The Kansas City Star from Kansas City, Missouri on June 17, 1993 · 87
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The Kansas City Star from Kansas City, Missouri · 87

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Kansas City, Missouri
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Thursday, June 17, 1993
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87
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THURSDAY June 17 1993 Op JLti in ion THE KANSAS CITY STAR JO C-15 Mayor working hard at overcoming criticism Cleaver does deserve credit for his efforts but doubt and distrust of detractors won’t be easily dispelled Sometimes Mayor Emanuel Cleaver just can’t win Fine don’t feel sorry for him He wanted the most important political job YAEL T ABOUHALKAH in Kansas City right? Certainly his detractors don’t care that Cleaver thinks he too often faces unfair hostile reactions from the media and the public But even though it won’t win any Brownie points with people who claim the city is meandering during Cleaver’s watch it’s time to review a few recent actions — and reactions — by the mayor Yes he is a hard worker who generally is trying to do what’s best for the city In the end of course he still needs positive results to quiet people who contend he’s too thin-skinned or indecisive For instance Cleaver has been criticized for being gone during some important times for the city In early May he came back to town to discover that a mutinous City Council majority had decided to oust former City Manager Dave Olson This week though the traveling mayor was in Los Angeles on the day Transamerica Life Cos announced it would transfer an operation from LA to Kansas City — and bring 500 jobs to the local economy If the company winds up in a Downtown office building Cleaver deserves double credit for helping to talk the firm into coming to this area and then into Kansas City proper Cleaver sensitive to his wandering reputation sent over a short note late last week The subject: securing the National Forum for Black Public Administrators conference from April 4-10 in 1997 in Kansas City “I went to Sacramento to get this convention” Cleaver wrote “Either I am going to put on a full-court press or sit and watch other cities “I won’t get all but I’ll get some” Economic development is clearly important to the mayor Pursuing it just has to be balanced with the need to attend to other concerns Two weeks ago my column criticized the lack of progress in urban-suburban cooperation noting at one point that the Metropolitan Mayors Conference formed by Cleaver had no major accomplishments after operating for two years This wasn’t Cleaver’s fault the article mainly was written to point out how suburban leaders often talk a great game of cooperation but don’t follow through Cleaver responded a few days later saying a few local mayors had bristled at that conclusion It was he wrote “hardly encouragement for a group trying to undo in two years the polarization which has been under construction for the past 25 years” Cleaver said the mayors’ council was proud of the Metropolitan Human Relations Council it had created And the mayors he said had strongly endorsed successful bi-state cultural district legislation in Kansas and Missouri Indeed that bill had been noted as one of the bright spots As for the human relations group its importance remains unclear The organization provides an easy way out for suburban politicians real estate agents and business leaders who can say “See we’re doing our part to help ease tension in this area” even as they keep trying to lure home buyers and companies to the hinterlands Meanwhile as noted above Cleaver has to tone down his “we’re-all-in-this-together” rhetoric as he promotes Kansas City Urban-suburban cooperation too often remains a myth in this area Now compare the Cleaver plan of 1989 to the Odyssey 2000 proposal of 1993 The mayor using raw political power rammed a spending idea through the City Council almost four years ago That plan grabbed $164 million of future sales revenue and designated it for projects such as Brush Creek flood control and a new American Royal complex The people didn't get to vote on the matter Since then Cleaver has repeatedly said in interviews that important projects are getting done and he had provided leadership in spending the money But the mayor also seems to have realized the damage that the Cleaver plan did to voter confidence in City Hall Late last year he appointed a group of civic leaders to hold public meetings and design a public improvements package and tax increase The result is a pretty solid Odyssey 2000 package that Cleaver pushed through the City Council and put on the Aug 3 ballot Cleaver now says distrust of politicians makes it necessary to have tax elections as clearly spelled out as possible He’s right Which brings us to our last item: The $25000 that some source wants to give the city to help pay for a national city manager search to replace Olson Cleaver during part of a half-hour interview last week defended potential acceptance of the money saying the donors wanted no control of the process and were “leading citizens” Still it’s impossible for people to know what the donor is or isn’t trying to do if the identity remains a secret An editorial stating that position appeared late Monday afternoon Andy Scott the mayor’s new top aide called to make it clear that Cleaver has always intended to name the donors but only after a proper way has been found to get the money to City Hall Point noted and accepted A few minutes later a responsible active neighborhood leader was on the phone expressing reservations about the Odyssey 2000 plan fearing that Cleaver Plan II could be around the corner “1 just can’t trust Cleaver” the person said And the beat goes on Violent profane bleak film merits wide audience ‘Menace II Society’ bludgeons viewers into a frame of mind akin to that of the movie’s characters Washington Post Writers Group WASHINGTON — Allen Hughes one of the 21 -year-old twin brothers who directed the movie “Menace II Society” says “Our intention was to have the audience turn away” These two African-American prodigies have made a stunning troubling movie that compels contemplation GEORGE F WILL of this question: In a nation saturated with violence can a portrayal of violence be valuable because it is therapeutic? The answer may be: Yes if the portrayal is so relentlessly realistic that it nearly sickens viewers and strengthens their resolve to enforce domestic tranquility “Menace” does this from the first frames showing the casual murder of a Korean couple in their convenience store to the final fusillade of the drive-by shooting that kills the movie’s protagonist and narrator Caine Caine is shown as the essentially unparented child of an addictive mother (soon dead of an overdose) and a murderous father who guns down a man during a living room card game At the end of the movie a child watches Caine die The movie’s unrelievedly bleak message is that the intergenerational transmission of violence will continue Thb almost randomness of the killings and beatings and the almost affectlessness of the killers and beaters combined with the numbing profanity of people whose most common locutions are the coarsest in the language bludgeon the audience into a frame of mind akin to the fatalism that envelops most of the movie’s characters The Hughes brothers live in Pomona quite a social distance from the grim Los Angeles neighborhoods their movie portrays as grinders of young lives The script was written by another young African-American Tyger Williams 24 who calls himself “a suburban child” He says accurately that “Menace” is less like the most successful — until now — movie portrayal of Los Angeles gang life “Boyz N the Hood” than it is like “GoodFellas” “GoodFellas” an unblinking and entirely unsentimental look at the violent world of petty white New York mobsters was a brilliantly made movie that arguably should not have been made It told a truth rigorously but in a nation echoing with gunfire there may be some subjects too savage too desensitizing to be suitable for mass entertainment “Menace” tells a more important truth about the savagery engulfing wide swaths of America’s cities But might the telling of it contribute to the contagion? The critic whose judgment I trust most concerning such movies is Leroy O’Shield a 50-year old African-American who is the no-nonsense commander of Chicago’s West Side 1 5th police district a dangerous place In his astringent opinion “Boyz N the Hood” is a “train ing film” for crime communicating “the mystique of being tough” He noted that one of Chicago’s most violent weekends followed the showing of “Boyz” on HBO At my request he saw “Menace II Society” last weekend and came away with mixed emotions The movie’s violence extraordinary in quantity and character may he thinks be necessary to attract into theaters the inner city young men who need to see violence presented without a scintilla of romanticism The American Psychological Association says that by the time an average television-watching movie-going (never mind video game-playing) American child reaches seventh grade he or she has witnessed 8000 murders and more than 100000 other acts of violence But the child probably has never seen violence rendered as convincingly as “Menace” does — unless he or she lives in one of urban America’s war zones O’Shield is pleased whenever he sees movies with strong and caring adult males in inner city settings In “Menace” one such a teacher says to a pair of young men “Being a black man in America isn’t easy The hunt is on and you’re the prey” But the point that the movie hammers home is that the predators are young black men 1 wish for “Menace” a huge audience of young inner city males who need to see violence drained of all traits or consequences that could make it charismatic “Menace” also deserves a large audience of American adults for two reasons First it is an utterly unsweetened taste of life in a portion of America that is as foreign to most Americans as say Somalia Such convincing works of art — Richard Price’s 1992 novel dockers is another — are invaluable contributions to the nation’s stock of realism Second “Menace II Society” may help concentrate the public’s mind on the nation’s bizarre misallocation of its energies Since “Menace” opened on May 26 US soldiers have been sent on a “peacekeeping” mission to Macedonia and have punished a Somalian "warlord” responsible for the deaths of 23 Pakistani soldiers Between May 26 and June 1 3 97 people were murdered in Los Angeles County- Just one part of one urban area Just 1 9 days New World Army needed for New World Order There are many superpowers these days starting with China and Serbia the US is on down the list © 1993 Universal Press NEW YORK — “In this post-Cold War era we are at a new moment” said Secretary of State Warren Christopher last Monday at the opening session of the UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna “We must sharpen tools of human rights diplomacy to address problems before they escalate into violence” He said exactly what I for one wanted to hear “Those who desecrate these RICHARD REEVES rights must know that they will face sanctions They will be brought before tribunals of international justice They will not gain access to assistance or investment” Wish I believed it But I am as depressed as anyone else by what I see and read and hear every day of the post-Cold War era It seems painfully obvious that the US the surviving superpower does not have the will to answer Christopher’s noble call And if we had the will we still would not have enough power The one-superpower world expressed briefly as a New World Order was a delusion If a superpower is defined as a state that can do whatever it wishes then there are many superpowers now beginning with China and Serbia The United States is pretty far down the list especially if what we want are the goals and actions laid out by Christopher We have already learned to our dismay that with the tools we have now we cannot control events or outcomes even in a place as powerless and wretched as Soma lia As for sharpening those tools in this case military tools it would not make any difference if our jets were faster our missiles more accurate our night-vision binoculars more perfect There are obstacles we cannot overcome beginning with the historical (and usually sensible) predilection of the American people to avoid entangling alliances abroad Beyond that we cannot get around the fact that men and women only fight fiercely fanatically and endlessly for what is theirs their land and their God We can go to Grenada or Iraq and have our way for as long as we stay But one day we must leave and the people on that ground will still be there Finally we are unwilling or unable to prevent other governments or their opposition from doing what they will to their people and making weapons (and some money) for other governments to tyrannize their own people China the abuser of human rights the arms manufacturer the potential great market of the future is the massive example of all of the above — and recipient of most-favored-nation status in trade with the United States So in this time when visual images try men’s souls what are we to do? I would say we have two choices: We can forget about it Tell the world what we think and mind our own business Turn off the pictures of blood brutality and famine — change the channel Or we can get new tools Begin working toward stand-alone international humani-tarianism human rights and military capacity I would opt for the latter with new institutions under UN flags roughly modeled after: ( I ) Medecins Sans Frontiers the brave French doctors who go where they are needed first and ask permission later (2) the various US democracy institutes that may have an arrogant American vision but do try to show people that human thinking has progressed some beyond might-makes-right and survival-of-thc-filtest and (3) the old French Foreign Legion but this time with professional soldiers answerable to no nation or government under career commanders as combat-ready as the 82nd Airborne — standing by (lor early intervention to block the dreams and schemes of warlords and crazed politicians “Early” intervention is the key to international action In the most obvious example of the uselessness of the old tools Bosnia a standing international force could have moved when the shelling of Dubrovnik began more than a year ago but no single country most especially the superpower US A had reason or will to send its own troops out to die Would regular international intervention work? Who knows? All 1 am sure of is that what we arc doing now will not work no matter how eloquently the secretary of stafli is arguing that it should ) VIEWPOINT Kansas City horror story had big role in rise of FBI By JEFF LANZA A few days ago I walked across the deteriorating sidewalk of Kansas City’s Union Station and searched for evidence of a tragic crime But I wasn’t there to lift fingerprints and take photographs That was not necessary because an investigation into the crime had already taken place — six decades ago I was there on a historical mission to look for something that memorialized an event that shocked a nation and changed the Federal Bureau of Investigation forever I stood on the spot of the Kansas City Massacre which occurred 60 years ago today I carried a somewhat obscure connection to the notorious crime: I am assigned FBI badge number 4920 the same badge that was once carried by FBI agent Frank Smith Smith had survived the barrage of bullets that killed four lawmen a prisoner and wounded two others The carnage happened at the hands of “Pretty Boy” Floyd and two other hoodlums The attack changed American attitudes about crime and law enforcement It also had a dramatic influence on the evolution of the FBI as an organization and on its sphere of power and jurisdiction On June 17 1933 Union Station was an active thriving landmark and center-piece It was a hub of transportation in the middle of America However at about 7:20 am the station became an “arena of horror” according to an account in The Star Events leading to the massacre began the day before when escaped convict Frank Nash was taken into custody in Hot Springs Ark by Smith and Joe Lackey both agents of the Bureau of Investigation which later became the FBI They were assisted by Otto Reed police chief in McAlister Okla They escorted Nash to Kansas City by train where he was to be transported in the car of agent Raymond Caffrey to Leavenworth Penitentiary With Caffrey were Bureau agent Reed Vetterli and two Kansas City detectives WJ Grooms and Frank Hermanson While the lawmen waited Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd Vernon Miller and Adam Richetti stood by armed with machine guns and ready to free Nash The train arrived on schedule at 7:15 am and Nash was immediately taken to CafTrey’s car As the party was getting into the car Floyd Miller and Richetti rushed forward One shouted “Up up!” There was no time for the lawmen to reach for their weapons The next order came quickly: “Let ’em have it!” The group fired relentlessly with machine guns from all sides of Caffrey’s car The result was truly a massacre Grooms Hermanson Reed and Caffrey were killed Lackey and Vetterli were injured Only Smith was unharmed Ironically Nash also was killed The roar of gunfire on that Saturday morning at Union Station sent a shock wave across the country The massacre caused an uproar in the political and law enforcement communities It was a watershed in the public’s opinion of crime and gangsterism and served as a catalyst for a cry for law and order The massacre triggered dramatic changes in the Bureau a relatively small agency composed of investigators without the authority to carry firearms or make arrests A young J Edgar Hoover did not miss the opportunity created by public outrage and the demand for more effective law enforcement The evolution was rapid On May 18 1934 less than a year later President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law several statutes increasing the Bureau’s jurisdiction A month later agents were given power of arrest and authority to carry firearms at all times The agency renamed the FBI on July 1 1935 was given the mandate power and tools to fight gangster crime Six months after the massacre Vernon Miller was murdered by fellow mobsters in Detroit In October of 1934 “Pretty Boy” Floyd was killed in a shoot-out with FBI agents on a farm in Ohio Adam Richetti was arrested in 1934 and after a trial and conviction for murder he was executed in the gas chamber at the Missouri State Penitentiary Richetti’s execution closed the case on the Kansas City Massacre But 60 years later carrying the badge once assigned to Frank Smith I viewed the physical evidence at Union Station of one of the country’s most notorious crimes Smith came away from the attack unscathed But some of the bullets that were meant for him and other lawmen made their mark on an outside wall of Union Station After 60 years the holes are still visible near the station’s boarded east entrance Apparent in the near ruins of the station the bullet holes remain as an obscure but enduring memorial to the legacy and tragedy of the Kansas City Massacre Jeff Lanza a special agent with the FBI since 1988 is assigned to the Kansas dty division where he investigates white-collar crime '

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