From Concrete Roads to Atom Bombs

I’ve spent most of my life in Kansas City, and have the t-shirts to prove it. They say that tourists wear Chicago shirts in Chicago, New York shirts in New York, and Los Angeles shirts in Los Angeles, but anyone wearing a Kansas City t-shirt is from KC. Guilty as charged. I think I only own 2 t-shirts that aren’t KC branded. I’ve always loved this city, but it has never really loved me back. That stumped me for a long time, because I couldn’t understand why. I think I finally cracked it, after years of listening to people tell me stories about this city of ours.

You see, Kansas City has truly enormous problems. The city owns 6,000 miles of roadway, but has a public works budget for 200 miles of road per year. That means it takes 30 years for the city to revisit a single road for improvement. The city paves with asphalt, but only a concrete road lasts 30 years. With asphalt, depending on traffic levels, you need to resurface it every 3 to 7 years. And because some roads get a lot more demand than others, they get priority, and others languish.

That means that the time between service isn’t just dividing the budget by the number of miles, but is actually a distribution with some getting serviced sooner and some taking far longer.

Kansas City was built on transportation. Cowboys would drive cattle up from Texas, through Kansas, and into Kansas City’s stockyards. The cattle would be slaughtered, butchered, and distributed– hence, the Kansas City Strip, that New York tried to steal from us by calling it the New York Strip. We kept the briskets, it was a cheap cut of meat nobody wanted, and turned them into burnt ends, now in demand the world over. But most of the cows would be loaded into railroad cars and shipped to the more voluminous and better connected (via the Great Lakes) meat packing plants in Chicago. We fed cattle into the Rust Belt, and Chicago turned them into Chicago beef sandwiches. It’s fair to say Kansas City has always had some beef with Chicago.

Transportation built this town. While St. Louis has the Gateway Arch, the Oregon, California, and Santa Fe trails stayed together until after they passed through Kansas City. We were always the true gateway to the West, and the rail nexus leading north to Chicago as well. I’ve lived most of my adult life in Westport, KC’s portal to the lands out west, a stone’s throw from those trails. You can trace the old paths in the streets that remain. Even fiber networks, the transportation of bits and data – the Southern Pacific Railroad realized before many how important fiber would be. A telecom engineer named Darren Good was an employee of Southern Pacific, and worked many years on a project called Southern Pacific Railroad Internet.

S. P. R. Int. Sprint. That Sprint. The connection to American history is so clear, you can hear a pin drop. Southern Pacific Railroad Internet came right through here, and came right from here. Southern Pacific realized they could drop cable and fiber along their railroad right of way, and the first cable and fiber networks followed the railroads. Later, interstates. But they needed something to drive use of that fiber, so they put up antennas, and now that’s became the Sprint cell network, now T-Mobile.

Some of the first cables and fibers were laid along I-70, helping to inspire and support the work that Level 3 was doing across the nation, coming out Peter Kiewit and Sons Construction Company in Omaha, NE, now Kiewit Corporation. The dirty little embarrassing story about fiber internet along I-70 in Missouri will be told another time, and to be clear has nothing to do with Kiewit or Level 3, but the point here is that the Missouri segment of interstate shot cable and fiber all the way across to Denver, which eventually became the cable (and later fiber) capital of the nation. When Level 3 and CenturyLink merged, CenturyLink even digitally teleported their headquarters out of Louisiana and over to Denver.

The point of the matter here is that transportation infrastructure built Kansas City, and the city relies on the transportation infrastructure industry and everything that comes with it. With the infrastructure came the engineering firms and contractors – HNTB, Black and Veatch, Burns and McDonnell, even what would later become HOK Sport, now Populous, for a time one of the most premier stadium designers and builders in the world. And those stadiums were inspired by Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium, the standard bearers for the last generation of stadiums, the first modern generation. Now surpassed, as such happens, but for decades these stadiums in Kansas City were the standard.

And infrastructure, engineering, and construction require bonds and insurance – we had countless insurance companies grow here for that. CNA, Farmers, American Century, and more. This leads us to real estate development and homebuilding to house all the people this infrastructure demand requires to get financed, designed, engineered, constructed, and operated.

But the city has run out of rope. It’s got so many roads that it can’t afford to keep them in shape. Living here, being a member of the construction community, later the engineering community, I developed our Smart Pavement system specifically – explicitly – to fix the problems that Kansas City has with roadways. You can learn exactly how in other places, that’s not the point, and not what I’m here to discuss.

I began Integrated Roadways in 2006, but really only began working on it in earnest in 2011. We did a few demos for MoDOT and KDOT, and started trying to get traction with Kansas City, MO, my hometown, my heartland, and the reason that I invented these technologies and approaches in the first place. And yet we could never get anything done. Every attempt was a time-wasting dead-end bureaucratic maze.

It baffled me. How could I have developed these solutions specifically for this city, only to be turned away, stymied, dead-ended, and quietly backstabbed at every turn?

Then one day, the stories came together, and the picture cleared. Kansas City was deeply traumatized in its formative years by roadway entrepreneurship. And with good reason, because a Kansas City roadway entrepreneur traumatized the entire world. Kansas City reinvented concrete roadways, and that reinvention led to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Kansas City cannot seem to find it in its heart to support entrepreneurship in roadbuilding, because the last time Kansas City politicians backed a roadway entrepreneur, he took over the city, indirectly took over the nation, and that came damn close to destroying world civilization.

His name was Tom Pedergast, or “Boss Tom” as he liked to be called.

Concrete roadways were reinvented a few years before, when Mr. Black and Mr. Veatch, now namesakes of Black & Veatch, who built the Tesla Supercharger network, were contracted to build a concrete dam in De Soto, KS. When the dam was completed, they had some concrete left over, so they paved the access road to the dam with the extra concrete. Seemed like a good use of material on hand.

Well, ol’ Boss Tom had a few concrete plants he’d use for vertical construction (what most people call ‘buildings’). Once Boss Tom saw what Mr. Black & Veatch were up to, he realized he could use his concrete plants to pave Kansas City’s roads. And he realized he could use his political power to get paid really well for doing so. Back in those days, the early 1900s, there was a real estate developer named J.C. Nichols. If you’re from Kansas City, you probably know his name from the Plaza, otherwise known as JC Nichols Plaza. Or maybe you know it from JC Nichols Real Estate, now ReeseNichols. Or JC Nichols Parkway. Point is, you’ve seen the name around town once or twice. He has a reputation, and not all good.

Kansas City was a boomtown. The Civil War was firmly in the rearview, the railroads were all the way across the nation and shipping lots of goods, from Sears Roebuck prefab homes like the one I grew up in, to cattle up to Chicago for those famous Chicago Italian beef sandwiches and all-beef hotdogs. At the time, KC was one of the most populous and fastest growing cities in the country. And JC Nichols was building a lot of the houses for that. Back then, the housing development was happening to the east of Troost. Troost is now a racial dividing line in Kansas City, or at least, it has been for generations. In more recent times, due to housing costs and the presence of two Universities without significant on-campus housing both sitting on Troost – UMKC and Rockhurst University, the dividing line has started shifting back east towards Paseo.

But that’s beside the point. Troost has long been the dividing line, and most of Nichols developments were east of Troost, which was the premier, richy-rich location until white flight in the 50’s and 60’s led to the development of Johnson County. We’ll get to that soon enough.

What I’m saying is, Boss Pendergast had concrete plants, JC Nichols was building housing developments, and between the two, Kansas City was completely under their thumb. With the development of concrete roadways by Black & Veatch, Pendergast realized his opportunity.  He began to build new roads for Nichols, but not just any roads: Boulevards! Maybe you’ve had a Boulevard Beer or two. It’s good stuff.

Kansas City is now the city of boulevards and fountains, and the boulevards and fountains (and the water supply, and sewers, and everything else of note) was made with Pendergast concrete. The marvel of it all was that a boulevard is simply two roads side-by-side with a small green space between them, so instead of one road for the price of two, Pendergast was building two roads for the price of four! And between those roads he’d build a fountain and other concrete monuments, adding to the total bill to the City.

Once it was all built, Pendergast and Nichols would drop into City Hall, the tallest concrete City Hall in the nation at the time, built by Pendergast, of course, and hand over the bill to Public Works. Pendergast controlled the Democratic Party political machine at the time, and so the entire City Council was under his thumb. From Prohibition through the Great Depression he’d get all the poor folks lined up at the voting booth, plying them with cash and booze, and Pendergast would ensure that whoever he wanted elected got elected. And whoever he got elected, made sure Pendergast’s road-building bills were paid.

As you can imagine, this was a very lucrative scheme. Not only did Pendergast control the construction trades, and use them to control the political machine, he was able to collaborate with Nichols to maximize the value of the land and the amount of fraud for the both of them, making them very wealthy indeed. And later, when Prohibition hit, Pendergast’s control of the political machine to ensure that distillation of liquor and consumption of continued uninterrupted in the Kansas City area, while shipping production up the railroad lines to Al Capone in Chicago, right alongside all that beef.

While Pendergast was exploiting the Kansas City public to the best of his ability, the city was finally taking steps to fight back. Kansas City was one of the first cities to adopt open-bid public letting for roadbuilding: Instead of Pendergast building a boulevard and fountains wherever Nichols real-estate investments led him, the Public Works department would solicit bids from other builders for the necessary roadways. The builders would submit sealed bids, which would then be opened and read publicly during a bid review. Whoever submitted the lowest bid would be awarded the contract negotiation, and eventually, after a successful negotiation, receive the contract to build the new roadway. While Kansas City developed this method to fight Pendergast’s control, eventually it was adopted by essentially every public agency in the nation for building public works projects, and eventually the world.

This public letting method, while a rather clever means to defuse Pendergast control, relied on a readily measurable means of comparison – the low bid. Unfortunately, as history taught long after the method was adopted, low bid is a race to the bottom. Everyone tried to undercut each other, making the road cheaper and cheaper, which, without technical advances that create inherent cost efficiencies, leads to a reduction in quality as bidders cut corners to ensure they can bid the lowest. And since the roads were built according to the specifications of the public agency, the means and method of building roads had to be clearly explained so that all the bidders could ensure their means and methods were acceptable.

This creates two outcomes: It slows, if not entirely freezes, the ability of the industry to develop and evolve new means and methods as new technology is developed or evolves. It also creates an ouroboros cycle where public contracting becomes less and less profitable over time, resulting in less investment in equipment and labor by the business owners, resulting in less capacity for bidders to invest in inherent cost efficiency improvements from adopting new technologies. And even if the bidders can identify efficiencies, they have to exist on the delivery side – e.g. how the road is built – not on the design and engineering side, because those methods are spelled out by the Public Works department. And since public bidding requires everyone be able to bid, the means and methods have to be obtainable by anyone who wants to bid, so innovative and proprietary methods are excluded.

This pushed essentially all innovation out of roadbuilding technologies and techniques, which were controlled by the public agency, and into roadbuilding equipment and materials, which were controlled by the bidders. For decades, there has been little improvement in roadbuilding means and methods, even as the number of new innovations, improvements, and technologies available to improve the means and method of roadway design and engineering have continued to grow.

Under low bid, the only way to get new innovation adopted is to make it cheaper than the existing methods, but those methods have 100 years of efficiencies behind them, and new methods don’t. So then you have to get grants to cover the costs, but the grants are only available for academic R&D, which means as soon as something’s proven to be a good alternative, it stops getting grants, which means it stops being used. The joke is, “We only try new methods until we’re certain they work, and as soon as we’re certain they work, we stop using them”. The reason for that is simple – when we know it works, there’s no more grants, because the grants only go to the academics and public agencies, not the commercial enterprise that has to implement them. And working doesn’t mean economical, but the grants don’t go to commercial enterprise to help drive commercial economies of the new methods, so because the new method isn’t immediately cheaper than the old method, nobody uses it anymore. As soon as we’re certain it works, we stop using it. It’s bizarre! But that’s how government works.

This may have been tenable for a time, as the industry was immature and for the first few decades there was a lot of space for improvement. But as the paving industry matured, the options for ongoing improvement reduced, and the incremental improvements that remained became less and less valuable. Now, there’s an enormous gap between what we can do, and what the industry is prepared to do, and it grows every year. We keep falling further and further behind in public infrastructure, specifically because of the public-let low-bid method, that was originally adopted for a good reason – to fight corruption.

Eventually, a new approach was adopted: The private real estate developer would not only build the homes, but all the roads too! This meant that the city didn’t need to bid-let the residential roads and streets, or the connections from those roads and streets to the existing boulevards or other arterials. It also meant the city wasn’t getting stuck with Pendergast’s bill for roadbuilding on a backdoor buddy-buddy deal like with Nichols. The city would permit the development of a new area, the real estate developer would build it, then the city would incorporate the new development into the city’s tax base.

This new method brought other problems– because the roadbuilder was now working outside the city’s oversight, they would cut back the quality of the roadways to the bare minimum required to get the people and materials to the job site to get the houses built. And the builders didn’t care about the long-term quality, because the city would take over obligations once the development was incorporated, so they would build the cheapest, barest-minimum infrastructure to get people to buy the houses and make it the city’s problem. Instead of lasting 15 years, like a typical brand-new asphalt road, these low-cost real estate developer roads would last 3-5 years. Not even long enough for the development to start generating taxable revenue for the city, which takes 8-10 years. And without taxable revenue for the city, it can’t afford to fix the new-but-bad roads in the development. It was another disaster, but of a slightly different sort.

Once this was realized, a new game of cat-and-mouse began. Now the city wanted the roads to meet the city standards before they could be incorporated. The developers complained this was too expensive, and demanded tax incentives equivalent to the cost of the infrastructure from the city to build new developments. The city began to provide these incentives, adopting the cost of the infrastructure as a tax incentive package. The city would grant incentives to the developer, who would build the infrastructure, then “donate” it to the city after incorporation. Now, not only was the developer receiving the cash value of the infrastructure requirements to build the development, but also getting the tax-write-off value of the infrastructure after-the-fact from the donation. And if getting paid twice wasn’t rich enough, the developer, by donating back the infrastructure, had shifted their long-term liabilities for maintenance and operation over to the city! It was just scheme after scheme after scheme.

This is how Kansas City grew – as a patchwork of poor-quality, overly-expensive, slap-dash roadways that the city gave up-front tax incentives in exchange for their long-term liabilities. This is kind of the inverse of the “Banker’s Sin”, which is taking the obligation of long-term assets (securities) in exchange for short-term liabilities (deposits). And now, Kansas City has 6,000 miles of roadway that it holds as liabilities, but because it’s gave away its tax base as incentives to the developers for building those roadways, the city only has about 200 miles per year of budget to maintain and operate those roads. It’s a death spiral.

Cities don’t spend their tax revenue, they use their revenue to finance municipal bonds, which is long-term debt, therefore a liability. They spend their revenue on the interest on muni bonds, and then spend the muni bonds on capital expenses (CapEx) and operations expenses (OpEx). This approach allows the city to benefit from inflation. But a city’s bonding capacity is an product of the ratio of their revenues against their liabilities. So as their bond load goes up, their ratio of current revenues to current liabilities goes down. And infrastructure is usually a big asset, because it creates taxable base that generates revenue. But infrastructure is also a big liability, because it costs a lot to keep roads in good repair. When the city’s roads fall into disrepair, it increases future liabilities, because it’ll cost a lot to fix those roads. This increase in liabilities results in a change in the proportion of assets to liabilities that can reduce a city’s bond capacity, because they’re less able to guarantee future payments. Making matters worse, the increased risk of default can change their credit rating, which raises the interest rate on bonds, because of the increased default risk.

A road is an asset when it’s “above fair”, because its NPV is greater than one. That is, it’s generating more revenue from the improved tax base the road supports, than the cost of the road. But when a road’s quality is “below fair”, its NPV is less than one, because it costs more to maintain the road than the tax base that the road supports. This flips the road from being a net asset at above fair condition, to a net liability at below fair condition. As a city continues to pile on infrastructure liabilities, but spend their bond on OpEx (maintaining roads to get them “above fair”, or > 60% original quality) instead of CapEx (reconstructing roads to return them to 100% original quality), their financial situation deteriorates.

I asked someone very prominent at City Hall one time, if they can’t afford to repave roads on the schedule that’s necessary to keep them in “above fair” condition, why not shift away from asphalt resurfacing and back towards full depth reconstruction with concrete, so that the road would last until its next planned service? I was told something very enlightening. Think about how the city’s budget operates. 1/3 of its annual budget comes right off the top and goes to Emergency Services – Police, Fire, Ambulance. Cities can’t really touch this part, and for Kansas City, they absolutely can’t touch it, because it’s controlled by the Missouri Governor’s office – that’s a whole other story. And even if the city could touch that, public employees are not permitted to donate to political campaigns, so changing budgets for emergency services doesn’t directly influence politics.

But where’s the next chunk go? The next one is the Public Works budget. That money goes to the developers, engineering firms, contractors, suppliers, and other builders that provide our roads, water lines, sewer lines, and all the other infrastructure utilities funded by public money. These companies get a lion’s share of the city’s budget, and they have the largest stake in how the city spends its money. The firms that benefit from the city’s Public Works budget fund the campaigns for the Councilpeople who then allocate those budgets back to the companies that are owned and controlled by the people who donated to their campaigns! These guys control City Council and will ensure, like Boss Tom used to, that anyone not under their thumb has no chance of election – or on the rare chance someone does get elected despite that, the other Councilpeople will ensure they can’t get anything done to change it.

I asked this person, doesn’t that hurt everyone? Why not invest more in the Capital Improvement Budget to fund full depth reconstructions so that, slowly, the city can turn itself around and get long-term assets that don’t require as much maintenance and repair. And the answer to that is, it’s far more lucrative to get the same resurfacing job every few years, and use the same equipment that was paid off 20 years ago, than it is to take a risk on winning a contract for a larger, less frequent rebuild.

As it was 100 years ago, the builders, speculators, and real estate developers, not the citizens, run this town.

Resurfacing asphalt is a jobs program that reliably, and with basically no visibility to the public, continues to shove cash towards the same entrenched interests, year after year, without anyone questioning it.  After all, we really need to fix these roads! Just don’t look too close at why they never actually get fixed, or why they were in such bad condition in the first place.

Boss Tom’s ghost continues to haunt this city to this day, and it seems like it always will.

But how in the hell did this lead to the bombings in Japan? We’ll get there, but you’ll have to tolerate more wonkish public works history first. Not because it’s relevant, but because I feel like sharing.

You see, JC Nichols didn’t like black people. He really, really, really didn’t like black people. He would write requirements into the deeds of the homes that his company built (I originally wrote “he built” but we all know JC never lifted a hammer once in his life, all the work was done by poor laborers employed by the rich owners of construction firms) that would in perpetuity prevent the transfer of ownership to black persons – called far less charitable names at the time. Go on, look at KC deeds, nearly all of the homes built in KC prior to the Civil Rights Act or Fair Housing Act include transfer covenants preventing sale to blacks, Latinos, indigenous peoples, and more. It was all suuuuuuper racist. And because deeds and titles are expensive to alter, most of those covenants remain, unless the homeowner specifically spends more money to have it removed.

But that wasn’t good enough. JC went further. Since some owners were not racist like Nichols, and were willing to violate the covenants on the deeds to sell homes to black people anyway, Nichols used his wealth and influence with banks to prevent the issuance of mortgages to anyone he didn’t like, within the areas that he defined – his neighborhoods. This was called “redlining”. As black people (and others) “encroached” on JC Nichols wealthy neighborhoods east of Troost, the racist component wanted to flee to somewhere “safe”. These were the origins of white flight, and the origins of Johnson County, KS.

Kansas City has always been a font of innovation, unfortunately, for most of our history, it’s been a font of innovation for racism and corruption. We’ll talk about that more in a moment.

Economic inequalities between whites and blacks (disregarding other minorities for the moment, and with sincere apologies for such disregard) meant that white people were more likely to own cars, and black people were more likely to rely on streetcars and other public transportation. The city implemented a pretty straight-forward method of preventing black people from reaching Johnson County – they limited the number of east-west roadways that cross State Line into Kansas. Just look at a map, please, and you will see this plainly.

The city is laid out on a grid of short blocks and long blocks, with eight long blocks per mile north-south, and sixteen short blocks per mile east-west. This is why we have major streets at 15th (now I-70 downtown), 23rd, 31st, 39th, 47th, 55th, 63rd (go on, look, dammit! You’ll see this plain as day!), 71st, 79th, 87th, 95th, 103rd, 111th, 119th, 127th, 135th, 143rd, 151st… it continues. Did you ever notice that before? And of course, there are minor arterials on each fourth street, at about ½ mile spacings. 35th, 43rd, 51st, etc. You know how to count by 8s, I should hope, I probably don’t need to do it for you.

But check the map again for State Line crossings, where are they? 31st & 39th cross State Line, but immediately terminate before hitting Mission. 43rd crosses, but stops at Mission. 47th is broken. And once you hit Shawnee Mission Parkway, there’s no crossing until 75th three miles to the south. These detours would have been simple for motorists to take without much inconvenience, but were wildly out of route for anyone walking, and didn’t have any service from streetcar lines that minorities would be more likely to rely on. Not building consistent east-west crossings across State Line from Kansas City to Johnson County was public policy, albeit unspoken, for decades during the white flight era as the white population shifted from east of Troost and into Johnson County.

After 75th street, we pick up at 83rd and 95th as one would expect from the pattern. By the time the city was that far south, we were already starting to get past the Civil Rights era where this kind of behavior could be excused or ignored. That didn’t stop it by a long shot, but it slowed things down.

And when the interstates came, they were run through the “low-cost real estate” areas. As it so happened, those were the black and Latino neighborhoods. This was right after the Civil Rights period, when they couldn’t overtly oppress black and Latino voters anymore, and those minority voting blocs were growing in power as the traditional white voters moved to Kansas. What did they do? Well, they ran the damn interstates through, just east of Troost in the heart of black voting power, and I-35 through the heart of the Latino voting bloc at Southwest Boulevard. Hell, US-71 remained unfinished until what, 2006? The citizens were uprooted and scattered ASAP, but the highway itself wasn’t built for decades!

Back before interstates, Kansas City had one of the best streetcar systems in the nation. It went all over the place and took people everywhere they needed to go – as long as it wasn’t from poor black neighborhoods to wealthy white neighborhoods. This was eventually discarded during the Great Streetcar Scandal in the 1950s, where General Motors began buying up streetcar and interurban rail systems throughout the United States to convert them to rubber tire busses, to sell more motors and tires. And once the streetcars were gone, and the busses were more expensive and inconvenient, GM then sold back the now-useless bus systems to the cities. And since the busses were largely useless and the streetcars were gone, now everyone needed cars to get around, and the city became a parking lot.

But how does this relate to the atom bomb? Fine, dammit, I’ll tell you, we’ve shot past that moment already, so let’s go back and take a look. Pendergast was the boss of the Democratic machine, and at that moment in time, Democrats were wildly opposed to minorities. They’re better now at pretending otherwise. Pendergast made ass loads of money from civic corruption and illegal booze, enabling him to fuel Democratic elections far beyond Kansas City, making Pendergast the most prominent Democratic political boss in the nation, and at the time, Kansas City was one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the nation. Kansas City ties to organized crime and corrupt real estate developers led to the KC mob developing Las Vegas as a way to launder their ill-gotten gains, which is explored quite famously in the movie Casino.

And when it was time for a Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States after Roosevelt died, the most important Democratic political boss in the nation, Tom Pendergast, tapped one of the most reliably under-the-thumb politicians in the Kansas City area: Harry S Truman.

Truman’s family home is just a few miles from here. I used to walk past it regularly when I’d go to Roanoke Park and look for the secret walls where the cave openings were covered over after those kids went missing in the cavern system. That’s a whole thing. I’ve been inside Truman’s old squat many times, but not in a long time. Harry was a relatively meek and mild man, browbeaten by his mother and later his wife to do as he was told, which Pendergast appreciated. When Pendergast tapped Truman to be President, he knew Truman would do as the Democratic party ordered him to. And since Truman struggled with his self-image and perceptions of his own masculinity, when it came time to be strong and determined, to give a show of force by dropping atom bombs on Japan, Truman gave the go-ahead.

I’m not saying that was right or wrong. I’m just saying Truman was the trigger man, Boss Tom put him there, and the political corruption and corporate control over Kansas City is what gave Boss Tom that opportunity.

The reinvention of concrete roadways in Kansas City empowered and enriched Pendergast, whose wealth and machinations, in conjunction with JC Nichols real estate development, drove the adoption of public let low-bid roadbuilding, redlining, liquor bootlegging, avoision of east-west routes, destruction of streetcars and interurban rails, white flight, interstates destroying minority communities, and this long sordid tale wended its way to the development of Las Vegas, and finally the Presidency of Harry Truman.

We are both the crossroads of the nation, and its heartland. It’s no surprise that many of the awful, corrupt, and discriminatory practices over the last 100 years can trace a line back to Kansas City.