College looks to needs of community

Opinion

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by Murrel Bland

I attended the second annual President’s Leadership Breakfast via Zoom, Thursday, Nov. 12, at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Dr. Greg Mosier, the college’s president, told of the school’s plans as it looks to celebrate its centennial in 2023.

A major part of the school’s strategic plan is to build a downtown campus. This new center would meet the educational needs of the downtown and the eastern Wyandotte County Community. Courses would include English as a Second Language, General Educational Diploma classes, biology, chemistry, commercial construction technology and administrative office professional training.

Cooperative partners in this downtown campus would include The University of Kansas, which would offer bachelor’s degrees in biotechnology and social work. Other partners would include the YMCA offering youth and adult programs; the Wyandot Behavioral Health Network offering various social services; and High Aspirations, a youth development agency. The college would continue with its dual enrollment program in which students can earn college-level credits with various high schools including those in the Kansas City, Kansas, District.

The cost of the downtown campus is estimated to be $60 million; that cost would be shared among the various cooperating agencies.

Business and industry here and across the nation are looking to community colleges to provide the necessary workforce. One of the issues in Wyandotte County is the lack of qualified employees for well-paying jobs. Those who are trained at the community college in such areas as machinist or diesel mechanic can expect to start at salaries in the range of $40,000 to $50,000 a year. Some of the best jobs in Kansas are in Wyandotte County. However, Wyandotte County residents rank toward the bottom when it comes to wages. Education is very obviously the solution to break this cycle of wage disparity.

The college also has plans for housing at its main campus. The college would build 100,000 square feet of first-class student housing that would provide 260 beds. It would cost $20 million. Construction could start next year.

I spoke with Dr. Mosier Friday, Nov.13, about the Higher Learning Commission’s recent status change from “Accredited” to “Accredited-Probation.” The college met all 24 core components except for two—one concerning the responsibility for quality educational programs and another for a commitment for educational achievement and improvement. Dr. Mosier said he is confident that his faculty and staff can “promote continuous quality improvement.”

The college has to face the challenge of being an urban institution. Many of its feeder schools are from the Kansas City, Kansas, School District where only about 70 percent of students graduate with their class. Many of those students, despite having a high school diploma, come to the college poorly prepared and must take remedial classes.

The Kansas City, Kansas, School District is now searching for a superintendent. I would hope the school board would select someone who has solid experience as a superintendent in an urban district and is willing to move his or her family here.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

Business West learns of development at annual meeting

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Wyandotte County continues to attract new and expanded development. That was the message that Katherine Carttar and Greg Kindle brought to the annual meeting of Business West via Zoom on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Carttar is director of economic development for the Unified Government and Kindle is president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council. They said that so far this year Wyandotte County has attracted $849 million in development. They told of the following projects:

Old Dominion Freight Line. This truck terminal will be at K-7 and Speaker Road in Bonner Springs and will have 300 employees with more than 154,000 square feet of floor space. It will be a $45 million project and include cross-dock and office space. There will also be space on the 11 acres for related retail and commercial development.

Urban Outfitters. This will be on the southeast corner of 118th Street and State Avenue on Kansas Speedway property that NASCAR will sell. The company will have 880,000 square feet of floor space and employee 2,000 persons. Childcare and internships will be available. This will be a $403 million project.

Homefield. This will be at the Schlitterbahn site and offer a youth softball and baseball complex and a synthetic turf training field. Retail and a hotel are planned. The estimated cost would be $330 million.

Woodlands redevelopment. This former horse and dog track will become a development of Scannell Properties. The initial project is estimated to cost $110 million and employ 1,000 persons. It will be a warehouse and fulfillment center. Amazon is committed as the first tenant..

Turner Logistics Center. This company expects to have two of five buildings operational by the end of the year; the cost of the project will be $32 million. It will have more than 590,000 square feet of floor space. Space will be used for warehouse and fulfillment purposes. Construction on the divergent diamond interchange on the Turner Diagonal is also expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Community College Housing. Kansas City Kansas Community College will build 100,000 square feet of student housing which will be part of a larger college master plan. The estimated cost will be $20 million.

Scavuzzo’s Food Service. This is to be built in four phases and will include 266,000 square feet of floor space. Other retail and commercial development is planned. This will be a $115 million project and be built on the former Indian Springs Shopping Center site.

American Royal. This is to include 164,000 square feet of floor space for a livestock expo arena, 250,000 square feet of floor space for a livestock exhibition hall, 5,000 square feet of office floor space and 6,500 square feet of floor space for an Agriculture Education Center. This would be a $200 million investment. This would be in Village West, just west of Legends Outlet.

Bonner Crossing. This would include an e-sports stadium, an amphitheater and retail and residential development. The estimated cost would be $500 million; it would be at the southwest corner of 118th Street and State Avenue.

Kindle said all of this development does not include anything from two traditional sources — General Motors and the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is executive director of Business West.

Letter to the editor

Dear editor,

Canvassing our warm and authentic neighborhoods in Kansas House District 37 with Aaron Coleman this fall has shown me what public service really looks like. One day, we came to a house with a sign up supporting one of Aaron’s write-in opponents. I’d figured we’d skip any such homes, but Aaron went up and knocked on the door. As I stood behind him rather apprehensively, I saw a beautiful exchange, with Aaron listening respectfully to the woman’s concerns. and explaining why he was still running and why he was the best candidate for the job. At the end, he accepted that she might not be ready to support him this time around, but expressed the hope that after he’d served two years and done a good job and shown himself to be a better man, she’d give him her support for the next two years.

Another man opened his door and said “I’ve heard all about you,” — then stepped out on the porch and said, “Just keep doing what you’re doing; you’ve got my vote.” After many similarly-uplifting encounters, I’ve realized most people live in the present and plan for the future. They’re less interested in a leader’s past mistakes than in whether they can count on him to forge ahead and keep working for the public good, undaunted by criticism and setbacks. By refusing to scurry into a hole under the blaze of sunlight, Aaron has proven his mettle as a man and not a cockroach. People are seeing that he won’t hide, and will indeed talk and listen to anyone with something to say to him.

Those of us feeling the strongest need for single-payer healthcare rejoice in having a champion who, by remaining in the race no matter how high the criticisms pile up, and just patiently knocking on door after door, is proving his single-minded commitment to staying the course. As a mother of a child with type 1 diabetes, and of a young woman of childbearing age. I see how important it is for everyone to be able to access lifesaving — and quality-of-life saving — care and medicines, and I gladly throw my support behind this energetic young man who sees it, too, due to the mental health struggles of a couple of his loved ones, including his older brother who died of depression a year ago.

Back in 2016, when Bernie Sanders campaigned on a promise of universal healthcare and tuition-free higher education, people kept saying, “How you gonna pay for all that”?” Aaron, today in 2020, is laying out a practical plan for prioritizing education over incarceration. He explains that for 50k, the cost of imprisoning someone for a year over cannabis, you can instead pay the cost for five people to get two-year degrees at KCKCC. So legalizing cannabis creates two revenue-streams: the savings we get by dramatically reducing the incarceration-rate, and the income we get by taxing the now-legal sales.

Our young people are heading into economic, societal and environmental challenges that we ourselves have never faced and can’t prepare them for. It goes beyond just saying “make American” and “buy American” when, as former 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang has said, the new creator of unemployment is not cheap labor but our own technological success. And a thriving economy without a thriving planet is just a house of cards about to collapse. We need young leaders with the flexibility, and fresh vision, to craft policies merging technological advancement with an increase in human and ecological well being,

Aaron Coleman is one such young leader, and we’re very lucky to have him with us here in the Dotte! Vote!

Susan Stevens
Kansas City, Kansas