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Nick’s Picks | A Peek at The Week Ahead

Police and Vaccine News Top the Agenda

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)

Will there be chaos on Kansas City streets this week now that there is no longer a jaywalking law? 

Late last week the City Council voted unanimously to remove jaywalking as a city infraction. 

The law has been on the books for more than 100 years.

I should not assume knowledge. When I first came here, someone shouted at me from their car window and claimed I was being a “jaywalker.” Coming from the United Kingdom, I have to admit I’d never heard of the term.

So to clarify, what we’re talking about here are police ticketing a pedestrian for walking across a road where there is no designated crossing sign.

Criminal justice reformers say getting rid of jaywalking laws is a small step along the path to reducing encounters with the police, especially for people of color.

During last week’s council session, the mayor’s legal counsel said that in the last three years, Kansas City police issued 123 citations for jaywalking. And 65% of those tickets were issued to Black people. 

In a unanimous vote, the council also removed two other violations they claimed were disproportionately impacting people of color. 

One removes the crime of driving a car or bicycle with “dirty tires.” Apparently, there is such a law. The second removes language that allows a police officer to pull over a cyclist, if they believe the bike isn’t in proper working order.

Scaling Back the Vaccine

With demand for COVID-19 shots plummeting around the country, some states are now asking the federal government to scale back their vaccine shipments.

We’re a big part of that trend. This past week, the state of Kansas asked for less than 9% of its approved allotment from the government. The state currently has a stockpile of almost 647,000 doses.

While demand drops, Jackson County Executive Frank White is expected to unveil plans this week to launch a $5 million program to get shots in the arms of residents in the most underserved parts of Kansas City.

The program is expected to involve a door-to-door campaign, pop-up sidewalk tents and a plan to use community influencers to get the message out, from the pulpit to barber shops.

While they may also have some swag to give away, there won’t be any financial incentives being tossed out.  Other places are doing that. In North Carolina health officials are reportedly considering paying younger people to get shots, while West Virginia has offered a $100 savings bond to people between the ages of 16 and 35 for getting inoculated.

Flu shot
In this file photo, a nurse administers a vaccine shot. (Jacquelyn Martin | AP File)

Vaccines and Your Kids

You may have not given a second thought about getting your COVID shots. But how do you feel about giving the vaccine to your kids?

This week, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to rule on Pfizer’s request to begin administering the shot to children ages 12 to 15.

The company wants to make the vaccine available before the new school year starts. 

But will this just set off a bitter new clash? 

Imposing COVID restrictions on our kids is already becoming a flashpoint. Did you see that in Johnson County about a dozen parents have filed lawsuits against their local school districts over the requirement that their child wear a mask? 

How will those same parents feel if they’re now told their child also has to be vaccinated if they want to be back in the classroom?

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found parents are reluctant to give the shot to their kids and are opposed to schools requiring the jab.

The poll shows only three out of 10 parents of children ages 12 to 15 planned to vaccinate their kids.

A quarter of them will wait and see how the vaccine is working, and 18% will get their child vaccinated if their school requires it.

Roughly one in four parents said they will not get their child vaccinated.

Heading Home

This week, Missouri lawmakers head for home. Friday is the last day of this year’s legislative session.

A handful of items remain unresolved as your local representatives and senators pack up their desks.

They have yet to find funding for last year’s voter-approved Medicaid expansion program.

And still to be voted on are bills blocking businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from their workers or customers, a possible gas tax hike and a measure removing the residency requirement on Kansas City police officers. 

In the waning hours of the session, they could also debate a stalled bill that would shield nursing homes and other businesses from COVID-related lawsuits.

Kansas lawmakers have already wrapped up for the year. Before leaving Topeka in the early hours of Saturday morning, they tightened advance voting rules and passed a bill prohibiting any state agencies from requiring vaccination to enter a government office or to receive a state service. 

And who says one vote doesn’t matter? A Kansas measure blocking transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports failed by a single vote.

Police in the Spotlight

This is National Police Week, a time to honor the contributions of law enforcement officers and to remember those who have died in the line of duty while wearing the blue uniform.

Police are not feeling a lot of love these days.  And according to the head of the Kansas City Police Department union, a record number of officers are quitting the job. 

Brad Lemon, who leads Kansas City’s Fraternal Order of Police, says the department is on target to lose up to 110 officers this year. So far this year, 46 officers have retired or resigned. Some, he says are turning to private security or construction. 

Lemon contends that after a year of protest, harsh criticism of law enforcement and calls for the chief of police to step down, many officers are saying “enough.”

inside of police car on patrol
Inside a police car on patrol. (Brian Perlman | Flatland)

Stadium-sized Graduations

Last year, there were very few in-person graduation ceremonies. This year, they are now being super-sized.

One of the hot new trends is to load up all the students, caps and gowns and take them to our sports stadiums. 

This Saturday, the University of Missouri-Kansas City will host its graduation ceremonies at Kauffman Stadium.

Kansas City Public Schools is hosting its graduation at Arrowhead Stadium. Meanwhile, Liberty High School is taking over the home of Sporting KC at Children’s Mercy Park.

Gigantic Visitors Take Over Arrowhead

You’re not going to see any of your favorite players around Arrowhead Stadium during the off-season, but you might do a double-take this week if you pass by the parking lot. 

Scores of prehistoric creatures are roaming the home of the Chiefs. It’s actually called the “Jurassic Quest Drive Thru” and it starts on Friday. 

More than 70 gigantic moving dinosaurs have apparently returned from extinction and you get to take your car through the experience while trying to avoid the swinging tail of a 50-foot Spinosaurus and the blood-thirsty jaws of a T-Rex.

Of course, this all comes at a price. And in this case that’s $49. But you can load up your car, buggy or SUV with up to eight people. I’m now trying to calculate how many folks I can cram into my 2004 Toyota Camry. As I work on that, you should know that this dinosaur experience runs from Friday through May 30.

Nick Haines dissects the week’s most impactful local news stories, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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