January 8, 2014
With 2013 now behind us, Northeast News takes a look at the stories and headlines that topped 2013.
January–Hundreds displaced from illegal homeless camp: Kansas City Police Department raids an illegal homeless camp located near the Paseo entrance ramp to northbound I-35. Officers discover a number of portable meth labs and a sophisticated layout of sleeping quarters that resembles a suburban cul-de-sac. No arrests are made. KCPD drug enforcement units clean up the makeshift labs, and the Kansas City Parks Department assists with cleaning up the tents and trash.
February-Outrage continues over deactivated signals: The City of Kansas City deactivates traffic signals across the city, including a crosswalk signal at the corner of Quincy and St. John Avenue near Holy Cross Catholic School. Concerned about student and resident safety, area residents organize a press conference in front of the school and invite city officials. Residents say the deactivated signal now poses a safety hazard to citizens needing to cross a busy thoroughfare. City officials argue it’s a safety hazard to leave the signal active since it no longer meets warrants outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. As a result of community outrage, the city agrees to install a pedestrian signal at the Quincy and St. John intersection known as a HAWK (High-Intensity Activated crossWALK) which only activates when a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street. The previous signal remained green until a pedestrian pushed the button which then turned the light to yellow, then red.
March–Independence Ave. CID: Harbinger for bright future: With a unanimous vote, the Kansas City City Council approves the establishment of the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID). Boundaries of the CID include a half a block north and south of Independence Avenue from The Paseo to Ewing. Through property assessments and a 1 percent sales tax, the CID will fund a number of initiatives including cleaning up the “crime and grime” in the area, marketing of the Avenue, among others.
April–Hollywood comes to Kansas City for “42” premiere: Harrison Ford, along with other movie stars and baseball legends, grace the red carpet at the AMC BarryWoods 24 in Kansas City to promote the movie “42,” which captures the story of baseball great Jackie Robinson, who played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues and later for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
May–Federal judge finds fraud in 2010 primary: Missouri state Rep. JJ Rizzo’s uncle John Moretina pleads guilty to voter fraud during court proceedings at the United States Courts for the Western District of Missouri. Moretina admitted to lying about his residence in order to register in Rizzo’s district and a cast a ballot during the August 2010 election between Missouri House candidate Rizzo and Will Royster. Rizzo won the 2010 election by one vote and ran unopposed this past November. Royster disputed the election results in 2010 and alleged that multiple family members of Rizzo’s fraudulently voted in the election. In July, Moretina and his wife, Clara M. Moretina, pleaded guilty in Jackson County court to voter fraud. According to court documents, the couple knowingly provided false information in order to register and vote in the District 40 primary election. The Moretinas pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge Class III Election Offense and are banned from voting again in Missouri.
June–Area youth get a taste of the rock star life: Mattie Rhodes partners with the local band Making Movies to host a week-long summer camp teaching youngsters the ins and outs of creating and performing music. To culminate the week, the youngsters perform on stage on a Saturday night at the legendary Knuckleheads Saloon.
July–Kansas City Museum wants a D-I-V-O-R-C-E: Kansas City Museum Director Christopher Leitch is fired by Union Station CEO George Guastello, bringing to light once again the tense relationship between Union Station and the Kansas City Museum. Some question how Union Station is spending the museum’s annual $1.4 million mil levy and others point out how Union Station cost the Kansas City Museum its accreditation, among other things. Museum supporters voice it’s time to separate from Union Station.
August–Saint Paul campus proposal spurs controversy in NE: Kansas City Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (KC CASE) proposes a new purpose for the former Saint Paul School of Theology campus located on Truman Road. KC CASE plans to close on the sale of the school in the next 80 days and plans to offer a program geared toward the rehabilitation of sexually exploited individuals. The campus will provide transitional housing for sexually exploited youth and women as well as offer a host of social services that is open to the community. Due to community backlash, the plan later falls through.
September–Innocence lost; Community mourns loss of Ella the deer: Elmwood Cemetery hosts a memorial service for Ella the deer, who took residence in the cemetery and became a friendly companion to a number of Kansas and Missouri residents. Ella died in the cemetery after a man, who planned to harvest her body for food, shot her with a handgun. A number of attendees lay flowers and other trinkets beside her granite gravestone, and youngsters from the Great Plains SPCA summer camp sing “Do-Re-Mi” from the Sound of Music in her honor.
October–KCPS denied provisional state accreditation: Despite Kansas City Public Schools making gains in the Annual Performance Report (APR) and the new MSIP 5 standards, the State Board of Education decides to take no action regarding KCPS’ accreditation status. Their inaction leaves the district unaccredited and vulnerable to student transfers and extra tuition and transportation costs. The state board states it “carefully considered” the district’s request for provisional accreditation but wanted to make sure that the progress is “sustainable.”
November–Council approves Advance Auto project for Northeast: Kansas City City Council members approve the proposal for Cabinrock Investments, LLC to construct an 8,420 square foot brick building to house Advance Auto on the corner of Chestnut and Independence Avenue. The project will also include a 7,980 square foot building for future development. This is the first major development on the corner in at least a decade. Constructed is slated for 2014.
December–City severs management contract with Union Station: With a unanimous vote, the Kansas City City Council votes to sever the 20-year management agreement with Union Station Kansas City, Inc. to operate the Kansas City Museum. The separation will become official on May 1, 2014. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will now oversee museum operations. Former museum director Christopher Leitch says, “For long-time supporters of the museum, it cannot be overstated the confidence and optimism that is inspired by this action of the City Council.”