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Nick’s Picks | Bracing for Big Votes

Election Day Looms After Supreme Court Decision

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

This week we’re watching our first snow of the season and our very first pandemic Halloween. We’re also watching what happens with “the big vote.”

Ahead of Election Day, the full United States Senate will decide this week whether Amy Coney Barrett should become the nation’s newest Supreme Court justice. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insists that a vote will come by the end of today. All four senators in our bi-state delegation say they will vote to confirm her.

Mask Mandate

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly will be in the spotlight this week as she tries to get legislative leaders to support a new statewide mask mandate. The move comes amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases and a new White House task force report that ranks Kansas fourth in the nation for its rate of coronavirus deaths over the last seven days.

Governor Kelly says she wants to reach a bi-partisan agreement with legislative leaders by Election Day. She faces an uphill battle.

Top Republican lawmakers have argued against a “one-size-fits-all” mandate. House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins says there is a law on the books that gives county commissions local control over COVID-related mandates, a law he says Kelly signed. 

Of the 105 counties in Kansas, only 21 currently require masks. 

Soccer Cash

Where has all of the government’s federal coronavirus relief funding been going?  In Overland Park, $350,000 was spent on installing video cameras at the city’s soccer park. Now amid a public backlash, the Johnson County Commission will this week attempt to claw back the money.

City officials argued that streaming games would allow families to watch their children play without having to sit in crowds during the pandemic. But Johnson County Commissioner Mike Brown says “the optics” of the plan “aren’t sitting well with a lot of people” at a time when county residents are losing jobs and struggling to pay rent and utilities.

Crime Fighting Program

After setting a homicide record, will Kansas City put an end to one of its highest profile crime prevention programs? This week, the Kansas City Council will discuss the future of Aim4Peace.

The program has secured millions of dollars in city funding since it was launched in 2005. It’s 21 employees try to disrupt violent crime before it happens.

But Councilman Brandon Ellington says the program should be dissolved. He argues it’s short on evidence that it’s reducing serious crimes. The program’s future is scheduled to be debated Wednesday in the Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee.

Tent City Ceasefire

If you’re heading to downtown Kansas City this week you may notice that “tent city” outside of City Hall is now gone. It sprung up three weeks ago to protest a viral video of a Kansas City police officer kneeling on a pregnant Black woman. Organizers say they’re now pulling down the tents and declaring a ceasefire, though it’s unclear what they accomplished. 

A demand that the police chief be removed was unsuccessful. So was the push to defund the police department by 50%. And so far there has been no sanctions against the officer who arrested the pregnant woman. 

But encampment leaders say that over the last few days they’ve had productive conversations with several members of the City Council. Plans were discussed to shift some public safety funds and responsibilities away from the police department; from parking enforcement to handling health crisis situations.

New City Manager

Will we find out this week who will be Kansas City’s new city manager? We’re told negotiations are now underway with the winning candidate. Four outsiders were shortlisted for the job that’s been open since Troy Schulte resigned last December. Mayor Quinton Lucas hopes the new hire will start work Jan. 4.

Sold Out

Last week I mentioned that the first store to legally sell marijuana in Kansas City is now open. But don’t go looking to buy any this week. They’re sold out.

The store called Fresh Green in Lee’s Summit opened up last Monday and everything was gone within 48 hours. The store’s owners say it could take up to a week to get their next delivery. 

While the state has approved 40 medical marijuana dispensary licenses in the Kansas City area, no other stores have announced opening dates.

Ballot Measures

The race for the presidency almost all of the media attention this election year, with a little bit of oxygen being spent here on the Missouri governor’s race and the open Kansas U.S. Senate seat. But did you know your favorite alcoholic beverage, your phone, public statues, term limits and even the lines of the map are also on the ballot?

On our “Kansas City Week in Review” program we’ve just dissected all those issues for you. Avoid that moment of despair when you look at your ballot and discover all those questions you had no idea you were even voting on. 

Amtrak Cuts

If you’ve been thinking of taking a train trip in the near future, beware. 

Amtrak has made it official. Starting now, service has been cut on the Southwest Chief that takes passengers from Los Angeles through Kansas City to Chicago. That daily service will now run only three days a week, Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. 

Amtrak ridership has plummeted amid the pandemic, and the railroad has responded with massive service cuts.

Pandemic Trick-or-Treat

This Saturday is Halloween. If you’re wondering if the spooky holiday has to be canceled this year, the answer is a resounding no. Though it will definitely feel different.

Indoor activities such as parties are discouraged. So is traditional trick-or-treating. But that has not stopped area residents from getting creative. There are reports of Kansas City homeowners making six-foot candy chutes out of plastic piping to more safely deliver candy to the little ghouls and goblins. One local man has even been experimenting with a candy zipline.

If you’re not feeling that inspired, local health officials say you can also set out individual bags of candy so that kids can grab them without clustering.

And by the way, Boo at the Zoo is still happening. Safe trick-or-treating and other Halloween activities are planned at the Kansas City Zoo from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday.

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

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