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Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City council members got more information about violent crimes as they consider a proposal to privatize the sidewalks in Kansas City's historical Westport entertainment district.

"I feel it is very important to broaden this discussion, not about whether we privatize the sidewalk, or whether we support businesses," says Councilwoman Alissia Canady. "This is a public safety issue."

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Westport has seen a major uptick in gun violence this year. 

According to stats collected by the Westport Regional Business League, there were 16 gun-related weapons offenses in the district in 2016. In 2017, there were 65 — and that's only through Oct. 31.

A Missouri law that took effect in January allows people to carry guns without a permit in nearly every public space, so there’s not much business owners or police can do to keep guns out.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The new secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families has come in promising a thorough review of the agency, staffing changes and more accountability following allegations and outrage about problems in the state’s foster care system.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A discrimination complaint filed earlier this year by a Tennessee woman who claims a former Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services official sexually harassed her is still pending before the Kansas Human Rights Commission.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers studying economic development policies say the Legislature should consider changes to a major incentives program next year.

During a meeting Wednesday at the Statehouse, a special committee recommended more study of the STAR bonds program, and members of both parties said they want more oversight.

Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican, said there hasn’t been enough accountability in the program. She wants the state to use formulas that determine whether proposed projects will create enough economic development to outweigh their costs.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Updated Wednesday, 3:45 p.m.

A Kansas City Council committee voted not to support an ordinance by council members Katheryn Shields, Teresa Loar and Heather Hall that would have frozen city financial commitments for the Loews Kansas City Convention Center Hotel project.

Since the ordinance was drafted last week, more documents have been made available to council members. But concerns still remain over the city’s financial risk.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers began groundwork Monday for their response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to fix school finance by this spring. The same day, a Hiawatha senator announced he will seek to curb the court’s powers through a constitutional amendment.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Several Jackson County legislators called for new leadership at the troubled downtown jail on Tuesday. It only took until Friday to get their wish.

Jackson County Corrections Director Joe Piccinini resigned, County Executive Frank White said at a news conference Friday. And pressure from the county legislature was not a factor, White said. 

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The well-being of children in her care is Gina Meier-Hummel’s highest priority.

That is the consensus on the new secretary for the Kansas Department for Children and Families among people who have worked with her. And it’s why stakeholders in the state’s child welfare system are hopeful that her appointment by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer signals a change of direction for the embattled agency.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder is offering a vigorous defense of the Republican tax cut bill as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on its version of the controversial measure.

In a lengthy news release posted Thursday that Yoder touted as separating myth from fact, the 3rd District representative said the bill does not favor wealthy taxpayers over middle-class families, as Democrats and other critics claim.

Johnson County, Kansas

The longtime manager of the biggest county in Kansas was ousted Thursday by a 4-3 vote of the Johnson County Commission. Hannes Zacharias has been county manager since 2009 and had been in county management since 2001.

“As I stated prior to and following the vote, I do not agree with the decision and believe it is not the correct action for our county commission to take," Commission Chair Ed Eilert said in a statement. "This vote does not reflect in any negative way on the moral, ethical or professional character of Mr. Zacharias, as I and others stated as the vote was taken."

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Local governments and school boards are worried about the possible effects on infrastructure and other projects if Congress passes a tax bill that eliminates exemptions for certain refinancing of bonds.

The Kansas Association of School Boards, which includes most of the state’s 286 boards of education, is urging its members to contact Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts — both Kansas Republicans — about voting against the bill.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Jackson County Legislature had a full agenda Tuesday morning but, once again, problems at the downtown jail dominated the session. After an hour of grilling County Executive Frank White, legislators decided to punt on other work before them.

The focus of several legislators was on the task force recently named by White. The Legislature once again said another task force is a waste of time. The time to act, a majority said, is now.

Jackson County Jail
Jackson County Prosecutor

In a curt and strongly-worded letter, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Monday that she refused her seat on a new jail task force established by County Executive Frank White.

The recent brutal assault of a corrections officer made her change her mind about serving on the task force, Baker wrote, and it’s “clear that action is required immediately” on the embattled jail.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A guard at the Jackson County jail is in critical condition after he was allegedly attacked while on duty, according to court documents.

The unidentified guard was allegedly attacked by 20-year-old Johnny R. Dunlap. Dunlap was charged with first degree assault and armed criminal action and faces up to life in prison if convicted, according to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback revealed Tuesday that in anticipation of his confirmation to a post in the U.S. State Department he has begun transferring major responsibilities to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Brownback said Colyer is developing the budget that the governor is required to propose at the outset of the legislative session, which will convene Jan. 8, 2018.

“He’s doing those and getting ready for the legislative session,” Brownback told reporters after taking delivery of a Christmas tree at the governor’s mansion.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Officials with the Kansas Department for Children and Families responded Tuesday to concerns about destroyed evidence in child abuse cases during a legislative task force meeting.

After a Kansas City Star investigation suggested DCF employees had shredded documents regarding children in state care, an agency official told lawmakers that the claims by former DCF deputy director Dianne Keech were inaccurate.

The Department of Homeland Security is now taking public comment on a plan to release biological and chemical materials at the former Chilocco Indian School near Arkansas City.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A panel of Kansas lawmakers says the Legislature should follow through on promised funding for water projects across the state.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Floyd Abrams probably is the best-known First Amendment lawyer in the United States. He represented the New York Times before the Supreme Court in the landmark Pentagon Papers case in 1971 and argued in the controversial Citizens United case, decided in 2010, that restrictions on corporate expenditures in elections violated the First Amendment. His newly published book, "The Soul of the First Amendment," argues that America's guaranties of free speech and press set it apart from the rest of the world. 

Courtesy Sunflower Foundation

Progressives deride supporters of President Donald Trump as willfully ignorant reactionaries, even racists.

Fans of the president respond in kind, dismissing liberals as snowflakes and worse.

The escalating war of words is a clear and present danger to American democracy, said Carolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, in a presentation sponsored by the Topeka-based Sunflower Foundation’s Advocacy in Health speaker series.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Medicaid expansion advocates say Kansas policymakers should take notice of elections this week in Maine and Virginia.

In Maine, lawmakers sent five expansion bills to Republican Gov. Paul LePage in recent years. He vetoed them all. So Maine voters took matters into their own hands Tuesday by overwhelmingly approving a ballot initiative authorizing expansion.

Bigstock

A judge has ordered federal prosecutors to produce grand jury materials in an ongoing probe of the audio- and video-taping of attorney-client meetings at the Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson last year named a special master to conduct the investigation after criminal defense lawyers learned that some attorney-client conversations at the prison had been recorded. Such conversations are supposed to be off-limits to the government.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of Kansas’ Department for Children and Families, announced Friday that she will retire effective Dec. 1. Friday was also the last day for her top deputy, Chief of Staff Jeff Kahrs, as he departs for a position with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DCF oversees the state’s privatized foster care system, which has drawn particular scrutiny during Gilmore’s tenure.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The group of experts tasked with forecasting how much Kansas will collect in taxes raised their two-year estimate by $225 million after meeting Thursday to compare notes on the performance of key sectors of the state economy.

That’s better than the trend of downward revisions in recent years but not the robust increase that some lawmakers who voted to repeal Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 income tax cuts were hoping for.

Democratic Policy and Communications Committee

Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday used a group of like-minded witnesses to attack President Donald Trump’s tax cut plan by comparing it to what they repeatedly referred to as Kansas’ “failed” tax experiment.

Two Kansans — House Democratic Leader Jim Ward and state employee union representative Sarah LaFrenz — joined a list of national experts in assailing the 2012 Kansas tax cut experiment that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback touted as a “red state model.”

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A security lapse at the El Dorado Correctional Facility led to a June 24 disturbance during which inmates used makeshift weapons to threaten guards, according to new information provided Wednesday to Kansas lawmakers.

The report, compiled by the prison’s Serious Incident Review Board, said the failure of guards to secure “multiple” doors allowed between 50 and 70 inmates to leave their cells and enter the prison yard where inmates from another cellblock had gathered for their scheduled “evening recreation.”

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ energy-regulating agency is trying to determine why permits were issued for half a dozen wastewater wells whose operators didn’t accurately inform nearby residents of their rights to protest the wells.

The deficiencies were discovered by a resident of Matfield Green in Chase County who objects to the wells, into which companies can pour hundreds or thousands of barrels of oil- and gas-related wastewater per day.

Cindy Hoedel wants the Kansas Corporation Commission to shut down the wells and make the companies in question redo the application process.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

After wrestling to balance the budget for years, Kansas lawmakers bit the bullet this spring and agreed to undo many of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature 2012 tax cuts.  

The question now is whether they have done enough to fix the state budget, as many promised to do in the 2016 campaign. Lawmakers will get a better idea of the state’s financial situation later this week when the consensus revenue estimating group determines whether revenues are tracking with projections.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas legislative leaders have directed their staff to work with the Kansas City-based Women’s Foundation to update the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy.

The move comes amid recent allegations by several former legislative staffers, lobbyists and campaign workers about the prevalence of harassment at the Statehouse. 

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