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Nick’s Picks | Prepping for Independence Day, Tiny Homes Vote and Medicaid Breakthrough

Your Guide to the News Week Ahead

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

How do you plan to celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend? 

Fireworks over the Liberty Memorial.
Fireworks over the Liberty Memorial. (File photo)

After a year of lockdown, it looks like many Kansas Citians are preparing to mark America’s independence from the British with a big bang.

With few exceptions, most of our metro’s traditional fireworks shows and parades are back.

And there are some new events on the Independence Day calendar, including what’s being called the “Stars and Stripes Picnic.”

It’s a free event being put on by the National World War I Museum and Memorial on the grounds of Liberty Memorial.

Bring your chair and blanket for live music, vendors and more than 20 food trucks. And the U.S. Navy parachute team is going to drop in. Hopefully, they won’t land on your picnic lunch. 

This is all happening on Saturday. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. and concludes with a massive fireworks display that will begin about 9:40 p.m.

Falling Short

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden set a goal of getting COVID-19 shots in the arms of 70% of Americans by July 4.  The White House is now publicly acknowledging that goal will not be met. 

At the current pace, about 67% of adults will be partly vaccinated by Independence Day.

So how are we doing locally?

While there are some zip codes in Johnson County that have topped the 70% mark, we’re largely below the national average.

As of today, 62% of Kansans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures. That places Kansas 28th in the nation.

It’s lower in Missouri, where only 55% of residents are partly vaccinated. That ranks Missouri 40th in the country.

In Buchanan County, home to the city of St. Joseph, just 20% of residents have received at least one shot.

Truman Museum Reopening

After being shuttered for the better part of two years, the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum finally reopens its doors this week after the largest renovation project in its history.

The $29 million project has bought the Independence museum a completely new look, inside and out. And visitors are promised a more interactive and immersive experience that puts you in the shoes of the president as he makes some of his toughest decisions, from dropping atomic bombs on Japan to integrating the military.

You can see the museum’s “extreme makeover” for yourself starting this Friday. To limit crowds, timed tickets have to be reserved online.

Tiny Homes’ Vote

After hitting the pause button, the Kansas City Council is set to move forward this week with plans to construct a “tiny homes” village for the unhoused. 

The idea was scuttled several weeks ago amid opposition from several council members.

A $2.7 million pricetag has been one stumbling block. The other sticking point is where to locate the 64-square-foot units. 

So far, neighborhood groups have been almost unanimously opposed to the building of up to 200 “tiny homes” in their communities.

Has a deal been struck behind the scenes?

The Kansas City council is expected to cast a final vote on the plan this Thursday.

Medicaid Breakthrough

There’s finally a breakthrough in that impasse over Medicaid funding in Missouri.

Over the weekend, the Missouri Senate voted to renew a critical tax on hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies and ambulances that pays for $2.6 billion of the existing Medicaid program.

This week, the measure moves to the Missouri House where it’s expected to win approval. 

This vote has no effect on last year’s voter approved Medicaid expansion measure that would add close to 300,000 Missourians to the health care program. Last week, a judge ruled that ballot question unconstitutional. The decision is now being appealed.

Soggy Weather

I have to confess, as someone who doesn’t water my grass, I’m really enjoying all this wet weather we’ve been having. But it’s becoming a problem for many people in our region. 

Keep your umbrella handy again this week. More sogginess is on the way. 

A month’s worth of rain has already poured down in some areas over the past few days. 

On Friday, nearly six inches of rain fell in Chanute, Kansas, shattering a daily record set in 1903.

St. Joseph broke its rain record on the same day.

Bridge Delays

Last week we had the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Buck O’Neil Bridge. 

Now get ready for the painful construction delays.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is warning drivers that work on the new bridge begins this week and that it will have an impact on the current Buck O’Neil Bridge.

Expect ramp and lane closures starting today.

The Missouri Department of Transportation has recommended an option to replace the aging Buck O’Neil Bridge. (Courtesy | MoDOT)

Young Voters

This Thursday marks a major historic milestone that many of our young people may take for granted today.

Fifty years ago this week, President Richard Nixon signed the 26th Amendment into law, giving millions of 18-year-olds the right to vote for the first time.

Up until that moment, voting was restricted to Americans 21 and older. It was argued 18-year-olds were not mature or responsible enough to cast a ballot. And even President Nixon argued it was a decision that should be left to the states to decide.

Now the push is on to lower the voting age again. There have been several bills introduced in Congress this year to lower the voting age in America to 16 years old. Those measures have so far gone nowhere. A growing number of countries now allow 16 year olds to cast ballots in at least some elections, including Austria, Scotland, Argentina and Brazil.

Golden Ticket

Fifty years ago this week, American movie-goers were introduced to a mysterious candy maker called Willy Wonka. 

Did you ever dream of finding one of his golden tickets?

Did you wish you could swim in a river of chocolate? 

“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was released on June 30, 1971. And apparently it wasn’t a big success. It didn’t even rank among the top 50 highest grossing movies of that year.

Now a prequel is on the way to help answer many of the questions that left you puzzled from the original movie.

Timothée Chalamet of “Little Women” and “Interstellar” fame has signed on to play the eccentric chocolatier.  The movie has a release date set for 2023.

Let’s celebrate with some “Fizzy Lifting Drinks” and if we can get our hands on them, Wonka’s newest creation, a “Scrumdiddlyumptious.”

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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