Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Grandview Man Charged in Choking, Rape

A Grandview man has been charged with the forcible rape and choking of a woman at the Candlelight Apartment complex this week.
Police were called to the apartments at approximately 10:30pm on Sunday. When they arrived, a man met police and told them that around 9:30pm he was walking over to a friend and neighbor’s apartment when he was passed by a man named Robert Henderson.
According to police documents, Henderson told the man, “Your friend isn’t breathing.”
The man told police he then ran upstairs to his friend’s apartment, and found her partially naked on a futon. She was not breathing. He performed CPR on her, and she began gasping for air. Once concious, she could not remember what had happened to her.
The woman told police that she had invited Henderson over to hang out. When he arrived, she said he smelled like he had been “doing wet”--a drug made of marijuana, sometimes PCP, and formaldehyde. She told police that she told Henderson that he stunk, so he choked her until she passed out.
The victim was transported to Research Hospital, where a nurse recorded injuries to her breast and other areas, along with signs of rape. In addition, the woman had bruising around her neck and pain in her head, along with a broken blood vessel in her eye, which the nurse concluded could be due to the victim being strangled.
Grandview Police found Henderson, age 33, outside of his grandparents house at Craig and Fuller. He approached police, exclaiming that he “did not rape” the victim.
Henderson told police that the victim got upset with him when he accidentally broke a light in her house, so she “faked” not breathing.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Monday the filing of a Forcible Rape charge against Henderson. A criminal history check showed he has 18 felony arrests and five felony convictions.
Prosecutors have requested a $250,000 cash-only bond.

Will Hickman Mills Maintain its Accreditation?

By Mary Kay Morrow
Hickman Mills Superintendent Dr. Marge Williams presented disappointing student performance news to a quiet board last Thursday evening.
Preliminary Annual Performance Report (APR) results show the district as having met just 5 of 14 standards by which the state evaluates school districts statewide.  
“That puts the district in Corrective Action - Level 3,” Dr. William said.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is expected to make its recommendation on the district’s accreditation this fall. Typically, accreditation is based on the district’s APR scores. According to DESE’s website, a K-12 district with a score of 5 on the APR would be listed as unaccredited.
School districts have until Sept. 2 to review and correct 2010-11 data that will be reflected in the final APRs, which will be posted by the Department on Sept. 16.  Dr. Williams told the board she expects the district will pick up points in graduation, attendance, and college placement standards when data is final next month.
“We believe that when the data is cleaned up, we will have eight points,” the superintendent told board members.
That would be an improvement of one point over last year’s final score of seven. The district must have a score of at least six to be provisionally accredited.
Having learned earlier this month that Hickman students missed Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, math targets by 37.4% and communication arts targets by 43.5%, the superintendent told the board she believes student testing skills are an issue.
“Our young people lack the skills in how to take tests,” Dr. Williams said.
The APR (essentially a report card for each district) includes MAP results as well as things like graduation and attendance rates, ACT college test results, and college placement.
“APR is where the district receives its accreditation from the state,” Dr. Williams said.
Last year, DESE held off making a recommendation on Hickman Mills’ accreditation while the state worked with the district to make improvements in student achievement. 
“The state (has) agreed to work with us while we continued to show progress,” Dr. Williams explained.
The district did show some slight improvement in MAP scores. In Communication Arts, the district raised proficiency from 30.5% in 2010 to 32% in 2011. In Math, the district increased proficiency from 31.1% in 2010 to 35.1% in 2011. Both figures, however, were some 40% below the state’s targets.
On MAP tests, Burke and Symington Elementary Schools were bright spots, Burke having met both communication arts and math AYP targets, and Symington meeting the math benchmark.
Preliminary APR data shows the district met five state goals:
• MAP mathematics in grades 3-5
• Bonus MAP Achievement, or district growth
• Advanced Course
• Career Ed Course
• Career Ed Placement
ACT scores, tests that measure high school graduates’ readiness for college, fell from 17 to 16.4 percent in Hickman Mills, while both the number and percent of graduates that scored at or above the national average improved.  There were roughly 70 fewer graduates in 2010 than in 2009, 350 vs. 422.
In addition to failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets on MAP tests, first round results show the district missed the mark on state benchmarks for graduation rates after having met them continually since 2005.
Attendance objectives were met.
Dr. Williams said the district has begun to take Level 3 corrective actions, has notified parents of performance results, and will host a fair with tutoring options available for parents.
According to state documents, the school improvement plan will be evaluated, updated and implemented and that parent involvement is an important component of the plan.
Hickman, in Level 3 since 2009, must notify parents of students in failing schools by letter that their school is in need of improvement and make them aware of the school choice options available to them.  The letter should outline how parents can request a transfer to another school.  The state further directs that classroom space and ease of transportation are not valid reasons for making schools unavailable to receive transfer students.
The only reasons choice may not be offered is that no other school with the same grade level is available in the district or no school with the same grade level is making AYP.  If either of these applies, parent letters must include an explanation as to why the district is unable to offer public school choice.
 “We will share additional information individually,” Dr. Williams concluded.
Board members asked no questions and made no comments.
Details are now available on the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website at http://dese.mo.gov

Three Plans for Truman Corners

By Seann McAnally
Lately, some major players in commercial real estate want to get in on the Truman Corners game. The city has received three formal proposals to redevelop the aging shopping center.
The Grandview Board of Aldermen on Aug. 23 unanimously approved a funding agreement with West Star Development. The commercial real estate developer submitted a tax increment financing proposal and redevelopment plan for Truman Corners on Aug. 29.
But that wasn’t the only TIF plan submitted that day – RED Development and UMB Bank in partnership with DESC Remainderman--the center’s current owner--submitted competing proposals. The board passed a funding agreement with RED almost identical to the West Star agreement in July. Both developers will submit $20,000 to the city for costs associated with evaluating the redevelopment proposals – legal consultants, blight studies, and so on.
That doesn’t mean any company will ultimately be approved for a deal, said Mayor Steve Dennis. But it does mean major commercial real estate developers think there is money to be made in Grandview.
“We now have multiple developers interested in Truman Corners, and that’s an enviable position to be in,” Dennis said.
All proposals include a strong focus on continuing the property as a shopping center. Kirk Decker, assistant city administrator, said city staff and consultants are currently evaluating the proposals, and it could be November before any public hearings on the issue. But any serious proposal would eventually have to go before the TIF Commission, Planning Commission and the Board of Aldermen and have numerous public hearings with community input, he added.
The board on Aug. 23 also passed an ordinance that hires Springsted, a consulting firm, to evaluate the proposals. The firm’s lead consultant on the project is Tom Kaleko, former city administrator of Gardner, Kan., and former assistant city administrator of Lenexa, Kan., and Blue Springs, Mo. who has a reputation for making public-private partnerships happen.
“This group will help us analyze and compare those... proposals,” said Alderman Jim Crain.
The city issued a request for proposals for redevelopment of the shopping center on July 1. While city officials had informal discussions with a number of companies, the RED, West Star and DESC proposals were the ones submitted by the request’s Aug. 29 deadline.
Earlier this year, the board formally revoked a TIF plan that had been in place for more than a decade, saying little had been done to increase the value of the center.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dogged Determination


GHS Bulldogs prepare for football season
By Paul Thompson
Bulldog Pride is back in Grandview. 
Last year, players noticed the culture at Grandview changing for the better. Head coach Andy Leech and the entire 2010 senior class can be attributed for instilling a sense of work ethic and camaraderie in the team. But a 2-8 overall record and a 0-4 mark in the Suburban Blue Conference proved that the results on the field didn’t match up with the team’s high standards.
“The record hasn’t always shown what is really on the team,” said offensive tackle Akil Williams. “Last year I felt like we created this foundation, the seniors we had last year they created this bulldog football team, Bulldog Pride is what we call it. A bulldog is going to fight back. We may have been down but we sure weren’t going to quit.”
It’s that never-say-die mentality that Grandview will be counting on to turn a winning attitude into a winning football team. Williams is one of several players who will symbolize that bulldog mentality by playing on both offense and defense this season.  Aside from his role on the offensive line, Williams figures to get time at defensive tackle as well.
“It’s new, but I’m always comfortable with it at the same time,” said Williams. “I do think it makes me a better player.”
Another player who is being counted on is senior wide receiver Jaron Alexander. Alexander played a couple of games at cornerback last year, and will be expected to increase his snaps at that position this season. It is a challenge that he embraces with open arms.
“I’m a better receiver, because I work on it more, but I still feel very comfortable at corner,” says Alexander about how he’s handling the increased workload. “On the other side, the people I work with every day, the receivers, they really come at me.”
Alexander, the team’s top returning receiver, says that the senior class is taking steps to ensure that the team atmosphere created in the last couple of season carries over this year. Being willing to play on both sides of the ball is a way for him to show his teammates the kind of work ethic they will need to be successful. When asked how many snaps he would play in games if it were his decision, Alexander is quick to respond: “100%”.
“Last year, they started the culture around here to change and get things back to where they need to be,” Alexander continued. “Now, me and the other seniors around, are going to pick it up where they left off and just make sure all the young people know that we’re here to work hard and build a good program.”
Perhaps no Bulldog has sacrificed as much for the team as fellow senior and two-way player Zane Moore. Moore, a tight end and defensive end, was ineligible to play varsity football last season after he transferred to Grandview High School following his first two years at Lincoln Prep. Moore was ineligible because he was not a Grandview resident yet during last season. With that said, the player that head coach Andy Leech has called “one of the most talented kids that we’ve ever had” didn’t let the frustrations of being relegated to JV keep him from buying in to the bulldog mentality. In fact, Moore took the year away from varsity as an opportunity to shore up his game.
“I played tight end my sophomore year, and I also played defensive end,” says the 6’1”, 205 pound Moore. “I feel that it’s helpful to have played there (Lincoln Prep) and if anything to have sat my junior all I did was mold my talent.”
Despite being restricted to JV last year, Moore was allowed to practice with the varsity team. After a year and change spent practicing with the Bulldogs, Moore thinks that the team compares favorably to his old team at Lincoln Prep. He’s just happy to be a part of it after a year removed from varsity competition.
“I’ll say that this is a better all-around team without a doubt,” Moore raves about his new team. “Our o-line is fantastic. They were all sophomores playing varsity last year. We have a plethora of running backs. I’m not sure if they’ll ever get tired. Our d-line is amazing; we have too many good players, if that’s even possible.  I think it’s a great team with great depth.”
Moore is also happy to be catching passes from talented junior quarterback Ryan Lee, who he calls “intelligent and a great player”. Head coach Andy Leech thinks that those two, along with Alexander, can form a dynamic core to the Grandview offense.
“He’s got to be one of the best in the city,” Leech says of Lee. “I’ve seen a lot of good quarterbacks and I’ll put him right up there with the best we’ve had.”
Moore and Leech’s optimism is shared by the other two-way players as well. With the depth that he describes, both Alexander and Williams feel comfortable that the team won’t lose much when they are off the field.
“We have depth, so if somebody has to come off the field we always have somebody that can go back in and the intensity will still be there,” says Alexander. With the talent that and the pride that the Bulldogs will bring on the field this year, Alexander feels that Grandview only has to beat themselves to be successful.
“We can go all the way,” he says. “That’s the way I truly feel. I truly feel that we can go as far as we want to go.”


Mayor Talks Tough on Crime, Race

By Seann McAnally
When Mayor Sly James was scheduled to speak at a joint breakfast meeting of the Grandview and South Kansas City chambers of commerce, the topic of discussion was how to generate economic development in Kansas City.
But when he got there, what the Mayor really wanted to talk about was crime.
“We’re working to make sure business thrives and prospers in this area, but no business will thrive where there is high crime,” James said.
James’ appearance came the morning after the Kansas City Council voted unanimously to change curfew laws for minors following acts of violence on the Country Club Plaza. James said he at first opposed the idea of a curfew until he got a first-hand look at the situation. The problem is that large crowds of young people, behaving in a mob-like fashion, are harassing shoppers who come to the Plaza.
Some youth are committing crimes – which have turned violent.
“I went down there (to the Plaza) to see for myself,” James said, “and not 50 feet away from me there was a shooting involving a 13 year old, a 15 year old, and a 16 year old. It was right near the Cheesecake Factory. There were two KCPD officers right nearby. I had two security officers with me. There was a stampede. It was frankly a fairly bizarre scene.”
James said he’s been on the other side of the curfew argument, and that he knows not everyone is happy about it.
“There are people who will criticize, and say it’s just to protect property. Well, that’s
part of it. There are others who will say it’s racist, because these kids we’re talking about who show up on the Plaza and cause trouble are black. But here’s the bottom line: if we don’t take decisive action to protect our children, to insist that parents take some control over their children, then we’re not doing our jobs. If we’d had a
9 p.m. curfew on that night, then that 13 year old, 15 year old and 16 year old would not have been there.”
The curfew was passed by emergency action, meaning that it took effect immediately after its Aug. 18 passage. For the summer months, from the Friday preceding Memorial Day through the last Sunday in September, the new curfew for minors under 16 is now 10 p.m. For minors ages 16 and 17 the new curfew is 11 p.m.
The council also designated five areas that during the summer will have a special curfew. The Plaza, Westport, Downtown/Central Business District, 18th and Vine and Zona Rosa will have a 9 p.m. curfew for anyone under 18.
In October, the curfew will revert for all minors under 18 to 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Any minor violating the curfew will be detained by police and their parents will be called to pick them up. Parents will be ticketed with up to a $500 fine for each offence.
“If you want to let your kids come out after curfew, fine – but get your checkbook out,” James quipped.
There are some exceptions to the ordinance, including when a minor is accompanying a parent, or is on an emergency errand directed by a parent or guardian, or when the minor is returning from a school activity or employment.
James decried the level of violence in Kansas City, saying it was not acceptable and that it seemed to him as if Kansas Citians were too divided by race and income to take decisive action.
“We’re in the top five cities in the nation for murders, every year,” James said, “but we don’t do anything but talk about it. We don’t do a damn thing in this city about homicides, probably because they’re happening in an area we don’t live in. Let’s just be honest about it. But any idiot can have a gun. If the Plaza has taught us anything, it’s that you’re not safe anywhere. We have to step up our game. It’s important that we stop this slide toward the abyss, or we’re going to slide off the abyss with them.”
He said some segments of Kansas City’s minority communities aren’t always helpful.
“If the police were actually turned loose to do their job effectively, they would be labeled as racist and problematic,” James said. “The police don’t want to do certain things in certain areas because they are afraid of how they’ll be portrayed in the papers.”
He said he knew his comments would ruffle some feathers, but he was adamant.
“We find too many excuses not to do the right thing,” he said. “We can’t deal with issues of race in this city, and it hampers our ability to get things done. It permeates everything. We have to have some frank conversations about race, and stop pretending the problem doesn’t exist.”
He urged members of all segments of society, rich and poor, black and white, to support the police.
“These people put their butts on the line for us…we need to put our butts on the line for them,” he said, drawing thunderous applause from the audience.
James indicated that the search for a new police chief for Kansas City, which is currently underway, is focused on finding someone who will be tough on curbing homicides and other violent crime.
“Whoever the new chief is, they better have a plan to address that or they won’t be chief in my city,” James said. “We have to take care of crime or it won’t matter what we’re doing in business.”
James praised Councilman Scott Taylor for taking a leadership role in council committees to foster business development, saying Taylor, being a newcomer to the council, was able to question business-as-usual and bring fresh ideas to the table.
James also thanked Councilman John Sharp for taking a tough line on crime in public safety committee meetings.
“We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but I really respect him,” James said of Sharp.
James blasted the state of Kansas for poaching jobs from Missouri.
“You’re going to spend $47 million to move some jobs 5 miles across the state line?” he asked incredulously. “Think of what we could do with $47 million to create new jobs, if we were working together.”
He joked that because of all the up-front money Kansas is offering businesses to leave Missouri for Kansas, he was considering making a move himself.
“I’m going to call Kansas and see how much they’ll give me to move City Hall,” he said, drawing laughter and applause. “But I’m not going for a penny less than $500 million. Then after that 10 years (of a tax break) is up, I’ll come back to Missouri and get $500 million more.”
His tone soon turned serious, however.
“I don’t know how we’ll compete with Dallas, with Chicago, with Denver, when we’re busy fighting each other over the border. We’ve all got to change our attitude and work together for the good of the region.”
James said his current focus is on protecting children and reducing crime, but that Kansas City’s Economic Development Corporation would do all it could do foster entrepreneurship and small businesses.
“That’s where the jobs are being created,” he said. “If we can’t keep our small businesses going, we will fail.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Share Your 9/11 Memories

The Advocate on Sept. 8 will produce a special section memorializing the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. As part of this section, local residents and leaders will share their memories of that dark day. Please send a paragraph or two of your Sept. 11 memories - where you were, what you were doing, and what you learned or feelings you experienced - to production@jcadvocate.com by 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2. Please include your name and phone number for verification purposes. We will print as many responses as possible in this special section of the Advocate.

New 150 Highway Lanes Open This Week

Motorists traveling 150 Highway between Lee's Summit and Grandview will notice more of the highway opening up by the end of August as traffic switches to the new, divided highway between Lumpkins Fork Creek and Horridge Road.
Traffic will switch to the divided highway beginning Wednesday, August 17. However, only one lane will be available in each direction through the end of August to allow work to be completed and remove crossovers.
The change to a divided, four-lane highway is part of nearly $69 million in improvements to 150 Highway between 71 Highway and Route 291. The final segment, between Horridge Road and Market Street, will be completed by next spring. The improvements also include a new single-point urban interchange at 150 Highway and 71 Highway, which opened last fall.

KC Police to Issue Paperless Tickets

By Seann McAnally
On August 29, court administrators and police in major metropolitan areas will have a close eye on Kansas City.
That's the date the city's court goes paperless.
"It's going to be transformational and revolutionary," said John Franklin, acting municipal court administrator.
Franklin has spearheaded an effort that is considered the first major transformation of a big-city court from paper to digital records. He spoke about the new system to residents and local community leaders at the Aug. 12 Second Fridays meeting at the Trailside Center. The informational and networking meeting is held each month by sixth district Kansas City Council members John Sharp and Scott Taylor.
What does going paperless mean for Kansas City residents?
The biggest change people will notice, Franklin said, is that when a police officer writes a ticket, he or she won't use the traditional ticket book.
"Every enforcement officer, from codes enforcement to health department inspectors to police officers, will stop writing paper tickets," Franklin said.
They'll use a small handheld computer, not much bigger than a standard cell phone. The officer will input the offense and print out a receipt with the offender's court date. The officers will even be able to "swipe" a driver's license through the computer to bring up information about a suspect without having to radio dispatch.
When a ticket is issued electronically, it immediately goes into a computer system accessible by the court, prosecution and defense attorneys, and law enforcement officers. That saves time, money, and paper, Franklin said.
"You know how tickets get to the court now?" Franklin asked. "Right now, in the 21st century, they bring tickets to court in a big wooden box with a padlock." 
On average, enforcement officers issue about 320,000 tickets every year, Franklin said. Automating and digitizing that process will save the city about $1 million each year and eliminate 19 "paper-pushing" jobs. Upfront costs were about $6 million, with a $3 million loan from Bank of America approved by the City Council last year.
"That's 19 human beings, but they're human beings whose jobs were moving paper - pulling records, filing records...1,600 a day...but now we'll be virtually paperless," Franklin said.
Having the records in one central database - which is housed in St. Louis, but instantly accessible via wireless technology - allows different branches of enforcement to pool information and work together more closely.
"If my neighbor's not cleaning up his yard, maybe he has a mental health problem, or a drug problem," Franklin said. "This will allow enforcement officers to instantly know."
Centralized information also helps eliminate crime by keeping good track of offenders, because law enforcement officers anywhere in the country can access it.
"If you have committed a crime in Kansas City and they think you've done something in Baltimore, they can do some checking on you and instantly get your criminal history from anywhere in the nation," Franklin said. "You can't drop off the grid anymore. If you've got a birth date and a name, they can find you."
Residents who wind up on the wrong side of the law will be able to deal with most offenses over an automated phone system without having to wait in line to pay fines or spend hours on hold when they try to call the municipal court.
Councilman John Sharp said that will be a huge boon to the city's beleaguered 311 phone system, which is plagued with notoriously long wait times. Many of those calls - about 40,000 a month - deal with court issues.
"People will still have the option of talking to a real person, but ninety percent of those calls can be automated and free up operators to take calls (that can't be automated)," Sharp said.
Franklin agreed.
"You can find out your court date, what your fine is, and even pay that fine over the phone," Franklin said. "You can actually continue a court case over the phone, instead of coming downtown and standing in line."
If a case ends up being dismissed or a person is found not guilty, Franklin said, that information is purged from the system.
"It never happened," Franklin said.
It's important to remember, Franklin said, that there may be a learning curve and that a few hiccups in the system may occur. But that's the price of being a "pathfinder," he said.
He noted that city officials in places like St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., which are similar in size and makeup to Kansas City, have asked about the program and will be keeping a close eye on it.
"We should feel pride in what we're doing here," Franklin said. "We're really building a new platform that will eventually be in use everywhere."
In other business, Sharp gave an update on the process of hiring a new police chief for Kansas City, a task that is the responsibility of the Board of Police Commissioners.
"They've narrowed their selection down to five candidates," Sharp said, but the identity of those candidates, in general, is not public knowledge.
"There are some candidates who want confidentiality because they are currently employed elsewhere," he said. But he added that he knows several local candidates from within the Kansas City Police Department are being considered.
"I think we have some excellent local candidates, who know our strengths and weaknesses and can hit the ground running," Sharp said. "Like I said in the public hearing they held out here in South Kansas City, we need a chief who knows geography, who knows where Ruskin is, where Ivanhoe is, where Lykins is."
He urged residents to call Mayor Sly James - who serves on the board of commissioners - and ask for a local candidate.
"This is one of the most important appointments that will be made in some time," Sharp said. "I think we have an excellent department but I think we could do more to focus on homicides and violent crime."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

KCPD Seeks Family Dollar Store Robbers

Kansas City Police need your help to find the suspects who robbed a Family Dollar Store in South Kansas City.
On August 7th at about 10:52am, the first suspect entered the Family Dollar Store located at 6827 Longview Rd brandishing a handgun.  A second suspect entered behind him, and they ordered the clerk to empty the registers, and put the money in to a bag.  A get-away vehicle pulled in front of the business, but an armored car arrived, so the get-away vehicle pulled away.  The suspects inside the business saw the armored car, and ran to the back of the store, where the exited out of the emergency exit.
 Police have obtained surveillance video from Family Dollar
 Suspect 1: A black male between 18 and 25, wearing a black and gray striped shirt, brown hoodie, black jeans, and covering his face with a white t-shirt.  He was approximately 6' to 6'02", 160-175 pounds.
 Suspect 2: A black male between 18 and 25, wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans, and a black baseball cap.  He wore pantyhose as a mask.  He was approximately 5'10" to 6'02", 145-175 pounds.
 Suspect 3: and unknown black male driving a black or dark colored late model Chevrolet HHR with out of state plates.
 Anyone with information is urged to contact the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).