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KC News Features / Debbie Coleman-Topi
Published 03/04/2010 - 7:39 p.m. CDT

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

Most Missourians don't give much thought to earthquakes. After all, residents here are more likely to encounter tornados than their natural disaster cousin, quakes. But, news of three recent, massive ground-splitters thousands of miles away first in Haiti, then in Chile and now in Taiwan, have some Missourians wondering about the status of a major seismic fault that cuts through the state's southern tip.

There's a little bulls eye in the area of the boot heel," explained Robert Herrmann, professor of geo-physics at St. Louis University, where he conducts research at The Earthquake Study Center. The fault spans southeastern Missouri, northeastern Arkansas, southern Illinois and western Kentucky and Tennessee.

An earthquake Tuesday afternoon near Sikeston, Mo., which is located within the New Madrid Seismic Zone, simply added to speculation about the possibility of a larger quake there. The quake, about 150 miles from the epicenter, registered 3.7 magnitude while the quakes in Haiti and Chile measured 7.0 and 8.8, respectively. Another earthquake, which measured 6.4, hit Thursday in Taiwan. That means recent earthquakes struck Jan. 12, then six weeks later on Feb. 27 and less than one week later, March 4.

Published 02/19/2010 - 1:09 a.m. CDT

Analysis by Debbie Coleman-Topi

The decision by Congressman Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), to walk away from a third term in Congress due to what he calls incessant bickering and partisanship, could have led to more bickering. But, it hasn't. Instead, the rancid state of Congress seems to be the only issue on which Congressmen on both sides of the aisle can agree.

Like a child on the playground who's tired of the bickering of his playmates, U.S. Sen. Bayh threw up his arms in disgust and stomped off, refusing to play anymore. In doing so, the second-term senator walked away from a successful political career in which even political insiders agree he was destined for re-election.

In fact, until his sudden announcement earlier this week, Bayh and his staff had been aggressively campaigning. He wasn't afraid to list his reasons for what seems a sudden, unexpected decision, citing a "dysfunctional" political system, plagued by hyper-partisanship, permanent campaigning, an unwillingness to compromise and pandering to special interest groups who, in return for political favors, are quick to share their wealth.

 
Published 02/11/2010 - 9:55 p.m. CDT

An injured Haitian girl reaches for the camera after getting help from the medical team.

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

Thousands of miles separate Missouri and Haiti. But, a relief effort by some Missouri college students, a native Haitian living here, and his wife, seemed to erase the miles between the earthquake-torn island and middle America.

Heather and Gerson Nozea had a heart for Haiti even before an earthquake ripped apart the country's capitol, Port Au Prince. After all, Haiti was Gerson's native homeland, and where the couple had first met when Heather traveled there from her college home in Kirksville, Mo., to work as a missionary. In fact, the couple, now married, had made Missouri home while Gerson studied at a St. Louis-area college. Ironically, the two had planned to return to Haiti to establish a school in the poorest part of the country following Gerson's graduation.

Published 01/29/2010 - 12:51 a.m. CDT

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders said he will dismiss a lawsuit filed against Kansas City after the council adopted an ordinance that increases the number of members on the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission.

The lawsuit, filed last Friday, would have forced Kansas City to uphold 1997 state-mandated changes to TIF, enlarging the commission from its original six members to 11.

Despite the mandate, the city commission, which makes recommendations to the city council regarding proposed developments, has continued in its historic six-member form, said Jeph Burroughs Scanlon, the county's public information officer.

County officials said the current make-up of the commission excludes some taxing entities, which would gain from taxes on developments, from the discussion process, which is not fair.

Published 12/17/2009 - 10:55 p.m. CDT

Prince Bayo Ogunmeno an author and trial attorney practicing in Kansas City, Kansas may ascend to the throne in his home region of Nigeria. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

Adebayo Ogunmeno wears many roles with pride. There's his regal status as prince of his homeland in Nigeria and his professional role as attorney in Kansas City, Kansas. He recently added another title to his bulging resume'-- that of published author. His first book, a how-to, offers rights advice to everyday citizens, the same group he has a 20-year history defending in court. But, Ogunmeno's titles don't stop with attorney and author. The 54-year-old is bracing for what would be his most prestigious life role: that of king.

Ironically, Ogunmeno views his many roles as intermingled, all helping to advance his chances of the highest tribal honor. While Ogunmeno is of royal blood in his father's lineage, it's his position in the family tree on his mother's side that places him in line for the highest title in his Yoruban tribe in Remo, a territory of 1/2 million people. In other words, Ogunmeno is a direct descendant of the town's founder, a relative of his mother. Ogunmeno admits there is competition for the seat among the tribe's other princes. However, if asked by the tradition-steeped ruling house counsel to assume the role, he would readily accept.

The process doesn't call for campaigning. But counsel members will consider the candidates' resume's in deciding the tribe's top position. The elders also consult spiritual leaders in making this decision, relying on Ifa, or the spiritual leaders' predictions for the future.

Published 11/26/2009 - 8:07 p.m. CDT

Main Entrance of Oak Park Mall

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

Economists say the U.S. economy is consumption-driven, and that until Americans have the confidence and the means to buy more goods and services, the recession will continue to hang on.

That is why “Black Friday” and the entire holiday shopping season could be good news or bad news as the nation looks for signs of economic recovery. With that in mind, a KCTribune reporter asked mall managers and the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City for their impressions of the economic outlook for this year’s "Black Friday" and the Christmas shopping season to follow.

While shoppers may greet the biggest shopping day of the year by spending a little more freely than last Christmas season, that's not saying much, according to experts. In 2008, holiday shoppers spent 3.4 percent less than the previous year. The difference marks recessionary spending in 2008 vs. spending during a booming economy, namely 2007.

This year, financial forecasters are predicting the rate of increase in spending will rise from less than one percent to a hopeful high of just over 1 percentage point. Despite an overall sluggish economy and unemployment statistics in the double digits, retailers continue to hang their optimistic hats on these modest upswings in spending.

"A lot of retailers are obviously holding their breath, waiting to see what will happen come Friday," David Albrecht, manager of business research for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, said this week.

Published 11/05/2009 - 9:01 p.m. CDT

John Bullard is running for the 54th District Missouri House seat.

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

John Bullard believes 34 years spent in efforts to rid Independence of crime will give him a more knowledgeable voice in the statehouse.

Bullard, who is running for the 54th District Missouri House seat, which encompasses southeastern Independence, the northern portion of Blue Springs, Oak Grove and Grain Valley, said his experiences in protecting the public with the Independence Police Department could easily translate to the Missouri House floor.

"I see it as just an extension of public service," he said of the seat, for which he is so far running unopposed. "Having seen the best of people and the worst of people gives me the opportunity to view legislation without the rose-colored glasses," he said, adding that, when it comes to public safety issues, some legislation is not enforceable.

If Bullard is elected, he would resign from the Independence Police Department.

Published 10/08/2009 - 9:30 p.m. CDT

Oprah

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

Are you a female with fashion, finance, fitness or some other faux pas? Not sure how to decorate, de-clutter or de-stress? If so, you're not alone. More than 4,000 Kansas City area women are expected to seek tips from Oprah's team of experts during a nationwide blitz scheduled for an Oct. 24 stop at the Kansas City Convention Center.

"Live Your Best Life" is coming to town courtesy of corporate sponsors and the main impetus, Oprah Magazine, which is dubbing the show O You! Much like the magazine's mission of encouraging confident, intelligent women to strive toward life-fulfilling dreams, the interactive event will feature lifestyle-enhancing seminars designed to inspire, encourage, empower and entertain. Oprah's team of experts, many who've become household names by offering advice on Oprah's television show and in the pages of O Magazine, will lead the seminars. The magazine is a co-venture between Hearst Magazines, a division of the Hearst Corporation, and Harpo Print. Visit www.oyouonline.com for tickets, which are $99.

Published 09/17/2009 - 11:53 p.m. CDT

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

Just as the YMCA pop culture song provides instant name recognition for this community icon, YWCA officials hope a new campaign will sing out their goals. That's why the community institution recently launched Own It, a national, grassroots campaign designed to activate women ages 18 to 30, also known as Generation Y.

The Kansas City Kansas YWCA is joining the effort by adopting the campaign. Officials therecombined the kickoff September 10 with the introduction of their new executive director, Lisa Rockley, who, appropriately, is a member of Generation Y.

Rockley has experience in economic development, non-profit management and leadership. Her latest position was as executive director of the Historic Kansas City Foundation and she also has served as executive director for Downtown Manhattan (KS), Inc. She received the 2006 Executive Director of the Year Kansas Main Street Governor's Award. Officials said Rockley's new position as director of the YWCA coincides with the organization's recent growth, which includes the recent construction of a new facility in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

Published 02/04/2010 - 10:12 p.m. CDT

Andrew Betts, director of communications and marketing at Outreach International, discusses the organization's efforts to help those devastated by the recent earth quake in Haiti. The worldwide organization supports 90 schools in the impoverished nation, many of which were destroyed or badly damaged in the earthquake. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

The staff at Outreach International has a customary role: helping those living in impoverished nations learn to help themselves to a better way of life. But, a devastating earthquake two weeks ago, in one of the organization's hubs in Haiti, has left the staff scrambling in a new role: offering disaster- relief assistance. The focus is on helping staff, students and families attending the schools closest to Port au Prince, the capitol. Those buildings are among 90 schools they operate throughout Haiti, the poorest nation of the Western Hemisphere.

"We're not traditionally a first-responder," Andrew Betts, director of communications and marketing at Outreach International, said of the organization's newest role. Nevertheless, in the last two weeks, the organization has created and initiated a disaster-relief plan aimed at assisting the teachers, students and their families, with the necessities of daily survival.

"How do you send your kid to school if there's no food or health care?" Betts asked.

Published 01/15/2010 - 12:47 a.m. CDT

Pat "Duke" Dujakovich (sitting) the newly appointed President of the Greater Kansas Labor Council with Pat Julo, who is replaing him secretary-treasurer of the organization which represents 85,000 union workers throughout the area. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

 Pat “Duke” Dujakovich, the newly appointed President of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO Labor Council, has some big pumps to fill.

 Dujakovich freely admits that following his predecessor, Bridgette Williams; the first woman, and first African American, to serve as president of a labor council nationwide, is a formidable task.

"She's got a pretty interesting bio," said Patrick (Duke) Dujakovich, who is a Battalion chief with the KCMO Fire Department and member of the I.A.F.F. Local 42. "She's definitely going to be a tough act to follow, there's no doubt about it."

Published 12/03/2009 - 9:53 p.m. CDT

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

A gaming commission vote approving a new casino in Kansas City, Kansas could only be made sweeter if the final paperwork is processed quickly, according to Mayor Joe Reardon.

The mayor offered celebratory remarks during a brief statement to the media Tuesday at City Hall, but said the "Unified Government stands ready to issue building permits and get this project underway as quickly as possible." The mayor said the area stands to gain more than 2,0000 construction jobs, when the building process begins this summer. In addition, the casino, which has been in the making for the last 15 years, will add about 1,000 permanent jobs once the doors open in January, 2012, the mayor said.

The casino will join several existing area casinos, including Argosy, Harrah's, Ameristar and Isle.

Published 11/19/2009 - 10:29 p.m. CDT

City Council member Jan Marcason

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

Some local residents believe the condition of the Vietnam Memorial Fountain reflects poorly on Kansas City's reputation as "the city of fountains."

Weather-pitted concrete benches, fading painted names on a wall and cracks in basin walls of the fountain mark the spot where Kansas Citians go to remember the men and women who fought and died during the Vietnam War. Those who've complained about the memorial's condition claim their voices have had little effect. But some believe community concern may be building about neglect of the memorial.

A citywide Public Improvement Advisory Commission (PIAC) soon will decide which city projects will receive funding during 2010, and the war memorial is on the list of candidates, said City Council member Jan Marcason. The 4th district council member said the memorial, which falls within her district, is lacking in many respects, including structurally and cosmetically.

Published 10/29/2009 - 9:10 p.m. CDT

Kevin Glasco, a Reliability Department inspector, checks a new Buick LaCrosse for exact fit tolerances. (Photo: Michael McClure)

Analysis by Debbie Coleman-Topi

A fog machine-induced haze enveloped GM's new luxury car, the re-designed 2010 Buick LaCrosse, during an unveiling ceremony at the Fairfax plant earlier this week. The special effect lasted only a few seconds. But the future of the plant and of GM is expected to remain hazy for a long time, despite a federal bailout package totaling $50 billion approved earlier this year.

More than 300 people attended the ceremony Tuesday at the huge Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas. Top GM executives, local plant officials, area auto dealers and city, state and federal office holders heralded production of GM's newest Buick, while the assembly line workers responsible for building the plant's latest savior looked on. Reviewers writing for auto news publications compare the new Buick to the Toyota Lexus, which, for the past decade has been one of the industry's most luxurious and pricey models.

Published 10/01/2009 - 10:10 p.m. CDT

The Liverpool Legends, now appearing in Branson, Missouri

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

Like most tribute bands, the Liverpool Legends hope to present a show so convincing that audiences might momentarily forget they hadn't stepped back in time to the 1960s, watching a performance of the original Beatles. What tribute band members didn't expect was that one of their own members would be fooled into thinking he was performing alongside one of the famed Fab Four.

That's exactly how Marty Scott felt about the group's Ringo Starr impersonator, Greg George. Scott portrays George Harrison in Branson, Mo., performances at Starlite Theatre.

Sure, Greg George, a.k.a. Ringo, sports the signature bowl-cut hairdo and clothing of the Beatles era, but so do other Beatles impersonators. Scott believes there's something special about their Ringo look-alike. In essence, the resemblance is uncanny. While Scott, the band's manager, along with George Harrison's sister, Louise, considered appearance when casting the band's members, they admit they outdid themselves in casting Ringo.

"I knew right away who we wanted," Scott said, when choosing members for the band, more than five years ago. Scott had seen George impersonate Ringo, and knew he had the look, right down to the former Beatle's famously large nose.

Published 08/27/2009 - 9:25 p.m. CDT

Peggy Breit, Kelly Eckerman, and Maria Antonia have filed a discrimination suit against KMBC-TV Channel 9

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

The attorney representing three Kansas City female television news personalities, who are claiming age and sex discrimination from their employer, KMBC,may suffer a serious case of deja vu, if the case is transferred to federal court.

Kansas City Attorney Dennis Egan, who also helped represent KMBC Anchor Christine Craft during the 1980's, has filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of KMBC reporters and anchors Maria Antonia, Peggy Breit and Kelly Eckerman. The suit, filed in 2008, claims the three were discriminated against when they were demoted based on their status as middle-aged women. The suit states that middle-aged and older men are kept in high-profile positions, regardless of their age.

"All three plaintiffs have been discriminated against and harassed, on a continuing basis, based on their age and/or gender (female)," the case states. The original suit cites a pattern of harassment and discrimination throughout the Kansas City television newsroom. "The environment at KMBC-TV has transformed over time, from one of cooperation into a hostile environment, permeated with threats, intimidation and disrespect," the suit states.

Craft's case was similar, charging KMBC officials, who are not the same ones today who manage the station, with telling her she was "too old, unattractive and not deferential enough to men."