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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were, however, two noteworthy developments Thursday:

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

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

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

It ended like this…

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

Lisa Briscoe

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

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

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

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


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

Shields and Bunch make for an interesting contrast.

Katheryn Shields

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

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

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

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

Eric Bunch

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Patricia Jensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The resolution says, among other things…

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

So, QuikTrip must be stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there’s the simple passage of time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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One of the less publicized areas in which President Trump has been trying to undermine journalism is his handling of the Voice of America, a government-controlled, international television and radio network funded by the U.S. federal tax budget.

Since being appointed in June to head the U.S. Agency on Global Media, which oversees Voice of America, Trump ally Michael Pack has been reaching deep into the ranks of VOA, trying to promote “friendly” reporting toward Trump and, at the same time, root out reporters and editors he regards as not sufficiently sympathetic to the Trump administration.

A die-hard conservative, Pack has no journalistic background. He has written, directed and produced more than a dozen documentary films, including two with former Trump aide Steve Bannon.

Michael Pack

Among the VOA journalists Pack investigated was Steve Herman, VOA’s White House bureau chief. Senior aides to Pack claimed, among other things, that Herman’s tweets of people relaying criticism of the president showed he was biased. Herman remains on the job despite the pressure to sideline him.

The most outrageous and brazen move, however, was Pack’s attempt, unveiled in late October, to repeal a federal rule meant to protect VOA and four other USAGM networks from editorial interference. In a statement, Pack said he was using his powers as chief executive to roll back the regulation, known as the “firewall” rule, because it was harmful to the agency’s and national interests.

VOA produces digital, TV, and radio content in 47 languages and distributes the content to affiliate stations around the globe. Its mission, as described in a story by National Public Radio, “is a form of soft diplomacy: to embody democratic principles through fair reporting and to replace a free press in countries where there is none.”

In his statement, Pack made no pretense of believing in the firewall principle, asserting that USAGM was tantamount to a cheerleader for U.S. policy. The networks’ primary goal, he said, should be “to serve United States interests through Government sponsored news abroad.”

“Because of this special mission,” his statement went on, “USAGM and its networks do not function as a traditional news or media agency and were never intended to do so. By design, their purpose and focus is foreign relations and the promotion of American objectives — not simply presenting news or engaging in journalistic expression.”

Several USAGM executives whom Pack had suspended punched back hard. They filed a federal lawsuit alleging Pack’s attempt to gut the firewall principle was unconstitutional. Joining the plaintiffs was Kelu Chao, VOA managing editor and the service’s top nonpolitical executive.

So far, their suit has been successful. Last Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell ordered USAGM and Pack to stop interfering in news coverage and editorial personnel matters. Pack and his aides’ actions, she said, amounted to a “chilling of First Amendment expression.”

VOA journalists were thrilled and relieved at the ruling. Acting VOA Director Elez Biberaj said in a statement that editorial independence and journalistic integrity were “the core elements that sustain VOA and make us America’s voice.”

“A steady 83% of VOA’s audience finds our journalism trustworthy,” he added. “There are few, if any, media organizations that can claim such trust. I am proud of our journalists who continue to uphold VOA’s traditions of providing our audience with accurate, objective and comprehensive reporting.”


The best news of all? Like Trump, Pack will soon be packing his things and leaving office.

Back in June, Andrew Bates, a spokesman for now President-Elect Joe Biden’s campaign told Vox that Biden would be firing Pack if he won the Nov. 3 election.

“Michael Pack is decidedly unqualified,” Bates said, “and his actions risk hijacking invaluable, nonpartisan media institutions that stand up for fundamental American values like freedom and democracy in the world.”

Pack, of course, is just one of many swamp dwellers Trump put in place to try to twist the federal government into a pretzel that suited his purposes, and it will be good to see the winds of change sweeping Pack away.

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With tears in my eyes and sniffles in my nose, I watched President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris introduce their first group of proposed cabinet members today.

The tears welled up because, for the first time in four years, we saw a group of seasoned, honest professionals pledging to work tirelessly in the interests of the American public, not in the interests of a corrupt and insatiable egotist.

The tears came not only from joy but also from relief, as the mind’s eye could see the biggest ship of fools ever assembled — bearing people masquerading as national leaders — fading off the horizon.

I presume many of you did not get to watch this entire event, which lasted about 40 minutes. It was the most riveting TV I have seen in a long time, and I want you to hear some of the inspirational, reaffirming words that each nominee uttered.

The overall theme, as commentators described it afterward, was a transition from America First to America Is Back. Not an America with eyes fixed on its navel but an America that has been, and at long last again promises to be, a force for good and a model for the entire world.

Now, listen to what these very impressive people had to say…

Tony Blinken, 58, nominee for Secretary of State

My late stepfather, Samuel Pisar, survived the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps. At the end of the war, he made a break from the death march, into the woods in Bavaria. From his hiding place, he heard a deep, rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the Iron Cross, he saw painted on its side a five-pointed, white star. He ran to the tank; the hatch opened; an African-American G.I. looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words he knew in English that his mother had taught him before the war: God bless America. That’s who we are; that’s what America represents to the world.

Alejandro Mayorkas, 61, nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security has a noble mission: To help keep us safe and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome…For 12 years, I had the privilege to stand in a federal courthouse and announce, “Alejandro Mayorkas, on behalf of the United States of America.” The words “on behalf of the United States of America” meant everything to me and to my parents, whom I think of today and every day. My father and mother brought me to this country (from Cuba) to escape communism. They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become United States citizens, as was I. I’ve carried that pride throughout my nearly 20 years of government service and throughout my life.

My parents are not here to see this day. Mr. President Elect, Madam Vice President Elect, please know that I will work day and night in the service of our nation to ably lead the men and women of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and to bring honor to my parents and to the trust you have placed in me to carry your vision forward.

Avril Haines, 51, nominee for Director of National Intelligence

I know, Mr. President Elect and Madam Vice President Elect that you selected us not to serve you but to serve on behalf of the American people, to help advance our security, our prosperity, our values…Mr. President Elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power, and that will be my charge as Director of National Intelligence.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, 68, nominee to be Ambassador to the United Nations

In the years that I have worked in government, I’m always struck by how, only in America, would we be where we are: where life can be hard and cruel but there’s hope in the struggle; (where) there is promise in our dreams; where you learn to believe in yourself and that anything is possible…My parents had very little back in Louisiana, where I grew up. But they gave me and my siblings everything they had, and I know how proud they would be of this day.

Jake Sullivan, 44, nominee for Natoional Security Advisor

Mr. President Elect, I pledge to you and to the American people that I will work relentlessly in service of the mission you have given us — to keep our country and our people safe, to advance our national interests and to defend our values. I pledge to the exceptional national security team you see behind me and to the brilliant and diverse career professionals across our government that I will manage a humane and vigorous decision-making process that honors their work.

John Kerry, 76, climate envoy

Mr. President Elect, I will do all in my power to live up to your expectations and to this moment for our country and for the world…To end this (climate) crisis the whole world must come together. At the global meeting in Glasgow one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together or we will all fail together. And failure is not an option…President Elect Joe Biden is determined to seize the future now and leave a healing planet to future generations. President Joe Biden will trust in God, and he will also trust in science to guide our work on earth to protect God’s creation….I look forward to getting to work.


With this group — assuming the U.S. Senate approves of their nominations — we can trust that the public interest will come before anyone’s personal agenda. Once again, well-intentioned, good people are about to be in charge of the nation’s destiny. It’s a great day to be an American.

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The Trump-created logjam finally broke today. Now we can move comfortably and confidently toward a Biden administration, starting Jan. 20.

After the Michigan State Board of Canvassers certified that state’s vote on a 3-0 vote — with one of two Republicans abstaining — GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, one of Trump’s front-line blockers — threw in the towel and allowed the formal transition to begin.

I’ve got to admit that although I was asserting last week that everything would be okay, Team Trump was causing me quite a bit of anxiety and discomfort. Descending to the worst case scenario, I tormented myself with thoughts of what might happen if every Republican who had anything to do with the certifications in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia got on board Trump’s runaway team and refused to acknowledge Biden’s victories in those states.

I entertained the possibility of a solid silo of Trump allies going along with his preposterous assertion that Grand Larceny had occurred and he was the victim.

But over the weekend, as I thought about it further and as Trump’s Trojan horse began showing signs of a limp, I came to the conclusion that good was going to win out over evil. It was this simple, I decided: There simply were not enough bad people — truly amoral or immoral — to pull that lame horse over the line.

It would have taken dozens, maybe scores, of spineless Republicans, including Supreme Court justices, to steal the election from Biden. Just a couple of chinks in the chain, I realized, could darken the lights on the three-ring circus that Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell were trying to produce at Trump’s urging.

Granted, several bad people did surface. One was Norm Shinkle, one of two Republicans on the Michigan Board of Canvassers. Undoubtedly yielding to pressure from on high, Shinkle pushed to delay the certification.

But the worst person involved in Trump’s grand charade, without question was Monica Palmer, a member of the canvassing board of Wayne County, who last week proposed certifying the statewide vote minus Wayne County, which includes Detroit and its tens of thousands of Black voters. For sheer audacity, Palmer the cake.

But let’s give credit to some of the good Republicans…those who refused to yield to Trump’s cajoling and arm twisting.

There was Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, an engineer before becoming a politician, who famously said, “Numbers don’t lie.”

And cheers, also, for Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, whom Trump summoned to the White House last Friday. After that meeting, which had to have been extremely uncomfortable for the two men, they came out with a statement saying they would not interfere with the certification.

And, finally, today we saw 30-year-old Aaron Van Langevelde, the other Republican on the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, cast the vote that validated Biden’s Michigan win. Van Langevelde joined the two Democrats in a 3-0 vote, with Shinkle abstaining.

Before today, Van Langevelde, a lawyer, had not shown his hand. He declined interview requests from The New York Times and other news outlets. Today, though, he found his voice and showed his integrity when he when he said: “We have a clear legal duty to certify the results of the election, as shown by the returns that were given to us. We cannot and should not go beyond that. As John Adams once said, ‘We are a government of laws, not men.’ ”

It’s people like Raffesnperger, Chatfield, Shirkey and Van Langevelde who, in the waning days of the Trump administration’s sinkhole of lies and amorality, give us some hope for the present and future of our democracy.

We must all be grateful for those who wished the outcome would have been different but nevertheless held to their conviction that the Rule of Law came first.

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One of The Washington Post’s most prominent political columnists told a Kansas City audience today that, given the results of the Nov. 3 election, Democrats should not expect an overly ambitious and progressive Democratic agenda over the next few years.

David Von Drehle, a Kansas City area resident who writes a twice-weekly column for The Post, spoke via Zoom to about 45 people at a meeting of the 40 Years Ago Column Club.

Monday marked the second time in the last two years Von Drehle, who resides in Mission Hills, has spoken to the club, which draws its members from the ranks of people named in The Kansas City Star at least 40 years ago.

David von Drehle

Von Drehle said that while the Nov. 3 election results could be interpreted as “anti-Trump,” they should not be read as pro-Democratic Party.

In fact, he said, the election marked a good day for the Republican Party, given that it gained seats in the U.S. House, in state legislatures and in one gubernatorial race. (In January, 27 states will have Republican governors, to 23 for Democrats.)

Von Drehle said he thought a majority of voters were saying while they wanted a new President, “they don’t necessarily want everything we heard about in the Democratic primaries.”

Many Democrats who voted for Joe Biden, then, probably will not see as ambitious an agenda as they would like on issues like climate change, single-payer medical insurance and guarantees of jobs and minimum basic incomes.

Although Democrats have high hopes to gain control of the U.S. Senate with the two runoff races in Georgia, Von Drehle in inclined to believe Democrats will end up disappointed.

“Frankly,” he said, “I’ll be surprised if Democrats take win either one.”

Part of his reasoning on that is he believes a majority of voters prefer divided government to unified government, where one party controls the executive and legislative branches. As an example, he pointed to the 2018 “offset,” where Democrats took control of the House two years after Trump was elected President.

“People like to have opposition to a powerful person in the White House,” he said.

Besides the Georgia races, Von Drehle sees the prospect of more Democratic storm clouds on the horizon: History, he said, suggests Republicans will gain control of the House in 2022. He qualified that prediction, however, by saying it might not come to pass if Biden can do three things:

— Restore calm to the country

— Make significant strides toward unifying the nation

— Get the Covid-19 pandemic under control.

If Biden can succeed in those key areas, he said, “Democrats will have a real agenda to run on in two years.”

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My good friend Dan Margolies, a former KC Star business reporter who now is an editor and reporter at KCUR, has an extremely informative follow-up today on yesterday’s big story regarding The Star breaking its long-term lease of the iconic printing plant it built for $200 million in the mid-2000s.

The Star’s story yesterday about its decision to relocate both its editorial and printing operations was full of holes. While the story laid out the basics — that the paper would vacate the building at 1601 McGee by the end of 2021 — it offered nothing about whether The Star was breaking its leaseback arrangement with a hospitality business that owns the building. Worse, it did not address what might come of building it has been so closely identified with the last 15 years.

Now, you could argue that what happens going forward is really none of The Star’s concern, but still, you’d think the paper would recognize that was a huge issue and at least nominally address it.

But, no, The Star kept its report — another grim admission of the paper’s downward spiral — as short as possible, while not featuring it on its kansascity.com website and not even bothering to run the story in today’s print edition. (On the other hand, it did see fit to report that the men’s store Pinstripes was closing on the Plaza after many decades, first as Mister Guy, then as Pinstripes.)

But back to Dan’s story, which you can see free of charge and go back to as many times as you want.

Dan Margolies

Dan went straight to the top source, Rosie Privitera Biondo, a principal of Ambassador Hospitality, which bought the print pavilion from The Star three years ago for slightly more than $30 million — about $170 million less than the cost to build it.

To give you some perspective on the Privitera family, Rosie’s parents, Carl “Red” Privitera and wife Josephine, founded Mark One Electric in 1974 and grew the business into a powerhouse.

Several years ago, the family expanded into Ambassador Hospitality, and the print pavilion was its first and only, to my knowledge, major investment.

After relinquishing the building, The Star leased it back from Ambassador for a term of 15 years, with initial payments set at $2.8 million a year.

Rosie would not tell Dan if The Star would pay a penalty for ending the lease early, but I have to think it will pay a significant penalty. She went on to say Ambassador would discontinue any and all print operations at the building and would sell off the presses. From there, she said, the company was considering several possible new uses, including as a logistics center, a call fulfillment center or even a brewery.

Then she dropped the bombshell: If plans for a downtown baseball stadium should move forward, Ambassador might be willing to sell the building to make way for the stadium. “It could be the possible new Royals stadium — tear down the building, buy our property, build across the highway,” Rosie said.

Can’t you just envision it? What better place for the stadium, a block east of Grand Boulevard, with T-Mobile Center on the north side of I-670, the stadium on the south.

…I love the green glass building — it’s one of the best downtown has to offer — but I would surely vote to substitute it for a downtown baseball stadium. Such a development would complete the transition of downtown from wasteland (pre-Sprint/T-Mobile Center) to energetic, thriving city hub.

Indicative of the Privitera family’s vision back in 2017, Rosie said Ambassador had been eager to buy the building because “we saw the synergies of future possibilities.”

That prompted Dan to write…

The prospect of a baseball stadium downtown has long tantalized downtown boosters, and with the Royals’ change of ownership last year, the idea seems to have picked up momentum. Kansas City is one of the few major league cities without a downtown baseball stadium. Businessman John Sherman, who leads the new Royals ownership group, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Royals certainly lost money this year, with no fans attending shortened-season games, and I would doubt that Sherman and his co-owners would be ready to take on such an expensive proposition anytime soon.

But the good news that emanates from The Star’s bad news is that we might be a step closer to a downtown stadium. Even if The Star’s offices end up in rented office space (for some reason I’m envisioning the second floor of a building in “downtown” Brookside), its decision to build a shimmering print pavilion in the mid 2000s might turn out, ironically, to have been the cornerstone for the capstone of our new, mighty downtown.

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Never has the latter-day impotence of The Kansas City Star been more on display than in the case of Rick Roeber, a Lee’s Summit Republican who was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives on Nov. 3 despite horrific charges of physical and/or sexual abuse against three of his four children.

Roeber ran in the 34th District, which includes parts of Lee’s Summit and areas south and east of there. Roeber defeated Democrat Chris Hager by two percentage points and is poised to take the 34th District seat in January.

The shocking element of The Star’s election coverage is that, in its news columns, The Star did not write a single story about the allegations.

In fairness, The Star ran four pre-election editorials, which laid out the story and condemned Roeber. All the editorials were hard hitting. One quoted Roeber’s son Samson as saying: “He beat the shit out of us all the time. Also, (he would) hold us by our necks and hold us against the wall.”

The same editorial reported that Anastasia Roeber, Roeber’s adopted daughter, alleged that Roeber made improper sexual advances toward her in 1990, when she was 9 years old. “He made me place my hand on his genitals,” she said.

Roeber has denied all the allegations.

To me, as a journalist and former KC Star reporter and editor, the most baffling part of this story is that it never made the news pages (as opposed to the editorial page, which is near the back of the paper).

The news-side neglect shows, in my view, how far The Star has fallen.

Back when the paper had a strong news operation — as recently as the mid- to late-2000s — the Roeber story almost certainly would have run on Page 1. Not only that, it would have provoked revulsion among readers, and Roeber’s campaign would have been doomed.

But that was then and this is the new normal…which highlights three basic facts:

:: The Star’s print product has become increasingly anemic as subscriptions have plummeted and deadlines have been pushed up so far that the daily paper has relatively little of “yesterday’s news.”

:: The Star’s civic and political clout has withered as the print product has lost tens of thousands of weekday subscribers and hundreds of thousands of Sunday subscribers over the last five decades.

:: The ebbing of print and the failed shift to digital has robbed the paper of much of its relevance. Where the paper used to keep politicians and civic leaders wary and on their toes, those officials now see the paper as more of a pest than a career maker or breaker.

(Ironically, this post is publishing the day after The Star announced it will be leaving its glass building downtown and moving to smaller quarters next year. The paper won’t even be using the print plant any longer; the paper will be printed in Des Moines.) 


The Roeber case also illuminates another important change that has taken place: Where most editorials used to spring from news reports, the editorial writers now routinely play the role of reporters, covering news stories, while also wearing their opinion hats.

We former Star staff members used to talk reverentially about “the wall” not only between advertising and news but also, to a lesser extent, between news and opinion.

The line between news and opinion has blurred completely. And while that rubs former reporters and editors the wrong way, the change has a saving element: Some stories like Roeber’s are at least getting reported somewhere in the paper.

The Star’s tilt away from strong news and toward strong opinion is a bit unusual. Several years ago, as revenue shriveled, The Star made a conscious decision to beef up its editorial staff and let the news side atrophy. The paper now has five editorial board members, led by Colleen McCain Nelson, vice president and editorial page editor. Nelson is also national opinion editor for the entire McClatchy chain. (She’s a very strong editor, but I don’t see how she can competently oversee the editorial-page operations at 29 dailies. That’s one example of how far McClatchy attempts to stretch its paltry resources.)

Many other metropolitan dailies have gone in a different direction, reducing the news and opinion ranks more evenly. A leading example of that is Gannett chain, which, at some of its papers, has shrunk opinion pages and kept proportionately more reporters. That approach has played out particularly well at my hometown paper, The Courier Journal in Louisville, KY, which has given readers a steady diet of ground-breaking scoops on the long-running Breonna Taylor story. (This is not to say Gannett is “good,” by any means; it’s just stretching its paltry resources differently, maybe more wisely.)


Although I am glad to see The Star maintain a strong editorial-page operation, it is appalling that the news side would completely ignore a story like that of Rick Roeber. And the result is shocking: Come January, a man who appears to have been a flagrant child abuser will be one of 163 people representing Missourians in the House of Representatives.

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