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New circulation numbers are out for The Star, and they are grim.

The only comfort Star management can take in these statistics is that the hometown paper has a lot of company from many other major metropolitan dailies.

The statistics come from the Alliance for Audited Media, a nonprofit organization financed by media companies. Among other things, AAM puts out quarterly circulation reports for newspapers.

For the quarter ending Sept. 30, the average, paid circulation for the print version of The Star was a measly 119,892.

Average Monday-Friday, paid circulation was 78,122.

Another 10,000 or so people have stand-alone, digital subscriptions to the Sunday Star. (Print subscribers automatically get digital subscriptions.) The 10,000 figure strikes me as very puny, considering the core, five-county metro area has a population of about 1.7 million.

Let me put the print circulation numbers in perspective.

:: In September 2009, Sunday circulation stood at nearly 308,000, meaning the paper has lost nearly 200,000 Sunday subscribers in eight years.

:: As recently as the late 1990s, The Star’s Monday-Friday circulation was well into the 200,000s, and the paper mounted a marketing campaign designed to propel weekday circulation to 300,000 by the year 2000. It never got close.

:: My first newspaper job was with The Kentucky Post and Times-Star, which was a one-section wrap-around to the Cincinnati Post and Times-Star. In 1968, our section, which went to northern Kentucky residents, had a weekday circulation of about 50,000, which I considered piddly. The Star’s weekday circulation is now bordering on piddly.

The circulation decline for The Star and many major metropolitan dailies can only be described as precipitous. In just the last two years, The Star’s Sunday circulation has plunged by more than a third, and Monday to Friday circulation has dropped more than 25 percent.

A few days ago, I put in a call to Phil Schroder, The Star’s vice president of “audience development,” hoping to speak with him about the Star’s circulation, but I did not get a return call.

…Where is this headed, and what does it mean? Let me quote a friend — a retired, long-time Star reporter — with whom I spoke recently:

“What we’re talking about now is a long, ugly drag to the bottom.”

Gulp…

If it wasn’t clear earlier why The Star’s owner, McClatchy Co., is selling assets, like the 18th and Grand headquarters building, it is now. (McClatchy also had a deal in place to sell and then lease back The Star’s green-glass printing plant a block to the east, but it scrapped that deal before it closed.)

**

Here are some third-quarter statistics from other major metropolitan dailies…

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Lee Enterprises, owner): Sunday print circulation, 135,998; daily circulation, 87,567.

Miami Herald (McClatchy): Sunday, 118,893; daily, 70,492

Fort Worth Star-Telegram (McClatchy): Sunday, 113,135; daily, 60,691

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY, owned by Gannett): Sunday, 112,145; daily, 72,356

**

Newspapers used to be cash cows, generating returns on investments of 30 percent or more. That’s all changed. Some media companies that owned TV stations and newspapers have spun off their newspapers and created new TV-based companies free of the debt and cash-flow drain of the newspapers.

The most significant change in the newspapers industry’s revenue model is that, in the past, advertising provided the vast majority of newspaper revenue, allowing prices for the print product to be set very low. Some of you, I’m sure, remember when you could buy the daily paper for a dime. The last 15 years or so, however, people have turned more and more to the Internet for their news, and advertisers have followed. With advertising revenue way down, newspapers have had to shift a greater share of the revenue burden onto circulation, and that can only be achieved by raising subscription rates.

The Star, for example, has now set subscription renewal prices at $800 or more a year for ongoing subscribers. Renewal rates are negotiable, however, and the only hard-and-fast rate being or one-year, start-up subscriptions. Nevertheless, The Star is losing a lot of subscribers because some people don’t want the hassle of negotiating and others aren’t willing to pay the final rate they’re quoted.

Where The Star and most other major metropolitan dailies erred early on was giving away their content on the Web. It is very difficult to get people to pay for anything that starts out free…Remember the outcry that erupted 15 or 20 years ago after Kansas City announced it was going to stop providing residents with free trash bags? Similarly, it’s been extremely challenging to get people to start paying for newspaper content they used to get gratis. A lot of people simply won’t pay — even though online subscriptions cost a very reasonable $13 a month.

All in all, newspaper companies are caught in a descending spiral, and the bottom is not in view. To play off the old wheel-of-fortune ditty…down and down it goes, where it stops nobody knows.

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A journalist derives his or her biggest, most-enduring reward not from higher salary or position and not from the number of stories he or she produces but from stories that precipitate change for the better.

Such is the reward that the reporters, editors and others involved in the The Star’s five-part “Why so secret, Kansas?” series are already realizing.

Even before the series began, earlier investigative reports prompted Department for Children and Families secretary Phyllis Gilmore to announce her retirement, and plenty of additional changes can be expected.

Just three days into this blockbuster series, which started Sunday, it began generating a “call for major reform” — to quote a front-page headline in Wednesday’s paper.

The series has generated so much outrage that it took two reporters 60 column inches in Wednesday’s paper to chronicle the fist-pumping by Kansas elected officials.

The reason elected officials are reacting so strongly is they realize the public is now learning how bad the situation is at the Statehouse. How many Kansas residents would know, for example, that the vast majority of  bills going through the legislative process do not bear the names of their sponsors? Or that when bills come out of committees, the votes of individual committee members are not recorded? It’s as appalling as retail government could be.

Little by little, over a period of many years, officials have been drawing the curtain over transparency, and I daresay a very small percentage of Kansas residents knew how dark and secretive their state government had become. But now, thanks to The Star, it’s out there — in big, breathtaking lumps of straightforward text.

Reflecting the depth of the series’ impact, some of those outraged voices belong to officials who have contributed to the veil of secrecy, which has been descending over Kansas government for decades but fell like a wet blanket under Gov. Sam Brownback.

No less than Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and the ever-secretive Secretary of State Kris Kobach seemed to be wrestling for center stage in Wednesday’s follow-up.

Consider:

Colyer: “Transparency is absolutely critical to increase Kansans’ confidence in government. I look forward to taking steps to increase transparency and improve public trust when I become governor.” (He will succeed Brownback after the U.S. Senate confirms Brownback’s appointment to a post in the Trump administration and has already announced he will seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.)

Kobach: “There is a culture of corruption and secretiveness in Topeka that has been in place for decades. Ending that culture of corruption and secretiveness has been a central message of my campaign.” (He has also announced his candidacy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination next year.)

Coming from those two, the quotes almost made me laugh out loud. But, in fact, it’s the highest sort of praise the series could draw. It will be an all-out foot race to see which prospective office holders can issue the loudest and most effective calls for reform. On the other hand, anyone who has the audacity to defend the status quo in Kansas government at this point is probably writing his or political epitaph.

In the space of a few days, what The Star has done, among other things, is set the main agenda item for the 2018 gubernatorial election: How to significantly reduce secrecy in state government.

It’s a singular achievement, like the Corps of Engineers re-routing a river, and everyone at The Star who is involved in this remarkable series should be called onto some journalistic stage and be allowed to take a bow. That would include reporters Laura Bauer, Judy L. Thomas, Kelsey Ryan, Max Londberg, Bryan Lowry, Andy Marso, Steve Vockrodt and Hunter Woodall.

In an “About the series” note, The Star also credited Jill Toyoshiba and Neil Nakahodo for video work and “growth editor” Leah Becerra for producing the online report. Several photographers also got in on the action.

The Star says the reporters spoke with about 100 people, including “current and former lawmakers of both parties, law enforcement and families of crime victims, state employees who had been demoted or fired for saying too much, caregivers for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, families of children whose deaths raised questions about the Department for Children and Families, and citizens frustrated by a lack of transparency in local and state government.”

In addition: “For several months, reporters pored over decades of legislation. They analyzed state open meetings and records laws and compared them to other states. And they filed dozens of open records requests with police agencies to gauge the transparency of departments across the state.”

Lots and lots of head-down, churn-it-out research.

As I said in the lead-in to yesterday’s post, this series should be a strong contender for a 2017 Pulitzer Prize in either the investigative or public service category. One reason is the breadth of the investigation. The Star didn’t just take on the governor’s office or an individual department, like the Department for Children and Families…It took on the whole damn government!

Wednesday’s story citing initial reaction to the series quoted a Republican state senator, Molly Baumgardner of Louisburg, as saying she wanted to do something “impactful” to improve the situation in Topeka.

Her cause will be a lot easier by virtue of the tremendous impact The Star’s series is having.

…Hats are off and in the air. Bravo!

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The Star has a great series going on the incredible level of secrecy that has settled into all facets of Kansas government, and I urge everyone to read it. It could be a strong contender for a Pulitzer Prize in either the investigative or public service category.

That said, the Thomas Pickert murder case continues to gnaw at me — as well as at a large number of area residents — and I have some incremental developments to report.

Last week, as I reported, I got a tip from a good source that authorities might be exploring the possibility of bringing white-collar-crime charges against David Jungerman, the 79-year-old Raytown man who had the most obvious motive to kill Pickert. (Pickert represented a homeless man who, last summer, won a $5.75 million civil judgment against Jungerman, and Jungerman directed an angry outburst at Pickert and others in the courtroom after the jury returned the verdict.)

My source suggested Jungerman may have IRS-related problems. That’s possible, but it’s also possible authorities are pursuing possible irregularities pertaining to a family trust, of which Jungerman either is or was the “trustee” (or owner).

The reason I say that is another civil damage suit pending against Jungerman references the possibility of trust irregularities. The plaintiff in the case I’m referring to was brought recently by another homeless man whom Jungerman shot on the same occasion as the victim in the $5.75 million case.

It, too, is a civil damage suit, but unlike the first case, the initial petition in this case alleges that Jungerman improperly transferred personal assets into the trust after the double shooting.

The petition states: “Defendant Jungerman transferred property to the trust to commit fraud or wrong to perpetrate the violation of statutory or other positive legal duty…”

More about the trust in a minute, but first here are a couple of other things you’ll be interested in:

:: Another lawyer involved in one of several lawsuits Jungerman is involved in is seeking to withdraw. Last Wednesday, Kansas City attorney L. Benjamin Mook, who has been representing the second homeless man to sue Jungerman, filed a motion to remove himself. Mook will be at least the third lawyer to withdraw from cases involving Jungerman since Pickert was shot to death outside his Brookside home the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 25…I say if Jungerman is not a suspect, as police have said, why would three lawyers seek to distance themselves from him in quick succession? 

:: A commenter called my attention to a KCUR-FM story that cited a third person — besides Pickert’s wife and a neighbor — who saw a van resembling one registered to Pickert in the area of Pickert’s home. That story quoted a neighbor as saying she saw a van moving slowly up and down West 66th Terrace, where Pickert lived, the night before the murder. The woman said she watched as the vehicle stopped for several minutes in the Southwest High School parking lot before speeding away.

:: Over the last two days, two different Kansas City Police Department media relations officers have not responded to my inquiries about the Pickert case. On Monday, I left a voice message for one officer, Sgt. Kari Thompson, and later sent her an email, saying, “Has the PD cleared David Jungerman of any possible involvement in the Pickert murder?” Simple question, right? She hasn’t responded. Today, I called the office again and asked for Sgt. Thompson and was told she was out of the office for at least the rest of the day. I then left a voice message for another media officer, who did not return my call today. I don’t know about you, but I won’t be satisfied Jungerman isn’t a suspect until I hear the police say they have cleared him of any involvement.

…Now, back to the matter of the trust.

Mook, the lawyer who now wants out, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the second homeless man on Sept. 22, two months after the Jackson County Circuit Court jury returned the $5.75 million verdict in favor of the first man.

Jungerman shot both men in Sept. 25, 2012, when they were on the grounds of a building he owns in northeast Kansas City. The men were outside the building, on the loading dock. Jungerman had gone to the building after being called by an alarm company. He didn’t call police, didn’t warn the two men, just opened fire — from inside the building, with an assault rifle. In his petition on behalf of the homeless man, who had to have a leg amputated because of the shooting, Pickert said Jungerman exhibited “reckless indifference to the rights of the plaintiff” and “conscious disregard for plaintiff’s safety.”

Like the first homeless man, the second is suing for monetary damages. He is asking for at least $25,000 on each of four counts — similar to what Pickert’s client sought.

Unlike the first plaintiff, however, the second addresses the matter of the Jungerman family trust. Regarding that, Mook’s petition states:

“Defendant is, and was at all times relative to this action, trustee of the Jungerman Family Irrevocable Trust…The Trust currently holds assets previously owned by Defendant Jungerman, which assets were transferred into the Trust for an improper purpose after the acts giving rise to Plaintiff’s action occurred.”

…It is this filing that makes me think authorities might be looking at a criminal violation pertaining to the trust rather than income-tax evasion.

Trusts can be complicated arrangements, and to many people other than estate planners they are almost incomprehensible. I don’t know very much about them, but I know that two of the more common types of trusts are “revocable” and “irrevocable.”

An irrevocable trust is one that, with a few exceptions, cannot be changed by the trustee (owner) or the beneficiaries “until the terms or purposes of the trust have been completed,” to quote from Wikipedia’s entry on trust law.

A revocable trust, on the other hand, is one that can be “amended, altered or revoked” at any time — provided that the person who created the trust is not mentally incapacitated.

(Wikipedia’s trust law entry says: “Revocable trusts are becoming increasingly common in the U.S. as a substitute for will to minimize administrative costs associated with probate and to provide centralized administration of a person’s final affairs after death.”)

With that background, let’s move on to the issue at hand — the legal ramifications pertaining to violating the terms of an irrevocable trust.

On a blog site called “Pocket Sense,” a former practicing attorney named Renee Booker wrote very clearly about possible violations of irrevocable trusts.

Booker said: “If the trustee of an irrevocable trust violates the terms of the trust, a number of consequences may follow, including removal as trustee or revocation of the trust by a court, as well as a civil lawsuit or prosecution for criminal fraud.”

Regarding the prospect of criminality, she wrote:

“Fraud may be a crime in and of itself or may be only an element in other crimes; however, whether charged alone or used as an element in another crime, intentionally misappropriating assets of a trust can have serious criminal consequences. Typically, the major difference between civil and criminal fraud relates to the intention of the person who committed the fraud. If the fraud was done on purpose, then it is more likely to qualify as a crime. On the other hand, if the fraud was committed by negligence, or not on purpose, then it may only qualify as civil fraud.”

Unlike IRS violations, which are prosecuted at the federal level, criminal charges pertaining to trust violations are generally prosecuted at the state level. That would mean if charges were brought, they probably would be filed by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker.

It’s her office, of course, that has jurisdiction over the Pickert case, and it’s her office — as well as the police department — that appears to have been at least temporarily stymied in the criminal investigation.

Like you, I am anxiously waiting to see what unfolds. And like you, I’m sure, I’ll be deeply disappointed if nothing happens.

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It’s the weekend and it’s been pretty serious around these parts lately, so I want to shift gears and liven things up a bit.

…It’s American Royal time, right? Oh, it ended last month? What the hell…I’m going to tell you an American Royal story, anyway.

Let’s go back to the days when the Golden Ox, the Genessee Inn, Sutera’s and Kemper Arena were the lifeblood of the West Bottoms. A grand time it was, especially when the Royal was underway.

A lot of people who came into town for the American Royal Livestock, Horse Show and Rodeo would hang out at those places, and you could usually distinguish them by their attire — brown suits and string ties, sometimes, boots, belts with big buckles and sharply structured cowboy hats.

One night during the American Royal, Patty and I and a good friend of ours from St. Louis, Mary Buttice, were at the Genessee Inn, standing at the bar. Nearby were two suit-and-string-tie gents with big hats — probably in their 50s or maybe early 60s. Pretty soon we struck up a conversation with them, curiosity being a big factor in our initiation of the chat.

One of the two was more talkative than the other, and in short order he announced that he and his buddy were livestock judges. Well, now, we were pretty doggone impressed…The only judges I’d ever known were those I covered at the Jackson County Courthouse.

Livestock judges? We wanted to know more about that, for sure.

To be properly deferential, I immediately began calling each of them “Judge,” and, naturally, we asked them what judging livestock was all about and what criteria they used in determining quality and rankings.

Judge 1 then started in…”Well, you’ve got your sheep, your hogs, your goats, your cattle and your chickens…”

He paused, and we leaned forward, waiting for him to go on. “Like I say,” he said again, “you’ve got your sheep, your hogs, your goats, your cattle and your chickens.”

Again, he paused, and at that point something registered with one of us, who said, “Chickens?”

“Yes, chickens,” the judge continued. “Do you know how we judge chickens?”

“No,” we said, shaking our heads, anxiously awaiting the answer.

“Well,” he continued, “it’s all in the shape of the egg.”

“What?” one or more of us said as we looked quizzically at each other.

“Yes, the shape of the egg.”

At that point, Mary, our St. Louis friend, experienced an epiphany of sorts and enthusiastically blurted out, “Oblong!”

“Right!” Judge 1 replied, pointing at Mary. “Oblong!”

…Then, he suddenly shifted gears.

“You know why the egg is oblong?” he asked.

“No,” we said, mouths and eyes now wide open.

“SO WHEN THE HEN LAYS THE EGG, HER ASS DON’T SLAM SHUT!”

With the words “slam shut,” Judge 1 slapped his hands together in a loud, startling clap.

We recoiled a bit and stared as Judge 1 and Judge 2 broke into raucous laughter, slapping their knees and exchanging self-congratulatory nods and smiles.

There wasn’t a lot to say after that, and within a minute or two we sidled off, leaving Judge 1 and Judge 2 luxuriating in having laid a trap for three “hens” from the city and then, very efficiently, lopping off their heads.

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With police apparently thwarted, at least temporarily, in their attempt to obtain solid evidence in the Thomas Pickert murder case, authorities reportedly are attempting to build another type of criminal case against the man who had the most obvious motive to kill Pickert.

A lawyer with extensive experience as a former assistant Jackson County prosecutor and also as a criminal defense attorney told me today that authorities, very likely federal, are working to bring white-collar-crime charges against 79-year-old David Jungerman.

“Evidently, he (Jungerman) has serious issues with the IRS on the financial front,” my source said.

Authorities are working feverishly, the lawyer said, to bring charges as quickly as possible, under a theory that if they can obtain a white-collar conviction against Jungerman and get a prison sentence of several years, he would likely die in custody.

From what I have read in legal filings, the pursuit of tax-related charges does not surprise me.

Jungerman is a very wealthy man, and it appears he has been moving assets around, perhaps in an attempt to shield them from one big damage judgment already entered against him and perhaps from two other pending damage cases.

In the case where judgment has been entered, a jury awarded a homeless man $5.75 million after Jungerman shot him on on a loading dock outside a baby-furniture-manufacturing building Jungerman owns in northeast Kansas City…Pickert, the dead lawyer, represented the homeless man, thus the obvious motive.

An article about that civil case on the “Missouri Lawyers Weekly” website said this:

“Pickert also introduced evidence of Jungerman’s wealth. Jungerman is a farmer and owner of a company that makes baby furniture. The exhibits pointed to the possibility that Jungerman had assets of over $50 million while he was trustee of a family trust, and showed he transferred his trustee role to a child and transferred other assets after the suit was filed. He disputed the $50 million figure, saying he is worth about $8 million.”

One of two other civil damage cases pending against Jungerman as a result of shootings on his northeast Kansas City property alludes to alleged irregularities pertaining to the trust.

Moreover, in the course of writing about Jungerman, I came across a 2010 blog post that said he owned “6,800 acres of river bottom land in western Missouri,” in and around Bates County, about an hour south of Kansas City. Whether he still owns that land, I don’t know.

The building he owns at 123 S. Belmont Blvd. takes up most of an entire block. It houses a company called Baby Tenda Corp., which Jungerman has operated for many years. The main product the company manufactures is baby high chairs. The company has no retail outlets but instead sells through distributors.

Jungerman also owns a home and several acres in Raytown.

**

One of the evidentiary problems in the Pickert case, my source said, is that police may not have been able to recover either the bullet that killed Pickert or sufficient remnants to match it to particular gun. (There is no indication police have retrieved any weapon that might be connected with the case.)

I heard or read early on that Pickert was thought to have been shot at close range, but after reading what a detective wrote in an application to search a white van Jungerman owns, I began to think he may have been shot from a distance of 20 to 30 feet or more. That’s because Pickert’s wife went to a front window after hearing a “loud noise” and asked Pickert, who was out front talking on his cell phone, if he knew what the noise was.

“No,” he replied. Moments later, there was a second loud noise — the sound from the shot that killed Pickert. The only way Pickert would not have known what was going on was if he had his back to the killer and was so engrossed in his phone call that he didn’t turn around after hearing the first “loud noise.”

**

Another element that has contributed to confusion is some TV stations have reported that shortly after the shooting, police were looking specifically for a van Jungerman owns. Police said they were looking for a white, 1997 Chevy van with a specific license plate number, but I don’t think either of two people who reported seeing a white van at the crime scene actually got its license number. More likely, as I’ve written before, is that police homed in on Jungerman because of the possible motive and because at least one witness reported seeing “an older, gray haired, white male standing near the back side of the van” a few minutes before the shooting.

My guess is police quickly checked vehicle registration records and found Jungerman owns a 1997 white Chevy van. My theory is that, in publicizing the license number with the description, they inadvertently contributed to some media members’ conclusion that Jungerman’s van — not just a generic white Chevy van — had been spotted at the scene.

The Star handled the initial report about the van carefully, and probably accurately:

“Soon after Pickert was found dead Wednesday morning, police began looking for a white 1997 Chevrolet van with Missouri license 6FA 453. By late afternoon, police found the van — unoccupied. Police said they would not immediately release more details about finding the van.”

Compare that with a KCTV5, Nov. 1 report that said: “Witnesses say they saw Jungerman’s van at the crime scene at the time of Pickert’s murder.”

Confusion over the distinction between a generic white van and “Jungerman’s van” is one reason, I believe, police have been very careful to say they do not consider Jungerman a suspect “at this time.”

A lawyer who has more than a passing knowledge of the case told me Nov. 1, a week after the homicide, that authorities suspected Jungerman but they were being very careful, just as they were in the recent serial-killer case.

Don’t forget, in the serial-killer case, police released a video of a young man walking in the area where Mike Darby, one of the victims, was shot while walking his dog. In releasing the video, police said the man pictured was not considered a suspect but someone who “may have vital information.” Twenty-three-year-old Freddie Scott later was arrested and confessed to three murders. He also admitted he was the guy in the video.

…I think David Jungerman has “vital information” about the Pickert murder. We know police questioned him the day after the murder, and we know he clammed up after a while and asked for a lawyer. It was at about that point in the conversation, I’d speculate, that detectives were getting to the vital part.

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Wooo-hoooo!

Tell me, readers, where did I go wrong?

What in the world could have made me think this was going to be a close election!!??

75 percent “yes,” 25 percent “no.” Holy crap!

…It is almost unbelievable how much ground the issue of a new KCI terminal made up within the last year and a half.

On May 3, 2016, Mayor Sly James threw in the towel on a November 2016 KCI election, saying:

“It’s clear that the city is not ready to move on or to move forward with the KCI conversation at this point. In fact, less than 40 percent believe that it is a good idea to move forward…”

At that time, a poll indicated 39 percent of Kansas City voters favored a new, single terminal, while 51 percent were opposed.

It seemed hopeless, dead…And then a year later, along came…along came…Burns & McDonnell.

Strange as it now sounds, it was Burns & McDonnell’s no-bid proposal — an outrageously overpriced gambit as it turned out — that kicked up a fresh breeze. Over the last six months, that breeze steadily accelerated, and by Tuesday it was a veritable typhoon.

“We’ve come a long, long way,” James told a revved-up crowd of more than 300 people in an event space at Briarcliff village last night. “…We got here through a circuitous route, but the scenery was nice along the way.”

Part of the crowd at Briarcliff village last night

Take a look at these numbers…

Kansas City south of the Missouri River:

“Yes” — 32,651 (77 percent)
“No” —   9,526 (23 percent)

Kansas City in Clay County:

“Yes” — 11,537 (70 percent)
“No” —   4,822 (30)

Kansas City in Platte County:

“Yes” — 5,761 (74 percent)
“No” — 2,030 (26 percent)

Grand Total:

“Yes” — 49,949 (75 percent)
“No” —  16,378 (25 percent)

Amazing.

Of course, I had plenty of company in thinking this was going to be a close election and that it could possibly go down to defeat. As the campaign went along, however, it began looking like things were heading up. For one thing, all those people who had been screaming interminably about how “convenient” the current airport is (used to be!) began to melt away, as the reality of dark, dingy and uncomfortable KCI settled in with more and more people.

Then, along came the big bucks — somewhere between $1.5 million and $2 million in contributions — to fuel a full-frontal campaign consisting primarily of mailers, TV ads, yard signs and dozens of “canvassers,” who sought out frequent voters and homed in on those who were undecided but open to voting “yes.” (The solid “no” voters and the sure “yes” voters were not pursued; no need.)

Here are some of the people who deserve credit for this victory:

Sly James

Once again, this mayor showed he can never be underestimated and that when he sets his mind on something, he has the ability win over thousands and thousands of voters. Kansas Citians trust him, by and large, and they have no problem following his lead on hundred-million-dollar — even billion-dollar — initiatives.

City Manager Troy Schulte

He knows the airport issue through and through and is a very effective public speaker, a fairly rare quality among city managers. Another great Schulte skill is listening to contrarians and making them feel heard, but not allowing them to derail the focus. Deftly, he always guides the conversation back to his theme, and the contrarians’ anger seems to subside.

Mark Nevins

Nevins is a partner in The Dover Group, a political consulting firm based in Philadelphia. Sly James relied on the group for strategy and advice in his 2011 mayoral election and his 2015 re-election. He has brought The Dover Group in to work on issue campaigns, too, including the astonishingly successful $800 million general-obligation bond campaign last spring. Nevins ran that campaign, as well as the airport campaign.

Phillip P. Scaglia

Scaglia, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and former chief of staff to the late U.S. Rep. Karen McCarthy, ran the canvassing, voter-outreach operation. The son of a former Missouri state representative, Scaglia has politics in his blood…Interesting side note: His initials provided the inspiration for the name of his company, Powerful Performance Solutions.

**

The City Council as a whole also deserves kudos. A group of council members who refused to roll over for the mayor’s Burns and Mac gambit insisted that the city solicit proposals from other companies. As a result, the price tag came down significantly with the selection of Edgemoor, based in Bethesda, MD.

The Star’s editorial board — under the leadership of editor page editor Colleen McCain Nelson and the lively and insightful editorials written by Dave Helling — gets much credit for its unflinching advocacy for a new terminal and its relentless push for an open, competitive process.

And finally, hats off to Kansas City voters, who saw the light and realized the current KCI’s best days were long gone and that it was time to check “yes” on the question of a first-class airport for a first-class city.

As Sly James said at the victory party:

“The people of this city get it when they get the facts…Every part of Kansas City pulling together is what accomplished this goal tonight.”

From left, Councilwoman Jolie Justus, Mayor Sly James, and councilmen Jermaine Reed, Dan Fowler, Scott Taylor and Quinton Lucas

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After years of discussion, we’ve now reached the eve of a public vote on whether to build a new, single terminal at KCI.

I intend to vote “yes,” of course and I feel pretty good about the outcome, although I realize victory is by no means assured.

I believe the key to the outcome could be the Northland — that part of the city that lies in Clay and Platte counties.

South of the Missouri River I foresee a big, “yes” vote on Question 1, especially along the heavy-voting Ward Parkway. In my neighborhood, Romanelli West, south of Meyer Circle Fountain, indications of support for Question 1 abound. There are lots of “A Better KCI” yard signs out, and I hear virtually no one speaking against the proposal.

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the homes association sponsored an airport-election meeting, and more than 50 people attended. City Manager Troy Schulte and Councilman Quinton Lucas spoke and answered questions, and, overall, they got an enthusiastic response. To my surprise, the enthusiasm was only slightly muted by the fact that Geoff Stricker, managing partner of Edgemoor, the Maryland firm that would build the new terminal, failed to appear as scheduled. (The campaign committee informed me the next morning he had been taken ill.)

But back to the Northland…Even though KCI has been a strong economic engine for the Northland, many Northland residents don’t always share their southern counterparts’ views of what constitutes progress. Part of that is due to the fact that many Northland residents simply don’t feel a close connection to City Hall, and part of it is the Northland tends to be more conservative than the area south of the river, which is much more diverse.

Another factor has been political leadership. U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, whose district is mostly rural but takes in the Clay and Platte sections of Kansas City, is decidedly anti-city. Once, in a political debate, I heard him denounce former Mayor Kay Barnes — who was seeking to replace him in the House of Representatives — for advocating development of the Kansas City Power & Light District. Speaking about the millions of dollars in city subsidies for the entertainment district, he said something like, “That might be the way you do things down in the city, but it’s not how we operate up here.”

I realized then that he had absolutely no interest in what happens in Missouri’s largest city, a significant part of which lies in his district.

Graves has generally been cool and non-communicative about the prospect of a new KCI, but he warmed up six months ago, after the engineering firm Burns & McConnell. Interestingly, Burns and Mac has been  a major contributor to Graves’ congressional campaigns.

Graves issued a statement, saying:  “I like this new concept and it’s a step in the right direction. But a lot remains to be seen, especially the final costs and how convenience is going to be preserved. That’s what matters to people in this region and in the Northland.”

After the City Council decided to open the project up to competing proposals, Burns and Mac’s proposal was shown to be outrageously overpriced, and the firm was quickly dropped from consideration by a city selection committee.

Now, Graves has re-buried his head in the sand. When I called his local office today, an aide who took the call said, “Congressman Graves has not made a public comment about Question 1.”

Another Northland representative, City Councilwoman Teresa Loar, has generally opposed a new, single terminal, but she did join nine other City Council members in voting for Edgemoor as contractor. I sent her an email this morning, asking if she intends to vote for Question 1 tomorrow, but as of publication time I hadn’t heard back.

One Northland officeholder who does favor Question 1 is City Councilman Dan Fowler. In an Op-Ed piece in Sunday’s Kansas City Star, Fowler wrote:

“I used to love KCI — and my old bell-bottom jeans — but that was years ago. I’ve since decided it’s time to let go of those once-popular pants, and our outdated KCI as well. Neither meets today’s expectations, and frankly, neither fits comfortably anymore. Some changes are good.”

In addition to Fowler, several Northland business groups are supporting Question 1, including the Northland Chamber of Commerce.

Jim Rice, a chamber board member and a longtime Clay County resident, said he has heard very little talk about the election and has seen very few yard signs. He said the committee running the campaign seems to have focused on identifying “frequent, positive voters and getting a good turnout from those folks,” while avoiding those the campaign has identified as opposed.

Rice said he believed a “yes” vote was more doubtful in the Platte County part of Kansas City than the Clay County segment, mainly because “Platte County is a little more conservative.”

Overall, Rice expects a close vote but predicted that, in the end, Kansas City voters will approve Question 1.

For whatever reason, the official election-night “watch party” will be held in the Northland. I will be there.

I urge you, Kansas City residents, to join me in voting “Yes.” Let’s get on with building a first-class airport! 

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