Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A View From The Front Page

I decided to start a little program to link to news from my paper's front page with some personal anecdotes and observations. Just an exercise in keeping up with the local news here in the middle ground.

The Home Front

On Sunday, Missouri National Guard 110th Engineer Battalion returned home from Iraq to cold weather. Most seemed to embrace it as a sign of being home. A little telling about the MSM effects on the families back home:

“It was scary, too, because of the news on TV, but I kept telling myself that he's a strong soldier.”

Mary's father, Tim Park, said the year was harder on his wife than himself.

“She wouldn't watch any news about Iraq,” Park said. “I couldn't get enough. I'd be watching CNN at two and three in the morning.”

Like all good American soldiers, the first thing he wanted to do:

It would be good to get his son home, he said.

“First thing he'll want to do is stop at McDonald's on the way home and get a cheeseburger. So that's probably what we'll do.”

In other news on the war front, a local soldier, Spc Colby Farnnan from Weston, Missouri was killed on Friday in Taji when an IED exploded while he was on foot patrol, north of Baghdad. The entire community is in mourning. To understand the context, Weston, Missouri has a population of maybe 1000. That's if you include the outlying farms. Weston is a appx 45 minutes north of Kansas City. It's a lovely place that's known for its antique shops, local winery and tobacco farms, not to mention the Amish market and a quaint downtown that has a small, but popular nightlife with two clubs and a diner that opens at 5:30 AM. I stopped there last year for breakfast with my brother and father on the way home from an overnight fishing trip to Lewis and Clark lake.

Community members are considering raising money to place a plaque in Farnan's honor at the baseball field.

The sad thing about wars. There are always more memorials. In regards to those that talk about the foolish boys from the rural areas signing up, if you read this story about Colby, you'd understand why it's true. It's not just about escaping rural America. Lord knows he could have taken a short drive down to Kansas City and been living the city life. It's just that they raise them up right in the rural communities. Responsibility and duty are just a few. Just read about Colby and I think you'd understand.

On a lighter note, my local Hollywood Video is asking people to buy candy and popcorn to donate to the troops. They've got a box set up and last night, while picking up Hero, Kill Bill 2 and The Alamo, I donated some popcorn to the troops. It was a good deal because the movies were only $.99 per and it left some room in the budget.

Check out your local Hollywood Video and see if they're doing the same.

On the Freedom Front, I noted, as did Cori Dauber, that my paper isn't saying much, either yesterday or today, about the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon. Maybe burning buildings and crime rates are more important? Fortunately, they've forgone the incessent Michael Jackson coverage of the cable news.

Crime and Punishment

According to this story on BTK more information leads to daughter giving a DNA sample on Friday and possibly led to speculation that she turned him in. Not so says the Wichita police:

In Wichita, police Capt. Randy Landen, head of the crimes against persons division, said on Monday that reports that Rader's daughter turned him in were wrong.

“Whoever reported that, that's inaccurate,” Landen said, adding “it's just not fair” to her to spread that story.

According to the story, other information led to the surveillance of Dennis Rader and that, just prior to his arrest on Friday, law enforcement was collecting DNA from his daughter.

An an unfortunate sign that gang war is coming to Kansas City, we have had 18 murders in the area already this year, compared to 13 at the same time last year. The issues that have been plaguing the area includes meth labs. At some point, many of the labs were in smaller communities outside of the city limits. Last year, local law enforcement had stepped up training and awareness for the smaller community forces and many meth labs were being shut down.

My cousin is a Police officer in a small suburb outside of KC and he indicated that the criminals had felt more comfortable cooking meth outside the city limits because of the lack of awareness from local law enforcement. His own department closed down three large meth labs in their community and captured one "mobile" unit in the back of an old suburban that they had to give chase to, unaware what the man was carrying, only to open the back end and find a large amount of dangerous chemicals after the man wrecked into a tree. A Haz Mat unit was called into handle the lab.

Kansas City proper has had more and more success in closing down these meth labs as well, last week they took out one of the largest they had found to date.

What I believe this is leading to is the inability of some of the gangs to pay off their debts with less product available as well as dealers and suppliers trying to consolidate their territories.

The city's 17th homicide could be connected to robberies and drug crimes, Cannon said.

“We have several groups of young people doing a lot of shooting,” Cannon said, adding that some of the violence stems from drug rivalries.

Some of the homicides seem to be a rash of "grudge" shootings.

The third, fourth and fifth homicides of the year appeared to be connected, Cannon said. They occurred within several hours Jan. 2. He said one theory is that the killer had a grudge against several persons and went looking to “take them out.”

In Kansas City, aside from last years shooting of a 14 year old boy in a stolen truck who tried to run down five police officers to get away, the police department's relationship with the effected communities have not been bad. However, as in most communities that are effected by these crimes, people are reluctant to become involved:

“One person said they saw the whole thing from beginning to end, but they don't want to get involved,” Green said Monday. “It doesn't do me any good to know what happened if the police don't have the information.”

Green was one of about 40 persons who attended a news conference Monday at 59th Street and Indiana Avenue, the scene of another of this year's unsolved homicides.

Politicians, two prosecutors, police commanders, a minister and several community leaders also attended. Police organized the event to bring attention to an increase in violent crime this year and to drum up tips in 12 unsolved homicide cases.

Drugs. The scourge of society. Somehow, I'm not so sure legalization would make this better.

On a lighter note, actually first noted from Jason at Iraq Now, a man was arrested Friday in Lenexa for driving naked and slathered in corn oil. I don't know how I missed that in the news.

Business and Economy

Exchange National Bancshares of Jefferson City has agreed to acquire Bank 10 of Belton in a deal valued at about $32 million.

Small town business wanted to take care of its people, not just sell their customer base:

Balentine said that he purposefully did not place his bank on the market, but indicated to Exchange last fall that if it was interested he might be willing to listen.

“In deference to our employees and customers, if we were to sell, I wanted to affiliate with an out-of-market community banking group that would be interested in our organization, and not just our customers,” Balentine said in a statement. “The other criterion was that we were only interested in joining a quality group whose culture and philosophy are compatible with those we have developed at Bank 10. Exchange easily met both requirements.”

Kansas City Southern railroad has been expanding. Around here, people know that rail roads are still one of the major transportation devices. The railroad yards are constantly humming. Looks like Kansas City Southern is about to open up transportation into and out of Mexico.

I wish I owned some of their stock.

Business is brewing. Local breweries are making a nice profit as beer makers around the country see revenue growth.

Macy's and Jones store are merging. Jone's store is like Dillards on the East and Robinson-Mays on the west, maybe even a little more upscale. It's where I bought my first business wardrobe and had a make up program created.

Local stocks riding the waves of mergers.

Yellow Roadway shares dropped $3.56, or 5.81 percent, to $57.75 after closing Friday at $61.31. USF shares soared $8.98, or 23.13 percent, to $47.80.

Shares of other area transportation concerns, including SCS Transportation Co. of Kansas City, gained amid speculation that the Yellow Roadway deal might spur more consolidation in the industry.

Just an FYI. Kansas City is growing. We're in the middle of the country. There seemed to be a slow down in the eighties, but growth is booming. Industrial complexes and warehouses for major businesses are big time here as well as a huge growth to the south in corporate offices and housing developments. Kansas City North is just catching on and homes are seeing a modest increase in value. We expect a spike in the near future when the southern growth hits the limit and expansion starts back north towards the airport where some high rises and property have been languishing for a few years.

One of the problems with the northern growth was that many folks anticipated this growth too soon and invested in the property causing a spike in property values and taxes in expectations of this growth. It wasn't there and it turned many would be home owners and corporate leasers away. Now that the south is growing and costs are exponentially higher, some of us are betting that the northland will see renewed interest as the south's property values and rental catch up and surpass the north.

Already, high end housing developments are springing up as well as many apartment complexes. A number of high rises going north on I-29 towards the airport have been empty since they were built in the early to mid nineties with only a few leasers. Anyone looking to relocate near an airport, good housing and a hub of highways could do a lot worse than the northlands. While I mentioned the spike in violent crimes in the city proper, the suburbs are well policed. Of course, we've had our issues here like an increase in home burglaries, but that is expected when the area is growing and the downtown area continues to be poor. In my area, homeowner awareness is one of the priorities of the township.

I don't want to dis the downtown area. There are a number of neighborhood reclamations going on. Particularly where the old Victorian and Edwardian homes on once wealthy streets like the Paseo, that eventually turned into an area with liquor stores and low income housing, are seeing a revitalization as the yuppie crowd creates little enclaves of upscale neighborhoods. I almost bought a refurbished house around the Van Brunt area, once the domain of the fashionable in Kansas City around the turn of the century. It had two fireplaces, stained glass windows and the original rosewood staircase had been restored along with the wooden floors. Union Hill is an excellent example of reclaimed homes in the downtown area that are now worth 300% of their original purchase price.

If it hadn't been for the thought of fighting downtown traffic in rush hour, I would have went for it. That and the city tax.

There are also many old warehouses that have been refurbished into very nice lofts. I've been to several where friends lease them or own them. The ones around the downtown farmers' market are very popular. You can get fresh vegetables, fruits, bakery items and a cup of coffee. During the spring, summer and fall, sitting there with your coffee and enjoying the hubub is great. The Farmer's Market also hosts art and music exposes throughout the year. Very bohemian.

As far as continuing growth of the northland, I'd point to two other factors: near my own community is an older, one level mall that, for the last 10 years has slowly been emptied of big name stores and taken over by local stores. This year, it's scheduled to be torn down and a new, upscale model will replace it. Just north of me on my road, new housing and shopping centers continue to spring up. For the second year in a row, my house has been appraised at a higher value. Of course, this means higher taxes, but the value is far out pacing the tax growth.

About 15 mins to the west and north of me, Zona Rosa just opened and is continuing to expand. For my Philadelphia friends, this is looking like the expansion of the King of Prussia area. For the west coasters, just look at any of your newest shopping malls with their stucco faces and "main street" drives and you'll understand that this type of building is new to the Kansas City area, but a welcome site of growth. A far cry from the simple brick and metal strip malls that we've had for years.

Some are expecting that the Zona Rosa area may even rival the Country Club Plaza in downtown Kansas City soon.

Just wanted to share a little bit about my hometown.

Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoyed a View From the Front Page.


Jim said...

I'm kinda sad to see all these old malls go--Blue Ridge is about to be torn down, too. For whatever reason, some of them just weren't able to hold on.

I'm not very impressed with Zona Rosa. Too... contrived, I guess.

Kat said...


On pain of giving away my exact location, it's the antioch mall that's going and I'm not too upset about it. It's a 70's model that wasn't really laid out very well.

As for Blue Ridge, I think the problem is that they're old and the maintenance has got to be a financial killer.

I don't think I'm too upset with them.

I do note that Indian Springs, where I spent some of my mis-spent youth watching Footloose and a few other movies (geesh..am I dating myself here?) may someday get that re-invention as something other than a mall but they are really going to have to clean up the area.

You know that's the problem with Blue Ridge as well.

You know, I don't really think that Zona Rosa will replace the Plaza, but when the northlands are growing like they are, you can't really expect that no decent shopping center is going to appear.

And, I think, as much as it's contrived in its "main street" look, I actually do like it better than some of the old square clunky malls like Metropolitan or Oak Park. Mind you, I like being able to walk inside in the warmth during the winter and just meander among the shops so I don't think they're gone totally, I just think people are interested in specific shops and being able to go to them directly without looking on the map and trudging from one end of the mall to the other.

I also think it will give a boost to activities like outdoor dining and coffee shops, much as I've experienced on the west coast and even down in Arizona.

It just seems...nicer..than those cafeteria style areas in the indoor malls.

I guess, in short, I'm all for it.

Jim said...


I was pretty sure that was the mall you were talking about, but I didn't want to name it and possibly be complicit in revealing your whereabouts.

To date myself, the Berbiglia across the street from the mall in question used to be a movie theater, and I have in the far distant past taken dates to the movies there...

Blue Ridge doesn't seem like all that bad an area, but they didn't really update the place, and once they let the anchors go it was only a matter of time until it went under.

Twenty years ago I would have said Zona Rosa couldn't replace the Plaza, but under Highwoods' management the Plaza has become just another mundane mall with the same old corporate shops and cute architecture. There's almost no local presence at all anymore, to its great detriment, I think.

Kat said...


I've only lived on this side of the river for about 5 years. Although, as a native, you can't really miss the sea change in landscape around the entire area.

I recall when you would leave the KC city limits and drive at least 45 mins to an hour through farmland before seeing the next town. Now we're write up to Olathe. It just blends right in.

that goes for the northlands as well.

I agree on the Plaza. These days it's a place to find nice restaraunts and look at the fountains. It's really no place to shop anymore.

There used to be a time when people would look for specific shops up there, now, besides hallmark and some resturaunts, I can't really name anything. Oh, wait, sharper image, FAO schwartz, that's about all I can remember.

So, I would say you're right.

The same thing happened in the downtown KCK area. That area by the courthouse used to be a bustling shopping area with a fur coat company and upscale furniture. Now it's pawn shops and law offices.

I'm thinking that the high cost of realestate on the Plaza just keeps any shop owners out of the area. it's cheaper to go to the suburbs where people live these days.

Jim said...


I don't live in the northland any longer, but I went to high school in Kearney, worked at Worlds of Fun when I was in high school, and lived near Vivion and North Brighton for a while in the late '90s, so I know the area pretty well. And you're right about the growth. The I-29 corridor has just exploded with Zona Rosa, the new automall, the strip malls on Barry, etc.

I remember being shocked the first time I drove from Camp Pendleton to Los Angeles by the unrelenting "suburban-ness" of the entire route. It just wasn't something I was accustomed to seeing. Good thing it was southern California and not New York; my head probably would have exploded.

KCK seems to be on a bit of a roll on the western side; I guess we'll have to see if it flows eastward or not.

Kat said...

Jim...grew up mainly in the KCK area. Turner to be exact back when it was still nice suburbia. It's not the worst area, but the Argentine crowd seems to be slowly seeping in that direction, bringing down the area.

I moved to the Philadelphia region right after school for about 9 years. That was a shock. Exactly what you are talking about, suburban rolling on and on. You wouldn't see any breaks, just a sign saying "Now entering ...."

At least until you drove a long way on either the PA or Jersey side.

I've travelled the west coast for business and you're right, the same deal. Suburban rolling on and on.

I drove up from San Diego to LA one weekend and I noticed on my 1.5 hour drive that you never really left any form of civilization.

It reminded me of that movie with Sylvester Stallone where he wakes up in the future and now they are the unified city of San Angeles or something. I don't think we have to wait that far in the future.

The traffic. On both coasts in those areas is crazy. I mean, in PA, to drive 15 miles in rush hour was an hour and a half.

I was kind of happy to get back where driving 30 miles meant a 30-35 min trip.

You mention Camp Pendleton. Are you active or retired military?

Jim said...

Neither, actually. I was a Marine stationed at Pendleton from early '86 to mid '87 and again from '90-92, with a couple trips to the gulf during that second period.

I'd accomplished what I wanted by the time my enlistment ran out, plus it was very difficult to reenlist at the time; it was the beginning of the force draw-down during the "peace dividend" days of the '90s that has us somewhat over a barrel nowadays.