In two more days, 2014 will be behind us. Here’s a look at the last 12 months, through the words of newsmakers in and around Jackson and Cass counties.
“Please pray for my family.”
Grandview Mayor Steve
Dennis, in a Jan. 10 email to a friend as federal investigators closed in. Dennis resigned as mayor and later admitted he misrepresented his nonprofit company as a tax-exempt charity and converted some donated money to his personal use. He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
“Most people don’t know that we own two power plants and that they are only around for that summer air-conditioning surge every year. So why do we have these two antiques that have us dependent upon coal?”
Jason White, a former Independence City Council member who helped organize an energy forum. Later in the year, the city said it would phase out the two coal-burning plants and pursue the idea of building a solar farm within city limits.
“The city is asking us to buy a pig in a poke and pay not just one year but every year.”
Lawyer Sherry DeJanes, one of a number of streetcar opponents in the Brookside area, which eventually was cut out of a proposed taxing district for streetcar expansion. Voters elsewhere in Kansas City later nixed the taxing district.
“Everything less than that is duct tape and twine.”
American Royal Board Chairman Mariner Kemper, saying a new building should replace Kemper Arena in the West
Bottoms. A competing proposal would have turned the arena into a youth sports center, but by the end of the year, both proposals had been
“We have been farming the Little Blue Valley for 100 years and to have some municipality just sort of come in with no prior notice, it’s a little disturbing.”
Frank Barnes, who owns some of the acreage that Sugar Creek proposed to annex. The measure was pulled from the April ballot but was defeated at the polls in November.
“Whatever it takes, we’re going to do it. We’re not going to tolerate this.”
Pamela Mason, chairwoman of the Zoological Tax District Commission, after a second violent incident at the Kansas City Zoo involving crowds of rowdy youths during a free day there. The zoo later began issuing admission coupons to residents of the taxing district so they wouldn’t all show up on the same free day.
“I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”
Outgoing Independence Mayor Don Reimal, who moved to a house on South Ash Avenue with the goal of participating in a tax abatement program — supported by Reimal while he was mayor — available to property owners who upgrade their properties and then
“Chimps are so smart.”
Kansas City Zoo director Randy Wisthoff, after seven chimpanzees escaped their enclosure. One chimp either found or broke off a 5- or 6-foot log or branch, leaned it against a wall and clambered to the top. Then he persuaded six friends to join him.
“We still face an uphill climb to convince the public that we need a new terminal.”
Kansas City Councilman Ed Ford, after a citizens task force recommended a new single terminal for Kansas City International Airport.
“They didn’t listen to the public who showed up at the meetings.”
Dan Coffey, who opposes the single-terminal airport
“I am pleased that the city of Sugar Creek embraced focusing on the idea of respect and diversity, rather than finding and bringing justice to those who harm us.”
Architect Joel Marquardt, speaking about the 9/11 Memorial installed in the new John C. O’Renick Park, named for a former mayor. The memorial includes a steel remnant of the World Trade Center and the words “Respect” and “Diversity.”
“So many times these kids are on the sidelines, watching their siblings or other able-bodied athletes play. But when they are the ones swinging the bat or kicking the ball, you can see how their faces glow.”
Cathleen Flournoy, applauding the new soft-surface Independence Ability Field in McCoy Park. Her daughter Catie has cerebral palsy. The field, one of only a handful of such facilities across the Kansas City area, has a rubberized surface friendly to those who use wheelchairs and walkers.
“This is a really, really bad idea. ... I will not and cannot allow you or the state to try this case in the press.”
Jackson County Circuit Judge Robert M. Schieber, scolding Mohammed Whitaker, who was accused of being the highway shooter who terrorized area motorists in the spring. Whitaker shared some information on the case with The Star.
“She lavished public money on personal luxuries and secretly enriched her boyfriend.”
A statement from U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson for the sentencing of former Jackson County court administrator Teresa L. York, who was ordered to prison for two years after admitting she embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the court.
“It’s unthinkable. It teaches other drunk drivers that if they get in a wreck — fatality or nonfatality — to just run and you will get a light sentence.”
Tyler Bronson, stepson of fatal accident victim Leroy “Buddy” Bronson, after a plea bargain sent Ronald O’Kelly to prison for 120 days for involuntary manslaughter due to intoxication and leaving the scene of an accident. O’Kelly was driving the truck that struck Bronson’s motorcyle near Wornall and Bannister roads.
“As a camper, he taught his children and Scouts to leave the campsite cleaner than it was when we arrived and to always leave enough wood for the first fire for those campers who came next.”
Bob Mesle, describing his father, Carl Mesle, longtime Independence neighborhood organizer, Stone Church pastor and Boy Scout leader. Carl Mesle died in July at age 99.
“I took what my dad gave me and tarnished it.”
Terry Lee Morrow Jr., a former Independence and Blue Springs used-car dealer, who admitted in court that he used his customers’ names, birth dates and Social Security numbers to obtain more than $1.1 million in fraudulent car loans. After receiving a 15-year sentence, he apologized to his victims and to his father, who taught him the used-car
“It’s a message of defying gravity.”
Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Steve Green, after the district regained provisional accreditation.
“In one hasty move, you criminalized hunting. You criminalized that, and you didn’t tell us.”
Melissa Morehead of Blue Springs, whose family owns 36 acres in an area of unincorporated Jackson County where shooting firearms was made illegal in December 2013. After hearing testimony, the Jackson County Legislature repealed the provision, which was supposed to deter negligent gun owners from discharging firearms in a dangerous
“There was a guy charged with fighting at the casino. He bit one of the police officers. And when he actually discovered (in court) that he was in Clay County, he started to cry.”
Kevin Baldwin, a defense attorney commenting on sentencing disparities between more lenient Jackson County and its suburban counterparts.
“It’s important to the community that it doesn’t stay empty, that it doesn’t close.”
Lara Vermillion, president of the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce, commenting on the possible sale of St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs. It and St. Joseph Medical Center in south Kansas City, owned by Carondelet Health, were sold in October to Prime Healthcare Services Inc.
“We know a lot of children out there rely on school meals for food, and during the summer they will often be at risk of being hungry. Many working families still struggle to afford the basics.”
Ellen Feldhausen of Harvesters, which helped provide meals to children, sometimes at the Central Library in Kansas City, while school was out for the summer.
“That Tinker Bell blanket was the one source of comfort, warmth and basic hygiene.”
Erika Lawler, assistant Jackson County prosecutor, describing the Disney blanket used by a 9-year-old girl who had been banished to the cold basement of her family’s Blue Summit home. She used the blanket to keep warm, to maintain privacy while relieving herself outdoors and to clean herself afterward. In September the girl’s father, Timothy A. Phillips, received a seven-year prison sentence for endangering the welfare of a child. His girlfriend, Lacey Chaney, received an identical prison term
“It has a very crippling effect because when young families see a community deteriorate, they have less of a reason to move here.”
Jim Aziere, longtime Raytown alderman and high school swimming coach, after the city decided to close its Super Splash water park.
“When I first got elected in 1972, I was kind of a redneck. I figured everybody who got elected was on the take.”
Jackson County Legislator Fred Arbanas, a former Kansas City Chief who is retiring from the Legislature after 42 years.
“She was only 6 years old. She didn’t deserve to die.”
Mikiyah Guinn, cousin of Angel Hooper, who was killed Oct. 17 when a bullet struck her while she and her father were leaving a convenience store in south Kansas City. Two Kansas City men have been charged in the shooting.
“It’s kind of nifty. It’s peculiar, and that’s what we like about it.”
Nick Jacobs, Peculiar city clerk, who persuaded the city’s parks department to install an unused fence underneath the community’s nonfunctioning water tower, allowing residents to place personalized padlocks on the fencing.
“We do have deputies that can find intoxicated, impaired people driving during the daytime. It happens quite frequently, unfortunately.”
Sgt. Jess Claibourn of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, who was training police recruits on how to test for alcohol impairment.
“My office concluded that we could not ethically continue to pursue the case given the current evidence against Micah Moore. The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who dismissed a murder charge against Moore in the 2012 death of Bethany Deaton, the wife of Moore’s prayer group leader. The death was originally thought to be a suicide, but Moore confessed. He later recanted, saying his confession resulted from an exorcism.
“As a Democrat, I wasn’t taking anything for granted and I campaigned about as hard as anyone could campaign. It was a great disappointment to lose that which I enjoy doing so much.”
Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley, who had served almost a decade but was ousted at the polls by Republican Ben Butler.
“This was not a malnourished child. This was a skinny kid.”
Cathy Noble, lawyer for Jeffrey A. Kraft, who, along with his wife, Michele L. Kraft, was acquitted Dec. 2 of assault and endangering an 8-year-old girl who was locked in her room. The judge said prosecutors had not proved that the Kansas City couple intended to injure the girl, who appeared to be underfed when found in 2012. The defense contended that because of behavioral issues, the girl occasionally was locked in her room to keep her safe at night.
“I have served Lee’s Summit faithfully, my hometown that I love dearly. ... I look forward to brighter days.”
Daren Fristoe, assistant city manager in Lee’s Summit, who resigned effective Dec. 31 after being charged in November with stealing from a former
“Chance to heal and regain trust is lost. Shame on you @MOEducation State Board. Reality and perception collide with no surprises here.”
Tweet from Lee’s Summit School Superintendent David McGehee, criticizing the appointment of Deputy Commissioner Margie Vandeven as Missouri’s new education leader. Some educators wanted an outsider.