In a few weeks, we'll start throwing parties and probably getting all nostalgic as The Pitch marks a significant anniversary: In July, the paper turns 30.
Myself, I'm quite a bit beyond that. And I'm wise enough to know when it's time to hand the baton to someone new. I've been editor of The Pitch for a decade now; before taking this job in 2000, I spent most of the '90s writing and editing for earlier incarnations of The Pitch and its competitors. It's time for me to do something else - and it's time for me to see what someone else can do with The Pitch.
It's been a privilege to help tell this city's stories for the past twenty years. Even when Kansas Citians are at their worst, they're still pretty entertaining -- and when they're at their best, they make their city and their world a better place for everyone. I am profoundly grateful for the experiences I've had at The Pitch, for the people in this city who continually open up to us about their lives, and for my extraordinarily gifted co-workers.
I'll be here for a few more weeks, and then I'll start to work as Director of Communications at the University of Kansas Medical Center. That's not so much of a stretch -- regular readers know that I've devoted much of my own reporting over the last year to issues involving public policy and health care. My new job will allow me to focus those efforts.
And it will give me a new perspective on something I've always been, and will always be: a loyal reader of The Pitch.
Thanks to everyone who's read the paper all of these years and sent feedback, positive or negative. Fans and critics: Now's your chance to apply for the job.
Last time Republican Congressman Sam Graves ran for re-election, his challenger was Kay Barnes -- and the big-name, well-funded, supposedly formidable former Kansas City mayor got her ass kicked. If Barnes couldn't beat Graves and his goon-powered machine, one political consultant told me, no one could.
One of Graves' newest challengers? An insurance salesman from Excelsior Springs who's never run for office. And who's gay.
Is it a suicide mission, or is Clint Hylton serious?
"I have so many people ask me that question," Hylton says.
Democrats were in fine form last night at the Roaring Donkey Cabaret and Competition 2010, a display of skits, songs and fleeting displays of comedic talent at the Ameristar Casino.
A fundraiser for the fun-loving Clay County Democratic Committee, the night was emceed by former Republican, current Missouri Attorney General and glamor boy Chris Koster, who looked hot in his tuxedo and jokingly flirted with event co-chair (and performer) Jane Quick.
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, campaigning for the retiring Kit Bond's senate seat, stopped by to deliver a Top Ten list of things overheard on her opponent Roy Blunt's tour bus. Number 1: "Since we're in Kansas City, let's take a detour over to Leavenworth to visit my old friend Jack Abramoff." (Ha! But, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Abramoff is actually in the pokey in Cumberland, Maryland.)
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and a backup band that included Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem Bill Skaggs and state Rep. Trent Skaggs serenaded party matron Dutch Newman in a karaoke version of "My Girl."
And see if you can guess which of these Elvis impersonators is Kansas City mayoral candidate Mike Burke:
Next up: A couple of bits from Councilman Ed Ford's stand-up routine.
A cabal of Republicans in the Kansas Legislature have grown desperate in their effort to prevent 280,000 of the state's citizens from getting health insurance.
Sen. "Mean Mary" Pilcher Cook of Shawnee and Rep. Scott "Dopey" Schwab of Olathe are among those pushing the Kansas Health Care Freedom Amendment, a document full of disingenuously patriotic sounding gibberish that would supposedly protect Kansans from being subjected to the tyranny of health insurance.
We've broken down their silly proposal before.
But with the possibility that Congress might actually pass federal health-care
reform legislation this weekend, Pilcher Cook and her
fellow travelers announced the launch of a Web site dedicated to fighting it in Kansas.
The cover story in this week's Pitch is about the Kansas Legislature's rush to ban fake marijuana. Besides being an excellent depiction of hysteria, Peter Rugg's report exposes a certain irony in lawmakers' effort to supposedly protect the people of Kansas.
It took members of the state House and Senate approximately two weeks to ban a substance they know nothing about -- other than that teenagers are smoking it and it might or might not get them high. As Rugg reports, virtually no scientific studies have documented any dangers from the synthetic cannabinoids in K2 fake weed.
Meanwhile, legislators can't seem to find it within themselves to ban a substance that everyone knows kills people. Despite the well-documented dangers of tobacco, and the clear public health benefits of smoking bans, and the fact that most Kansans favor a statewide ban on smoking in public, lawmakers are stalling on the issue again this year. (The latest news is that they're dicking around with a "compromise" that would let business owners buy special permits to let their patrons light up.) Yeah, a few folks might die from cigarettes today, but Kansas lawmakers don't want to interfere. God forbid any kids smoke fake pot, though!
"Nothing surprises me," says former Sen. David Wysong, a Mission Hills Republican who tried unsuccessfully for several years to get a public smoking ban passed.
The gays are putting our national security at risk. And Congressman Ike Skelton, a Democrat who represents mid-Missouri, is helping them do it.
That's the message we got last week from Republican Vicky Hartzler, a former Missouri state rep and author of Running God's Way: Step by Step to a Successful Political Campaign. Hartzler is challenging Skelton, who has held his seat since 1977 and looks mighty vulnerable to the Republican Party right now.
Skelton is anything but a flaming liberal. His career voting record has earned him a 46 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, as opposed to, say, Emanuel Cleaver's 5 percent or Roy Blunt's 93 percent. But according to Hartzler's analysis of President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech last week, Skelton is helping to promote the president's country-destroying agenda:
Sadly, the President doesn't or won't understand what Missourians know, that the failing policies his administration has been proposing need to be abandoned, not pushed further. He advocated continued support for failed policies advanced by Congressman Skelton and Nancy Pelosi. Both are out of touch with the wishes of the Heartland.Hartzler went on to crib from the National Republican Congressional Committee's talking points, complaining about "job-killing" policies that will destroy small businesses and impose communistic, apocalyptic tax increases.
The president says he was for national security yet supports measures to further put us at risk including cuts to missile defense programs, prosecuting terrorists in criminal court, and reinstating the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Ike Skelton has allowed the military to be used earlier to pass Nancy Pelosi's radical agenda. What will he do now?
Ike Skelton has allowed the military to be used to pass Pelosi's radical agenda? That sounds as if he dispatched troops to citizens' homes to force health care on us!
And wait a second -- reinstating Don't Ask Don't Tell? The policy still exists -- and Skelton has said he's against repealing it. In fact, gays and their friends held a rally downtown last week to demand that Skelton, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, at least hold a hearing on the issue.
I sent a note to Samantha Hill, Hartzler's spokeswoman, asking for clarification. Thus began an exchange that started out friendly but ended much too soon.
Emanuel Cleaver has a dilemma. The Democratic Congressman is on record saying he won't support a health-care reform bill that doesn't include a government-financed plan to compete with private insurance.
But with headlines screaming that health-care reform is in trouble after a Republican was elected to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat last week (giving Republicans enough votes to kill legislation by staging a filibuster), House members such as Cleaver must decide whether they'll approve the Senate plan, which doesn't include the public option, just to get health-reform passed.
"I came to Congress as a single-payer proponent," Cleaver notes. "When I compromised to a 'public option,' I thought that was a big deal. Many progressives around the country felt the same way -- like, 'OK, we didn't get single payer but we got the public option.' Then, when the president said the public option's just a little sliver of health-care reform, I think that kind of created a tear in the fabric of the Democratic Party"
Last week, Kansas Attorney General Steve Six announced that his state, along with 24 others and the District of Columbia, had reached a $22.5 million settlement in an antitrust suit involving Abbott Laboratories and Fournier Industrie et Sante and Laboratories Fournier, the makers of the cholesterol drug TriCor.
But the settlement is good news for a state so strapped for cash that every little bit helps. Kansas will receive about $200,000 in damage, fees, and costs, while the Kansas Medicaid program will be reimbursed for overcharges it paid for Tricor.
Not surprisingly, there's an Abbott connection to our biggest medical-industry-cash-funded senator.
So it's a time of reflection. Local and national media outlets are thick with year-in-review -- and, this time, decade-in-review -- lists. Mostly, such look-backs provoke a sense of "oh, yeah, that happened" before the feeling quickly passes.
The massive free health clinic movement inspired by MSNBC's fuming Keith Olbermann, TV doc Mehmet Oz and the unconscionable fact of 47 million uninsured Americans comes to Kansas City this week.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Bartle Hall becomes the fourth site of a giant event put on by the National Association of Free Clinics. The organization's first such event, on September 26 in Houston, drew 1,700 patients; more than a
thousand people sought medical care in New Orleans on November 14 and
in Little Rock on November 21. Those were one-day clinics; Kansas City's
will be two days, December 9 and 10.
"We've seen people who had not gotten care in five to 10 years get care, and hopefully they will be healthier as a result of that," says Sheri Wood, executive director of the Kansas City Free Health Clinic and president of the NAFC. "Some of the people we saw had
pretty extensive problems. In Little Rock, in one hour, we sent five people to
an emergency room -- it had been really calm most of the day, and then it was just
bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. They really needed care and had not gotten it."
Which is great. God bless our country's free clinics. Big thanks to Oz, for underwriting the Houston clinic, and to Olbermann, who devoted his August 3 Countdown to a "Special Comment" that ended with a plea for viewers to give money to the NAFC. Wood says her organization wasn't expecting that, but it immediately raised more than $1.5 million.
But while free clinics might get help for a few thousand people, they do little to solve the bigger problem.
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