Posts Tagged ‘Aleksei Navalny’

Thanksgiving is still four months away, but today I’m in an appreciative mood.

Let me cite just three “blessings” that recent news stories have impressed upon me.

:: I am grateful that…Kansas City is not in Detroit’s shoes.

Once the nation’s fourth largest city, Detroit filed for bankruptcy this afternoon. In an online story, The New York Times said the city’s debt was likely to be $18 to $20 BILLION.

In 1950, Detroit’s population was 1.8 million; today it is 700,000. In addition, The Times said, tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, vacant lots and unlit streets plague the urban area.

The story went on to say that one aspect of the bankruptcy that some other cities (including Kansas City, in all likelihood) will be watching is whether Detroit will be permitted to slash pension benefits. That will be decided in bankruptcy court and perhaps beyond. In order to cut pension benefits, the court would have to override a provision in the Michigan constitution that prohibits such action.

Here in Kansas City, Mayor Sly James and the City Council have shown that they don’t have the stomach for taking on the firefighters’ union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers. The mayor and council haven’t dared to take up a citizens committee’s proposal to reduce pension benefits for current and future city employees.

So, while I’m thankful that we’re not Detroit, someday — on some mayor and council’s watch — the pension situation is going to become a crisis in Kansas City, and the citizens are going to wring their hands and shake their fists at several mayors and councils that didn’t have the guts to deal with the issue before it became a crisis.

:: I am grateful that…Vladimir Putin is not my president. 

A Russian judge has sentenced Russia’s most prominent opposition leader to five years in prison on a charge of embezzlement.


Mr. Congeniality

In another online story today, The New York Times said that “the Kremlin had made little effort to mask the political motivation of the prosecution” of Aleksei Navalny, a harsh Putin critic who aspired to political office.

Well, in Russia your dreams can get you in trouble.

Although the case against Navalny was thin and had been thrown out after an initial investigation, it was “resurrected by federal officials in Moscow,” The Times story said.

Then, when the case went to trial, it was strictly a kangaroo court. Not only did the main witness give contradictory evidence, The Times said, defense lawyers were not allowed to cross-examine him.

!!!!! No cross-examination !!!!! 

Just to make sure Navalny didn’t get a fair hearing, the judge also prohibited the defense from calling 13 witnesses.

!!!!! No defense witnesses !!!!!

About all you can do is shake your head and take comfort in the fact that we’ve got enough nuclear weapons to keep Potentate Putin in check.

Editor’s note:  Shortly after 3 a.m. today, The Times reported that Navalny had been released while his case is under appeal.  

Here’s the lead sentence from that story:

“Russia’s most prominent opposition leader was released from police custody on Friday, a day after his conviction on embezzlement charges, as the Russian authorities edged back from a decision that set off angry protests in several of Russia’s largest cities.”

Maybe the potentate has overstepped his bounds this time…

:: Bringing it closer to home, I am grateful for…the Sprint Center and the Power & Light District.

In a story last week, The Star’s Kevin Collison wrote about an astounding (as far as I’m concerned) report done by the Downtown Council, an association of downtown businesses.

Ten years ago, in 2002, the report said, 2.5 million people visited downtown.

Last year, 13.4 million people visited downtown.

Think about it: Two point five million versus thirteen point four million over a decade.

The number soared, Collison said, “thanks to the huge investment that’s occurred the past half-dozen years in such entertainment venues as the Power & Light District, Sprint Center and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.”

The story said that the Power & Light District, which opened in 2007 and 2008, was “far and away” the biggest attraction last year, drawing 9.1 million visitors.

“The Power & Light District has become the central gathering point for the city,” Collison quoted Mike Hurd, the Downtown Council’s marketing director, as saying.

We should all be grateful that Kay Barnes and her council had the guts to put their legacy on the line when they opted to take a chance on a deal with the Cordish Companies to develop the Power & Light District. (That was in Barnes’ second term, from 2003 to 2007.)

Yes, Cordish, of Baltimore, is making a bundle of money off the deal, and Kansas City residents are subsidizing the district to the tune of $10 million to $15 million a year. But any day I’ll take the 13.4 million visitors a year in exchange for the public subsidy.

The subsidy will end some day, but the visitors, I expect, will keep on coming, and Kansas City, thanks to some courageous political leadership, should continue to have a thriving downtown.

Read Full Post »