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Nick’s Picks | Cyber Monday, KCI Countdown, Lezak Retires Happy Holidays

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)
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The death penalty is back in the headlines this week as the state of Missouri prepares to carry out another execution.

Kevin Johnson is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Tuesday.

He was arrested in 2005 for the killing of a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer. Johnson was 19 years old at the time.

Gov. Mike Parson has rejected calls to spare his life. A federal judge also has denied a request from Johnson’s daughter to attend the execution. State law requires witnesses to be at least 21 years old. Johnson’s daughter is 19.

Missouri’s decision to move forward with the execution comes as several states have hit the pause button on the death penalty. Tennessee has halted all executions for the remainder of the year. Last week, the governor of Alabama ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s capital punishment system after an unprecedented third failed lethal injection procedure.

KCI Countdown

The countdown is on for the grand opening of the new Kansas City International Airport. 

While it always seemed so far away, the more than $1 billion single-terminal facility will open to passengers three months from this Saturday.

There’s no word yet on what celebrities may attend the grand opening, tentatively scheduled for March 3, but you can be one of the first to see inside the new facility. 

The Kansas City Aviation Department is looking for volunteers to “kick the tires” on the terminal’s amenities.

They’re looking for volunteers to test out everything from the check-in process to its passenger lounges, the restrooms and its baggage claim.

Even though it’s a totally unpaid gig, more than 5,000 Kansas Citians have already signed up for the one-day simulation event, which will take place in mid-February.

Interested in participating? Here’s where you can apply.

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

Cyber Monday

Today is Cyber Monday, which is expected to be an even bigger online shopping day than Black Friday. 

Americans are projected to spend $11.2 billion buying gifts today.

What’s the top item on wish lists? If we can use Black Friday sales as our guide, it’s phones.

According to Adobe Analytics data, cell phones accounted for a record 48% of all Black Friday online purchases.

Rail Strike?

If our lives haven’t been disrupted enough by supply chain shortages, could your holiday gifts be delayed because of a rail strike?

The nation’s largest railroad union has narrowly voted down a temporary labor contract brokered by the Biden administration. If a new agreement can’t be reached this week, a railway strike could begin as soon as Dec. 9. 

According to the Association of American Railroads, a rail strike would cost the economy about $2 billion a day and create a new wave of shortages, from consumer goods to automobile parts.

Rail workers are threatening to walk off the job over pay and what the unions argue are persistent understaffing issues since the pandemic. One federal agency estimates there are 30% fewer workers now handling the nation’s rail freight.

Cerner Vacancy

This week, thousands of Cerner employees have to retrieve the last of their belongings as the company officially vacates its World Headquarters campus in North Kansas City.

The company is vacating most of its Kansas City real estate holdings following its recent sale to tech giant, Oracle.

Cerner’s old headquarters needs to be cleared out by Wednesday.

There’s no word on possible new tenants for the facility, which opened in 1994.

Eighteen months ago, Cerner announced it was selling its Kansas City, Kansas, campus near the Kansas Speedway. The property is still on the market.

The former Cerner Corp. headquarters in North Kansas City.
The former Cerner Corp. headquarters in North Kansas City. (File Photo: Elana Gordon | KCUR)

House Democrats Vote on New Leader

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York is expected to make history this week.

He’s been tipped to succeed Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the house when the chamber meets to vote on a new leader this Wednesday.

Jeffries will be the first Black lawmaker to lead either party in Congress.

Conservative House Republicans have spent the last few days blasting Jeffries as an “election denier.” They claim he refused to accept the outcome of the 2016 election and tweeted that former President Donald Trump would never be accepted as a “legitimate President” and that there was a “FAKE President in the Oval office.” 

Toll Road in Overland Park

Remember all the debate over building a new toll road in Overland Park?

Now it’s finally happening. 

This week, the Kansas Department of Transportation is scheduled to break ground on the $570 million project on U.S. 69 highway.

It will add one toll lane in each direction from 103rd to 151st streets. State transportation officials claim it’s one of the most congested stretches of roadway in Kansas.

The express lanes are expected to open in late 2025.

Gary Lezak Retires

One of the best known names in Kansas City television disappears from our screens this week.

Gary Lezak delivers his final weather forecast on Thursday.

The TV meteorologist is retiring after 30 years at KSHB-41.

Lezak says he plans to focus on his start-up company Weather20/20, a private service that provides companies and organizations with forecasts anywhere in the world, up to 100 days ahead of time. 

Ditching Iowa?

We may have just wrapped up the midterm elections, but this week the first major battle of the 2024 presidential race gets underway.

Democratic Party leaders meet on Wednesday to decide the 2024 nomination calendar and at stake is Iowa’s place as the first presidential battleground state. There’s concern the farm state is “too white” and doesn’t represent the more diverse face of today’s Democratic Party. 

There’s also a push to replace New Hampshire as the first primary. A motion will be considered to catapult Nevada to the front of the line. 

The three-day meeting of Democratic leaders will continue through Saturday.

New Entertainment Option

You’re probably familiar with these new interactive gaming centers that have opened up around the metro over the last five years, from Top Golf and Dave & Busters to Main Event.

Now there’s a new concept competing for your entertainment dollars.

It’s called BRKTHROUGH and it opens this week in southern Overland Park. 

Its 35 immersive game rooms are designed to test your physical and mental skills, from navigating a jungle to escaping from a submarine.  

And like all of these new game experiences, you get to kick back with drinks and an elaborately themed food menu,

You can find BRKTHROUGH in Corbin Park, near Scheels.

World Cup Hopes

After all the hype, the United States could be forced out of the World Cup by tomorrow.  

The only thing that can now save the national team is a win Tuesday against Iran. Even a draw won’t spare the U.S. from being eliminated from the tournament. 

Once again, large crowds are expected in the Power & Light District to watch the game.

A large crowd at Power and Light watched USA vs. England.
A KC Live! crowd takes in USA vs. England in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (Courtesy | Power & Light District)

Kickoff on Tuesday is at 1 p.m.

In other sports news, K-State is heading to Texas this week for the Big 12 Championship Game.

The Wildcats take on TCU after clobbering Kansas over the weekend.

It’s the first time the Wildcats have played in the Big 12 title football game since 2003.

You can watch the K-State versus TCU matchup from AT&T Stadium this Saturday at 11 a.m.

And the Chiefs are on the road. They’re heading to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in a Sunday afternoon game. Kickoff is at 3:25 p.m.

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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