Friday, August 18, 2017

Area superintendents discuss back to school and district goals

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

The preparations for the new school year have been completed as area districts welcomed students back this week. District leaders from Grandview, Hickman Mills, Center and Kansas City are focusing on predetermined Board of Education priorities heading into 2017-18. Superintendents from each district presented those focus areas to members of the South Kansas City Alliance on Monday, August 16.

New Hickman Mills Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile said that the focus of the district continues to be acquiring full accreditation. Hickman Mills is a provisionally-accredited district and Cargile said that emphasis will be on the five priorities, including highly-qualified staff, attendance, being fiscally responsible, racial equity impact and increasing community and family engagement.

“We believe focusing on those five items will help us to get closer to full accreditation,” said Cargile. She added that her personal goal as the new superintendent in Hickman Mills is to be visible in the community and establishing trust and relationships with the Board of Education and district staff.

Hickman Mills is also implementing restorative practices in order to think differently about how to discipline students. Cargile said that not every offense should result in a suspension, and the district will be looking at new, innovative ways to determine punishment when rules are broken. She said that Hickman Mills has seen a decrease in out-of-school suspensions and formal hearings that have occurred over the last few years.

“I’m a proud graduate of the Hickman Mills School District,” said Cargile. “Being able to come home and serve as the superintendent of schools for a district that educated me? I attended Ingels Elementary, Smith-Hale Middle School and graduated from Ruskin High School. I never would have thought that I would come back and be superintendent, but here I am. I’m proud of that. So, when we think about commitment and successes, I’m super proud to be able to come back and talk to kids that I relate to. My goal is to inspire students and inspire staff.”

Center School District Superintendent Dr. Sharon Nibbelink spoke about the Made Smart initiative and campaign to promote student academic achievement. The goal of Made Smart is to engage parents and the community in the learning process from birth through graduation to make students college and career ready.

“The influence of parents on student success cannot be understated, and we want to support that,” said Nibbelink. The district doesn’t assume that parent guidance in education is natural, and has developed support materials to help families through every step of schooling.

Nibbelink added that the four districts presenting share a lot of the same students, and therefore all have student success at the forefront of their goals. “We celebrate the successes of all of the schools around us because we all rise together,” said Nibbelink.

Center’s strategic plan includes six goals focused on academic achievement. The district has hired a college and career coordinator to help with the focus on having students ready to enter the world after graduation.

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell is beginning his second year at the helm as students headed back to the classrooms on Monday. He said the first year provided an opportunity for him to get a feel for the district and gain some contextual understanding as to why the district is where it is.

“Unless you just recently moved to the city, there is a very dark history in the district,” said Bedell. “In addition, there is a conversation that we have to deal with in KCPS that a lot of other districts don’t have to, and that’s charter schools.”

He added that the mobility of families in his district is high due to the other 14 school districts surrounding KCPS, along with the 23 charter schools that reside in his boundaries. Preliminarily, Bedell said it looks like Kansas City Public Schools is trending in the right direction according to the district’s strategic plan. As part of that plan, the district engaged 170 secondary students to provide feedback and insight into KCPS’s blueprint for success.  

“We have to accelerate and close these gaps. We have to give these kids what they need because we don’t have a lot of time,” said Bedell. “My kids are down to 179 days remaining in the school year. We need to focus on what we are doing in the time that we have them and make sure that this plan addresses that."

Grandview Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez said that the focus on his district is around centralizing their message. He said that everyone who works in the district is a teacher, and that building positive relationships with students is a priority.

“On any given day, there is an opportunity for three or four employees to have an impact on a kid before they even step foot inside a classroom,” said Rodrequez. “We don’t want to miss those opportunities. If we don’t do this, we will never get to the academic side.”

Each staff member in the Grandview School District has gone through cultural competency training, and is working on trauma-informed care training this school year. The focus is also on making sure students in the district are successful when they leave for work or college. Rodrequez said that the district’s ACT scores were not where they needed to be, so they are working on ways to implement test-taking strategies and trainings for students to be better prepared.

“We want to make sure we can meet the needs of all of our kids,” said Rodrequez.


All four district leaders presented highlights of their students and staff, and continue to work together to better the community as a whole. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

City of Grandview looks to renew Capital Improvement Sales Tax

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Voters in Grandview will head to the booths next Tuesday to determine whether or not to renew the city’s half-cent sales tax devoted to funding capital equipment and improvement to infrastructure and facilities. The tax was originally approved by voters in 1998 for a 10-year period, and then was renewed in November of 2007. The current Capital Improvement Sales Tax (CIST) plan is set to expire at the end of 2018.

“Back in 1998, we ran out of funding in the general fund for any capital projects, particularly ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, dump trucks and other big ticket items,” said City Administrator Cory Smith, “let alone things like City Hall repairs, computers and other facility issues that come up. We’ve got a tremendous amount of facility and equipment all over the city and we just couldn’t squeeze it into the general fund anymore.

From 1998 to 2007, several projects were completed totaling nearly $14 million. Those CIST projects were: completion of the Merrywood Bridge, storm drainage improvements, West Frontage Road improvements, police video and electronic equipment, police and fire radio system upgrades, computer-aided dispatch replacement, police vehicle replacement, public works vehicle replacement, fire trucks and ambulances, communication system improvements, 140th Street bridge, Blue Ridge traffic signals, new sidewalks and repairs, storm channel repairs, curb repairs, facility improvements and repairs, fire equipment and station improvements, and computer and technical improvements.

From 2008 to now, the city has seen CIST dollars go toward: facility improvements and repairs, computer and technology, police and fire equipment, vehicles, technology and facilities, street construction projects, storm drainage improvements, sidewalk and curb construction and repair and various vehicle replacements.

To date, nearly $3 million of the 2008 CIST has been devoted to police equipment, vehicles, technology and facilities, while $2.6 million has gone to fire equipment, vehicles, technology and facilities.

“This year, the general fund is at least 80 percent personal services,” said Smith. “The rest is just support costs, contractual supplies, uniforms and all those things.”

On Tuesday, August 8, voters will decide on the renewal of the CIST, with a projected $15 million in revenue from the half-cent sales. That projection includes a two-percent annual growth in sales tax revenues as well as interest income and the trade or sale of miscellaneous vehicles and equipment that the city owns.

City of Grandview’s administration has put forth a CIST renewal plan with $15 million in expenditures for the next 10 years. 46 percent of the renewal plan, totaling nearly $6 million, is public safety improvements, including body worn cameras for police officers, tactical equipment, replacement of cars and motorcycles, mobile data terminals, radio equipment, ambulance and fire truck replacement, mobile radios, cots and other ambulance equipment and firefighter safety gear.

Also included in the CIST renewal plan are: a new roof, various repairs and HVAC replacement at City Hall, a new roof at the public works facility, fire station improvements, computer and technology improvements, replacement of vehicles in public works and community development, the replacement of the Kansas City Southern Railroad overpass at Blue Ridge and new equipment and furnishings at The View community center.

“We have received money from the Federal Railway Administration through a grant that is good for the next two or three years,” said Smith. “The railroad would potentially cover about 25 percent of the project. It’s a $7 million project.”

Ultimately, it is up to Grandview voters to decide whether or not the project list gets completed in the next ten years. The specific ballot language reads: Shall the City of Grandview, Missouri reimpose a sales tax of one-half of one percent (1/2 of 1%) for the purpose of funding capital improvements, which may include the retirement of debt under previously authorized bonded indebtedness, for a period of ten (10) years commencing January 1, 2019, and ending December 31, 2028?


The City of Grandview has developed a website with more information. Voters can go to www.buildingtomorrowscommunity.com  to find out more. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fire brewing among union, city officials

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

A war of words continues with Grandview elected officials and fire union leaders, with differing messages regarding pay and contract terms.

Even though it was a packed house at the Grandview Board of Aldermen meeting last week, the crowd wasn’t there to listen to the approval of ordinances or witness oaths being given to newly-appointed commissioners. Members of the local fire union, wearing red shirts in solidarity, were there to listen to supporters during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Tim Dupin, a former Grandview Fire employee in 1996 and currently the secretary and treasurer for the International Association of Firefighters Local 42 union, addressed the Mayor and Board of Aldermen as a representative of those who work for the Grandview Fire Department.

“Your firefighters are in a unique situation. They don’t have enough people to do the job,” said Dupin. “I left here, first and foremost, for my safety. You have the same amount of firefighters now that you had in 1996.”

He added that wages and benefits of the firemen, while not where they should be, are secondary to the safety concerns of Local 42. According to Dupin, the Grandview Fire Department calls for mutual aid of surrounding departments daily.

“We’re not out here asking you to supply enough firefighters to fight fires in the industrial complexes you have,” said Dupin. “We’re not asking you to have enough to fight an apartment building here. We’re asking you to get enough firefighters to fight a house fire.”

Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones stated that 46 percent of the upcoming Capital Improvement Sales Tax is to ensure that both police and fire personnel have the needed equipment to safely fulfill their respective responsibilities in the future. He added that the Board of Aldermen has also discussed other tax issues, including the public safety sales tax and the local use tax, and they plan to consider both of those in the coming months or year. 

“During public comment at last week’s regular session, a number of people gave the impression that the police and fire departments were not trained and equipped to safely perform their duties,” said Jones. “This is not true now nor has it been true in the past. The Grandview residents that attended the Citizens Academy were shocked to hear such misleading and unverified comments last Tuesday.”

Dupin added that the National Fire Protection Agency standards are to have 15 firefighters to safely fight a fire, while Grandview has only 10-12 on duty at any given time.

“Do your job. Put it on the ballot,” said Dupin. “You want to shut me up and stop the social media posts? Do your job and stop kicking the can down the road. Support your men and women. Put their safety first. Put the safety of your citizens first and do your job of protecting Grandview. You’re not doing it right now.”

According to Jones, salaries are negotiated and evaluated with Local 42 on a regular basis, including overtime, sick leave, vacation and career development.

“We also realize that 85 percent of Fire Department calls are for EMS services, and they typically have about 20 structural fires a year,” Jones added. “Currently, we have significant reinforcements from Kansas City under our new EMD dispatching agreement.”

Kristina D’Agostino from Independence, whose husband has worked as a Grandview firefighter for the past 12 years, also addressed the elected officials during public comments. She claimed that the Grandview Fire Department is understaffed and underpaid. She also stated that some of the firemen in the department work upwards of 96 hour shifts due to lack of manpower.

“I am very concerned that nobody takes the time to address the safety of the fire department,” said D’Agostino. “These guys are exhausted. They need resources. They need safety. They need help.”

Grandview resident and president of the Belvidere Neighborhood Watch Pam Miller spoke of the vital role that the firefighters and police have in the community. She requested that the aldermen put on a future ballot to let Grandview voters decide on a one-percent tax increase for public safety.

“We all have a voice,” said Miller. “We have to make sure that we have public safety. We need more police. Grandview is a great place; we just need to invest more.”

Michael and JoLynn Lane, who are Grandview business owners, also urged the Grandview Board of Aldermen to consider an upcoming ballot issue to increase funding for public safety training and personnel.

“We have resources, they’re just not being allocated to the right spot,” said Michael Lane. “We need personnel. We need public safety. We need our fire department. Let the people speak.”


The City of Grandview is currently negotiating a new three-year agreement with Local 42 and plans to allow the negotiations to proceed to its conclusion this fall.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kansas City International Raceway gone too soon



By Brent Kalwei


In 1967, The Beatles proclaimed that “All You Need Is Love,” the Kansas City Chiefs played against the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl and Chevy introduced the first Camaro. 1967 was also the year that the Kansas City International Raceway drag strip opened on Noland Road.
For 44 years, two lanes of asphalt provided KCIR’s spectators with entertainment one quarter mile at a time. However, the track that thrived for so many years seemed to be taken away from us all too quickly. The track closed on November 27, 2011. If still standing today, KCIR would be celebrating its 50th year. Although the space once occupied by KCIR now essentially sits as an empty lot, there is no doubt that the track provided many highlight moments.
KCIR housed premier events such as the Summer Nationals from the 1960s-1980s that featured National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) legends such as John Force, Gene Snow, Shirley Muldowney, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, who was selected No. 1 on the list of “NHRA’s 50 Greatest Drivers.” My father, at 13 years old, along with a standing-room-only crowd, witnessed KCIR’s 1976 Summer Nationals.
Dick Harrell, known as “Mr. Chevrolet,” who owned Dick Harrell Performance Center located on Hickman Mills Drive, raced at KCIR the first year the track opened its gates. Harrell won KCIR’s King of Kansas City in 1968. He was also the American Hot Rod Association’s (AHRA) World Point Champion, and named AHRA’s “Driver of the Year in 1969” and “Driver of the Decade” for the entire 1960s. Harrell tragically lost his life in a funny car crash in 1971 in Ontario, Canada.
Larry Larson, who owns Larson Race Cars in Oak Grove, spent many years racing at KCIR. In 2014, Larson became the first driver to complete the quarter mile in less than 6 seconds in a street legal car. Larson did so in his 1998 Chevy S-10 truck.
I’ve been a baseball player for 22 years and since I began my career, I have enjoyed playing it more than any other sport. But I have to tell you, when it comes to being a sports fan, there is no better spectacle to attend than a drag racing event. There is a sense of thrill when you browse the variety of sweet rides in the pits, hear the sounds of the engines and take in the side-by-side action as the cars roar down the track.
My dad, Donnie Kalwei, took me to my very first drag race at KCIR in 1992 when I was just 2 years old. I would be lying if I said I remember any memories I had of the track at that age. However, that was the start of something special. Beginning in 1999, I enjoyed the many times my father drove me to the track in his black 1955 Chevy, similar to the one in American Graffiti, and in his blue 1971 Chevy Nova. But, he didn’t just drive his cars up to the track, he raced them too. He consistently attended weekly grudge nights from 1999-2011.
In the same way I gained interest in drag racing thanks to my dad, so did he from his dad. Before there was KCIR, my grandfather raced at Kansas City Timing Association Drag Strip located on Front Street from 1957-1967. My dad also watched his dad race his 1962 409 four-speed Chevy Impala at KCIR in 1967.
One of my other favorite memories was getting the opportunity to watch racers like DeLon Joseph, Terry Murphy, Willie Brumitt, David Schorr, Mike Bodine, John Hocking and my cousin Justin Kalwei compete in the Kansas City’s Fastest Doorslammer race. Joseph, who created and raced in the inaugural KC’s Fastest Doorslammer race in 1992, was a five-time winner of the event. Joseph, Murphy, Hocking, Brumitt, Jack Schorr, Edgar Wright and Dwayne Robinson competed in the inaugural doorslammer race. For more than 15 years, the KC’s Fastest Doorslammer race was KCIR’s premier event. The event featured pro modified cars that reached speeds of over 200 miles per hour. To this day my favorite drag racing class to watch is pro modified.
I think I can speak for the many drag racing fans and drivers of the Kansas City area when I say that a part of us is missing without KCIR. Earlier, I mentioned why drag race events were so special to me, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the track connected all who raced and attended as fans.

“The drag strip was just like a big family,” said Joseph, who raced at KCIR on the very first day the track opened. “There were hundreds of people that were down there that you knew. You saw them once a week and that’s how you got to know a lot of people. I have people stop in my shop all the time and say, ‘we used to watch you race down there.’ The drag strip closing is one of the most destructive things that has happened to this city in a long time.”

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Missouri camp offers no limit to children’s potential


by Mary Wilson

Many Kansas City-area children spend their school year looking forward to summer vacation. And, for some, that means heading off to camp. Summer camp means friends, swimming and adventure. For one Kansas City girl, summer camp means overcoming obstacles, pushing herself past her limits and achieving things she never thought possible.

Emily Roots has attended Camp No Limits in Missouri for several years in a row. The No Limits Foundation provides a camp for children with limb loss or limb differences and their families in ten locations across the country. Last month, Roots, along with her parents, traveled to Potosi, Missouri to experience what she says is her favorite part of summer.

Kim Bergman, Clinic Manager for Hanger Clinic and a first-time volunteer at Camp No Limits Missouri this year, met and worked with Roots and her family during their stay at camp. Hanger Clinic is a sponsoring partner of Camp No Limits and provides a scholarship program for area children to attend that may not be able to afford it. Bergman, along with a prosthetist from her office, volunteered their time at the Missouri camp when they heard that helpers were needed.

“It was absolutely amazing,” said Bergman. “I’ve heard stories about how cool the camps were. The word ‘magic’ kept coming up. It really is, though. It is a magical experience.”

In talking with the Roots family, Bergman discovered that Camp No Limits is not all that known in the Kansas City-area. This year, there were only three children from the metro at camp.

“It really surprised me, especially with Children’s Mercy here in Kansas City, that there weren’t more families from this area,” said Bergman. “There is such a need to get the word out because it is such a great program. The number of families this could serve here at home is hard to even imagine.”

Hanger Clinic works with a number of families to provide prosthetic and orthotic patient care services, and provided the funds for one of the three Kansas City families to attend Camp No Limits. While there, campers are able to experience therapeutic programs with specialized professionals, including physical and occupational therapists, prosthetists and adult amputee role models.

Camp No Limits is the only camp for young people with limb loss and their families, creating a network of support for all the campers. Each camp is unique, but there are generally five programs offered each day. All activities incorporate family members as well, with specific group sessions for siblings and parents, when appropriate, to address the needs of families living with individuals with limb loss.

“These kids and these families see each other once a year,” said Bergman. “You would think that they live next door to each other by how close they are. There are some very emotional moments for everyone, and it is a family. I thought, ‘gosh, they only see each other one time a year. We have to change that.’”

Bergman got to work planning an event before school begins in the fall. She began to organize a Camp No Limits Kansas City weekend for Missouri families.

Emily Roots, according to Bergman and her family, is one of the biggest Kansas City Royals’ fans. She loves them so much, in fact, that she had a Royals prosthetic arm made for her, and last year was featured in Kansas City media with her request to have her arm signed by some of the players on the team, especially Eric Hosmer. While her wish didn’t come true, she did meet George Brett, who signed her arm.

In a few weeks, Camp No Limits Missouri families will get together and attend the Royals game on Friday, July 21. The weekend activities will continue into Saturday, where the children and their families will meet a congenital amputee who works for Hallmark as a graphic designer.

“She’s got an amazing job and makes it happen despite her differences,” said Bergman.
Roots, on Friday at the Royals game, will attend batting practice before the game and meet the players, take photos and finally receive the autographs she’s been wanting. However, because she is growing, her current arm no longer fits, so she will be sporting her new Royals prosthesis at the game that day.

“Whatever we can do to put a smile on the faces of these kids, we’re going to try and do,” said Bergman. “They are amazing kids with amazing capabilities, and we want to celebrate them in whatever ways we can.”

Camp No Limits, a division of the No Limits Foundation, relies on support from volunteers and donors. More information can be found at nolimitsfoundation.org. To support efforts in Kansas City, contact Kim Bergman at 913-397-7600 or email her at kbergman@hanger.com



Thursday, June 15, 2017

School-age childcare in area districts loses significant state funding

by Mary Wilson

Working parents understand the need for childcare. Those who live in the Grandview, Hickman Mills and Center School Districts have the opportunity to take advantage of programming designed to partner with families to provide before and after-school childcare at no cost. The Local Investment Commission, or LINC, was created in 1992 and is primarily state-funded. LINC gained additional organizational flexibility by becoming a 501c3 nonprofit in 1994.

However, LINC, along with other agencies who rely on the State of Missouri for funding, is working through a budget shortfall after the last legislative session to the tune of $1 million. LINC’s total budget for programming is approximately $10 million. With their model of building a neighborhood-schooling atmosphere, LINC offers Caring Community programming in seven metro school districts.

“The Local Investment Commission has been doing this for several years and we are operating in school sites with high family mobility,” said Brent Schondelmeyer, Deputy Director - Community Engagement for LINC. “They’d move from Hickman to Grandview, Grandview to Kansas City, and so on. But, there would be a LINC program in each of these districts, providing some sense of familiarity to the families.”

Schondelmeyer said that LINC offers activities and learning opportunities that simply aren’t available during the normal school day’s curriculum in the classroom.

“In surrounding districts, the cost of before and after-school care is expensive,” said Schondelmeyer. “These are low-income communities and the families’ ability to afford after-school care is pretty constrained.”

LINC has found that while many of the families that use their services could apply for childcare subsidy individually, the organization then took on that task for entire communities. The State of Missouri agreed to provide funding with the idea that school-aged care being provided in the school buildings themselves would provide opportunity for student enrichment.

“This was an opportunity to serve a large number of children in a familiar place,” said Schondelmeyer.

The organization expected to receive $2 million from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Appropriation in the Missouri General Assembly. It was in the Governor’s budget, in the House version of the budget.

“It then went over to the Senate, and at some point someone made the decision rather than $2 million they think it should be $1 million,” said Schondelmeyer. “The other half needed to go someplace else.”

With half of that budget gone, LINC knew as an organization the shortfall couldn’t be absorbed. Each school district was approached by LINC to discuss what programming would look like with less funding. LINC provided options to the districts: revenue-based and expense programming, a combination of both,  or decreased programming.

Center School District, according to Schondelmeyer, is looking at ways to absorb the costs into their own budgets. LINC serves two before and after-school sites in Center, with an average daily attendance of 282 students, while 401 students were enrolled last school year.

“We are currently looking at all options to address what is estimated by LINC to be about a $60,000 shortfall in funds to Center School District,” said Center public relations director Kelly Wachel. “We are working on a plan to make sure we are continuing to take care of our students and families impacted by this decrease in funds.”

In the Grandview School District, LINC serves an average of 726 students per day at five before- and after-school sites, with 1,080 students enrolled in the program. Next school year, the district, in discussion with LINC, has determined to change the childcare program from five days per week to four. A survey has been distributed to district families to share preferences on a Monday through Thursday program or a Tuesday through Friday program.

“LINC provides quality before and after-school care for elementary school age students in a safe, fun and caring environment that supports children’s social, emotional and physical development,” the Grandview School District email to parents read. “The Grandview C-4 School District and LINC are committed to continuing to offer these services at no cost to our families.”

In Hickman Mills, LINC serves 1,453 students on a daily basis at 12 school sites, with a total of 2,326 students enrolled in the program. Next school year, LINC before and after-school programming in Hickman Mills will be changing from five days per week to four. The plan is to offer the program Monday through Thursday, with no child care provided on Friday.

“When the funding issue was presented to our administration, we opted not to charge families a fee per student each semester, but chose to reduce the program from five days to four with no cost to our families,” said Hickman Mills incoming Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile. “When there are budget cuts outside of our control, we have to make those difficult decisions. As a District and in collaboration with LINC, we have a solid communication plan in place to provide our parents adequate notice so they are able to make arrangements for the upcoming school year. It is our hope the funds will be reinstated so we are able to return to a full program in the near future.”

According to Schondelmeyer, LINC approached each school district to determine the best course of action going forward. The Kansas City Public School District is looking at consolidating programs into fewer locations.

“Our approach could have been to not offer programs at every school, which puts families in a difficult place,” said Schondelmeyer. “School districts are in the practice of figuring out budget cuts because they’ve been through several.”


LINC wishes to remain a free program for district families, and Schondelmeyer says the organization will remain optimistic that the funding will be reestablished in subsequent years. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Crime-ridden motels demolished to make way for further Cerner development


by Mary Wilson 

Two motels in Kansas City were demolished by contractor JE Dunn last week as a result of the original plans for the Cerner Innovations Campus to create more jobs. The approved plan included the parcel of property on the southeast corner of 87th Street and I-435. The motels served as some of the highest crime locations in South Kansas City.

“In addition to thanking Cerner for creating 16,000 new jobs in Kansas City with one of the largest projects in the country including billions of dollars of investment in South Kansas City, the project also creates $6 million for the Hickman Mills School District,” said Sixth District At-Large Councilman Scott Taylor. “Cerner will work with the district to create the workers of tomorrow through STEM programs.”

The City will also receive $2 million in infrastructure improvements in surrounding neighborhoods because of the Cerner project. After initial approval, Cerner had intentions of expanding the project to include the property with the motels.

“These two hotels were high-crime areas and creating a lot of work for our police department,” said Taylor. “Quite frankly, they could spend their time elsewhere doing other things.”

The Cerner Innovations Campus is the largest economic development project in the State of Missouri’s history, and the motels continued to be a nuisance in the area.

“The bottom line is, these hotels needed to come down,” said Sixth District Councilman Kevin McManus. “Hopefully small businesses and homeowners will see this investment, not just in removing this blight, but the investment in infrastructure and the investment by Cerner, and will see the opportunity to make their own investment in their community.”

McManus stated that the demolition of the motels serves as a symbol of promise for the area’s future. The A1 Hotel and Capital Inn, according to Major Louis Perez, South Patrol Commander, have used a lot of police manpower over the last several years, as the location was a breeding ground for crime in the area.

“The hotels ranked high in call for service demands for the division,” said Perez. “Crimes included homicides, assaults and prostitution, making it a nuisance business.”

Some crimes spilled out into the neighboring communities and businesses, according to Perez. He added that the demolition helps free up officers to answer other emergency calls and provides the opportunity to put officers back in their assigned neighborhoods.

“The surrounding neighborhoods and businesses are much safer and thriving because of the work that’s been done,” said Perez. One area business owner reported that they have seen a decrease in trespassing, panhandling and stealing.

“South Kansas City is on the move and we are going through a renaissance here,” said Missouri State Representative DaRon McGee. “We are getting statewide recognition and notice. This is just one step in the progress we are making.”

Former Councilman John Sharp, who has lived in the community for 50 years, said that his house is less than five minutes from the Cerner campus.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see these motels start coming down,” said Sharp. “I remember when this Ramada Inn was very nice at one time, but it sure wasn’t nice in recent years.”


With the Cerner development, the area has also seen a revitalization of retail, and there is potential for new residential projects as well, according to Sharp. With the reclaiming of the property for a positive, public benefit to the community, Cerner, who has already built two new buildings, is expected to expand even further on the campus over the next decade. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

City opens solicitation process to design, build and finance new KCI terminal

KCMO City Manager Troy Schulte is opening the solicitation process for qualified companies interested in designing, building and privately financing a single terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

Schulte is directing the Procurement Division to publish a Request for Qualifications/Proposals (RFQ/P) for the KCI Terminal Modernization. The proposal will include the requirements that have been the focal points of recent discussions and will reflect what the airlines agreed to a year ago.

“The winning proposer would still go through the process of developing an MOU for Council approval," Schulte said. "This RFQ/P requires delivery of all the elements we want in a new terminal – convenient, close parking, better pickup and drop-off lanes, more seating in passenger waiting areas and other conveniences.”  

The RFQ/P will ask for proposals that:
  • Design, build and privately finance a 750,000 square foot terminal
  • Provide at least 6,500 spot parking garage
  • Include 35 gates, but  can expand to 42 gates
  • Reflect the design approved by airlines a year ago
  • Reflect the financing approved by airlines
  • Utilize local construction workers
  • Pay prevailing wages
  • Meet or exceed the City's MBE/WBE goals as well as workforce development or job training for local workers
  • Ensure the City retains ownership and operation of the airport
  • Meet LEED gold certification
  • Include 1% of the cost dedicated to the arts
"This is a win for Kansas City," Mayor Sly James said. "Our airport is the most vital investment we make in order to share our city with the world. And now we know firms are ready to compete to make our airport as world-class as our city."

A privately financed airport terminal idea is believed to be the first-of-its kind in the nation. An innovative model, the airport would receive financing through private investment, paid for by airport usage fees, with no funds coming from the City’s general fund, taxes, or existing bonds. The company selected would develop the design at their own risk.

The RFQ/P is being issued Tuesday, May 30, and will be due on June 20, which is a standard, three-week period. Companies submitting proposals should be prepared for in-person presentations on June 22 with the selection committee. The best proposal will be selected after reviewing all of the proposals and presentations.

The winning proposer will still have to develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City -- a process that allows both parties to continue their due diligence prior to a public vote. Even during this process, the City will conduct public meetings to provide updates and answer questions.

“We will continue to have public hearings to keep our residents engaged in this community dialogue" Councilwoman Jolie Justus said. "Throughout this process we want to keep listening to our residents and to keep answering their questions.” 

The City will continue to own and operate the airport. 

“This RFQ/P ensures an open process that delivers the best deal for the city and our residents," Councilman Jermaine Reed said. "It also continues our commitment to local and minority hiring on this important project.”

Additional information can be found at  kcmo.gov/newkci.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Community in Ruins

by Mary Wilson

What likely began as an ordinary evening on May 20 back in 1957 quickly turned deadly as an F-5 tornado tore a 71-mile path of destruction, beginning in Spring Hill, KS, and bouncing through Ottawa, KS, Grandview, Hickman Mills, Martin City, Knob Town and Ruskin Heights. 

May 20th marked the 60-year anniversary of the tornado that thrashed through the area. Ruskin High School suffered extensive damage, including the almost complete destruction of the gymnasium that was supposed to house the high school’s graduation ceremony the very next evening. All that remained on the sign for the gym was a few haunting letters: RU IN.

The 1957 tornado, deemed the Ruskin Heights Tornado, took the lives of 39 people, with more than 500 injured. Roughly 400 homes were damaged or destroyed.

In the last few years, survivors, many of whom were young children at the time, have found solace and comfort through a social media group created on Facebook. With 673 members, “1957 Ruskin Heights Tornado Survivors CAUGHT EVER AFTER” is dedicated to providing an outlet for shared memories and a bond that has lasted a lifetime.

Dave May, who would later graduate from Ruskin High School, recalled that the horrific night brought the community closer.

 “As I sit in the comfort of my living room, I can't help but think about the tornado tragedy that happened in my childhood stomping grounds 60 years ago tonight, and the lives it took and changed and the people that were scarred for life,” May said in the Facebook group over the weekend. “I wasn't in the tornado, but lived in Ruskin then, and growing up I have heard many stories that were tragic and some that were a miracle. My heart truly goes out to the victims who suffered along the 71 miles the tornado was on the ground. After the tornado, it seemed to make Ruskin a little tighter, and neighbors knew neighbors.”

Diana Leonard’s family home sat just south of the tornado path, and while her family didn’t see extensive destruction to their property, the storm left a lasting impact on their lives.

“I was not quite six years old in 1957, and I well recall the events of that day,” said Leonard. “Our home was on the east side of the Kansas City Southern railroad and south of Ruskin, and was okay, other than a 2x4 stuck in our roof like a birthday candle, and the horrible debris scattered across our yard. 20 years later, my younger sister was set to graduate from Ruskin on May 20. We shared our girlhood room the night before and she was up and down all night and nervous as a cat. She said she had heard these things happen on a 20-year cycle and she was sure we were going to have another tornado. I tried to reassure her that we would be fine, but, wouldn't you know it, the early afternoon of May 20, 1977, a straight-line wind came through and toppled our dear old elm tree in the front yard, landing it squarely on top of my car! That will teach me to laugh at old wives' tales!”

Ellen Robinson, then a newly-advanced kindergartner from Tower School, took to the Facebook group to express her gratitude to other survivors of the Ruskin Heights Tornado.

“I graduated from the Tower School kindergarten 60 years ago today, and by that night it was obliterated into dust, leaving no trace,” said Robinson. “I'm friends with a few survivors, and I feel an unspoken kinship with them unlike any other of my friends. I'm grateful for them every day, and very thankful for this Facebook group, because I know there's a wound hidden in each of us. You think all trace of its trauma is gone, then there will be a particular chartreuse or pink in the sky, a scent of earth or electricity in the air, a news story, and instantly you hurt again.”


The memories from the Ruskin Heights Tornado of 1957 are everlasting, with the impact and the loss much greater than homes being destroyed. Loved ones were lost and the lives of the survivors were forever changed. Each year, the anniversary of the tornado is commemorated with the laying of wreaths at the site of the memorial in front of Ruskin High School. For 60 years, the Ruskin community has mourned the ruin and the devastation, but despite the tornado’s impact, the survivors continue to share their stories with each other and with the next generations. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Southwest High may once again see students

by Brent Kalwei

The Uniting at Southwest group is proposing to reopen Kansas City’s Southwest High School as an autonomous public school to be under the umbrella of the Kansas City Public School district. Group representatives Mike Zeller and John Couture laid down some of their plans at the Sixth District Second Fridays meeting on May 12 at the Trailside Center.

“This is not a private school, this is a public school,” Zeller said. “Every child in that building would count as KCPS kids.”

Uniting at Southwest’s plan is to make Southwest into a diverse project-based learning school that helps students identify opportunity, conduct research, and work with others to develop solutions and essential skills in today's world.

“We don’t want to have a 1950s Southwest High. That was a racist, segregated-by-law public school,” Zeller said. “Nor do we want to create a situation like in 2015 where there was a school there, but there was not this vast neighborhood full of homes and children. We want a school that looks like the world that these children are going to graduate into and work in. That’s a school where everybody is there together; not only on racial lines, but class lines, too.”

“This is a time where we can look to be creative in how we view education,” added Couture. “I think this is such a great opportunity for the city.”

Zeller lives about three blocks from the Southwest High School building, which closed after the 2015-16 school year.

“We moved to that neighborhood so that our kids could walk to school up at Academie Lafayette,” Zeller said. “I had every intention of sending our son up the hill to Southwest High until the school closed. My oldest son made the bus trip up to Lincoln College Prep, which was on some days about a 50-minute bus ride. I remember thinking that is a long way. My son is commuting to high school. It just seemed odd at a great American city that a child would have to travel so far to go to a college-bound high school.”

According to Zeller, many people are leaving Kansas City and moving to cities such as Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Prairie Village.

“It’s just unfortunate and unnecessary,” he said. “It pushes down property values and lowers tax rolls. We have a big city with a lot of old infrastructure. We need those tax dollars, and we need those people living in city and contributing to the revitalization of the city.”

When Zeller took the innovative idea to the Kansas City Public Schools district last fall, they indicated that the school was closed because there was not enough demand for it.

“Maybe the supply wasn’t right,” Zeller said. “There’s a whole lot of people that would like to stay living in the city and even more people who would want to move into the city if they had choices that they wanted to choose.”

About 1,200 people have taken the group’s online survey.

“They have indicated that they would strongly consider sending about 1,350 children to this school,” Zeller said.

According to Zeller, quality integrated public education in the city was not a common belief by most parents about 15 years ago. But they do believe in it now.

“It’s a heavy lift to start a high school,” Zeller said. “You gotta start strong. If you trip coming out of the gate, you’re done. Reputation is destiny. You have to plan it really well. You have to hire a leader a couple years in advance.”

The Bloch, DeBruce, McDonnell and Stowers Foundations are funding the Uniting at Southwest group’s research and development efforts.

“We explained our vision to them,” Zeller said. “They said, ‘We’ll back your research and development efforts; and if you can pull it off, we will get behind all of these upfront costs it takes to start a public school.” 

Zeller listed the UMKC Dental School of Law and Penn Valley as examples of institutions that are helped out by philanthropic resources.  

“In Missouri right now, there is no funding mechanism to start schools like this,” he said. “Missouri’s just a school district model that worked great in the 1940s, 50s and 60s when cities were growing, and we were knocking down cornfields and putting an elementary school at the edge of the metro. Then people would appear and it would fill up. We have a different situation now that requires third-party assistance.”

According to Zeller, if Uniting at Southwest is unable to partner with Kansas City Public Schools, the group plans to partner with an existing charter school or create their own charter school.

“We have the funding to do that,” he said. “It would be a waste of philanthropic and public resources to have to do that, and it would break my heart. But we are prepared to do that if we need to.”

Uniting at Southwest’s plan is to begin with just freshmen during the first school year.


“I think at its peak it had about 2,500 kids at the height of the baby boom,” Zeller said. “We would never want a high school that big. They’re too anonymous. Kids don’t know each other and the teachers don’t know them. We think that the sweet spot is around 800 or 900 kids, and you would want to get to get there slowly. Every year you would want to add one grade.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Grandview Main Street looks to bring entertainment to downtown


by Brent Kalwei


Grandview Aldermen interviewed candidates seeking to manage the Farmers Market at the board’s work session held Tuesday, May 2.

Those applying for management were Grandview Main Street and the Farmers Market’s current manager Larry French.

Grandview Main Street’s focus would be to expand upon the existing Farmers Market, with functions such as a wine walk, food trucks, family-friendly entertainment and events, Christmas in July and potential partnerships with 8th and Main and the Grandview Arts Council, to include activities such as music and sidewalk chalk art.

“We envision a lot more than just a Farmers Market. We envision activity and what would be the heartbeat of our downtown,” Grandview Main Street President Mary Wilson said. “Our main goal is to get people into our downtown and to showcase our businesses that we already have there, and hopefully garner future investment in our community in the process.”

Ward One Alderman Damon Randolph asked Grandview Main Street representatives what they thought the Farmers Market’s biggest challenge is.

“Marketing. I live here and I forget about it often,” Grandview Main Street Secretary Kim Curtis said.

Grandview Main Street added that they can provide marketing for the Grandview Farmers Market event through social media outlets, the Grandview Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Advocate. The Aldermen discussed marketing the Farmers Market with electronic signs.

Alderman Ward Three James Crain expressed concern about Grandview Main Street having the manpower to volunteer for events that complement the Farmers Market.

“Our business and volunteer community as a whole doesn’t seem to want to get involved unless something is happening,” Wilson said. “We haven’t really had a whole lot happening. When we hosted our original open house for Grandview Main Street, we had a list of people who showed interest, and that’s what we’ll build off of in the beginning.”

“I think if we truly want to have different results, we should give Main Street a chance,” Alderman Ward One Sandra Kessinger said. “I think they have a lot of players already here in the community who have a vested interest in the success of anything that’s going on in Grandview. I think that’s the piece that is missing.”

Ward Two Alderman Annette Turnbaugh expressed interest in French and Grandview Main Street taking partnership in leading the Farmers Market. 

“I don’t want to get too far away from what the Farmers Market is,” Turnbaugh said. “I would like to see a marriage of the two. I want to make sure that we have somebody at that Farmers Market that knows the laws, rules and regulations of the county, or we can get in trouble.”

Mayor Leonard Jones believes an operation should be run by one leader opposed to many.

“My problem with that is that you always want one throat to choke. You don’t want two throats,” Jones said. “I can tell you from a manager’s perspective, the worst thing you can do is have one, two or three heads. That’s called a freak, and that’s not good.”

French wants to keep the originality of the Farmers Market.

“One of the first things I will tell you about markets,” he said, “if you switch today, you will kill the market. Belton took their market from 30 vendors to four. Most of the big vendors come from 40-60 miles away. They are not from right here. They are not going to move out of their markets.”

Jones prefers the Farmers Market be held on a day during the week.

“I’m from the old school. I think a change of date would probably be a good idea,” he said. “The reason I say that, is because my Saturday is jam-packed. Personally I’ve got so much going on Saturday that I forget about the Farmers Market.”

Alderman Ward Three John Maloney asked French if Farmers Market attendees are seeking any particular items that current vendors do not already provide. French’s answer was certified organics.

According to Ward Two Alderman Brian Hochstein, the Farmers Markethas received very little interest from the community. Hochstein, who is sometimes a vendor at the Farmers Market, said that he had a net loss in his first year of selling.

“It takes local people selling local,” Hochstein said. “As a vendor, you never want to miss regardless of if it is raining. If you miss one time, you could break that relationship. It is a difficult game for not a lot of money.”

Hochstein has in the past heard comments about how expensive the vendors’ products are.

“I’m like, ‘compared to what?’” he said. “It’s handmade, it takes a lot of time, and our profit margins are miniscule.”

Ultimately, three aldermen voted for French to continue the management of the Farmers Market, two voted for Grandview Main Street and one voted for a partnership.

Jones stated he would like the Farmers Market to provide additional vendors.

“The more vendors, the greater possibility and excitement that you would have people utilizing the products and goods being provided,” Jones said. “The less number of providers is just the opposite.”

French has managed the market for the last several years, and also works as Grandview Farmers Market’s main vendor each week. Jones responded to the question of if French being a Farmers Market vendor and the manager is a conflict of interest.

“That will always be a question that some people could have,” he said. “You’re not going to erase that question regardless. Somebody is going to be chosen. Is it going to be somebody that is already there and has a spot or not? You’re going to have a 50/50 chance.”

Despite not receiving the nod of approval from the Board of Aldermen, Grandview Main Street plans to continue with the idea of bringing the local community back into downtown.

“While the Aldermen didn’t want us to manage the Saturday market, they didn’t say we couldn’t move on with our original Thursday plans,” said Wilson. “There is tremendous opportunity for activity in our downtown. We’d like to breathe a new life into our businesses and our public spaces, while preserving the rich history that our community sometimes seems to forget.”

Jones likes Grandview Main Street’s idea to get away from the norm, and looking for additional event opportunities.

“It’s great to see the Grandview Main Street group thinking outside of the box,” Jones said. “That’s exactly what the city of Grandview needs. I think a lot of the proprietors on Main Street will be excited to know that there is something going on Monday through Friday.”


The Grandview Farmers Market runs from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday on the southwest corner of the intersection of 8th and Goode Avenue.