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Nick’s Picks | Pandemic Threatens School Openings, College Football Season and City Jobs

President Declares City a COVID-19 Hotspot

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

Just days after declaring Kansas City a troubling hotspot for rising COVID-19 cases, President Donald Trump is dispatching the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force to the city this week.  The president did not say what day Dr. Deborah Birx would be arriving, who she would meet with, or where she would meet them.  

The president said Dr. Birx will bring “aggressive, tailored and targeted guidance” for state and local leaders. Dr. Birx has recommended stricter COVID-19 orders. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said, “Everything is on the table.” 

Another School Delay? 

We know most of our local school districts have already decided to delay the start of school until after Labor Day. But is there another delay in the works? Health officials in Jackson County say the numbers are headed in the wrong direction for in-person learning. 

The Jackson County Health Department is recommending districts push back the start of the school year and begin virtual only classes after Sept. 8.  Expect to hear new announcements about changing school calendars this week as administrators worry it’s becoming less and less likely that schools will be able to open for in-person learning next month.

Justice Deferred?

The news spotlight right now is on how to reopen schools. But what about our courts? You may not be aware of it, but since the pandemic began there’s been almost no jury trials anywhere in the country. Now area courts are worried about how they’ll ever get 12 people to sit next to each other in a courtroom again. Would you serve on a jury? And what about those who have been charged?  

As the coronavirus pandemic upends every institution and industry, this Friday night Kansas City PBS tracks the unique challenges facing our court system.  Justice Deferred, a “Week in Review,” special airs Friday at 7:30 p,m, on Kansas City PBS.

Steetcar Struggles

Could the first casualty of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger be the Kansas City streetcar? This week the Streetcar Authority is looking for a new corporate sponsor after T-Mobile decided to end the deal.  Sprint had contributed nearly $1 million in sponsorship cash since the streetcars started rolling in 2016. 

the Kansas City streetcar
The Kansas City Streetcar Authority is looking for a new sponsor after T-Mobile ended Sprint’s sponsorship deal following a merger that brought the two companies together. (Brad Austin | Flatland)

With Sprint’s name now being removed from the side of all six streetcars, would you like to replace it with your name or the name of your company? 

It will cost you.  Plastering your logo or brand on the streetcar will cost you $50,000 for six months. And that’s just for one car.

KCI Back in Spotlight

Kansas City International Airport will be back in the spotlight this week as the City Council takes up a measure to strip the city Aviation Director of much of his power.

Some council members are angry over plans to award one of the biggest contracts for the new single terminal to an out-of-state company.  An ordinance being debated this week would remove control of the KCI terminal project from Aviation Director Pat Klein.  Some worry removing Klein would risk putting the project over budget and behind schedule.

The dispute comes at a critical time for the $1 billion single terminal project. A number of big companies such as Cerner Corp. say they plan to use the airport less as a result of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Air Canada has pulled out of Kansas City altogether. Other airlines are scaling back.

Furloughs at City Hall

The Kansas City Council is set to consider a resolution this week for mandatory staff furloughs. It would call on the City Manager to develop a plan for putting every member of staff on at least one week of unpaid leave. 

Mayor Quinton Lucas has warned that without additional federal aid, Kansas City could see large layoffs at City Hall.  

Kansas City is not alone when dealing with the financial impact of the pandemic. The Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County has already implemented a 10-day furlough for most employees. 

Fighting Crime

A spiraling homicide rate is going to be front and center this week in Kansas City. There were another six murders over the weekend, including a man who was shot to death in the parking lot of the Kansas City Zoo. 

The killing spree is putting renewed pressure on Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith, who is already facing calls for his resignation.  The City Council will continue debate this week on plans to put local control of police on the November ballot. And in Jefferson City, Missouri lawmakers are still meeting in a special crime session. 

Having passed the Missouri Senate, the Missouri House will take up a bill on Wednesday that would allow children as young as 14 to be tried as adults, increase the penalties for giving a gun to a juvenile and create a witness protection fund. 

Black Lives Matter Murals

Preparation gets underway this week for painting six Black Lives Matter murals on Kansas City streets after the City Council adopted a resolution approving the project.  Artists are headed to the drawing board now. All of the murals will be painted on Sept. 5.

Delay of Games

Will we find out this week whether college football will be played this fall?  A number of local sports analysts now claim cancellation of the 2020 college football season is unavoidable. The Mid-American Conference and the Missouri Valley Football Conference have already announced they won’t play this year.  

The move has led to speculation that the dominoes will now begin to fall nationally. The Board of Directors of the Big 12 conference will meet with its medical advisors later this week. 

Negro Leagues Recognition

The Kansas City Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is about to get “major” recognition. On Sunday every major league baseball team will celebrate the centennial of the founding of the Negro National League with all players, managers, coaches and umpires wearing a Negro Leagues 100th anniversary logo during all games.  The logo was created by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum here in Kansas City.

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

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