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Nick’s Picks | Back to School, Election Recounts and 816 Day

The Week Ahead in KC News

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

More area school districts head back to the classroom this week, including every district in Kansas from Blue Valley to Kansas City, Kansas.

A number of colleges also begin the fall semester this week, from Park University to the University of Central Missouri.

After more than two years of COVID warnings, students are being advised of a new health scare, monkeypox. 

Public health experts have flagged dorm rooms and shared sleeping spaces as high transmission environments for the virus, which can cause rash, fever, fatigue, body aches and brain inflammation.

Chilling Coincidence or Medical Murder?

It’s a local story grabbing the national headlines. A respiratory therapist from Shawnee appears in court this week charged with murdering her patient. But was 75-year-old Fern Franco the only victim?

According to investigators, in the five months Jennifer Hall was a respiratory therapist at Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe, the hospital experienced 18 “code blue” incidents. 

Prosecutors claim that’s an alarming increase in sudden cardiac arrests for a hospital that historically averaged just one a year.

Nine of those patients died.

The hospital is now owned by the Saint Luke’s Health System.

Recounting the Election

It’s been two weeks now since voters in Kansas and Missouri cast their ballots in the August primary election, but one big race remains undecided. 

This week, a recount will get underway to decide who won the Republican nomination for Kansas treasurer. Fewer than 400 votes currently separate State Rep. Steven Johnson from State Sen. Caryn Tyson.

This week, we’ll also learn whether there will be a recount of the Kansas abortion vote.

Even though the “Value Them Both” amendment was defeated in a landslide, state law allows for any Kansas voter to request a recount, if they’re willing to pay for it.

Melissa Leavitt from Colby in western Kansas says she’s concerned about election integrity and paid a $200,000 bond on Friday to cover the costs.

Several published reports now claim a credit card belonging to the Kansas Republican Assembly was used in that transaction.

Even though a hand count of ballots is extremely unlikely to alter the overall results, it’s believed discrepancies in the final vote count could boost claims of election fraud.

Value Them Both campaign sign
Kansas voters decided not to remove the last barrier to abortion rights in the state constitution during the Aug. 2 primary election. (Dylan Lysen | Kansas News Service)

Fighting Ballot Language in Missouri

A fight over elections also is taking place this week in Missouri. 

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is threatening to file a lawsuit over what he says is the “unfair and inaccurate” ballot language on a new statewide amendment requiring the city spend at least 25% of its budget on police.

A ballot summary claims the question won’t cost the city.  But Lucas argues that if it’s approved by voters this fall, it would force the city to decrease the amount of money it spends on other services by more than $38 million. 

This latest war of words comes as Kansas City records its 100th homicide over the weekend. Kansas City is now on pace to surpass last year’s murder count, which was the second highest in the city’s history.

816 Day

We’re still three weeks away from the Labor Day weekend, but in the meantime we’ve got another big holiday to celebrate.

This Tuesday is 816 Day, the local holiday named after the city’s area code and designed to celebrate all things Kansas City.

Where’s the best place to celebrate?

That would be the City Market.

It’s hosting a citywide party from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday featuring food, live music, aerial acrobats and giveaways.

You can also put on your walking shoes and play scavenger hunt bingo.

Pick up a free bingo card at scores of businesses along the downtown streetcar route and win prizes from $50 to $100 gift cards to tickets to sporting events.

Inflating Toll Road Project

Remember those plans to build a toll road in Overland Park?

Having moved full speed ahead with the idea, local and state transportation officials are now pumping the brakes after all the bids for the project came in way over budget.

Just like the sticker shock you’re experiencing at the grocery store right now, big building projects are seeing skyrocketing fuel, material and labor costs.

We should learn more this week about what that means for the project and whether plans to add a toll lane on U.S. 69 between 151st and 103rd streets will be delayed. 

The project was scheduled to be completed by 2025.

Affordable Housing

Having pushed a series of new rules and ordinances to boost affordable housing in Kansas City, is Mayor Quinton Lucas now wanting to walk those policies back?

This week, he’ll ask the City Council to drop a requirement that developers set aside at least 10% of housing units for people earning 30% or less of the area’s median income.

The mayor claims the requirement is drying up potential housing projects. He says no new apartment complexes have been proposed in Kansas City for 18 months.

Also being walked back is a new ordinance requiring that agency leaders live in the city.

The mayor is asking the council to drop the residency requirement so they can hire the son of Jackson County Executive Frank White to run the bus service.

Frank White III has just been picked as interim CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. But he’s currently ineligible for the post because he doesn’t live in the city.

Arrowhead Roars to Life

Arrowhead Stadium roars back to life this week as the Chiefs return for their first preseason home game.

Kansas City takes on the newly named Washington Commanders at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

The Chiefs lost their first preseason matchup against the Bears over the weekend.

The regular season doesn’t start for another four weeks, when the Chiefs take on the Arizona Cardinals on September 11.

Chiefs flag waves in Arrowhead Stadium.
The Kansas City Chiefs flag flies at Arrowhead Stadium. (Courtesy | Kansas City Chiefs)

Great Balloon Glow

We all seem to love things that light up the night sky from fireworks to meteor showers. Now the National World War I Museum and Memorial is giving you something else to “ooh and aah” over. 

This week the museum presents the Great Balloon Glow

Rows of hot air balloons will fire up their burners to illuminate the sky against the backdrop of Liberty Memorial and Union Station.

It’s a free family event and you can even take your furry companion with you.  

It’s this Saturday starting at 5 p.m. with live music, 20 local food trucks and tethered balloon rides. 

The balloons are scheduled to light up the sky over the museum and memorial grounds at 8:30 p.m.

60 Countries in 60 Minutes

Other than the World Showcase at Epcot there may be few places you can go to experience 60 countries all in one afternoon. That is with the possible exception of the Kansas City Ethnic Enrichment Festival

The annual international showcase of culture and food is considered one of the largest events of its kind anywhere in the country.

The three-day festival starts Friday evening at Swope Park. 

It costs $5 to get in.

For a totally free experience head to Parkville Days. No admission fee is required to wander around the arts and crafts booths and carnival rides being set up in downtown Parkville this weekend. And it won’t cost you a dime to throw down a picnic blanket and listen to more than a dozen local music bands.

Parkville Days runs from Friday night through Sunday in English Landing Park.

Week in Music 

Rock band Alice in Chains headlines “Rock the Dotte” this week, a series of shows dedicated to bringing big name music acts to Wyandotte County. The show is this Friday at the Azura Amphitheater.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar takes over T-Mobile Center Sunday night.

And if you want to avoid big concert ticket prices, here’s another option for you.

Harpist and genre-bending musician Calvin Arsenia “Lights up the Lawn” at Johnson County Community College this week. And it won’t cost you a dime. 

Bring your blankets, lawn chairs and picnic baskets to the Nerman Museum Lawn for the free Friday night concert. The show starts at 8:30 p.m.

Lucas in the Limelight

Will it win him any votes? 

Mayor Quinton Lucas moves from politician to thespian this week as he takes the stage at Starlight Theatre.

Lucas is part of the cast of “Sister Act,” which opens Tuesday night.

I’m not sure if the mayor will be wearing a habit or is going to sing but it’s been confirmed that he will make his theatrical debut on the show’s opening night.

Nick Haines, tracks the week’s most impactful local news stories on “Kansas City Week in Review,” Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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