Sat March 16, 2013
Top Stories Of The Week
A judge let streetcar plans roll ahead but a regional transit plan got put on hold. And the Kansas City Fire Department made a significant policy change after releasing its report on this month's tragic Plaza fire. Steve Bell revisits those and other top stories of the week on KCUR's Saturday News Review.
The Plaza Fire: A Report, A Policy Change, An Accusation
The Kansas City Fire Department report on the fire and their investigation of it said two pilot lights were still burning when natural gas exploded at JJ's Restaurant. And the day following the release of the report the department announced a big policy change.
At any future gas leaks, fire department personnel will actively manage the scene rather than turning the situation over to the gas company.
On Friday an attorney for some injured JJs employes called part of the department's report inaccurate. He said the fire department never told the staff to turn off the pilot lights. He also contends that would typically be done by professionals turning off the accessible main valves outside.
Dance Club Teen Shootings Cause Community Concern
Five teens were injured by Saturday night gunfire at a dance hall at 87th and Hillcrest Road. The mayor and citizens groups responded with concern over what could be done to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Meanwhile, Jim Ready of Kansas City Regulated Industries said the dance had no city permit. Ready said if the group had approached his office for the $15 permit, he would have insisted on two to four security guards, given the possibility hundreds of teens would attend the dance.
The one security guard said he was called in late when the scheduled one didn't show up.
Court Hears Both Sides in NKC Hospital Flap
Lawyers for North Kansas City and the board of North Kansas City Hospital squared off in court over whether the city has the right to negotiate for the sale of the hospital.
The board sought to be declared the controlling entity for the facility, and to block the city from filling board vacancies with new members agreeable to exploring the possibility of a sale.
City Administrator Matt Shatto denied board claims that the city was secretly planning to sell the hospital to HCA. He said the city council simply wants the hospital to provide the same high quality services in the same location for years to come without the possibility of financial woes that could be caused by looming reductions in federal funding.
Mayor Reopens Issue Of Possibly Seeking Local Control Of Police
In Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sly James revived the issue of local control of the police department, appointing a 30-member committee headed by former mayor Kay Barnes to study the issue The police board is currently appointed by the governor, and has been except for a few years since 1874. St. Louis sought and regained control of its police department last year.
Assembly Sends Nixon First Bill, Advances Others
Missouri governor Jay Nixo got the first bill of the legislative session on his desk:one offering tax incentives for athletic events like the Big 12 basketball tournament that was underway in Kansas City. Bill sponsor Senator Eric Schmitt of St. Louis.said lawmakers believed the tax breaks were an effective way to prevent athletic events from being lured away and to make the state competitive in courting other tournament sponsors.
St. Louis is currently pitching the SEC on being the location for that conference's basketball tournament.
Not on Governor Nixon's desk yet but advancing was a bill allowing health care workers to refuse to take part in procedures that violate their personal religious or moral beliefs.
The Senate tried to get the state's transportation program rolling again by endorsing a one cent sales tax for roads, bridges and the like, but if faces an uphill battle in the House.
Conservative Agenda Keeps Momentum In Kansas
Conservative Kansas Governor Brownback was sent a bill that would give him more power in selecting appellate judges. The governor is expected to sign the bill, which makes him the sole nominating authority, ending the role of a citizen's board composed mostly of attorneys who were charged with making recommendations based on judicial acumen and excellence.
The Kansas Senate passed bill containing the parts of the governor's tax plan that reduce income taxes and perpetuate a sales tax increase, but House members so far lack enthusiasm for keeping the added sales tax.
The Senate also passed a bill that would end automatic payroll deductions for public employee unions' political causes. Two similar bill advanced in Missouri.
Also advancing in the Kansas House were two gun control bills expanding the number of public places concealed carry is allowed and one attempting to limit enforcement of possible federal gun laws.
Judge Dismisses Streetcar District Suit, But Regional Rail Plan Stumbles
Kansas City, Missouri rolled ahead with plans for the downtown streetcar system as a judge dismissed a lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of the transit funding district. The judge ruled that a court had already ruled the transportation district plan constitutional and the plaintiffs missed the deadline to contest that ruling.
But a regional rail election was derailed. Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders pulled the issue from the coming ballot after the railroads (whose tracks the light rail would run on) failed to agree on which routes were available for commuter transit. The snag would delay an election on the regional rail plan at least until late 2014.
Shawnee Mission District Hires Independence's Jim Hinson
The Shawnee Mission School District announced its new superintendent: popular Independence superintendent Jim Hinson. Hinson j9oked with a TV-9 reporter that it was always wise “to leave when they don't want you to leave.” But on a more serious note he expressed pride and gratitude regarding his work in Independence. Most Independence patrons seemed appreciative of his tenure there and the fact that this was an opportunity for Hinson to move to a larger school district.
Chiefs Announce Quarterback Switch
The Chiefs added several players, one new quarterback Alex Smith. Smith said he had eyed the Kansas City position for some time. Management said on the day Smith was introduced that quarterback Matt Cassel was still on the roster. But the following day the team announced Cassel's release.
YMCA Gets Mixed Response With Big Plans
The YMCA announced plans for a new 100,000 square-foot facility downtown, which met with immediate enthusiasm from downtown boosters. But the announcement included news not met with enthusiasm in Raytown, Independence and Kansas City, Kansas. The “Y” will close smaller facilities in those areas.
Funkhouser Gone, Hispanic Group's Convention Plans Return
Downtowners also celebrated the planned return of the LaRaza convention in 2015. The Latino civil rights group canceled one here in 2009 over a controversial park board member appointed by then mayor Mark Funkhouser. Earlier estimates said a LaRaza convention could bring 10,000 visitors and benefit the local economy by $5 million.
KU and K-State Go to Big 12 Tourney Final, MU Falls In SEC
In the basketball tournaments, KU beat Iowa State 88 to 73 Friday and K-State subdued Oklahoma State 68 to 57, and the Kansas teams vie tonight (Saturday) in the final game at Sprint Center Arena. MU is headed home from the SEC, after a Friday loss 64-62 loss to Mississippi.