News

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

The blame game was on full display after last week’s mass shooting in Orlando, and it was on the minds of Kansas City students who attended a “Unity Fest” Saturday. 

The event is the conclusion of the American Friends Service Committee’s Social Change Institute, a summer program where teens learn and practice non-violent social change.

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.

KIPP KC

KIPP KC has rented space in the old Metropolitan Community College Pioneer Campus building at 18th and Prospect Avenue in Kansas City for eight years. Now, the charter middle school has bought the entire 95,000-square foot property as it embarks on a larger expansion plan. 

The school offers grades 5-8 and will add classes in kindergarten through fourth grade next year. School officials anticipate adding these grades will boost enrollment by more than 100 students, to around 380 total.

Large stockpiles are driving prices lower for some of the nation's most important crops.
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Kansas farmers may be facing some of toughest financial times they have experienced in three decades, largely thanks to low prices for the state’s biggest crops.

The average net farm income for farmers in the state plummeted in 2015 to just $4,568, according to a report released this week by the Kansas Farm Management Association (KFMA). The figure is less than 5 percent of the previous year’s average of $128,731.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural hospitals are struggling to stay open as the communities around them shrink and average patient counts drop as well. A study released earlier this year said one in three rural U.S. hospitals is at risk of closing.

But one small hospital in southwest Kansas — Kearny County Hospital — is drawing patients from as far as 90 miles away and expanding its services.

Benjamin Anderson, the hospital’s administrator, last year analyzed statistics dating back to 2005 for the hospital in Lakin.

Hannah Copeland / KCUR

About 7,000 volunteers and patrons traveled to a pasture on Saturday, June 11, near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas to listen to the Kansas City Symphony perform at the 11th annual Symphony in the Flint Hills.

As the sun began to set Saturday evening the crowd's attention was diverted to the co-stars of the outdoor concert: cows. Volunteer ranchers on horseback herded brown, white and black cattle across the bright green grassy hill behind the Symphony stage.

We're only about half way through 2016, but Kansas City artists haven't been wasting any time. That means area music lovers have had plenty to see and hear.

KCUR's Up To Date continues its tradition of reviewing new local music with area music critics. This time, our panel is:

ProjectManhattan / Wikimedia--CC

Children’s literature is becoming more and more diverse, but choosing which books to share with children can still be difficult. 

KCUR’s Central Standard recently welcomed Kansas City authors Christine Taylor-Butler and Traci Sorell to a discussion of how representations of race in children’s literature have changed over time.

Here are their recommendations for books with diverse and nuanced characters and storylines.

Christine Taylor-Butler, children’s book author:

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A few years ago, Blue Springs police officers were fielding daily calls about disturbances at two apartment complexes near Interstate 70 and Woods Chapel Road.

Now disturbances are down at the complexes, which are  under new management. Both have been renovated recently .

Police Department Deputy Chief Bob Muenz credits the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, a national initiative to clean up apartment complexes.

Participating landlords attend training and attach a “crime-free” addendum to their lease.

Helix Architecture + Design

The University of Missouri System Board of Curators met on Thursday and Friday in Columbia, Missouri, to review and vote on a $200 million 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

For this year's production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival has set the play in the Roaring Twenties.

Its three female characters represent distinctly different approaches to the gender politics of Shakespeare's time, so KCUR asked the actors for their thoughts on the characters of Viola, Olivia, and Maria.

Actor: Bree Elrod
Character: Viola

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.

flickr user Peter Musolino

Many teenagers seek out jobs, often for the first time, in the summer. Writer and novelist Thomas Fox Averill was 16 when he started his first job at Mount Hope Cemetery in Topeka, Kansas.

Averill, a writer-in-residence and professor of English at Washburn University, spent three summers as part of the grounds crew at Mount Hope. He told New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam that the experience shaped his life and his approach to writing.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Johnson County superintendents and local chambers of commerce are asking for a return to Kansas's old school funding formula and for a provision that would “hold all districts harmless.”

The Kansas Supreme Court has given lawmakers until June 30 to come up with an equitable funding formula or risk closure of the state’s schools. As it stands, Blue Valley, De Soto, Gardner-Edgerton, Olathe and Shawnee Mission will lose money under state lawmakers’ plan to equalize funding.

Joe Loong / Creative Commons-Flickr

Kansas health centers will receive about $2.2 million in grants and Missouri health centers, including three in Kansas City, will receive about $7.5 million to improve access to oral health care.

The grants are part of $156 million in federal funding announced Thursday by the Health Resources and Services Administration for health centers in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Unsplash / Pixabay

More Kansans are commuting to work than were in 2010.

That’s the latest from the Wichita State-based Center for Economic Development and Business Research, which on Thursday released an occasional report on Kansans’ commuting patterns.

“The choices about where we work are driven by the business cycle and what’s happening in that industry,” Pattie Bradley, senior research economist, says. “The choices we make about where to live are much more varied.”

Schools, crime, the cost and availability of housing, other amenities – all factor into the decisions people make.

Courtesy Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

Do big things ever really come in small packages?

Good luck finding out this weekend, when the true enormity of things won’t be concealed – whether that means abundant celebrity power, beer-food-and-music ecstasy or unmitigated artistic genius.

So go ahead and go big. What choice do you have? (Waiting until next weekend doesn’t count.)

1. Big Slick Celebrity Softball Game

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.

Laura Ziegler KCUR 89-3

As late afternoon sun streamed through the towering church windows of the Village Presbytarian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, Wednesday, more than a hundred people gathered to remember the dead and pray for survivors.

"For those grieving, those clinging to life, and those welcomed into God's hands, let us gather to worship," said Rev. Tom Are, Jr., softly. "We've learned that when life is broken, it's important to be in God's presence as a source of healing."

The meat found on American dinner tables is produced by slaughterhouses, which remain among the most dangerous places to work in the country.
Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

The meatpacking plants that enable American consumers to find cheap hamburger and chicken wings in the grocery store are among the most dangerous places to work in the country. Federal regulators and meat companies agree more must be done to make slaughterhouses safer, and while there are signs the industry is stepping up its efforts, danger remains.

The rate of meatpacking workers who lose time or change jobs because they’re injured is 70 percent higher than the average for manufacturing workers overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Kansas Board of Regents met Wednesday afternoon to approve tuition increases for the next school year. The board thought it was going to do that last month, but during the meeting Gov. Sam Brownback announced he was cutting an additional $30 million out of higher education.

So, at their last regular meeting until September, the Regents found themselves having to approve even higher tuition hikes.

Kansas officials continue to whittle away at a backlog of Medicaid applications that developed over the past year.

But as they do so, people with expertise in Medicaid eligibility say they’re seeing an increase in incorrect denials.

Creative Commons-Wikimedia

Many Bates County, Missouri, residents are in favor of a move this week by Sheriff Chad Anderson. He has temporarily waived fees for new concealed carry permits and renewals through the end of June. 

"Our phones rang non stop yesterday," Sheriff Anderson's assistant Jami Page says. "We had to bring in another dispatcher to handle all the calls." 

The Bates County Sheriff's office made the announcement Monday on Facebook in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The gunman, who was killed by police, claimed allegiance to the Islamic State. 

Claire Banderas / KCUR

The Kansas Legislature is preparing to go into special session to remedy a school funding formula that the Kansas Supreme Court ruled is unconstitutional. The court told the Legislature they have until June 30 to remedy the formula, or schools will be closed

Keith Allison / Flickr-CC

The proud parents watched from the stands, as their little boy stepped up to the plate for the first time. Mom, nervously pressing her face into her hands. Dad, holding up his phone to record every second. So what if TV cameras were already capturing the moment from six different angles? So what if their little boy was 27 years old? They’d been to just about every one of his games—so what if this one happened to be at Kauffman Stadium?

Ah, rookies.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Can data help Kansas City, Kansas, reverse decades of urban decay?

Mayor Mark Holland thinks so.

It’s economics 101, the mayor says: property values plummet when there are more houses than people. That’s what happened when white families started to leave Kansas City, Kansas, in the 1960s. 

“Thirty-thousand fewer people is about 10,000 empty homes,” Holland says, “which has become about 6,000 vacant lots.”

More minorities moved in but not fast enough to make up for the population loss. Today, fewer than 150,000 people live in Kansas City, Kansas.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Thousands of people in Kansas have incomplete voter registrations, which means they haven’t been able to vote. They were caught up in the state’s requirement that some people provide citizenship documents when registering. Now, a federal appeals court says many of those people should be allowed to vote in federal elections.

Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has pushed for the more stringent voter registration rules to ensure security in elections, but voter advocacy groups say the cost has been too high.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Let’s admit it: A lot of us aren’t as up on our Shakespeare as we ought to be (even some of us who were English majors).

For those who’d like to feel a little smarter as they head to Southmoreland Park for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's Twelfth Night, or What You Will, we consulted Geraldo U. Sousa, a professor of English at the University of Kansas who has written several books on Shakespeare and teaches Twelfth Night almost every semester.
 

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas has “reconsidered” its decision to terminate the participation of 11 Planned Parenthood physicians and other medical providers in the state’s Medicaid program, although it’s still trying to cut off Planned Parenthood itself.

Rebecca Lyn Phillips, of Topeka, has schizophrenia and writes a blog about the challenges of living with the disorder. She says the prospect of step therapy is 'terrifying' to many people with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Although every state has now adopted some form of “step therapy” to control prescription drug costs, patient advocacy groups in Kansas remain deeply distrustful of the policy scheduled to take effect July 1.

Also known as “fail first,” the policy requires providers participating in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to start patients on less expensive drugs before moving them to more expensive alternatives if medically necessary.

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