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Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3 file photo

One Clay County commissioner has the authority to approve spending decisions on a controversial $20 million new county annex without public discussion. 

On Monday, the Clay County commission, on a two to one vote, gave that power to Commissioner Gene Owen. The move comes after Owen signed off on two contracts totaling more than $1.3 million in March for engineering and architectural services without a public vote or discussion. Citizens have long complained about a lack of transparency in the county, which helped launch a state audit in late 2018.

A majority of Americans believe that while their communities will suffer in the short term from the COVID-19 pandemic, they will eventually recover.

And nearly one in 5 people feels their communities will emerge stronger than ever.

That’s according to a new Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground survey — conducted at the end of March and released on April 3.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are making contingency plans in case the spread of the coronavirus forces an early end to the 2020 legislative session. A shortened session would lessen the chances of lawmakers resolving their differences on abortion and Medicaid expansion before heading home.

Susan Wagle, the Republican president of the Kansas Senate, is blocking consideration of a bipartisan expansion bill until the House approves a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution. Attempts by legislative leaders to end the stalemate appear to be making little progress.

Chris Neal / Shooter Imaging

TOPEKA, Kansas — The state lost 13% of its public defenders over the past year.

That’s actually an improvement. Nearly a fourth of the state’s public defenders quit the year before.

But the turnover of those attorneys still represents a chronic problem for the State Board of Indigents’ Defense Services, the agency that provides lawyers to criminal defendants who can’t afford their own.

Maban Wright makes $66,000 as one of those public defenders, up from the $43,000 she earned at the agency 10 years ago.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas health officials say the state is ready to deal with the new coronavirus now that Kansans are starting to get sick.

Lawmakers still aren’t ready to move past a dispute on abortion and Medicaid expansion that is blocking progress on both issues.

Host Jim McLean talks with a legislator at the center of that dispute about why he cast a decisive vote against the anti-abortion amendment. 

Also featured on this week’s episode: an interview with the state’s chief health officer on preparations for the coronavirus.

Segment 1: Missouri looks to start opening medical marijuana dispensaries in June.

Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services has issued licenses for 192 medical marijuana dispensaries since a voter approved initiative for medical cannabis passed in 2018. Once patients are able to start purchasing, and in some cases growing, the product, the state could look to issue more dispensary licenses based on supply and demand.

Seg. 1: The famously dry comedian is coming to Kansas City and we're here for it.

You might remember her as the comedian who did a set about getting cancer, but there's a lot more to her awkward sense of humor, which she'll be bringing to the Uptown later this month.

Seg. 2, beginning at 14:49: The restaurant owner/chef is mixing things up in the Kansas City food scene.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — When it comes to cybersecurity, most Kansas counties are behind. Overall, only eight county websites end in .gov, a domain extension that’s only given to governments.

Most of Kansas’ 105 counties have websites ending in .org or .com. And 60 counties don’t use a basic security protocol called SSL; their website URLs start with “http” rather than the more secure “https.” Both make it easier for hackers to impersonate websites in an effort to install malware, trick citizens into giving out personal data or sway elections.

Segment 1: Reporters unravel the dysfunction that plagues government in one Missouri county.

Clay County, Missouri, residents want answers as to how their commissioners are making decisions. The county is currently embroiled in legal wrangling with the state auditor and the county sheriff, and citizens are complaining their voices are not being heard. Journalists covering the situation say they've "never seen a series of actions quite like this."

Barbara Shelly

A growing coalition of groups and citizens wants Wyandotte County to become the first place in Kansas to issue local identification to residents.

Advocates estimate a municipal ID program could potentially benefit about 30,000 persons by making it easier for them to open bank accounts, enroll children in school and access health care.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Troy Schulte, one of the most influential city managers in recent Kansas City history, knows he may be remembered for helping oversee downtown’s revival, the streetcar, the convention hotel and a new airport terminal.

Segment 1: Schulte talks of the progress and set-backs Kansas City faced during his term as city manager.

Troy Schulte's 10-year term as manager of Kansas City, Missouri, will in a few months come to a close. He said one of the hardest things about his job was finding a balance in handling pressing crises and working toward long-term goals. Schulte talked about things he's proud of, like the new airport terminal design, which is set to acheive net-zero carbon emissions. He also spoke of critical issues, like the overcrowding in city jails.

He brings us local news highlights with his primetime public affairs TV program each weekand his journalistic experience spans from the BBC to Kansas Public Radio. Nick Haines is rarely the one answering the questions, but today he shares an exclusive look at what makes KCPT's Kansas City Week in Review happen every Friday.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

They may have each spent only a single session in their respective statehouses, but Kansas Rep. Rui Xu and Missouri Rep. Matt Sain have already learned some important lessons about how state government works, why it sometimes doesn't, and what their responsibilities are to the people back home.

Those lessons are colored by the fact that both lawmakers are in the minority party (Sain is in the superminority), but they're still worth paying attention to. Politics is cyclical, after all, and today's legislative rules will affect the way future politicians do their jobs.

Segment 1: Candidates for 6th District at-Large discuss plans for Kansas City.

Candidates Andrea Bough and Stacey Johnson-Cosby each offered their approach to financing affordable housing, transparency in Kansas City government and a Tenant Bill of Rights. 

Segment 1: Candidates for 3rd District at-Large discuss plans for Kansas City

Missouri Rep. Brandon Ellington and Rev. Wallace Hartsfield talked about their approach to reduce crime east of Troost, provide access to education and jobs, and downtown tax incentives.  

Segment 1: Candidates for the Kansas City's 3rd District debate for Councilman Jermaine Reed's seat.

We asked candidates Melissa Robinson and Joey Thomas their thoughts on affordable housing, development east of Troost and how to improve community policing.

New high-rises are going up downtown, the streetcar is helping revitalize parts of Midtown, and a new airport terminal will eventually welcome visitors. All good news, yet violent crime remains a concern, Kansas City’s building boom stops at Prospect Avenue, and gentrification threatens to displace residents elsewhere. Addressing those concerns and others will be the next mayor's job.

Segment 1: Ryana Parks-Shaw and Edward Bell II discuss their plans to take over Kansas City's 5th District Council seat. 

Continuing our Kansas City Council debate series, the 5th District candidates discussed new policing strategies, the addition of pocket parks and how to minimize violent crime.

Segment 1: Councilman Dan Fowler and his challenger Kevin McEvoy talk plans for one of Kansas City's two Northland council districts.

Before the June 18 municipal election, we asked the 2nd District candidates about funding for the new KCI terminal, violent crime and why each would be the best fit for a seat on the council.

Segment 1: Incumbent and challenger are campaigning to represent a district that runs from the Country Club Plaza to north of the Missouri River. 

A current Kansas City, Missouri, council member and a former businessman are vying to win the city's 4th District at-Large seat in the June 18 election. The candidates differed on government spending, develoment, climate change and crime.

Segment 1: Mayoral candidate Jolie Justus shares her plans for Kansas City if elected.

Crime is one of the top concerns Jolie Justus hears when speaking with voters. The mayoral candidate explains why criminal justice reform is in her plans to address the city's crime rate. Justus also discussed her approach to using economic development incentives. 

William Johnson / U.S. Air Force Photo

Ruslan Ivanov loved being a public defender. What he didn’t love was the way his work constantly followed him — at home, with friends and family, even on vacation.

On one trip to Colorado, he stood in front of a breathtaking mountain view. And started thinking about a case.

Missouri Auditor's Office

A judge ruled Monday that the audit of Clay County's government, which was requested by residents, can proceed.

Segment 1: Congresswoman Davids discusses her first few months in Congress. 

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids says that she didn't know what to expect when she first got to Washington, but that she's managed to keep her campaign promises nonetheless. "It's as busy as I thought it might be, but experiencing it is a whole different thing," she told us today.

Segment 1: Kansas governor and lawmakers don't see eye to eye.

Political reporters described a hostile environment  between Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican-led legislature. They explained what each side is looking for on the issues of Medicaid expansion, school funding, protecting vulenerable children and the food tax.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Phil Glynn says he wants to be Kansas City mayor because he'd done as much as he could as an activist.

Today, we learned why Phil Glynn thinks his background in business and activism has prepared him to make improvements throughout Kansas City as mayor. "Too much of the focus has been on luxury developments downtown, not on our neighborhoods," the candidate said.

Segment 1: Snow removal has pushed some cities beyond their budget.

A rough winter has put both Leawood, Kansas, and Riverside, Missouri, over budget for snow removal, but lawmakers there say it shouldn't impact other programs. Today, we discussed how they're keeping ahead of the winter storms, and other municipal concerns, including a need for more police.

Segment 1: Six in 10 Americans failed the history portion of U.S. citizenship test.

Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons-Flickr

The company hired to provide health care in Kansas prisons is getting paid millions less than its contracted amount after failing to meet the agreement’s terms.

State officials reduced payments to Corizon Health because the company failed to hire enough nurses and other health workers. Corizon lost additional money after audits found it fell short of performance standards for a range of medical services.

Now, the Kansas Department of Corrections says the contractor has one more year to look after the health of 10,000 people in its prisons.

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