Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Show Must Go On: GHS Theatre Goes Virtual

 

by Mary K. King

Likely for the first time in Grandview High School’s Theatre Department history, Director Molly Mokler is leading the charge for a digital production, She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms.

Originally a stage performance, Mokler saw the show at the 2018 Missouri Thespian Conference and fell in love with the production.

“It’s super girl power and feminist,” said Mokler. “It has all these amazing fighting scenes and is based off of the game, Dungeons and Dragons, which I play.”

Back in the spring of 2020, at the beginning of COVID-19 quarantine, all shows shut down. Mokler said that, for high schoolers in particular who had been preparing for shows, it was a real bummer. The author of She Kills Monsters, Qui Nguyen, decided at that time to rewrite his script for a Zoom production.

“He turned his script around really fast, and the first virtual performance of his show was on May 7 of this year,” said Mokler. “I had heard through the theatre community that he was one of the first to really put a virtual script out there. When I watched it, while it wasn’t as amazing as the in-person version, it was something.”

Mokler didn’t decide on this script right away, as there were too many unknown factors to consider: whether Grandview schools would be in-person or virtual, or what the district would allow her to do as far as a show goes.

“I kind of had to wait around for the school to make some decisions, but I decided pretty early on that I wanted to do a fully-virtual show,” said Mokler. “I didn’t want to risk having students put their heart and soul into something that could get canceled.”

She read many different virtual shows looking for the right fit. She initially was looking at other productions because two other schools in the area were already committed to doing She Kills Monsters. However, those schools were planning an in-person show. She circled back to the digital script for the show, and it occurred to her that some of the scenes could be animated.

“That would really amp up the production value; and it would be a cool opportunity for our students to do voice-over work for their characters,” said Mokler. “And, it could really get more students involved because we could pull in the art department.”

She contacted a friend who does animation, and when he signed on to help, she knew this was her show. Her students, she says, are excited that they get to do theatre at all, thinking that the season would likely be canceled.

“The kids were super on board with the very unique way we were going to go about filming this,” said Mokler. “They have adapted overall very well, and I think they’re really proud of it. They’re going to just be thrilled with the final product.”

She has three students who worked on the art and the animation who sought Mokler out to be a part of the show. Trying to stick to a familiar process for her students, Mokler worked to make the show theatrical when possible. Auditions were all online, and the students had three weeks of rehearsal before anything was recorded. They also worked on filming etiquette, like how to make their Zoom frames look theatrical.

“We spent, I think, two full days of figuring out where in the students’ bedrooms would be the best lighting, the best angles and backgrounds,” said Mokler. “Where we could, we used natural light, but we also ended up buying several ring lights for those who didn’t have good lighting in their rooms.”

One scene was recorded using a green screen. A select group of students were allowed into the school to film the scene. Costuming was also a different experience, she said, because the students weren’t able to come in for fittings all at once. When in person, costuming isn’t a big deal, she said, but because of COVID-19, it was more difficult.

“We hired this costumer who created some amazing costumes, but it was such a challenge because we couldn’t have the kids come up to the school,” said Mokler. “I had to drive around to their homes and measure them in their driveway to get appropriate measurements for our costumer.”

Students also had to learn how to apply their own makeup for the show. Filming wrapped up last week, and the animation is being produced now.

“The kids will get to see themselves perform; and in a lot of cases, for the very first time,” said Mokler. “Very few shows allow you to record anything. Before the pandemic, it was very rare that you would even get the rights to film any portion of a show. The students will have the opportunity to celebrate their work with their families. The other cool part of this is that nobody has to travel.

“It’s going to be a truly amazing production,” said Mokler. “We’ve certainly never done anything like this, especially at a high school level. We’ve done something incredibly creative here, and their talents really shine.”

She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms will be available through streaming tickets on November 19, 20 and 21, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 per one streaming device, and are only available online at showtix4u.com/event-details/41812.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Candidates for Missouri Governor Debate at Historic Missouri Theater in Columbia

by Mary K. King

Missouri’s next Governor will be determined by voters on Tuesday, November 3. In order to help with that decision, the Missouri Press Association, in conjunction with newspapers across the state and KOMU-8 in Columbia, held a gubernatorial debate on Friday, October 9.

Originally scheduled for Friday, September 25, the debate was postponed due to Governor Mike Parson’s diagnosis with COVID-19 that week. He, along with his wife, First Lady Teresa Parson, were quarantined after discovering they were positive for the virus. The Governor experienced no symptoms, while the First Lady’s symptoms were mild.

Invited to speak at the debate were Auditor Nicole Galloway (D), Rik Combs (L), Parson (R), and Jerome Bauer (G). Each candidate was provided an opportunity at the beginning and end to offer remarks based on their respective campaign’s platform, while questions were asked by panelists from KOMU, the Columbia Missourian, the Jefferson City News Tribune, and the Washington Missourian. The forum was moderated by David Lieb of The Associated Press.

With Missouri listed in the red zone for COVID-19, the state is among the top 10 nationally for cases. Galloway, the democratic candidate, stated that she feels Missouri needs a reset on the coronavirus response and strategy. She said the four-pillar plan that Parson has laid out is crumbling, and called it a failed test of leadership.

“I have outlined a plan based on data, on containment, on mitigation, on masks,” Galloway said. “Science-backed, data-proven ways to get this virus under control and prevent community spread.”

However, Parson, the republican incumbent, said his response was balanced from day one. His office consulted with leading healthcare experts in Missouri for the COVID-19 response plan, and he says the state is now testing over 125,000 Missourians each week.

“That data that we’ve got from 10 of the most expert infectious disease doctors in Missouri has helped guide our state,” said Parson. “We are on the right track in this state, but we have to do a combination of fighting a virus, fighting the economy, and getting our kids back in school.”

Libertarian Combs said that he would not have agreed to the stay-at-home orders. He also said that deeming workers essential or nonessential is not up to the state government to decide.

“I think it’s not the government’s position and I don’t think that the government has the authority to make people stay home,” said Combs. “I think what we could do is open the state up fully, and I believe that herd immunity would take control.”

Bauer, the Green party candidate, stressed the importance of mask-wearing in Missouri to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. He said that it is important for him to wear the mask when out in public in order to set a good example.

“Let’s have a mask mandate,” Bauer said. “We can’t enforce a law if people don’t voluntarily follow it.”

The impact of COVID-19 has created an economic downturn across the state. Bauer said that, if elected, he would instill a universal basic income for all citizens, and will look beyond Medicaid expansion efforts, to help combat the dwindling economy in Missouri.

“We need a single-payer system,” Bauer said. “This is an idea that’s been floating around for quite a while. We can do much better than Medicaid expansion and we can do much better than Obamacare. Those are stop-gap measures, and we really need to recognize that healthcare is a human right.”

Galloway said that state and local budgets are hurting due to the economic impact of COVID-19. She said her plan is to take action to contain the spread of the virus in order to jumpstart the economy again.

“We’ve seen an increase in jobless claims even this week,” Galloway said. “We’re continuing to slide backwards. We also have hundreds of millions of dollars of CARES Act money that is just stuck at the state. As Governor, I would be much more engaged in deploying these resources to help our local communities.”

As a Libertarian, Combs is a proponent of free enterprise, and he feels there is currently an over-reliance on government to control and run the lives of the citizens. He said he puts his trust and faith in Missouri businesses and people to overturn the economy for the better.

“I think the free enterprise system needs to be unleashed,” said Combs. “We need fewer regulations, fewer rules. We need to get the government out of healthcare and other aspects of the economy as much as possible.”

Parson said that Missouri is 12th in the country for getting people back to work. He added that Chewy Pet Food just opened a facility in Belton, creating 1,200 new jobs in the state. That, along with other new businesses, he says are part of his balanced approach to mitigating the virus and stimulating the economy.

“We left our businesses open,” Parson said. “We got our economy going back. As of last month, consumer spending was up 6.3 percent. We continue to bring businesses to our state. We continue to move forward in this state.”

Missouri as a whole has seen a surge in crime, especially in the state’s more urban areas. Governor Parson called a special session devoted specifically to addressing the violent crime across the state. The question was asked of the candidates if they would propose anything additional to help combat crime, and whether or not the special session was effective.

Parson touted his 22 years in law enforcement, saying that he doesn’t believe there has been another Governor to take more interest in the issue of crime in the state. He said that he has helped to obtain a grant to combat crime, and is working hand-in-hand with metro police on both sides of the state.

“(We need) to meet people in the streets; boots on the ground,” said Parson. “We need more police officers. We need to be able to do that to fight violent crime. We need to partner with the federal, the state and the locals, which is exactly what we’ve done.”

He added that the number-one issue seen across the state from mayors dealing with violent crime in their cities has been the establishment of a witness protection program, which was the reason for his special session. However, Combs doesn’t agree that Parson had the right idea with calling the special session.

“I don’t think our emphasis is in the right place,” said Combs. “Our emphasis needs to be on drugs and gangs. I think that’s a big part of what we’re seeing in our metro areas. What I would like to do is get together a big task force involving federal agents, and for the state police and locals to go in and start working on some of these gang issues and some of these drug cartel trafficking routes.”

Bauer said he would like to see a different approach that doesn’t involve over-policing the communities, which he feels exacerbates the issue. Galloway said that as a mom, she feels that nothing is more important than the safety of the state’s communities.

“I have introduced a comprehensive plan to get to the root causes of crime,” said Galloway. “I stand with 90 percent of Missourians who want to see some common-sense gun safety rules like background checks. Violent crime has been rising for years under Governor Parson’s watch, and last year as communities were begging for action, he called a special session to give tax breaks for used car and boat trade-ins.

“When we needed him to step up to the plate,” she added, “he didn’t hit a homerun, he struck out. The witness protection fund doesn’t even have funding.”

Parson disagreed with Galloway’s assessment on the special session, however, saying that the state gave the police departments the protections they needed to fight crime.

Ultimately, the voters in Missouri will decide on the state’s next Governor on Tuesday, November 3.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Gubernatorial Forum - Rescheduled

Republican Governor Mike Parson and Democratic Auditor Nicole Galloway, along with third party candidates Libertarian Rik Combs and Green Party Jerome Bauer, Missouri candidates for Governor, will face off for the first time on Friday, October 9, at 2 p.m. It was originally scheduled for September, but was postponed due to Parson’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

The Gubernatorial forum, sponsored by the Missouri Press Association and KIMU-8, will be televised and streamed live. The event, produced in cooperation with the Missouri School of Journalism, will be held at the University of Missouri’s historic Missouri Theatre.

The candidates will share a common stage to discuss their positions on issues affecting Missouri. David Lieb, the Associated Press’ chief correspondent in Jefferson City, will moderate the debate. Candidates will be questioned by media members representing KOMU, the Missouri School of Journalism, and the
Missouri Press Association.

The livestream will be available on the Jackson County Advocate’s website, under the NEWS tab, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jcadvocatenewspaper.

For a recap of the debate, look for the story in next week’s issue of the Advocate.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Quarantine restrictions cause Governor to miss Friday's Gubernatorial Forum

Following reports of a positive COVID-19 test for the Governor and First Lady Teresa Parson, and due to quarantine restrictions, Gov. Mike Parson’s campaign staff has confirmed he will not be able to attend the Missouri Press Association/KOMU-8 gubernatorial forum scheduled for Friday, Sept. 25.


Plans are to reschedule the forum to a later date. More information about the rescheduled forum will be announced when details are finalized.

COVID-19: Up Close and Personal

Putting a Familiar Face on the Pandemic

By Mary King

Sandy Kessinger is a healthy middle-aged woman who leads an active lifestyle. A former Grandview alderman, Kessinger works for Bank of Blue Valley and volunteers her spare time to many different organizations. She most recently became president of the Grandview Education Foundation. Even through the pandemic, she remained focused on her work and her volunteer efforts as much as possible.

“It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was in the hospital,” said Kessinger. “I never thought COVID was a hoax. I knew it was real, I just never thought it would affect me. Personally, I was more worried about the collapse of the economy than I was about contracting COVID. I didn’t think I would catch it.”

Wearing a mask when required in public, working from home, and washing her hands more often than usual, Kessinger felt as though she was doing everything she needed to be doing in order to remain healthy and clear from the virus. However, mid-week before Labor Day, she started to not feel well. After several days of worsening symptoms, on Labor Day, Monday, September 7, Kessinger and her husband, Don, went to get her tested for COVID-19.

“I can’t even really describe how I felt,” she said. “It wasn’t a cold. I’ve had bronchitis before and all kinds of other respiratory illnesses, and this wasn’t like any of those. It didn’t feel like anything I’ve had before. I just felt off. I was really fatigued and the body aches were the worst. But, you know your body, and when something doesn’t feel right. I knew something was really wrong when I didn’t have the energy to even walk from the bedroom to the couch.”

With no underlying health conditions she’s aware of, Kessinger wasn’t convinced that what she had was COVID-19. The couple headed to an urgent care clinic, where with a limited number of tests available each day, they were given an allotted time to be tested.

“I had heard that they dig practically to the back of the brain for the test, but at the urgent care it wasn’t like that,” said Kessinger. “She just swirled a Q-tip looking thing around real fast in my nose, and that was it.”

While at the urgent care, the nurse practitioner also checked Kessinger’s vital signs. Attaching the blood oxygen monitor to her pointer finger, the nurse thought maybe something was wrong with the monitor and tried another of Kessinger’s fingers. The readings on her blood oxygen levels were dangerously low. Still not convinced it wasn’t a technicality, the nurse attached it to Kessinger’s husband’s finger, then her own, just to be sure.

“She told me my oxygen level was under 90 and asked me if I had a hard time breathing,” said Kessinger. “I didn’t realize until she mentioned it that I was shallow breathing to keep from coughing.”

The physician on call at the urgent care clinic sent Kessinger straight to the emergency room due to her critical oxygen levels.

“I was thinking, ‘I just came to get a test, I didn’t sign up for this,’” she said.

The clinic sent her medical paperwork over immediately to the hospital, and the Kessingers made their way to the ER.

“I was planning on going to get a COVID test and then going home,” she said.

Kessinger’s Labor Day plans changed quickly, as she was ushered into isolation immediately upon arrival, while her husband waited outside in the parking lot for updates. The COVID-19 test Kessinger received upon admission into the emergency room at the hospital, unlike that at the clinic, was like everything she had read about previously.

“It was almost like a straw that they stuck in there, and I literally saw stars,” said Kessinger. “My eyes teared up and it was horrible. The test is no joke.”

They had Kessinger dress into a gown, and when she met with the first attending physician and nurses, she noticed they were suited up from head-to-toe in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“It kind of took me off guard,” she said. “They each had on three masks, a shield, every piece of hair is covered, gloves, plastic disposable gowns, and even shoe covers. Every time someone came in my room, they would get rid of it all when they left. They would have to put a fresh set on every time. Knowing that I was the one there potentially exposing everybody was kind of surreal.”

While there, she found out there was a shortage of housekeeping staff due to fear of working in the hospital during the pandemic. Kessinger discovered that the one who was there most consistently cleaning her room was working 16-hour days to keep up with the cleaning because her coworkers were no longer coming in.

Kessinger was fully admitted to the hospital on the evening of September 7. She spent six full days in the hospital, and was finally released to go home on Sunday, September 13. While there, she received a number of treatments, including intravenous antiviral medicines, oxygen, steroids, blood thinners, and two plasma transfusions from recovered COVID-19 patients. Preliminary tests have shown that the plasma antibodies have proven to strengthen the body’s ability to fight the virus quicker.

“It’s overwhelming. To have to listen to a doctor tell you that they have to wait on your test results before they can treat you because nothing has been approved yet - though there are treatments the FDA has authorized for those with a positive result - to not even have Don there to help make those decisions with me was probably the hardest,” said Kessinger. “The practical side of me wondered if insurance would pay for this. Am I going to even be able to afford to live my life after this hospital bill?

“I looked it up while there, and the makers of Remdesivir (the antiviral medication she was given) are charging something like $3,500 for the five doses,” Kessinger added. “Though I will say, I feel fortunate that I became a patient six months after this came to light, because there was so little data for those people who were in the hospital in March or April. The doctors have learned a lot more since then.”

Though she’s grateful for the care she received while in the care of her physicians and nurses, she was ready to go home. Being in hospital isolation took its toll on her mental health.

“Just being by myself was the worst part,” said Kessinger. “The days were just so long. When you find yourself living this, it becomes so real. It’s more than just news stories you’re reading.”

Kessinger said in a few months, the blood bank will likely call her to donate her own plasma and pay it forward to another patient suffering from the virus.

“Of course I’ll say yes,” she said. “It seemed to work, though. I remember when they were taking me to my room in the hospital, if we had turned right, I would have been in the ICU. There were COVID patients there in the ICU on ventilators, and I’m very thankful that I wasn’t one of them.”

As much as she said she felt sorry for herself while in the hospital, she was grateful that it wasn’t worse. Upon going home, Kessinger no longer needed the oxygen, and was feeling much better already; though she was told to quarantine for 10 days. Her husband’s test that he received on Labor Day came back negative. She continued the steroid treatment for another five days at home.

“Not knowing where I got it, I’m a little freaked out about venturing out in public again,” said Kessinger. “I don’t know who I got it from or when that moment was that coronavirus entered my body. It freaks me out because I don’t know if I have any immunity. They’re not sure yet, and the thought of getting it again knowing that I’ve already been hospitalized once is scary.”

She said she is going to be more mindful in asking questions while out in public going forward. Having a first-hand experience with COVID-19, she plans to speak up when someone near her is coughing or showing other symptoms.

“Unfortunately, we’re coming up on the flu season, and people have seasonal allergies, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate to ask people if their coughing is normal for them,” said Kessinger. “I have a whole lot more hand sanitizer that I’m ready to put in my purse and my car. I don’t want to live my life in a bubble, but I want to be careful too.”

She is also concerned about how other people, her friends and family, will feel about being around her.

“Until it happened to me, I didn’t really know anyone who had it,” she said. “I don’t know what my reaction to someone else with it would have been. It feels as though there’s a stigma attached to a positive result, like I’ve turned into a pariah.

“I’ve had mixed feelings about sharing my COVID diagnosis publicly,” Kessinger said in a social media post to her friends. “Not sure why, as if there is some kind of shame in catching a virus during a pandemic. There’s no protocol for this.”

Throughout her experience with COVID-19, Kessinger learned that she’s not bulletproof, and that things that stressed her out before coronavirus don’t seem to matter as much anymore.

“That’s the lesson I hope I remember once I’m well,” she said. “It’s the little things, after all.”

For up-to-date COVID-19 data and information in Grandview and Jackson County, visit the Jackson County Health Department website at www.jacohd.org.

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.”