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Nick’s Picks | School’s Out, Ballot Issues and Memorial Day Here Comes Summer

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

As we start the week, we’re waiting on a news conference from British monarch King Charles. Apparently, he is the only person who has yet to weigh in on the Harrison Butker commencement speech. 

Here are some events and trends you can expect to see in the news this week.  

School’s Out for Summer 

With the Memorial Day weekend just ahead, it’s likely to be a quiet week at the office.  

Most of the metro’s largest school districts begin summer break this week.  

And can we call this the official start of swimming season? 

Neighborhood and city pools are open this weekend. So does Oceans of Fun

Blue Springs opens Blue Surf Bay on Friday. The expansive new waterpark features 40-foot slides, a wave pool, a surf simulator and a lazy river.  Voters approved the new attraction in a 2021 sales tax election. Visitors do not have to live in Blue Springs, or Jackson County, to use the facility. 

Last Week, Reviewed

Kansas Lawmakers  

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered lawmakers back to work. 

The Democratic governor says she will announce the timing of a special session by the end of the week. 

While the session is expected to focus on taxes, lawmakers can pass bills on any topic. They may try to resurrect a measure to lure the Chiefs and Royals to Kansas.  

Missouri Lawmakers 

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is out of the country this week. He’s on a trade mission to Italy.  

It’s going to be a ghost town in Jefferson City. Even lawmakers have packed their bags and headed home after wrapping up their nearly five-month long legislative session.  

Lawmakers failed to pass the biggest item on the GOP’s to-do list — a measure making it harder for voters to pass initiative petitions.  

It’s a big win for backers of a proposed abortion rights amendment that’s expected to appear on the November ballot. It means the measure will only need a simple majority of voters to pass. 

It’s one of six questions voters are expected to decide this fall. Here are the others: 

  • A Chiefs- and Royals-backed a measure legalizing sports betting.  
  • A new push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 
  • Approval of a new casino at the Lake of the Ozarks. 
  • A court ordered re-do of the Kansas City Police Department funding question first passed in 2022. 
  • A constitutional amendment banning ranked choice voting. It was approved by Missouri lawmakers in the final hours of the session. 

Disney Exhibit 

Union Station’s latest blockbuster exhibit opens this week. 

Disney100 marks a century of the Walt Disney Co. The exhibit features hundreds of artifacts, costumes and props from Disney’s unprecedented film archive, which now includes Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel studios. 

Cinderella’s glass slipper will be on display in Kansas City. As will Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber and Captain America’s shield. 

Disney100 opens Friday at Union Station. 

Union Station at night with the downtown skyline in the background.
Union Station at night with the downtown skyline in the background. (Courtesy | Kent Auf Der Heide)

Kemper Arena Tragedy 

Twenty-five years ago this week, wrestling superstar Owen Hart plunged to his death after falling from the rafters of Kansas City’s Kemper Arena. 

It was an entrance stunt gone wrong. 

Shocked ring announcers cut to a commercial break. But many viewers watching the live television event believed it was just another of the WWE’s staged storylines. 

Hart was 34. 

Jail Building Boom 

Platte County commissioners will meet this week to review plans for a massive jail expansion. 

The county is weighing a proposal to nearly triple the size of the Platte County Detention Center, from 180 beds to 500.  

If approved, it will go before county voters this summer. 

Kansas City is currently on a jail building binge. 

Jackson County is currently constructing a new 1,000-bed detention center, set to open next year. 

Kansas City is also planning a new jail and is considering going to voters to help pay for it. 

Police Pay 

Just a couple of months ago, Kansas City approved a 30% pay bump for police officers. 

Now that big raise is causing problems for neighboring cities. They claim they’re losing officers and can’t compete. 

Tonight, the Independence City Council will vote on a quarter-cent police sales tax to boost officer wages. 

If approved, it will be placed on the August ballot. 

KC Schools 

It’s been nearly 60 years since Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) voters approved a bond election to fix up schools. Now district leaders are preparing to give it another try.  

On Tuesday, KCPS will lay out its case for it in a community meeting at the Board of Education building at 29th Street and Troost Avenue. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Dinner, childcare and translation services are being offered to boost turnout.  

Earlier this month, the Kansas City, Kansas, School District went to voters to ask for millions in infrastructure improvements. The measure was overwhelmingly rejected. 

Union Push 

It seems like more Kansas City workers are turning to unions to try and win better pay and working conditions.  

In the last year, union efforts have been waged in some surprising places, including your local coffee shop and Half Price Books. Even employees at your local public radio and TV stations have voted to unionize. 

Now a union campaign is underway at Rose Brooks, Kansas City’s best-known domestic violence shelter. 

Tonight, frontline shelter workers will join community leaders in a rally demanding livable wages and paid time-off. 

Celebration at the Station 

It’s all hands on deck around here as we get ready for Celebration at the Station, the Midwest’s largest free Memorial Day holiday event. 

For weeks now we’ve been working with the Kansas City Symphony to map out this year’s concert, which features live canons and Kansas City’s largest fireworks display. 

The concert starts at 8 p.m. on Sunday on the south lawn of Union Station. 

If you want to skip the sunscreen, bug spray and parking hassles, you can watch from the comfort of your couch. Kansas City PBS will air the entire concert live, starting Sunday at 8 p.m. 

The Kansas City Symphony performing at the "Celebration at the Station."
The Kansas City Symphony at Celebration at the Station. (Brad Austin | Flatland)

Distractions and Diversions 

Call it counter programming, but when Michael Stern conducts the symphony at Celebration at the Station on Sunday, comedian and “Saturday Night Live” alum Pete Davidson will be yucking it up, just blocks away, at the Uptown Theater.  

Also, in town this week will be Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential pick, Tim Kaine. The Virginia senator speaks Saturday at the downtown Kansas City Public Library. Kaine was raised in Overland Park. His parents still live there. 

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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