Northeast News: Best of 2017

Paul Thompson
Northeast News

2017 is now over, but as we know, news doesn’t adhere to any calendar. As such, many of the biggest stories of the year will bleed over into 2018.
The renewed negotiations with Edgemoor on the construction of a single terminal airport at Kansas City International stand out as a prime example. Other continuing stories include the rollout of General Obligation Bond projects from last April’s $800 million infrastructure package, the debate over how to finance construction of a new Buck O’Neil Bridge, and continued efforts by the police department to curb violent crime in Kansas City.

Before diving headfirst into the news of 2018, however, we here at the Northeast News would like to revisit some of the stories we were most proud of during 2017. Presented below is a list of our five favorite stories of last year, along with some context about what made them special.

 

5. KCU medical student finds himself, and love, on campus

One of the most heartwarming stories published by the Northeast News in 2017 was a tale of love between KCU medical school students Oliver Garbo and Brittney Diebold. Garbo began transitioning from female to male during his second year of medical school, and the constant support he received from friend turned girlfriend turned wife Diebold – as well as the staff and students at KCU – made for a truly heartwarming tale.

The couple returned to KCU for graduation in May, and they opened up to the Northeast News about their relationship in a May 31 featured entitled ‘How one Kansas City University student found himself – and love – at medical school.’ The poise of this young couple alone was well worth revisiting.

 

4. Pet Project, Animal Control duke it out behind the scenes.

When a KCMO audit revealed in August of 2017 that the city’s animal control division had a strained relationship with Kansas City Pet Project, which runs the city’s shelter operations, both sides expressed a willingness to repair the relationship. But just three months after the audit presentation, when City Council members Jolie Justus and Teresa Loar introduced legislation that would consolidate shelter and animal control services, it became clear just how fractured the relationship between the two entities was.

Animal Control officers lamented that the legislation was introduced before the division even had a chance to fully implement the audit recommendations, leading some to speak out publicly about the timing of the proposal. In our December 13, 2017 story, ‘More cracks revealed in relationship between KC Pet Project, Animal Control,’ the Northeast News looked closely at the strained relationship.

 

3. Immigration executive action halts refugee resettlement in Historic Northeast

President Donald Trump sent shock waves throughout the nation on January 27, 2017, when he signed an executive order that temporarily restricted travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim nations.

The action directly impacted the Historic Northeast, which has become a primary landing spot for refugees resettled in the Kansas City area. Della Lamb, in particular, found themselves in a funding crunch as a result of the executive order. The organization had resettled 200 refugees in Northeast in 2016, and had planned to resettle 250 more in 2017. The travel ban brought that work to a skidding halt, leaving Della Lamb clients in limbo.

For our story entitled ‘Immigration causes concern, halts refugee resettlement in Northeast,’ published on February 8, 2017, the Northeast News took a deep dive on the issue, going as far as to break down the vetting practices already in place for refugees hoping to resettle in America.

 

2. KCU’s quest to establish a Master Planned Development district

A tale of zoning adjustments, historic preservation and legislative red tape may not seem like a bastion of intrigue, but the story of KCU’s plan to establish a Master Planned Development district – at the expense of a handful of historic buildings in Northeast Kansas City – captured the attention of the City Council (and the Northeast News) in early 2017.

The Northeast News covered this ongoing story dutifully, publishing almost a dozen stories on the issue during the first few months of 2017. Understanding the months-long debate required careful reading of dense city documents, as well as countless hours of conversation with City Councilmen, neighborhood leaders, historic preservationists, lawyers, and communications staff from Kansas City University. These efforts were probably best represented in a story published on January 19, 2017, entitled ‘Despite lingering questions, KCU MPD heading to Council Committee.’

 

1. KCPD’s first ever Social Services Coordinator

Beginning with a tip from then KCPD Central Patrol Division Major Rick Smith – who would go on to be named Kansas City’s Chief of Police in August – the Northeast News closely monitored the work of KCPD’s first-ever Social Services Coordinator in 2017. Smith hand-selected Gina English for the role, on the strength of English’s work with the Kansas City No-Violence Alliance.

In early March, the Northeast News shadowed English for a day to get a sense for how the position was shaping up. We were stunned to see her profound impact on the community, and the earnest sense of duty that English wears proudly on her sleeve. In our story ‘KCPD’s first-ever Social Services Coordinator is making her mark,’ published on March 8, 2017, we attempted to distill what Smith and English were hoping to accomplish with the new position.

Months later, when Smith became Chief of Police, he announced his intention to implement a Social Services Coordinator at every KCPD patrol division.

 

 

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