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Nick’s Picks | Big 12 Basketball, Big Checks and Other Big News

Busy Week Ahead in Kansas City

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

For many Kansas Citians, the bouncing of an orange ball on hardwood floors will be the biggest story of the week. The Big 12 Basketball Tournament is coming to town. The men’s tournament gets underway Wednesday at T-Mobile Center. The women’s tournament starts Thursday at Municipal Auditorium.

Over the weekend, the NBA held its all-star game in Atlanta without fans. That will not be the case here.

Up to 3,800 people will be allowed inside T-Mobile Center as K-State takes on TCU in the first game of the tournament Wednesday night.

You may remember that last year’s tournament never crowned a winner. 

It was the first big event to be canceled in Kansas City amid growing concern over COVID-19. The men’s championship was halted after the first two games, while the women’s event was canceled in its entirety.

Grim COVID-19 Anniversary

We hit a grim milestone this week. It was when our world started to change. This Friday marks one year since the first COVID-19 death was reported in the metro.  It was an unnamed man in his 70s living in a long-term care facility in Wyandotte County. 

Later in the day, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced the city’s first emergency order. But it would be extremely limited. There would be no demands for businesses to close or requirements to wear a mask. Those would come later.  

That first emergency declaration only involved banning events with more than 1,000 people and halting non-essential travel for city employees. And there was advice from Kansas City Public Health Director Rex Archer about washing your hands, covering your cough and avoiding handshakes.

In a “60 Minutes” interview a year ago this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci declared that if you are a healthy young person, there is no reason to avoid a cruise vacation and “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask” because while masks may “make people feel better,” they could actually make you sick because “people keep fiddling with the mask and touching their face.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not begin recommending masks until April 3.

Crime Spotlight

Three murders in six hours last week and a double murder over the weekend has put Kansas City on pace to match last year’s historic homicide count. 

You can expect to hear new proposals this week to address the violence. Mayor Lucas says social services and education are the key. But facing a massive budget hole, it’s unclear what resources the city will have to invest in programs that could help disrupt the cycle of violence.

$1,400 Checks

After more than 25 hours of debate over the weekend, the Senate has passed a sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that could see the government cutting $1,400 checks for most Americans by the end of the week. All four Kansas City area senators voted against the measure. In fact, every Republican opposed the package. 

The bill heads back to the House this week, which will have to reconcile several key changes before it can become law. That vote is expected to take place on Tuesday. President Joe Biden says he will sign it without delay.

Focus Turns to Guns

Having tackled COVID relief, Congress is now setting its sights on gun control. The House is expected to take up two measures this week. One would expand background checks. The second would delay the process for selling a gun. 

Meanwhile, here in Kansas and Missouri state lawmakers are trying to loosen gun rules.

In Kansas, legislators are debating a bill that would allow 18 year olds to carry a concealed weapon. Currently, you have to be 21.

A Missouri bill would allow guns on public buses and streetcars. And another measure would penalize Missouri police departments for enforcing new federal gun laws.

More Vaccine, Less Frustration?

Trying to snag a vaccine appointment continues to be a source of frustration for many Kansas Citians. But there’s good news. Even more shots are on the way this week. 

In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson says he’s doubling the number of doses going to local public health departments. Those agencies are thought to do a better job of targeting the hard to reach. More vaccines are now available at local pharmacies. And we should find out this week about plans for a mass vaccination event at Arrowhead Stadium. The plan is to inoculate up to 6,000 Kansas Citians with the new one dose Johnson & Johnson shot. 

Hopefully, people will be able to still find the stadium under its new name, GEHA Field at Arrowhead. Will you be calling it that? 

A lot of Chiefs fans aren’t happy with the new naming rights deal announced last week. GEHA stands for Government Employees Health Association. It’s a Lee’s Summit company that provides health, dental and vision plans to federal workers, retired military members and their families. It was founded in 1937 and has more than 2 million customers.

If you live in Kansas, more vaccine is on the way. While bad news sticks, Kansas is no longer dead last in the percentage of its residents that have been vaccinated. It may be small consolation for those who are waiting, but eight states have now slipped below Kansas. 

Gov. Laura Kelly is now targeting meatpacking workers for priority attention. By the end of the week, she says every meatpacking worker who wants a vaccine will have one. That’s around 12,000 people in an industry that relies heavily on Hispanic and immigrant workers and has been hit hard by the pandemic. Kansas plants process nearly 30% of the nation’s beef supply. Those plants have also been one of the major sources of coronavirus outbreaks in the state.

By the way, if you’re on Twitter you may want to check out KCVaccineWatch. As a community service, a Kansas City software engineer has developed one of the most comprehensive and free ways to find out where the vaccine is available locally in real time. You will be alerted when appointments open up at your local Walmart, Price Chopper, Hy-Vee and many other places where the vaccine is becoming available. 

KU Football Coach

Will KU football coach Les Miles survive the week? That’s going to be one of the big storylines coming out of Lawrence. 

The University of Kansas has placed Miles on administrative leave following reports of inappropriate behavior with female students. Those allegations don’t come from his time at KU but from his previous job as head football coach at LSU. Miles has denied any wrongdoing.

Boulevard Brouhaha

More than a month after a sexual harassment scandal forced out several top leaders at the Boulevard Brewing Co., an independent investigation has wrapped up. This week, the company says it will reveal the steps it plans to take to rebuild its reputation and improve its work environment. Company meetings have been scheduled for the brewery’s 200 employees.

Downtown Drama

There are lots of unanswered questions this week about two big news stories involving downtown Kansas City. 

Question #1: Now that Waddell & Reed says it won’t move into its new 18-story headquarters being built downtown, will someone else announce they’re moving in? What impact will have it on the city, which approved $35 million in incentives for the project? And are taxpayers on the hook if no new tenant can be found?

So far Mayor Lucas is downplaying the move. He says these kinds of tenant changes “happen all the time,” and there are many more companies looking for high-end office space. He also says the tower’s 10-floor parking garage will help the city solve an emergency parking problem, now that the Barney Allis Plaza garage has been shuttered and declared unsafe.

Question #2: What’s the future for downtown’s last remaining movie theater? The Alamo Drafthouse announced it was permanently closing last week. Will someone else take it over? Apparently, Liberty-based B&B Theatres is interested. The local chain now operates more than 400 screens in nine states and a company executive says the theater at 14th and Main streets presents a great opportunity to display its flag in a prominent downtown location.

MLK Naming 

This week could be your last chance to weigh in on what Kansas City might do to more permanently honor Martin Luther King Jr. 

You may remember voters rejected a City Council move to rename The Paseo after King, but since then, there’s been no consensus around another designation. 

Tonight, the Board of Parks and Recreations Commissioners will host its final public hearing. You can attend in person or from the safety of your computer screen. 

It starts tonight at 6 p.m. at the Southeast Community Center, 4201 E. 63rd St.

If you can’t attend, you can still submit your ideas by email at MLKTribute@kcmo.org.

Royals Tickets on Sale

Kansas City Royals tickets go on sale this week. 

Up to 10,000 fans will be allowed inside Kauffman Stadium for the home opener against the Texas Rangers on April 1. 

They’ll be replacing the cutouts that occupied the seats last season. 

Starting today, season ticket holders will have the first chance to select seats. The general public gets to snag tickets beginning March 24.

Milestones

We’ll be celebrating a number of pop culture anniversaries and milestones this week.

Twenty-five years ago today, the movie “The Birdcage” premiered in movie theaters. So did “Fargo.”

And 50 years ago this Friday, “The Andromeda Strain” was released, based on Michael Crichton’s bestseller.

Speaking of 50th anniversaries, this week a little coffee chain called Starbucks will release a new coffee blend in its stores along with new cups and mugs as it marks its 50th birthday. The company opened its first store in Seattle in 1971.

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a much bigger deal in other parts of the world. 

In some countries such as Bulgaria and Romania it is observed as an equivalent of Mother’s Day, where children give small presents to their moms and grandmothers

According to The New York Times, International Women’s Day is also one of the biggest days for flower sales in Russia.

In Italy, men give their wives mimosas today. Not the cocktail. But a bright yellow flower that is one of the very few that blooms before spring and is known for its ability to grow in inhospitable conditions. 

It represents what the women’s movement is supposed to be about: creating an environment in which women can thrive.

Have I inspired you? The good news is it’s not too late to head to your local florist or pick up a bunch of blooms from your local grocery store. Would the woman in your life be impressed?

Grammy Time

And the Grammy goes to… 

Well we’ll find out this Sunday as the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards gets underway from the Los Angeles Convention Center. It starts at 7 p.m. 

Beyoncé is the year’s most nominated artist. The awards show was originally scheduled for Jan. 31. It was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Spring Forward

You’re going to lose one hour of sleep this week. We move forward our clocks one hour on Saturday night as Daylight Saving Time begins. 

While there’s been proposals to eliminate Daylight Savings Time pretty much every year in Kansas and Missouri, it’s still on the books. 

In fact, only two states have exempted themselves from the annual clock changing ritual. Hawaii opted out in 1967 and Arizona in 1973.

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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