Christmas comes early for a couple of Plaza panhandlers.

Bum's Rush 

Christmas comes early for a couple of Plaza panhandlers.

As if the crush of pocket-change-carrying humanity filling the Country Club Plaza for this week's lighting ceremony isn't incentive enough for every panhandler in town to head there, the Strip has found even more reason why beggin' fools can't afford not to run immediately to the swank shopping district.

A few weeks ago, the Strip was about to take advantage of the new, rugrat-free Cinemark Palace on the Plaza (thank you, film gods) when it witnessed a strange sight. On the sidewalk in front of the theater, a couple of alms-seekers were plying their trade in an unassuming way. One was white, and one black, just going to show that the present economy hasn't discriminated in who it sucker-punches.

You can always find a few folks spanging (urchin-speak for "spare changing") on the Plaza's sidewalks, but these two fellows didn't seem to be bothering anybody.

Suddenly, though, a gleaming, black SUV pulled up carrying two beefy Tony Soprano types, who jumped out of their oversized ride and headed straight for the spangers.

Soprano One approached the black street entrepreneur and whipped out some legal tender.

"Here's twenty bucks," he said. "Go get something to eat and get off the Plaza."

He then pulled out another greenback.

"Hey, you too," he said to the white street hustler. "Here's twenty. Get off the Plaza."

Just like that, the generous duo piled back into their car and speeded off.

Who were those guys?

"That is very interesting," says Gayle Terry, the Plaza's director of marketing. "I think [your meatness] just witnessed something random. I know nothing like that is organized on the Plaza's behalf."

Terry says the Plaza has no real policy about panhandling, noting that the sidewalks are public property. "Everything kind of coexists fairly peacefully on the Plaza," she says.

Cinemark's manager, Kadie Bangura, also denied that the payoff came from any of her employees.

Was the burly duo working to keep bums from being too much of a downer for customers scrambling to the spanking-new Arrowhead West, a Chiefs souvenir shop that had opened the week before and shares the building with the movie theater?

"No," says that store's assistant manager, Mark Mattison. "I didn't hear anything about it."

And Mattison says he's had no complaints about people asking for beer money in front of his store. "I haven't noticed any problems.... Business is booming. The football season has everyone hyped."

This meat patty knows only one thing for sure: Next time we need a little extra holiday shopping cash, we know where we're hanging out.

And Speaking of Handouts
This is how dumb it is to hand out tax breaks to restore downtown's President Hotel: Developer Ron Jury's plans are so badly conceived that even the city's Tax Increment Financing Commission -- which loves nothing more than to shower taxpayer money on wealthy developers -- told him to take a hike.

Now that's rejection.

There are too many hotel rooms downtown as it is -- the city forked over $750,000 last year to subsidize struggling hotels in the city center -- but Jury and his attorney, David Fenley, managed to shake off their dissing from the TIF Commission and convince the City Council that their plans would fly. Over the objections of experts who said Jury's numbers were way out of whack, the council approved TIF funding for the hotel, as long as Jury could come up with his side of the financing.

But, just as the experts had predicted, Jury's projections were pure fantasy, and the developer couldn't line up investor money, killing the deal.

Now, a year later, Councilman Troy Nash is saying that he's going to bring Jury and his $46.7 million President Hotel project back for City Council consideration, asking for up to $17 million in TIF aid.

Has the downtown hotel situation suddenly changed?

Uh, no.

Are Jury's plans still as economically stupid as the last time Kansas City went through this process?

Uh, yes.

So why's Nash being such a dumbass about a project that's already proved to be a mistake?

The Strip wondered if Nash's crusade might have something to do with the fact that Fenley also served as campaign chairman for Nash in his last election (an election in which, this fine fillet feels compelled to note, Nash ran unopposed but still raised $150,000 in campaign funds). But the man of the people didn't return this sizzler's phone calls.

Maybe he's too busy going over Jury's blueprints, which include a swank new nightclub. Jury could call it Nash-ville.

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