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.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jolly Will Not Seek Re-election

Kansas City Sixth District At-Large Councilmember Cathy Jolly announced Tuesday that she will not seek re-election in 2011, but says she will stay active in the community and in politics. Jolly will continue to serve until her term ends next year.
 “It has been an honor to serve the people of Kansas City,” she said. “I have enjoyed public service, and I am proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish to better our City, both as a member of the City Council, and as a former State Representative. But there are many things I still want to accomplish in my life, and I feel now is a good time to pursue those interests.”
Jolly has worked full time in public service for over a decade--as an Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor, a State Representative, and as city council member in KCMO.
As the Democrat for State Representative in Missouri’s 45th District in 2000, Jolly defeated the incumbent Republican, becoming the first Democrat in recent history to hold that seat. She was also one of the youngest women to be elected to the Missouri General Assembly.
Jolly used her keen understanding of the issues relating to crime and crime prevention as Chair of the Public Safety and Neighborhood Committee. Under her leadership, Kansas City consolidated its municipal jail with Jackson County to form the area’s first Regional Jail.  This project will save Kansas City over a million dollars annually. 
“I want to acknowledge the cooperation and support of Mike Sanders, Jackson County Executive (and former Prosecutor), in accomplishing this worthwhile mission”, Jolly said.
Jolly also sponsored ordinances to crack down on domestic violence and worked with the KC Police Department and prosecutor’s office on many measures dealing with illegal drugs and housing code violations.  Last week she sponsored an ordinance to put the renewal of Kansas City’s Public Safety Sales Tax on the ballot in November.  She has also worked with the KCPD on the new South Patrol Station that will start construction this year.
Co-Chair of Kansas City’s Health Commission, Jolly headed the successful citizen-initiated campaign for a smoke-free Kansas City.  She also led the way to build Kansas City’s first health clinic south of 75th street.
Jolly’s husband, Scott Taylor, is Vice President of the Center School Board and serves as a member of the COMBAT Commission. Their son, Drake, is in the first grade at Red Bridge Elementary School
“Scott and I are both active in the community and intend to continue our involvement in the years to come,” she said.

Music on Main Comes to Grandview Sept. 11

The Grandview Chamber of Commerce, Title Sponsor NASB & the City of Grandview Present
Music on Main

Toe-tapping tunes and a tribute to military and service personnel—including a fly-over by the Heart of America Formation Team—will be among the highlights of a free community music festival in downtown Grandview on Saturday, September 11th, from 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Music on Main—formerly called “Jazz Blast”—marks the seventh year that the Grandview Chamber of Commerce has worked with the City of Grandview and business sponsors to bring the best in area musicians together for this family-friendly event located in front of City Hall.  
A 09/11 tribute to military and civil service personnel with start the festivities, with a fly over from the Heart of America Formation Team based out of Lee’s Summit, Missouri at 3:15 and again at 6:15.  Gates will open at 3 p.m. The musical line-up includes 2008 International Blues Challenge Winner Trampled Under Foot, the unstoppable dance grooves of Platinum Express with JJ Johnson, local and well noted jazz group The James Ward Band and a student ensemble, Third Heaven, from the Forerunner Music Academy.  The line-up is as follows:

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.            9/11 Tribute
3:45 – 4:30 p.m.            Third Heaven
4:45 – 6:15 p.m.            The James Ward Band
6:30 – 8:00 p.m.            Trampled Under Foot
8:30 – 10:00 p.m.          Platinum Express
           
This year’s festival will feature the U.S. Toy Kids Zone, and several different food and beverages concessions will be available for sale at the event.  No coolers, outside beverages or pets will be allowed within the perimeters of the concert.  Those attending are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs. For more information on Music on Main contact the Grandview Area Chamber of Commerce at (816) 761-6505 or www.grandview.org/chamber.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grandview Memorializes Mayor

By Andrea Wood
We all knew him as Mayor. As Chief. But at the Memorial Event on Sunday, August 29th to honor Bob Beckers’ life, we heard from those who knew his softer sides--the loving husband, the class clown, the insightful leader who never saw himself as above others, and the man who felt a deep desire to serve his community.
“When Bob was made the Grandview Police Chief in 1991, he made law enforcement fun,” recalled current Police Chief Larry Dickey to a standing-room only crowd. “When he retired in 2005, we begged him not to do it. Then, three months later, he was back as Mayor and made politics fun.”
Dickey and other officers shared numerous stories about how Beckers incorporated a sense of humor into his work at the city, including showing up at a Board of Aldermen meeting dressed as a “hobo begging for money for the police department” and initiating a “wildest tie” contest. 
Still, he took keeping Grandview citizens safe very seriously. During his tenure, Beckers won the Clarence M. Kelley award, and accepted the national Webber Seavy award for quality law enforcement on behalf of the city.
As Mayor, Beckers always made a point to try to include youth in the city’s events.
Kraig Briggs, the city’s facility services manager, recalled that one of his first tasks for the mayor was to build a larger switch box for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, so that he could have as many kids help him flip the switch as possible.
“He had an outside layer--his tough cop exterior--that he’d let everyone see,” Briggs said. “But my best memories of him were his attempts not to show off his soft side.”
Briggs shared several stories about sitting around Beckers’ kitchen table--an old table that had belonged to his parents--and talking about life, his dear wife Patti, and how things were going in Grandview.
In his last days, Briggs said the Mayor was incredibly proud of the city’s new sprayground in John Anderson Park, and would always ask whether kids were enjoying it.
“I’m going to miss sitting around that old table with Bob and his cat,” Briggs said, his voice thick with emotion. “I want to plant a tree in Bob’s honor--a Pin Oak, because he loved Pin Oaks--at the spray park.”
City Clerk Becky Schimmel recalled her ongoing joke with Beckers, calling him the “Most Honorable One.”
“But as the years went by, I realized that it wasn’t really a joke anymore.”
She read a line from the Mayor’s favorite poem:
“So when your eulogy’s being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say, about how you spent your dash?”
“I can say with certainty,” Schimmel said, “if there is one word to describe how he spent his dash, that word would be ‘Honorable.’”
A close friend told those gathered that Bob cared greatly for the City of Grandview, and truly wanted to give back, and to serve. He explained Beckers’ first fight with cancer and how it compared with his final battle with the disease.
“There’s fear, and there’s love. With Bob’s first bout with cancer, he feared losing his voice...but God gave him more time and he wanted to make the best of it.
“This second bout with cancer, I noticed a difference. It was all about love. He understood that we have a soul inside a body that is programmed to self-destruct. He was at peace with it.”
Some friends had travelled from Minneapolis, where Beckers is from originally, to take part in the celebration of his life. Among them were the “Fun in the Sun” group of friends that got together annually to enjoy themselves.
“Our motto was, ‘We didn’t do it, no one saw it, and you can’t prove it.’” Said one of Beckers’ closest friends, recalling pranks and good times they shared.
Friends, family, and current and former city employees and elected officials shared stories of the Mayor, who had touched the lives of everyone in the room.
There were many laughs, and a number of tears.
A prayer by Rev. Elijah Clark with Mount Sinai Baptist Church brought silence to the crowd.
Then, a final tribute came from the President of the Board of Aldermen, Steve Dennis. He reflected on the fact that both he and the Mayor are proud to be a part of the U.S. Navy, in which Beckers served from 1962-1966.
Dressed in his full Navy attire, Dennis saluted the flag which had been presented to Patti at Bob’s funeral last week. He then played an emotional version of Taps, in honor of the man who served his nation and his community throughout his 65 years.
“We’ll miss you...God Bless...”

Arrest Made in Dutcher Murder


Antonio Grandison, age 20 of South Kansas City, has been charged with First Degree Murder, Burglary and Armed Criminal Action in the death of  Nick Dutcher, an employee at NBC Action News who was active in his South Kansas City neighborhood, playing Santa for Stratford Estates’ Christmas party each year and assisting with the Ruskin Tornado 50th Anniversary event.
Dutcher’s body was found in his home in the 6900 block of 114th Street on July 20, 2010.
Grandison was arrested on August 27 for being in possession of a stolen motorcycle. His fingerprints matched those found inside Dutcher’s stolen Ford Escape, which had been recovered in the 4000 block of 56th Terrace. Homicide detectives questioned Grandison.  During questioning, he confessed to the murder.
Grandison told police that he had broken into the house while Dutcher was not at home to steal a TV, computer, and other property. Dutcher came home during the burglary, and Grandison said he followed Dutcher into a room and strangled him.
He left the residence in Dutcher’s Ford Escape with the stolen items. 
Bond is set at $500,000 cash.

Kansas City Redistricting: Now or Later?


By Andrea Wood 
Kansas City is in the process of re-drawing the boundaries for its six council districts to make each district approximately the same size--around 80,383 people each.

But as public input is being gathered on proposed changes, a majority of the city council is working to change when redistricting would take place, while the mayor is halting their attempt.

Currently proposed maps show that the city’s 6th District would need to slightly increase its geographic size in order to reach the balanced population target (see map below).

“From the looks of recent DRAFT maps and discussions from the Redistricting committee, the 6th district is needing to add approximately 5,316 people,” said Jade Liska, a manager in the City Planning Department. “A basic enlargement of 6th District could be an area near and around 85th street and Troost/Woodland (SW corner of 5th District).”

Kansas City’s current charter states that redistricting should be completed before the city’s next general election, which is in March. Given that timeline, the council would vote on the proposed changes in the next month or so, said Liska.

However, on Thursday by an 8-5 vote, the council voted to seek a court order that would put a measure on the November ballot changing the way City Hall draws voting districts as the city’s population changes.

Sixth District Councilman John Sharp, who proposed the change, argued that it makes more sense for the city to wait until the official 2010 census numbers are released before it does its redistricting. He proposed that the city redistrict once every 10 years--after the federal census.

Mayor Mark Funkhouser argued that delaying redistricting disenfranchises tens of thousands of voters in the Northland, which has grown substantially in the past 10 years. He said that the city’s constitution requires that voting districts have populations within 10% of each other, but two districts currently differ by almost 30%.

On August 30th, Mayor Funkhouser officially vetoed the council’s ordinance seeking to put the redistricting issue on the November ballot.

Meanwhile, public input on the proposed boundary changes are ongoing.

A public meeting is scheduled for today, Sept. 2, from 4-6pm at the Kansas City North Community Center, 3930 NE Antioch Road. Another meeting is planned for Sept. 8th, 6-8 p.m. at the Gregg/Klice Community Center,1600 John “Buck” O’Neil Way.

For more info, call 816-513-0651, or see the proposed maps on the city’s website at www.kcmo.org.