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A traffic engineer fine-tunes the InSync system from a remote computer.
Rhythm Engineering/InSync

A new $700,000 computerized traffic system installed by a private company to give Kansas City streetcar riders a better experience is reducing travel times for all vehicles in the downtown streetcar zone, according to the company.  

Jesse Manning of Rhythm Engineering, a Lenexa, Kansas, firm, told a City Council committee last week that the smart traffic system has reduced travel times between the River Market and Union Station by 31 percent northbound and 23 percent southbound during morning peak traffic hours.

Clay Chastain
Video frame courtesy of TV-9

It took just 1,709 valid signatures to qualify for a public vote. And Clay Chastain turned in 47 more than that.

But a place for his latest light rail plan is not assured a place on the ballot yet.

Chastain, who lives in Virginia most of the time, expects resistance from the Kansas City Council to his $2 billion plan.

Stinging from the slap of having a previous proposal blocked from the ballot because city attorneys found court support for their contention that the measure as put forth was illegal, the activist has tried to ward off another refusal.

Proposed apartment complex at 17th and Madison
Rendering courtesy of EPC Real Estate

Concerned neighbors, many of them senior citizens, showed up at Kansas City City Hall last week to object to a proposed apartment project at 17th and Madison on the city's Westside. But few had a chance to testify.

According to former city councilman Robert Hernandez and other community leaders, many were retired and low-income persons who worried that the upscale apartments would drive up their property taxes and force them out of their homes.

Vision of rebuild Linwood Shopping Center
Rendering by Builders by Design, LLC

The Prospect corridor in Midtown Kansas City has been without a full-service grocery store for a little over 10 years.

That is how long it has been since owners threw in the towel on the store at the old Linwood Shopping Center.

The area could have a real grocery store back soon – probably a SunFresh store. But, city staff estimates it will cost taxpayers up to a half-million dollars a year to underwrite the project.

Councilman Jermaine Reed, whose district the shopping center would serve, called support for the project a council responsibility.

Proposed apartment complex at 17th and Madison
Rendering courtesy of EPC Real Estate

An apartment project proposed for 17th and Madison drew continued opposition this week despite concessions by developers. 

The  Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee held a hearing Wednesday on a scaled-back version of the EPC Real Estate proposal in which the developer reduced the height of the apartment building, cut back the number of apartments from 60 to 48 and reduced the amount of retail space included in the project.

Neighborhood groups urged the committee to reject the project, citing several reasons. 

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's Statehouse Blend podcast, we profile the four candidates campaigning in this year's republican gubernatorial primary.

Guests:

 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

With $40 million from the Department of Transportation, Kansas City would build on the network Google Fiber brought to town five years ago.

That’s the pitch Mayor Sly James made Thursday before U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx. Kansas City is one of seven finalists in the Smart Cities Challenge.

“This isn’t about technology,” James said. “It’s not about streets. It’s about people.”

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

At the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission's June meeting at Union Station Tuesday, one thing was clear: Despite a lower total budget than last year, the Missouri Department of Transportation is looking to the future.

Commission Vice Chair Steve Miller says that, although the Missouri General Assembly didn't increase fuel taxes this session to help fund roads and bridges, the reinstatement of a $20 million cost-sharing program is a boon.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's Statehouse Blend podcast, we bring you an in-depth look at what is shaping up to be a competitive 2016 election year in Kansas.

Guests on this episode:

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he will call state lawmakers back to Topeka for a special session to work on school funding issues. In a statement, Brownback said he made the decision after consulting with legislative leaders.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley says the governor’s priority is avoiding a school shutdown caused by a lawsuit over school funding.

“They’re going to work very hard to keep the special session focused on the issue of education to make sure the courts do not close our schools and the kids can go back to school,” says Hawley.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's Statehouse Blend podcast, we bring you an in-depth look at what is shaping up to be a competitive 2016 election year in Kansas.

Guests on this episode:

File photo

In the past few years, Kansans have become used to monthly revenue numbers in the red. Still, May's figures came as a shock. On the last (mostly ceremonial) day of the 2016 legislative session, state revenue officials announced Kansas had come up nearly $75 million short of projections. Both individual and corporate income tax collections fell short of the mark. 

The Platte City Corthouse
plattecitymo.com

Platte County Treasurer Rob Willard fell for an e-mail scam Friday, and it cost the county more than $48,000.

Willard received an e-mail, purportedly from Presiding Commissioner Ron Scheiber, requesting an immediate wire transfer of $48,200 to a Florida bank to pay for tax consulting services. 

Scheiber was on vacation and not responding to text messages and it was late in the day – nearing closing time for the Florida bank.

Willard said the e-mail looked legitimate and seemed urgent, so he complied ... all before Scheiber checked his messages

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas tax collections for May fell short of projections by about $74 million, and legislators said Wednesday they fear that will mean more cuts to Medicaid.

The May shortfall comes despite the state’s revenue estimating group revising projections downward for the third consecutive time about six weeks ago.

It wipes out the meager savings Gov. Sam Brownback created when he made cuts two weeks ago after the Legislature sent him a budget that didn’t balance.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

William Conway. Charles Luken. Frank Rohrback. Maurice Bedell. Wesley Walden. Thomas Medina. James Reynolds.

“Those are the men, the deputies, who are carved in this monument,” Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 40 President David Toland said Wednesday at the dedication ceremony for a memorial honoring fallen Wyandotte County sheriff deputies. “I hope these are the last.”

An emotional Rick Whitby, president emeritus of FOP Lodge 40, shared personal stories about two of the fallen deputies.

Whitby said he was the last to talk to Reynolds before he died in 1984.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker doesn’t think victims and first responders should lose their right to privacy just because they’re witnesses in criminal proceedings.

Baker filed a friend-of-the-court brief Tuesday firing back at a St. Louis judge who in several cases has ordered the City Circuit Attorney there to disclose the home addresses of crime victims and law enforcement officers scheduled to testify in court.

“We're not trying to hide them,” Baker says. “But what we are trying to do is balance their privacy right against our system of justice.”

Kansas City Fire Department

The omnipresence of cell phones makes it easier and often quicker for people to report emergency situations.  But the cellular devices are a significant factor in ambulance response times that miss Kansas City's response time goal.

Actually, the city's ambulance service, operated by the Fire Department, performed well in April, according to a report submitted to the City Council Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee.

Of nearly 6,500 calls for emergency service, 65 turned out to be classified as life-threatening emergencies.

HDR, City of Kansas City

Northland council members were most skeptical, but all members of a joint City Council Committee seemed to agree  Thursday that a proposed city-wide transit-oriented development plan still needs more work.

First District Councilwoman Heather Hall seemed to sum up the concerns of her colleagues.

“First of all, it's too big to be effectively run by all the different components that we need to do; and it doesn't meet the needs of  every part of the city, but in fact the whole city will be responsible for all of it,” Hall told the group.

Courtesy of jocogov.org

Most departments in Johnson County, Kansas, will no longer ask questions about criminal convictions on their job applications. The move is in support of the Fair Chance Hiring initiative, a campaign started by the National Employment Labor Project to give people with criminal records better access to jobs.

Briana O'Higgins / KCUR 89.3

KCUR 89.3's Statehouse Blend podcast returns to the Westport Flea Market for another live special. Host Brian Ellison leads the audience in a discussion with Senators Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, and Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, about the central issues from the 2016 session of the Missouri General Assembly. 

Guests:

  • Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City
  • Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph
Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

As the Missouri and Kansas 2016 legislative sessions come to an end, Statehouse Blend hosts, Sam Zeff and Brian Ellison, discuss the most impactful and surprising events on both sides of the state line with the assistance of guest host, Kyle Palmer.

KC Police

An audit released this week concludes that with tight budgets and unfilled officer positions, the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department should re-evaluate its policies on allowing officers to take police vehicles home with them in their off-duty hours.

The police do not agree.

The audit found that 45 percent of the police fleet is assigned for take-home with no tracking of mileage or how they are used after duty hours.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

As the Missouri and Kansas 2016 legislative sessions come to an end, Statehouse Blend hosts, Sam Zeff and Brian Ellison, discuss the most impactful and surprising events on both sides of the state line with the assistance of guest host, Kyle Palmer.

A boutique hotel is planned for the Pendgergast Building and old Pabst brewery.
aprium.com

The full Kansas City Council on Thursday gave unanimous approval to tax abatement and other incentives for planned hotels in the heart of
downtown in the Crossroads Arts District.

Both involve the renovation of historic buildings: the old Federal Reserve building at 9th and Grand and the Pendergast Building and former Pabst brewery in the Crossroads.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Critics of a proposed rule change regarding birth certificates criticized the policy at a public hearing Thursday. The proposal would make it virtually impossible for transgender people to have the sex changed on their Kansas birth certificate.

Stephanie Mott, who is transgender, says government documents that don’t match a transgender person’s identity make it more likely they’ll face discrimination and harassment. She says this policy would further stigmatize transgender Kansans.

Creative Commons

The building is historic, and the story familiar. 

Developers seeking to renovate the old Federal Reserve Building at 925 Grand told the 95-year-old tower's tale of woe to the City Council Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday.

They described and showed photos of disrepair and water damage in a structure now eight years vacant, lacking a fire sprinkler system and with only one working elevator for which repair parts must be custom-fabricated.

visitkc.com

A Kansas City Council Committee has approved a contract extension of up to five years for California-based company Ticketmaster to continue to ticketing for events at city-owned convention and entertainment facilities.

McGaskey, executive director for the venues, says one factor that set Ticketmaster apart from two competing bidders was a $45,000 annual Ticketmaster allowance for advertising to help promote events. He said the assistance is a “nice incentive” to offer some event sponsors. 

Alex Smith / KCUR

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said Tuesday that low public support has prompted the city to abandon plans to build a new airport.

James said the city would shift its priorities to other issues after polls last week showed just 39 percent of voters supporting a ballot question on issuing airport revenue bonds to construct a new terminal.

“Although I still feel that a new air terminal is inevitable, it's clear that the time is not now,” James said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Legislature approved additional restrictions on people who receive government assistance but removed one proposal that would have required women to return to work shortly after giving birth.

The changes, passed late Sunday as part of Senate Bill 402, reduce the lifetime limit for cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families from three years to two years. There is a one-year hardship extension.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas lawmakers struggled over the weekend working late nights trying to craft a budget solution. Ultimately, they approved a plan in the early hours of Monday morning.

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