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The UG Commission tonight approved a plan for a new hotel and ballroom next to the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. (Architect's drawing)
The UG Commission tonight approved a plan for a new hotel and ballroom next to the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. (Architect’s drawing)

The Unified Government Commission tonight approved plans for a new Hollywood Casino hotel but insisted on having sidewalks built from the casino to Village West Parkway.

Officials from Kansas Entertainment, including Penn National Gaming and the Kansas Speedway, attended the meeting to ask the commission to waive the sidewalk and lighting requirement, but the commission maintained its position to require them.

The preliminary plan review for the hotel and ballroom was approved as recommended earlier by the Planning Commission – with sidewalks and lighting. It was unanimously approved 8-0.

The preliminary plans calls for a 248-room two-story hotel with 143,180 square feet, and a 18,179-square-foot ballroom, according to UG documents. The ballroom would seat about 400 persons, according to officials. It will be accessible from the casino, to the south and west.

There will be quick access from the ballroom to the casino and from the hotel elevators to the casino, said Patrick Lenahan, architect with Yaeger Architecture.

“This will be the shortest walk from the elevator to a casino of any of the casinos in the Kansas City market,” Lenahan said.

There would be some reconfiguration of existing parking lots, along with creation of a new drive-up and porte cochere for the hotel entry, replacing the current entry at the south end of the casino, according to Lenahan.

The location of some of the two-room suites will be facing turn two of the Kansas Speedway and will afford a view of the racetrack, according to Lenahan.

The completion date of the hotel would be the end of 2016, according to the officials, if work starts in April. The exterior of the new hotel and ballroom will be glass, stucco, stone and tile and will be similar to the existing Hollywood Casino building, according to officials.

Officials with the casino hotel project said that the original 2009 agreement with the UG did not call for sidewalks with lighting from Village West Parkway to the casino.

It’s an isolated site, a quarter-mile walk from Village West Parkway to the casino entrance and is under a mile from State Avenue, according to Lenahan.

“We just don’t think there’s a demand for pedestrian access,” Lenahan told the commission. “One hundred percent of the customers here drive or take a taxi or take public transportation to arrive at the destination.”

UG documents stated that the closest bus stop was Village West Parkway, north of State Avenue.

William (B.J.) Fair, executive vice president of Penn National Gaming, said although they were pleased in general with the planning commission and project, building the sidewalk as planned is not appropriate for guests at this time. It would invite guests to walk down a sidewalk and arrive to a busy parkway with no additional sidewalks going into it, he said.

Fair said he did not believe it was the right time to add the sidewalks.

“We do object to this,” said Jeff Boerger, president at Kansas Speedway Development Corp.

“We look at it also as a Kansas Speedway development issue, rather than a Hollywood Casino-Kansas Entertainment issue,” he said.

“As we continue to develop the Speedway property along Village West Parkway, we will then go back and install the pedestrian infrastructure that goes from Village West up to the whole development area to the northeast,” he said.

However, the commission wanted the sidewalks.

Mayor Mark Holland said he is excited about the project and thinks it is great, but considering the amount of traffic, the 9,000 jobs in the Village West area, and the tremendous parking issue, it was important to do all they could to expand the pedestrian experience.

“Each component moving forward needs to build their share of the infrastructure,” Mayor Holland said. “I think that component is essential to this project.”

Commissioner Mike Kane told them safety was important and that there was a way to make the sidewalks work, and the lighting was important.

Commissioner Jane Philbrook said even though the original agreement did not call for sidewalks and lighting for them, since things have changed in a few years, she believed they needed to add those amenities to make it one cohesive area so people would feel free to take a walk and get some exercise.

In the UG planning documents, the UG staff stated a requirement to connect the sidewalk to Village West Parkway.

The applicant pointed out, in the documents, that there was no public sidewalk along Village West Parkway, and the casino remained remote from the other Village West developments. It was the feeling of the applicant that the hotel and ballroom were an addition that was internal to the site, which was already developed.

The UG staff responded in the UG documents that they wanted the sidewalk to extend from the west property line from the main entrance along Village West Parkway, north to the Cerner property line, and the lighting should cover the same area.

An architect's drawing shows plans for a new hotel and ballroom at the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
An architect’s drawing shows plans for a new hotel and ballroom at the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.

by Kelly Rogge

Ruthie Ingram will be the featured artist at Kansas City Kansas Community College’s The Gallery starting next month.

The exhibit and art sale, “Drawing You Closer,” is free and open for public viewing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday beginning March 10.

An opening reception from 4 to 7:30 p.m. March 6 is also free and open to the public. The exhibit closes March 27. If individuals would like to view the exhibit during alternate times, an appointment can be made. The Gallery is in lower Jewell building on the KCKCC Main Campus, 7250 State Ave.

Ingram is a life-long resident of Kansas City, Kan., and currently takes classes at KCKCC.

She is a self-taught artist who began her career as an illustrator while still in high school in Kansas City, Kan. She worked for years as an illustrator, designer and art director at area advertising and publishing companies and has done work for companies such as Hallmark, Anheuser-Busch and Nabisco.

Her works are collected nationwide, and several of her original oil paintings are part of the Miller Brewing Company corporate collection.

Ingram was awarded “Best of Show” and “Best of Drawing” at the 2009 American Royal Western Art Show and has been featured at competitions and galleries in Kansas, Missouri and at the “Journeys Through Cancer: Art of Healing and Hope” juried art exhibition, in Towson, Md.

Ingram works primarily in pastel and graphite and occasionally in oil. Her style has developed to feature paintings inspired by 19th century photography.

“Combining art with history, I endeavor to create art which captures the culture and character of noble people,” said Ingram. “It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but my goal is to create a work of art to inspire a thousand words – paintings that will reveal more than the subjects rendered, suggesting a story and a history.”

Kelly Rogge is the public information supervisor at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

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Candidates for Unified Government Commissioner, 1st District at large, answered questions during a forum Wednesday night at the Armourdale Recreation Center. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Candidates for Unified Government Commissioner, 1st District at large, answered questions during a forum Wednesday night at the Armourdale Recreation Center. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

by Mary Rupert
Candidates were a bit kinder and gentler at a candidate forum Wednesday night at the Armourdale Recreation Center, 730 Osage, Kansas City, Kan.

The Neighborhood Revitalization primary forum went by the Armourdale rules, with long-time Armourdale Renewal Association member Patty Dysart present to enforce them. Those rules state there will be no candidate-bashing and no debating. Linda Pendleton was moderator of the forum, which was sponsored by the Armourdale NBR as well as Historic Northeast Midtown Association, Rosedale Development Association and Leavenworth Road Association.

Someone who has no opposition in the election this year, 3rd District Unified Government Commissioner Ann Murguia, also spoke at the forum and received wide praise from other candidates for successful economic development efforts in the Argentine area.

Unified Government Commissioner, 1st District at large

Five of the seven candidates for Unified Government Commissioner, 1st District at large, attended the event.

Nathan Barnes, a candidate for Unified Government Commission, 1st District at large, said he would seek common ground nad use common sense. He spoke at the Armourdale forum Feb. 25. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Nathan Barnes, a candidate for Unified Government Commission, 1st District at large, said he would seek common ground and use common sense. He spoke at the Armourdale forum Feb. 25. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Nathan Barnes, who served as 1st District commissioner formerly for 18 years, said, “This election is about fairness.”

He said he would seek common ground and use common sense to serve citizens of the community.

Melissa Bynum, candidate for Unified Government Commission, 1st District at large, spoke at the Armourdale forum Feb. 25. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Melissa Bynum, candidate for Unified Government Commission, 1st District at large, spoke at the Armourdale forum Feb. 25. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Candidate Melissa Bynum mentioned that residents would be paying a higher fee, $5 more, when they walk in to pay their bill at the motor vehicle department. Those who mail in the payment will not be charged more. She said it bothers her that older adults who conduct business in person and those unable to afford to get there earlier in the month because they are short on funds will be charged more.

“It’s regressive and penalizes our most vulnerable population,” Bynum said.

LaVert Murray, candidate for Unified Government Commissioner, 1st District at large, said he decided to run for office when he saw the commission was "deadlocked and deadpanned." He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
LaVert Murray, candidate for Unified Government Commissioner, 1st District at large, said he decided to run for office when he saw the commission was “deadlocked and deadpanned.” He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

LaVert Murray said he decided to run when he saw that the commission was “deadlocked and deadpanned.”

The retired UG community development director said he believed in being strategic, using critical thought and being innovative.

Christal Watson, a candidate for the Unified Governmnet Commissioner, 1st District at large, said, “I can be a voice of reason.” She made her remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum.  (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Christal Watson, a candidate for the Unified Governmnet Commissioner, 1st District at large, said, “I can be a voice of reason.” She made her remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Christal Watson said she was a candidate who would not cause division, who blends well with others and has no baggage, no history of controversy.

“I believe I can do better, can be fair and objective,” she said. “I can be a voice of reason.”

Janice Witt, a candidate for Unified Government Commissioner, 1st District at large, said, “We need to do better by the people of Wyandotte County." She made her remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Janice Witt, a candidate for Unified Government Commissioner, 1st District at large, said, “We need to do better by the people of Wyandotte County.” She made her remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Janice Witt told the audience she had been out feeding the homeless in advance of the cold temperatures that were moving in Wednesday night. Witt said she is currently running the Reola Grant Civitan Center food pantry for the needy at Victory Dodge on State Avenue, which had an overabundance of calls Wednesday. Witt referred the audience to her flier.

“We need to do better by the people of Wyandotte County,” she said. “If I thought everything was great, I wouldn’t be running.”

When the candidates were asked if there were any adverse effects from not filling the 1st District at large commissioner post for two years, Murray, Bynum and Watson agreed there were.

Murray said without representation there was no voice for the 1st District at large for two years.

Bynum said the other individual commissioners tried to provide coverage, but they were missing an at-large commissioner, which was adverse.

Watson said the district was affected as shown by a lack of hearing about community growth and economic development in the northeast and midtown areas.

Unified Government Commissioner, 4th District

Harold Johnson, a candidate for Unified Government Commissioner, 4th District, said he would be an advocate for things that could be done in the 4th District. He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Harold Johnson, a candidate for Unified Government Commissioner, 4th District, said he would be an advocate for things that could be done in the 4th District. He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Harold Johnson, a candidate for 4th District, Unified Government Commissioner, talked about teamwork and listening to constituents. Johnson, the pastor of Faith Deliverance Family Worship Center, said he was very pragmatic in his approach, believes in well-thought-out decisions, and allows his work to speak for itself. He said he would be an advocate for things that could be done in the 4th District, and a lot more could be done.

“I’m going to research best practices and figure out a way we can implement them,” he said. “We need somebody that can be focused enough, pragmatic enough, detailed enough, to make sure the things that are spoken of, the things that are promised, actually come to fruition,” he said.

Johnson, who has years of experience working at a bank where he helped develop major projects for nonprofit groups, said he plans to develop good relationships with individuals and organizations. He said he would like to find one good business to build in the district and then to leverage that to build others, he said.

Scott Murray, a candidate for Unified Government Commissioner, 4th District, said,   “I want to bring some economic development, a slice of the pie, down to the 4th District."  He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Scott Murray, a candidate for Unified Government Commissioner, 4th District, said,
“I want to bring some economic development, a slice of the pie, down to the 4th District.” He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Scott Murray, running for 4th District Commissioner, is a former city planner here who has written $3 million in awarded grants and worked on economic development projects.

“I want to bring some economic development, a slice of the pie, down to the 4th District,” he said. He said he wants to see a national grocery store and some restaurant chains in the downtown area.

Murray said he admired Commissioner Ann Murguia’s efforts in bringing development to Argentine.

“I believe you have to get out and try something, you can’t sit around and wait for things to come to you. We’ve been waiting too long in downtown KCK. It’s time we got our act together, we went out and made some deals happen.”

Board of Public Utilities, District 3, member at large

Murray Anderson, a candidate for the Board of Public Utilities, 3rd District at large, told the audience that he wanted to privatize the BPU. He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Murray Anderson, a candidate for the Board of Public Utilities, 3rd District at large, told the audience that he wanted to privatize the BPU. He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Murray Anderson told the audience that he intended to privatize the BPU.

He said it was important to eliminate taxation without representation, which is what he called the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) on BPU bills.

The tax should be borne by the UG , and not the utilities, he said.

Anderson said there is a need for a seed capital fund for businesses in this community, and using a portion of the proceeds from the privatization of the BPU would fund a seed capital fund for about $160 million.

Thomas Gordon, a candidate for Board of Public Utilities, 3rd District at large, said his theme was "unity." He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Thomas Gordon, a candidate for Board of Public Utilities, 3rd District at large, said his theme was “unity.” He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Thomas Gordon said there were a lot of promises in the past years that have not come through.

He said relationships were important in getting things done. His theme was “unity.”

He has a platform of improvements, and said he favored live televised BPU meetings so that residents could view meetings.

Gordon also supported electronic means of communication between residents at home to the BPU meeting, calling in and asking questions.

Chris McCord, a candidate for the Board of Public Utilities, 3rd District at large, said one of his main themes was taking care of the BPU customers. He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Chris McCord, a candidate for the Board of Public Utilities, 3rd District at large, said one of his main themes was taking care of the BPU customers. He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Chris McCord said one of his main themes was taking care of the BPU customers.

He said he would like to dovetail with the mayor’s plan to improve customer service at the UG, through working with KU Med, and would dovetail that with the BPU to improve customer service.

If elected, he said his first priority would be to visit with customers and patrons to find out what they think is wrong, and help to improve the utility.

McCord said his business experience would be an asset. He is a small business owner in the real estate appraisal field.

Norm Scott, a candidate for Board of Public Utilities, 3rd District at large, said he was in favor of keeping the BPU as a public utility. He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Norm Scott, a candidate for Board of Public Utilities, 3rd District at large, said he was in favor of keeping the BPU as a public utility. He made his remarks Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Norm Scott said he was in favor of keeping the BPU as a public utility. “We definitely do not want to sell this facility, this is a great facility,” he said.

Scott is a lifelong union member and retired as a business agent for the operating engineers, Local 101, union, and has been endorsed by an electricians union, including electrician workers that represent the BPU, and the Heavy Constructors Association.

He said he is interested in representing the citizens and he has asked some questions of the board. “I need to know why our rates are high,” Scott said. “I need to know why we can’t address some (more) alternative energies.”

Two of his themes are keeping rates low and improving customer service. He also is interested in more alternative energy. He said he knows that some business facilities today are totally self-sufficient, with a zero environmental footprint.

“When you call and all you can get is a machine, that tells me we need to get a little closer to the table,” Scott said. He said he wanted to understand the reasoning behind all the decisions made at the BPU.

The primary election is Tuesday, March 3, and polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. that day. Advance voting is going on currently at two locations.

For more stories about the candidates, see http://wyandottedaily.com/information-offered-on-primary-election/.

Patty Dysart, right, enforced the rules of the Armourdale forum on Feb. 25, while Linda Pendleton, left, was the moderator. (Staff photo)
Patty Dysart, right, enforced the rules of the Armourdale forum on Feb. 25, while Linda Pendleton, left, was the moderator. (Staff photo)

An audience member asked a question at the Feb. 25 Armourdale forum. (Staff photo)
An audience member asked a question at the Feb. 25 Armourdale forum. (Staff photo)

Candidates for the 1st District at large UG Commission answered a question from Murray Anderson Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo)
Candidates for the 1st District at large UG Commission answered a question from Murray Anderson Feb. 25 at the Armourdale forum. (Staff photo)

Commissioner Ann Murguia, 3rd District, UG, who is unopposed in the election, gave an update about the 3rd District. (Staff photo)
Commissioner Ann Murguia, 3rd District, UG, who is unopposed in the election, gave an update about the 3rd District. (Staff photo)

Commissioner Angela Markley, 6th District, UG, who is unopposed in the election, gave an update on the district while Bundy Jenkins held up a card telling her how much time was left. (Staff photo)
Commissioner Angela Markley, 6th District, UG, who is unopposed in the election, gave an update on the district while Bundy Jenkins held up a card telling her how much time was left. (Staff photo)

Nathan Barnes, a candidate for 1st District at large UG Commissioner, signed in at the beginning of the Armourdale forum Feb. 25. (Staff photo)
Nathan Barnes, a candidate for 1st District at large UG Commissioner, signed in at the beginning of the Armourdale forum Feb. 25. (Staff photo)

Window on the West
by Mary Rupert

Mayor Mark Holland gave his state of the Unified Government speech earlier this week, and readers of this column will note that some, but not all, of the same information about economic development was in a column two weeks ago, when the mayor spoke at the Leavenworth Road Association meeting.

That column is at http://wyandottedaily.com/questions-and-answers-about-economic-development-projects-in-kansas-city-kan/.

What intrigues me is whether the Krispy Kreme grand opening at Wyandotte Plaza, just a couple hours before the mayor’s speech Tuesday, grabbed the attention away from the mayor’s day?

The mayor was not able to attend the grand opening that day because of his speech scheduled that morning, and he visited the new store at Wyandotte Plaza for an employee event the weekend before, according to the local Krispy Kreme communications officer. The company had rescheduled the grand opening two times because of delays and was finally ready to go on Tuesday, according to the spokesman. The store opening made national news, as it was the company’s 1,000th store opening.

Republicans including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer were on hand at the doughnut shop event to welcome the new store.

The mayor made a big media swing, appearing on broadcast news programs and talk shows the next day in order to get his state of the UG economic development message out.

I’m not really sure how the doughnut store opening fits with the UG’s healthy communities plan, but maybe a walking trail is needed at Wyandotte Plaza now.

It’s difficult being an unaffiliated candidate in Wyandotte County

Janice Grant Witt, a candidate for the Unified Government, 1st District at large, said she doesn’t expect to win but she is sometimes having an opportunity to get her message out during this campaign.

However, no unaffiliated candidates were allowed to speak at the Wyandotte County Third Saturday Democratic breakfast last weekend at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Witt said she was not asking to speak, but said she was questioned about whether she was really a Republican at that meeting. She said she is unaffiliated. Only Democratic candidates were allowed to speak at the meeting, and only those who were Democrats and unaffiliated could attend. Witt felt she was being questioned about her party in an attempt to remove her from the room. She was told she could not pass out her campaign information, too.

Witt said her husband, currently a Democrat, now is thinking of switching to unaffiliated status.

In past years some candidates have told us that it’s more fun to be the underdog, and then you can criticize the powers that be. Witt’s “tell it like it is” campaign included lots of criticisms at the forum held at the John F. Kennedy Community Center. But at the Armourdale forum held on Wednesday night, Witt left all her campaign speech behind and instead talked just about her efforts to help the homeless on that very cold night, and also about the Reola Grant Civitan Center, which she founded, at Victory Dodge on State Avenue.

The Armourdale forum has a policy of “no candidate bashing” and no debating, so it was quite a bit tamer than some other events held earlier this month.

On Saturday, Witt said she felt that she has a right to attend the Democrats’ meeting, as the meeting notice said unaffiliated voters could attend.

Access is an interesting thing. In general, people do not have access to a private organization’s meeting, unless invited or unless it is open to the public, while they do have access to government-sponsored public events. In general, they also have access to the places open to the public in public buildings – not necessarily to individual rooms in the building. Witt expressed the thought that she was in a public building and had the right to be there.

Legalities of access aside, however, many organizations have changed their approach to membership in recent years. That’s because a lot of the younger generation has expressed a fear of long-term commitment to membership. Organizations instead are holding single-day or weekend events to draw in the younger generation, which is membership-shy. I doubt that the organizations will get a lot of new members by double-checking individuals’ membership at meetings. Access and membership are some interesting issues that the political parties have to face in the future.

I enjoyed attending some of the forums, but my own experience was that the Democrats were the best at getting out information in advance about their candidate forum last Saturday morning, better than the other local groups that had forums. The Democrats sent out several email blasts about their upcoming event.

Is it Village East or Village West?

The name “Village East” appeared in some media reports again recently concerning the 98th and State Avenue Schlitterbahn area being developed for the Dairy Farmers of America headquarters.

I did not see the Village East name used again in the current UG documents or at the meetings, but only in some other media reports. The Village East name had surfaced on some documents when the first public announcement was made of the U.S. Soccer training facility near Schlitterbahn, but officials later said it would not be used for that area again.

That use of the name “Village East” is something State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., doesn’t like to see, since he has the rights to the name “Village East.” And in Sen. Haley’s opinion, Village East will be east of I-635, some day.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com.

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The Friends of the FOP, the political action committee for the Kansas City, Kan., Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 4, has endorsed Melissa Bynum for the Unified Government, 1st District at large seat, and Scott Murray for the UG 4th District seat, according to an announcement.

Lodge No. 4 includes the current and retired law enforcement officers of the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department.

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