Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Tale of Two TIFs: Redeveloping Truman Corners

UPDATE: The Grandview TIF Commission met on Dec. 14 and unanimously recommended RED's redevelopment proposal for the Truman Corners Shopping Center. For more details on RED's proposal, see below. ARMC's proposal was not recommended by the TIF Commission. However, the Board of Aldermen will still consider both proposals and is expected to do so on Jan. 10. 
In general, the commissioners said they felt RED's proposal, while it could potentially put the city at financial risk, was closer to what Grandview's citizens are demanding: more places to shop, and a totally revamped shopping center. The commission expressed frustration with ARMC, the current owner, saying the company has had a long time to make a success of the center and has not done so, in essence calling ARMC's proposal "too little, too late." 
For full coverage of the Commission's final recommendation, see the Dec. 22 issue of the Jackson County Advocate.

Two developers are courting Grandview for the right to redevelop Truman Corners shopping center.
The city’s TIF Commission on Dec. 7 and 8 heard proposals from RED Development and  ARMC, the center’s current management company. Another developer, WestStar, also submitted a proposal but later pulled the plan.
The commission postponed a recommendation for one week, and met again on Dec. 14, after the Advocate press deadline (see online for update). The Board of Aldermen will make a final decision, but that vote has not yet been scheduled.
RED’s proposal would demolish the current center and start from scratch. It calls for a new grocery store on a pad site in front of the center, a decorative plaza for public events, and potential retailers such as T.J. Maxx. No retailers have been secured, however, since RED is not the current developer. Their plan does assume that Sam’s Club will be leaving Grandview in the near future, and suggests that some of the shopping center’s current retailers would have to be relocated.
RED seeks some $41.3 million in public financing–almost half the total project costs. RED also wants the city to back the bonds for the TIF, which could put the city at risk if the project does not perform as expected.
The American Resurgence Management Company’s (ARMC) proposal is essentially an extensive face-lift of the current center. It includes demolishing the vacant Montgomery Ward building to make way for a new Price Chopper. They also have a letter of intent from Burlington Coat Factory to move into a remodeled version of the current Price Chopper building.
ARMC seeks about $8.6 million in public financing for a $47.9 million project. ARMC did not ask the city to back the bonds, and will bear the burden of any risk for the project.

RED’s Proposal:
Truman’s Landing
RED’s proposal, Truman’s Landing, would be a $91.3 million, 545,000-square-foot brand-new shopping center with one large anchor tenant, an expanded grocery store relocated to a pad site in front of the center, and new retail and pad users.
A public plaza or pavilion area would be a prominent feature of the new development. RED would also realign the 15th St. connection between Harry Truman Dr. and Blue Ridge Blvd., and upgrade water, sewer and storm water infrastructure.
The plan assumes that Sam’s Club will relocate to another city.
Aaron March, an attorney for RED, said the company believes it can make a success of the aging shopping center because Grandview’s population is changing.
“IHOP is causing the city to burst at the seams,” March said, referring to the influx of members of the International House of Prayer into Grandview.
Dan Lowe, a senior partner with RED, said he doesn’t understand why the current owners have failed to make the center a success.
“There has got to be more for the property than what sits there today,” Lowe said. “We know the potential a market like Grandview has, and it really causes us to scratch our heads, the shape Truman Corners is in.”
RED officials say there are not any tenants under contract, because they don’t yet own the shopping center, but that it would focus on trying to bring in a retailer like T.J. Maxx to anchor the development, and suggested possible tenants such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Men’s Wearhouse, and Payless Shoes.
Lowe said not all the current businesses at Truman Corners “meet the profile RED would like to attract,” and that several existing businesses would have to be relocated. He specifically mentioned Oil Plus as one that would have to relocate.
RED’s plan also assumes that Sam’s Club is leaving Grandview, but Mayor Steve Dennis said he’s been in contact with officials in Bentonville, Ark., where Sam’s is headquartered. Dennis said he’s been assured that the store has no formal plans to move any time soon, and that Grandview officials would be given plenty of advance notice if it does.
But RED officials presented Sam’s departure as a certainty.
“Everything we hear – and if you call Bentonville, they won’t admit it – but everything we hear is that Sam’s Club is leaving for Raymore or Lee’s Summit,” said attorney Aaron March, who represents RED. 
March wouldn’t say why RED is so certain Sam’s is leaving, saying he “can’t get into that” due to attorney-client privilege.
“All I can tell you is Sam’s is currently negotiating leases in other cities,” March said. “Our project will only go forward if Sam’s is vacated. If we didn’t believe that was going to happen, we wouldn’t be here.”
RED is requesting nearly every form of public incentive Grandview can offer, including some $25.4 million in tax increment financing (TIF), $2.4 million in City Supplemental TIF, a $7.7 million Transportation Development District, and a $5.8 million Community Improvement District – all together, some 45% of the total project costs.
March said “nothing will ever happen” at the shopping center unless Grandview is willing to offer significant incentives.
“We feel the fundamentals of the Truman Corners project are better than any other opportunity in the southeast part of town,” March said. “But this is a very difficult project. It’s hugely complicated and we’re using every arrow in our quiver in terms of state and city incentives to make it happen.”
RED projects that if their proposal is approved, it would generate some $2.2 million in annual sales tax for the city, as opposed to the $1.9 million it is currently generating. Over the 23-year life of the TIF, March said, the city would generate some $35.1 million in sales tax revenues, while the Hickman Mills School District would receive some $11.3 million.
But Tom Kaleko, an independent financial consultant hired by the city, said it’s important to remember those are just projections, and that actual numbers could vary.
Kaleko also cautioned that RED is requesting that the city back bonds issued to pay for the project. That’s a risk, he said, because if the center doesn’t generate the projected revenue to pay back the bonds, the city would have to make those payments out of its General Fund or its credit rating could suffer. But for that to happen, Kaleko said, the projected revenues would have to be off by about 25%.  
Kaleko pointed out that RED is requesting that the city acquire properties by eminent domain if it fails to negotiate a satisfactory sale price with current landowners, and if that happens, it could throw off RED’s projections. 

ARMC’s Proposal:
 The Grand
ARMC’s proposal, The Grand, would be a 375,400-square-foot, $47.9 million redevelopment of the shopping center. It calls for the old Montgomery Ward building to be demolished, and a new Price Chopper would be built on that site. Potentially, a Burlington Coat Factory would remodel and occupy the current Price Chopper site. The plan envisions adding new parking lots, landscaping and trees to the site, with a park-like pedestrian area for public events and a retaining wall and new pad sites on the “back side” of the center.
The proposal is more conservative than the RED plan, in that it goes more slowly in five phases, with the Price Chopper and Burlington site completed by 2014, but the rest waiting until market demand calls for it. It costs less than RED’s plan because the developers already own the property.
Sam’s Club – which the company does not own – was not included in the proposal, but Bill Moore, an attorney for the developers, said they would be willing to extend the TIF later if Sam’s moves.
James McMahon, ARMC president, acknowledged that the company has been slow to bring tenants to the shopping center and that its former TIF plan was revoked by the Board of Aldermen last year when it failed to produce results.
“Things are different now,” he said. “We’re struggling to stay in this game.”
He said the previous plan anticipated Home Depot moving to the site, but that they were outmaneuvered by developers of the Bannister Mall area. The plan was contingent on finding a 150,000-square-foot retailer, which ARMC was unable to do.
Carl Lasala, leasing agent for the center, said a revamped and renewed look would improve the developer’s chances of filling out the rest of the shopping center, once the new Price Chopper is constructed.
“It won’t be the same old Truman Corners,” Lasala said. “You’ve got to sell some sizzle with the steak, and we’ve got a whole lot more sizzle. We buy with our eyes first. When they see it, they’ll like it, and they’ll buy it. I think we’ll make the best of it once we get a new face on the old girl.”
While RED produced a list of potential clients, McMahon said ARMC chose not to produce a list of “maybes,” choosing to rely instead on a solid commitment from Price Chopper and its letter of intent from Burlington.
ARMC is requesting some $8.6 million in TIF. It anticipates that the project would generate about $28.6 million in sales tax for the city over the 23-year life of the TIF, and about $17.6 million for the Hickman Mills School District.
Commissioner Mark Trosen asked why the project’s reimbursable costs included $5.5 million for “soft costs” not related to infrastructure, such as marketing the facility. He questioned whether that was legal.
Representatives for the developer said it was necessary because an extensive re-branding campaign would showcase a new and improved Truman Corners to the wider community.
Tom Kaleko, the city’s independent financial consultant, said it was legal to do so, even though most TIF plans focus more on “hard costs” like infrastructure. He did caution that a letter of intent – like the one ARMC has with Burlington – is not a signed contract, and that “you can back out of a letter of intent any time.”
Kaleko said a strength of ARMC’s plan was that unlike the RED plan, it does not ask the city to assume responsibility for making bond payments if the center doesn’t perform.
“The developer is assuming all the risk here,” Kaleko said.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

KC Council Approves Map 1

By Seann McAnally
The City Council of Kansas City on Dec. 8 voted 11-1 to approve a redistricting map that makes significant changes to city council districts, particularly in the 4th and 6th districts.
The meeting was contentious, resulting in a shouting match between Mayor Sly James and Councilman John Sharp as James lectured Sharp for his repeated attempts to introduce changes that would keep some key institutions such as Bannister Mall and the KCPD South Patrol in the 6th District.
Sharp, who voted against the ordinance, attempted to introduce a small change as an amendment that would keep those areas in the 6th District, but was roundly voted down by his colleagues.
Sharp complained that the council had not listened to anyone from the 4th or 6th districts who opposed the redistricting. That comment clearly offended several council members.
“This is silly,” said Councilwoman Cindy Circo. “It’s really silly that this conversation is happening. Just because we did not change the map doesn’t mean we didn’t listen to your concerns.”
James accused Sharp of being too concerned with a “personal victory,” and called his arguments “total and utter nonsense.”
“Nobody’s life will change because their district changed,” James said.
Councilman Scott Wagner, who one day before had offered to make an amendment that would keep Bannister Mall in the 6th District, changed his mind at the last minute. He blamed the people of the 6th District, who wrote emails to the Council, of having the wrong attitude.
“After looking at these emails from the 6th District, I see this was not about protecting neighborhoods. It’s about personalities, and who wins,” he said.
Councilwoman Jan Marcason, of the 4th District, said she did not believe the groundswell of opposition to the redistricting map in the 6th District was legitimate, and that Sharp had “encouraged” people to get upset about it.
Sharp denied that, saying he was only trying to make sure that the people of the 6th District felt they had been listened to. He said the original redistricting map had never been revised, despite hundreds of people showing up to public hearings to oppose it.
But that argument didn’t please the mayor.
“Jeez, people,” an exasperated James said. “The only thing that matters is this city. Some people care more about their districts than they do the whole city. I disagree with you, Councilman Sharp – we did listen. It’s like my kids, they always told me to listen to their side of the argument, and I did, but that didn’t mean I agreed with them.”
Councilman Michael Brooks said he believed Sharp and others in the 6th District were simply upset at accusations of racism leveled against them by Clinton Adams during a Nov. 30 public hearing.
“This isn’t about how the public hearing went, or whether I agree with what Clinton Adams said. It’s not about someone saying they had a victory,” Brooks said.
At a Dec. 7 joint meeting of the Planning & Zoning and Neighborhoods & Healthy Communities committees, members voted unanimously to recommend the council approve redistricting Map 1, which was the choice of a citizen-led advisory committee.
Essentially, the map brings districts 1 and 2 entirely north of the river and makes sweeping changes to the current boundaries of districts 4 and 6 - changes that residents of those districts say will do harm to their communities by moving key institutions into the 5th District and adding traditionally affluent Brookside neighborhoods to the 6th, changing its economic status and making it more difficult for candidates to be elected from the more working-class neighborhoods in the southeast part of the 6th District. 
Wagner, who represents the 1st District, had offered a last-minute compromise that would keep the Bannister Mall redevelopment area and the new KCPD South Patrol headquarters in the 6th District while making only negligible population changes to Map 1. 
A revised “Community Map” drawn up by residents of the 6th District was not passed on for  recommendation by the joint committee or a citizen’s advisory committee that held five public hearings on the issue. The advisory committee had recommended Map 1 with a 6-1 vote.
James said the Community Map may solve perceived problems in one area but created them in others. James also called for civility during the discussions, hoping to avoid the rancor and out-of-turn yelling that marred a previous joint committee meeting on Nov. 30. At that meeting attorney Clinton Adams charged opponents of Map 1 with racism, while several opponents of Map 1 yelled and interrupted during his comments. 
"The discourse in this room will always be civil," James said. "There will be no outbursts. We're not going to squelch free speech...but we can disagree without being disagreeable. Please respect each other, respect our city, and respect our process." 
James, who formally endorsed Map 1 in a Dec. 6 press release, attempted to forestall further discussion of the matter. He said no matter what the result, someone would be upset by it. 
"The concerns people have raised are legitimate, but this city has redistricted a number of times and everyone has managed to survive," James said. "No matter what happens, the redistricting process will upset someone for some reason...we could talk about this for another year, and someone will still be upset by it. What we cannot do is create a map to create a whack-a-mole type of situation where you whack down one problem and it creates another problem somewhere else. Be interested in the whole city, as opposed to your block."
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver sent a letter that was read by one of his staffers. In it, he attempted to distance himself from his protege, Clinton Adams, who accused residents of the 4th and 6th district of racism during the Nov. 30 meeting. Cleaver’s letter stated, "Councilman John Sharp is the last person who would attempt to deny the voting rights of minorities." Sharp has been a vehement opponent of Map 1, saying it would "fracture and destroy the 6th District."
Cleaver said he had "no political investment" in any map, but said Map 1 helps heal the traditional rift between the city's African-American and Latino populations. He called Map 1 "fair and politically workable." 
Councilman Scott Taylor, 6th District At-Large, said he supported Map 1 even though he "wasn't crazy about" it.  
"We've heard from all parts of the city, and many people like Map 1. I don't like the total outcome here, but I see no other option at this point," Taylor said. 
Councilman John Sharp, suggested some last-minute "tweaks" to the map, offering two new versions that would keep the Bannister Mall area, the Cerner office complex, and the KCPD South Patrol headquarters in the 6th District, while maintaining a super-majority (more than 60 percent) of ethnic minority votes in the 3rd and 5th districts, but the consensus of the committee was that Wagner's compromise motion was more workable. 
Sharp expressed concern that the Hickman Mills School District would be split by Map 1, but Taylor dismissed those concerns. 
"I just want to say, there are over a dozen school districts in this city, and many are split by council districts," Taylor said. He even suggested it would strengthen the Hickman Mills district's representation on the council, saying he is a former member of the Center School District board. That district is split between two council districts, he said, and recalled that as being a strength, not a weakness. 
Circo, of the 5th District, said she was "insulted" that some residents of the 6th District have stated they felt they would not be well-represented if they were in the 5th. 
"I'm excited for a new challenge and I'm ready to serve whoever it is (in her district)," she said. "I was open to tweaks but I'm just not finding the answer, so I don't know what else there is to talk about."
After the redistricting map was approved, Circo told residents of the 6th District that she would work hard for them once they were moved to the 5th.
“I know you’ve all been told how horrible I am,” she said, “but I’ll be here for you. I’ll champion for you.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Committee recommends redistricting map to Council

Council could vote as soon as Dec. 8
By Seann McAnally
A special committee of the City Council today recommended that the full council approve a redistricting map that makes significant changes to city council districts, particularly in the 4th and 6th districts.  
At a 1 pm. joint meeting of the Planning & Zoning and Neighborhoods & Healthy Communities committees, members voted unanimously to recommend the council approve Redistricting Map 1, which was the choice of a citizen-led advisory committee. Essentially, the map brings districts 1 and 2 entirely north of the river and makes sweeping changes to the current boundaries of districts 4 and 6 - changes that residents of those districts say will do harm to their communities by moving key institutions into the 5th District and adding traditionally affluent Brookside neighborhoods to the 6th, changing its economic status and making it more difficult for candidates to be elected from the more working-class neighborhoods in the southeast part of the 6th District. 
The full council could vote to approve the map as soon as tomorrow (Dec. 8) at its regular session. 
Councilman Scott Wagner, who represents the 1st District, offered a last-minute compromise that would keep the Bannister Mall redevelopment area and the new KCPD South Patrol headquarters in the 6th District while making only negligible population changes to Map 1. 
City staff said it would take about 24 hours to verify those numbers. 
Committee co-chair Ed Ford suggested the joint committee vote to recommend approval of Map 1, but that Wagner or any other council member could suggest changes prior to the council vote. 
A revised Community Map drawn up by residents of the 6th District was not passed on for recommendation. 
Mayor Sly James said the Community Map created a "whack-a-mole" situation, solving perceived problems in one area but creating them in others. James also called for civility during the discussions, hoping to avoid the rancor and out-of-turn yelling that marred a previous joint committee meeting on Nov. 30. At that meeting attorney Clinton Adams charged opponents of Map 1 with racism, while several opponents of Map 1 yelled and interrupted during his comments. 
"The discourse in this room will always be civil," James said. "There will be no outbursts. We're not going to squelch free speech...but we can disagree without being disagreeable. Please respect each other, respect our city, and respect our process." 
James, who formally endorsed Map 1 in a Dec. 6 press release, attempted to forestall further discussion of the matter. He said no matter what the result, someone would be upset by it. 
"The concerns people have raised are legitimate, but this city has redistricted a number of times and everyone has managed to survive," James said. "No matter what happens, the redistricting process will upset someone for some reason...we could talk about this for another year, and someone will still be upset by it. What we cannot do is create a map to create a whack-a-mole type of situation where you whack down one problem and it creates another problem somewhere else. Be interested in the whole city, as opposed to your block."
Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver sent a letter that was read by one of his staffers. In it, he attempted to distance himself from his protege, Clinton Adams, who accused residents of the 4th and 6th district of racism during the Nov. 30 meeting, saying "Councilman John Sharp is the last person who would attempt to deny the voting rights of minorities." Sharp has been a vehement opponent of Map 1, saying it would "fracture and destroy the 6th District."
Cleaver said he had "no political investment" in any map, but said Map 1 helps heal the traditional rift between the city's African-American and Latino populations. He called Map 1 "fair and politically workable." 
Councilman Scott Taylor, 6th District At-Large, said he supported Map 1 even though he "wasn't crazy about" it.  
"We've heard from all parts of the city, and many people like Map 1. I don't like the total outcome here, but I see no other option at this point," Taylor said. 
Councilman John Sharp, of the 6th District, suggested some last-minute "tweaks" to the map, offering two new versions that would keep the Bannister Mall area, the Cerner office complex, and the KCPD South Patrol headquarters in the 6th District, while maintaining a super-majority (more than 60 percent) of ethnic minority votes in the 3rd and 5th districts, but the consensus of the committee was that Wagner's compromise motion was more workable. 
Sharp expressed concern that the Hickman Mills School District would be split by Map 1, but Taylor dismissed those concerns. 
"I just want to say, there are over a dozen school districts in this city, and many are split by council districts," Taylor said. He even suggested it would strengthen the Hickman Mills district's representation on the council, saying he is a former member of the Center School District board. That district is split between two council districts, he said, and recalled that as being a strength, not a weakness. 
Councilwoman Cindy Circo, of the 5th District, said she was "insulted" that some residents of the 6th District have stated they felt they would not be well-represented if they were in the 5th, calling such comments "scare tactics." 
"I'm excited for a new challenge and I'm ready to serve whoever it is (in her district)," she said. "I was open to tweaks but I'm just not finding the answer, so I don't know what else there is to talk about." 
James again called for an end to the discussions. 
"We can talk about this from now until the cows come home," he said. "The bottom line is, a decision has to be made. It has been talked to death. We have all the information we need. We know where everybody stands. It's not going to get any better." 
Wagner rejected that argument. 
"I don't believe there are no tweaks out there," he said. "To say there's nothing more to discuss because a committee has already discussed it is wrong." 
Councilman Michael Brooks, of the 5th District, said the arguments of 6th District residents who say they won't be fairly represented in the 5th are "foolish." 
"There's no such thing as a win-win solution here," Brooks said. "Is it perfect? No. It is going to make everyone happy? No. But it would be an insult to throw away the work the committee did just to keep some people happy. It's one city, ya'll. It's not about any one neighborhood or association being happy." 

State Rep Maps Scrambled, Candidates Declare in Local Races

By Andrea Wood
Missouri’s state representative districts have been radically redrawn, and the new map completely changes the game for Grandview and South Kansas City.
Six judges were appointed by the state Supreme Court to draw the Missouri General Assembly’s new district boundaries after two bipartisan citizen commissions could not reach agreement.The maps were drawn in secret, with the judges refusing to post public meeting notices.  In accordance with the state constitution, each district needed to contain roughly the same number of people, according to the 2010 census.
The new map was released on November 30th. More than one-third of Missouri’s House incumbents will now be in districts with one or more fellow members.
Among them are local State Representatives Jason Holsman and Kevin McManus.
Holsman, who represents the existing 45th District (South KC and Grandview west of 71 Highway), and McManus, who represents the 46th District (South KC, Martin City and Grandview east of 71 Highway), were redrawn into the same district.
Both now live in 36th District. The new 36th District covers a swath of South Kansas City just north of Grandview (but not including Grandview),
Another portion of the 50th District has been joined with a chunk of the former 45th District to create a new 27th District.
Martin City will be lumped with a portion of Belton in the new 56th District.
Meanwhile, Grandview was once split at 71 Highway between the 45th and 46th Districts. Now, the entire city will be in the 37th District.
In the aftermath of these changes, Democratic Party leaders in South Kansas City and Grandview came together to discuss the options available for the 2012 primary and general election.
Under the Missouri Constitution, when new legislative districts are created less than one year prior to the next general election, as is the case with the new House map, the usual residency rules are relaxed and candidates have some ability to run in districts that they don’t currently live in. They would have to move into that district a year before the 2014 elections in order to seek re-election that year, however.
As a result, Holsman has decided to seek re-election in the 37th District, which includes all of Grandview and portion of South KC. The Holsman family owns a horse ranch, Holsman Stables, in the middle of the new 37th. Holsman grew up in Grandview, living on Park Hills Drive and attended Meadowmere elementary.
“Having represented voters on the west side of 71 highway for the past five years, I’m excited to get to know the voters on the east side where I spent my childhood growing up,” Holsman said, “Nothing changes for me in the legislature because I have been working hard for the entire city of Grandview since I was first elected in 2006.”
McManus has declared his candidacy in the newly created 36th District. It encompasses a large portion of Holsman’s former 45th District, as well as a portion of the former 50th District, currently represented by State Rep Michael Brown.
“I will be running for re-election in my home district, the newly designated 36th District,” McManus stated on Friday. “Jason has provided strong representation for part of the new 36th District for the past six years. I look forward to continue working with Rep. Holsman in the legislature as he launches his own re-election campaign to represent the newly created 37th District.”
Hickman Mills School Board President Bonnaye Mims will run for the State Representative seat in the 27th District, which includes portions of the former 45th and 50th Districts.
“I’m pleased to announce my candidacy in the 27th District, which is an open seat,” Mims said. “I’ve worked hard as a public servant with the school district, and I look forward to serving our area in Jefferson City.”
Children’s Advocate Jeremy Lafaver has declared in the 25th District.
The new maps also re-draw the districts for the State Senate seats. Generally, South Kansas City has been divided into districts 9 and 10. That remains the case, although the exact boundaries have changed. Most of Grandview will remain in State Senate District 10.

Should a $1 Million Bond Surplus Go Toward GHS Stadium?

By Paul Thompson
The Grandview C-4 School District is currently holding community input meetings to discuss whether to spend a $1 million bond surplus on new synthetic turf for the Grandview High School field and stadium improvements.
The $1 million bond surplus emerged after a proposed $2.4 million project to replace the pipes at Grandview Middle School came in under budget. Once the pipes were inspected it was discovered that some of the piping was in better shape than anticipated.
Last month, the school board and administrators held a workshop to discuss how to spend the bond surplus, as well as a $1.4 million increase in tax revenue for the district from the new NNSA/Honeywell plant being constructed off 150 Highway and Botts Road.
The discussion included possible artificial turf and stadium improvements at GHS, the completion of building improvements that have been on the back-burner such as ADA upgrades, and a technology initiative to provide all GHS (and many elementary and middle school) students with access to laptops.
However, administrators have suggested that $1.4 million in tax dollars from the new NNSA/Honeywell plant could help get the technology project off the ground.
“The million dollars from the bond fund will be used only for facilities and renovations,” clarified Superintendent Ralph Teran. “The district’s philosophy, long-term, has been to use general funds, and not bond funds, for technology.”
The funds from the Honeywell project will be coming down the road. For now, the district is focusing on the current bond surplus, and what to do with that money. Thus, the push for stadium renovations and artificial turf began.
The $1 million could be used to provide upgrades to the Grandview High School Stadium which would include a turf surface on the field, new goals and goal posts for soccer and football, new LED score board and a potential upgrade to stadium seating. Administrators say the proposed project would allow increased outdoor classroom space, practice space for multiple athletic teams and the marching band, and provide a potential venue for athletic and band competitions.
Although the community input meetings are designed to gauge the public’s interest in the synthetic turf at GHS, Teran pointed out that all options would be considered.
“We thought that was going to cost $2.4 million dollars. But that work only cost $1.4 million,” said Teran. “That opens up the possibility to do a number of projects.”
While a December 6 meeting at GHS has already been held, citizens will have an opportunity to voice their opinions tonight in the Martin City library at 6 p.m., and again on December 13 in the GMS library at 6:30 p.m.


Interstate Upgrades Planned for 71 Highway

By Seann McAnally
The Grandview Board of Aldermen approved a slew of transportation and street improvements at its Nov. 22 regular session, including plans to upgrade to U.S. 71 before it becomes a federal interstate.
The board unanimously approved an ordinance that establishes a partnership with MoDOT to make significant improvements to U.S. 71 – a move that anticipates the transition of the highway to federal interstate status late next year, when it will become known as “I-49.”
Public Works Director Dennis Randolph said the interstate status requires a higher level of design and maintenance standards, specifically improved signage, pavement condition, and bringing frontage roads, ramps and sidewalks into compliance with current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
“Earlier this year public works department engineers met with MoDOT engineers to discuss the proposed improvements to sidewalks and ramps,” Randolph said.
It’s important to remember, Randolph said, that while the city will be responsible for maintaining any improvements in the city’s right-of-way, the construction costs will be borne by MoDOT.
“The agreement under consideration here documents the work that MoDOT will do, and is necessary, as the work will encroach onto City property,” Randolph said. “All the work…will be paid for entirely by MoDOT, and there will be no city funds required.”
MoDOT wanted to make improvements to the intersections at 140th St., Harry Truman Dr., and Blue Ridge Blvd. - but Grandview officials said those would be a waste of money at this point as projects are already in the works at those intersections.
MoDOT and the city already have a joint effort planned for re-doing the bridge on Main St. over the future I-49 sometime in 2014, Randolph said.
“We recommended that improvements not be done at Main Street as both MoDOT and the city are planning for a new bridge, as well as major street and sidewalk improvements,” Randolph told the board. “We did not want to waste funds on work that would be removed in a short period of time.”
The city expects TIF proposals for Truman Corners to make improvements to Blue Ridge Blvd. and Harry Truman Drive, though those specifics will have to be worked out with whatever developer is chosen for the project. In addition, the city already has improvements to curbs and sidewalks scheduled for Harry Truman Drive for the 2012 summer construction season, specifically on the east side of the highway.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Debate Over KC Council Redistricting Continues

The battle over redrawing boundaries of Kansas City’s council districts continued last night at City Hall.
At a joint meeting of the Planning & Zoning and the Neighborhoods & Healthy Communities committees, residents argued the merits of two competing redistricting maps. More than 150 members of the public attended the meeting.  
The committee took no action but could make a recommendation to the City Council as soon as its Dec. 8 meeting. No public input is scheduled for that meeting.
The City Council will make a final decision as to new district boundaries before the end of the year.
The problem, essentially, is that the 2010 census shows population growing in the 1st, 2nd, and 6th Districts, while populations are shrinking elsewhere. To preserve a balance of roughly 76,000 residents per district, boundaries have to be redrawn so that districts that are growing have smaller boundaries, while districts that are shrinking have larger boundaries.
The KC Redistricting Advisory Committee held five public meetings in September and October. In the end, it recommended one of three maps that were proposed. The committee’s recommendation puts Districts 1 and 2 north of the Missouri River. Those districts are growing, proponents say, and moving them assures they have about 76,000 residents each. The advisory committee’s map moves District 4’s southern boundary to 59th St. from its current location at 79th St, and places much of District 6’s northern boundary – currently at roughly 87th St. – to I-435. That puts several key 6th District landmarks, including the Bannister Mall area, into the 5th District. It would also split the Hickman Mills School District between the 5th and 6th Districts. It is currently located entirely within the 6th District.
Before the public was allowed to speak, advisory committee members reiterated their methodology and defended their map selection.
Steve Glorioso, a political consultant who served on the advisory committee, has argued that the committee’s map was the only one that satisfied what he says are constitutional requirements that districts cannot be drawn in such a way as to remove an existing “supermajority” of ethnic minority votes in any district – specifically, in this case, the 3rd and 5th Districts. Those districts are traditionally made up of ethnic minorities but are dropping in population. 
Following Glorioso's presentation, Kansas City attorney Clinton Adams argued in favor of the advisory committee's map. Gunnar Hand, a resident of the 4th District, argued for the community map. Each man spoke and took questions for about 45 minutes. Then individual residents were allowed to speak, but some expressed frustration that they had to wait several hours to speak and were only given about 30 seconds to speak due to the large number of people attending.
Meanwhile, residents of the 4th and 6th Districts argued for a “community map” alternative, drawn up by a coalition of South Kansas City interests including Bonnaye Mims of the C-1 Hickman Mills School Board, Orrin Ellis of the KC Neighborhood Advisory Council, and others. This map was presented to the advisory committee in October, but no members of the committee would vote to forward it to the city council except for one – Eslun Tucker, who represented the 6th District.
Mims said the community map preserves a majority of ethnic votes in the inner city while not radically redrawing 6th District boundaries.
But opponents said the community map doesn’t preserve a “supermajority” – that is, two-thirds – of ethnic minority votes in the 3rd and 5th Districts, and makes no provision for tying together Hispanic communities in the west and northeast parts of the city, which the advisory committee believed was important.
Councilman John Sharp, who has argued against the map recommended by the advisory committee, said the City Council has the authority to draft a compromise map, and that he was hopeful the council would do just that.

Ruskin and Grandview Battle in Classic Season Opener

Ruskin Senior Malcolm Hamilton slam-dunks the ball to score during the first half of Grandview/Ruskin basketball game on Monday night, November 28 at Grandview High School. Hamilton was injured soon after and did not return to play. (Photo by Sally Morrow)
By Paul Thompson
Ruskin star forward Malcolm Hamilton was sprawled on the ground, writhing in pain with a dislocated wrist. In this first game of the season, RHS had just started its climb out of an early deficit against the Grandview Bulldogs. Now it seemed that momentum would vanish.
But apparently nobody gave Ruskin co-captain Deron “Bubba” Hill the memo.
After Hamilton’s injury, Hill exploded for 44 points in Golden Eagles’ 83-82 overtime victory against rival Grandview.
“As a captain, you have to step up,” said Hill after the emotional win. “I’m not going to rely on inexperienced guys to step up for me.”
Hill certainly did his part, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out three assists, and sinking several key three-pointers in his career-high 44 point outburst. Hill scored seven consecutive points in the final frenetic minutes of regulation, and his mid-range jumper with less than two minutes to play appeared to be the dagger. It was a seminal performance for the senior guard.
“It was an amazing game, full of contradictions,” said Ruskin Head Coach Gerry Marlin.
“Even though both teams are known for good defense, 165 points were scored. Losing Malcolm early and being down double figures like we were, a young team like us had many chances to give up. Deron’s leadership and our team character pulled us through. I saw a lot of our young guys grow up under fire tonight. We had a refuse-to-lose attitude. That was the best sign of all. And what can you say about Bubba? We put the ball in his hands down the stretch, and he just had a masterful game.”
Early in the game, though, it was Grandview that set the pace for the intense battle. The Bulldogs jetted out to an 8-0 lead to start the game, seizing momentum and sending their raucous home crowd into a frenzied state.
“We expected it. We expected them to come out strong,” said Marlin about Grandview’s early run. “So we had to match their intensity.”
Ruskin charged back in the exciting first quarter, pulling the score to 21-17 at the end of the first period. Hamilton starred in the quarter, putting up seven points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. But when he fell down hard following a block attempt early in the second quarter, it was Hill’s turn to lead Ruskin to victory. Hill scored more than half of the team’s 83 points. The other 39 Ruskin points were scored by Tayron Holden, 12; Tyron Daniels, 8; Malcolm Hamilton, 7; Tyler Daniels, 6; & Terello Holden, 6.
Grandview battled down to the final whistle, and played as a balanced team. Point guard Tyrone Taylor scored six of his 23 points in the final two minutes of regulation. His buzzer-beating bomb from several feet behind the 3-point arc with only three seconds remaining sent the game to overtime, with a score of 69-69.
Co-captains Khalil Davis and Chris Spotser proved to be a dangerous duo for Grandview. Davis led the team with 28 points. Spotser scored 16 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter, leaving with nine rebounds, three assists, and three steals. But due to fouls, he missed out on the all-important overtime session. The remaining 15 Grandview points were tallied by Bulldogs Terik Lewis, 10; Nelson Nweke, 3; and Nathan Scott, 2.
Even with Spotser out, though, Davis and Taylor helped Grandview erase Ruskin's seven point lead in the final minute of regulation with a series of tough shots. After Ruskin built another substantial lead in the overtime period, Grandview fell just short of completing a second comeback.
Down six points with eight seconds to play, Grandview maximized time by rolling the ball up court, and Taylor fired a quick pass to Davis. Davis swished home a deep three with just under four seconds to play to make it a one-posession game. On the ensuing inbounds play Grandview forward Terik Lewis intercepted a deep Ruskin pass and was fouled as he came down with the ball. Lewis made his first free throw attempt before launching his second free-throw high off the backboard, in an effort to provide a tip-in opportunity and a chance to improbably tie the game for a second time. Unfortunately for Grandview, the ball banked in, effectively ending the game.
Despite the loss, Grandview head coach Randy Farris was proud of his team’s effort.
“We’re hoping to build on the effort,” said Farris after the game. “The effort was really good. I think this is going to be a resilient group.”
Even prior to the game, players on both teams knew the match-up would be a big one.
Ruskin won the season kick-off game last year in runaway fashion, dominating Grandview on the way to a 77-48 victory. It was a pill too bitter for Grandview players to soon forget.
“I feel like it is one of the biggest games we have in the regular season,” Said Grandview co-captain Chris Spotser. “(Last year) we got beat by 30. That’s why, to us, the game is built up.”
Fellow co-captains Khalil Davis and Loomis Gerring agreed that their opening game against Ruskin had special meaning. Both players acknowledged getting overconfident last season, when they felt they had the best team in Class 4A. Despite winning their conference, the Bulldogs suffered a demoralizing season-ending 90-84 double overtime loss to Harrisonville in districts.
“We thought it was just gonna come to us, and we didn’t work as hard,” said Gerring about what plagued the 2010-2011 season. “Unity and trust was lacking last year.”
For their part, Ruskin considers last year’s big victory to be ancient history. It’s a new team, new season. They’re going to Grandview’s building, in front of Grandview’s fans.  Nothing is taken for granted.
“Playing Grandview, it’s never just a normal game,” admits co-captain Malcolm Hamilton.
After watching what was an instant classic of a season opener, there’s no doubt. They were right.

Burks Earns Key to the City

Burks surrounded by family at Grandview City Hall
By Paul Thompson
This Thanksgiving, former Grandview basketball star Alec Burks had a lot to be thankful for.
Burks, who was selected by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the NBA draft this year, returned home last week to receive an official key to the City of Grandview. He spent Thanksgiving with his family. He watched GHS—a team he led just a few years ago to the state championship—open their basketball season.  And before leaving, he had another reason to be thankful: the NBA lockout had ended, paving the way for Burks to finally begin his professional basketball career.
The whirlwind began on Tuesday, November 22, when Burks officially became the second athlete in Grandview history to receive a day in his honor, joining former GHS and current NFL quarterback Josh Freeman. At that night’s Board of Alderman meeting, Mayor Steve Dennis declared that November 23 would from that day forward be known in Grandview as Alec Burks Day.
“Now we get to celebrate someone who has worked awfully hard, and spent time improving himself as an athlete and as an individual,” said Dennis in presenting Burks. “You’ve got a lot of people here who are very, very proud of you.”
Burks was then awarded with proclamations from the city and the state, as well as with a ceremonial key to the city. The room was filled with family, friends, former teachers and coaches. It was yet another indication that the former GHS and University of Colorado basketball star had officially arrived.
“It felt so good, having a day like this,” said Burks of the night, before taking a moment to soak in the whirlwind year that saw him drafted by the Utah Jazz in the 1st round of the NBA draft. “When you make a dream come true, it’s an emotional feeling.”
At GHS, Burks helped lead the Bulldogs to the state championship game in 2009 and was selected as the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Missouri.
He continued his streak of success playing for Colorado, and caught attention on a national stage. He earned the Freshman of the Year honor from the Big 12 conference, was featured on Sportscenter’s Top Plays (for a breathtakingly pretty up-and-under lay-up), and has even played as himself in a college basketball video game.
Family and friends gathered at the local Applebee’s earlier this year to watch as Alec was selected by the Utah Jazz in the NBA draft, bringing Burks to the edge of his dreams.
As he accepted a ceremonial key to the City of Grandview last Tuesday, however, the night was somewhat bittersweet.
If everything worked out the way it should have, Burks would have been preparing for a road game against the Sacramento Kings on November 23. But because the NBA is currently going through a lockout, Burks was able to attend the event in his hometown.
Fortunately Burks didn’t even have to wait through the weekend for the news that the lockout was over, and there would be an NBA season.
For his part, Burks was open about his lockout experience. He showed confidence that the NBA labor struggle would resolve itself in time for the season to be salvaged. He admitted that it was hard to watch his former Colorado teammates play while waiting for his chance to become the first GHS alum to play in the NBA. He shared thoughts about going back to school if the season was cancelled.
But now, Burks can breathe a sigh of relief. He can take a moment to revel in the gravitas of having a day dedicated in his honor, can enjoy a Grandview basketball game, and can be thankful this holiday season for a homecoming that ended as perfectly as this one.


Ruskin Student Killed on Thanksgiving

De Ja Davis
De Ja Davis, a junior at Ruskin High School, was killed on Thanksgiving day while visiting her godmother, Loretta Petty, age 53, who was also killed.
Police were called to the 6600 block of Bellefontaine at 10pm on Thanksgiving night on a suspected robbery in progress. When police arrived on scene, they were met by Loretta’s husband, Jerry, who fired shots at the officers. KCPD officers returned fire and killed Petty.
Following an Operation 100, police entered the home and discovered De Ja and Loretta, who were found dead. Another woman inside the home was initially arrested, but later found to be a friend who was able to hide during the shootings.
De Ja, age 16, had excellent grades (all As and Bs) and was a member of the debate team at RHS, said Hickman Mills C-1 District Spokesman John Baccala.
Students created a makeshift memorial near the school’s front office, signing their condolences on a large poster. Many of the messages from her classmates told of De Ja’s kindness to others.
Family and friends also gathered with De Ja’s mother, Stephanie, and Police Commissioner Alvin Brooks at a park for a balloon release in De Ja’s memory.