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Nick’s Picks | Warm Weather, Baby Mahomes and Better Pandemic Picture

Busy Agenda for Week Ahead

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

What a difference a week makes! 

After suffering through a deep freeze with -12 degree temperatures, is it really possible that we’re going to be basking in warm weather this week? 

Make the most of it. Tuesday’s forecast high is 64 degrees. 

Removing Restrictions

Over the weekend, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas removed pandemic related restrictions on bars and restaurants. Will other cities and counties in our metro follow his lead this week?

Starting now, Kansas City bars and restaurants can operate without a curfew or capacity limits. The only requirement is that they continue to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing rules. 

The mayor also removed limits on indoor gatherings, which now makes larger weddings and conferences possible. Since the pandemic began, indoor events had been limited to 10 people.

Will these latest changes encourage some closed businesses to reopen?

It seems that way. 

The Westport Ale House voluntarily closed its doors back in November. 

Now the pub is working on bringing back staff to reopen in the next two weeks.

Brighter COVID Picture

Mayor Lucas said he made the decision to lift restrictions on businesses after a series of positive health reports showing daily COVID cases in steep decline and virus-related hospitalizations on the way down. 

In some parts of the area, the daily COVID case count is now at levels not seen since last June. Notably, there are now 15 Kansas counties with no new cases being reported. And according to national data tracked daily by The New York Times, there are five Missouri counties with no new cases being reported. That’s the first time that’s happened since last spring.

While the health picture is improving, the vaccination rollout continues to fall behind projections. 

In Kansas City, public health director Dr. Rex Archer says it’s possible the vaccine won’t be available to the general public until June. And in Kansas, the state’s top doctor says at current rates, it will take until early December to get the vaccine in the arms of everyone who wants the coveted dose.

Online Classes Under Attack

If you take an online class at college, should it be cheaper than if you took that class in person?

It’s a question that will get a lot of attention this week in the Kansas legislature. A new bill has been introduced that would require universities to provide a 50% tuition discount to students forced into online classes because of the pandemic. 

So what would happen if this bill were to pass?

Expect universities to respond quickly. 

With enrollment in decline and more state budget cuts on the way, the University of Kansas has just announced it is eliminating the school’s Humanities Department and is ending its degree program in visual arts education. Half a dozen other degree programs are merging. 

Meanwhile, K-12 schools are not immune from this latest legislative attack on online learning. A Kansas House committee has approved a measure allowing parents to use their state-per-pupil funding on private schools if their public school doesn’t provide in-person classes. A similar measure has been proposed in Missouri.

Reversing Minimum Wage

As Democrats in Congress push for a $15 federal minimum wage, Missouri lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction.

On Tuesday, a Missouri House committee will debate rolling back a statewide minimum wage law that voters approved in 2018.  That law incrementally raises the lowest legal wage in Missouri to $12 an hour by 2023. 

If the bill passes, the wage would stay at the current hourly wage of $10.30.

Rush Limbaugh Day

Should there be an official day in Missouri to honor Rush Limbaugh? The native Missourian and talk radio host died last week of lung cancer at the age of 70. 

Now Missouri lawmakers are trying to fast track a bill to create an official “Rush Limbaugh Day” in the Show-Me-State. It would be Jan. 12, Limbaugh’s birthday.

While there’s a petition drive underway to block the move, it looks likely to pass. Republicans hold large majorities in the Missouri House and Senate. And as the bill doesn’t cause any dent in the state budget it could become law as early as this week.

Living Legend

Coverage of Black History Month usually involves celebrating the lives and remarkable contributions of men and women who were transformative figures, but who are no longer with us.

This week we have the opportunity to celebrate a living legend. 

Kansas City civil rights activist Alvin Brooks releases his memoires this week. 

From being one of the first Black police officers in Kansas City to launching the longest running citywide crime prevention organization, Alvin Brooks has a story to tell. 

And you can have a front row seat as he discusses his career, his life and his new book, “Binding Us Together,” this Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. 

Like so much else this year, this will be a virtual conversation. Reserve your virtual seat here:

Goodbye to a BBQ Legend

There’s another legend in the news this week.  L.C. Richardson, the owner and namesake of one of Kansas City’s most well-known barbecue joints, has died.

Richardson opened LC’s Bar-B-Q near the Truman Sports Complex 35 years ago.

It had become a favorite stop for fans on their way to Kansas City Royals and Chiefs games.

Those fans can say their goodbyes this weekend.

The restaurant has announced there will be a public viewing for Richardson this Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Watkins Heritage Chapel. 

The family is planning a private funeral service later.

Dole Starts Treatment

Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole is in the news this week. He begins treatment today for lung cancer. 

Dole represented Kansas in Congress for 36 years before resigning from the Senate to run for president. He lost to Bill Clinton.

Dole, who is from Russell, Kansas, is now 97 years old. He has stage 4 cancer, the most advanced stage of the illness and the least likely to be cured.

Auto Show Moving to Kansas?

Five years ago, the Kansas City Royal BBQ left Kansas City and moved to Kansas. Is the Kansas City Auto Show next?

The Auto Dealers Association of Kansas City is working to move the annual car show from Bartle Hall to the Kansas Speedway. 

At this time of year, you would usually be seeing lots of ads for the show. It traditionally has taken place in early March at the downtown convention center.

Organizers say they want more room and pandemic restrictions in Kansas City make it unlikely they can hold the event indoors. 

On Twitter, Mayor Lucas called the plans to move the event out of his city, “unbalanced regionalism at its finest.”

Boys in Blue

The Kansas City Royals are getting ready to play their first spring training game.

The Royals take on the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium in Arizona on Sunday. 

The Royals regular season starts April 1 when they take on the Rangers at Kauffman Stadium.

Royals shirts
Royals shirts on display. (Dan Calderon | Flatland)

Ken Burns Returns

Filmmaker Ken Burns is back. And his latest big epic spotlights one of America’s foremost writers, Ernest Hemingway. 

Hemingway lived and worked in Kansas City and was a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star before becoming a bigtime author. Spoiler alert: Apparently, that local connection ends up on the cutting room floor.

But ahead of the new film, which premieres this April, you can join Ken Burns in conversation during a special virtual event with Kansas City PBS and The Kansas City Star

It’s this Thursday at 6 p.m. It’s free and all the details are on our website at kansascitypbs.org

Baby Mahomes

While there are lots of important stories in Nick’s Picks this week, I know that for many Kansas Citians it will be the newest addition to Chiefs Kingdom that will dominate the conversation.

Look for gushing stories and precious new photos this week of Sterling Skye Mahomes.

Brittany Matthews and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes welcomed their first child on Saturday.

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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