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Nick’s Picks | Food Fight Continues Over KCI Concession Contract

Your Guide to the Week Ahead in News

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

Who knew running food and retail stores at an airport could be filled with so much drama?

This Thursday, the Kansas City Council is scheduled to cast its final vote on a concession contract for the new look Kansas City International Airport. 

It’s been a process filled with angry words, walk-outs and accusations of secrecy and backroom dealing.

Council members have to decide if they want to move forward with a Canadian firm or award the lucrative 15-year contract to another bidder. 

With $1 billion dollars at stake, you can expect more fireworks at City Hall.  There are even questions about whether Thursday’s so-called “final vote” will completely settle matters. There are threats of legal action to overturn the bidding process.

Rendering of new Kansas City International Airport.
Rendering of new Kansas City International Airport. (Courtesy | SOM and Edgemoor Architecture & Real Estate)

Mask Extension

Kansas City’s COVID-19 pandemic mask order ends on Thursday. So council members will also have to vote this week on whether to extend the mask requirement or to let it expire.

Two mask proposals are being considered. One would extend the current face covering requirement to Nov. 6. The second would sharply scale back the mask order so it covers only schools and students traveling on school buses.

Jackson County also is weighing the future of its mask mandate. A decision to remove or extend its health order is scheduled for a vote later today. 

Another Luxury Hotel

The 13-story Hotel Bravo! project is proposed for a site across Wyandotte Street from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
The 13-story Hotel Bravo! project is proposed for a site across Wyandotte Street from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. (Rendering | Hotel Bravo! developer)

The pandemic has devastated the hotel industry, but that’s not stopping a push to bring a new luxury hotel to Kansas City. Developers want to build the city’s most exclusive suites next to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. And they want the city to help pay for it.

The hotel project is up for a City Council vote this week, along with an ask of $50 million in tax incentives to build it.

The development team claims there’s a lack of upscale hotel rooms downtown and it will help boost population growth.

But the project is opposed by Kansas City’s tourism agency, VisitKC, and the Hotel and Lodging Association, which are already wrestling with plummeting hotel occupancy rates due to the pandemic.

Political Maps in Kansas City

State lawmakers are not the only ones redrawing political maps as a result of the latest Census. Kansas City is also deciding the boundaries of every council district, based on new population numbers. There’s even been a proposal to expand the number of council districts from six to 12.

It’s a process you can be involved in. 

A newly formed Kansas City Redistricting Commission is holding public hearings this week.

One will be held tonight from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Northland Neighborhoods, Inc., 5340 N. Chouteau Trafficway in Kansas City. 

The other will be on Wednesday night from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Southeast Community Center, 4201 E. 63rd St.

Missouri Execution

It’s been a long some time since the death penalty was an issue grabbing the headlines. That’s because executions have become exceedingly rare. 

This year, there’s been only one inmate put to death anywhere in the United States. That was in Texas.  

This week, Missouri has scheduled the second execution.

On Tuesday, the state is set to put to death Ernest Johnson, a 61-year-old man convicted of a triple murder who advocates say is intellectually disabled. 

Anti-death penalty activists and faith leaders argue Johnson’s mental capacity should be grounds to halt the execution. 

A representative of Pope Francis has also called for the death sentence not to be carried out. But the state of Missouri has rarely halted an execution. 

‘Baby Lisa’ Case

One of Kansas City’s biggest mysteries is back in the headlines.

This week marks 10 years since Lisa Irwin, known nationwide as Baby Lisa, vanished from her crib in the family’s Northland home. She was just 10 months old.

Her case has been the subject of multiple documentaries and dozens of national news shows. 

Every few years, a new rendering is released, showing what Lisa might look like today in order to keep attention on the case. But no one has ever been charged in her disappearance.

Kansas City Police insist the case has not been closed and they are still actively investigating.

Rebranding Truman Med

We’re becoming accustomed to big name changes in Kansas City.  Add another one to the list.

If you drive by Truman Medical Center this week you may notice a significant difference. It’s been renamed. 

Truman Med is now University Health Truman Medical Center.

Truman’s Lee Summit campus is now called University Health Lakewood Medical Center.

The hospital cites local surveys that show people want to get their care from an academic medical center. But some think the only one in town is KU Med. The latest name change plays up Truman’s connection to the University of Missouri-Kansas City Medical School.  

Marketing experts say a name change can alter people’s perception of a hospital. For some, Truman Med has been long considered a safety net hospital, not one providing cutting-edge care and medical research.

Westport Security Screenings

If you head into Westport this weekend, you will no longer have to show your ID or go through a metal detector to get in. 

A shortage of screeners has prompted the entertainment district to end its security checkpoints on Friday and Saturday nights.

Westport added the enhanced safety measures back in 2018 after a spate of gun violence. 

Officials with the entertainment district say they will try to restart the program in the spring.

Former KCK Mayor Returns

Four year after losing his job as mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, Mark Holland is making a comeback. 

He’s expected to announce he’s running for the U.S. Senate this week.

Holland will challenge Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who’s up for reelection next year.

Holland is a Democrat and a United Methodist pastor. 

Cerner Enacts No Jab, No Job Policy

Cerner Corp. workers are facing an important decision this week.

Do you want to get vaccinated or do you want to be fired?

Kansas City’s largest private employer has joined the growing list of companies requiring COVID-19 vaccinations as a workplace requirement. 

Currently, most of Cerner’s employees are still working from home.

The health care information technology firm has announced that workers won’t return to offices until the second week of January.

Bond, Ms. Bond

History will be made at the movies this week.

For the first time in its nearly 60-year history, there will be a female 007.

After an 18-month pandemic delay, the 25th James Bond film heads to a movie screen near you, on Friday.

This is the last time Daniel Craig will play the famous British secret agent. 

The movie is called “No Time to Die,” and part of the plot sees Bond enjoying retirement in Jamaica as we’re introduced to his replacement, played by Lashana Lynch. She’s the breakout star of the recent “Captain Marvel” movie.

Lynch is not only the first female 007. She’s also the first Black actor to take on the role.

It’s unclear whether she will permanently replace Daniel Craig in future Bond films.

By the way, you may be surprised to learn that I went to school with James Bond.

Add that to the surprising things you didn’t know about Nick Haines.

Before you get too excited, my classmate was just called James Bond. That’s it. He had nothing to do with the films. But that has never stopped me from throwing out that line to gasps of awe and admiration at parties and gatherings across Kansas City.

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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