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Clarification needed

I need to clarify something important concerning the "OccupyKC not going away" column. At the time I spoke with Bruce Rodgers I was not aware of the vandalism-related events of earlier that day in Oakland.

When I blamed "poor police strategy," I was referring to the original confrontation in Oakland of days earlier, not the vandalism by a few protesters. Even Occupy Oakland has disavowed the vandals there, and I would expect that would be the general feelinig among people involved in the Occupation across the country.

-Jeff Johnson
Occupy Kansas City



Appeal for donations/action

Hello Dearest Friends,

Most of you have known, albeit to varying degrees, of my Human Rights projects w/ Latin America the last 20 years. Most of you also know of my latest project and greatest focus in this area of the recent years located in Colombia (COL). Previously, I had been most focused in Chiapas (MEX), but the severity there has calmed down significantly since I first went there in '98. Most of you also know that in the Western Hemisphere they (COL) have the worst of Human Rights records, receiving the most in military "aid" from taxpayers, and having the highest number of military persons trained at the infamous "School Of the Americas (dubbed Assassins)," Ft. Benning, GA. (see

I write you today to again ask your help with an invitation to support some of the poorest of the poor. As some of you know over 5 years ago I helped start a KC chapter of the Colombia Support Network (CSN- see We have a sister-community relationship with 3 Indigenous villages in the southwestern part of the country. The people speak and are known as the Embera Chami. They have suffered severely for many decades from the current war. We have had nearly a half dozen delegations over the 5 years — priests from their communities traveling here and telling their story, and we to their communities. [A bit of my own slight tragedy occurred when I was moving the beginning of November, I developed a hernia (which I am healing, by God's Grace, naturally), and for this reason an alternate had to fill in for me.]

I write asking your support first in prayers for the KC members, and especially the Colombians, there now. I also ask your involvement and ACTions per your current capacity in joining in our work— this can be done by getting on our email list (NOTE: I ask that you send me an email at so that I can confirm that you get added to our e-list — thank you), from this you can be involved with the political and other works that are ongoing. Thirdly, you could join in our work by sending a donation periodically. (Donations are tax-deductible and can be sent to CSN-KC, c/o Brookside Neighborhood Office, 3 W. 63rd Street, Kansas City, MO, 64113)

Thank you for your generous and stellar support over the many years, in Hopes,

—Peter Stauffacher
Kansas City, MO
816.444.FOOD (3663)



Dear Editor,

Congratulations, you actually did what is not done these days. You
reported on this event (“Whole lotta hand-wringing at journalism panel" by Bruce Rodgers, News Commentary, June 5, 2009,

My attitude about reporters is too tied up with the Dee Ann Smiths who "report" on their opinion. They do not have the distance necessary to step back and observe what is happening and just report to the general public what they observe. This lack of "professional" journalism has resulted in “urinalism.”

That is the reason I quit reading the Star and that is the reason I
do not look at anything that Steve Rose has a hand in either. That is
also one reason that I enjoy your stuff.

You also reflect your own opinion but, at the least you usually provide both sides in addition to an opinion. You also seem to "flag" when you are dropping into opinion, so that the reader knows.

I really wish that the conversation that started that night at the library would continue in a public venue. Thanks for your input.

—Mark Esping
Kansas City, MO

Give Kansans a voice

Dear Editor,

Did you know Kansans can vote on swimming pools and soccer fields, but they cannot vote if a city wants to take over their homes and land? Did you know only a handful of states in the U.S. do not allow homeowners this right to vote?

Recently my neighbors and I ended up fighting for our property and way of life as Overland Park swooped in with a land grab of 8.4 square miles. An overwhelming majority of affected homeowners opposed the annexation, and were astonished to find we had no right to vote.

Kansas’ laws allowing for annexation without representation are wrong and must change. State lawmakers have drafted House Bill 2029 to correct outdated statutes. This bill would require a vote by landowners on involuntary annexation proposals. It would also require landowner approval for annexation of agricultural land of 21 acres or more. The Kansas House reviewed HB 2029 the week of February 16.

Please contact your state lawmakers and ask them to support HB 2029. To find contact information, learn more about our fight, and see how you can get more involved in this important issue go to

—Norman Pishny
Bucyrus, Kan.

God does not discriminate

Dear Editor,

As one of only four straight men singing with Heartland Men’s Chorus of Kansas City, I am hurt and saddened by the passage of Proposition 8 in California. As an ordained pastor as well, I am hurt and saddened that many who favored Proposition 8 were either members or friends of various church denominations. As I often remind my fellow chorus members, “Don’t let the church get in the way of your God.”

The God I know welcomes all. I have often been asked, “How can you, as an ordained pastor, be in support of gay marriage?”

My response: “First of all, if I oppose gay marriage, it is discrimination. And the God I know does not discriminate against anyone. Secondly, when I sign a marriage license, I act as an agent for the state. And thus, I cannot discriminate against anyone. For who am I to deny anyone their legal rights?”

In other words, once marriage was taken out of the church, it became more than a holy commitment or covenant. It became a legally binding declaration, called a marriage license, which allows a married couple, for example, the right to purchase a home together, the right to be insured together, the right to share annuity and pension benefits, and the right to visit each other in the hospital. These are legal rights. This is not something that the church provides; it is something the state requires.

I believe the failure to discuss these two unique roles performed by clergy has led to the passage of Proposition 8. I hope and pray that God’s will be done in the future, so that all who seek the church’s approval may also gain California’s approval. Then the wedding bells can ring loud and true.

Blessings and peace.

—Rev. James “Buck” Firth, M.A., M.Div., UCC
Ordained pastor, United Church of Christ
Missouri Mid-South Conference

(Rev. Firth’s comments originally appeared in the Camp magazine, Kansas City’s voice for LBGT and Allied Communities)

Proof needed

Dear Editor,

Great article on the soon to be black hole that is cutely named "Three Trails.” (“Soccer subsidy won’t fix empty Bannister Mall,” 12/12/08,

What happens to the TIF when these "new" retail places move in? Well, the proponents will sing about the "new" revenue. But what is continually happening is that businesses that are now doing a good business will see a slight downturn in retail sales when the NEW place opens, and then move to the new venue because they need to compete.

The problem is that the City of Kansas City does not figure the difference between the old taxes that were being paid in the old location and the new taxes that were being paid by a business that moves to a new TIF'ed area. Since the TIF is on new taxes, there is a diversion from the general tax base to the new TIF requirements and voila we have a problem getting the money needed to pay city bills.

TIF could be strengthened if a business had to "prove" that it was new. But the developers will never let that happen.

—Mark Esping
Kansas City, MO

Negative tone

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to your recent commentary regarding the Three Trails project. (“Soccer subsidy won’t fix empty Bannister Mall,”

It was a well-written and researched article. However, I found the overall tone to be negative and you have some misleading information regarding the Wizards and MLS that I would like to point out.

Below, you will find the Wizards attendance history. If you will notice that their attendance showed consistent improvement up until 2004. The reason for that is that Lamar Hunt put the team up for sale after the 2004 season. He cut the staff and budget for the team practically down to nothing and as you can see, the attendance took a nosedive.

OnGoal took the team over after the 2006 season and has been slowly increasing the fan base. But, as your article mentions they are limited by their temporary venue. If the Wizards were once able to average 14, 15 thousand people, they will be able to not only reach that number but exceed it with the proper care and marketing that the team once received from Hunt Sports Group.

1996: 12,878
1997: 9,058
1998: 8,073
1999: 8,183
2000: 9,112
2001: 10,954
2002: 12,255
2003: 15,573
2004: 14,819
2005: 9,691
2006: 11,083
2007: 11,586
2008: 10,686

Now, you also state that the MLS is receiving resistance to expansion. That is far from the truth. The MLS is adding Seattle next season, which has over 14,000 season ticket holders. They are also adding two more franchises for the 2011 season and have six ownership groups that have submitted bids to receive franchises: St. Louis, Atlanta, Miami, Vancouver, Ottawa and Portland. There are also a handful of other ownership groups that are prepared to submit bids in future expansion.

You also quote what was a laughable article written by Pat Hickey who stated, "Looking for growth? It’s nonexistent. The average attendance is lower than it was in the league’s 1996 inaugural season."

That statement is not only misleading but also not true. The league is growing rapidly and attendance has increased every single season up until the last season. The only reason for the decrease is that both Kansas City and San Jose are playing in temporary venues, which hold around 10K fans. Anyone who states the above has not followed the growth of MLS. If there were no growth in MLS, you would not see people such as Arthur Blank, Albert Pujols, Steve Nash, Drew Carey and other celebrities either having ownership or seeking ownership in the league.

You also state that cable viewership is down for the league. With the rise of DVR and online viewing, cable ratings are completely inaccurate. They’re about as useful as a car without tires. The MLS allows you to view all televised games on their website. Many MLS fans choose to watch the games in this manner. Also, with DVR many people choose to watch the games at a later time, which aren’t accounted for in the current ratings system.

Even when you take away the Wizards stadium, this is a solid project for a much needed area. You mention in your article that retail is in the dumps and office vacancies are high. Of course they are, we are in a recession. But, this is 2008. This project isn’t being built for 2008, it isn’t being built 2009, it isn’t really even being built for 2010. his project is being built for the future. We will not be in a recession forever and this project is going to be on pace to open when this country is rebounding. If you look at it this way, you will see that this may be the perfect time for such a project.

You may have your "glass is half empty view". But, many of us are excited about this project. The city is making a wise investment to an area that isn’t generating tax revenue but is actually costing the city money by remaining vacant and blighted.

—Randy Robbins
Kansas City North, MO

Other factors to consider

Dear Editor,

I read with much interest your story on the challenges facing the Bannister Mall redevelopment. (“Soccer subsidy won’t fix empty Bannister Mall,”

I agree with you on many points, it is a risk, no one really knows what will happen and the city might be on the hook.

I would point out a couple of points to note, however:

  • The cost to the community of doing nothing should be considered.
  • Is it the perfect deal, no one knows? But if you talk to the community you will realize how desperate they are. This should inform your opinion.
  • The TIF is only on additional taxes that are generated once the project gets going.
  • The city owns the facility (to assist in eminent domain and bonds) but the maintenance is by OnGoal.
  • The developers have been very cautious and plan to phase the project. Nothing like $1 billion will be in the ground for a while, which you acknowledge.
  • As one who has visited the nearest soccer fields, at the POLO grounds (packed to the gills) the demand definitely exists.
  • Keep in mind that not so long ago Bannister Mall was a thriving, packed mall. The loss of cutting edge new shopping and experience problems doomed it.
  • The quality of existing retail in East Jackson (County) is poor to say the least.
  • I think the city would be happy with a break even, rather than this huge sinkhole.
  • In the first 6 months alone the Police and Fire Dept. were called to the abandoned mall 52 times, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I hope you get the time to do a follow up to see if these factors can be considered.

—Theo Asir
Shawnee, KS

‘Naughty Aughties’

Dear Editor,

Any reporting of the political arena clearly makes this decade, 2000-2009, the Naughty Aughties. A brief recap of just Election 2008, strongly supports the nomenclature for the Naughty Aughties.

  • Palin being chosen as running mate
  • Palin’s Pitbull lip-stick, Joe Six Pack & foreign policy
  • Obama’s lip-stick on a pig
  • Palin’s Troopergate
  • Joe the Plumber
  • Obama’s “terrorist” & ACORN affiliations
  • McCain’s Letterman cancellation
  • Wall Street Bailout
  • Cost of Palin’s wardrobe & hairdresser
  • Joe McCain’s 911 traffic call
  • Obama’s association w/ Rev. Wright

With negative campaigning coming to a peak, it can only get “naughtier” in these Aughties.

—Scott Pedersen
Ithaca, NY

What about…

Dear Editor,

I liked the article (Be patriotic – read a newspaper,” July 3, 2008). Bruce Rodgers let the Star off the hook for it's non-reporting reporters such as Dee Anne Smith who "make" the news and do not report a story, with all of the sides represented.

I also think that a lot of people are tired of trying to find the news among all of the advertising. It seems that the Star cannot make a change without making its situation worse.

How much did they spend on INK, which is nothing but an advertisement for drinking and looking good? I was hoping that they were going after The Pitch. Thanks again for the article.

—Mark Esping
Kansas City, MO

Making bars even safer

Dear Editor,

I want all bars in Kansas City to go non-drinking. When I go to a bar or restaurant I only have one beer with my dinner, and yet I am surrounded by potentially hazardous, loud drunks who, at any minute, could punch me in the face because they are drunk.

Now, you can say just don't go to a bar, but I want the same freedom that a non-SMOKER has now to infringe upon my enjoyment.

I would also like all bars to go non-speaking, especially loud sports bars...the decibel level must be murder on the employees.

—Phil Deibler
Kansas City, MO

The truth

Dear Editor,

Thanks for putting in the news about the FARC, Colombia, and South America! (“$300 Million from Chavez to FARC a fake,” by Greg Palast, posted 3/07/08), (

We need folks like you to have a higher profile so that the Truth can get out to the common folk a bit more....

—Peter Stauffacher
Kansas City, MO

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