Friday, September 18, 2020

GreenLight Brings $1.7 Million Investment to Hickman Mills Youth




By Mary King

“BAM!”

“WOW!”

No, there’s not a new superhero in town, although Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and the administration at Hickman Mills School District might call this a hero project. Following a year-long process, GreenLight Fund Kansas City announced on Monday, September 14, that the organization is investing $1.7 million in Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man (BAM) and Working on Womanhood (WOW) school-based group counseling and mentoring programs.

“The GreenLight Fund is one of those things, almost like manna from the heavens, that starts to build up what is, in some ways, an answer to so many of the challenges we have in Kansas City each day,” said Lucas. “When we talk about things and issues ranging from housing and crime to economic activity and job development, we realize that it’s not a solution necessarily that somebody who is a mayor or city councilman addresses, it’s people who start from day one; starting with our young people and building mentoring opportunities… building hope, really, for young people in Kansas City and around our region.”

The BAM and WOW programs work to improve the social-emotional and behavioral competencies of students in grades 7-12, who have been exposed to traumatic stressors and face social, behavioral, cognitive, or emotional challenges. In partnership with the Hickman Mills School District, BAM and WOW counselors will serve more than 100 students at Smith-Hale Middle School and Ruskin High School, beginning in January 2021, with plans to expand to eight schools across the metro by 2025.

“What BAM and WOW have meant in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles and many others is making sure that true mentoring activities that tells our young people that not only do we care about them one week, one month, one activity, one event, but for a lifetime,” said Lucas. “This investment is one of many in Kansas City that is making sure that people know that it’s not just a one-year fix for how we address some of our challenges, it is a multi-year fix and a multi-year investment in our young people.”

GreenLight launched its model locally in 2019, forming an inclusive Selection Advisory Council made up of leaders from across the community to guide its five-step process, which seeks the most effective social innovations to address the needs that matter most to residents facing barriers to prosperity. The result of this was a focus on identifying programs that could counter the impact of violence and trauma young people have experienced. GreenLight worked with the advisory council and identified the BAM and WOW programs as leading evidence-based initiatives supporting the unique mental health needs of adolescents. 

“Too often we don’t get out here to southeast Kansas City,” added Lucas. “Too often we don’t get to our neighborhoods in the Hickman Mills School District. We care about you. We care about the future here in Hickman Mills. We care about the future of Kansas City and for all of our young people in Kansas City, and I thank the GreenLight Fund for helping us make that investment.”

GreenLight Fund Kansas City Executive Director Sarah Haberberger shared her passion for the investment the organization has made in Hickman Mills.

“We heard directly from Kansas City youth that they are looking for safe spaces to share their feelings, know they are not alone, heal from trauma, find hope and feel empowered; needs that have only grown because of our nations’ current health and economic crises, as well as our ongoing fight against anti-Black racism,” said Haberberger. “BAM and WOW address those needs head on.”

BAM and WOW were selected as the first investment in a portfolio of solutions. Each year, GreenLight will lead a community-driven process to bring another proven solution to address gaps in services to families in Kansas City.

GreenLight has made a commitment to the success of BAM and WOW as they launch in Kansas City by providing financial and on-the-ground support for the next four years. A local executive director for BAM and WOW will begin this fall and will hire and train counselors from the community to embed in Smith-Hale Middle School and Ruskin High School, while also building relationships with other school districts to reach more students. Expansion efforts are aided by a $500,000 grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, which focuses on reform efforts within and outside of school systems that improve educational opportunities and outcomes for all students.

“Thank you for seeing that Hickman Mills will be the first district to start this initiative (in Kansas City),” said Hickman Mills Superintendent Yaw Obeng. “We have a strong commitment to inclusivity, equity, and providing our students with what they need in order to move forward. I believe that this program will provide the necessary wrap-around structure needed from many of our students with challenges from within the buildings or outside in the community.”

Mayor Lucas stated that there are a lot of people in the Kansas City region who approach him on a regular basis asking what can be done about violent crime and the current racial climate in the country.

“I think what we are seeing is what they can do,” said Lucas. “This investment in restorative justice, the investment in caring for our young people, is something that is going to be vital to changing so many of the things we see each day.

“We hear a lot of bad news, but nevertheless, what we see right now is an opportunity to build good news and good stories for our young people to address those issues,” Lucas added. “What are you doing about this or that in our neighborhood? Here’s the answer, and here’s the type of program that does it.”

Youth Guidance’s BAM program serves more than 13,000 youth across Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles and London. This will be the first expansion outside of Chicago for the WOW program.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Brewery and Café Readies for Grand Opening Weekend

 


by Mary K. King

A dream four years in the making is finally coming to fruition for a mother and son team in Grandview. The Chive: Simply Good Café and Market and Transparent Brewing Company will officially open their doors for business on Saturday, August 15.

Back in 2016, Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones publicly announced that he would like to see a microbrewery come to town, and the Brown family took notice. Michelle Brown was finishing up culinary school and her son, Nolan Brown, was getting hands-on experience in the craft brewing industry at the time.

“The Mayor communicated that to Jeff Teague, who knew that we were considering this endeavor, and that’s how it all started,” said Michelle Brown. “It’s been a long, long process, but we’re almost there.”

Over the last week, Brown and her family, and their new staff, held an open house and invite-only events to prepare for their grand opening this weekend. Visitors tasted Michelle’s food from The Chive and Nolan’s brews that will be on tap over at Transparent.

The menu for the restaurant will feature farm-to-table dishes sourced primarily from local suppliers. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night meals, The Chive: Simply Good Café menu will offer pancakes with homemade maple butter pecan syrup; fresh soups, salads and sandwiches; and pizzas, burgers and desserts. Items will likely change with the seasons, based on availability of fresh, local ingredients.

“An emphasis we have throughout the entire place is sustainability,” said Brown. “We’ve made an effort to use as much sustainable products as possible, and then instill that into our procedures. We are composting and recycling everything that we can.”

The market side of the café will have broths, soups, syrups and sauces from the kitchen, along with to-go menu items and products from local suppliers for purchase.

The building itself includes several refurbished or repurposed materials, like reclaimed lumber on the walls and tabletops and recycled plastic picnic tables. While the rain this spring and summer has slowed progress on the grounds surrounding the property, eventually plans are to incorporate outdoor games like bocce ball and four-legged-friendly spaces, including an enclosed dog park.

Over in the taproom, Nolan Brown has been busy working on several brews for the opening. Included are: Kickstand Kolsch, Lucent Galaxies Pale Ale, California Common, 4 C’s Session IPA, Tippin’ Session Stout, Dry Hopped Wheat, Lay Back Amber Ale, and Oui Bit Fancy. He’s brewing approximately 200 gallons of beer each week to offer thirsty customers.

The Browns have partnered with KC Food Hub, Redfearn Farm, Buttonwood Farms, Braggadocio, and many other area suppliers and farms for menu items at The Chive.

“The farmers we work with are so happy to come out, and it’s been so much better working with them than with food suppliers or wholesalers,” said Brown. “They’re local and small business people just like we are, and their products are superior.”

Inside the taproom, local artists will have the opportunity to showcase their work along the walls, which Brown says adds some color to the industrial and natural space.

“It’s been great to have the community’s support,” said Brown. “I mean, they’ve been waiting for years now. It just really took that long for everything to come together.”

The Chive: Simply Good Café and Market and Transparent Brewing Company are located at 14501 White Avenue in Grandview, just north of Gail’s Harley Davidson. Opening on August 15, their hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily for the café and market, and 7 p.m. to close for the taproom. Customers can order meals online at thechivesimplygood.com for pick-up, or visit www.transparentbrewingcompany.com to see what’s on tap.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Candidates for District 36 At Odds Over Social Media Posts

Mark Sharp
Laura Loyacono

by Mary K. King

As local political campaigns begin to heat up with the August 4 primary approaching, one Kansas City democratic race is making headlines, both in print and on social media. Representative Mark Sharp, who is seeking reelection, was recently the subject of a Kansas City Star article in which he is accused of inappropriate, derogatory comments on his personal Facebook page, dating back to 2011.
The article states that posts Sharp made on Facebook were then tweeted by the anonymous “Time’s Up – Missouri” Twitter account, which included posts exclusively about him. When those tweets went public, the account then disappeared.

Sharp, who represents the state’s 36th district in Kansas City after winning a special election last year to replace former Representative DaRon McGee, claims that his democratic opponent, Laura Loyacono, and her campaign are behind the Twitter account.

“Quite frankly, I’m surprised that she would go this far,” Sharp said. “She’s caused a lot of division and this is the exact thing that we are trying to get away from, I thought, but it doesn’t seem that way. During a time like this, as a person of color, it really, really makes me pretty sad. It’s very disheartening.”

Sharp said that normally, opponents will attack politicians based on their voting record. However, in this case, he feels he is being attacked for posts he made nearly a decade ago.
“She really took some words and stretched them,” Sharp said.

Back in 2011, the Jerry Sandusky case was in the news, and Sharp posted: “…sports used to be the sure way to get away from that homo shyt now I don’t even no…u wanna be that way go right ahead that’s ur business…but you touchin ya players that’s like touchin ur own children…wrong on every level imaginable.” The Star article referred to this post as deriding gay men. In other posts, the Star claims, Sharp was deriding toward women, and states that he referred to women as “meat.” Sharp’s posts read: “Dogs need meat…MEN need a lady in the streets and u kno the rest,” and “Queston: women, are u a piece of meat that any stray dog has a chance at, or are you a lady that only an established man has a shot at?”

“To say I called women meat simply isn’t true,” said Sharp.
Sharp’s opponent, Loyacono, says that neither she nor anyone from her campaign posted anything on Twitter regarding Sharp’s Facebook posts.

“We didn’t and simply wouldn’t do it,” said Loyacono. “You simply cannot ‘spin’ things that are hateful, vile, and that span misogyny, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. Furthermore, these were not indiscretions of youth. Mr. Sharp was already an adult and the graduate of a respected university.  Meanwhile, it was not until recently that he expressed any regret for the posts, and has yet to offer an actual apology in any publication I have read.”

She also stated that she feels it is disingenuous to accuse her campaign for employing dirty tricks when discussing items that appear on Sharp’s public Facebook page (the two posts in question have since been deleted).

“Finding them did not require any guile or savvy, and we were not the first to do so,” Loyacono said. “We did not leak anything private, we did not post anything on Twitter, and we have made no comment on the matter outside of sharing the KC Star article. To be clear, any claim to know otherwise is a deceit. I have been warned incessantly not to run for this seat because of the risk that my opponent’s campaign would look to spread falsehoods that I wouldn’t have time to refute right before the election.”

Sharp’s older sister was found dead in her apartment in 2000, after suffering abuse at the hands of a man she considered a boyfriend. Sharp, who was in the eighth grade at the time, has made it a priority to help violence victims and their families, including women. He feels that the Twitter page and the information that was spewed against him has been a “social media lynching.”

“So, it’s nice that my opponent has drudged all this up. I really just want to make sure, best as we can, that folks know my story because I do think it’s a unique one,” said Sharp. “Seeing some of the things that I’ve gone through and having to bury as many people as I’ve had to bury at an early age, and having the chance to represent the same district I grew up in…how easily I could have been the one to catch a bullet.

“The lies against me were so heinous, the (Twitter) page couldn’t last for very long,” he said. “It had to be taken down out of fear of probably a lawsuit if nothing else. I’m having to deal with a lot, with social media and The Star, who didn’t do us any favors. They really just bought a bunch of crap off of a made-up Twitter solely for me, and they took the bait.”

The Star article also made reference to Sharp’s resignation from a school district he worked for in Texas as a teacher and coach, indicating that he was reprimanded for showing what was deemed an inappropriate video to his students. However, Sharp said the reprimand didn’t come until well after his resignation, for what he feels was concern that the district might face a discrimination lawsuit from Sharp.

“It was a tough, tough job,” said Sharp. “They just wanted me to coach, teach, keep my head down and not be outspoken.”

The district he worked for, he says, did not observe things like Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month. When he started asking questions and wanted to teach those lessons, he said, as the only black male teacher at the school, he felt like a target.

“They started getting really interested all of the sudden in what I was teaching,” said Sharp.  “The writing on the wall was starting to become pretty clear. I think I just caused too many ripples in the water for them, and they were looking for any reason to get me out of there.”

After his resignation, he received a letter in the mail from the Texas Education Association that he was being investigated for, essentially, he says, being on Facebook in the classroom. Sharp said the district he worked for did not have a policy against this, and he was able to login to social media from district computers (the sites were not blocked, as they are in other school districts).

“I thought it was no big deal, but apparently it was when they were trying to find something to discredit me,” said Sharp. “I was already gone and working at a different job. I had moved on. Ultimately, they (the Texas Education Association) went with the school’s recommendation for a reprimand. I never lost my license. I was never fired. I resigned voluntarily because it was so uncomfortable there.”

Sharp is hopeful that his work while in Jefferson City will speak to his character, rather than information that may be disbursed from his opposition. He said that he works well with his colleagues from both sides of the aisle and has unfinished business he’d like to see through if reelected.

Loyacono said that she is working to connect with voters by any means possible: over the phone, at their homes and through face-to-face events (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic).

“To claim I have, in any way, run a dirty campaign is false and only seeks to distract voters from the facts. I will not tolerate the smear campaign being conducted against my integrity and I look forward to continuing my aggressive outreach program focused on the issues faced by the voters of the 36th House District, especially during this crisis.”

The “he said, she said” back and forth in this race will ultimately be up to the voters to determine which candidate they want to send to Jefferson City to represent Missouri’s 36th District. The primary election takes place on Tuesday, August 4. Loyacono and Sharp are running for the seat in the Democratic primary, while Nola Wood is running as the Republican candidate. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Graduating Amid a Pandemic













Grandview High School Class of 2020 Recognized


By Mary K. King

On March 12, 2020, the senior class of Grandview High School went home for spring break. This would be the last time they saw each other until graduation, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of school buildings and districts across the country implemented distance learning. Despite various challenges, the Grandview School District hosted a graduation ceremony, drive-through style, for the class of 2020 on Monday, June 29.

Following the ceremony, the district put together a video featuring the traditional speeches typically heard at graduation. Principal Dr. Jennifer Price, retiring this school year, stated that if the graduates surround themselves with people who make them happy, who push them and challenge them, they will be a force to change the world. This theme of change and of overcoming adversity was a common thread in all of the graduation speeches.

“I know this is not the graduation ceremony that you envisioned when you started your senior year 10 months ago, or even when you started your last semester in January,” said Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez. “I know that you’ve been dreaming about this moment and, at no time, dreamt that this would be how it would play out. I believe that you have an amazing opportunity - a calling, if you will - to go forth from this moment and create a future with more purpose, vision, energy and hope than those who came before you.”

Rodrequez went on to say that this is the point where he typically tells the graduating class some words of wisdom, and shares what they can expect to see in the future. However, he said, this time he doesn’t know those answers.

“We tend to speak to you as if we somehow have it figured out,” he said. “We don’t really know what’s going to happen next. We don’t know how things will improve or how the world will be different when we get to the other side of this pandemic. We don’t know how the country will change based upon the protests related to the social injustice that we’ve witnessed these past weeks. We don’t know if systemic inequities are going to continue to exist in our society or if they will finally be addressed.

“What I do know is that everything happens for a reason,” Rodrequez added. “You are a chosen class. It might not feel that way to you now, but you have been chosen for a reason. You can think of all this as a negative, or you can change your mindset and realize that you have an opportunity - an opportunity to seize your future and the future of this country. You have more power now than you can possibly imagine.”

Rodrequez challenged the class of 2020 to put more love than hate out into the world, and to rise above the tasks of the last several months.

“You are bulldogs and you can build the future that you want to see,” he said. “The fight to build that future will not be easy, but it will be worth it.”

Class Salutatorian Kiyah Neely said that she feels her class was robbed of their senior year due to the pandemic. Despite that, however, she said that her class had amazing school spirit, and the ability of her peers to come together for the good of the whole has been a quality she has admired.

“It cannot take away the fact that we made it,” said Neely. “Most of us have been surrounded by the same people for years, and it is truly amazing watching people grow and become who they’re meant to be.

Jason Keleher, class valedictorian, assured his classmates that the lack of a traditional graduation ceremony does not reflect that the class of 2020 put in any less effort than other classes.

“I choose to perceive this strange opportunity as a unique send-off point for a uniquely talented generation,” said Keleher. “Walking through our high school halls as a freshman, I could tell there was something special about the class of 2020, aside from all the puns about us having 2020 vision. We tried harder and aimed further than the classes that came before us, never settling for mediocrity.

“In this ever-changing world of division and isolation we graduates are about to enter into, those aspirations are desperately needed,” Keleher added. “We need the loud, clear voices of this generation to be vocal about injustice, truth and hope. We must challenge apathy wherever it appears and instead promote compassion. And we must be agents of positive change, even if it means abandoning the safety and comfort of the past.”

Though the future may be uncertain for the graduates, class president Jadyn Brooks said that she believes her class will be the one to shake up the world.

“We are the class of 2020,” said Brooks, “and we have a perfect vision moving forward.”

Thursday, July 2, 2020

South KC Sees Surge of Violence in 2020


KCPD Deputy Chief Karl Oakman discusses violent crime statistics in Kansas City during a town hall conversation, led by Center Planning's Stacey Johnson-Cosby. 

Tracking to be Deadliest Year on Record

by Mary K. King

Violent crime is on the rise in South Kansas City with the community seeing 13 murders in 2020. Compared to none at this time in 2019, some area activists are asking what local law enforcement is doing and what the community can do to keep their neighborhoods safe.

On Saturday, June 27, the Center Planning and Development Council, Hickman Mills United Neighborhoods and the Southern Communities Coalition teamed up to host an in-person and virtual town hall meeting to discuss crime and safety in South Kansas City. The discussion, led by Center Planning’s Vice President Stacey Johnson-Cosby, included representatives from the Kansas City Police Department, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, and COMBAT, with Mayor of Kansas City Quinton Lucas, and Jackson County Sheriff Daryl Forte.

“I was absolutely floored and shocked and had no idea,” said Johnson-Cosby. “I knew if I was shocked, some of my neighbors and peers were also shocked. So, I thought, let’s find out what’s going on, not only in our community in South Kansas City, but also statewide. I think the trends are the same.”

Johnson-Cosby set out to find information on where the violence is stemming from, who the victims are in these cases, and what steps are being taken as a city to solve the problem. Most importantly, she said, is finding out what the neighborhoods can do to create a positive impact in their communities going forward to help reduce violent crime.

“South Kansas City is not unique in terms of having an increase in violent crime activity including shootings and homicides,” said Mayor Lucas. “It is not a trend that is unique to Kansas City, either, as compared to other American cities. But that doesn’t mean in any way that this is acceptable for us.”

The City of Kansas City received grants from the Department of Justice earlier this year related to community policing. Lucas said the hope is to use those funds to increase policing both with additional officers in the department and to expand the community policing program throughout the city. He indicated that the city is facing budget challenges due to COVID-19.

“In a year where two to three months ago we talked about a $10 million increase in the Kansas City Police Department, now a few months later there’s conversation of a $10 million decrease. So, we’d be very flat,” said Lucas. “The challenge with that, of course, is how do you deliver services to the people of Kansas City? How do we make sure that things like the response times and some of the other community efforts that are very important can continue to be those that we support?”

The mayor also indicated that the inability to have in-person programming due to COVID-19, specifically for teens, has been a challenge. Keeping young people of Kansas City involved and active over the summer to help prevent the congregations in parks and public places has proven to be effective in years past. Swope Park has seen a high number of shootings already this year, and a lot of the other criminal activity has occurred in parks, parking lots and open spaces, according to Lucas.

“We know where the challenge is, but in some ways it’s kind of the idle hands of the youth that has created a challenge for us,” said Lucas.

He added that his office is making sure that efforts are increased with South Patrol to provide for continued collaboration with community organizations, the school districts, and neighborhoods to ensure that safety remains a top priority. He stated that leveraging those programs that already exist in the city, such as the No Violence Alliance (NoVA), and working with those programs is essential.

“Everyone at city hall and on the Board of Police Commissioners is mindful of the real challenges we have,” Lucas said. “Every crime, and every issue, is creating grave concerns for all of us.”

According to Mike Mansur with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, Kansas City has seen over 90 homicides since January 1. This puts the city on pace to see around 175 this year. 2017 was considered to be the all-time high with 151 homicides. The prosecutor has recently initiated the Crime Strategy Unit, which is becoming popular throughout the country, and uses police intelligence to help identify crime spots and trends.

“We also will supplement and make better the most important cases with that unit,” said Mansur. “They might be involved in special efforts with evidence in particular cases.”

South Patrol Commander Major Daniel Gates said his team of officers covers roughly 74 square miles in Kansas City with approximately 69,000 residents, and averages around 39,000 calls for service annually in the division. Currently, there are 65 officers assigned to South Patrol of all ranks.

“Just like everyone else, we’ve seen a spike across our division, across our city, and across the country of violent crimes,” said Gates. “Of the 13 homicides in South Patrol, nine have seen arrests or charges.”

Gates said five cases are of unknown reasons, five were either disagreements or arguments involving drug activity, and two were domestic-violence related homicides. One case involved two deaths. In order to help alleviate some of the violent crime issues, Gates meets weekly with South Patrol staff to gather information to ensure they have an understanding about what is occurring and agree on how to approach the situation to prevent further homicides. That information is shared with Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith and the other patrol divisions in the city.

South Patrol has two community interaction officers dedicated to the area, as well as a social worker assigned to the division. Gates said the division also has an impact squad, which assists with calls for service and works to follow-up with homicide investigations or other cases to help apprehend offenders of violent crimes.

“We do the best that we can,” said Gates. “We protect and serve. We can’t do that without your help.”

Confidentially, the public can provide information about violent or non-violent crime to the TIPS Hotline by calling 816-474-TIPS, or by texting or emailing through their website. The TIPS Hotline is separate from the police departments, and since its inception back in the 1970s, has had a 100-percent success rate with keeping tips anonymous. If tips provided lead to an arrest for a homicide, the tipster can be rewarded up to $25,000.

Sheriff Forte said that his office signed a mental health contract last week to bring the county up to national standards for those who come through the detention facility by providing services to help with crime reduction across Jackson County. Everyone will receive an evaluation upon arrival, and those who are deemed to be in need of special services will be transported out of the jail and taken to proper facilities to receive the care they need.

“This will impact crime all over the city,” said Forte. “We are looking at our entire process as a reform effort, from recruitment to retention to annual psychological profiles. Hold us accountable, from the leaders all the way down through the organization. We need to talk more, and after the talking, we need to have accountability measures to make sure that we change.”

He added that he feels the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has been dealing with antiquated procedures and equipment. Timing, Forte said, is everything, and with the current climate with police, he said that now is the time for him to find the funding to outfit his patrolmen with body-worn cameras.

“Without trust, though, the cameras don’t mean a whole lot,” Forte said. “We have to build that trust, one relationship at a time.”

Kansas City Police Department Deputy Chief Karl Oakman said that a strong partnership is needed to address the violence issue in Kansas City.

“Over the years, I think we’ve checked ‘partnership’ off like it’s a box and we really don’t engage like we should,” said Oakman. “Everyone has responsibility and I think, moving forward, we need to hold everyone responsible for their part in this partnership.”

He said there are two key factors to addressing the homicide problem in Kansas City: enforcement and prevention. While he feels that the police department continues to succeed in the enforcement category, more efforts need to focus on violence prevention.

“We’ve put a lot of programs in place,” said Oakman. “Do we want to have 175 homicides this year and toot our horn because we solved 169 of them? I don’t think that’s progress. I don’t think we should be excited about that. What we should be looking at is doing both (enforcement and prevention).”

Oakman said he would like to see KCPD increase the solvability rate of violent crimes while also reducing the number of homicides.  There are a number of initiatives already in progress; however, due to COVID-19, a lot of those face-to-face programs have been halted this year. He would also like to have school resource officers in each high school.

“We always talk about serve and protect, but sometimes we leave out the engaging with the community part,” said Oakman.

The key thing to remember, according to Oakman, is that those who want to commit violence or destroy neighborhoods are fine doing it if they see only the police engaged or just the community engaged.

“What scares people, those who want to commit violence, is when they see the police and the community working together,” said Oakman. “Not just working together but getting along and having a common goal. That is the biggest prevention to violence in your neighborhoods: when the police work with you and the community works with the police.”

Johnson-Cosby expressed to all the speakers that, as community groups, they are engaged and willing to work with the police to help prevent future violent crimes in the southland.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Investor Looks to Purchase Former Bank Building to Build Service Station

by Mary K. King

The Grandview Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, June 9, held a public hearing for a zoning amendment for the former bank building located at 6500 Main Street. The property, which currently serves as RT’s Awards and Trophies, was purchased several years ago by Rick Thompson after the building was vacant for some time.

Jeff Teague of Teague Construction submitted the application for rezoning of the property, currently zoned OS (office services). A developer has a contract to purchase the building and land, and wishes to rezone to allow for a service station and convenience store (C-2, or general commercial, zoning).

“This property will be affected by the Frontage Road conversion from one-way to two-way traffic, of which the city is currently in the engineering and design phases,” said City Planner Dave McCumber.  “The west side of the property and the property line will be shifted slightly.”

The current OS zoning is directly adjacent to C-2 zoning, which McCumber says will need to be changed in order to get approval for building a gas station. With the existing C-2 zoning next to the property, he said it would be easy to extend that west into the property in question.  McCumber added that the city’s planning commission voted unanimously in favor of the zoning map amendment for the property.

“I had a client who came to me looking for a site that had C-2 zoning and he wanted to locate in Grandview,” said Teague. “Right now, the purpose is to build a convenience store. Obviously, there’s a long way to go on getting to everything if this gets approved, but there’s a possibility they may not build a convenience store, too. It could end up being a small commercial building or retail building.”

Teague said that the chance is greater that the property buyer, Bibir Sultan, will build a convenience store at the location, especially considering the new access road, once completed, will cut right through the property.

“If the road wasn’t going to go through there, and there wasn’t going to be increased traffic, my client would not have requested the rezoning,” said Teague. “He wouldn’t even be interested in this piece of property. We really felt like this was appropriate for the city.”

RT’s has been located at the building for years, Teague said, and it needs substantial work. The building is aging and has foundation problems that would be expensive to repair.

“Our intention, no matter what, is to tear that building down,” said Teague. “Any time you take an old building and build something new, and up to current standards, it is a good thing.”

Alderman John Maloney questioned whether or not Teague’s client has looked into purchasing the closed gas station located on the northeast corner of Blue Ridge and Grandview Road. Teague indicated that he believes that gas station will eventually reopen.

The Board of Aldermen will make the decision on the rezoning of 6500 Main Street at a future meeting.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Community Input Received for the Outer Road Conversion Project

by Mary K. King




A virtual public meeting was held to discuss the future of the Outer Road conversion project in Grandview, taking the current one-way roads to two-way. On Thursday, May 28, Grandview’s Public Works Director Dennis Randolph, along with designers and contractors for the project, met with community members via Zoom conferencing to garner feedback and answer questions regarding the conversion.

“Folks have been waiting a long time to get to this point, and the year has been strange and getting here has been a bit of a task,” said Randolph.

The project first began in 1980, when the frontage roads along then US-71 were converted to one-way traffic. Randolph stated that the conversion to one-way caused problems for the city, including travel and business economics.

“Customers had a hard time going in circles around and around,” said Randolph. “I wasn’t here, but I know Mayor Jones (and others) have seen what those one-way frontage roads did. For many years, they caused some real economic problems for the city.”

For the last decade of his employment with Grandview, Randolph has been working to develop a plan to convert the roads back to two-way. Around seven years ago, Grandview and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) came to an agreement on the scope of the project; however, the City of Grandview had to find the money to complete the job.

“That’s taken quite a bit of work. In the end, we had to come up with about $12 million of funds outside of the city’s coffers with the city contributing about $3 million,” said Randolph. “So, this is a $15 million project that we’re working on.”

The funding now in place, including a large part from federal aid. With those federal dollars, the city is required to follow specific rules. Before authorization is approved for the final design, construction, or purchase of right-of-way, a public meeting needed to be held.

“This is to let you know what the process is,” said Randolph. “We’re hoping that after the meeting is done, and we get all the questions answered and all the documentation together, Missouri Department of Transportation will give us authorization to proceed.”

The project runs from Harry Truman Drive on the northern end to just north of M-150 Highway to the south. Some prior approval had already been granted by MoDOT, and for the last year, Grandview has been completing some property acquisition along the northern end of the project route.

“I think the other special part of this project, besides correcting that economic development problem for the city, is that we’re going to use a process called design-build, which is a project delivery method to get this project done,” said Randolph. “What that really means is, instead of having a separate design done by an engineering design firm and then bidding the project to a construction firm, we’re going to select, based on qualifications, a design-build team.”

The design-build team will consist of a partnership between design engineers, a builder, and other contractors used to complete the project. That selection process has already started, and the city is currently working on narrowing the field from three firms.

The City of Grandview and MoDOT have already completed some preliminary design work for the conversion project. Those plans, according to Randolph, are about 30 percent finished. The rest of the design will be completed by the design-build team, which will be selected later this summer or early fall.

“The two-way traffic will allow folks who live in Grandview to circulate a lot better, and not to have to go out of their way to get from one side of our city to the other,” said Randolph.
If the project goes according to plan, final design for the conversion will be completed in 2021, with construction taking place and being finished by the middle of 2022.

A video of the virtual public meeting is available on the city’s website at www.grandview.org, under Public Works Projects. Public comments for the I-49 Outer Road conversion are being accepted through Friday, June 5. Those interested in providing feedback can email Randolph at drandolph@grandview.org.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Grandview Student Receives $50,000 Surprise



by Mary Wilson

At a time when communities are searching for some good news, just that came to a Grandview High School junior in the form of a celebration on Friday, May 1.

Grandview High School junior Jarri Brooks dreams of going to college and becoming a certified public accountant. On Friday, that dream became one step closer to reality when Brooks discovered he is one of 1,169 KC Scholar scholarship recipients across the metro.

“It feels like it’s my birthday, and it’s not my birthday,” said a surprised Brooks as he met representatives from KC Scholars and local media on the front lawn of his apartment building in Grandview.

KC Scholars announced on Friday their college scholarships for low and modest-income students across a six-county area of the Kansas City region. The awards provide financial assistance, college advisement, and college planning and persistence support for students who have the greatest need and who may otherwise be unable to complete a postsecondary degree. This year, students from 95 public, private, public charter, and home-based high schools applied for the scholarship.

Brooks, along with six other Grandview High School students, will receive a $10,000 scholarship upon entering college his freshman year, renewable up to four additional years. Along with the scholarship announcement at his home, Brooks was greeted by a parade of cars, with representation from area colleges and universities like Metropolitan Community Colleges, UMKC, Mizzou, Donnelly College and many more. A few teachers and administrators from Grandview also attended the parade.

“Jarri is an outstanding young man. Not just athletically or academically, but he is a great citizen as well,” said Grandview High School Assistant Principal Brian Rudolph, who drove through Brooks’ parade a couple of times. “He is always kind and has an outstanding personality. He will be a fantastic representative for KC Scholars.”

“KC Scholars stands for hope and opportunity – something our collective soul yearns for at this time,” said Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, president and CEO of KC Scholars. “The impact will live on for generations to come and will enrich our regional community. KC Scholars opens doors of opportunity for our scholars, and for their families, and ensures fair and equitable access to education and employment. With the support of this program, this region’s students can fulfill their dreams.”

Other Grandview students receiving the $50,000 scholarship are: Sarah Bensahri, Ollie Coleman, Tristyn Little, Tenisha Perkins, Sasha Sandoval-Williams and Guadalupe Santillanes.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Fire Marshal Retires

by Mary Wilson

If you have attended any community events in Grandview over the past several years, chances are you’ve met Fire Marshal Lew Austin. With his friendly smile and his Jersey accent, Austin quickly became a pillar of the Grandview Fire Department since he was hired in early 2014. Knowing no strangers, he began work immediately and, though the task would have been a challenge to most, he did it all with a genuine love for his job.

“I’ve been in the fire marshal position, and I’ve now worked with two other fire marshals besides Lew, and I can truly say he is absolutely the best fire marshal I’ve ever been around,” said Grandview Fire Chief Ron Graham. “He is so committed. It’s one thing to be knowledgeable and have skill and know the fire code and things, but when it comes to his commitment and wanting to make sure that builders or businesspeople have the right advice, Lew is the best.”

Graham said that Austin doesn’t “shoot from the hip,” instead offering assistance to business owners to work with them to correct any issues he may come across. He is also known for being willing to come up with a plan to help businesses when it comes to operating within codes.

“A lot of fire marshals aren’t like that,” said Graham. “Lew understands, and it’s not that we’re just such a small town. I think he’d be the same in a big town. That’s just his style, and it’s the correct style.”

When he was hired, Austin had his work cut out for him. Graham said there was a lot to be done to get the department’s program back on track.

“There was kind of an unwritten word out there that Grandview’s not going to check you,” said Graham. “Lew’s changed that. He’s taken some heat on it, but he would just apologize and then work with people and give them some time. Many times, he had to take a deep breath and just say, ‘I’m sorry. Yes, this should have been enforced years ago, but it is a requirement and I’m going to work with you.’ I really respect Lew for that.”

Graham added that Austin has a clear passion for his work. It wasn’t unheard of for him to take work home with him over the weekends, not wanting to hold up any permits or plans.
“Lew always made sure the work got done,” said Graham. “One thing we tease him for is sometimes that New Jersey attitude will come out. And, while we tease him about it, it’s probably what helped make him so successful.”

Several schools in Grandview were not meeting the fire codes, with violations, according to Graham. At no fault to the district, they just simply weren’t informed. Austin inspected all the schools and compiled a long list of fire hazards and other violations.

“It was embarrassing, really, on our part,” said Graham. “It shouldn’t have been like that.”
Knowing that the district would likely be spending quite a bit on some of the upgrades to bring the buildings to code, including a new fire alarm system, Austin helped Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez come up with a plan to implement the changes over a period of time, rather than having the big expense at once. 

From working with the district, Austin saw a need for further collaboration, and developed the Fire Prevention Week poster contest, where students from across the district submitted artwork annually depicting the theme of the year. Winning posters were selected from each building, and those artists received a ride to school on a fire truck and were recognized by the City of Grandview. Austin also serves on the district’s safety committee.

“From the moment that he arrived in Grandview, he had a desire to work with the school system in other ways than just his role as fire marshal,” said Rodrequez. “He has a heart for safety, for education, and for collaboration that will be sorely missed. We are a better and safer community because of the tremendous work that he did.”

“He’s just been the glue to hold everything together,” said Graham. “He took a program that was weak and, dare to say, it’s one of the strongest in the metro area.”

Austin’s last day with the City of Grandview is Friday, April 24. However, his impact and legacy will last long after he retires to Nevada, where he will join his wife who has been working at a hospital there since January.

Austin has laid the groundwork for his predecessor, Rodney Baldwin, who has been training with the fire marshal for the last two years, and was appointed to the position on Friday, April 17.
“It’s going to be a seamless transition,” said Graham. “We will miss Lew, but to his credit, Lew prepared Rodney.”

Graham said that the department, and Baldwin, will continue the work that Austin has started, including the Fire Prevention poster contest. Baldwin is also passionate about serving the community, having started the Lunch Buddies program with the district a few years ago.

“While we have his position filled, we will never replace what Lew brought to Grandview,” said Graham. “We’re going to be okay, thanks to him. He’s going to be missed.”

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Ruskin Eagle Returns Home After Fifty-year Flight



by Mary Wilson

Nearly five decades ago, Karen Sue Jochim walked the halls of Ruskin High School, proudly displaying her class ring on her hand. Gold in color, her ring symbolized her Eagle heritage, complete with the mascot nestled beneath the bright blue center stone. Her initials, KSJ, were engraved along the inside of the ring, and it was a piece of her high school career she truly loved.

Jochim, who graduated high school in 1971, later became Karen Schwartz, and now lives in Raymore, not far from her Ruskin roots. Sometime in the mid-1970s, Schwartz said she lost her beloved class ring.

“The ring has been lost longer than I ever had it,” said Schwartz. “I just remember not being able to find it. I always kept it in my jewelry box and, I’m thinking somewhere between 1972 to 1976, that it was gone.”

She still has a small pendant that she also received around the same time frame while in high school, but the ring has been gone for nearly fifty years. Until last week, Schwartz hadn’t thought about the ring in quite some time. However, on Thursday, April 9, she started receiving messages on Facebook from old friends who thought maybe someone had found her class ring.

Becky Barbour, who by miracle or coincidence happens to be a 1997 graduate of Ruskin rival Hickman Mills High School, works at the Oakhill Day School in Garland, Texas. A fellow teacher’s child was playing on the playground at the school and announced that he had found a ring.

“He said, ‘Oh, it has a jewel in it,’” said Barbour. “He brought it to me, and was muddy, so I could tell wherever he found it that it had been there in some mud for a little bit. I kind of wiped it off, and when I wiped around the jewel or the stone, I saw it said Ruskin High School.”

Being from Hickman Mills, Barbour immediately thought that she knew this ring was from her hometown. Though not being from Texas originally, she quickly searched to ensure there wasn’t a Ruskin High School somewhere near Garland. To see if she could track down the owner, she posted some photos along with a description of where the ring was found, and the initials engraved on the inside, to a Hickman Mills alum Facebook page.

“I wanted to try to see if I could find who it belongs to, and if not, then I’d give it back to the little boy who found it because he was so excited about it,” said Barbour. “What are the odds that I would know where that school was, first of all, and it was found at my school down here in Texas. I was just really taken aback to even find something that old on our playground, but I was excited because I wanted to be able to return this ring.”

Within four hours of her post, friends contacted Schwartz, saying that the ring had to be hers due to the initials KSJ on the inside. Sure enough, it was her ring.

“I loved that ring,” said Schwartz. “I always thought it was so pretty because it had the eagle underneath the stone and I’m curious to see if that is still intact. It’s just the most bizarre thing. I don’t know how in the world it ended up in Texas.”

Schwartz said that her brother seemed to think maybe the ring was lost on a family trip to Wichita Falls. However, she debunked that theory, remembering that they took that trip to see cousins while she was still in high school, before she even had the ring in the first place.

“I would have only been like 16 at that time, and I wouldn’t have had it then,” said Schwartz. “The other times I’ve been to Texas have been within the last few years, well after the ring disappeared.

“It’s just the darnedest thing,” she added. “I’m excited to get the ring back. Who would have thought I’d see it 50 years later? I wish it could tell me a story, because, holy cow, to end up in Texas from Kansas City.”

What a journey her ring has surely been on. By the time this story is printed, the eagle has likely landed back in Missouri, and is heading home to Schwartz, where it belongs.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Grandview Police Find Unique Way to Continue Connecting with Community


by Mary Wilson

Chief Charles Iseman of the Grandview Police Department credits the Move Toward the Badge  initiative and community outreach programs as keys to their success. With community events being temporarily suspended, Iseman saw the need to stay connected to the community his department serves.

From Dr. Seuss to Mother Goose, Grandview police officers have been reading some of their favorite stories for followers on social media to enjoy. Cop Stories began with the city’s communications manager Valarie Poindexter bringing in one of her son’s favorite books, The Duckling Gets a Cookie, which Master Sergeant Greg Smith began reading live on Facebook one Friday morning.

“I shared the idea with the Chief and he didn’t even blink; he just said, ‘do it,’” said Poindexter. “The community reaction has been so amazing, but what’s even better is the interaction. Dozens of people comment; some send pictures or tell officers which book to read next.”

Poindexter said that every story is reaching audiences in the thousands. Cop Stories are typically
posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11:30 a.m. Poindexter said that the officers will
take book requests, and that Officer McGruff might make an appearance soon, too.

“Cop Stories is just one small way our officers can touch the lives of the children in Grandview, and it gives them something positive to focus on,” said Iseman. “It has also been remarkable how the Grandview community has rallied in support of our first responders with cleaning supplies, homemade masks, and meals for our folks working on the front lines.”

The department has received numerous donations, including N95 masks for officers to wear, food and other goodies, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer made by Restless Spirits Distillery.

“As the Chief, I want to send out a great big thank you to the awesome people in Grandview,” Iseman said.

To follow along and watch Cop Stories, visit @GrandviewMOPD on Facebook.com.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Library Observes “Stay Home” Order

by Mary Wilson


While the doors to Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) branches are closed, access to information and books is still open through the library’s virtual branch at mymcpl.org. Due to continued public health concerns brought forth by COVID-19, the branches of MCPL will remain closed until further notice while the counties they serve remain under stay-home orders.

With a firm reopening date yet to be established, due dates for all currently checked-out items have been extended to May 15. All holds have also been extended until the branches are open again, and fines will not accrue during this time. Book drops at branch locations are closed, and the library asks that materials be kept by the borrowers until reopening.

MCPL is working to find creative ways of virtually serving customers while the physical locations are closed. Online, MCPL offers resources that cover everything from entertainment - including eBooks, eAudiobooks, streaming movies and music, and eMagazines - to career help, health and wellness resources, tutoring and schoolwork help.

“Our team is working to obtain more copies of digital items to help with increased demand during the closure,” said MCPL Community Relations Specialist Emily Brown. “We’ve started to produce virtual versions of our programs, too. So far, we’ve done virtual story times and some virtual business classes (led by our Square One Small Business Services group) on the library’s social media pages.”

Square One is continuing one-on-one consultations with local entrepreneurs as well. The library has also offered some virtual book chats on the MCPL Readers’ Lounge Facebook page. Soon, visitors to the virtual branch can also see virtual tech programs, covering a variety of topics like how to use Excel.

“For anyone who is a genealogist, this is exciting news: Ancestry has granted public libraries remote access to Ancestry Library Edition through April,” said Brown. “So, that means anyone who has an MCPL card can now use Ancestry Library Edition at home. Previously, it had to be used on one of our actual branches.”

With all of the virtual resources and entertainment, the library encourages users to reach out to info@mymcpl.org through email for assistance with those digital questions. While MCPL doesn’t have any sort of service that disseminates devices for people to use, they may contact the library for help using devices they already have, including help with things like borrowing an eBook.

“We know that libraries are vital hubs in our communities, so our default is to assume that we should be open to serve, especially in difficult times,” said Brown. “But we also value the well-being of our customers and staff above all else. All of the information we have received from the public health community suggests that well-being is best served by a period of social distancing. The only way we can ensure that in our libraries is by closing our facilities.”

Knowing that there is no substitute to visiting a local library, MCPL remains committed to getting their buildings reopened as soon as it is safe to do so. Follow the library on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily suggestions and recommendations on ways to take advantage of the many online resources and materials that MCPL and its partners provide.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

KC Hospital Prepares for COVID-19 Patients


by Mary Wilson


Hospitals across the country are prepared for a pandemic. They train for this. They have emergency preparedness plans in place. They are ready for mass shootings, weather events, or anything else that may cause a surge in patients. St. Joseph Medical Center in South Kansas City was ready for COVID-19 well before the first patients started coming through their doors.

“We feel very prepared,” said St. Joseph Medical Center CEO Jodi Fincher. “However, there is no way to prepare for every variant contingency that can come forward. To have this start in China, and have the supply chain cut off from there, we were already behind the 8-ball. We are now being forced to be very judicious. There are unpredictable variables that happen in times like this.”

St. Joseph Medical Center, like every hospital, is open and ready to treat patients, whatever their healthcare needs are during the COVID-19 pandemic. For patient safety, hospitals are asking that elective procedures wait until after the threat of coronavirus passes. In the meantime, however, if patients must visit the hospital, Fincher says that things might look a little bit different upon arrival. 

“What we are encouraging the public to do is if they have symptoms of COVID, if they are short of breath, have a fever or coughing, we are asking them to reach out to their primary care doctor,” said Fincher. “Of course, we always tell people if they need to call 911, then call 911. But if they can, they need to reach out to their primary care doctor.”

A lot of those primary care physicians are doing telemedicine visits to help diminish the spread of COVID-19. These telemedicine visits will provide a way for people to avoid getting out of their homes and going into the hospital for their first healthcare touch, according to Fincher.

“Providers are able to triage them through a telephone call or a telehealth visit, and they can help those patients decide what their next step needs to be,” said Fincher. “Many of these things can be managed by a telehealth visit. However, if it is determined that they need to come to the hospital, the doctor send them on to the emergency room. We are trying to keep these kinds of patients out of our clinics, if possible.”

She added that if a doctor determines a patient is sick enough to go to the emergency department of a hospital, then chances are likely that they are sick enough to be admitted, whether they have COVID-19. This helps limit the amount of exposure that hospitals would have otherwise if a patient might test positive for the virus.

Upon arrival to the hospital, Fincher said that patients will not be allowed to bring visitors inside with them unless there is a mobility or communication limitation. They are asking that visitors wait inside their cars to avoid a large amount of people in the hospital’s waiting rooms. Fincher said that this procedure for visitors is standard throughout the country right now as healthcare workers try to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“They can expect that they’ll be screened immediately when they come in the door,” said Fincher. “Their temperature will be taken and there will be staff with masks on. Then, depending on their symptoms, they’ll be moved into the emergency room. We do have lots of patients who are coming in without COVID symptoms. If someone comes in because they are having chest pains, they’ll go through that same process. They’ll get quickly screened and moved into the emergency department and they’ll be taken care of normally.”

With the limitation of people in the hospital at this time, Fincher said that St. Joseph Medical Center has not yet seen a real surge of patients coming in. She said that right now she has plenty of staff on hand. The concern is, however, how the hospital will continue to manage the COVID-19 patients on a day-to-day basis. Those patients who either test positive for the virus or potentially have COVID-19 are separated and put into a secluded, dedicated unit.

“Because we’re not allowing any visitors into the hospital, it feels a little empty right now,” said Fincher. “We don’t have our volunteers in our hospital either, for their safety. So, it’s pretty quiet right now in the hospital.”

The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) heightens the fears at St. Joseph Medical Center, according to Fincher. They are taking stock of their supplies daily, and she said that all hospitals are working to manage their own PPE, knowing that every day poses a potential threat to their supply reserves.

“In healthcare, we are used to having standard processes, and if we do things the same way every single time, that is the safest way to do things,” said Fincher. “We are asking staff to change those processes, sometimes day to day, and it’s hard to keep up and can be very frustrating. With this constant threat of whether there will be enough PPE, it keeps everyone very concerned.”

As fearful and concerned as her staff is, Fincher said that they are working to not let that affect the care of the patients that they see. Regardless of diagnosis, she said, her staff is continuing to take great care of their patients.

St. Joseph Medical Center, like other hospitals in the area, is feeling the love of the community that surrounds them. While working hard to meet the needs of South Kansas City, Fincher wanted to assure the public that right now, healthcare workers at the hospital and clinics have the gear they need to protect themselves and others as they care for patients with COVID-19. However, she understands that this could change at any time as cases continue to increase.

“Many in the community have asked how they can assist us during this time,” said Fincher. “We cannot tell you how much we appreciate you thinking of our providers and staff who are working every day to help keep us all healthy.”

Because hospitals are part of a highly-regulated environment and must maintain strict supply chain control for sterile medical supplies and devices, St. Joseph Medical Center has established the following guidelines for donations: bulk donations of medical equipment/supplies such as personal protective equipment including N-95 masks, surgical gowns, gloves, etc. (including “extended use” equipment/supplies such as non-surgical face masks) will be accepted, so long as the supplies are new, unused, and in unopened manufacturer packaging.

“If we can’t prove that that piece of personal protective equipment would be safe for our patients, then we just can’t use it,” said Fincher. “But we certainly appreciate the generosity. We’ve been overwhelmed with the community, and they’ve been recognizing the stress and tension that healthcare is under right now.”

The hospital cannot accept donations of supplies that have been opened or separated from their original bulk packaging, as those cannot be introduced into sterile patient care areas.  Fincher also requests that the public not bring donations of household items, personal medications, and other commodities to the hospital campus, as accounting for the receipt of the same; and even simply storing such items diverts resources that are otherwise needed for direct patient care or support.

“These are definitely interesting and unprecedented times, but we’re going to make it through,” said Fincher. “We’re going to remember it, that’s for darn sure.”

For questions regarding donations, contact Kim Chalmers, Supervisor of Senior Care Services at St. Joseph Medical Center, at 816-943-4543, or by email at kchalmers@primehealthcare.com.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lawmakers Respond to COVID-19 Across Metro

by Mary Wilson


The impact of Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is sweeping the nation, and has made its way close to home, as it was discovered that Grandview’s own Representative Joe Runions has been in the hospital after testing positive for the virus. Runions, who serves Missouri’s District 37, is the first state elected official to be hospitalized with COVID-19.

“I feel a duty to share my experience as I begin the long recovery from this illness and urge you to do everything within your power to prevent Missouri’s hospitals and medical staff from becoming overwhelmed during this pandemic,” said Runions in a letter he wrote to Governor Mike Parson on Sunday, March 22, following a phone conversation they had earlier that day.

Runions stated that a top concern of his doctors at St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City is the possibility that they will run out of vital supplies, especially personal protective equipment.

“Since I am in isolation, every time a doctor or nurse comes in to check on me, they must put on all manner of gear to protect themselves,” Runions said. “However, stocks of that equipment are rapidly running low, and doctors are deeply concerned about whether those stocks will be replenished fast enough to keep up with demand. Our hospitals need these supplies.”

He has had a first-hand account of how much of these supplies are being used to treat patients with COVID-19, saying that he believes doctors and hospital staff are using 20 sets of supplies on him daily. He urged Governor Parson to speed up the process of getting supplies directly to hospitals across the state.

“My doctors also tell me there still aren’t enough testing kits,” said Runions. “The quicker patients get tested, the quicker they can get the proper treatment. Please, do whatever is necessary to expedite the availability of testing kits. I have no doubt expanded testing will save lives.”

Runions remains hospitalized at St. Joseph’s, and is getting better, but understands that it will be a long recovery. Following news of Runions’ diagnosis, Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. released an emergency funding proposal to combat the toll of COVID-19 in the county. White named the proposal in honor of Runions, calling for $10 million in the Representative Joe Runions Act.

The proposed funding is focused on providing essential support to the county’s safety-net health care providers, Truman Medical Centers and the county’s Health Department, as well as first responders and area in-home food delivery agencies. If approved by the County Legislature, the Runions Act would make millions of dollars immediately available to frontline providers to purchase equipment, tests and resources they need to keep the community safe.

“While my team’s work on this plan started prior to hearing the unfortunate news about Rep. Runions’ diagnosis, I thought it was fitting to honor him in this way as soon as I heard Joe’s powerful call to action,” said White. “At a time of what I imagine must be great pain, fear and uncertainty for Joe and his family, he showed not only why he is such a great leader, but also what we are all capable of in these difficult times. From his hospital bed, still fighting this terrible disease, he called on us to step up and do everything we can to ensure that those we rely on to take care of us have the tools and resources they need to wage this war. That is exactly what the Runions Act does and that is exactly what I will continue to do for Joe and everyone else in our community.”

The Runions Act would provide $3 million to Truman Medical Centers to assist the hospital with the purchasing of needed medical equipment, such as ventilators or personal protective equipment, and increase their testing capacity and bed capacity. The Jackson County Health Department would receive $1 million to maximize their partnership with other community health care providers to increase testing, contact tracing and care for uninsured. The Act would also provide $2 million to go toward temporary sheltering and increased hospital capacity in the county.

For area food agencies to provide meal delivery to those who are unable or it is unsafe for them to leave their homes, The Runions Act would provide $1.5 million for agencies to hire unemployed service employees, or utilize restaurants negatively impacted by the virus to assist in the preparation or delivery of food. Finally, $1.5 million will be allotted for first responders, law enforcement and detention facilities to provide personal protective equipment, and additional supplies and staff.

“Without thinking twice, the dedicated providers at Truman Medical Centers jumped into gear to provide quality, compassionate care for our community,” said Charlie Shields, President and CEO of Truman Medical Centers. “We greatly appreciate this financial support from Jackson County. Together, TMC and Jackson County will heal, protect and save lives.”

Effective as of Tuesday, March 24, Jackson County is requiring people to stay at home except for essential needs, in order to ensure the maximum number of people self-isolate in their places of residence. The order is in effect until at least April 24, and may be extended depending on recommendations from public health officials.