Monday, November 29, 2010

71/150 highway interchange ribbon cutting

Grandview, Kansas City and state officials gathered Monday, November 22 for a ribbon cutting celebration to mark the opening of the 71 Highway single-point urban interchange at 150 Highway. The project began in 2008 and cost $29.6 million to complete. "I want to thank Gail's Harley Davidson, Joe's Carpet, and everyone else for putting up with this for the past two years," said Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser. Grandview Board of Aldermen President Steve Dennis also spoke at the ceremony, saying he was "thrilled that this day has finally come" and he hoped the new interchange will spur more development in Grandview. State Representative Jason Holsman said the interchange will benefit both KC and Grandview. Other officials in attendance included KC Councilmembers John Sharp and Cathy Jolly, Grandview Alderman Joe Runions, and Grandview City Administrator Cory Smith. (Photo by Paul Thompson)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Report: Bannister Fed Complex Had "Lax" Oversight

By Andrea Wood
A report released Monday said that no contaminants have yet been found at the Bannister Federal Complex, however, the Public Buildings Service (PBS) in charge of the site neglected its environmental testing and misled both the public and employees at the site throughout the past decade.
“The Heartland Region Public Buildings Service (PBS) is currently taking substantial steps to protect the occupants of the Complex and testing has revealed no significant health hazards in GSA-controlled space,” said John Walsh, the Regional Inspector General who released the report. “However, we determined that prior to 2010, PBS did not have a strong environmental management program for the Complex.”
The report was completed at the request of Senator Kit Bond and supported by Senator Claire McCaskill and Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver following reports that current and former employees at the Complex may have developed serious illnesses and died as a result of exposure to toxic substances.
“We were asked to determine whether GSA’s Public Buildings Service (PBS) took appropriate steps to protect the health and safety of the occupants in PBS space at the Complex,” Walsh said.
The report’s conclusion:
PBS did not always take appropriate steps to protect the health and safety of the occupants at the Complex when presented with evidence of potential hazards…
PBS often provided erroneous and/or incomplete information to both the public and our office concerning environmental issues at the Complex. Some of this information was incorrect to the point that it misled requestors as to the environmental work performed at the Complex…
PBS personnel also did not have a clear understanding of environmental responsibilities pertaining to the GSA-controlled portion of the Complex and did not adequately document or maintain files related to health and safety conditions at the Complex. Finally, PBS may not have complied with the annual reporting requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA)…
Prior to 2010, PBS addressed specific issues when raised by tenants but did not have a strong environmental management program for the Complex. Given the known contamination at the Complex and given the requirement to protect the health and safety of building occupants, we believe PBS should have been more vigilant in overseeing environmental issues at the Complex. Further, we are troubled by the lack of knowledge on the part of PBS officials about safety and environmental conditions at the Complex…
As a result, GSA cannot provide assurance that the Complex has historically been a safe and healthy workplace. Further, PBS’s actions, along with the dissemination of incorrect information, have damaged GSA’s credibility with both building occupants and the general public.
“This report should serve as an immediate wakeup call for the GSA,” said Bond. “The bureaucrats who mishandled information and failed to perform adequate safety tests as documented in the IG’s report should be held accountable. I will continue working to ensure the GSA takes the immediate and long-term steps necessary to provide answers for former workers and ensure the safety of those currently working at the complex.”
Examples were provided in the report of the PBS’ lax oversight.
A letter by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) in January 2005, stated that a report on whether there was trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination at the complex was “biased towards a conclusion of no further action, where instead, it should focus on what data gaps exist and what further work needs to be done, especially since this is an interim report.”
The letter also said that, in regard to the Bannister Complex’s child care facility, “the document should propose a complete vapor intrusion study using acceptable methods as outlined in the EPA guidance.”
PBS never provided MDNR a response and the vapor intrusion system at the child care facility was not installed until February 2010 (5 years after the letter). On October 7, 2005, MDNR offered to provide assistance to PBS regarding environment issues at the Complex. Instead, PBS terminated MDNR’s environmental oversight contract on October 24, 2005.
Another example of PBS’s lax oversight is reflected in its handling of wells installed to monitor groundwater contamination.
In the past, chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment were used at the Complex, including trichloroethylene and polychlorinated biphenyls. Portions of the complex have been used for waste disposal and remediation. Over 200 groundwater wells located throughout the Complex monitor the presence of these contaminants. Prior to 2002, PBS installed two monitoring wells at the Northwest portion of the Complex. It installed an additional monitoring well in the same area during 2002 and six more in 2006. Other than one test in 2004, these wells were not monitored until the Department of Energy (that operates a three million square foot plant at the Complex) began testing the wells in 2008.
In all, the report concludes that PBS has not been diligent in making sure that the site was a healthy place to work for the past decade.
“The people who have worked at Bannister have a right to be angry,” McCaskill said Monday. “This IG report shows serious misjudgment on the part of the federal government, and I’ve spoken with the Public Buildings Commissioner at GSA about it.  The safety of employees should be GSA’s first priority and those responsible for these failures need to be held accountable.”
Officials and the approximately 2,550 employees in the DOE-controlled portion of the Complex are now awaiting an upcoming independent report from the EPA on contamination at the Bannister Federal Complex. So far, no contaminants have been found, but the report Monday pointed out that testing is not complete.
“Our review determined that current testing performed at the Complex has not identified any significant health hazards present in GSA-controlled space. Further, historical ad hoc testing and our review of workers’ compensation claims filed by occupants of the complex do not indicate any sustained exposure to toxic substances by GSA occupants. However, it is important to note that not all of the test results have been finalized and the health hazard evaluation being conducted by NIOSH has not been completed.”
The Bannister Federal Complex (Complex) consists of 310 acres located on Bannister Road in the southern part of Kansas City, Missouri.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) currently contracts with Honeywell to produce non-nuclear mechanical, electronic, and engineered material components for U.S. national defense systems at the site. DOE controls over 30 buildings totaling over three million square feet of space. Currently there are approximately 2,550 employees in the DOE-controlled portion of the Complex.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Veteran's Day Closures

TRASH PICK-UP DELAYED, CITY OFFICES CLOSED NOV. 11 - In observance of Veterans Day on Thursday, Nov. 11, curbside trash and recycling collection will be delayed one day and City of Kansas City, Mo., offices will be closed. The City’s 3-1-1 Action Center will not be open on Nov. 11 but residents will still be able to make online requests. Residents who usually have Thursday collection will receive this service Friday, Nov. 12. Residents who usually have Friday collection will receive this service Saturday, Nov. 13. For more information about solid waste collection services, visit or call the 3-1-1 Action Center at 311 or 816-513-1313. Media inquiries about trash and recycling should be directed to Dennis Gagnon, public information officer for the Public Works Department, 816-513-2659.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

KCPD South Patrol Groundbreaking

Members of the Kansas City Police Department joined current and former elected officials, architects, engineers and community leaders Oct. 29 for a groundbreaking ceremony at the new South Patrol headquarters near Bannister Mall.
Councilwoman Cathy Jolly (center) was joined by her son Drake, who scooped the first shovelful of dirt to make way for the new police station. Jolly praised the local community for working with police on the new station.
“You made this happen,” she told some four dozen members of the public who attended the groundbreaking.
Chief of Police James Corwin said the new facility was badly needed, as the old one on Hickman Mills Drive has a leaky roof and inadequate facilities for female officers and community meetings. He said the new station was thanks to voters – the $28 million project is being funded by the ¼-cent public safety sales tax voters passed in 2002.
“This is thanks to the generosity and foresight of voters,” he said. “This area was once a campground, a safe haven for pioneers on the Three Trails. It was a safe haven once and it will be a safe haven once again.”
The 25-acre site on which these will be constructed is the former location of the Hart Grove Camp Ground, which was a stop for pioneers who were headed west on the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails.
Patrick McInerney, president of the Board of Police Commissioners, said the station is a good match for South KC.
“This shows the depth of the department’s commitment to this great part of our city, a part some have avoided and others have run from,” he said. “Now, we have roots in this community that will last for generations.”
Councilman John Sharp agreed.
“This is a tremendous site, and it’s a major step in revitalizing the 71/Bannister corridor,” he said. “It’s a great day for Kansas City.”
The project will include the construction of new stations for the South Patrol and Special Operations divisions; a multipurpose building with room for community meetings, office space, a gymnasium, work-out facilities and back-up 911 center; two vehicle storage buildings and a fueling site; and kennels and office space for the Canine Section. The whole project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2013.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

JC Advocate Poll Results

A few weeks ago, the Advocate asked readers to vote on whether they believed the Grandview Board of Aldermen should appoint a mayor now to succeed the late Mayor Bob Beckers, or wait until regularly scheduled elections in April. Readers who responded to the poll were split down the middle - 50% favored having a new mayor now, and 50% favored waiting. 

The Advocate thanks all of our readers who responded to the poll.


Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 2, 2010. Unofficial results will be updated on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website ( throughout election night.  Voters can also visit to find the location of their polling place, learn what to bring, and view a sample ballot.
For a complete list of candidates and issues, see the Jackson County Advocate print edition. Below is information on three State Amendments and two State Propositions that will be on Tuesday’s ballot.

Proposition A: Earnings Tax
A ‘yes’ vote for Proposition A will trigger cities which have an earnings tax--only Kansas City and St. Louis--to put the tax before voters in April 2011. If voters approve the tax at that point, then it will be kept as-is for five years. If voters reject the tax in April, then it will be phased out over a ten-year period, beginning January 1, 2012.
A ‘no’ vote for Proposition A means Kansas City and St. Louis can continue collecting earnings tax revenues, as they have been.
Kansas City officials say the earnings tax accounts for a significant portion of the city’s revenue, and helps the city maintain a good credit rating. Currently the tax accounts for 45% of the general fund, or $200 million. According to acting City Manager Troy Schulte, 40% ($80 million) of the earnings tax comes from non-residents of Kansas City, who work within the city limits.
“The earnings tax is a nice way to share the burden of regional amenities such as the zoo and Liberty Memorial,” Schulte said at the Southern Communities Coalition meeting.

Proposition B: Puppy Mills
A “yes” vote on Proposition B will require breeders of large dogs to provide each dog with sufficient food, water, living space and housing, as well as regular exercise, rest between breeding cycles, and appropriate veterinary care. The proposition would also prohibit any breeder from having more than 50 dogs for the purpose of selling puppies as pets. It would create a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for any violation of the law.
A “no” vote would not impose these regulations.
Officials estimate the proposal could cost government entities more than half a million dollars to enforce, but officials say if the proposal passes, it will have no impact on taxes.
The activist group Missourians for the Protection of Dogs was instrumental in getting the proposition on the ballot, having collected more than 190,000 signatures in May. The organization is a coalition of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals, and the Humane Society – all of which have endorsed the proposition. It has also been endorsed by the Jackson County Legislature and Linda Bond, wife of U.S. Senator Kit Bond.

Amendment 1: County Assessors
The Missouri General Assembly proposed this amendment, which would require the office of county assessor – the government official who determines how much property owners will pay in real estate taxes – to be an elected position. It only applies, however, to counties with a population of less than 600,001 that are ruled by a County Charter. Jackson County has more than 600,000 residents, therefore making it the only county in the state that would be exempt from the Amendment.
A “yes” vote on this amendment is a vote to require all county assessors – except for Jackson County – to be elected.
A “no” vote would leave things the way they are, with most counties appointing, not electing, assessors. 
According to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, the amendment is not expected to have any significant affect on government costs or taxes.

Amendment 2: Property Tax
Exemption for Disabled POWs
The Missouri General Assembly also proposed an amendment that would exempt former prisoners of war who have a total service-related disability from paying property taxes. A “yes” vote on Amendment 2 is a vote for exempting such veterans from property taxes. A “no” vote is a vote not to create the exemption.
The number of qualified veterans is unknown, say state officials, but the numbers are expected to be small, and the cost to local governments is considered minimal. The most likely cost to the state is a slight drop in the blind pension fund – about $1,200.
The Missouri Family Network has endorsed the plan, which is supported by a majority of Missouri legislators. They say it’s a fair way to reduce tax burdens on disabled veterans who have sacrificed their health for their country.
Opponents, such as Missouri Citizens for Tax Justice, argue that all Missourians should contribute to state taxes, and that the amendment will duplicate existing tax credits.
Qualified vets are any who were prisoners of foreign governments or unlawful combatants during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or military action in Iraq or Afghanistan and who are also fully disabled as a direct result of their military service. 

Amendment 3: No Potential Transfer Tax
Amendment 3, which was placed on the ballot by an initiative petition, would prohibit state, county and municipal governments from placing any new tax – including sales tax – on the sale or transfer of homes or other real estate.
A “yes” vote on Amendment 3 is a vote to prohibit new passage of such taxes. A “no” vote would leave that option available for state officials in the future.
Officials say the proposal would have no impact on state funds – either positive or negative. It would not repeal an existing tax, just prevent any new ones.
Proponents of the amendment say it will protect property owners from “double taxation.”
Ron Yaffe, a local real estate agent, told the Southern Communities Coalition on Oct. 20 that surrounding states – including Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Arkansas – have already passed “transfer” taxes, which he said can be especially devastating to family farmers.
“I’m not aware that there is any effort to do this in Missouri, but this makes sure there never will be an effort to do it.”
The amendment was placed on the ballot by a petition circulated primarily by the Vote Yes to Stop Double Taxation Committee. When the group turned its signatures into the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, it was declined on the grounds that the group did not provide an estimate of the number of signatures. The state announced on Aug. 3 that the measure failed to qualify for the ballot.
The Missouri Association of Realtors responded with the threat of a lawsuit to challenge the state’s findings. On Aug. 31, a Cole County Circuit Court judge ruled that the petition did qualify and it was then placed on the ballot. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Get Informed and Vote!

Check out this week's print edition of the Jackson County Advocate for full coverage of candidates for state office - in their own words. The Oct. 28 edition will feature coverage of amendments, propositions, federal and county officials.

Well-Kept Secret for a Job Well Done

Conn-West Elementary Teacher Receives Outstanding Educator Award

 By Paul Thompson

For Conn-West 5th grade teacher Anika Williams, it seemed to be just another elementary school assembly last Thursday. A group of students sang R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” to kick things off, and Williams sang along under her breath, the smile of a proud mother on her face.
But this was not “just another assembly.”
Little did she know that the assembly was entirely for her, clandestinely put together to honor her as one of this year’s 55 recipients nation-wide of the Milken Family Foundation’s Outstanding Educator Award.
Once the students had finished their performance, district Superintendent Ralph Teran and Conn-West principal Mary Moore introduced Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Chris Nacastro, who said a few words of congratulations.
To the students and teachers, Nacastro’s visit was the reason they had assembled that day. But then, she yielded the microphone to Milken Family Foundation Vice President Jane Foley.
“I came here to tell you a secret,” Foley told the students of Conn-West. “Before I leave, all of you will know the secret too.”
At this point, Foley began revealing hints that would explain why she was there. She revealed that the surprise involved rewarding an excellent teacher.
Then, student volunteers were each given a square-shaped card: one with a dollar sign, others with numbers. Foley directed the student with a 2 to stand by the dollar sign. She then sent the student with a five over next to it, and two zeros were added as well. It looked like there would be a $2,500 prize waiting for one lucky teacher…
But then Foley brought out another 0, inciting an audible gasp of awe from the audience. One outstanding teacher was about to receive an outstanding prize: $25,000.
Anika Williams sat in the crowd, never guessing it was her.  But at the sound of her name, the entire room exploded in applause like the Super Bowl had just been decided.
“I was like, are they kidding me?” Williams said with a laugh when asked about her initial reaction to the announcement. “I actually was thinking of a couple teachers who might be receiving the award who I thought were excellent teachers.”
The ovation continued as an emotional Williams made her way up to the front of the assembly. Rendered speechless, Williams needed several moments before she was ready to speak. In those moments, U.S. Representative Emmanuel Cleaver injected a bit of humor as he introduced Williams, getting down on one knee in a mock marriage proposal as she was being presented with the check.
 Afterwards, Williams said she was still unsure about how she would spend the money, which comes with no strings attached.
“I have no idea, but I know there are some kids in my classroom that want me to add some more prizes to my treasure box, so I’m sure they’ll give me some ideas,” she said.
One of Williams’ students who participated in the unveiling of the $25,000 cards was 5th grader Lexus Chevalier. Chevalier was not surprised by the choice of her teacher as a Milken Outstanding Teacher. In fact, once she realized there was a teaching award to be presented, she expected it.
“I knew it was going to be Mrs. Williams, because she’s very talented, very nice, and we all love her,” the student said.
Williams comes from a family of educators, and has worked at Conn-West Elementary for 10 years over two separate stints. Growing up, she always appreciated the effect that a great teacher can have on her students.
“My mother and her two sisters were all educators. When you grow up with a teacher for a mother, you’re in the school a lot and you hear the stories,” said Williams about what inspired her to start a career in the field. “People would come back to her, and they would be thanking her. I thought, ‘Wow, I want to have that kind of effect on someone.’”
Williams has had an effect, and the Milken Family Foundation noticed. The Milken Family Foundation is a charity based out of Santa Monica, California that seeks out and rewards outstanding teachers all over the nation. They don’t accept recommendations or applications: the board of education for all states who participate in Milken’s program put together special committees to help pare down potential candidates. Milken then chooses the best of those select few.
In addition to the $25,000 check, the Milken award comes with an expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles for all the winners to attend a conference and receive their awards.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kansas City Adopts New Redistricting Map

By Andrea Wood
Class. Race. Politics.
The lines have been re-drawn, not only for Kansas City’s six districts, but also for some groups who found themselves on opposite sides when it came to which map would represent the city’s new boundaries.
The Kansas City Redistricting Committee last month presented two options for the city’s new council district boundaries: map 17, and map 13 on its second revision.
On Thursday, the KC City Council adopted map 13 Revision 2 (a portion shown above) for its city council districts. The map was favored by African American organizations in the 3rd and 5th council districts, citing that other maps could possibly violate the Voting Rights Act by diluting the vote in historically black neighborhoods.
However, the Hispanic community favored map 17, which kept together neighborhoods in which they historically resided.
Also split were the 6th District’s two councilmembers, John Sharp and Cathy Jolly.
Sharp was opposed to map 13, and was one of only two councilmembers to vote against it. He said that the 6th District--which wraps around Grandview--is divided into a “west side” of more affluent neighborhoods near State Line, and the “east side” where he lives, which had encompassed all of the Hickman Mills School District as well as Ruskin.
The map adopted by the city council on Thursday takes 800 or so residents between 87th and 85th Streets in the Hickman Mills School District and moves them into the 5th District. Then, according to initial figures, some 6,000 residents around the Ward Parkway Shopping Center are being moved from the 4th District to the 6th District.
“If you make that kind of shift in voting strength, it would be very likely that in future elections the 6th District would be dominated by the larger number of voters in the more affluent neighborhoods in Ward Parkway,” Sharp said during the council’s business session.
Jolly, who lives on the west side, said she was concerned about statements that pitted neighborhoods against one another, such as saying that one area was affluent and the other area was working class.
“We are more alike than we are different,” she said of the new addition to the 6th District.
During public testimony, Hickman Mills School Board Member April Cushing and Rev. Dale Shotts of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church both asked the board not to divide the school district into different council districts. The map which was adopted will have some in northern portion of Hickman Mills C-1 shift into the 5th District.
Sharp said he was disappointed in the council’s decision to adopt map 13, and said the Hickman Mills and Ruskin areas were being disenfranchised by the new boundaries.
“We’ve seen our political voice diluted,” he said.
While the map is effective 10 days after the council vote one week ago, the redistricting argument is far from over.
The city will look again at its district maps once the official data from the 2010 Census is released sometime in 2011.

Anderson Appointed to Hickman Mills Board

 By Paul Thompson
The Hickman Mills C-1 School Board has elected a new school board member to replace the departed Scott Jennings, but just barely.
When Jennings took a job new job out-of-state, it became necessary to fill his vacated seat. Thus, The Hickman Mills C-1 Board of Education held candidate interviews on Wednesday, October 6th to decide who would fill Jennings’ vacated seat.
After five separate votes, the board ultimately chose Breman Anderson Jr. as their newest colleague over two other candidates: Michele Hill and Raymond Cisneros. Anderson has lived in the area since 1995, when he moved from Chicago. He received his B.A. and M.A. from Southern Illinois University. Anderson has a seven-year old daughter who goes to school in the district, and he has been an active parent up until now.
“My passion is for Early Childhood Education,” said Anderson during his interview with the Board. “I have a seven year old, and I’ve participated in numerous activities of the Early Childhood Center of which she graduated.”
The devoted father cited his experience dealing with collective bargaining and contracts as a plus for a potential position on the C-1 Board of Education. Anderson also noted that he had been reading up on past board meeting agendas in preparation for his interview.
“To prepare for this meeting I reviewed, with thanks to the internet, the agendas of the last twelve months of Board Meetings,” Anderson answered in response to a question about his work ethic and potential time commitment to the job. “At this point in time, I could give you no more than 25-30 hours a week; that would be my timetable.”
While Anderson was an accomplished candidate, his selection was by no means a landslide. In fact, having three worthy candidates almost created an interesting dilemma: having no replacement board member at all.
The board’s first vote was an even split, with Bonnaye Mims and April Cushing voting for Michele Hill, J.T. Brown and Darrell Curls voting for Breman Anderson Jr., and Debbie Aiman and George Flesher voting for Raymond Cisneros. A second vote eliminated Hill when Cushing changed her vote to Cisneros. That’s when things got complicated.
With Hill out of the running, the board took a third vote, albeit with similar results. Brown, Mims, and Curls voted for Anderson, while Cushing, Flesher, and Aiman went for Cisneros. After a fourth vote yielded the same result, it looked as if the decision may have to be pushed back until the next board meeting or longer.
“You can put it as an agenda item and talk about it at your next session, or you can just leave it open,” explained district attorney Chris Gahagan when asked what the other options were.
It looked like that might be exactly what would happen. But after board member Debbie Aiman petitioned for a fifth vote in order to change her decision, the board was finally able to break the deadlock between Anderson and Cisneros.
“Had we not broken the tie, there is no way of knowing when the position would be filled,” explained Aiman about her change of heart. “It made no sense to wait. Mr. Anderson came into the meeting prepared. Therefore to fill the vacancy, I changed my vote to support Mr. Anderson and break the tie.”
After the voting process was over, the board members acknowledged the difficulty of the decision and thanked each candidate for their interest in the position. For his part, Mr. Anderson appeared ready to get started in his new job serving on the C-1 Board of Education.
 “I know we need change, and hopefully we can work together to bring that around,” said Anderson.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mayor of Grandview Seat to Remain Unfilled

By Seann McAnally
The City of Grandview will likely do without a mayor until regular elections this April.
The Board of Aldermen on Oct. 5 held a special meeting to choose a successor for Mayor Bob Beckers, who passed away in August after a battle with cancer.
 “It’s time for the city to take the next step, as difficult as that is for all our hearts,” said Alderman Steve Dennis, who will continue to preside over meetings in his current role as board president until elections in April.
 “It will take four votes to elect any person to the position of mayor,” said Joe Gall, city attorney.
Four candidates were nominated, but none could garner the required four votes.
Alderman Joe Runions nominated himself. Alderman Tony Preyer nominated Dennis. Alderman Leonard Jones nominated Ken Cox, a former Ward II Alderman and current Parks and Recreation Commissioner. Jones also nominated himself.
After a lengthy discussion about how the vote should be conducted, Joe Gall, city attorney, and Becky Schimmel, city clerk, advised the board that they needed to vote out loud in a “roll call” style.
Cox garnered the most votes, with Crain, Jones, and Turnbaugh voting “yay.” Preyer and Dennis voted “yay” for Dennis’ nomination.
No votes were cast for Jones, and Runions was the sole vote for himself.
At the core of the voting process was the question of whether it would be fair for current board members who plan to run for mayor in April to have to face an opponent who had been appointed to the seat and has served as mayor until the election—essentially, an incumbent.
“I think we need someone from outside,” Jones said. “We don’t want anyone to have an advantage because they’re an incumbent. Let’s be honest – I’m looking at this to be fair for all of us going forward who are interested in running for mayor sitting around this table.”
Dennis, Jones, and Runions all expressed an interest in running for mayor in April.
Jones asked Runions to withdraw his name from consideration so a second vote could be taken that might result in four votes for one candidate, presumably his nominee Cox, who had three.
“Are you willing to remove your name, Joe?” Jones asked.
“Nope,” Runions replied.
Jones reiterated that he did not think it would be fair to have to run against an incumbent who was appointed, not elected.
Alderman Jim Crain agreed with Jones. 
“I think we have three existing aldermen who will make a race in April - three good candidates,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to have one person have an advantage. For a while I didn’t think that mattered, but the more I think about it, it might matter. I would hate for that to be the deciding factor. I want people in April to look at the candidates and talk to them, understand their visions, understand their philosophies, understand where they’re coming from, and make a decision based on that.”
Preyer said he felt the process of appointing a mayor was becoming one of political gamesmanship.
“That seems to be what’s happening here; no one wants to put someone in that seat because it might hurt someone’s chances of election,” Preyer said.
Before the vote, Jones said he felt the board should discuss the issue, so that whoever was chosen would be chosen unanimously.
 “I think it would be wise for us to do something that we could potentially get six votes in agreement to move forward, unless we want to be disappointed,” Jones said. “We could go around the table and there’s going to be disappointed people.”
Dennis shrugged in response.
“That’s the nature of an election,” he said. “We put our egos on the line.”
Preyer said it was important not to take the vote personally.
“As far as disappointment goes, I want to state the obvious: if we vote for someone it’s not an indictment on the other person,” Preyer said.
Dennis said he thought it was good to have disagreement and healthy debate.
“I’m glad we don’t always agree on all the issues. I’m glad we can spend all night having spirited discussion, and still be friends about it,” Dennis said.
The city not having a mayor until April didn’t sit well with Anita Hensley, the only member of the public to attend the entire meeting.
“It seems that there are some here tonight who had a bigger interest in whether they get elected in April than in moving the city forward now,” she said. “This was all just political.”

Karen McCarthy Loses Battle with Alzheimer’s

Longtime Congresswoman Karen McCarthy passed away Tuesday due to complications with Alzheimer’s. Congresswoman McCarthy was 63. She served Missouri’s Fifth District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2005. McCarthy also served as the first female president of the National Conference of State Legislatures in 1994. 

“This evening our nation mourns the loss of a true pioneer,” U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II said about his friend and predecessor.  “Our community owes her so very much. Her work as a teacher, an advocate, a state legislator and a Member of Congress helped literally tens of thousands of families in Missouri. Across this nation, millions of children are healthier and happier because of the tireless efforts of Karen McCarthy.  “She was a true public servant and a caring soul.” U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, who served in the Missouri State Legislature with McCarthy in the 1980s, gave the following statement: “For many years Karen McCarthy provided a shining example of public service, and served as a terrific role model for thousands of women.  She navigated the toughest political waters with intelligence and integrity, and never let politics trump good public policy.  I’m incredibly lucky to have had her as a mentor and a dear, dear friend.” 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Violent Crime Tops Concerns in South KC

By Andrea Wood
Violent crime, burglary and speeding  top the list of problems that residents in the South Patrol division of Kansas City want police to focus on.

These and other results of a Kansas City Police Deaprtment survey were presented at September’s Southern Communities Coalition meeting last week. The department is gearing up for a Public Safety Sales Tax renewal, which will go before voters in November.

“It’s important that we address what our residents perceive as problems, and incorporate that focus into our long-term goals,” said Major Robin Houston.
The survey asked residents to rate 24 different crimes according to their significance and highest priority. 

In the 64134 area code, residents also said burglary and drug sales were major problems, while in the 64114 area code along State Line, residents felt that speeding and domestic violence were issues of concern.

Violent crime ranked number one across the board.

Major Houston addressed some of the ways that South Patrol is working to combat violent crime. The division is working with neighbors and other city divisions, such as Regulated Industries and Neighborhood Preservation, to track problems at locations were there are repeat crimes--such as the Express Mart on Longview Road, Capital Inn, and the Shell Station on Bannister Road. 

“At the police department if we have a significant number of documented crimes with reports taken at either a residence or a business, we can pursue a “nuisance violation” with the city,” Houston explained.  “The city conducts inspections and possibly will issue violations to the location.  As far as the police department, we are increasing our presence in these areas in an attempt to address the problems and prevent future crime.”

The division also hopes to do more tracking of repeat offenders through the court system, to make sure that the crimes are being fully brought to justice.
Armed with the feedback from the survey and planning division goals, other officers from KCPD explained how the renewal of the city’s Public Safety Sales Tax--which would generate approximately $15 million per year for 15 years--would be used to help fight crime.

Sgt Mark Stinson spoke of the development of a “Real-time Crime Center” and updated technology--including crime lab equipment and mobile computers--which is projected to cost $7.5 million.

“Right now, when I’m headed on a call, I have very little information walking in,” said Sgt Stinson. “But with a Real-time Crime Center, officers would be getting information as they are driving to the scene--a very smart person in the crime center would be providing information on how many calls we’ve gotten from that site and what crimes have taken place around that address. It’s a change to intelligence-based crime fighting.”

Most of the projected $261 million from the tax renewal, however, would be spent on equipment and buildings:

• East Patrol & Crime Lab..........$57 mil
• North Patrol Division...............$17 mil
• Police HQ Renovation.............$14 mil
• Police Vehicles......................$42 mil
• Police Helicopters................. $10.8 mil
• Police Facility Maint...............$15 mil
• Citywide Radio System.........$52.2 mil

Sgt Stinson said the department wants to change its philosophy. It currently operates helicopters from the Vietnam era and cars with 200,00 miles, which can be costly to repair. Instead, KCPD wants to have more modern vehicles which may require less maintenance and repairs. 

“With the money we could save on helicopters and other maintenance, we are in negotiations to push to have 40 more officers on the street,” Sgt Stinson said. 

Stinson also showed photographs of the current KCPD buildings, which have multiple roof leaks, are cramped, and have crumbling concrete.

“Our eight homicide detectives share an office the size of most people’s kitchen,” he said. “They barely have the desk space to work, and these are the people trying to solve some of the worst crimes in the city.” 

KCPD has a second issue on the ballot, which it hopes will help save money as well. The second question asks voters to approve the issuance of bonds which would allow construction on the KCPD projects to begin within the next few years, instead of waiting for the tax revenues to accumulate over the course of 15 years.

 If the public approves the use of bonds to pay for building projects to be constructed now, money saved from inflation. 

“Bonding these projects makes sense, compared with doing it as a pay-as-you-go,” Councilman John Sharp added.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Officials Break Ground at SKC Honeywell Plant

Congressman Ike Skelton, Senator Kit Bond, Mark Holecek, NNSA KC Director, Tony Brancato, Thomas D’Agostino, NNSA Administrator, KC Mayor Mark Funkhouser, Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver, Michael Murphy, and Hugh Zimmer of CenterPoint Zimmer, Terry Dunn of Dunn Construction, and Jason Klumb, General Services Administration, break ground at the new Honeywell location.  Meanwhile, activists gathered at the site to protest nuclear arms. Two were arrested (photos by Seann McAnally)

Medical Office to be Constructed in Grandview

By Seann McAnally

Grandview officials have announced that a new medical office building project is in the pipeline. 

The 20,000 square-foot, multi-tenant building is planned for the intersection of 150 Hwy and Byars Rd. Developers expect to break ground late this year and have the building ready for occupancy in November 2011. 

The project is the first new medical office building in Grandview in over 25 years. The single-story $4.5 million building will include primary care physicians, specialty physicians and a full-time pharmacy.

City officials say that’s a welcome addition to Grandview

“The new Grandview medical project represents the opportunity to provide additional healthcare services for Grandview residents and the surrounding community, particularly in view of all the planned and potential growth in this part of the city,” said Cory Smith, city administrator. “This type of development will further enhance the overall quality of life in our community.” 

The building plans include space for three “healthcare tenants,” including primary care physicians, specialty physicians, and the pharmacy. At a Board of Aldermen work session in July, Steve Bessenbacher, of LadCo Development, said the Hickman Mills Clinic had plans to move into the building.

About 15 physicians, two pharmacists, and some 35 support staff are expected to work at the new facility. 

“We are particularly fortunate to have that many quality jobs coming to Grandview in these economic times,” said Alan Kenyan, director of economic development for the city. 

The facility will be located near the current site of the Jackson County WIC clinic, which provides services for low-income mothers and children. Bessenbacher said WIC clinic would have to be moved, so that the building could be torn down to accommodate the new health clinic. 

Alderman Jim Crain expressed concern that local residents still had access to a WIC clinic nearby. 

Kenyon said the developers are assisting WIC officials in finding another Grandview location, possibly one on a public transportation line. 

The developer will seek tax incentives from the city. The Board of Aldermen in August passed an ordinance that allowed the city to begin working on some form of tax abatement, though details are yet to be worked out. 

Kenyan went on to outline a vision for what city officials are calling the “New Grandview Triangle.” This area of burgeoning economic development is defined roughly as 71 Highway--which is to be designated as I-49 in 2012, the CenterPoint Zimmer and new NNSA/Honeywell plants at 150 Hwy and Botts Road, and the Sunrise Farms residential neighborhood and its new commercial tax increment financing district along 150 Hwy. 

Alderman Leonard Jones said in July he welcomed the new health care facility project. 

“This is exactly the sort of thing we hope to see out here,” he said.