Aviva Okeson-Haberman | KCUR

Aviva Okeson-Haberman

Missouri Politics and Government Reporter

When Aviva first got into radio reporting, she didn’t expect to ride on the back of a Harley. But she’ll do just about anything to get good nat sounds. Aviva has profiled a biker who is still riding after losing his right arm and leg in a crash more than a decade ago, talked to prisoners about delivering end-of-life care in the prison’s hospice care unit and crisscrossed Mid-Missouri interviewing caregivers about life caring for someone with autism. Her investigation into Missouri’s elder abuse hotline led to an investigation by the state’s attorney general. As KCUR’s Missouri government and state politics reporter, Aviva focuses on turning complicated policy and political jargon into driveway moments.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Seven Kansas City Public School district employees falsified student attendance records for three years from 2013 to 2016, according to a summary of an external investigation made public by the district.

The issue was most prominent in the 2015-2016 school year, boosting attendance data which resulted in additional state funding.

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.

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. 

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Clay County’s issues are starting to come to a head, as this week alone the Missouri state auditor issued a subpoena for documents in an ongoing audit, the county commission continued to defend underfunding jail contracts in court and talked about what it would take to change the county’s governance structure.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Tuesday’s election includes races for two Kansas City-area Missouri House seats that were vacated earlier this year. 

The 22nd  District House seat came open after Democratic Rep. Brandon Ellington resigned to serve on the city council, while the 36th District House seat is open because Democratic Rep. DaRon McGee stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations.

KCUR interviewed candidates for both seats. These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Rachel Shriver is set to graduate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City next year but she’s already thinking about how her two kids are going to pay for college a decade from now. 

She’s had a tough path to this point: She had her first kid when she was young and most of her family never made it to college. “I'm just hoping to have a better life with my kids … that’s the whole reason I’m in school,” Shriver said.

Segment 1: The host of The Splendid Table stops by on a Kansas City visit.

Francis Lam is the son of immigrants, the father of a toddler, and a rising star in the food world. Hear his take on how something as simple as food ties into complex, multi-layered personal stories, in his life and in our culture.

  • Francis Lam, host, The Splendid Table

Segment 2: Bob Dylan may not be forever young, but a lot of his fans are.

Segment 1: A famous crossword puzzle creator makes Kansas City his home.

David Steinberg has been making crossword puzzles since he was 12, and getting them published in the New York Times since he was 14. He's just moved to Kansas City. In this conversation, he talks about sleeping on Will Shortz's couch, and other career milestones.

The Jackson County Detention Center has been a contentious topic in city and county politics, with a lot of the public debate focused on questions of funding and space. But conditions for inmates, most of whom are awaiting trial, continue to be concerning for those who know the facility. This show originally aired in July, 2019. 

Segment 1: How a fractured school system contributes to problems with transportation.

Kansas City, Missouri, public school kids travel to school on dated buses that crisscross the city inefficiently. That cuts into school budgets, as well as time spent in class and on extra-curriculars. Big thinkers are taking on the issue and envisioning new models for getting kids to and from school.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Missouri's methods of reimbursing community providers who care for people with developmental disabilities are complex, confusing and conflict with federal Medicaid rules. That’s because providers are reimbursed at vastly different rates for the same level of care.

It’s a situation that’s also leading to low pay for the providers’ workers and exacerbating the state’s already high turnover. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put the state on a five-year corrective action plan earlier this year. So to address the issue, the Division of Developmental Disabilities will request $58.1 million from Missouri lawmakers next year on top of the $20 million extra it received this year. Many providers say it’s long overdue.

Missouri Department of Corrections

Missouri executed its first prisoner since 2017 on Tuesday night. Despite the man’s rare medical condition, no complications were reported. 

 Segment 1: Fresh cocktails for a new season.
As summer winds down, two mixologists join us to share their favorite autumnal cocktails.

  • Brock Schulte, bar director at The Monarch Bar
  • Jill Cockson, owner of Swordfish Tom's

Segment 2: The best Italian food in Kansas City.
Our food critics recommend their favorite Italian dishes across the city, from classics like spaghetti and meatballs, to experimental plates of carrot pesto or bone marrow.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3 file photo

In a scathing letter to Facebook this week, Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, along with three of his Republican colleagues, renewed his criticism of the social media giant, saying the company censors conservative voices.

It’s Hawley’s latest call for more government scrutiny and regulation of tech companies stemming from concerns like data privacy, internet addiction and censorship. 

Segment 1: Making greeting cards more diverse.

Cards are about relationships. So if none of the greeting cards on the shelf represent the person you're reaching out to, or the occasion you're celebrating, it won't feel quite right. Hallmark's trying to make more communities feel "seen" in the greeting card aisle.

  • Monic Houpe, product director, Hallmark
  • Christy Moreno, editorial director, Hallmark

Segment 2: Why Kansas and Missouri astronomers are fighting to save dark skies.

Segment 1: The Gay Softball World Series comes to Kansas City.

As the Gay Softball World Series gets under way here in town, the Kansas City Royals host their first ever official Pide Night at the K. 

  • Scott Switzer, Executive Director, Gay Softball World Series 2019
  • Rick Leavitt, founder of a gay softball team and league in Florida 25 years ago, now a Kansas Citian

Segment 2: First Friday has lost its festival license. Now what?

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas City businessman will buy the Royals, the Major League Baseball team announced Friday.

John Sherman, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, is leading a group of local investors to buy the club from David Glass, 83, who has owned the Royals since 2000. 

Segment 1: The way we remember Emmett Till is still rooted in race and geography.

A KU professor who thought he knew the Emmett Till story was shocked by what he learned when he traveled to the Mississippi Delta for himself. That sent him on a journey to try to sort through the tangled threads of this haunting history. 

Segment 2: Men and boys in ballet speak out.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3 file photo

A cattle slaughterhouse and feedlot near Powell Gardens says has closed instead of keeping up a drawn-out legal battle over its planned expansion.

Segment 1: A thirteen year old with limb difference writes a book with her mom.

Jordan Reeves was born without the bottom half of one arm, and she's spent the thirteen years since then proving that she can do anything, "except monkey bars." She invented a prosthetic limb that shoots glitter and looks like a unicorn's horn and she's founded a nonprofit. Now she and her mom are out with a new book.

Segment 1: New distilleries revive the past, with a twist.

Why was 9th street, in the West Bottoms, once known as the "wettest block"? Why did a spirits industry thrive here in the 19th century and then fade even before Prohibition? And what's it like to ride the slide at the new East Bottoms facility for J. Rieger & Co.?

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Missouri workers providing care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities make less than a Walmart or Target worker, even after a pay increase that went into effect last month. 

The low pay is the main reason about half of Missouri workers quit each year, according to Missouri Developmental Disabilities Division Director Val Huhn.

Pixabay

Elyshya Miller’s son was 13 when she gave him the talk: racial profiling and what to do if the police approach him. 

It was a common occurrence, Miller said, because for about 15 years, her family was the only black family in her Blue Springs subdivision. 

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Angela Boykin watched her cousin die from cancer in 2016. Loretta — or Lo, as everyone called her — suffered through significant pain. So when Missouri voters passed the medical marijuana law in November, she wanted in on opening a dispensary in Kansas City. 

Missouri starts officially accepting applications for medical marijuana businesses Saturday, and it’s a potentially lucrative business: A cannabis data research company estimates that by 2025, Missouri could see $111 million in medical marijuana sales yearly. 

But Boykin and other applicants are black, and even though Missouri by law can’t factor in race or gender when awarding licenses, the national trend is that pot business owners and founders are overwhelmingly white. 

University of Missouri System/Creative Commons

Missouri state Rep. Rebecca Roeber, a Republican from Lee's Summit, died Tuesday in her sleep. 

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Grandview, Missouri, is hoping to decrease crime at apartments through a partnership with police and local apartment managers.

Key to the program: By signing a new lease addendum, a resident could be evicted if a guest in their apartment commits a crime. Also, the Grandview Police Department would inform apartment management if the resident is arrested. 

Office of Missouri Governor

Before Kenneth Wilson became a Missouri House member, he worked his way up the ranks in the Platte County Sheriff’s Office. It was there, he said, his view of crime went from “bad guys go to jail” to seeing dads lose their jobs because they were jailed for not being able to pay child support.

And that’s when Wilson, a Republican from Smithville, thought there must be another way. 

The Jackson County Detention Center has been a contentious topic in city and county politics, with a lot of the public debate focused on questions of funding and space. But conditions for inmates, most of whom are awaiting trial, continue to be concerning for those who know the facility.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Beyoncé tickets. Pricey steak dinners. Royals games. 

Lobbyists used to be able to spend thousands in an effort to influence Missouri lawmakers. Voters approved a $5 dollar limit on gifts for lawmakers in November. A KCUR analysis of data released this month by the Missouri Ethics Commission shows there’s been a 94% decrease in spending from the 2019 to 2018 legislative session. 

In this year’s session, lobbyists spent less than $17,000 on lawmakers. That’s a significant drop from the about $300,000 spent in the 2018 session. 

Bigstock

Criminal justice advocates in Missouri hope that new statewide rules will keep poor defendants out of jail because they can’t afford bail.

But one Kansas City public defender is concerned that poor defendants will have to stay behind bars before trial due to the cost of electronic monitoring devices.

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