Top Stories Of The Week | KCUR

Top Stories Of The Week

Feb 22, 2013

A major storm dropped a foot of snow on Kansas City, and an explosion and fire on the Plaza spawned an OSHA investigation. KCUR's Steve Bell looks back at those and other top stories on this week's Saturday News Review.

Restaurant Explodes, Burns; One Dead

The ugly plume of black smoke rising from the Plaza could be seen for miles Wednesday evening. The spectacular blaze reduced JJ's restaurant to rubble, injured fifteen staffers and took one life. Jimmy Frantze and his brother David owned the restaurant.

The tragedy was born of a gas main broken by a fiber optic crew... and instructions to evacuate the restaurant that came only minutes before the blast.

David Frantze called the staff “family” and “heroes.” “These are not trained first-responders,” he said, adding that they stayed calm and evacuated the customers, getting all of them out of the restaurant

As an OSHA investigation of the blast and evacuation continues, the family of server Megan Cramer say they are certain she was the person who didn't get out.

Five persons are still hospitalized, one in critical condition.

Heavy Snow Closes Roads, Airports, Bus System

The Plaza fire investigation was interrupted by a double-barreled Thursday storm that dropped more than a foot of snow on parts of the city. Though not a record for February snow depth, it did deposit a record amount of snow for a February 21st..

On Friday, as city crews continued to work long hours clearing away the snowfall of the day before, the National Weather Service forecast another “significant” snowstorm for Monday..

The Thursdayt “thundersnow” closed I-70 across half of Kansas and closed both of Kansas City's airports for a time. At the height of the storm, 1/3 of the ATA buses on city streets were stuck in the snow, with some involved in collisions.

Court-Limiting Amendment Advances In Kansas

A proposed constitutional amendment that would stop Kansas courts from intervening in school funding matters cleared the Senate and headed for the House. School districts including Kansas City, Kansas, Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley oppose it.

Legislators proposed the amendment after a court ordered the state to increase school funding to the dollar amount the Legislature promised the state Supreme Court in a previous funding lawsuit.

The constitutional amendment would also require voter approval.

More Gloomy Forecasts For Brownback Tax Plan

Portions of Governor Sam Brownback's tax proposal met resistance in the Kansas House, where Speaker Ray Merrick, said members are cool to extending a temporary sales tax to offset initial effexcts of the governor's income tax cut proposal.

Committee Rejects Request For Med School Building

A Senate Committee rejected the Governor's request for $10 million for a new building for the KU Medical Center despite the efforts of Democratic member Laura Kelly. Kelly told the group the building was needed to maintain the school's accreditation. But Republican committee members said the building should be paid for by belt-tightening at the university.

Abortion Bills Gain Momentum

Kansas legislative committees also heard testimony on several abortion bills. One that has high probability of passing prohibits abortions for the purpose of gender selection. One bill defines life as beginning at conception, which some opponents say would make all abortions homicide cases.

Missouri Lawmakers Propose Bills On Evolution, Prohibiting Gun Control

Some Democrats cried “creationism” when a bill was proposed requiring standards for the teaching of evolution in Missouri schools. It would encourage discussion of the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution...

Another bill introduced by a St. Louis County legislator would make it a felony to propose gun control laws in Missouri. Its sponsor admitted that he did not expect the bill to become law.

DHS Awards Large NBAF Contract

Early in the week, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts forecast a substantive announcement that would assure Kansas that a national bio-security lab would be built at Kansas State University. On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it has awarded a contract for handling construction of a possibly $30 million utility plant for the project to a St. Louis firm.