Last week, I had a morning court appearance at the downtown Kansas City courthouse. Traffic on I-70 was less than cooperative, and so the typical extra time I plan for such a trip had largely been absorbed.
After entering the courthouse and going through security, I was still right on time. But there was a mob of people piled up in the hallway, waiting their turn to board one of the two functioning passenger elevators that service the bustling 15-story building.
What a mess.
It took 20 minutes to get to the seventh floor.
At times this busy building has been down to only one functioning passenger elevator. Those are really bad days.
In better times, when all four of the passenger elevators that are supposed to service the busy building were working, that was barely adequate to effectively get people where they needed to be in the building in reasonable fashion.
Yes, I know that a plumbing disaster in January of last year is at the root of the problem. But that was more than a year ago, and its use as an acceptable excuse for inaction has passed.
Now, the situation is ridiculous and frankly a bit embarrassing when one thinks about how this courthouse is the primary seat of our judicial system in Jackson County, with lawyers and litigants and visitors from the county, the region, and all over the country that come here.
I understand that stuff happens with buildings that can give rise to occasional inconvenience, but after months and months of this horrendous situation, which materially effects the functionality of our busiest courthouse, I would say that Jackson Countians deserve an answer.
I know I’d like one.
Responsibility for maintenance of the courthouse is vested in the county government, led by County Executive Frank White Jr.
Like all Kansas Citians, I loved Frank White as a baseball player. But since he has become county executive, a spotty and troubling record at taking care of business has emerged.
In addition to the long-standing and extreme disrepair situation with the elevators, bathroom fixtures in men’s rooms at the downtown courthouse have been likewise chronically out of commission. On one of the busiest floors, the only men’s room has for months and months now had one of its two fixtures covered with a trash bag and duct tape, with an out of order sign. This too is a bit inconvenient, and I wonder: Will this ever get fixed?
Add to that a host of other problems and issues under White’s watch with the well-documented and troubling situation at the county jail facility, questions about his office’s handling of COMBAT funds and practices, his well-documented personal problems with foreclosure proceedings and a subsequent mysterious bailout that apparently saved his family home, and tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent tax obligations over a number of years, and a distinct pattern emerges.
I really hate to bag on Kansas City Royalty and one of my greatest boyhood sports heroes, but come on, Frank, do us all a huge favor and focus on fixing the downtown courthouse, for crying out loud.
That would be enough for me.
Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at email@example.com.