Told about that paltry amount, Barker, the whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking lawmaker from Abilene, admitted to one of the NYT reporters: “I didn’t think of the consequences. Maybe we need to fix that.”

And then there’s the kicker of the story: Barker, who served four terms in the House, will not be around to propose any fixing. He was defeated in the August primary by a candidate who, The Times said, criticized him “for going too far to please the gambling industry.”

John Barker (Kansas Reflector photo)

**

Of course, this is ruby red Kansas and Barker’s successor doesn’t sound like he’s going to be much better.

Curious to learn more about who beat Barker, I found it was a man named Scott Hill, a “rural Abilene farmer and rancher,” who’s anti-abortion and anti-gun control. His biggest claim to fame came in 1999, however, when, as a member of the Kansas Board of Education, he voted with five other board members to eliminate evolution as a principle of the state science curriculum.

From lap dog (Barker) to meathead (Hill). It’s Kansas, after all, and it could just as easily have been Missouri, which doesn’t yet have sports betting but probably will follow Kansas’ lead in a year or two.

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The best thing that can happen for this community as far as David Jungerman is concerned is for him to be transferred from the Jackson County jail to the Missouri Department of Corrections and never to be heard from again until he dies.

I thought the transfer process might have begun on Friday, when the 84-year-old killer was to have been sentenced for the October 2017 murder of lawyer Thomas Pickert.

Unfortunately, the sentencing was delayed after Judge John Torrence granted a defense request for a mental evaluation. Last week, Jungerman’s lead attorney requested a continuance, alleging that Jungerman’s physical and mental condition has continued to deteriorate.

After a conference call Friday, Torrence ordered a mental evaluation and scheduled another conference call for Jan. 20.

As a result, the conclusion of this awful case is going to carry over into 2023.

As badly as I would liked to have seen the sentencing take place Friday, I trust that Torrence is just being careful to protect the conviction that the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office won in September. Daniel Ross, lead defense attorney, is expected to base his appeal, at least in part, on his contention that Jungerman was not competent to stand trial. So, Torrence probably doesn’t want to give him any ammunition.

Near the end of the trial, Torrence halted the proceedings for a couple of days because of Ross’ contention that Jungerman did not understand what was going on. The trial resumed, however, and the jury took only two hours to return a guilty verdict.

It was clear at the trial that Jungerman was in worse condition than he had been a year or two earlier. He no longer walked normally; he shuffled. Instead of paying attention to what his attorneys were saying and what was transpiring in the courtroom, he frequently yawned and had a vague look in his eyes.

Some people suggested he could be faking it to advance the “not-competent” assertion, but he’d have to be as good an actor as Brad Pitt to pull that off.

As I said, Jungerman is now 84, and he looks every bit that old.

He doesn’t have much to live for, either. He was a multi-millionaire, but he had to transfer control of the family trust to his daughter, and his attorney bills have probably exceeded $1 million.

He has been married and divorced three times. One of his ex-wives might have attended an early session of the trial, but otherwise it appeared there was no one in the courtroom with personal connections to him.

He seemingly has alienated even the daughter, his only offspring, partly because he appealed a monetary settlement she had agreed to in a civil case brought by Pickert’s family. (A judge summarily rejected the appeal.)

Only once during the trial did I see someone other than his three attorneys approach him in anything resembling a friendly manner. One day, I heard Ross call to his attention someone who was in attendance. “He likes you…a lot,” Ross said to Jungerman. A few minutes later, during a break, Ross summoned a man forward from the audience, and Jungerman smiled as he and the man exchanged a few words.

Why Jungerman thought it was a good idea to kill Pickert — and to think he could get away with it — is beyond comprehension. He was angry because Pickert had represented a man whom Jungerman had shot, and the jury returned a $5.75 million civil verdict against Jungerman. That was in July 2017, three months before Jungerman shot Pickert with a rifle while Pickert was standing in his front yard in Brookside.

Tom Pickert

But to kill him because of that? Especially when Jungerman had assets estimated at more then $30 million? It doesn’t make sense, not to normal-thinking people anyway. Of course, murder is almost always a bad idea, and fortunately most criminals become less violent as they get older.

Jungerman, obviously, was an outlier. He got more violent as he aged. I believe he shot a total of four people, in two separate incidents, for trespassing on his business property. One of those victims was the man whom Pickert represented. In that case, the huge judgment came about mainly because Jungerman chose to represent himself. He foolishly thought he was so smart he could save money and argue successfully on his own behalf.

Jungerman has said he suffered a serious head injury some years ago, and it’s possible the injury contributed to his plunge into late-life irrationality. But I don’t think that was the main factor. He’s just a bad guy with a low level of goodwill and a high quotient of evil.

We can’t get this guy down to the Missouri State Penitentiary — or some other state facility — soon enough.

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In a column posted on The Star’s website this morning, Greg Farmer, the paper’s managing editor the last six years, thanked readers for their loyalty and talked about “connecting better” with them.

However, as we used to say in the newsroom when the biggest news was not played prominently at the top of the story, Farmer “buried the lead.”

Clear down at the bottom of the story, where there is customarily a line identifying the writer and his or her title, the sentence describing Farmer said simply, “Greg Farmer is The Star’s interim executive editor.”

That would mean little or nothing to the casual reader, but to insiders who have been around journalism, it was a ground-shaking sentence. What those eight words said was that Mike Fannin, who has been on leave twice since being arrested June 7 in Olathe on suspicion of DUI, is out. (The arrest was his third on a DUI charge.)

Heretofore, stories in which Farmer has been mentioned have described him as managing editor. Today that changed, and it was a back-door way of saying that Fannin was no longer the editor. If Fannin was still the editor — even if he was on leave — The Star would not have have bestowed the title of interim editor on Farmer or anyone else.

Unfortunately, a failure to be straightforward with readers regarding top management changes, has plagued The Star in recent years. Just three years ago when Fannin was announced as president and editor, the paper did not once mention the name of Tony Berg, the president who had either been let go or left on his own volition. (He’s now president of The Wichita Eagle, which is part of the McClatchy chain.)

That was extremely odd because Berg’s arrival had been announced with much fanfare in January 2016.

In a prominently placed story announcing Berg’s appointment, Mark Zieman, then vice president of operations at McClatchy, was quoted as saying: “This job sparked a great deal of interest both inside and outside of McClatchy. I’m confident Tony has the skills to get us through the digital transformation. He has the drive.”

It’s a big deal, being named publisher and editor at a major metropolitan newspaper…And yet, when Berg departed, his name was never mentioned. That’s not right. That’s poor journalism.

**

Now, I admit the current situation, with Fannin having personal problems, is difficult. But The Star reports on difficult situations all the time; that’s one of its most important roles. So, The Star should be equally forthcoming when the news is inside its own operation.

In this case, as soon as upper McClatchy management determined Fannin could not stay on, The Star should have run a story saying Fannin had resigned or been relieved of duty and that Farmer would serve as interim editor until a successor had been selected.

That’s how The Star would report a change in top management at any of KC’s biggest companies, such as Hallmark Cards or Cerner, which was purchased by Oracle in June. But when it comes to self-reporting, The Star has proven itself to be dodgy. And that’s not the way to cultivate trust with readers.

Not that readers need to know everything that’s going on inside the paper, such as who’s going to be city editor. But they certainly deserve to know who’s running the show.

…I like Farmer and think he will do well, assuming that he becomes the next editor. As I wrote last month Farmer has been at the paper since 1997 and has been managing editor (the No. 2 post) since 2016.

He’s about 50, making him about six years younger than Fannin, who is 56. When I was at The Star (I retired in 2006), Farmer was highly regarded by almost all staff members. He is reasonable and calm; he knows the city; and he’s a good leader.

I realize that Farmer can’t order up a story about his elevation to interim editor — that call probably would be made by McClatchy CEO Tony Hunter but if he is serious about “connecting better” with readers, he should encourage Hunter to authorize a story informing readers there’s been a change at the top of the hometown paper.

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After a year of anteing up tidbits and teasers, Kansas City Royals owner John Sherman has shoved all his chips to center table.

It’s a huge bet that Kansas City and Jackson County will come up with the bulk of $2 billion to finance a new downtown baseball stadium, to be ready by the time the Royals’ lease of Kauffman Stadium expires in 2031.

Until Tuesday, when Sherman laid out his plan in an open letter to “Royals fans and the Kansas City community,” the idea of a new stadium was sort of fanciful — at least to me — and a shot in the dark.

But now it’s out there in black and white, and green, and we have to deal with it. Here are some of the questions the community will have to cope with…

:: How would a downtown stadium be paid for?

:: Are the Royals — a small-market, mostly cellar-dwelling team — worth that kind of investment?

:: How long would people go to the stadium in large numbers to see a mostly perennially losing team?

:: Would Sherman move the team to another city — not Lenexa or KCK, but Louisville or Nashville — if his proposed abandonment of Kauffman Stadium is rejected?

This is all very difficult to swallow. We’ve had it so good for so long with the Truman Sports Complex on I-70. It was the best-ever stadium deal anywhere, by far. As a result of a 1967 bond issue that required two-thirds voter approval, we got two stadiums, complete with access roads, all for the bargain-basement price of $100 million.

(To give you an idea of how far $100 million goes these days, that’s the price tag on a two-hotel project, with a total of about 300 rooms, going up near 46th and Broadway.)

And even though hundreds of millions of additional dollars have been poured into Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums, both facilities remain top notch…Well, I have to admit I can’t say that first hand about Arrowhead because I quit going to games there several years ago, but I sure haven’t heard any complains about the facility.

…Now, let’s get back to those questions I posed above.

How would a downtown stadium be paid for?

Sherman is looking primarily at the city rather than the county, which built the Truman Sports Complex. The project Sherman has in mind is out of the county’s league, and that’s why most of the questions about a downtown stadium have been put to Mayor Quinton Lucas instead of County Executive Frank White.

Only the city could take the lead on a project of this scale. My guess is Lucas and the other members of the City Council would ask voters to approve a hefty sales tax to finance the bulk of the cost. They might consider an increase in the one-percent earnings tax, but I think they would decide against that because it could drive a lot of residents out of the city. A sales tax, on the other hand, while it hits hardest those who can least afford to pay, seems like nickel-and-dime outlays to most people.

The county would still have a role. Without a doubt, the County Legislature would put to voters an extension of an existing three-eighth-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2006 to finance sports complex improvements. The tax is scheduled to expire in 2031.

Are the Royals worth that kind of investment?

It doesn’t seem like it, does it? I think I went to one game this year, by far the least number of games I’ve ever been to in a season. The problem isn’t just with the team’s win-loss record; it’s also with the TV situation. Unless you have cable TV — which a lot of people, including us, have given up — it’s difficult or very expensive to catch Royals games. And what happens when you can’t easily watch the games? You lose connection with the team and interest in it.

How long would people go to the stadium in large numbers to see a mostly perennially losing team?

Two or three seasons at most, I would say. Of course, it would be a novelty, even exciting, at first, but the blush would wear off pretty soon without remarkably different results on the field.

And think about the thousands and thousands of people who currently come from nearby states, mostly Iowa and Nebraska, for games and outings to the Plaza and Westport. They’re used to shooting down I-29 or I-35 and pulling into the spacious, surface parking lots at Arrowhead and Kauffman and getting out just as easily, with few worries about their personal safety.

It would be different downtown. Oh, yeah. In the minds of most out-of-towners all kinds of terrible things could happen downtown, the least of which would be finding close-in parking. And the price of parking? Forget the deals we get on downtown parking now — $15 to $20. It would shoot up to $50 to $60, easy.

Would Sherman move the team to another city?

That’s the two billion dollar question, and I don’t have an answer. But unlike the previous sports-franchise owners we’ve had, other than Ewing Kauffman, Sherman is not an absentee owner. He lives in Kansas City. And I mean Kansas City, not Mission Hills, like Kauffman did. So, he deserves a lot of credit, and earns a load of goodwill, for that.

But keep in mind he was part owner for years of the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) and is a successful businessman. (He made his fortune in the energy business.)

In his nearly three-page, open letter, he said nothing about what might happen if he’s denied a new downtown stadium. Nevertheless, the words “would he move the team” hang unwritten over every paragraph.

The big advantage he’s got is that unlike the absentee sports-franchise owners we’ve had, including the Glass family in the past and the Hunt family currently, Sherman has a deep trough of goodwill with many residents. I’ve got friends who say, “He wants to do something good for Kansas City.”

I believe them, but at the same time I wonder, “Don’t we already have something pretty damn good with the sports complex? And is there any reason it shouldn’t last another 50 years with some improvements along the way?”

…Man, this is a tough one. As a community and individually, we’re going to be chewing on this piece of rawhide for a long time. As I sit here tonight, I don’t know exactly how I feel about it. But I do know that with today’s letter, Sherman has not only thrown the biggest pitch of his life, but he’s also officially started the arm-twisting.

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Step by step and day by day, the Dominic Biscari case is becoming the city of Kansas City’s worst nightmare.

The Kansas City Star reported today that survivors of three people killed in a horrible fire-truck crash last Dec. 15 have filed a lawsuit contending that the city is liable for an arbitration award of $32.4 million that a Jackson County Circuit Court judge approved on Nov. 1.

Biscari, the “fire apparatus operator” who was behind the wheel that night, almost certainly isn’t a millionaire and won’t be able to pay much of the award.

The city, on the other hand, has an annual budget of more than $1 billion, and it probably will be coughing up money that otherwise could have gone toward basic services like community center improvements, street resurfacing and bulky-item pickup.

The night of the crash, Biscari apparently was getting such a rush wheeling his big rig fast and recklessly that he failed to apply the brakes after a dispatcher told the crew to “stand down.”

In layman’s terms, “stand down,” means what it sounds like: Stop. The emergency is over. A minute later, however, Biscari was proceeding at 50 miles an hour through the intersection of Broadway and Westport Road when he plowed into two pedestrians and a car in which two people were riding. Both occupants of the vehicle were killed, as was one of the pedestrians.

The victims were Jennifer San Nicolas, 41, Michael Elwood, 25, and Tami Knight, also 41.

Here is a screen shot that shows the fire truck about to slam into the vehicle in which San Nicolas and Elwood were riding.

This disaster was set in motion over many years — years during which Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters extracted concession after concession from an obliging City Council and years during which Fire Department management became gun shy of reining in a problematic fire fighter like Biscari.

Why was the City Council so obliging? Because Local 42 is the most powerful force in city elections, and in election after election, City Council candidates seek its endorsement. If they get it, their chances of winning are greatly increased.

Mayor Quinton Lucas is one who enjoyed Local 42 support in his 2019 election, and he will undoubtedly have it when he runs for re-election next spring.

I have no beef with Local 42 endorsing candidates, but Dominic Biscari was a proven, reckless driver who should have had his driving privileges taken away before the crash. Three months earlier, in September 2021, an EMT reported that Biscari, while driving an ambulance (the Fire Department also runs the ambulance service) had accelerated to 70 mph on Broadway during an emergency run. Biscari was driving so fast and taking turns so hard that EMTs were tossed out of their seats in the back of the vehicle.

Tellingly, the complaining EMT reported that she had been on two previous runs when Biscari was speeding unnecessarily and driving recklessly.

Given that report, Fire Chief Donna Lake should have demoted Biscari or set that process in motion, if that’s what it takes under the collective bargaining agreement. But that didn’t happen, probably because it would have meant the city would have had to engage Local 42 on a contract “grievance,” which the city might have lost because of the power the union has assembled over decades. So, apparently, no action was taken.

Complicating this case is the fact that after kissing Local 42’s ass for decades, the city tried to distance itself from Biscari after the crash. What happened was that in the course of the lawsuit the city withdrew its legal representation of Biscari. The city’s collective bargaining agreement with the union appears to require that representation. And there is no question that on the night he killed three people Biscari was a full-fledged, union-protected city employee. Consequently, it’s almost impossible to imagine the city will be held harmless for what he did.

As Tim Dollar, an attorney for the survivors’ family members said a few months ago, “It is important for accountability…that at least we hold people accountable and…that there be better training, better supervision, better enforcement of standards.”

In this case, the city almost surely will pay dearly for abdicating its responsibility to train and properly supervise Biscari and, more generally, to maintain acceptable Fire Department standards.

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From yesterday’s election, it is now clear that a City Council action a year ago regarding Police Department funding has backfired badly.

By a whopping 63-37 percent margin, Missouri voters on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that will force the city to appropriate five percent more of the city’s general-revenue budget to the Police Department.

The outcome represents another hard-to-swallow escalation of state control of KCPD, and it could mean the City Council will have to spend millions of additional dollars per year on police operations.

The bottom line politically is that what looked last year like the Council successfully ambushing the Board of Police Commissioners now looks like the Council having stepped into a bear trap.

Here’s how Constitutional Amendment 4 unfolded.

In March 2021, the Council approved a $224 million budget for the Police Department for the 2021-22 fiscal year. In April 2021, the Board of Police Commissioners approved the same budget.

In May 2021, the month the new budget took effect, Mayor Quinton Lucas and the eight City Council members living south of the Missouri River approved two ordinances reallocating $42 million from general operations to “community services and prevention.”

That prompted immediate charges of “defunding” from some of the four Northland City Council members and from many Northland residents.

It turned out, however, that the Council members who had executed the slippery move had not done their legal homework, or, if they did, they didn’t get good legal advice from the City Law Department.

The police board, on the basis of better legal advice, filed suit seeking to overturn the action. In October 2021, a Jackson County Circuit Court judge ruled that state law grants the police board “exclusive management and control” of the Police Department and said that the two City Council ordinances interfered with the board’s management of the department.

The judge went on to say that while the Council has some leeway in adjusting the Police Department’s budget, it has none after the Council and the Police Board have approved the budget.

At the time of the police board-City Council skirmish, state law required the city to allocate a minimum of 20 percent of the city’s general fund for police operations every year. The $224 million significantly exceeded the 20-percent threshold, but pro-police politicians in Jefferson City nevertheless wanted to further crack the knuckles of the Council members who had had the impudence to pull a fast one.

So, the Republican-dominated General Assembly passed a law, which Gov. Mike Parson signed, putting on the November ballot the constitutional amendment giving the legislature the power to increase the minimum level of general-revenue police funding from 20 to 25 percent.

As presented on the statewide ballot, Amendment 4 sounded innocuous and pro-police, which made it appealing just about everywhere in the state except Kansas City south of the Missouri River.

The amendment read like this: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to authorize laws, passed before December 31, 2026, that increase minimum funding for a police force established by a state board of police commissioners to ensure such police force has additional resources to serve its communities.”

Most voters outside of Kansas City probably had no idea that the amendment applied only to Kansas City, which is the only major department in the state that is overseen by “a state board of police commissioners.” (St. Louis engineered its emancipation from state control 10 years ago.)

So, in the election, a whopping 63 percent of voters statewide gave “thumbs up” to Amendment 4. Kansas Citians living in Clay and Platte counties gave it a slightly larger ratio, 65-35. It only lost south of the river. The ratio there was 61-39 “yes,” but that amounted to a few drops in the statewide bucket.

Retrospectively, the City Council’s 2021 ambush of the police board was a huge miscalculation. That impulsive action will not only result in the city spending more on the Police Department than it has in the past, but it served to deepen the gulf between the two Kansas Citys — the one south of the Missouri River and the one north of the river.

Mayor Quinton Lucas is in line to be handily re-elected next year, but if he has an opponent, that opponent — whoever it might be — could well win the Kansas City vote in Clay and Platte counties. And if Lucas should ever run for statewide office, the 2021 caper could haunt him further.

All in all, Tuesday was a bad day for us residents south of the river.

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