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Kansas Republican Rep. Steve Alford was swiftly criticized by both sides of the aisle for saying black people are more prone to drug abuse because of their "character makeup" and "genetics," and that's part of the reason why legalizing marijuana in Kansas would not be a good idea.  

Though he's the first lawmaker to say something offensive in 2018, he's just the latest in Kansas and Missouri over the past year. Racism, homophobia, threats of violence: nothing seems out of bounds. Here are some of the notable, publicly aired examples: 

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

 

Kansas’ troubled child welfare agency asked lawmakers Monday for money to solve mounting problems -- foster kids sleeping in offices, children lost in the system, and a skyrocketing caseload.

Legislators and advocates expressed outrage earlier at news that children slept in foster care contractors’ offices because foster homes had no room. Department for Children and Families secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said some of the requested money would go toward holding beds open for hard-to-place kids.

Rugby Simon / KCUR 89.3

Today, the University of Kansas announced a $25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund the KU Medical Center's program, Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute (KU CTSI).

Frontiers began five years ago. It's a clinical science institute dedicated to connecting scientists at the KU Med Center to resources and innovative research tools. It's one of just 57 institutes of its kind in the country.

The university has become known for this program, along with its cancer center, and Alzheimer's disease center.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Update: On Tuesday, Rep. Steve Alford gave up his chairmanship on a Kansas House committee and stepped aside from a child welfare task force.

 

After a western Kansas lawmaker suggested black people respond to the use of marijuana differently than others, the Republican leader of his own party condemned the remarks.

On Saturday in Garden City, Rep. Steve Alford of Ulysses said the drug was made illegal because of the way he contended it affects African-American users.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The first part of the regular Monday meeting of the Jackson County Legislature was perfunctory, nothing but routine county business.

By the end voices had been raised, the county's lawyer was pacing and it appeared the Legislature and County Executive were going to court to settle who controls the anti-drug program known as COMBAT.

Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

It's a Republican season in the Missouri General Assembly. The GOP controls the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, and Republican Governor Eric Greitens is working hard to advance a conservative agenda. But Democrats press on, seeking to influence legislation where they can and, sometimes, taking their case directly to the people.

Courtesy Bill Haw Jr.

The Crossroads building recently vacated by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is being purchased by Kansas City civic leader Bill Lyons, who plans to lease part of it to an expanded Haw Contemporary.

Bill Haw Jr. plans to lease about 2,500 square feet on the east side of the building at 19th and Baltimore to allow him to grow beyond his current operation in the West Bottoms, Lyons said.

KCUR

Lawmakers arrived in Topeka Monday with monumental money problems facing the state and an executive branch stuck in a confusing transition.

It’s the start of a roughly 90-day session in which they, once again, must juggle the state’s checkbook to meet multiple pressing needs. That includes an ultimatum from the Kansas Supreme Court to find more tax dollars for schools.

It’s a tough job made that much harder by unusual political circumstances.

Alex Smith / Harvest Public Media

A few years ago, Kansas City restaurateur Anton Kotar surveyed the local and national restaurant scenes and concluded his town’s reputation as a steakhouse paradise had slipped.

The problem, he says, is the way conventional beef is raised – bulked up with grain on feedlots, making it cheap and plentiful and changing what Americans expect to taste.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas set lofty goals for its public schools in the next dozen years – but the Trump administration and independent experts suggest the state’s plan is as vague as it is ambitious.

The state’s plan lacks concrete details on closing academic gaps in its public schools, so much so that federal officials and outside reviewers question the state’s compliance with civil rights law that demands all children get fair learning opportunities.

Courtesy of KCPT

For Mike McGraw, it was always about the story, never about his ego.

He was a relentless truth teller, a reporter who, once having latched on to a subject, wouldn’t let go until he got to the bottom of the matter.

He was offended by injustice, despised phoniness and had no patience for pieties and platitudes.

Level 5 Motorsports/Wikipedia Commons

Leawood businessman Scott Tucker was sentenced in New York today to more than 16 years in prison for running an illegal internet payday lending empire.

Tucker, who’s also a race car driver, and Timothy Muir, an Overland Park lawyer who worked for him, were convicted in New York in October of all 14 counts against them. Muir was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

E.G. Schempf

Cardboard has a smell.

You notice it as soon as you walk into the glass-encased Kansas Focus Gallery at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, where eight of May Tveit’s cardboard sculptures emerge from the walls like sentries, layers of flat, precision-cut cardboard stacked into pyramids arranged in various rectangles. You recognize the smell; you just weren't expecting it in an art gallery.

But why not? As Tveit's exhibition makes clear, cardboard is an evocative medium. 

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

In what may have amounted to his farewell address, departing Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Mark Holland decried corruption in the city’s fire department at a Unified Government meeting that failed to muster a quorum of commissioners.

Holland, the mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, called the meeting after a government report found that KCK firefighters had been paid $920,000 in taxpayer money in 2017 for work they didn’t do.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The White House may have scrapped the controversial national election integrity commission that he was helping to lead, but Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is still rooting out alleged voter fraud in his home state.

Armed with powers not usually assigned to a secretary of state, Kobach filed a pair of criminal complaints Thursday against two people he said voted when, and more, than they had the right to.

Wikipedia

A deal to farm out the next new prison in Kansas to a private firm -- one that would replace the outdated facility in Lansing and lease it to the state -- hit a delay Thursday.

The State Finance Council, which would have to sign off lease-to-buy contract, said it needs two weeks to further study the details of a plan to pay CoreCivic Inc. $362 million over 20 years.

Several members of the council said they didn’t want to approve the deal until the state and the company finalized their contract negotiations.

Senior Airman Carlin Leslie / U.S. Airforce

Happy 2018 – now what?

The new calendar year’s initial weekend delivers a grab bag of endeavors: Downtown art-scene appreciation, drolly ancient funk-rock, Jewish comedians riffing on their cultural history, dinosaur love, football dreams and more.

What might all the miscellany amount to? Find out by reaching into the bag!

 

1. First Friday at the Crossroads

U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri

With a looming deadline, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday named 17 interim U.S. Attorneys, including one for the Western District of Missouri.

Timothy Garrison, an assistant federal prosecutor in the Western District’s Springfield office, was sworn in this morning and will assume his duties as the top federal prosecutor in the western half of the state on Friday.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

When seven Kansas City poets read new work this weekend, it'll be inspired by colorful, layered collages — a pieced-together medium that holds deep meaning for one emerging area artist.

“I think about collage as a metaphor to describe black culture,” says Glyneisha Johnson, a recent graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute and Charlotte Street Foundation resident artist.

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

In one of his last acts as mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, Mark Holland has called a meeting of the UG Commission today to discuss a report that KCK firefighters were paid for work they didn’t perform last year.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's effort to dramatically tighten voting rules goes to trial in March.
File Photo / Kansas News Service

The fight over whether Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violated the constitution in his quest to demand proof of citizenship from voters goes to trial, with a ruling Wednesday that could complicate his case, in March.

Johnson County Community College / YouTube

Kansas Democrats have filed two gun control bills for the upcoming legislative session. With some key lawmakers signaling resistance, the proposals could be a tough sell.

Still, legislators from both parties expect discussion of the state’s role in regulating firearms.

KDHE

A lawyer who spearheaded Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to block Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood will take charge of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment next week. 

Darian Dernovish will become interim head of the agency on Jan. 8, Brownback’s office said Wednesday. He will replace Susan Mosier, who has held the job since December 2014. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Executive Frank White wasn't there to see it, but he took a beating Wednesday in the county Legislature.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the legislators discussed how the county paid for a truck driven by White's embattled chief of staff, Caleb Clifford, and suggested the county executive's office was trying to hide that purchase from the Legislature. 

The county auditor prepared a memo titled "Where did the money come from to pay for Chief of Staff's $33,945 vehicle?"

Courtesy BurnettMusic.com

Christopher Burnett is a prominent Kansas City saxophonist, band leader, instructor and raconteur. He also operates Artists Recording Collective, a record label that has released dozens of albums by jazz musicians from around the world.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Royals appear to really want free agent Eric Hosmer to stay in Kansas City. 

USA Today reported Wednesday that the team is offering the first baseman what would be a franchise-record deal: seven years, $147 million. That offer would top another offer reportedly before Hosmer, a seven-year, $140 million deal from the San Diego Padres. 

Missouri News Horizon / Flickr--CC

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has nominated one of his most vocal Republican critics to a powerful state board, just ahead of the start to the 2018 legislative session. 

On Tuesday, Greitens tapped Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Republican representing Kansas City's Northland, to serve on the state Public Service Commission. The body regulates utilities in the state. Among other duties, the panel sets utility rates. 

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Ambulances are often considered a prime example of the excessively high cost of medical care in the United States. One ride can cost more than a trip from Kansas City to Hawaii.

But David Slusky, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, thinks he may have found something surprising that’s reducing ambulance use: the ride-hailing company Uber.

The Pitch / The Pitch

The fulfillment of a "long-term dream." That's how the new owners of The Pitch describe their acquisition of the Kansas City alternative magazine, which was announced Tuesday.

Carey Media, LLC, says it closed a deal to buy The Pitch from Tennessee-based SouthComm on the final day of 2017. SouthComm bought the magazine in 2011. 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Advanced biofuels have been touted as the next step beyond the corn-based ethanol that’s the bulk of the country’s renewable fuel for cars and trucks. These next-generation options were supposed to bring jobs to rural communities and provide farmers with fresh revenue sources, in addition to reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles.

Nearly a decade of federal incentives encouraged companies to invest in cellulosic technology, which produces ethanol from crop waste such as stalks, cobs and leaves left on fields after harvest, and at least three plants were built in the Midwest since 2014.

But cellulosic ethanol is harder to make than grain ethanol because it uses the inedible and irregular parts of the plants, meaning it was tough for machines to chew up the wet, heavy material. And companies faced other challenges, such as a steady supply, fluctuating markets and stalled policy decisions.

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