News

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A four hour hearing Wednesday left a Kansas City Council committee undecided on the fate of a $27.6 million plan for improvements to the 18th and Vine Jazz District. 

The request for city participation had virtually quadrupled from the $7 million version first proposed.

The plan had grown in its 6-month life to include historic preservation, infrastructure improvements, a fountain, outdoor amphitheater, apartments, retail and a connecting corridor to the Crossroads Arts District.

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 Kleinmann / Community Health Council of Wyandotte County

Standing at the meeting point of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, you can still get a glimpse of what Lewis and Clark might have seen when they camped here 212 years ago: vast skies, tall trees, wide, shimmering rivers, even the occasional eagle.

Rick Behrens, pastor of Grandview Park Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Kansas, says the rivers are hidden gems.

“It’s really a unique slice of nature in the middle of our cities that’s pretty amazing and a great opportunity for people to get away from the city, in a sense, right in the middle of the city,” Behrens says.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

A federal judge on Tuesday promised to rule before July 7 on Planned Parenthood’s request to block the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from cutting off its Medicaid funding.

That’s the date when the agency has said it will terminate Planned Parenthood’s participation in the Medicaid program.

The original cutoff date was May 10, but KDHE has extended that deadline twice, in part because it has had trouble finding counsel to represent it.

Health officials say about 30 children in Saline County have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Jason Tiller, director of the Saline County Health Department, says more cases could be discovered as public awareness of the health threat grows.

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 Needham Photography

Red Kate
unamerican activities (Black Site Records)

As an impressionable teenager with blue liberty spikes, I cut my teeth on the Kansas City punk rock scene, practically living at El Torreon on the weekends. I was the chick in the pit, dodging elbows and mashing around with steel toes. It wasn't an evening if I didn't have a new bruise.

Sarah Rose/Flickr-CC

Hostess Brands is recalling more than 700,000 cases of Ding Dongs and other products after tests revealed trace amounts of peanut.

The FDA warned consumers with severe peanut allergies to avoid the affected Hostess products, which includes varieties of the company’s doughnuts, Ding Dongs, Chocodiles and Zingers.

The Kansas City-based company sold the cakes to distributors and stores in the United States and Mexico. Two children have suffered allergic attacks after eating the snack foods.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

While most school districts in Kansas prepare for a possible shutdown at the end of the month, educators are looking for some guidance from the state Department of Education (KSDE).       

Everyone is waiting to see whether there will be a special session of the Kansas Legislature to try and fix the inequity between rich and poor districts.

If it’s not fixed by the end of the month, the state Supreme Court has said it will prohibit districts from spending or raising money.

Processed foods generally don't experience price spikes.
Kristi Koser / Harvest Public Media

At the grocery store, processed foods like cereal, crackers and candy usually maintain the same price for a long time, and inch up gradually. Economists call these prices “sticky” because they don’t move much even as some of the commodities that go into them do.

Take corn, for example, which can be a major food player as a grain, starch or sweetener.  

Corn prices can fluctuate widely, so why don’t products containing corn also see price changes? Why does your cereal pretty much cost $3 per box every week?

It’s partly thanks to the futures market.

Frances Burnett, 91, switched her party registration from Democrat to Republican so she could vote in the Senate District 34 primary for Ed Berger.
Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For the first time in more than 30 years, there’s a Democrat running in every Kansas Senate district. But their fellow left-leaning Kansans might not be voting for them in August.

That’s because some are so fed up with Gov. Sam Brownback, they’d rather switch parties to vote for a moderate Republican in the primary than allow the governor’s supporters to stay in the Legislature.

A lifelong resident of Arlington, Kansas, 91-year-old Francis Burnett laughs when asked if she’s a Democrat.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Eleven agencies that provide support to help Kansas seniors stay in their homes are starting to put some on waiting lists following state budget cuts.

The $2.1 million reduction to the state’s Senior Care Act programs was part of a package of cuts Gov. Sam Brownback made last month after the Legislature sent him a budget that didn’t balance.

Brownback and the Legislature have faced several budget crises since enacting large income tax cuts in 2012.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's 18th and Vine shares similar roots with Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. And both of these music-infused, historically African-American districts have gone through ups and downs over the decades. 

Beale Street is now a thriving tourist destination with restaurants, bars, and shops, although some of its lively streetscape includes facades of historic buildings propped up with steel girders. 

A weekday work session on the Student Organic Farm at Iowa State University has members weeding a perennial bed.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A weathered wooden shed that holds wheelbarrows, hoes and other basic tools is the beacon of the Student Organic Farm, a two-acre swath within the Iowa State University Horticulture Research Farm. On a warm spring evening, a half-dozen students gather here, put on work gloves and begin pulling up weeds from the perennial beds where chives, strawberries, rhubarb and sage are in various stages of growth.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James joined city leaders and educators from Missouri and Kansas Saturday at the Kauffman Foundation for the Municipal Summit on Afterschool and Expanded Learning to discuss the importance of after-school and summer programs for students.

James says once students are out of school for the summer, there’s not always a lot for them to do — which he says puts them at risk for participating in dangerous activities.

James said across Missouri and Kansas, only 14 percent of school-aged kids participate in after-school events.

Todd Rosenberg

Musicians in the Kansas City Symphony will get a salary increase of nearly twenty percent over the next four years, along with increases in other benefits after successful contract negotiations, the Symphony has announced.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

For the first time, someone in leadership in the Kansas Legislature has called for a special session to craft a solution to school funding inequity that will satisfy the state Supreme Court and head off a possible shutdown of schools by month's end.

Rep. Ron Ryckman from Olathe, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, sent a letter addressed to "Colleagues" suggesting now is the time to act.

Henry Fortunato / Indian Creek Trail Interpretive Signage Project

The Indian Creek Trail, which spans about 10 miles in Overland Park is about to get a facelift — new outdoor exhibit panels that will teach hikers and bikers about some little-known tidbits of Johnson County history.

For example, did you know that an off-handed remark turned 111th street into College Boulevard?

Maybe not, according to Henry Fortunato, founder of Sunflower Republic, LLC, and director of the Indian Creek Trail Interpretive Signage Project, because most schools teach very little about local history.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

In 1975, Paul Stephen Lim, a KU student, was struggling to write a short story.

One night, at a party, he was chatting with a theater professor about his writing problem.

“Maybe it doesn’t want to be a short story,” the professor suggested. “Maybe it wants to be a play.”

And, with that advice, Lim forged a new path.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The path to normalized relations between the United States and Cuba made a stop in farm country Friday.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his Cuban counterpart, Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, toured Aaron Lehman’s corn and soybean farm in central Iowa. They talked about water, soil, and energy and compared strategies for managing hog manure, which has been a problem in Iowa.

Vilsack said he hopes Cuba can increasingly be an export market for farm products like soybeans, rice and, eventually, poultry.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

A Kansas senator says a highway project in his district is back on schedule, drawing protests from Democrats who say Republican Gov. Sam Brownback picked that project over others to help a political ally in an election year.

The project to widen U.S. Highway 69 north of Pittsburg from two lanes to four was one of 25 delayed in April to help balance the state budget.

It sits in the district of Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner, who sent an open letter to Brownback decrying the delay.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Even if you're not that familiar with art, you probably know what Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup cans look like.

In April, seven of Warhol's iconic soup can prints from the 1960s — including tomato and chicken noodle — were stolen from the Springfield Art Museum in southwest Missouri. As a set, they were worth about $500,000, but the thieves didn't take them all. 

Nick Nelson, Springfield Art Museum director, stands inside a quiet gallery in a new wing of the building with the standard gray carpeting, white walls and track lighting.

Blake Little

Blake Little made pictures of beautiful cowboys.

Little was a professional photographer, doing film and television work and shooting magazine covers in Los Angeles. When he and a friend went to their first rodeo, he wanted to be a cowboy, too.

“We were hooked immediately, by the whole scene, watching it, imagining that these guys were really doing this, and they were gay,” Little would later say of the first International Gay Rodeo Association event he attended, in Los Angeles in 1988.

Alex Smith / KCUR

A public hearing on proposed federal regulations for payday loans drew hundreds of supporters and opponents to downtown Kansas City Thursday morning.

Church members, union workers and community groups chanted outside the Music Hall and made the case during a public comment session that Missouri’s lax laws allow payday and other short-term lenders to exploit borrowers.

Terrence Wise, who supports tighter regulation of the industry, said a $150 payday loan ended up costing him $400.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

While many school districts in Kansas are preparing plans for a possible shutdown by the state Supreme Court, the Shawnee Mission School District in Johnson County, Kansas, says it will be open on July 1.

Superintendent Jim Hinson says he’s making no contingency plans in case the high court says schools must cease operating.

"We will be open on July 1 and we will start on time in August," says Hinson.

Jason Wickersheim / Two West Inc.

If you consider three a crowd, you might want to catch up on your Netflix queue this weekend.

But if you’re ready to sample a bumper crop of community festivals and other organized excuses to party, then it’s time to join the waiting throngs.

What are they waiting for? Well, if you’re watching “Orange is the New Black” or “House of Cards,” we’ll miss you. But not that much!

1. Old Shawnee Days

Courtesy of The Grisly Hand

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard, in which Kansas City area musicians tell the story behind a recent song, and explain how it was constructed musically.

The Composer: Jimmy Fitzner, singer and guitarist

The Band: The Grisly Hand

The Song: “The Picture I Keep,” to be released on the forthcoming album Hearts and Stars

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

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

The stage is set for what many believe could be a pivotal 2016 election season in Kansas.

With campaigns for all 165 seats in the Legislature, the opportunity for change is reflected in the roster of candidates certified by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach after Wednesday’s filing deadline.

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