Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It’s a mystery to me how Chris and Angie Long made their money, but it’s damned impressive that they are using their own money to build an 11,000-seat, $70-million soccer stadium on the south bank of the Missouri River.

Today’s announcement was even more impressive in light of the fact that the Longs announced a few weeks ago that they would be building a $15-million training facility in Riverside for their National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team, which is likely to become a huge success when it moves to the new stadium.

I haven’t paid any attention to the team or news about it, but it certainly snapped me to attention this morning when I read the couple was investing $70 million of their own money into a stadium in Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park.

Another thing that struck me about the announcement was how it contrasted with KC Royals’ owner John Sherman’s recent launch of a fishing expedition for a downtown baseball stadium. Great idea, he said, but not a word from him about how a downtown stadium would be paid for, by whom or exactly where it might be.

I wrote at the time that taxpayers in most big cities are now wise to the new-stadium scam, which some football and baseball franchise owners have used to get cities to throw millions of taxpayer dollars at new stadiums to kill threats of the home team packing up and moving elsewhere.

Anyway, today’s announcement got me interested in who the Longs are, how they have made their money and who they’re associated with.

Here’s what I found…

:: They own a hedge fund called Palmer Square Capital Management, which has its office in the 1900 building on the northwest corner of State Line road and Shawnee Mission Parkway in Mission Woods. I’ve never quite understood hedge funds, so I looked up the term in Wikipedia. Wiki describes a hedge fund as “a pooled investment fund that trades in relatively liquid assets and is able to make extensive use of more complex trading, portfolio-construction and risk management techniques in an attempt to improve performance, such as short selling leverage and derivatives.” After reading that, I still didn’t understand hedge funds, but I did comprehend the next sentence: “Financial regulators generally restrict hedge fund marketing to institutional investors, high net worth individuals and others who are considered sufficiently sophisticated.” What I gleaned from that is it’s not for me.

:: Angie Long grew up in Mission Hills and graduated from Shawnee Mission East. She then went to Princeton University, where, I am presuming, she met Chris. After graduating from Princeton, the Longs worked at JP Morgan Chase, where Angie rose to the rank of managing director by age 29. Chris founded Palmer Square in 2009. He is chairman, and Angie is chief investment officer. Now, just 11 years after the firm was founded, it manages about $18.6 billion in fixed income and credit investments “for a wide array of institutional and high net worth investors,” according to the company’s website.

Chris and Angie Long

:: In late 2020, the Longs bought the former FC Kansas City soccer team after it had moved to Utah and gone out of business. The team has played its home games this season at Legends Field in Kansas City, KS, and will play its next two seasons at Children’s Mercy Park, also in Kansas City, KS. The Longs are projecting that the new stadium will be ready for the 2024 season.

:: Obviously pretty sharp operators, the Longs cut in Brittany Matthews, Patrick Mahomes’ fiancee, as a part owner of the team. That was a brilliant marketing move, and it also makes sense on its face because Matthews played soccer in college and professionally for a team in Iceland.

Brittany Matthews

:: The Longs have a daughter — I don’t know how old — and whitepages.com indicates they live in Mission Hills. (In case you didn’t know, Patrick and Brittany live in KCMO, just east of State Line Road, but they’re building a house in Loch Lloyd.)


Now, while I’m poking a little fun at the hedge fund business, I’m very serious when I say it’s admirable and refreshing that the Longs are using their own money to build the training complex in Riverside and the stadium in KCMO.

You never know what’s going to happen with people who come into big money relatively quickly. Sometimes they go on to become solid civic leaders, and sometimes they go bust. Time will tell if the Longs are flashes in the pan or extraordinary business people and franchise managers.

For now, we should give them the benefit of the doubt and hope the soccer gals flood the net with goals over the next decade or so, before sellout crowds.

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The home team has fallen apart, and a cold front is coming through. But that’s hardly the worst of it. I hate to ruin an otherwise nice Sunday for you, but sometimes we just have to take a long, cold look at where we are.

Here are three things to consider…

:: Joe Biden’s approval ratings are down in the low- to mid-40s, and the way things are going with his Build Back Better plan, the prospects for a turnaround in the near future are slim.

In a New York Times analysis this morning, reporter Nate Cohn said polls tend to indicate that the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan is hanging like an albatross around Biden. Cohn wrote…

Even weeks later, voters still say ‘Afghanistan’ is the negative thing they have most recently heard about Mr. Biden. And since the withdrawal, a majority of voters have routinely said that the Biden administration is incompetent. Perhaps in part as a result, voters now have little confidence in the administration’s ability to address other problems.”

Cohn said more than 60 percent of voters believe Biden is responsible for rising inflation and 52 percent of Americans expect the economy to get worse over the next 12 months.

The only thing that has been holding up pretty well is the stock market, and with inflation rising and the supply chain bogged down, that could tank at any time.

Here’s the grimmest part of Cohn’s analysis: A recent Grinnell College/Selzer poll showed Biden and Trump tied at 40 percent in a hypothetical election.

…I know a lot of things are out of Biden’s control — like bringing Kyrsten Synema down from her outer-space orbit — but it looks like Biden is just bumbling along and willing to abandon some of his biggest campaign promises in order to get a “technical” win. It’s hard to see how a technical win will go very far with already-disenchanted voters. And then there’s the incredibly large number of people who need the most help but who won’t bother with registering to vote and then voting for the person who is most committed to improving their lot.

:: The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear appeals from two libel cases on Friday, and, depending on the outcome, the First Amendment could take a big hit.

At stake is the 57-year-old precedent that for a public official or public figure to prove he or she was libeled, he or she must prove that a defamatory statement was made with “actual malice” and also “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

According to an opinion piece in today’s New York Times, the Supreme Court bestowed such broad protection on speech because the First Amendment embodied a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attack on government and public officials.”

Even English law does not offer such broad protection. Floyd Abrams, the legendary First Amendment lawyer who wrote The Times’ piece, said: “Inaccurate statements about even the most powerful individuals in society receive little legal protection in England; a defendant could be liable for a false statement even if he was unaware that it was false.”

Free speech has been a sacred right in the U.S., but with the Trump-tilting Supreme Court, the right could be in jeopardy. As it is, Abrams said, two justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, have indicated a willingness to rein in free speech. And you’ve got to wonder if justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh might not join those two.


If they did, it probably would come down to Justice Samuel Alito, who was nominated by President George W. Bush. In the past, he has been an advocate of free speech, and I certainly hope that continues. During an address to The Federalist Society in November 2020, Alito said: “We should all welcome rational, civil speech on important subjects even if we do not agree with what the speaker has to say.”

:: Closer to home, we Missouri residents are suffering under a governor who went to a new low recently by trying to capitalize on the unpopularity of “the press,” especially among conservatives.

In case you haven’t heard about this, here’s the gist…A tech-savvy reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discovered that Social Security numbers for Missouri teachers, administrators and counselors were visible in the HTML code of a publicly accessible website operated by the state education department. (HTML code is the programming that tells the computer how to display a web page.)

Instead of rushing the story to press, the P-D took the responsible approach by informing state officials about the problem and promising not to publish a story until the problem was fixed.

But instead of commending the PD for its principled position and acknowledging there had been a problem, Gov. Mike Parson tore into the Post, calling the reporter “a hacker” and called on the Highway Patrol to investigate the incident for possible criminal prosecution.

Demonstrating true cowardice, Parson read his statement about the PD on Thursday, Oct. 14, and then walked away, refusing to take reporters’ questions.


Fortunately, Parson didn’t get any help from the Missouri National Education Association, which saw the situation for exactly what it was — a serious data breach. “It is important we take data security as seriously as physical security,” an association spokesman said.

What did all this really show? The ultimate hack is the governor.

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When I saw The New York Times Sunday edition and the lead story, under the headline “90 seconds of Rage on the Capitol Steps,” I almost passed on the story.

I’ve read a lot about the Jan. 6 insurrection and have seen the clips repeatedly on CNN and elsewhere, and I had seen just about as much of the story as I cared to read. But there was something that told me I needed to read this story.

I guess it was the microcosmic nature of it — an afternoon of rage boiled down into a 90-second distillation of craziness and mob mentality. So, I waded in. It took a long time to read it. It started on the front and took up four pages inside, including text and photos.

The most striking thing about the story was that it presented the central figure, a 52-year-old, small-town Kentuckian in almost a tragic and vulnerable light. The story graphically chronicles how the the central figure, Clayton Ray Mullins, and six other men — none of whom apparently knew each other — happened to converge on the same area on the west side of the Capital building and how they proceeded to assault three Metropolitan Police Department officers.

One of the seven assailants kicked at an officer then wrestled another officer officer, Blake Miller, pulling him by his helmet and and dragging him to the ground face first. Another assailant beat Miller with the bottom end of a flag pole, while the red, white and blue colors of the U.S. flag on the other end of the pole jerked to and fro.

Mullins, the story’s central figure, pulled on the leg of Officer Andrew Wayte, engaging in a tug of war with officers who were trying to pull Wayte away. In the wild skirmish, Mullins also pushed on Officer Miller’s helmet, apparently trying to prevent other people from helping Miller get back up to the spot he had been pulled down from.

Mullins, at center

The story includes some fantastic descriptions of the events, including this…

“The rioters kept coming, a rag-tag army in mismatched colors: the orange knit caps of the Proud boys, the green camouflage jackets of men girding to fight antifa, the red-white-and-blue shirts and caps and flags espousing allegiance to Mr. Trump. Some walked with a jaw-jutting air; others ran, as if storming a beachfront.”

Clayton Mullins had come with his wife and his sister for the “Save America March,” but as events unfolded he got caught up in the raucous cauldron that the previous paragraph describes. Now, he was in no way an innocent bystander because he, his wife and his sister voluntarily chose to accompany the thousands of marchers from the Ellipse just south of the White House to the Capitol. But, from all appearances, he didn’t come looking for trouble.

As The Times story relates, Mullins, 52, grew up in a town of 800 in western Kentucky. He stayed in Kentucky and owns a salvage business “that operates from a lot cluttered with rusted heavy equipment” in a larger city western Kentucky city named Mayfield. (Coincidentally, my grandfather, J.W. Fitzpatrick, had a wholesale tobacco business that frequently took him to Mayfield.)

Mullins did not seem to be infected with the hate and vitriol that inspired many of the Jan. 6 rioters. As The Times describes him Mullins has no social media presence and took up texting only recently. In addition, he apparently wasn’t poisoned by Fox News, preferring to watch reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gunsmoke.” He doesn’t drink, smoke or curse and, perhaps most interesting, he is the unofficial treasurer, handyman and caretaker of a little church, Little Obdion Baptist Church, in his hometown of Wingo, KY. A former pastor described Mullins as “the burden-carrier of that church.”

And yet, on the afternoon of Jan. 6, Mullins allowed himself to get caught up in the contagion of the riot. As The Times succinctly put it, “(H)e left his wife and sister behind and joined the trespassing throng.”

For the story, he gave an interview to a Times reporter in Little Obdion Baptist Church. Obviously filled with regret, Mullins broke down during the interview and cried. “We never should have come here,” he told the reporter, referring to D.C.

That, however, was eight or nine months after the fateful day. After returning to Kentucky following the riot, he didn’t turn himself in. It wasn’t terribly difficult for authorities to find him, though, because video and still photographs had documented his presence and activities that day.

One day in late February, after pulling out of his salvage yard and onto a Kentucky highway, law enforcement officers pulled over his Nissan Frontier and arrested him on. He is now charged with three felonies, including assaulting an officer, and five misdemeanors. He is in home detention in Benton, KY, and potentially faces a long prison term.

…In a way, it’s a heartbreaking story: Good guy from small town gets swallowed up in an uprising he didn’t know was going to happen.

Of course, there’s the other side of the story, the most important side: We’re all responsible for our own decisions, including those made amid chaotic and unraveling situations. Especially those made amid chaotic and unraveling decisions.

It’s laudable that Mullins cried while being interviewed. But what was going through his mind when he made the conscious decision to leave his wife and sister behind and join the mob that showed us what what modern-day American brainwashing looks like?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Steven and Laurie Hickle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

:: Bo Lings Chinese Restaurant…Good.

:: Brown & Loe…Excellent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judge Campbell

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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I can only imagine how frustrated and discouraged KC Star reporters Judy Thomas and Laura Bauer must be.

The team has spent more than a year investigating and reporting student abuse at two unlicensed, Christian boarding schools in Cedar County, Missouri, and now officials at the larger of the two facilities appear to be getting what amounts to a pass from the Cedar County prosecutor’s office.

On Tuesday, Prosecutor Ty Gaither announced he was charging five staff members of Agape Boarding School with low-level, Class E felonies. A class E felony is the lowest-level felony, punishable by up to four years in prison or, alternatively, a year in jail or even probation. Conviction can also carry a fine of up to $10,000.

The Agape charges stand in stark contrast to charges brought in July by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office against the couple who operated Circle of Hope Girls Ranch, which had five times as many students as Agape and dozens of staff members.

The A.G.’s office charged Boyd and Stephanie Householder with 100 criminal counts — all but one being felonies — including statutory rape, sodomy and physical abuse. The Householders have pleaded not guilty and were released in July on $10,000 bond pending trial.

Prosecutor Ty Gaither

The difference in the cases is that Gaither ceded the charging and prosecutorial authority to the A.G.’s office with Circle of Hope, but he did not do that in the Agape case, although he did ask the A.G.’s office for assistance.

In a statement to The Star, Gaither, who has been prosecutor the last eight years, said he deemed the five low-level felonies “appropriate” and the only charges he expected to file.

A possible reason he brought only wrist-slapping charges, however, is — as Thomas and Bauer reported — some law enforcement officials in Cedar County have close ties to the school. For example, two Cedar County Sheriff’s deputies, including one who was a student at Agape, have worked at the school. In addition, the former student’s daughter works for the Sheriff’s Office.

Cedar County is shaded


For reporters, the most gratifying part of a big expose is not getting the expose published but seeing it bring tangible results, like significant policy changes or, in these cases, serious criminal charges.

Judy Thomas

Thomas and Bauer have put hundreds of hours into this effort — which translates into more than $100,000 in “manpower” for The Star — and they have seen some results. In addition to the numerous felony charges pending against the Householders, the Missouri General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill, which Gov. Mike Parson signed into law, giving the state some oversight over unlicensed boarding schools.

However, with “the big fish” — key Circle of Hope staff members — seemingly slipping away, Thomas, Bauer and The Star are seeing a significant piece of investigative and public-service journalism sliding downhill, largely out of their control.

Laura Bauer

In addition to the insult served up by Ty Gaither, Thomas and Bauer also suffered some indignity at the hands of KC Star editors. On the paper’s website this morning, their story about the low-level charges was placed low on the page and was much shorter than the story that appeared in the print edition. By tonight, the story was not even on the front page of the website, meaning readers had to go “shopping” for it to find it. (As I’ve said before, the news judgment that is reflected on The Star’s website is just appalling.)

Even the print edition had to be disappointing to the reporters: The story was positioned at the top of Page 10, instead of on Page 1, where it should have been.


Sometimes, life is a bowl of cherries when you’re a reporter. At other times it’s just the pits. And for the next few days, at least, Judy Thomas and Laura Bauer will be spitting those pits vigorously.

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Another of the great characters and journalists from the heyday of newspapers in Kansas City has left the scene.

Leo “Ski” Wozniak, who retired from The Star — actually I should say The Kansas City Times because he retired the day The Times stopped publishing in 1990 — died Sunday at his Overland Park home. He was 92 and died in his sleep.

Ski was special to me because he was one of the first people I got to know in the newsroom when I arrived in Kansas City in September 1969, not knowing a soul and starting my first (and only) job at a big-time newspaper.

I was a reporter working the 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. shift for The Times, and Ski was the night wire editor, meaning he monitored the 24-hour-a-day machine that spat out stories from all wire services The Star and Times subscribed to, including the Associated Press, United Press International, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and others. The stories came rolling off the machine, clickety-clackety, on mealy, off-white copy paper that piled up behind the machine until an editor went over and ripped it off with the edge of a ruler.

Ski would then apprise the other editors what stories he had and how he thought they rated. From those discussions, decisions were made as to how to “play” the various stories “offered” for the next morning’s paper, that is, which one would be the lead story, which ones would go lower on the front page and which would go inside.

To some of us young reporters, the wire machine and the entire wire operation was an intimidating curiosity. I certainly didn’t know much about it and wasn’t particularly interested. I was focused on covering the speeches, car wrecks, crimes and other news stories that about a dozen of us nighttime, local reporters were responsible for. It did not escape me, however, that the constant clanking and jiggling of that wire machine contributed to the vibrancy and excitement of the wide-open newsroom. And Ski ruled the wire desk.

My fondest and most personal memories of Ski, however, came from our frequent golf games. Soon after arriving at the paper, I discovered that the afternoon city editor, a dapper little guy named Don T. Jones — not to be confused with the night city editor Don D. (Casey) Jones — had four passes to the city golf courses, courtesy of the Parks and Recreation Department. Free golf! That’s something I’d never experienced before.

So, Ski and I, sometimes joined by one or two other reporters or editors, would use the passes to play at Swope Memorial. We played so often that pretty soon Ski and I each had one of those passes in our wallets. (After Charlie Wheeler became mayor, I made the mistake of telling him we had golf-course passes, and soon after they were gone. Wheeler didn’t like The Star’s editorial page because the editors never endorsed him.)

Ski was very competitive, and, although I don’t recall us playing for money, it was always about who won. Generally, I hit the ball farther then he did, but he was much better around the greens. I really admired and envied his delicate touch, which I’ve never been able to develop despite having played the game for 60 years. In scoring, we were about even, although he probably beat me more times than I beat him.

Of course, you do a lot of talking on the golf course and learn a lot about the people you play with regularly. I remember once, months after we’d been playing, Ski telling me about the time when he and one of his brothers were kids and the brother ran out in front of a passing vehicle and was killed. “I’ll never forget it,” Ski said grimly…Just as I’ll never forget him telling me about it.

Ski had an acerbic wit. One day when we were playing at Swope, I stopped at the clubhouse between the 9th and 10th holes to get a cold beverage. Ski was sitting on a bench on the 10th tee when I caught up with him, and I was chomping away on the ice. He gave me a look of disgust and said, “You sound like a pig eating coal.” I’d never heard that before, and haven’t since, and from that day I cut back on my ice chewing.

Another time, a single player joined us, and when we introduced ourselves, Ski introduced himself by his formal name, Leo. After a couple of holes, “Leo” had slipped the guy’s mind and he began calling him “Lou.” Ski didn’t correct him, and every time the guy called him Lou, Ski and I would look at each other and smile. Thereafter, every once in a while I would call him “Lou,” just for fun.

As I said, Ski was extremely competitive. We also played handball — mostly outdoor handball — and one particular sports-marathon day we played handball, tennis and ping-pong. I think we came out about even, but it was very intense day.

In handball, if one player interferes with another as the opponent is going for a ball, the player who is going for the ball can call a “hinder,” and the point is stopped and played over. I didn’t remember this, but one day, apparently, in a particularly close game, Ski called a hinder on a critical point. Decades later — this would have been about 10 years ago — at one of Laura Hockaday’s KC Star reunion gatherings at the Kansas City Country Club, Ski recalled the incident.

“Do you remember when I called that hinder?” he said.

“No,” I said. “I have no recollection.”

“Well,” he said. “It wasn’t a hinder. You didn’t interfere with me.”

Now there’s a guy you can admire. Love ya, Ski…I hope to see you again someday.

Note: After I posted this column, Ski’s daughter Kate sent me this photo, which she took at the 2010 Laura Hockaday reunion. It might well have been the day of Ski’s “not-a-hinder” confession.

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Last Tuesday, a good friend sent me and several other people a breathless text about a press conference the Kansas City Royals had announced for that afternoon.

And what, pray tell, was so urgent about this press conference? Could the Royals be announcing a new, extended contract with star catcher Salvador Perez? Could they be firing General Manager Dayton Moore? (Which, by the way, I would applaud. Time for fresh blood and new ideas.)

No, no. The text concerned a much more urgent matter…Rumor was the Royals were going to be talking about the possibility of a Downtown stadium. Let me say that again — A DOWNTOWN STADIUM!!!

Now, I love my friend’s enthusiasm; it’s one of his most engaging qualities. But I was pretty sure there was not going to be a definitive announcement about a downtown stadium, and I thought if that was the subject, it would be pretty damned lame.

And that it proved to be.

When Royals’ principal John Sherman took to the microphone, his pitch for a downtown stadium was the equivalent of casting a nightcrawler into the middle of Truman Lake and hoping to catch a record-setting bass.

Here was his blockbuster announcement:

“We are conducting an internal process to help us evaluate our options for where we play, and one of those options is to play downtown baseball.”

That’s it. Nothing about who he might have talked to…because he probably hasn’t talked with any political leaders. Nothing about cost…because that’s the last thing he wants to talk about. And nothing about who would pay for it…because that’s waaaayy too sensitive.

This was strictly a fishing expedition aimed at getting sports talk radio hosts, Kansas city Star columnists and TV sports anchors to start talking about the issue in hopes of applying pressure on political leaders, like Mayor Quinton Lucas and Country Executive Frank White, to start considering a “public-private” partnership to build a downtown stadium for, oh, $1 billion or more.

What Sherman wants, of course, is a public-private partnership that tilts very heavily toward the public side. After all, Sherman put together a group that paid a staggering $1 billion in 2019 for a franchise that was purchased in the year 2000 by the late David Glass for $96 million. To all appearances, the Sherman group significantly overpaid, and the last thing the owners plan to do now is dig a lot deeper to pay the lion’s share of the cost of a downtown stadium.

(Another thing here while I’m putting the magnifying glass on Royals’ owners: If you were doing the math, you know the Glass family made a profit of $900 million on the sale to the Sherman group. And unlike original Royals’ owner Ewing Kauffman, whose family set up two huge foundations here, the Glass family took all the money back to Bentonville. It is outrageous and beyond appalling that they have zero interest in philanthropy in KC, where they made so much money.)


Now, as recently as last November, I also was caught up in the excitement of the prospect of a downtown baseball stadium. That was when The Star broke its lease on its printing plant, and the plant’s owner broached the possibility of selling the building to make way for a downtown stadium.

But after that initial blood rush, and after talking with people who are clear-eyed about business deals, I have come to my senses.

First, the Royals’ and Chiefs’ leases are not up for another 10 years. Second, it makes the most sense for both teams to renew leases at the Truman Sports Complex, where both stadiums got hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements (financed by Jackson County residents) slightly more than a decade ago.

Do you think people coming in from Iowa and Nebraska — not to mention Lee’s Summit, Leavenworth and even Johnson County — are going to want to drive into downtown (at night, oh god!) and make loop after loop in a huge parking garage or, in the alternative, scout around for an hour or so for street parking?

The answer is obvious…What they want is surface parking that allows easy-in, easy-out access and they’re on their way home, or to the hotel, minutes after the game ends.

But here’s the next, and even bigger, issue: If we are serious about a downtown stadium, Who’s going to pay for it?

And here, fellow Jackson Countians, is where we must put our foot down…The cost should not, cannot, be borne by Kansas Citians and Jackson Countians alone. That was okay back in 1967, when Jackson County voters, smelling the prospect of a new baseball team and eager to find a suitable home for the Chiefs, generously approved a $100 million bond issue to build the first twin stadiums, plus the access roads. (It was and always will be the best stadium deal ever.)

Royals’ Stadium under construction in about 1970

The only fair way to finance a downtown stadium now would be to do it like we did the renovation of Union Station back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That is with a bistate tax, with at least Jackson and Johnson counties sharing the cost.

For the edification of readers under 30, and to refresh the memories of those who were around but don’t recall the details, here’s how that worked. (And thanks to the Mid-America Regional Council’s website for the primer.) The governing bodies in five area counties authorized placing the question of forming a bistate district on the ballot. In 1996, voters in Platte, Clay and Jackson counties in Missouri and Johnson County in Kansas approved the measure forming the district. (Wyandotte County voters turned it down.)

The proposal provided for a retail sales tax of 1/8 of a cent to be collected from within the district until $118 million had been received. The tax proceeds could only be used to renovate Union Station and build Science City in Union Station. From April 1, 1997, to March 31, 2002, $121,393,565 was collected. The tax expired in the first quarter of 2002.

A second bistate effort in 2002 — to benefit performing arts and cultural organizations and to renovate the sports complex — failed.

The good news is the bistate law remains on the books in Missouri, and a new bistate commission conceivably could be rolled out. Just as it was 25 years ago, however, a bistate arrangement could not go forward without voter approval in both Jackson and Johnson counties. Contiguous counties within 60 miles of Johnson and Jackson counties would be eligible to participate, but not one taxpayer dollar could be spent on a downtown stadium without Johnson County’s participation.

Fortunately, Mayor Lucas sees the light on this. In a recent LinkedIn post, he wrote: “If folks are thinking a KCMO-funded-alone model, that would be tough/imprudent. A bistate would be preferred, but would KS play ball?”

He’s absolutely right. And let’s get this straight right now: If our Kansas brethren want to see Major League baseball played downtown, they’d better be ready to pony up. The tailgating can go on, but the riding of coattails has gone on way too long.

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Patty and her sister Vicky and I went to Starlight Theatre for the Doobie Brothers’ concert last night. Kansas City is one of many cities on the legendary band’s 50th Anniversary Tour.

We had not been to Starlight in a few years, and the moment we got in the place I was sorry it had been so long.

Starlight, in Swope Park, is one of Kansas City’s premier attractions. It’s one of those places that makes me feel good about being a Kansas Citian. It projects a big-time, yet relaxed atmosphere. To me, it beats Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. Arrowhead hardly smacks of relaxation, while Kauffman has been way too relaxed since 2015.

Starlight, on the other hand, is always warm and inviting and seems to envelope one and create an atmosphere of contentment and security.

Moreover, it’s got landmarks. Consider its stage-flanking, oxidized copper towers. Where Churchill Downs has its Twin Spires — the most recognized landmark in Kentucky — Starlight has its own twin spires.

Soon after we arrived last night (about 45 minutes before the scheduled showtime of 7:30), I excitedly began taking photos with my phone. I didn’t realize until I reviewed them this morning that most weren’t very substantive. But that’s how just being there after a long absence got my blood rushing.

The most amazing and gratifying thing to me about Starlight is how its proprietor — the nonprofit Starlight Theatre Association, in partnership with the KC Parks and Recreation Department — has kept the theater abreast of changing times. Upgrades have been almost continuous since the 1980s.

Here’s what Starlight looked like in June 1950 when it opened with the musical The Desert Song.

The theater was an immediate success initially, but by the late 1960s, it was losing money, and by the mid-1980s it was at a critical point. Crowds for Broadway-type shows had diminished; revenue was way down; and the place simply was not very appealing.

At that point, the Park Board, led by the indomitable Anita Gorman, called on the late Chiefs’ president Jack Steadman, to lead a fund-raising effort, which was successful. In addition, executive producer Bob Rohlf, who had been hired in 1980 as marketing director, helped breathe new life into the operation after being elevated to executive producer.

The 1990s also brought big improvements. As the Starlight website says: “To stay competitive with theater companies around the country, Starlight’s outdoor stage would need to be able to host national touring productions. Recognizing this need, the capital campaign was expanded to include the construction of a new covered stage house.”

The campaign was successful, thanks partly to a gift of more than $1 million from Jeannette and Jerome Cohen.

The $10 million stage made its debut in the summer of 2000. The stage is 10 stories tall and covers 12,000 square feet. It is climate controlled and fully enclosed on the top and sides. While audience members occasionally have to endure bad weather, the performers do not. The show goes on “rain or shine,” with the exception of delays or cancellations because of extremely bad weather.

One of the biggest improvements in recent years was the 2018 addition, at a cost of $600,000, of four “mega-fans” in the seating bowl. The 35-foot-tall fans, which look like wind turbines pointing at the sky, create a breeze of about 4 mph throughout the seating bowl.

From the financial standpoint, here are the critical numbers regarding Starlight: The theater cost $1.75 million to build in the late 1940s; it now has an estimated value of about $80 million, according to the Starlight website.


Here’s a look at the Starlight bowl (with two of its mega fans) before last night’s show. And, yes, those are rain clouds moving in from the west, but fortunately it did not rain.

As I said, the Doobie Brothers were good. They played all their big hits and a bunch of others, and Michael McDonald, who was with the band from 1975 to 1981, was on stage, playing keyboards and singing during the entire concert. As you would expect from a 69-year-old singer, his voice doesn’t have the same range and vibrancy as it did in the 1970s and 1980s, but it was good enough.

One of the highlights of the night, from the concert standpoint, was watching Patty and Vicky — who grew up in the ’70s — bop to the song “China Grove.” Here they were before the show started.

Suffice it to say, the three of us were pretty close to heaven last night, mainly because Starlight is a heavenly place.

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