Frank Morris | KCUR

Frank Morris

National Correspondent and Senior Editor

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.

Morris grew up in rural Kansas listening to KHCC, spun records at KJHK throughout college at the University of Kansas, and cut his teeth in journalism as an intern for Kansas Public Radio, in the Kansas statehouse.

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Frank Morris / KCUR

Lots of people in Kansas City are ramping up for the AFC Championship game on Sunday. If the Chiefs win, they’ll play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Some area business are betting on a win, one they hope will trigger a shopping frenzy.

It’s easy to spot team logos around town. Season ticket-holder Greg O’Neil has about a dozen of them on his SUV alone.

“I’ve got six Chiefs flags, I got three Chiefs arrows, Chief’s name and another helmet,” chuckles O’Neil, who’s also wearing a Chiefs cap. “You can see me coming a mile away.”

SOM

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Kansas City is a city of roads — the metropolitan area has long held claim to the highest number of highway miles per capita, which has made it a city of drivers.

File photo by Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3FM

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Midwestern farmers are coming off a year of catastrophic flooding, high bankruptcies and billions in federal bailouts.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Over the past decade, the number of newspaper reporters has dropped by half. But in Johnson County, Kansas, one news site is bucking the trend, adding reporters and subscribers.

The Shawnee Mission Post, which covers about a quarter-million people from a small house on a tree-lined street in Prairie Village is on track to triple the size of its newsroom by embracing the much-maligned paywall.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

A tentative agreement easing trade restrictions with China seems like great news for farmers, who’ve been pummeled by the trade war. Some farmers, though, are skeptical. They worry that ag exports will suffer for years, and they've got history to back them up.

Prices for the corn and soybeans started rising last week, on rumors of a possible trade deal. Good news for Tom Kreisel, who farms near tiny Houstonia, Missouri.

“The last couple of days, they'd been up,” says Kreisel. “But they had took a nosedive before that, so we need to make that back.”

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The Prospect Avenue MAX bus line that begins running on Monday will charge no fares for the first three months. The $56 million system built with federal grants and local matching funds features faster, more comfortable buses with wifi, and heated concrete benches at the stops.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said making the service available at no charge is a step toward zero fare transit city-wide.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

A roving work of art has sparked a lot of thought about the nature of walls this year, especially among those who live near the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

"Walking Wall" is a 100-ton art installation that’s been blocking traffic and building friendships as it moved toward the Bloch Building at the museum.

On Wednesday, it goes inside — and stops.

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

Trucks and trains aren’t carrying as much as they did just a few months ago, and haulers are cutting back on orders for new trucks and rail cars. Despite this slump, Kansas City’s logistics industry is pushing ahead with an enormous expansion of warehouse space and other regional distribution hubs.

Rail traffic is down substantially from last year. Carloads are down by about 7%. Coal is down more than 14%, and metallic ores and metals are down even more.  

Frank Morris / KCUR and NPR

Most farmers haven't had a single good year since President Trump took office, and Trump’s policies on trade, immigration and ethanol are part of the problem.

Yet farmers, who broadly supported Trump in 2016, are sticking with him as the impeachment inquiry moves forward.

“You see everyone circling their wagons now, and the farm community is no different in that,” says John Herath, the news director at Farm Journal.

Copyright 2019 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

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This June the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its plan to move two of its research agencies out of Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area. Most of the people working at the agencies have since quit, leaving gaping holes in critical divisions. Researchers warn that the agency upheaval will starve farmers, policymakers and ultimately consumers out of the best possible information about food and the business of growing it.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Some in the art world are protesting the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art because of a tenuous connection to the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City has long been a prime example of state tax incentives gone awry — the question now is if Kansas and Missouri can change the dynamic with a new agreement.

“Corporate welfare. It's a race to the bottom. It's wasteful spending. All of those really are true," says Angela Andreson Smart, vice president of the Hall Family Foundation in Kansas City.

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

Out on the vast Kansas Flint Hills, Christy Davis trudges through a muddy cow pasture on the site of a big concert that never happened.

“We took a hit with the weather. The one thing that we couldn't control,” says Davis, outgoing director of Symphony in the Flint Hills, an annual event drawing thousands to see live classical music on the open prairie.

Allen Brewer / Flickr-CC

(This story was updated at 5:15 p.m.)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans Thursday to move headquarters of two large research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area, promising the region more than 550 research jobs.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Several tornadoes struck the Midwest last night, leaving three people dead in Missouri and several structures damaged in the state capital city, Jefferson City. Missouri Governor Mike Parson spoke this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A couple of federal agencies you probably haven’t heard of keep track of what farmers grow, what Americans eat and how the country’s entire food system operates. And the Trump Administration wants them out Washington, D.C. — and maybe in the Kansas City area.

The Kansas City metro area is among three sites still in the hunt to become the next location for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research arms.

Joe Robertson / Local Investment Commission

Having a criminal record can make it hard to find a job, and a place to live. Missouri allows some offenses to be erased from a person’s record, or expunged, years after an offender has finished serving his or her sentence, but it’s a tricky process.

Facebook / KCUR 89.3

The catastrophic flooding in Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas last month caused more than $12 billion in damage, by one estimate.  But much more is at stake as the flood waters recede.

Small, rural towns are damaged … and dying.

Even communities with a lot going for them have taken a beating. Lynch, Nebraska, for instance, a remote village near the South Dakota line, with only about 200 residents.

When Henry Bloch returned to Kansas City, Mo., after World War II, he teamed up with his older brother Leon and they did bookkeeping and other services for small businesses.

Leon decided to return to law school, forcing Henry to find a replacement. He placed an ad in the newspaper.

Henry says his mother answered the ad and told him that he should hire his younger brother. Richard decided to join the business even though Henry said he couldn't afford him.

By 1955, the brothers decided to stop doing tax returns because they were too busy with other business services.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Here in the United States, the devastating floods in the Midwest last month caused billions of dollars in damage, and those losses are still mounting. As Frank Morris from member station KCUR reports, the final tally of those losses will likely include entire communities torn apart by this disaster.

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

For many decades now, the only beer you could buy in Kansas grocery and convenience stores was limited to 3.2% alcohol. 

But on Monday, that 3.2 beer will be a thing of the past.

“It's a big step for the groceries and the state of Kansas,” says Dennis Toney, an executive with Ball’s Food Stores. “We’ve all wanted this for quite some time.”

Kansas is one of the last states to do away with this Depression-era alcohol, which looks likely to soon die out altogether.

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

The threat of major new flooding on the Missouri River is receding this week, but the stage is set for further disaster as the usual spring flood season dawns in the coming weeks.

Last week's flooding left billions of dollars of destruction in its wake.

“This is just a prelude of what’s to come. I can only remember one other flood in early spring like this,” said Bob Baker, who has been farming in the river bottoms just west of Weston, Missouri, all his life. “I think we’re in for a long summer.”

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he misses Kansas and would like to go back into business in the state someday. But at the Road to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Overland Park Monday, the former congressman was cagey about his future in public office.

The annual conference gives business people a chance to rub elbows with potential funders in government, foundations and the private sector. Pompeo said it’s no coincidence that this year’s summit was in his home state.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Protesters withstood single-digit temperatures on the steps of City Hall Monday to share horror stories about landlords kicking their families out after a serious illness or being left with no safe, permanent housing options after an eviction. KC Tenants, a new group advocating for tenants' rights, intends to make housing a central issue in the upcoming mayoral election.

“Housing needs to be the next mayor’s airport,” said activist Tiana Caldwell to cheers of approval.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The water we drink is protected by federal rules, which are at the crux of a long-running fight over how far upstream that protection extends.

“Agriculture is land and water. When you’ve got control of the water, you’ve got control of the land,” said Blake Roderick with the National Waterways Conference.

The U.S. meat industry is gigantic, with roughly $200 billion a year in sales and growing. But the industry faces emerging threats on two fronts: plant-based meat substitutes and actual meat grown in labs.

A Missouri farmer has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges after he charged customers more than $140 million for conventionally produced grain sold as certified organic.

The U.S. meat industry is gigantic, with roughly $200 billion a year in sales, and getting larger. But the industry faces emerging threats on two fronts: plant-based meat substitutes and actual meat grown in labs.

Plant-based meat substitutes are a lot more, well, meaty than they used to be. They sear on the grill and even "bleed." They look, taste and feel in the mouth a lot like meat. Savannah Blevin, a server at Charlie Hooper's, an old-school bar and grill in Kansas City, Mo., says the vegetarian Impossible Burgers on the menu are popular with the meat-eating crowd.

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