KCUR-FM: Frank Morris | KBIA

KCUR-FM: Frank Morris

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.

Morris grew up in rural Kansas listening to KHCC, spun records at KJHK throughout college at the University of Kansas, and cut his teeth in journalism as an intern for Kansas Public Radio, in the Kansas statehouse.

Lots of people in Kansas City are ramping up for the AFC Championship game on Sunday. If the Chiefs win, they’ll play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Some area business are betting on a win, one they hope will trigger a shopping frenzy.

It’s easy to spot team logos around town. Season ticket-holder Greg O’Neal has about a dozen of them on his SUV alone.

“I’ve got six Chiefs flags, I got three Chiefs arrows, Chief’s name and another helmet,” chuckles O’Neal, who’s also wearing a Chiefs cap. “You can see me coming a mile away.”

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Kansas City is a city of roads — the metropolitan area has long held claim to the highest number of highway miles per capita, which has made it a city of drivers.

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Midwestern farmers are coming off a year of catastrophic flooding, high bankruptcies and billions in federal bailouts.

Over the past decade, the number of newspaper reporters has dropped by half. But in Johnson County, Kansas, one news site is bucking the trend, adding reporters and subscribers.

The Shawnee Mission Post, which covers about a quarter-million people from a small house on a tree-lined street in Prairie Village is on track to triple the size of its newsroom by embracing the much-maligned paywall.

A tentative agreement easing trade restrictions with China seems like great news for farmers, who’ve been pummeled by the trade war. Some farmers, though, are skeptical. They worry that ag exports will suffer for years, and they've got history to back them up.

Prices for the corn and soybeans started rising last week, on rumors of a possible trade deal. Good news for Tom Kreisel, who farms near tiny Houstonia, Missouri.

“The last couple of days, they'd been up,” says Kreisel. “But they had took a nosedive before that, so we need to make that back.”

The Prospect Avenue MAX bus line that begins running on Monday will charge no fares for the first three months. The $56 million system built with federal grants and local matching funds features faster, more comfortable buses with wifi, and heated concrete benches at the stops.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said making the service available at no charge is a step toward zero fare transit city-wide.

A roving work of art has sparked a lot of thought about the nature of walls this year, especially among those who live near the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

"Walking Wall" is a 100-ton art installation that’s been blocking traffic and building friendships as it moved toward the Bloch Building at the museum.

On Wednesday, it goes inside — and stops.

Trucks and trains aren’t carrying as much as they did just a few months ago, and haulers are cutting back on orders for new trucks and rail cars. Despite this slump, Kansas City’s logistics industry is pushing ahead with an enormous expansion of warehouse space and other regional distribution hubs.

Rail traffic is down substantially from last year. Carloads are down by about 7%. Coal is down more than 14%, and metallic ores and metals are down even more.  

Most farmers haven't had a single good year since President Trump took office, and Trump’s policies on trade, immigration and ethanol are part of the problem.

Yet farmers, who broadly supported Trump in 2016, are sticking with him as the impeachment inquiry moves forward.

“You see everyone circling their wagons now, and the farm community is no different in that,” says John Herath, the news director at Farm Journal.

This June the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its plan to move two of its research agencies out of Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area. Most of the people working at the agencies have since quit, leaving gaping holes in critical divisions. Researchers warn that the agency upheaval will starve farmers, policymakers and ultimately consumers out of the best possible information about food and the business of growing it.

Some in the art world are protesting the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art because of a tenuous connection to the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

(This story was updated at 5:15 p.m.)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans Thursday to move headquarters of two large research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area, promising the region more than 550 research jobs.

A couple of federal agencies you probably haven’t heard of keep track of what farmers grow, what Americans eat and how the country’s entire food system operates. And the Trump Administration wants them out Washington, D.C. — and maybe in the Kansas City area.

Having a criminal record can make it hard to find a job, and a place to live. Missouri allows some offenses to be erased from a person’s record, or expunged, years after an offender has finished serving his or her sentence, but it’s a tricky process.

The catastrophic flooding in Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas last month caused more than $12 billion in damage, by one estimate.  But much more is at stake as the flood waters recede.

Small, rural towns are damaged … and dying.

Even communities with a lot going for them have taken a beating. Lynch, Nebraska, for instance, a remote village near the South Dakota line, with only about 200 residents.

For many decades now, the only beer you could buy in Kansas grocery and convenience stores was limited to 3.2 percent alcohol.

But on Monday, that 3.2 beer became a thing of the past.

"It's a big step for the groceries and the state of Kansas," says Dennis Toney, an executive with Ball's Food Stores. "We've all wanted this for quite some time."

Kansas is one of the last states to do away with this Depression-era alcohol, which looks likely to soon die out altogether.

The "long shadow of Prohibition"

For many decades now, the only beer you could buy in Kansas grocery and convenience stores was limited to 3.2% alcohol. 

But on Monday, that 3.2 beer will be a thing of the past.

“It's a big step for the groceries and the state of Kansas,” says Dennis Toney, an executive with Ball’s Food Stores. “We’ve all wanted this for quite some time.”

Kansas is one of the last states to do away with this Depression-era alcohol, which looks likely to soon die out altogether.

The threat of major new flooding on the Missouri River is receding this week, but the stage is set for further disaster as the usual spring flood season dawns in the coming weeks.

Last week's flooding left billions of dollars of destruction in its wake.

“This is just a prelude of what’s to come. I can only remember one other flood in early spring like this,” said Bob Baker, who has been farming in the river bottoms just west of Weston, Missouri, all his life. “I think we’re in for a long summer.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he misses Kansas and would like to go back into business in the state someday. But at the Road to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Overland Park Monday, the former congressman was cagey about his future in public office.

The annual conference gives business people a chance to rub elbows with potential funders in government, foundations and the private sector. Pompeo said it’s no coincidence that this year’s summit was in his home state.

Protesters withstood single-digit temperatures on the steps of City Hall Monday to share horror stories about landlords kicking their families out after a serious illness or being left with no safe, permanent housing options after an eviction. KC Tenants, a new group advocating for tenants' rights, intends to make housing a central issue in the upcoming mayoral election.

“Housing needs to be the next mayor’s airport,” said activist Tiana Caldwell to cheers of approval.

The water we drink is protected by federal rules, which are at the crux of a long-running fight over how far upstream that protection extends.

“Agriculture is land and water. When you’ve got control of the water, you’ve got control of the land,” said Blake Roderick with the National Waterways Conference.

Sales tax collections for the early part of this year’s holiday season are down across Kansas, and that includes Johnson, Wyandotte and Douglas counties. But some local shops are having a great year, by selling experience as well as stuff.

Protesters in cities across the country marched Thursday evening to decry President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In Kansas City, protesters said they fear Session’s replacement will quash Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The parking lot filled fast at Kehilath Israel Synagogue. More than 1,300 people turned out Monday night for a diverse vigil in Overland Park supporting the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.

“Our hearts go out to the people in Pittsburgh, because we know what that’s like,” said Janee Hanzlick on her way into the building.

The sharp rise in opioid abuse and fatal overdoses has overshadowed another mounting drug problem: Methamphetamine use is rising across the country.

“Usage of methamphetamine nationally is at an all-time high,” says Erik Smith, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Kansas City office.

The Colorado Rockies are packed with natural beauty, huge vistas, pretty flowers and adorable critters.

But when I backpacked the 160-mile Collegiate Loop on the Colorado Trail last month, I discovered a great little community of strangers out on the trail. Here are just a few of the notables I met on the trail.

Updated Aug. 1, 2018

The Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission found lots of reasons to stall the expansion of a feedlot near Powell Gardens last week, among them that the corporation that won the permit to expand does not legally exist.

President Donald Trump gave a wide-ranging address to the national Veterans of Foreign Wars conference Tuesday in Kansas City, discussing tariffs, foreign policy and immigration and criticizing Democrats.

Trump also attended a luncheon fundraiser for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who faces a primary for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in two weeks. 

The corn and soybeans growing in Glenn Brunkow’s fields in the rolling Flint Hills north of Wamego, Kansas, got some much needed rain recently and look healthy.

Brunkow has reason to expect a good harvest, but the way things are looking globally, he’ll lose money on the crop. Trade disputes with China, Mexico and Canada threaten to slash U.S. food exports by billions. About half the soybean crop goes overseas, most of that to China — and since mid-April, soybean prices have plunged about 20 percent and corn about 15 percent.

Just outside tiny Sheffield, Iowa, a modern steel and glass office building has sprung up next to a cornfield. Behind it, there's a plant that employs almost 700 workers making Sukup brand steel grain bins. The factory provides an economic anchor for Sheffield, population 1,125.

Charles Sukup, the company's president, says that even though workers can be hard to come by, there are no plans to relocate.

"Our philosophy is you bloom where you're planted," Sukup says with a smile.

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