Frank Morris

National Correspondent and Senior Editor

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.

Morris grew up in rural Kansas listening to KHCC, spun records at KJHK throughout college at the University of Kansas, and cut his teeth in journalism as an intern for Kansas Public Radio, in the Kansas statehouse.

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More than 70 former Kansas lawmakers, all of them Republicans, have endorsed the Democrat in the Secretary of State race.

Traditional Republicans for Common Sense is backing Jean Schodorf, a Democrat, over incumbent Republican Kris Kobach. Founder Jim Yonally, a former state Representative, from Overland Park, says the decision to back Schodorf is partly because Kobach has embraced what Yonally sees as a stridently conservative political agenda.

Yonally says his group draws from generations of moderate Kansas Republican leaders.

Frank Morris / KCUR

The three candidates for governor in Kansas diverge on taxes, health care and school funding, but they   came together Friday for a debate sponsored by the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce. 

The contest is largely between incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback and his Democratic challenger, Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis. Friday’s gubernatorial debate in Overland Park also included the Libertarian candidate, Keen Umbehr, who echoed some of Gov. Brownback’s views and pledged to take his income tax cuts to a new level.

Kansas Supreme Court justices peppered a lawyer representing Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach with tough questions about how the law and the interests of Kansans are served by Kobach’s refusal to allow Democrat Chad Taylor to remove his name from the U.S. Senate ballot. 

Kobach maintains he refused to remove Taylor’s name because Taylor’s notarized letter to Kobach’s office did not expressly state he was “incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected,” as Kobach says the relevant law requires.

The candidates for governor in Kansas are sparring over taxes, health care and school funding. But in many ways there’s a more fundamental issue that separates  Gov. Sam Brownback from his Democratic challenger, Paul Davis. Both stand on opposing sides of a running battle over how state Supreme Court justices should be chosen.

Lots of people are influential in one way or another, of course, but Kansas Supreme Court justices really do make a difference, says Michael Kaye, a trial advocacy professor at Washburn University School of Law.

Fast food workers stepped up protests for higher wages Thursday, and dozens were arrested in Kansas City.

Hundreds of fast food workers and supporters marched and chanted near 14th Street and Prospect Avenue in Kansas City, Mo. They are trying to form a union, and asking for $15 an hour.

Unlike earlier protests here though, this one involved civil disobedience.

Forty-five year old Richard Iker says he’s worked for McDonalds 18 years and pulls down $11.05 an hour. He was one of 52 people arrested for blocking the on ramp to I-70 from Prospect.

Wikimedia Commons -- CC

A Wednesday shake-up in Kansas politics even has seasoned pundits amazed. 

Chad Taylor, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, has withdrawn from the race, leaving Kansas Republican Pat Roberts facing his toughest political test in decades.

Steve Kraske, host of Up To Date on KCUR and Kansas City Star political commentator, says the change spells bad news for the incumbent.

"Pat Roberts is suddenly in very deep trouble in Kansas," Kraske says. "His polling numbers have not been good. He was ahead only because he was in a three-way contest."

Robert Francis / Flickr--CC

Update, 7:11 a.m., Wednesday:

Police have apprehended a man they say has been positively identified as the suspect in the assaults at a Motel 6 in the Northland. The are continuing to investigate whether there is a link between the suspect and the triple homicide in south Kansas City. 

Update, 8:15 p.m.:  

Police say the shooting may be related to an incident at a northland Motel 6 Tuesday afternoon. The hotel is close to where an SUV taken from the scene of the homicides earlier in the day in south Kansas City was found. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has chosen his former legal counsel, a staunchly pro-life judge named Caleb Stegall to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court. 

Stegall served as Gov. Brownback’s legal counsel early in his administration. Last year Brownback nominated Stegall to the Kansas Court of Appeals, and Friday boosted him onto the highest court in the state.

“I’d like to say on a personal note, I believe Caleb Stegall to be one of the most qualified people ever to go on the Kansas Supreme Court,” said Brownback.

Frank Morris / KCUR

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made another trip to Kansas City Wednesday to stump for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and attend a fundraiser in Mission Hills.

Christie heads the Republican Governors Association (RGA).

“Kansas is an important race for us in the country, and that’s why I’m here and told the governor I’ll be back between now and election day as well,” says Christie. “RGA is going to make a significant investment here in Kansas, because we believe in Sam.”

Frank Morris / KCUR

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback fended off a primary challenge Tuesday, but not by the margins his supporters would have liked.  

Brownback won 63 percent of the vote, but his opponent Jennifer Winn, a first-time politician running on a platform to legalize marijuana, inspired by a murder charge against her son. Her son was trafficking pot when he was killed.  

Winn took two rural counties. Some observers call that showing bad news for the tax-cutting Governor, but he says he’ll win the general election defining Democratic challenger Paul Davis with the ‘L’ word —both of them.

A federal judge has sentenced Stephen Dennis, the former mayor of Grandview, to a year and a day in prison for fraud.

In January, Dennis abruptly resigned from his position as mayor. A month later he pled guilty to wire fraud after embezzling $35,000 from his organization, Matters of the Heart. He has described the organization as a non-profit that helps local low-income people.

The money was a donation from The International House of Prayer in Grandview.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is calling for an investigation into the way leaders at UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management promoted the school.  

Peggy Lowe / KCUR

Talk of the proposed $32 billion merger of Sprint and T-Mobile continues to bubble, raising serious questions about the future health of the Kansas City regional economy. 

The deal is still just rumored – and it's unknown if federal regulators will approve it, how it will be structured and even whether Sprint or T-Mobile would be the lead company in the deal.

What is clear is that Sprint is a vital company to the Kansas City area, and that the proposed merger comes at a delicate time for the regional economy.

Frank Morris / KCUR

The Swiss chocolate maker Lindt will gobble up Kansas City-based Russell Stover. The acquisition may be kind of an odd pairing, but analysts say it could be a sweet deal for the Swiss company and possibly for American chocolate lovers. 

Mr. Russell Stover started his boxed candy business with money he made helping to invent the modern ice cream bar. He brought it to Kansas City in 1931, where the company still has dedicated stores and a faithful following.

Kansas Tourism / Flickr--CC

Another iconic Kansas City-based company has been sold. Lindt, a Swiss chocolate company, has reached a deal to buy Russell Stover, according the the New York Times. The announcement comes nine months after the sale of one of Kansas City's other iconic retailers — Boulevard Brewing Co.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

After much ado, the world’s tallest water slide is now open to the public. Verrückt — which is German for insane, by the way — plunges 17 stories to take the record, previously held for more than a decade by a giant slide in Brazil.

Design problems repeatedly pushed back the launch. We figured, since no one in their right mind would be one of the first to ride it, we’d send Frank Morris down it.

The approach to the slide

Frank Morris / KCUR

At least 13,000 fans chanting “I believe that we will win!” jammed the central common area of the Power & Light District in downtown Kansas City, Mo., to cheer on the U.S. men's soccer team Tuesday in their World Cup match against Belgium.

Many were literally waving the American flag. Even more were wearing it.

Miguel Torres, in a red-white-and-blue top hat, beads and body paint, came out to support the country as much as the team.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Update, 1:10 p.m.

The Republican National Committee announced Wednesday that Cleveland, Ohio, and Dallas, Texas, were finalists to host the 2016 Republican Convention. Kansas City and Denver have been eliminated.

Committee members were in Kansas City earlier this month to tour facilities and meet city officials. In a release, the committee says the decision was based on a review of bids and information gathered at site visits to each city.

MARC

The Mid-America Regional Council presented a sobering assessment of the Kansas City area economy Thursday, one showing the metro is having trouble bouncing back from the recession.

The report, called "Prosperity at the Crossroads," says that fewer than half of the 100 largest metropolitan areas, including the greater Kansas City region, had recovered all the jobs they lost during the recession by the end of 2013. 

Data in the report show that Kansas City employment rates, wage growth and job growth are all down.

U.S. House Majority leader Eric Cantor’s primary defeat this week could revitalize a challenge to Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas. Roberts faces a Tea Party backed primary challenge from Milton Wolf.

Most political types consider the three-term Senator pretty safe, but then they felt the same way about Virgina's Eric Cantor. Bob Beatty at Washburn University says Cantor’s upset could make Milton Wolf look like a contender.

Courtesy photo / Johnson County Sheriff's Office

Prosecutors have charged the neo-Nazi accused of killing three people at Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kan., last month with several more felonies.

The Johnson County District Attorney’s office says Frazier Glenn Miller shot at and tried to kill three additional people, endangered a fourth and fired into the Jewish Community Center knowing there were people inside.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Kansas City has survived another round in the competition to host the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC).  

The three other contenders are Cleveland, Dallas and Denver. Las Vegas and Cincinnati dropped out Thursday afternoon.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James says RNC site selection scouts clearly like what they see in Kansas City.  

Frank Morris / KCUR

Kansas City has made the final four in the competition to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.  

The convention selection committee pared the number of contenders today by two, knocking Las Vegas and Cincinnati from the list. That would leave Cleveland, Dallas and Denver still in the running with Kansas City.

All four cities will receive site visits in June.

City officials say hosting the nominating convention would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Kansas City and the surrounding area.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Ash trees across much of the country are dying as a result of a green beetle called the emerald ash borer. The bug has spread from the upper Midwest imperiling millions of trees.

But there is opportunity amid the destruction. Urban lumber mills that saw up salvaged city trees are on the rise, fertilized by mounting demand for local products and a tsunami of supply delivered by the emerald ash borer.

It came from Asia, by way of Michigan

The emerald ash borer has been at work in Michigan for years.

Frank Morris / KCUR

A massive EF5 tornado all but obliterated Greensburg, Kan., on May 4, 2007. Afterwards, city leaders saw a blank slate, a chance to reverse decades of decline by building a town for the future.

Greensburg’s green building initiative, drew big money, and lots of volunteer help. But now Greensburg faces a crossroads. The town is stuck at half its pre-tornado population with few prospects for growth. Some blame trends slowly decimating most farm towns, others find fault with the green initiative.    

Greensburg dreams big

Kansas City’s thriving auto-assembly sector notched another win Thursday, as the Canadian company Martinrea broke ground on a new parts plant in Riverside.  

Martinrea says it will hire as many as 290 people to crank out front end parts for the Malibu that GM builds by the thousands across the river from Riverside, in Fairfax. The company will reportedly see more than $3 million in state incentives. But Kansas City Area Development Council CEO Bob Marcus says, auto parts manufacturers are moving here for another good reason.

A Judge in Leavenworth, Kan., has allowed Bradley Manning, who’s serving time in the Army prison there for espionage, to change her name to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.

Army specialists say Manning, has gender dysphoria; while physically a man, Manning identifies as a woman. Pentagon spokesman George Wright says Wednesday's brief court hearing won’t change Manning’s treatment in the all-male U.S. disciplinary barracks.

“This court action is only a name change, and will have no other effect on his current status, other than the name in his record,” said Wright.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

A diverse crowd linked arms in Overland Park, Kan., on Thursday to remember the three victims of an attack on a Jewish community center and retirement home.

Clergy representing many faiths, politicians of different stripes and more than 1,300 people from the community united to condemn shootings during the memorial service.

The service took place at the Jewish Community Center, where two of three victims died on Sunday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the whole country was standing with Overland Park.

courtesy: Johnson County Sheriff's Office

The man suspected of killing three people at two Jewish facilities in Johnson County, Kan., is a well-known neo-Nazi and someone who authorities say spent much of his life calling for attacks on Jews.

Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr. faces state murder charges and likely hate crime charges in federal court, after allegedly murdering three people in shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom assisted living center in Overland Park, Kan., Sunday.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Updated 10:47 a.m.:

Frazier Glenn Cross, the suspect in Sunday's shootings, is being held at the Johnson County Detention Center without bond. Kristi Bergeron, of the District Attorney's Office in Johnson County said he will not be arraigned Monday.

He will face both federal and state charges.

Updated 10:36 a.m.:

The Children's Center for the Visually Impaired released this statement:

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