Sutherland: The Royal Nonesuch, Steve Rose & The Jackson County Medical Research Tax

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Steve Rose

Huck and his runaway slave companion, Jim, are drifting on a raft down the Mississippi when they fall in with two con-men, “the King” and “the Duke.”  These two know only too well how to fleece the hapless denizens of the little towns they are going past.  To lure the gullible into the “peep-show” the scam-artists are promoting all that is necessary is to put up a poster advertising the show (“The Royal Nonesuch”), with a legend at the bottom reading; “Ladies and Children Not Admitted!”  As “the Duke” says, admiring his handiwork; “If that line don’t fetch them, I don’t know Arkansaw!”

Well, we’re about to be scammed right here in River City, just like those fictitious burgs in Arkansas.

The latter day “Duke” and “Prince” are the usual suspects, Steve Rose, late of the JoCo Sun, now of the KC Star; and Peter Levi, late of the KC Chamber of Commerce, now of Polsinelli, Shughart (one of its predecessor firms, Polsinelli, White, Vardaman & Shalton was the only law firm in Missouri legal history to be indicted as a criminal enterprise, thanks to the antics of former Missouri House Speaker Bob Griffin, cementing its reputation as a nest of political fixers.)

trianglemapRose wrote an opinion piece in the Star last week arguing that the proposed Jackson County Medical Research Tax should be passed because it was very similar to the Kansas measure passed in 2008, the Johnson County Education Research Triangle Act.  Rose insists that whether or not the Jackson County Tax was modeled after the Kansas measure “it should be.”  After all, he reasons; “The tax in Johnson County has proved to be a powerhouse of research, education, and economic development.  It is everything promised to tax payers and more.”

Rose cites among the projects that make the Triangle such an outstanding success, the Kansas State University “Innovation Campus” in Olathe, which is described as providing education, training, and research for animal health and food safety.  (He also mentioned the KU Clinical Research Center in Fairway which focuses on cancer research, and the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park, which includes a new facility to house programs in business, engineering, science, and technology.)

Screen shot 2013-09-21 at 10.13.07 AMAll these no doubt reflect the expenditure of large sums of tax dollars, but what exactly has been accomplished?  How do we know that the research done there is not duplicative of research performed elsewhere?  What new discoveries have been made?  What patents have been issued?  What FDA approved drugs have been put into use?  What significant studies have been completed and published?   In short, how do we know, as Rose claims, that the JoCo Education Research Triangle is “everything promised to tax payers and more.”

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Pete Levi

The Olathe Innovation Campus was created in part by a state-funded entity called the Kansas Bioscience Authority.  The Authority was created by the Kansas State Legislature in 2004 and was intended to “stimulate life science research” and “nurture companies promising good jobs and raPid growth in a high tech field.”

The first Chairman of the Bioscience Authority was Clay Blair, III, a local real estate developer, next to former RNC Committeeman Steve Cloud the foremost money man for the moderate wing of the Johnson County Republican Party.

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Clay Blair

Blair was forced to resign as Authority chair is 2010 after it was discovered that he had directed $46,000 in payments to his business, Clay Blair Services Co., from the Authority.  In addition, it was reported in the press that another $104,000 in Authority money was paid to Blair’s family members and business associates.

In 2012, the president of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, Thomas Thornton, was also found to have misspent agency funds in an in-depth audit by the BKD, LLP accounting firm. In an audit report made public in a Wichita Eagle Beacon story from January 2012, the Authority was found to have spent $571,828 in payments in contravention of Authority policy.  Thornton was also found to have destroyed documents on his computer which had been subpoenaed by the Johnson County District Attorney’s office when it began a criminal investigation of the Authority in 2011.  The audit also concluded that KBA board member Angela Krebs may have improperly participated in deliberations and voted on a $100,000 payment by the Authority to a private bioscience authority she headed.  The audit itself ended up costing the State $1,000,000.

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Thomas Thornton

None of these people were ever criminally prosecuted for the millions of dollars their actions cost the taxpayers.  These are the people who created and administered at least one of the programs praised so fulsomely by Steve Rose in his editorial.  Is this really who we want to trust taxpayer money to just because they are his political cronies?

Pete Levi, the ex-KC Chamber president and Polsinelli lawyer, went Rose one better in his piece that ran September 18th in the Star.  Levi points with pride to the other corporate welfare boon-doggle favored by the local oligarchy, d.b.a. The Civic Council (sometimes known as the “Royal and Benevolent Order of CEO’s”).  This, of course, is Science City, created by the Bi-State Cultural Authority, whose initial mouthpiece was none other than Steve Rose.  Although the museum has fared a little better in recent years, it still represents a case study in how not to do a project, with tens of millions in cost overruns and actual revenues a fraction of those projected by its promoters.

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The Little Children of Kansas City Admire The Greatness and Generosity of The Hall Family,Mural,Science City(Gift of The Hall Family Foundation)

Why Levi would hold this up as a shining example worthy of emulation is unclear.  What is clear is that the only ones sure to benefit from such projects are those who own real estate in the areas being redeveloped.   With the local sales taxes already among the highest in the country (Prairie Village’s rivals New York’s, largely thanks to a “Mayberry RFD” based redevelopment of the PV shopping center, a cutting-edge theme based on a TV show that first aired in 1960), it is an outrage that fat cats like the Civic Council would push such regressive measures.  This is particularly true when 17% of the population of Jackson County lives at or below the poverty line.

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Mark Twain

If Mark Twain is to be believed, to get otherwise tight-fisted Missourians a century and a half ago to let loose of their money, all that was necessary was to say “Ladies and Children Not Admitted!”  Nowadays the magic words are “Research in the Life Sciences” or “Economic Development” and their descendants will do the same.

Proceed with caution when Steve Rose backs a scheme.

Hold on to your wallet or you’ll end up paying for his next meal at the River Club, courtesy of his corporate Big Daddies (and for a lot more than that before its all over!)

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9 Responses to Sutherland: The Royal Nonesuch, Steve Rose & The Jackson County Medical Research Tax

  1. harley says:

    great article Sutherland….but we know these low lifes steal money and channel it
    to their friends and family pockets.
    Its why today…we in America fight over 4 billion in food stamps for kids…
    the disable and the elderly….while the big money corporations and the
    people running our casino economy are stealing billions/trillions in
    dollars.
    suther…this is all planned. Keep americans thinking their neighbors
    and the average citizen is ripping offthe government for $133 in
    food ($4.50 a day) …keep the American public pissed at stupid
    small dollar issues while they’re stealing us blind with the really
    big bucks.
    Ask AT&T about tghe 85 million they get from our taxes for
    rural phone services….huh? that’s right…from the state AT&T
    gets 85 million dollars…its a tax on our phone bills…been on
    therefor years…imagine what 85 million dollars could do if put
    to good use….its a scam souther…..you know it…we all know it..
    but as long as the top dogs keep americans fighting over the
    scraps after they take their 80% take…we’re just small pawns
    in their attempt to grab every last dollar and ruin this country.
    nice article….
    as far as Rose….he has no idea what he’s talking about. Another
    silver spoon kid who got his dad’s lifelong business and eventualy
    ran it into the ground. If not for all those incredible employees at the
    sun…it would have gone down earilier.

  2. chuck says:

    Scathing indictments, it’s whats for dinner!

    My compliments to the chef.

    This is Sutherland’s best and I hope this article finds the audience it deserves.

    FYI. Over at jimmysays.com, the venerable and much loved (In spite of his liberal politics.) Jim Fitzpatrick, formerly of the KC Star has been neck deep in fighting this measure.

    http://jimmycsays.com/2013/09/08/committee-growing-treasurer-going-on-vacation/

    Mr. Sutherlands excoriation of the players mentioned above, accompanied with the facts and figures to back up his claims of unprosecuted malfeasance, fraud and cronyism make me wanna believe that at least the altruistic heart of what we used to think guided the 4th estate, now dead in the Main Stream Media, is alive and well and beating strongly in his chest.

    Slay that dragon St. Sutherland. Usually, lost in the detritus of the 24 hour news cycle are details, time lines and unambiguated facts presented by a journalist with the chops and balls to call it as they see it.

    Not this time.

    City Hall officials all over the metro area are mostly catspaws for an elite that courses through neigborhoods from East of Troost to Mission Hills, from the Northeast to the Southwest, who, indeed, made by politics, are strange bedfellows as they say.

    Thanks for a peek behind the curtain Mr. Sutherland, I will have a strartling expose for desert, when ever you have time.

    • Orphan of the Road says:

      Sucking on the government teat is the only growth industry in America. Liberals and Conservatives feast on it while calling each other names.

      As far as JimmyC, I wouldn’t trust a reporter who didn’t smoke a cigar, carry a hip flask and spend a few hours at Davy’s Stagecoach Inn.

  3. Steve Bilko says:

    The romanticized view of the hard drinking, cigar smoking reporter as class savior needs to be laid to rest. These poor guys were addicts who did what addicts do when faced with hard choices, they caved in to their addictions and turned their back on ethics. That is one of the reasons we are in this maze like, KC power structure mess today. Too many basic wrongs were left unchallenged by The Star back in the day, and now have now become codified into “normalcy.”

    • Orphan of the Road says:

      While my details were somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it was clear that writers who went out among the people, not the landed gentry, got the stories. They also were not afraid to let the story go where it would, regardless of their initial intuition of the matter.

      They carried demons, as we all do, which drove them to write. Often the alcoholism came from a resentment of having to bow to an editor or publishers whims.

      And the odd hours they kept to find their stories led to self-medication. Anyone who has worked anything other than 9-to-5 has dealt with it at sometime.

      Today it appears the journalists see themselves in the romantic illusion of Woodward & Bernstein while they rewrite PR and wait for someone to call with a story idea.

      Seeing as The Star was censured and prohibited from actually expanding by Supreme Court for over 50-years, the changes in ownership never deviated from telling the people only what The Star wanted them to hear.

  4. Lee says:

    Nice article, Dwight.

  5. Hot Carl says:

    Rose is a self-important boob who’s only claim to fame is inheriting his father’s paper. If he’s for it than you can bet your ass I’m against it.

  6. Stomper says:

    More depressing proof that;

    Power corrupts.

    It’s not what you know but who you know.

    You can steal more with a coat and tie than you can with a gun.

    Another great post, D Man.

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