Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jeff Smith, KCFD

Some of you might remember an accident on Red Bridge Road, not far from KCFD station 42 involving a pumper truck on the way to a medical call. Chauffeur Jeff Smith of pumper 1, which had moved to cover 42's area, turned east from the fire station and found himself in a situation with an oncoming car. In trying to avoid a collision with the car, FF Smith attempted to go far to the right. As he did so, the pumper hit a tree, destroying its passenger compartment. FF Smith's left leg was severely injured in the impact and he eventually had to have it amputated.
Kansas City's Ingram's magazine recently honored Jeff Smith and others in their December 2011 issue. It was good to read how FF Smith is fairing. His choice was a difficult one, one he should not have had to make, but was forced to make by another person's foolish choices. Because he chose a path that increased risk for himself, lives were saved that day.

Here is the essay from Ingram's on Jeff Smith:
In 22 years with the Kansas City Fire Department, most of them as a driver, Jeff Smith had been behind the wheel of a fire truck too many times to count. Another shortage-of-breath call at a senior-living center last February had all the earmarks of another milk run—right up until a Grand Prix pulled in front of his pumper as it gathered speed on Red Bridge Road.
Smith had a choice to make, and a microsecond to make it: A head-on collision, risking certain death for driver of that car, or swerve and take his chances. He swerved. The rear wheels of his truck scaled the engine compartment of the car, causing him to lose control. The truck careened over an embankment, hit a utility pole and slammed into a tree.
A common misconception is that a loaded pumper truck is as impervious to damage as a tank. Far from it, Smith says. “If you hit something head-on, the front of the truck just breaks apart.”
And in this case, it did. What had been the interior of his cab became a collection of jagged metal and glass shards, all moving at a high speed. Smith doesn’t remember much about the impact, only the frantic cries of other crew members urging him not to try getting up.
Not until after the doctors had informed him that they couldn’t save his left leg did he learn that someone else was in that car, a 3-year-old girl. Two lives saved. One leg lost at mid-calf. Smith runs the math on that, and says it adds up.
“For a long time, I questioned whether I had enough time, and always asked myself if there was a chance to do something different,” he says. “But if I had gone even a foot to the left, there were four or five cars there, and the captain said that almost certainly there would have been a fatality. He said what happened was the best possible outcome, and I think that’s right.”
But at a price. Smith has spent nearly a year in recovery, and endures 90-minute sessions of physical therapy twice a week. He isn’t back to work yet, and isn’t entirely sure what future roles he might have at the department. Biking is probably out, softball almost assuredly, he says.
Even now, after the acclaim as a hero for his sacrifice, Smith isn’t claiming that mantle for his own.
“I don’t feel like a hero,” he says. “I did my job like I was supposed to. I can wish I had my leg back, but two people are alive because of what I did. Everyone survived, and that’s the best thing in the world.”

Accounts of the accident, linked and summarized by fire service bloggers:
STATter911 and FireTruckBlog. Take a look for the pictures alone.
Images above: Ingram's cover featuring Jeff Smith and five other heroes, Jeff Smith in Ingram's photo. Observer photo of the area of impact--note the new utility pole and damaged tree--taken a couple days after the crash. The damage is still visible today, 10 months later.
We give the fire department--and the politics that surround its administration--a lot of crap around here. We still think the whole EMS thing is a disaster. That being said, however, this is a pretty neat group of people overall and many of them are exceptional.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Biggest Story?

Topically challenged right now.
It's a lot more fun to talk about the holidays, the Chiefs, the weather or just about anything else then the current set of news headlines while hanging around the kitchen table these days.
The news media is this weird mix of holiday feel -good stories, horrid crime stories and sports headlines.
Just wondering here--what is the biggest and most important thing that is before us?
Do the folks at City Hall think the same things are important that we, the citizens, think are important?
How much does the media have to do with our priorities--that what they report is what comes to our attention--makes the most noise--and provokes us to call for action? Is what creates the noise really the most important thing?
Just wondering.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Light Has Come

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-14 NIV

A blessed Christmas to all from the South Kansas City Observer

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Right to Know

Just a few short weeks ago I found myself being called "judgmental" in a comment forum because I stated that as much as some of us would like to know more about the particulars of the recent suicide of channel 4 weatherman Don Harman, we really do not have any right to know anything more about his death than the family decides to release. It is coming up again in the Aisha Khan case, as many feel that due to the work done to find someone that was thought to be missing and possibly in danger, the public has the right to know exactly why things happened the way they did. Again in this case, both family and authorities are being closed mouthed about the details. You might have a bit more of a case here due to the publicity given to a missing person case, but at bottom, especially since neither the family nor Aisha made the initial 911 call. There is no "right" to information here.
Let me give you an example: it's a personal one, but it makes the point. In 2004, my father passed away of sudden death. I was going to say sudden cardiac death, but truly I cannot say even that, because my mother, as his first and most immediate kin, and a competent person, refused an autopsy. (Side note: Apparently in Vermont, there is no requirement to do post mortem examination of outside of hospital, unattended or unexpected deaths. I must admit this surprised me. I believe it would have been required here in Missouri.) Now, I wanted to know, but my mother says she did not want it, and besides "dead is dead." I cannot assert any right to make that decision and obtain knowledge over my mother's wishes not to know. I do not have that right. I didn't have it then, and I don't have it now.
So anyone thinking that I judge those who want more information about the death of a public figure or about the details of an event that is not judged a crime, I do not judge. I understand your frustration. Your frustration however, does not entitle you to the information you desire.

Kitchen Table Talk: Aisha Khan

Last Friday, 19 year old Aisha Khan of Olathe was reported missing. The student and newlywed left a frantic voice mail message and then was not seen since. Her books and cell phone were found sitting on a table at the KU Edwards campus. No further clues other than a witness report of seeing her walking alone near the campus were discovered. This past Wednesday evening, she reported in to law enforcement and she was deemed safe. Since then, the story, which was on blast in much of the media, including national outlets, has been toned down considerably.
It is all the talk because we all want to know all the details: why? Was she threatened by someone in her family? Did she have a fight with her husband? Did she even want to be married? There is much talk of the cultural clash between those who live family life and love in a very traditional Muslim way and the way of the open American society where love and marriage are very much based on choice. In the back of many minds is the history of "honor killings" where women are killed for being the victims of men--of men who rape and commit adultery.
People are frustrated by claims of "missing" that turn out to be cover ups for something else, or not missing at all. The original call in this case came from KU Edwards campus security. Did the rent-a-cops overreact? Was it always just some crazy family drama that would have smoothed out? Who knows--for all we know the attention may have saved Khan's life. But we will never know, because the embarrassed family will never allow the rest of the story to see the light of public day.
But we are all frustrated by crimes reported that never really occurred. And each one of these non-events creates a skepticism that bleeds out every time we hear a crime story. In fact, when the report of a car jacking/rape case that started at Ward Parkway Mall and ended at 18th and Vine came out, and more info did not immediately come forth about suspects, the lost car and so on, I started to become skeptical. Is that really the story, or is it something else?
News media does us no favors by jumping on every unusual story of crime so quickly and putting it on blast. Sometimes it is not everything it seems. Too much of this, and it will become the boy who cries wolf. And the delay caused by doubt, cynicism and skepticism could eventually cost something more than embarrassment. It could cost life and/or property.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chain of Hope and How the City Can Mess With You

I think that for the majority of us, whether we personally own or like companion animals, we desire that animals be treated humanely, without neglect or cruelty. Sometimes it is a matter of stewardship of investment, and sometimes it is just the right thing to do. Groups of people have come together to help animals, and to help other people help animals. Chain of Hope is just one of those groups. They have felt called to carry out their mission in some of our city's most difficult neighborhoods, rescuing animals from poor conditions, providing reduced cost and free vet services, providing outside shelter for animals and helping poor pet owners feed their pets.
Late last week the organization was paid a visit at its facility at 27th and Tracy by KCMO Animal Control and by KCMO Neighborhood Codes people. The two visits were not happy ones, resulting in 4 citations from Animal Control and a 15 day vacate order from Codes. They provide a perfect example of how a city can harass its citizens in an unhelpful way.

You can't have more than 4 adult animals in a residential home in KCMO; you can have as many young--less than 5 month old--baby animals as you can care for and maintain properly. AC decided that some puppies that Chain of Hope had were over 5 months--meaning that they were over the animal limit. Tickets resulted.

If you want to run a business out of a house in a residential area, you must get the approval of neighbors within a certain radius of the home. Chain of Hope was unable to do this--just one neighbor held out. (Side note: Why? In that neighborhood, you would take a chance on a new neighbor moving into that house? The chances of them being good neighbors is pretty slim. I'd take a bunch of well kept dogs over what could live there. Worse yet, the house could become vacant, which attracts animals far more annoying than dogs. Some of those animals have two feet...) They were maintaining the residential rules of keeping 4 grown animals or less, but Codes was upset because no one was "maintaining residence there." (Side note number two: Thanks stupid Code Enforcement bozo, for saying that on the public airwaves that someone is not in the house 24/7. Now, in order to maintain safety and preserve property, someone will have to be in the house 24/7. Preferably with a Concealed Carry Permit, a side arm and a big ass shot gun.)

It just seems to me that these two city departments went out of their way to be pains in the rear to Chains of Hope. In fact, to me, it served as a perfect model of how City Hall can harass you to death if they get it in their pea-pickin' thick bureaucratic skulls that they want to. I would bet that the City Codes inspector can find something wrong on the property of any this blog's readers if they really wanted to. Makes you wonder also, when people can hoard animals for years and repeatedly, and not get the sort of attention that Chain of Hope has.

Chain of Hope and AC are allies, not enemies--doesn't someone realize this? Both have roles to play to keep KCMO healthy and to assure that animals are treated humanely. This is just a bad scene here, and could have been dealt with in a much more cooperative manner.

One more question: The new group taking over the management of the Animal Shelter--are they going to have any say over how AC works--or are they going to end up fighting against this city department that is supposed to be working with them?

Two news agencies picked up the story:

Chain of Hope's web site with details of the City Hall rally noted below, and links to more details about the encounters with AC and Codes last week.

Rally today for Chain of Hope at City Hall, 12 noon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

23.6 Homicides Per 100,000 People

When I saw the item last week about the general decline in violent crime in the United States during the first half of 2011, a drop that continues a trend going on about four years, I wondered why our fair city, Kansas City, MO continues to have so much trouble with violent crime and continues to have a high homicide rate per unit of population. I hate to admit it but I let the post sit in my head too long and TKC beat me to it! However, the question is still a fair one. Why, when violent crime is steady or trending down in so many places, does Kansas City struggle with it still?

Some would say the bulk of the crime occurs in only certain parts of town, but more recent headlines have brought murder, armed robbery and car jacking further south and further west. This is why we who live in other parts of Kansas City--or other parts of the metro--cannot just ignore the problem because it doesn't happen in our neighborhoods. The problem is that many of the best ideas for reducing the murder rate must come from and be implimented from within the most troubled and crime active area--Kansas City's east side . As one who does not live on the east side of Kansas City, there are simply things I cannot do. I cannot, for example, be a model of leadership for the community, trying to lead the community into a better way of thinking about itself. I cannot accept responsibility for the community's flaws or prod the community into taking responsibility for its problems nor can I make the community improve. All these types of things have to come from within that community.

However, I can ask if the police department and the city government are doing all they can to make reduction of violent crime for the whole city a priority. I can ask if my police force is doing its best police work or can they do better. I can wonder if my city government is making the reduction of violent crime part of the list of urgent things to work on in our city.

There are a lot of forces at work that can cause a murder rate to be high. Do we know which one of those forces are in play here? Are the murders drug related? Gang related? Part of a misbegotton culture of "gaining respect" that has taken over? Are people becoming violent to get the things they want--or to feed a drug habit? Are we keeping enough really bad people in prison?

I have written a lot of posts on crime on this blog and they often seem to circle back to the same point about community, taking responsibility and so forth. There are times that I am not sure that we can solve the "crime problem," only contain it. At this point, I would say that we are not even doing a very good job of containing the crime problem, and I would also say that we are not making it the priority it needs to be in our civic life. It is time for all of Kansas City to stand up and demand that it become a priority to reduce the rate of violent crime in Kansas City, Missouri.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Flashback Thursday: Council Dude Sharp

The Observer will freely admit that there is a struggle with paper at our household. There is always too much of it, and some of it gets away, tucked in some out of the way place, to just sit quietly until the cleaning bug bites, or we get sick of the piles, or the cats get into it. So we have been cleaning lately, and along the way, we have found some true nuggets of recent Kansas City political history.
Today, we present one of John Sharp's campaign mailers from his first campaign for the in-district 6th city council seat.

Remember this is back in 2007, before the economic sh*t hit the fan. There was already a recognition that South Kansas City was losing its economic base.

These are great ideas and sentiments: choosing a councilperson is serious business, some maybe not-so-good reasons to vote for someone, and so on. Now, after four years of John Sharp representation of the sixth, and a bit more of three more to come, how do we all feel about Sharp--is he for us, the residents of the sixth district or is he more about John Sharp and what is good for him?
I personally have never found myself more ambivalent about a political figure than John Sharp. He is everywhere in the district--at just about every important event. I also see him at common places like McDonald's. He seems to work hard. He's passionate. I like that. BUT, his record of actually finishing the deal is lacking. He is routinely criticized for doing a bad job at MAST, and his tenure with the Hickman Mills School Board is not well regarded. However, he himself has been able to go from MAST to the School Board to the City Council. However things turn out for others, John Sharp seems to have made out OK.
That is not a point in his favor. It will be interesting to see where he goes when he completes his second and final city council term in 2015.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Era Passed

As has been previously noted here, Kansas City, Missouri emergency first responders are moving their radio communications to a new digital 700 MHz radio system. The police moved their communications in early November to the new system. Just yesterday, fire, both EMS and suppression, moved over to the new system. I hear tell that there have been a few glitches, as not only did they move to new radio hardware, they also changed software and dispatch method0logies.
That aside, there are just a few stragglers on my scanner, the way it is set up. Animal Control. The Veteran's Administration Hospital. Some of the airport. Until I can pony up the funds, or the price of 700 MHz scanners comes down some, my fun of scanner listening is over.
I am going to miss it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Texting, etc. While Driving

There has been a lot of talk about the accident in Missouri in August 2010 that killed two people that seemed to be caused by an inattentive driver, one who was texting and driving. Since then the National Traffic Safety Board, which investigated the accident extensively, has declared that there should be a nation wide ban on all telephone device use behind the wheel.
It is a pity that we are so stupid that we need such a big nanny state step in on this. If texters/talkers only hurt themselves, I say have at it. Run off the road, into stationary objects and whatever. Only thing is, like drunk/high drivers, these people have a way of running into the innocent, injuring them and destroying their property.
I have had to resist reacting to troll posts in comments sections on news stories and blog posts concerning this subject, because the whiff of guilt and arrogance, a lovely combination, has emanated from so many of them. Many, many people drive distracted, with slowed responses, wandering about the road in an unpredictable way.
I hate the idea of more regulation, particularly something that is not enforceable, but I can't stand distracted drivers. They are just stupid in so many ways. They think it's OK because they can get away with it. The problem is that TODAY may be the day they can't get away with it any more, and in their careless, self centeredness, they hurt someone--maybe you or me.
It's plain: If the behavior stopped or reduced in a major way, the whole conversation about regulation would go away. So how about stopping doing anything that takes away concentration from your primary task when you are behind the wheel of a car?
That primary task, by the way, is DRIVING.
There would not be a need for any rule if you paid attention to your DRIVING.
Sorry to yell, but it is just so obvious and it is sad that so many of us are so self centered and wrapped in ourselves that we don't GET IT.
Yeah, I feel strongly about this.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Loss

The Observer household has lost a member: Our wonderful LadyCat passed away a week ago today. She was 16 years old. She came to me as a stray, a momma cat who had had a litter of kittens. Everyone loved the adorable little kittens and they were all given homes by various residents and neighbors of the apartment complex in Grandview that I lived in at the time. No one wanted to adopt the mostly grown adolescent mom cat. So she came to live with me and the other cats I had at the time.

She turned out to be sweet, kind and flexible. Never one to put up much of a fuss, she accepted a move and another cat being brought into the household. More kitty personality started showing up after the move as our quarters were bigger. She shined despite health problems, presenting herself for medicine when needed without needing to be chased. She was the last of the first group of cats I owned, comforting as cat losses to age and illness came and accepting of newcomers.

My only regret is that her final acute illness came when I was away. I could not hold her, stroke her fur or talk in her ears as she slipped away.

You become one who cares for animals knowing that almost all animals do not have as long a life span as humans. You know that the day will come when your animal's life will come to an end and you will have to say good bye. Yet you accept this as part of the deal, because of all the richness you receive by having animals in your life.

Peace, my LadyCat, peace.

Tough Time To Be A Chief's Fan

Todd Haley incurs a rare Unsportmanlike Conduct penalty during today's game.

Today's awful loss by the Kansas City Chiefs adds to the poor body of work for this NFL season by the team. Of KC's losses, four were horrible routs. The offense has been inconsistent at best, sometimes adequate, but most times awful, not able to move the ball, score or stay on the field. The defense has has some shining moments, but has been left out on the field too long too many times.

There are three games left on the schedule for KC and two are at home. They leave the fan a bit of a dilemma. Go to the game to demonstrate that one's fandom is true through thick and thin or stay home to demonstrate dissatisfaction with the team's performance and brain trust by voting with both feet and pocketbook.

I personally tend to err on the side of loyalty. You support your team win or lose. You are not satisfied with losing but you support your team. As a fan you do what you can to provoke improvement, whether it is calling in to the radio programs, writing to the team, or going to the game with a bag on your head. However, some feel that the Kansas City Chiefs have created a situation where the only thing that team leadership will listen to is something that will hit owner Clark Hunt in the wallet--not showing up at Arrowhead stadium. I do understand this viewpoint--and I do think the leadership of the Kansas City Chiefs has come to take fan support for granted--or at least take for granted the fact that the fans show up for the good party at the stadium.

Many of us who follow the Chiefs thoughtfully knew that this team was at best a 9-7 team. The team failed to make major changes on the offensive and defensive lines and Matt Cassel is inconsistent at best, and was terrible without offensive guru Charlie Weiss's full attention at the end of last season. Many of the worse fears came true, compounded by injuries that exposed the team's lack of depth. In addition, the season has exposed Todd Haley in many ways. Most do not think that Haley will be back next year. Many think that GM Scott Pioli is at fault for poor personnel decisions and drafts. The team's progress came to a halt this year, and in many ways regressed.

So fans have a decision to make about how they will show their support for the team the rest of the season. I will watch the games. But I expect improvement. As a long time New York Giants fan I have lived through years of sucky football and I can tell you that it is no fun at all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Arial View

The island of Manhattan, from the air. That is a lot of people in a small space!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The Observer is traveling presently.

Sounds like I missed the first snow of the season. How'd we do?

Vermont called; they would like their weather back.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Flashback Thursday, Part 2

Our second group of pick ups out of the clutter pile are these beauties on funding stadium improvements. This first plays on fears that if the tax is defeated, the teams will leave. This goes right to the heart of Kansas City's occasional bout with an inferiority complex.

The 3/8 cent sales tax was paired with a vote on the construction of a rolling roof.

In this second piece, the heartstrings are pulled as well as the pursestrings. Players and mascots are pictured around town doing good deeds. (Ah, Tony G., we miss you...but you got out in the nick of time...oops, sorry. Squirrel moment.)

Who is not going to vote yes in the face of big Eric Hicks holding a cute toddler?

Here comes the big guns--a foldout flyer with four panels describing the plans for the rolling roof in detail. I would say that most people were highly skeptical of the rolling roof's practicality.

Frankly, it was just a whole lot of money to spend on something that isn't an essential service.

When I found these, especially this last one full of architect's drawings, and looked them over, I did ask myself if it would have been worth it. My answer is no at this point. There would have been benefits, but we would absolutely be in debt up to our eyeballs. Considering what the economy has done (or not done), I would say less debt is better.

While we want to be the best city we can be, it may be better to propose different ways to finance the fixing of the water and sewer system besides on the backs of paying customers rather than pie-in-the-sky development schemes.

In the end, the voting citizens of Kansas City approved the 3/8th cent sales tax for renovations to Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums, but declined the opportunity to place a rolling roof over the sports complex. The vote was a contentious one as I recall, with a healthy group of people wanting to replace Kauffman rather then renovating it, with a stadium in the downtown area. What do you think? Was our money well spent in refreshing our then 34 year old sports complex? Did we miss something by not doing the rolling roof thing?

I have to note here that the 2012 baseball all-star game is coming to KC despite the lack of a roof. Think of these things when the down town hotel proposals start rolling in.

Flashback Thursday, Part 1

It's a little worse for wear, but I found this interesting campaign flyer from the democratic primary in 2008. She looks much younger in this photo on the flyer. Some of that is likely a bit of Photoshop, but it seems her service under President Obama has aged her. I do not see her as Secretary of State or anything else under him if he is reelected.

"Leadership takes more than talk" says the literature. I think we are all finding that to be true at this point. Even those politically left of center are finding the president's performance less than satisfactory. Her plans are not dramatically different from Obama's and it would have been interesting to see how she would have responded to what happened in the 2010 midterm elections or if that result would have happened at all.

The first primaries are right around the corner in early 2012. It is my opinion that this upcoming election is one of the most important in our country's history. Even with Obama's negatives, it is no shoe-in to defeat an incumbent. It would behoove us to elect someone who will be willing to work with the other side, for the greater good of our entire nation, and to stand up against those who would divide us by class or race.