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Nick’s Picks | Crime and Punishment, Infrastructure and Holidays

Honoring Veterans Day

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

We’re celebrating another holiday this week.

On Thursday there will be no mail delivery and banks and most government offices will be closed as America marks Veterans Day.

Kansas City’s National World War I Museum and Memorial is hosting free public ceremonies and activities on its grounds throughout the day. And if you are a veteran or active duty military you can see the museum for free on Thursday. Everyone else can get in for half price.

And just a reminder, if one was needed, don’t confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. Veterans Day is a time to thank people for their service. Memorial Day is meant to reflect on those who gave their lives during service.

Detective on Trial

Over the years, there have been dozens of occasions when Kansas City police have had to shoot and kill suspects. 

But this week marks the first time a white Kansas City police officer will face a criminal trial in the shooting death of a Black man, according to the Jackson County prosecutor’s office.

Police Detective Eric DeValkenaere is charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter in the shooting of 26- year-old Conner Lamb, who was killed while backing his pickup truck out of his garage in 2019.

According to court records, DeValkenaere said he and another detective were responding to a traffic call at Lamb’s home when, after noticing a gun, he fired his weapon. Prosecutors allege Lamb did not have a weapon in his hand.

The trial starts today in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Strickland Case

An evidentiary hearing is set for today that will determine whether Kevin Strickland should be set free.

If that name is not quite ringing a bell, he’s the Missouri man who‘s spent more than 40 years in prison for murder.

Six months after the Jackson County prosecutor declared “we made a mistake, he’s innocent,” Strickland remains in a prison cell. 

Today’s hearing could last several days.

If prosecutors prevail and Strickland is exonerated, his imprisonment will mark the longest known wrongful conviction in Missouri history.

Kids Vaccine

If you’re trying to get your younger child vaccinated with the newly approved kid-sized COVID-19 shot, you’re going to have to be patient.

This is the first full week the dose is available and area pediatricians and public health centers say good luck trying to find an appointment.

Children’s Mercy Hospital says its vaccine clinics for children are filled through November. 

Over the weekend, the hospital opened up 600 vaccine appointments at its campus in Overland Park. They were gone within 90 minutes.

But like the adult vaccine, don’t expect that enthusiasm to last. Most experts say that by next month, the supply will far exceed the demand.

A newly released study from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds parent support for the vaccine is already dropping.

In September, 24% of parents said they would “definitely not” get their child vaccinated.

That figure has now climbed to 30%.

Congress in Recess

Local members of Congress will be back home today as the House and Senate begin a week-long recess.

That means there will be no vote this week on President Joe Biden’s multi-trillion dollar social spending package. 

But later this week the president is expected to sign a separate infrastructure bill that was sent to his desk over the weekend. 

The measure delivers on one of Biden’s campaign promises to upgrade infrastructure in the United States. 

So what does that $1.2 trillion spending program mean for us here in Kansas City?

I feel compelled to answer this question after a stinging email from a viewer who claims Kansas City media has done a terrible job of explaining what’s in the bill. 

There aren’t specifics yet on how much money will go to individual cities. But Kansas is slated to get $2.6 billion to repair highways over the next five years. Missouri will get $6.5 billion. To put things in context, that’s more than four times the amount of money Missouri spent on fixing and maintaining its roads last year.

More than $700 million will go to both states to repair aging bridges.

U.S. Rep Sharice Davids of Kansas said that would include the Central Avenue Bridge in Kansas City, Kansas, that’s been closed since February because it was in danger of failing.

There’s money in the plan to help cities buy electric buses and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri said Kansas City can tap into a special fund  that will allow the city to make the 18th and Vine Jazz District more pedestrian friendly. That’s considered an important ingredient in making the entertainment area a walkable destination for visitors.

A big part of the infrastructure bill is dedicated to expanding green technologies. Kansas is eligible to receive up to $40 million to expand the network of electric vehicle charging stations. Missouri will get $99 million to support that effort. 

Both states will also get injections of federal aid to improve rural internet connections. Apparently, there are 330,000 Missourians who do not have access to broadband internet. In Kansas, more than 70,000 have no internet access of any kind. The bill also includes grant money to help people afford internet access through a new federal discount program.

By the way, every Republican in the Kansas and Missouri congressional delegations voted against the infrastructure bill. But some Democrats voted against it too. U.S. Rep. Bush of Missouri was one of them. She said it gives up the leverage Democrats need to pass the president’s bigger social spending program that contains Democratic priorities like combating climate change, expanding access to health care and providing universal pre-K education.

Humbug

Enough of politics. All I can say is humbug!

Did you know the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens will be in town this week?

He’s partnering with the Mid-Continent Public Library on a retelling of “A Christmas Carol.”

You can relive the tales of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future at the Liberty Performing Arts Theatre, starting this Saturday night.

Registration is required. 

20 Miles of Lights

Powell Gardens is getting into the holiday spirit early this year.

The metro’s largest botanical garden has already put up the lights, and starting this Thursday you can walk among more than 20 miles of holiday illuminations at what they’re calling their “Festival of Lights.”

Powell Gardens will stay open until 11 p.m. most nights. And you can buy a hot chocolate or spiked cider as you stroll. 

It’s free for members. If you’re not, it’s $13 for adults, $11 for seniors and $6 for kids.

An illuminated apple at Powell Gardens.
Festival of Lights at Powell Gardens. (Contributed | Powell Gardens)

Opera Returns

The Lyric Opera is the only major Kansas City performing arts organization that has yet to return to in-person performances. 

That changes this week as The Lyric heads to the movies. 

The opera company is launching its new season Saturday night at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts with “Lyric Opera Goes to Hollywood.”

It’s a nod to the role opera has played in some of our favorite films, from “Pretty Woman” to “Silence of the Lambs.” 

Who says opera can’t be relevant? That’s a big part of the Lyric’s push this season. One of the opera company’s upcoming productions chronicles the life of Apple founder, Steve Jobs. 

“The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” opens in March.

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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