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Michael Barrett

The head of the embattled Missouri Public Defender System is stepping down after more than four years on the job.  

Michael Barrett said he’s resigning effective early or mid-November and taking a job in New York state.

It’s “more family driven than anything else,” he said in an email to KCUR. “Son is in 8th grade. If we were going to move, it was before he got into high school.”

Barrett said he had a job in hand, although he didn’t specify what it is, but he stressed it was not the reason for his departure.  

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Underwire bras may still be setting off the metal detectors at the Jackson County jail, but the standoff over the issue, nicknamed “bra-gate,” has ended — at least for attorneys.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Tens of millions of years ago, an inland sea covered parts of western Kansas. Today, chalk columns measuring 70 to 100 feet high tower above the arid terrain in Kansas’ newest state park.

What’s At Stake In The Guns Case At The Supreme Court?

Sep 26, 2019
noclip / Wikimedia Commons

Dave Hardy, an attorney in private practice in Arizona, thinks this is the term when the Supreme Court finally decides whether a constitutional right to carry a firearm extends beyond the front door.

Gun rights advocates like Hardy, who’s been writing about the Second Amendment since the 1970s, have waited for years for the Supreme Court to hear a new challenge to a gun control law.

“You don’t do much work in the field, in terms of earning money, but it’s been something that interests me,” Hardy said.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

The federal public defender's office in Kansas says it’s entitled to nearly $224,000 in legal fees because of prosecutor misconduct in an explosive case over the taping of attorney-client phone calls at the Leavenworth pretrial detention prison. 

In a court filing this week, the public defender says it incurred nearly $1.7 million in fees and expenses litigating the case but is seeking only the amount “required to litigate the Government’s contemptuous conduct.”

File photo / BigStock Images

People from all over Kansas City packed a city council hearing Wednesday to support a change in the city's marijuana laws. 

The committee delayed a decision on the proposed ordinance, sponsored by newly elected Councilman Brandon Ellington, which would essentially decriminalize the possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 7:15 p.m. to include comments from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Kansas City, Missouri's longtime City Manager Troy Schulte will retire early next year.

Schulte served as city manager under former mayors Mark Funkhouser and Sly James. In his 10 years in the position, Schulte saw the city through a recession, helped guide the passage of an $800 million infrastructure package, and oversaw the creation of a streetcar system and groundbreaking on a new airport terminal.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

On Friday, when Jerry Bausby got two life sentences for the sexual assault and murder of his 18-year-old daughter, it was the culmination of three years of work for Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

Daizsa Bausby was a star student at the now-closed Southwest High School. She was a rule-follower and a go-getter with big dreams. But just a couple of months before her graduation, her body was found in a Kansas City motel room, dressed as though by someone else, according to examiners, who also concluded that she'd been sodomized and suffocated.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — When Gov. Laura Kelly signed a proclamation recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month in Kansas this week, she hailed the culture and diversity that Latinos bring to the state. She also gave a serious warning. 

If the state’s 350,000 Latinos don’t take part in the 2020 census, she said, Kansas could lose federal money and, potentially, representation in Congress.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Over the last three years, millions of dollars generated by COMBAT, the anti-drug and anti-violence sales tax in Jackson County, has been spent with little or no oversight, according to a new audit.

The COMBAT sales tax was approved by voters in 1989, and it has recently generated more than $20 million a year. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker commissioned the audit after she took over the agency in 2018.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Mold. No heat in the winter. Leaking roofs.

The most common complaints Teresa Baker hears about rental housing in Kansas revolve around poor living conditions that violate state law.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Most Americans believe climate change is a serious problem, according to a CBS poll  released over the weekend. 

But few solutions seem to be coming from Washington, DC, or the statehouses in Topeka, Kansas, or Jefferson City, Missouri. So, local officials are trying to step up.

City of Roeland Park

The Roeland Park City Council is considering an ordinance that would prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement from using city resources for immigration enforcement.

The proposal was presented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas as part of their “Safe and Welcoming” campaign at a city council meeting earlier this month.

“What we are suggesting is that cities can actually write policy that says they will not be coordinating with ICE,” Kansas ACLU Policy Director Letitia Harmon said.

Lisa Dunn / WAMU

Following a series of high-profile shootings this summer, many have called on Congress to respond to mounting public pressure and enact new gun regulations after returning from the summer recess.

This week, the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee will take a first step. The committee is scheduled to mark up several new gun control bills that were introduced earlier this year.

The three bills

As Jean Peters Baker spoke to a packed room at the Missouri Democratic Party’s Truman Dinner last weekend, she acknowledged the obvious: The past few years have been bruising for a party that used to dominate state politics.

Republicans up and down the ballot generally prevailed in the past three election cycles — leaving Democrats on the outside looking in when it comes to policy and leadership. But Baker, chairwoman of the Missouri Democratic Party, said this isn’t a time to sulk. Instead, Democrats should use the 2020 election cycle as a prime opportunity for a comeback.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Zoo billed it as a big announcement—a remodeled home for its seven elephants—but it wasn't the huge announcement the zoo was hoping to make.

The zoo will spend $10 million improving the elephant exhibit. “The best way to do it is to just tear it all out and start from scratch,” said Randy Wisthoff, director of the zoo.

The renovations will make the pool easier for the animals to enter, add shade and make the ground a little softer by adding sand. Wisthoff says the current exhibit was good for the elephants but not great.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office / Wikimedia Commons

Update, August 29, 5:11 p.m.: The full Kansas City Council approved both ordinances on Thursday.

Kansas City, Missouri, could take a step toward stricter gun laws — despite loose state laws.

So far this year, there have been 99 homicides. Five victims were 16-years-old or younger and 29 were between the ages of 17 and 24.

On Wednesday, a Kansas City Council committee unanimously passed two ordinances which are aimed at keeping handguns and other firearms out of the hands of minors. Mayor Quinton Lucas introduced the measures earlier this month.

File photo

In a major ruling with implications for employers of undocumented immigrants, a federal judge in Kansas said a law making it a crime to "encourage" or "induce" such immigrants to live in the United States is unconstitutional.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — One of the United States’ largest and oldest private prison companies will house up to 600 Kansas inmates in a facility in Eloy, Arizona.

CoreCivic, formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America, owns and operates 129 prisons, immigration detention centers and other facilities in more than 20 states, including the Leavenworth Detention Center. Its revenues total more than $1 billion a year.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The state of Kansas is canceling a contract that administered an elementary-school reading program because of what state officials call inappropriate spending on travel and salaries. 

The contractor disputes any mishandling of the money, which in recent years amounted to nearly $10 million routed from a program meant to serve needy families. 

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Kansas will send 360 of its male prisoners to a privately owned and operated prison in Eloy, Arizona, starting this summer.

The Kansas Department of Corrections announced Friday that it had finalized a contract with CoreCivic to move up to 600 people to Saguaro Correctional Center. The prison is about one hour southeast of Phoenix and about a 12-hour drive from the southwestern corner of Kansas.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3 file photo

A new era of Kansas City, Missouri, government has officially begun.

Mayor Quinton Lucas and new city council members were sworn in on the 26th floor of City Hall on a gray, rainy Thursday morning. 

"For some people, clear blue skies are this beacon of good fortune, but for me rain is the thing I look for all the time," Lucas said, citing the downpour on the night he was elected in June.

Anonymous

A Wyandotte County jury found a high-ranking official of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, guilty of misdemeanor battery against a female employee Tuesday.

Maddie Waldeck, a former Unified Government employee, said on May 1 last year that she was having a "light-hearted" conversation with colleagues after work when her boss, Dennis "Tib" Laughlin, grabbed her by the shirt and pushed her against a wall.

University of Missouri System/Creative Commons

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

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Jackson County Board of Equalization (BOE) will decide Tuesday whether to yet again extend the deadline for property owners to appeal their reassessments.

As of Friday, some 9,500 appeals had been filed with the BOE and staff expected hundreds more before the deadline at close of business Monday.

Walter / Creative Commons 2.0

TOPEKA — Courtney Train spends her days going to nail salons, the pool and the dog park.

As a paid mentor and advocate for children ages 8 to 18 who’ve seen domestic violence at home or experienced it while dating, Train knows quality time — and fun — with a trusted adult can be in short supply for her clients.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA― Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss announced Friday he’ll retire in mid-December after serving on the state’s highest court since 2002, when Republican Gov. Bill Graves tapped him for the role.

That makes the second retirement announcement from the court in less than a month. Justice Lee Johnson will retire in September. He was appointed by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2007.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The fight over the Jackson County reassessment mess is dragging on and becoming even more contentious as critics alleged the assessment discriminated against poorer areas.

The county Board of Equalization (BOE) on Thursday had a plan on its agenda that would throw out the assessment and cap property value increases at no more than 14 percent.

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. 

Two vital research agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are hemorrhaging staff as less than two-thirds of the researchers asked to relocate from Washington to the Kansas City area have agreed to do so.

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