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Nick’s Picks | Black Lives Strike, Kansas School Opening, KCI Contract Conflict

Busy News Week Ahead in Kansas City

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

This could be a disruptive day in Kansas City as thousands of workers prepare to walk off the job. It’s part of a national day of action called “Strike for Black Lives.”

More than 40 labor unions and social justice groups are encouraging workers to stay off the job for the entire day.  Those who can’t are being asked to walk out for about eight minutes, the length of time a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against the neck of George Floyd.

Kansas school order

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly will make it official today as she signs an executive order pushing back the start of the new school year from mid-August to Sept. 9. 

Watch this week to see whether the Republican controlled Kansas State Board of Education will block that from happening. As part of a law passed by the legislature last month, the 10-member board has the final say on when schools open and close.  The board is facing pressure from conservatives to scuttle the governor’s order.

Parson in KC

You may bump in to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson as you move around town today. Parson is in Kansas City to discuss his plans for a special session of the legislature to tackle violent crime. It starts next Monday. Some lawmakers are already complaining the session is too narrow in scope by not including police reform or changes to gun laws. 

There’s also concern over lawmakers’ safety. Some legislators are demanding the governor make masks mandatory and that every lawmaker and member of staff receive a COVID-19 test. Last week, two staffers in the Missouri House of Representatives tested positive for the virus.

JCCC

If you travel past Johnson County Community College this week, check to see if there are any workers in cranes removing big signs. The college has just announced they are renaming the Carlsen Center after receiving a $1 million donation from the founder of Overland Par-based financial services company. Midwest Trust. The performing arts venue will now be called, you guessed it, Midwest Trust Center.

The name Carlsen has caused problems for the college for more than a decade. Chuck Carlsen was the longtime college president who abruptly retired in 2006 amid allegations of sexual harassment. 

Voting deadlines

There are some important election deadlines this week. The deadline to request an absentee ballot in Missouri for the upcoming August election is this Wednesday at 5p.m. 

If you live in Kansas, you can start voting today.  If you haven’t asked for a mail-in ballot, in-person voting at a number of advanced voting sites is now underway.  

By the way, we’re told that in Johnson County 90,000 people have already requested mail-in ballots. That’s more than the total number of votes cast in the 2016 primary. Also of note, election officials on both sides of state line are making it clear, if you do vote in-person you do not have to wear a mask.

ADA Act

This Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a signature piece of civil right legislation intended to end discrimination against people with disabilities.

But the milestone anniversary comes at a time when a pandemic shows the limits of those rights. Examples range from the reduction of bus services that are a lifeline for many people with disabilities to the struggle that many care homes for the disabled experienced trying to get personal protective equipment. 

KCI conflict

If you haven’t been out to Kansas City International Airport lately, you may be shocked by the progress underway on the new single terminal project.  But is that construction now about to hit a major roadblock?

There’s new controversy and even some protests as the biggest contract to date is awarded to an out-of-town firm. Could giving an $80 million paving job to a Colorado company really halt work? We’re about to find out. 

City Councilwoman Katheryn Shields has introduced an ordinance to strip the city’s aviation director of his powers. It’s a spat that shows no signs of dying down. Couple that with concern about how many women and how many people of color are working on the new-look KCI and there are growing signs of concern. We’ll be tracking that issue on “Kansas City Week in Review,” Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Decriminalizing poverty

This week we’ll also have a better sense of what Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas means when he says he wants to “decriminalize poverty.”

Lucas has introduced a new ordinance that prohibits the police from arresting Kansas Citians on low level violations like excess parking tickets. So what are the implications of that change? Will people stop feeding parking meters? And in what other areas will Kansas City police officers be told not to make arrests? 

Olympian

While there’s still no word on whether the Super Bowl winning Kansas City Chiefs will ever celebrate at the White House, this Friday President Donald Trump will honor Kansas Olympic runner Jim Ryun as he awards him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That’s the nation’s highest civilian honor.

During his prime, Ryun was considered the world’s best middle-distance runner, competing in three Olympics and breaking countless records. He was the first high school athlete to break the four–minute mile. He would later run for Congress. Ryun represented the Kansas 2nd District that includes Topeka and Lawrence for a decade. He was defeated in 2006. 

NASCAR returns

This week Kansas City hosts its biggest sporting event since stay-at-home orders went into effect in March. On Thursday, the Kansas Speedway hosts its first NASCAR race of the season.

While the pandemic has not stopped NASCAR from attracting big crowds at tracks around the country, not so here. The Kansas Speedway has announced no fans will be able to attend. You can still see the race and all the empty stands from the comfort of your couch via NBCSports, which will carry it live.

Nick Haines tracks the week’s local news, Friday at 7:30 p.m. on the Kansas City PBS primetime public affairs program, “Kansas City Week in Review.”

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