Duren N. (Skip) Sleyster ( us2 )
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|Birth: Mar. 29, 1924 - Kansas City - Jackson County - Missouri, USA
Death: Apr. 30, 2009 - Jackson County - Missouri, USA
One moment of your time please. . . Duren Neil "Skip" Sleyster, 85, from the Blue Valley area of Kansas City, passed away unexpectedly on April 30, 2009......
Skip Sleyster, a big Blue River valley landowner and political
gadfly, said he thinks the old steel plant ought to be used for its intended purpose. Sleyster
said he has talked with the owner of a nonunion steel mill in the South about buying the
City hall scandals rival Pendergast
A story in last week's Business Journal outlined the wish of area businessman Skip Sleyster to turn two buildings in the Crossroads district into a museum dedicated to the memory of political boss Tom Pendergast.
Sleyster needn't bother.
If people today want to learn about political corruption on a scale that would make Boss Tom smile, they have only to visit Kansas City's City Hall or the Jackson County Courthouse. That sounds harsh, but what else can you conclude after the recent indictment of Elbert Anderson on 14 counts, including allegations of numerous bribes paid to government officials to gain access to lucrative grants and contracts?
Anderson, who resigned last year as head of the Kansas City Port Authority, surely has legal defenses and ethical excuses. But keep in mind that the indictment comes after federal prosecutors gained the cooperation of one of Anderson's close business associates, Michelle Lathan, and former Kansas City Council member D. Jeanne Robinson, who allegedly received his bribes.
The Anderson indictment is even more sickening because it carries specific allegations of bribery to the Jackson County Courthouse and former County Legislature Chairman James Tindall. Prosecutors claim that Anderson made payments to Tindall to guarantee county support for Black Expo, an event staged in Kansas City by Anderson's company.
Where will federal investigations of festering corruption in local government end? Who knows anymore?
Some wounds can be healed with a Band-Aid (or a Red Flag Commission), others require a scalpel first. The infection of our government institutions needs to be cleaned out by prosecutors and voters willing to excise anything or anyone touched by the scandal. It won't be pretty and it won't be painless, but it is absolutely vital.
Let's hope prosecutors and voters have the stomach and vigilence to stick with this task. Then maybe we can put Pendergast and all other figures associated with corruption in Kansas City government where they truly belong -- in the distant past.
Tear down Tom's haunts ?
Former Pendergast headquarters targeted in redevelopment flapJim Davis Staff Writer
Two of Tom Pendergast's old haunts have become the focus of debate about how to revive the timeworn Crossroads District between Downtown and Crown Center in Kansas City.
The Kansas City Council last week passed a resolution to raze the shuttered Hotel Monroe at 19th and Main streets, which neighboring business owners have tagged as an eyesore that scares away investment.
"If you interest one user, it would provide a positive investment in what we want to do: Use public money to stimulate private investment," said Kansas City Councilman Jim Glover, who introduced a resolution to fund the Monroe's demolition with $100,000 of city sales tax revenues.
Adjacent structures that could be ripe for revitalization include a two-story building at 1908 Main St. that once served as headquarters for Tom Pendergast, who dominated local government in Depression-era Kansas City.
"This could be a start for upgrading Downtown," said Eugene Novorr, president of the Crossroads Local Development Corp. and owner of Michael's Fine Clothes for Men at 1830 Main St. "It's the first time I've heard the city doing something for Crossroads."
But these plans face opposition from Skip Sleyster, one of the hotel's owners, who has gained notoriety through a weekly ad he buys in The Kansas City Star to comment on the local scene and promote his flea market.
"All I can tell Mr. Glover is he better stay up on Linwood and Main Street," Sleyster said, referring to the midtown site that awaits redevelopment under the city's Glover Plan. "If he does come down here, he'll have a fight."
Sleyster said he wants to turn the hotel and adjoining building into a Pendergast museum. He complained that his efforts have been stymied by the headquarter building's principal owner, Fred Solberg.
"The guy next door is dragging his feet," Sleyster said. "If I could get him to turn it over to me, this would make a beautiful museum."
Rick Solberg, son of Fred Solberg, dismissed the idea because he said it's not economically feasible. The hotel needs to be secured against trespassers, Fred Solberg said, because it's infested with vagrants. What's more, he said, it's unheated and a fire trap.
"We're not seeking to get it torn down," said Fred Solberg, who hasn't contacted Sleyster about the building. "We're seeking to get it secured. It's not our responsibility. It's the city's."
Sleyster said the old hotel isn't his most pressing concern. But if he could gain control of the Pendergast building, Sleyster said, he's ready to bankroll a rehabilitation that also could include apartments on the hotel's upper floors.
"We don't want to destroy our past," said Sleyster, 72, who recalls that the Pendergast machine helped feed him during the Depression. "The (hotel's) bones are not deteriorated: the concrete structure. It wouldn't take very much to bring it back. It's viable."
Novorr and other neighboring merchants disagree. Eliminating the Monroe is their top priority.
"It has become a symbol for the whole economic decline of that area," said Cary Goodman, an architect at Gould Evans Goodman Associates of Kansas City who expects to complete a planning report for the area that he will give the city next month.
The need for these upgrades becomes more timely in light of the new Science City at Union Station's opening a few blocks south on Pershing Road, scheduled for late 1999.
"It would be wonderful to see that area become a major area for redevelopment," Goodman said. "Sometimes, getting rid of a building will bring in new investment, sort of like what's happening along Southwest Boulevard."
Rod Anderson, who owns the Hereford House restaurant that has been at 20th and Main streets since 1957, said he and neighboring fellow business owners want to improve the Main Street streetscape with new curbs, gutters and sidewalks. They're also trying to fill vacant buildings and upgrade building facades.
At their last meeting, on Feb. 20, officials from the Economic Development Corp. of Kansas City and the Kansas City Department of Housing and Community Development discussed how they could fund this work.
Novorr, who has worked at Michael's for 50 years and whose father opened the clothing store in 1905 at its current location, said the Crossroads District could be on the verge of a renaissance. As evidence, he pointed to nearby art galleries, whose Friday night openings are filling sidewalks with crowds. Improved street lighting along Main Street would help to extend this activity, Novorr said.
"It will be a start in getting people to start walking the streets like they do the Plaza," he said. "It will give Kansas City a start that the Crossroads has needed for years.
"We can do more for the city in revitalizing Downtown than any other area. We want to give people a reason to come Downtown."
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