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Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Though its Medicaid contract is still at stake, Aetna Better Health is making progress, Kansas lawmakers and state regulators said this week. 

“There has been a good response from them,” Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment Lee Norman told a panel of lawmakers Tuesday.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

In a move that caught police officers and supporters of the Kansas City Police Mounted Unit off guard, the department Tuesday disbanded the unit.

Chief Rick Smith told the Board of Police Commissioners that a recent consultant's report suggested the homicide unit needs eight more detectives. To get to the recommended number, KCPD is moving the mounted officers back to regular patrol, so eight investigators can eventually move to the homicide unit.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Updated at Nov. 19 with funding lost — The Clay County Sheriff’s Office did lose more than $280,000 in federal funding this week, because the county didn’t submit a required audit by the Nov. 15 deadline.

The Kansas City Police Department administers the funds. It will send a letter Tuesday notifying Clay County of the grant funding being pulled, according to KCPD spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina.

Clay County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Steve Siercks said there’s enough money to keep the five grant-funded positions going until the end of December, but the office will have to ask the Clay County Commission to make up for the lost funding.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Holes punched in walls. Car headlights smashed. Windows broken. Weapons, threats, sexual comments. Children who can’t live with other children. Children whom foster parents won’t take in. Children who aren’t able to get the mental health care they desperately need.

Kansas foster care contractors and parents say all of these situations have become more common — and more risky — since 2017, when the state made sweeping changes to the juvenile justice system. The changes, they say, removed options for dealing with foster children who have high needs and violent behaviors.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

It’s been one of the wettest years on record in Kansas City. With climate change, the likelihood of heavy rainfall is expected to increase, as are flash floods. And cities are starting to realize their infrastructure is not up to snuff. 

Kansas City faced that reality about 10 years ago, when the Environmental Protection Agency mandated the city replace its 100-year-old sewer system after multiple violations of the Clean Water Act.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Black residents of Kansas City are still "separate and unequal," according to the latest report from the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

The 2019 State of Black Kansas City, from the Urban League in collaboration with local law, policy, health and education experts, measures the racial gap in areas such as economics, criminal justice and education. Based on statistical analyses of factors such as the median net worth for black versus white households and the rate of homeownership, the report found the equality index for black Kansas Citians is only 73% of their white counterparts.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

There is no doubt Jackson County has some monumental, vexing problems.

The county jail is in desperate need of being replaced. The downtown courthouse needs to be renovated after flooding earlier this year. And the property reassessment process is a mess, with appeals that will stretch into 2020.

Riding in to apparently try and fix all of this is Troy Schulte, who in September announced he was stepping down as Kansas City's city manager after a decade on the job. The county legislature will discuss a proposed contract with him on Monday.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's Municipal Court has a perception problem. Courts are not generally a place where good things happen to people, and few would go by choice. 

"Municipal court is where most people are going to encounter the judicial system," said court spokesperson Benita Jones. "Almost everyone will get a traffic ticket and some people have other minor brushes with the law."

Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

Residents in the Kansas City metro are increasingly choosing to power their homes with rooftop solar panels. It's a choice spurred by both the promise of lower monthly energy bills and concern for the environment. But barriers to "going solar" remain, especially for low- and middle-income households. 

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

GREENSBURG, Kansas — The massive tornado that leveled this town in 2007 pretty much defines disaster.

Eleven people dead. The place in ruins.

Yet without the tragedy, Greensburg wouldn’t have had the chance to transform itself into “the greenest community in America.”

Evert Nelson / The Topeka Capital-Journal

The foster kid is a 17-year-old boy who was kicked out of his home when he was 10, started using drugs by 13, and in five years is expected to be in prison or dead.

Kansas Department of Children and Families social workers check on him every day and there’s been some progress: He’s now in an independent living facility and he’s not using drugs anymore. But he still has many needs, including a coming heart transplant.

How can he be helped?

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Updated Nov. 15 with statement from the governor: Attorneys for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly have asked a federal court to remove her from a class-action lawsuit over the state’s troubled foster care program, arguing that she doesn’t actually oversee the system.

The move comes as parents and advocates say that the system continues to traumatize the thousands of children in its care.

Severo Secreto

At the corner of St. John and Askew in Kansas City’s Historic Northeast is a nondescript red brick and stone building that almost blends with the surrounding neighborhood. The exterior stands in contrast to  lively Spanish language movies being screened inside. 

Yosmel Serrano opened the movie theater, La Selva De Los Relojes (or the Jungle of Clocks), to help a Latino community embrace its cultural voice and heritage.

"I know English, but I love Spanish, and I don't want to lose my Spanish and I don't want to lose my art," he says. "So the first thing to be proud of yourself and to be able to integrate into another community is to learn more about yourself."

BNIM and HOK

A scaled-back incentives request for the proposed $133 million Strata project has been approved by the Kansas City Council despite becoming a lightning rod for how the newly elected officials will approach economic incentives for major developments.

The 7-4 vote came after tense and heated debate Thursday on whether to grant incentives to the high-end office tower that has been languishing in City Hall for much of the last year. The project was first announced in late 2018.

Jeremy Kaczor

The Benedictine College football team in Atchison, Kansas, will likely help its coach keep a somewhat dubious distinction. Ravens coach Larry Wilcox has more career wins without a national championship than any other active college football coach in the country.

Wilcox has 296 career victories, 14th on the all-time football coaching victories list. Regarded as a legendary figure in Atchison with 41 seasons as a head coach, Wilcox has the Ravens’ home stadium named in his honor — Larry Wilcox Stadium.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Two employees of the Wyandotte County Sheriff's Department have been charged in connection with an altercation involving an inmate at the county jail in September. 

David Toland, 47, was charged with felony aggravated battery for physical contact with an inmate that could have caused "great bodily harm, disfigurement or death."

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

The two operators of about a dozen well-known Kansas City restaurants sought bankruptcy protection within days of one another, with both saying the restaurants will remain open for business.

On Saturday, Bread & Butter Concepts LLC, which owns and operates Gram & Dun on the Country Club Plaza, Urban Table in Prairie Village and the Stock Hill steak restaurant just south of the Plaza, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Kansas. And on Thursday, HRI Holding Corp., which owns Leawood-based Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc., a casual dining chain, filed for Chapter 11 in Delaware.

Bradforth Family

In a stinging 48-page investigation, the death of a 19-year-old football player last year at Garden City Community College was blamed on "a striking lack of leadership" by top college officials, including former head coach Jeff Sims.

Wikimedia Commons

The parent company of The Kansas City Star plans to eliminate the Saturday print editions of its 30 newspapers by the end of next year.

The McClatchy Company, the second largest newspaper chain in the country, previously announced plans to eliminate Saturday print editions in 12 of its markets, including Wichita. The Wichita Eagle notified subscribers last month that it would move to digital-only coverage on Saturdays after Nov. 16.

In a conference call with analysts on Wednesday, McClatchy President and CEO Craig Forman said the rest of the company’s newspapers will move to digital-only on Saturdays by 2020.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri students spending more money to earn degrees want to know they’re making a sound investment in their future. That’s why college administrators have started steering them toward in-demand professions like education and nursing, where they’re all but guaranteed jobs. 

It’s a pathway to get students to and through college with less debt when they graduate. But some students and professors say Missouri’s colleges and universities still have an obligation to provide a well-rounded liberal arts education, and are tired of having to defend their majors every time state lawmakers propose another round of cuts.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Two years ago, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority gave veterans free bus passes. The next year, students became the beneficiaries of the zero fare policy. According to KCATA, 23% of riders over the past several years have not paid a dime to ride the bus.  

Transit officials argue the policy gives individuals and families more money to pump back into the local economy and that it improves the safety and efficiency of the system.

Illustration by Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

In the spring of 1989, Missouri lawmakers were motivated to figure out how climate change would affect the state’s economy, political future and social capital. 

A year after California started looking into climate change, the Missouri General Assembly created a commission of 14 experts and politicians to study the issue and come up with solutions. The result was more than 100 policy suggestions, covering everything from the use of solar and wind energy to transportation and teaching about climate change.

Three decades later, experts say Missouri hasn’t achieved its goals. 

Alex Smith / KCUR

Starting treatment with a mental health specialist often requires a wait of several weeks, but many psychiatrists and other specialists in Kansas City have waiting lists stretching over months.

While the need for mental health treatment has been growing in Missouri, many patient advocates say the state’s refusal to aggressively enforce mental health parity may be making the wait times even longer.

Marty Sexton, a 50-year-old disabled grandfather who lives in Peculiar, worked as a firefighter and then an army medic in Operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Enduring Freedom.

Greg Echlin / KCUR 89.3

The 2019 calendar for the U.S. women’s national soccer team is over, but for new coach Vlatko Andonovski, who has strong ties to Kansas City, the work is just beginning.

Andonovski’s coronation by U.S. Soccer as the new coach of the women’s team was held, Oct. 28, in New York. He won his first two matches with the team, beating Sweden 3-2 and Costa Rica 6-0. The international friendlies are helping prepare the team ahead of the Olympic qualifiers.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Raytown’s city clerk “purposefully” violated the law when she spurned a request for public records related to a fatal traffic accident, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday.

The decision has far-reaching implications for citizens' access to public documents covered by Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

The appeals court upheld a trial court's ruling that ordered the clerk, Teresa Henry, to pay $38,550 in attorney fees and a $4,000 civil penalty to the plaintiff in the case, Paula Wyrick.

McGown Gordon Construction

In Kansas City and across the country, performance venues and artists have had to make adjustments due to more extreme weather events.

And when it comes to climate change, there's one thing arts organizations need to do: "Prepare." That's according to Karin Rabe, properties master at the Alley Theatre in Houston, where flooding is a growing concern. 

Element5 Digital / Unsplash

Democrats in Virginia claimed big wins in the Tuesday election, fueled in no small part by big investments from gun control advocates.

The historic blue wave marked the first time Democrats seized control of the state’s government in a generation.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3 file photo

The massacre at Columbine High School in April 1999 wasn't the first mass shooting in a U.S. school. But at the time, the 13 deaths and more than 20 injuries were the worst in history. 

Since then, the country's 11 most deadly school shootings have claimed more than 125 lives. With no signs of slowing down, there's an unsettling fear in the mind of many: Which school will be the next to mourn victims of a campus shooting? And that poses another question: How can schools better train and protect students? 

Evert Nelson / Topeka Capital-Journal

Parents of kids who are in the Kansas foster care system described it Saturday as chaotic, deceptive and traumatizing to children.

About two dozen people rallied on the steps of the statehouse in Topeka, calling on lawmakers to bring more accountability to the Kansas Department for Children and Families, an agency long under fire for losing kids and housing them in offices.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

On a sunny Saturday afternoon — possibly the last warm day of the year — more than 150 people gathered near 21st and Prospect in Kansas City, Missouri, to watch some dirt get turned over.

But for a community battling years of blight, it couldn’t have been a happier occasion. They were celebrating the groundbreaking of the KD Academy, a 24-hour child care facility that hopes to open in 2020.

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