Opinion: Doughnut shop déjà vu and double standards

Window on the West
by Mary Rupert

On Monday night, a proposal was presented at a Unified Government committee meeting for a fast-food restaurant and a doughnut shop to receive UG funding. It would be located near 18th and Metropolitan Avenue in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan.

The Unified Government Committee did not take action on the proposal at that time, however. Instead, commissioners started a discussion on what the policy should be on financing gaps in economic development projects. The project may come back before the commission sometime in the next few months.

Something about it all sounded familiar to me. A doughnut shop. Government funding. Health. What could I be remembering?

I’ll be the first to admit it sounds strange, a doughnut shop and fast-food restaurant getting a government grant, especially from Wyandotte County, which is trying to emphasize health. But it is not unprecedented.

I was present at the ribbon-cutting for Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in February 2015 at Wyandotte Plaza at 78th and State in Kansas City, Kan. The Schlagle High School band played. State officials were present.

The highest official was the lieutenant governor of Kansas, Dr. Jeff Colyer. Yes, a medical doctor welcomed a doughnut shop to Wyandotte County, in 2015. Also there were the Kansas secretary of state and Miss Kansas USA. I felt sorry for Miss Kansas USA since it was February and everyone was outdoors.

Really, I thought it was much ado about doughnuts. There were special circumstances — it was Krispy Kreme’s 1,000th shop opening and KCK was the center of a global doughnut celebration. And they have a really nice building.

There was a long line all around the Krispy Kreme drive-through that day. There were free doughnuts. And, our Wyandotte Daily Facebook page saw a huge sugar spike after we ran the story and photos, attesting to local interest.

The UG approved a community improvement district and a bond issue for the overall $28 million redevelopment project at the shopping center. Krispy Kreme is a separate building, but the project would not likely have been done without the renovation of the shopping center. I did not hear any big protest of fast-food and doughnuts when the Wyandotte Plaza Krispy Kreme was built.

Dignitaries including the lieutenant governor, Dr. Jeff Colyer, right, welcomed a new Krispy Kreme doughnut shop to Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State, in Kansas City, Kan., in February 2015. (File photo by Mary Rupert)
Dignitaries including the lieutenant governor, Dr. Jeff Colyer, right, welcomed a new Krispy Kreme doughnut shop to Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State, in Kansas City, Kan., in February 2015. (File photo by Mary Rupert)

Now that the Argentine area wants a doughnut shop – this one is a Dunkin’ Donuts, next to a Wendy’s and Pizza Hut – all sorts of red flags are being raised by commissioners and others in the UG.

It is a $3.3 million development that has already been awarded a federal grant of $1.2 million. The grant is to create 71 new jobs, most of them entry-level, in the Argentine area, according to Commissioner Ann Murguia. The developer is Ferguson Properties.

The project has a gap of $550,000, and that is the amount that is sought from a new UG gap fund approved in the last budget.

I think if the project is approved, first there should be a UG economic analysis of its finances. And the UG Commission needs to decide whether it wants to do this as a pilot project on a trial basis or whether it wants to set policies first on it. Commissioners also raised a question about whether they would want to fund a project that is so close to the Walmart Neighborhood Market project that still has a few pad sites available.

Whether the project is fast food or not should not be an issue, because it has never been an issue anywhere else in Wyandotte County, including not at Wyandotte Plaza last year. Maybe, if all fast-food places were banned in Wyandotte County, it might be reasonable to ban this one.

Commissioner Murguia has a commendable pattern of surveying her constituents and then trying to get what they want, and there is a lack of fast-food restaurants in the area. A couple of fast-food places are helpful when people travel from several miles away to go shopping and want to stop somewhere to grab a bite to eat.

I find it paternalistic that some people now are calling for scuttling the project just because it is a fast-food place. Who’s to say a person shouldn’t have one doughnut every other week or one hamburger every other Saturday? Lately, we have seen some other paternalistic legislation out of Topeka, dictating that people on Medicaid should be given less expensive medications, with legislators deciding that they know more than the patients’ own doctors.

Frankly, I would rather help mom-and-pop restaurants owned by people who live here before helping chains, and I would hope some future project helps local owners and operators. At the same time, if a chain fast-food place is what the residents of an area want, why not give it to them? The new fast-food places also help to address a lack of entry-level jobs in that area.

The UG is showing quite a double standard when it comes to projects located in Argentine compared to projects on the west side. Given some of the UG Commission’s past reactions to projects that Commissioner Murguia is in favor of, perhaps it would be good if developers start now to try to line up 110 private investors with $5,000 each, or 5,000 private investors with $110 each.

Otherwise, if this project is approved, there probably needs to be a rotation plan developed to build similar places in other districts on the east side.

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

KCK CVB to present annual tourism awards May 4

The Kansas City Kansas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc. will celebrate a successful year at its annual Tourism Celebration on Wednesday, May 4.

The luncheon will be held at the Jack Reardon Event Center, 520 Minnesota Ave., in Kansas City, Kan.

Approximately 150 people will be in attendance, including elected officials and tourism industry professionals.

Six awards will be presented to the following tourism advocates and organizations.

A Special Mayor’s Recognition will be presented in honor of Jesse Hope III, proclaiming Wednesday, May 4, as Jesse Hope III Day in Kansas City, Kan. Hope was the founder and curator of the Old Quindaro Museum and dedicated his life to preserving and honoring the legacy of the families of Quindaro. Hope died in 2015.

Unified Government Mayor Mark Holland will recognize Hope’s contributions in preserving the history of the Underground Railroad in America and the significant transformation the town of Quindaro had on our community. Accepting the award will be Anthony Hope, Jesse’s brother.

The Excellence in Hospitality Award will be awarded to Mendi Jones, director of sales at Country Inn and Suites Village West. The award, chosen by the KCK CVB staff, recognizes Jones for her support and partnership with the CVB, as well as her professionalism, hospitality and exceptional customer service to all visitors.

Jones came to Kansas City, Kan., after spending 24 years in the hotel business in Pensacola, Fla., where she also had the reputation for going above and beyond. Kerry Green, meetings, group and event manager of the KCK CVB, will present the award to Mendi Jones.

A special Tourism Partnership Award will be presented to Linda Craghead, assistant secretary of parks and tourism for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Her primary responsibilities include the operation and promotion of the 26 state parks in Kansas and the overall tourism initiatives for the state.

Craghead is being recognized for her commitment to each segment of the hospitality industry in Kansas and her collaborative efforts. Craghead is passionate about outdoor adventure and nature, but mostly, she is passionate about the people and the tourism industry in the state of Kansas. Bridgette Jobe, executive director of the KCK CVB, will present the award to Linda Craghead.

The Tourism Event of the Year Award will be presented to the NCAA Division II Football Championship that was held on Dec. 19, 2015, at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. Division II football came to Kansas City after it completed a 26-year-run in Florence, Ala.

The championship will be played at Children’s Mercy Park through 2017. The attendance at the 2015 championship game was a record-setting crowd of 16,181 fans and was televised on ESPN2. The game generated over 1,100 hotel room nights for the Kansas City region. The ability to be the host of the Division II championship game was the result of the efforts and partnership of several organizations. Presenting the award will be Matt Lawrence, general manager of Schlitterbahn Waterpark KC and a current KCK CVB board member. Accepting the award will be Amber Feldman of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Molly Cage of the Kansas City Sports Commission, and Chris Wyche from Sporting KC.

The Tourism Organization of the Year Award will be presented to Strawberry Hill Ethnic Museum and Cultural Center. The museum is located at 720 N. 4th St. in Kansas City, Kan. The Queen Anne style house was built in 1887 as the home to John and Margaret Scroggs, and later became the St. John Orphanage.

The orphanage was originally founded after the 1918 influenza epidemic. During its existence, it was home to over 3,000 children. The museum was founded in 1988 and was dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the Slavic heritage prevalent in the Kansas City, Kan., area. Today the museum preserves the history and cultures of over 16 different nationalities. More than 175,000 people have visited the museum. Presenting the award will be Unified Government Commissioner Brian McKiernan. Accepting the award will be Adrienne Nastav, long time museum volunteer and board member.

The Tourism Advocate of the Year Award will be presented to Chris Browne, vice president and general manager of Kansas City T-Bones, for his leadership and contributions to Kansas City, Kan., tourism. Browne started with the T-Bones in 2002 before the first game was ever played at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan. He was named vice president and general manager in 2008.

Browne served on the Kansas City Kansas Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors from 2012 to 2015, serving two years as board chair. The Tourism Advocate award will be presented to Chris Browne by Greg Jackson, general manager for Dave & Buster’s at The Legends and current KCK CVB board chair.

Sunny skies ahead today

Patchy fog this morning will give way to mostly sunny skies later today, according to the National Weather Service.

Visibilities as low as a quarter-mile will be possible through 9 a.m.

Then, the skies will be mostly sunny with a high near 68, according to the weather service. Tonight, the low will be around 50.

No additional hazardous weather is expected through Saturday, the weather service said.

On Wednesday, there will be sunny skies with a high of 69; on Thursday, it will be sunny and the high will be 72; and on Friday, it will be sunny and 78, according to the weather service.

Storms will return to the area Saturday night, and then continue through early next week, according to the weather service. It is too early to determine whether this activity will be severe, the weather service said.

During the day Saturday, it will be mostly sunny with a high near 80, according to the weather service. Saturday night, the low will be 60, with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

Sunday’s forecast is a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms with a high near 74.