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Metro Op-Ed / Tom Bogdon
Published 11/19/2009 - 5:10 p.m. CDT

'1937' Cast Members and a Few Audience Members Shared a Happy Moment Last Saturday.

Review by Tom Bogdon

Kansas City, which has always considered itself a City of the Future, has lately been rediscovering its past.

“Maybe the Great Recession has increased interest in the Great Depression,” said Bill Clause, the playwright of “1937, ONE HELL OF A YEAR,” now playing through Saturday at the Just Off Broadway Theatre.

Clause, a retired member of the American Federation of Government Employees and now volunteer coordinator of KKFI-FM community radio, apparently is not alone in believing that it is time for Kansas City to rediscover its past.

For example, Crosby Kemper III, director of the Kansas City Public Library, has focused on figures from Kansas City’s past—from poet Langston Hughes to political boss Tom Pendergast to outlaw Jesse James to newspaper editor William Allen White—in a series of “live” interviews called “Meet the Past.”

Published 11/05/2009 - 8:54 p.m. CDT

Mayor Funkhouser did attend a Memorial Day observance at the Vietnam Memorial last spring. (Photo: Michael McClure)

Opinion by Tom Bogdon

Mark Siettmann, Mayor Mark Funkhouser’s press secretary, called KCTribune.com this week to request a correction for what he said was a misleading quote in an editorial that appeared in this space beginning last Friday.

Headlined, “Chronic Neglect of Vietnam Memorial Just One of Kansas City’s Mixed Bag of Problems,” the editorial stated that the Parks Board, the members of which are all appointed by the Mayor, has more or less fiddled while the Vietnam Memorial and Fountains has steadily deteriorated for more than a year.

Siettmann wanted it known that Mayor Funkhouser did attend a Memorial Day observance at the Vietnam Memorial last spring. That was when veterans and other participants reported ugly block splotches on the bottoms of the reflecting pools, just one of a number of signs of long deferred maintenance.

Published 10/29/2009 - 3:29 p.m. CDT

A Vietnam Memorial Visitor Recognizes a Friend's Name on the Wall of Honor. (McClure file image)

Opinion by Tom Bogdon

If you are thinking of U.S. military veterans on Veterans Day—or even of just one particular veteran—try to stop by the Kansas City Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Wednesday November 11 about 11 a.m. for a simple ceremony and to see the memorial fountain in its best condition in more than a year.

Located at 43rd and Broadway, the memorial was dedicated in 1985 to the memory of more than 500 area men and women killed in action, or otherwise lost, in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. The names of these casualties are carved into a granite Wall of Honor that is the focus of the memorial. And, yes, these fallen troops are from all parts of the Kansas City metropolitan area, on both sides of state line.

The design of the Memorial is based on that of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, with the added feature here of fountains and reflecting pools recognizing Kansas City’s heritage as a City of Fountains. The Washington memorial has more than 50,000 carved names, and is one of the most visited sites in our nation’s capital.

Maintenance problems with the Kansas City memorial have been ongoing for more than a year, and came into focus in the Memorial Day observance last spring, when a large number of attendees, including Vietnam veterans, noticed ugly black splotches on the off-white bottoms of the reflecting pools. One Vietnam veteran felt that something had to be done about this disrespectful neglect—and sooner rather than later.

Published 10/15/2009 - 9:48 p.m. CDT

Clay Chastain, a former Kansas City resident (Photo: Michael McClure)

Opinion by Tom Bogdon

Transit activist Clay Chastain was quoted as saying at his news conference at Union Station on Wednesday that Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders had called him Tuesday and offered to work with Chastain in developing a unified regional rail transit plan.

Remember, Sanders on Monday unveiled the outline of a commuter rail plan using existing tracks to connect eastern and southern Jackson County to Union Station, a plan which Sanders, significantly, proposed to carry out using 100 percent federal funds.

Sanders, also the senior elected Democratic leader in Jackson County, just might be able to attract a billion-dollar (or more) federal transit grant to this region. Indeed, following news coverage of Sanders’ plan, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver applauded Sanders’ involvement and said he would do what he could in Washington to bring home the federal funding.

Now, I guess, we’ll see whether Chastain has the political skills to take advantage of Sanders’ generous offer of cooperation, or whether Chastain chooses to go down in local history as nothing more than an egomaniac, an eccentric fool good at circulating initiative petitions and not much else.

Published 09/24/2009 - 11:31 p.m. CDT

By Tom Bogdon

Mark Funkhouser has never liked City Manager Wayne Cauthen.

It may go back to when then- City Auditor Funkhouser applied for the City Manager job but lost out to Cauthen, who came from Denver where he had been the top administrator in that city’s strong mayor form of government.

Whatever, Funkhouser, who is under the delusion that he and Co-Mayor/wife Gloria Squitiro together are a strong mayor, has never given up on his effort to oust Cauthen, arguably one of the best and most effective city managers in Kansas City history.

Published 06/17/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT

Tom Bogdon

By Tom Bogdon

Some years back, when I was a young reporter for The Kansas City Times, I was visiting in San Francisco and, while in the City by the Bay, I stopped by the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle, and I had the opportunity to meet the City Editor.

I recall discussing with this man, who was generous with his time, the daily column he wrote, which appeared on the Chronicle’s front page. I thought that was pretty cool, this experienced editor sharing has thoughts on daily news right there on Page One, in front of God and all of San Francisco.

I suppose that now, in the Internet Age, we would just call such a column a Blog. But back in those days, a front page column by the individual who largely shaped coverage of the day’s news was unusual, and it certainly impressed me. After all, who had a better perspective than the City Editor.

Published 06/11/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT

The condition of Kansas City's Vietnam Veterans memorial is apparently symbolic of the treatment the vets themselves receive. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

The Kansas City Parks Department is studying ways to repair the reflecting pools at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and expects to have the chronic maintenance problem corrected by fall, Mike Herron, manager of the department’s natural resources division, said this week.

The splotchy appearance of the bottoms of the reflecting pools was highly visible to several hundred persons who attended an annual Memorial Day observance at the Wall of Honor there, prompting an article in KCTribune headlined, “A Slap in the Face of Vietnam Veterans.”

Published 05/28/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT

Kansas Citian Richard Lawrence Miller pays homage to an old class mate Robert "Pat" Menninger who perished during the Vietnam conflict. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

City of Fountains indeed!

At the suggestion of a friend who is a Vietnam veteran, I stopped by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fountain on Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day. Jerry had told me he attended a Memorial Day observance at this Vietnam Wall of Honor, which is flanked by a fountain and reflecting pools near 43rd Street and Broadway.

Jerry said he was ashamed by the condition of the reflecting pools. Originally covered by an off-white paint or other coating, the coating was peeling away, leaving unsightly black and white splotches on the bottoms of the pools.

Published 05/14/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT

Recall Supporter Rev. Kenneth Ray, president of the Baptist Ministers Union, a large fellowship of mainly African American congregations on the city's East Side. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Tom Bogdon

As the final deadline looms, each signature collected by Recall Funkhouser campaigners counts—and counts big.

The volunteer effort is tantalizingly within reach of the16,950 valid signatures of Kansas City registered voters the petitioners need to force a recall election that could result in Funkhouser’s removal from office.

The final signature collection deadline will be 10 days after the Board of Election Commissioners completes their examination and certification of all recall signatures now on hand. Then, when Election Board personnel finish examination of all recall signatures now in their possession, a preliminary final total will be certified, at which point the recall campaigners will have a final 10 additional days to obtain more signatures. Expectations are that the final deadline will be May 26.

Published 10/22/2009 - 8:47 p.m. CDT

Vietnam veterans and their surviving family members are discouraged by the monument's lack of maintenance by the city. (Photo: Michael McClure)

Opinion by Tom Bogdon

I paid a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial this week, not only to pay my respects to the fallen troops but to see whether serious maintenance problems at the memorial had been corrected.

No, the maintenance problems were still uncorrected; if anything, these problems have gotten worse.

The large black splotches on the off-white bottoms of the reflecting pools that flank the memorial fountains were even more unsightly now that the fountains have been shut off for the winter.

The worst part of all this was that in mid-June--when I was researching my second editorial about these maintenance problems—a Parks Department official, Michael Herron, manager of the department’s natural resources division, assured me that the problem would be solved “in the next month or two,” certainly by fall.

Published 10/01/2009 - 8:30 p.m. CDT

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders

By Tom Bogdon

City Hall sits directly across 12th Street from the Jackson County Courthouse, a distance of not much more than 100 yards. Yet recent cooperation between the two governmental entities has been at a minimum, with the encouraging exception of a new regional jail.

Now there are signs that Jackson County, together with the Northland neighbors of Clay County and Platte County, have been quietly working together on a commuter rail transit system from the Missouri suburbs converging on Union Station, as referred to this week by blogger Tony Botello.

Yet Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders and his allies have been careful to avoid entanglements with the current Kansas City mayor and City Council, and wisely so, given Kansas City government’s dismal performance in recent years on transit and other issues.

Published 07/02/2009 - 10:57 p.m. CDT


By the AFL-CIO Staff

The 437,000 jobs lost in June were spread throughout most U.S. industries, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

Manufacturing employment fell by 136,000 in June, while employment in construction decreased by 79,000.  Job losses in professional and business services shot up in June, with the industry shedding 118,000 jobs. Retail trade employment was down by 21,000 in June.

Education and health care employment increased by 34,000, and employment in government dropped by 52,000 in June.

Published 06/11/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT

By Tom Bogdon

It remains to be seen whether Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser will cross a Fire Fighters picket line now set for the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting beginning today (Friday) at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.

“We are tracking the situation and will make a decision when the time comes,” said Funkhouser spokesman Mark Siettmann.

Funkhouser is scheduled to speak at 9:40 a.m. (Kansas City Time) this morning to the Mayors Water Council, so he would have to cross the picket line of Providence Local 799 of the International Association of Fire Fighters unless the picket line is halted by settlement of a long-running dispute with the administration of Providence Mayor David Cicilline.

Published 06/05/2009 - 7:40 a.m. CDT

Given the current political climate and the murder of Dr. George Tiller, local Planned Parenthood President Peter B. Brownlie attended the candlelight vigil with an armed and uniformed security officer. (Photo: Michael McClure)

Analysis by Tom Bogdon

About 250 persons gathered at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain on the Plaza Monday evening for a candlelight vigil to honor Dr. George Tiller, the Wichita abortion provider who was gunned down Sunday while attending church services in Wichita. The Tiller slaying, allegedly the work of a rabid abortion opponent from Johnson County, Kansas, was just the latest manifestation of the bitter struggle over the abortion issue touched off by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in the 1970s.

Tiller was a nationally known figure in the abortion struggle because he was one of only a few physicians willing to perform late-term abortions. Speakers at the candlelight vigil included Peter B. Brownlie, president/CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, who was himself accompanied by an armed, uniformed bodyguard.

Published 05/28/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT

Kansas City icon makes a recent appearance at a Parks Board meeting to a chilly audience.

Opinion by Tom Bogdon

I think Kansas City has about outgrown transit activist Clay Chastain. And, if it hasn’t, it should.

Chastain has called a news conference for Monday, when he will once again preach the light rail gospel. He will launch another one-man campaign to convince Kansas City, Missouri, voters to finance his latest billion-dollar light rail dream, as he has already done time and again in years past without success.

Published 11/28/2008 - 1:00 a.m. CDT

By Tom Bogdon

Undoubtedly, there are some good officers in the ranks of the Kansas City Police Department. But these men and women can only be embarrassed by the incompetence of command officers in keeping track of our soaring crime rate.

The problem first came to light last summer when the City Auditor found crime statistics were being grossly underreported.