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KC News Features / Tom Bogdon
Published 11/26/2009 - 9:29 p.m. CDT

Kansas City attorney and former City Council member Mike Burke discusses the state of the city and his campaign for mayor. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

As far as Mike Burke is concerned, the mayor’s race for Spring 2011 began in earnest this month when Mayor Mark Funkhouser held the first of a series of “Tele-Town Hall” meetings.

Referring to an article about these events in The Kansas City Star, Burke said the mayor’s office has contracted with Communication Strategies of St. Louis to spend $20,800 in city funds for three such meetings, which each involve 30,000 robo-calls and an opportunity to be on the phone with the mayor.

According to The Star’s article, the idea came from Mark Siettmann, a contract employee in the mayor’s office who has worked in the past for political consultant Jeff Roe, who is managing Funkhouser’s re-election campaign.

“This is sort of a new method of trying to reach out for us,” Funkhouser chief of staff Kendrick Blackwood told the Star's City Hall reporter, Lynn Horsely.

Published 11/19/2009 - 4:56 p.m. CDT

David Kendrick, business manager of the Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

Federal stimulus spending is starting to make a difference in the otherwise down Kansas City construction market, according to David Kendrick, business manager of the Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council.

“There’s a significant amount of work in the public sector, but not a lot in the private sector right now,” said Kendrick.

“The stimulus money is starting to show up,” Kendrick added, noting that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon held a news conference on Monday at a Liberty construction site at which the governor announced that the state will fund $266 million in construction work.

Published 11/12/2009 - 7:08 p.m. CDT

Robin Carnahan, Missouri’s Democratic secretary of state

By Tom Bogdon

As the U.S. Senate works toward passage of health care legislation, it is becoming increasingly clear that the leading Republican and Democratic contenders to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond view health care from quite different perspectives.

It is Bond and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill who will cast Missouri’s votes in the current health care debate, but it will likely be Roy Blunt, a Republican congressman from southwest Missouri, and Robin Carnahan, Missouri’s Democratic secretary of state, that voters will have to choose between when they pick Bond’s successor in November 2010.

Blunt, a member of the House Republican leadership, is chairman of the G.O.P. Health Care Solutions Group. Blunt voted with all but one of his House Republican colleagues against the Democratic bill that narrowly passed the House and which has been hailed as a milestone in President Barack Obama’s campaign to reform health care policy.

Published 10/22/2009 - 8:25 p.m. CDT

Mike Burke has officially thrown his hat in the mayoral race ring.

By Tom Bogdon

And then there were three—officially declared candidates for Kansas City mayor in the early spring 2011 city elections, that is.

The latest to throw his hat into the ring is attorney and former councilman Mike Burke, who on Oct. 13 filed the required forms for official candidacy with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Burke, who has been considering the race for several months, named another former council member, Joanne Collins, as his campaign treasurer.

Burke, who makes his home in the Northland and practices law downtown, has an impressive civic resume, with a long-time interest in reclaiming and redeveloping the Missouri River front.

Burke joins incumbent Mark Funkhouser and another attorney, civic leader Sly James, in the field of announced 2011 mayoral candidates. Both James and Funkhouser filed their required quarterly campaign finance disclosure reports by the Oct. 15 deadline.

Published 10/08/2009 - 10:21 p.m. CDT

A payday loan store near 39th and Main, one of many throughout the metropolitan area that are criticized for exploiting financially-strapped people. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

Predatory lending is armed robbery and should be treated as such by all levels of government.

Payday lenders are not armed with firearms, it is true, but they have even more threatening weapons, a harsh economy and plenty of money to spend on carefully calculated marketing and persuasive advertising.

Once these greedy, unscrupulous sharks get their hooks into their victims, they make loans at 90 percent or much higher interest rates to desperate borrowers to pay back loans to pay back loans to pay back.

It’s all in the public interest, lobbyists and propagandists for the predatory lenders tell members of Congress,state legislators and city officials who continue to allow these crooks to conduct their business in plain sight. It’s worse than the Mafia ever was!

I’m not telling you something you didn’t know. I’ve written about it many times, and this daylight robbery has only gotten worse. Other journalists write about it too, including Eric Wesson, who wrote the lead story on the subject in this week’s Kansas City Call.

Published 09/24/2009 - 8:35 p.m. CDT

Wendell and Elizabeth Mason In happier times.

By Tom Bogdon

Elizabeth Mason, her two grown daughters and grown son will be wearing T-shirts with a photo of their late husband and father, Wendell Mason, this Saturday, Sept. 26, when Olathe, KS, and many other communities across the country observe Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

“We want people to stop and think,” Beth Mason, of Olathe, said in an interview. “Asbestos is still out there. We don’t want other families to go through what we’ve been through. Wendell and I were robbed of our retirement together.”

Published 09/18/2009 - 12:32 a.m. CDT

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

Despite having Gov. Jay Nixon’s endorsement, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) proposal to use $200 million in federal stimulus money, probably the state’s entire allocation, to begin adding two truck-only lanes in each direction to Interstate-70 may not experience smooth sailing in Washington.

Ray LaHood, the Obama administration’s Secretary of Transportation, seemed to indicate otherwise in a recent interview with U.S. News & World Report:

“We’ve spent three decades building an interstate system. We’ve put almost all of our resources into the interstate system. This is a transformational president, and the department is following the president’s lead.

“People haven’t really been thinking about these things,” the former member of Congress continued. “They have been thinking about how to build roads, how to build interstates, how to build bridges.

Published 09/10/2009 - 8:35 p.m. CDT

By Tom Bogdon

Phil Klein is a natural-born documentary maker. I have seen him for years at public meetings and other news events. He usually has a movie camera up to his eye. He must have tens of thousands of feet of video of transportation activist Clay Chastain, who Klein at one time intended to immortalize in a documentary film to be called, “Citizen Clay.”

But Chastain wasn’t the only focus of Klein’s documentary projects. Klein, who owns a magic shop, has finally finished one of his documentaries and gotten it into theaters. It is “Begging for Billionaires: The Attack on Property Rights in America,” which will make its Kansas City debut at the Kansas International Film Festival. There will be a single, public screening at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Glenwood Arts Theater.

Published 09/03/2009 - 7:08 p.m. CDT

Kansas City-St. Jospeh Bishop Robert Finn

By Tom Bogdon

Archbishop Joseph Naumannand Bishop Robert Finn—leaders, respectively, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph-- issued a Joint Pastoral Statement this week which asserts the role of the individual’s conscience in his or her own health care decisions.

“To his credit, President BarackObama has made it a major priority for his administration to address the current flaws in our nation’s health care policies,” the six-page statement begins. “In fairness, members of both political parties for some time have recognized significant problems in the current methods of providing health care.

“As Catholics, we are proud of the Church’s healthcare contribution to the world. Indeed, the hospital was originally an innovation of the Catholic faithful responding to our Lord’s call to care for the sick, ‘For I was…ill and you cared for me.’ (Matthew 25 v. 35-36). This tradition continues today in America, where currently one in four hospitals is run by a Catholic agency. We have listened to current debate with great attention and write now to contribute our part to ensure that this reform be an authentic reform taking full consideration of the dignity of the human person…”

Published 11/12/2009 - 6:32 p.m. CDT

Dave Coffman wants to represent 56th in Jefferson City

By Tom Bogdon

Dave Coffman has announced his candidacy for a Lee’s Summit seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.

“I can think of nothing more fulfilling than representing my friends, family and neighbors in our State Capitol,” said Coffman, a Democrat. “I know the needs and priorities held by the people of the 56th District, and I can be their voice and their vote in Jefferson City. I think as we share ideas for improving our community over the course of my campaign, voters will see that I have the passion and skills needed to get the job done.”

Republican incumbent Brian Yates is retiring due to term limits. Coffman and Republican Michael Cierpot have so far indicated their candidacies in the August 2010 primary elections. Mike Cierpot’s wife, Connie Cierpot, also a Republican, formerly represented an Independence state house district.

Published 10/15/2009 - 8:37 p.m. CDT

Discussing their climate change concerns were Matt Victoriano, a former Marine Corps Sgt. who served two tours in Iraq; Marilyn Weakley, a former Army Staff Sgt. who served as a squad leader in Afghanistan; George “Ed” May, a former Army Staff Sgt. and veteran of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield; Rafael Noboa, a former Army Sgt. who served in Iraq; and Chuck Tyler, a former Army Staff Sgt. and a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Rocky Kistner

A group of veterans on a nationwide bus tour rolled into Kansas City on Wednesday, where the veterans talked to citizens and community leaders about national security threats posed by oil consumption and climate change.

The veterans are part of an unprecedented 21-state tour by members of Operation Free Veterans for American Power to talk to citizens and community leaders about the looming crisis over climate change and national security. Operation Free is a coalition of veterans and national security groups working together to raise public awareness about the need to move toward a clean energy economy to make Americans more secure and to help create more jobs.

“We’re here to tell people that oil dependence is a national security issue,” said Matt Victoriano, a former Marine Sergeant who spent two tours in Iraq. “We are veterans who believe the future security of our country lies in building a new clean energy economy. We have to get off fossil fuels and develop clean energy alternatives that will keep American jobs here and make us more secure.”

Published 10/01/2009 - 7:20 p.m. CDT

Lamont G. Weide, MD, Ph.D, FACE Chief, Diabetes and Endocrinology Truman Medical Centers

By Tom Bogdon

As part of a national campaign to elevate diabetes as a national health priority, Truman Medical Center is participating in a listening tour hosted by Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) and the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF). As the numbers of people with uncontrolled diabetes escalate and billions of dollars continue to be spent in the healthcare system, the listening tour will focus on shifting the current dialogue to one that includes diabetes prevention, treatment and management to help elevate diabetes as a public health priority that requires urgent attention and action.

TCOYD and NMQF are hosting a series of town hall meetings across the country to examine what communities are doing to achieve blood sugar control, to improve the uncontrolled diabetes epidemic, and to identify programs that are working and those that are not. The Diabetes Nation: America At Risk listening tour stop in Kansas City will be at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Plaza on Monday, Oct. 5, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Published 09/24/2009 - 8:09 p.m. CDT

EnBy Ginger Harris

Chair, Missouri Sierra Club

“The Sierra Club of Missouri is disappointed that Governor Jay Nixon sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood supporting MoDOT’s application for $200 million in TIGER funds to construct four additional truck-only lanes on the least-traveled 30 miles of Interstate 70. We subsequently learned that the Governor extended this same courtesy to other TIGER applicantsin the state, upon request. However, since we believe some statementsin the Governor’s letter regarding MoDOT’sapplicationcan be challenged, and becausethe substance of the Governor’s letterwas sent out to news media, we feel it’s incumbent upon us to provide another point of view to the media.

Published 09/10/2009 - 9:17 p.m. CDT

I-70, shown here looking East from Stadium Drive, would be widened with truck-only lanes in each direction. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) received Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approval this week of its environmental impact statement for MoDOT’s plan to add trucks-only lanes to I-70 across the state. Now MoDOT is ready to close the deal by getting Gov. Jay Nixon’s endorsement of MoDOT’s plan to use $200 million (or all) of Missouri’s allocation of federal TIGER stimulus funds to kick off construction.

But wait a minute. There are huge environmental as well as safety objections to MoDOT’s trucks-only extra lanes plan, including from the Sierra Club, which is considering legal action, and from U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who told KCTribune:

“I have some very serious reservations about a plan that invests so significantly in more highway miles,” the Congressman and former Kansas City mayor said. “At a time when the rest of the country seems to be looking toward moving passenger cars off the road by investing in high-speed rail, Missouri seems intent on building a stretch of highway unlike any in the world.

Published 09/03/2009 - 10:46 p.m. CDT

Bill George hopes for revival of 'Kansas City Spirit' (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

In a recent speech to the Downtown Rotary Club, Mayor Mark Funkhouser more or less threw cold water on developing plans to build a 1,000-room Downtown hotel intended to revive Kansas City’s flagging status as a convention destination city.

Funkhouser said that perhaps Kansas City should not attempt to compete with “established destinations with established reputations” because they will be “hard to beat.”

“Would we be better off,” Funkhouser asked, “being the ‘best’ mid-sized convention destination. Would we be better off specializing in another area…?”

Published 08/26/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT

Councilman Russ Johnson's transportation committee approved $6 million for engineering. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

No streetcars, but a $6-million payday for a politically astute consulting firm.

That is the outcome from several weeks of deliberations by a City Council committee that at first held out hope that a federal TIGER grant would provide a $60-millionto build a two-mile modern streetcar starter line from the River Market to Union Station.

Now all that is left of the original proposal is $6,000,000 for engineering work on the streetcar proposal--and that money would go to HNTB consultants, which sees the streetcars as a temporary measure which would be scrapped after a few years. Then the streetcars would be replaced by “light rail,” which costs more than twice as much as streetcars to build and operate.