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Local merchants grateful for Chiefs camp business

The 10th Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph brought in a record number of attendees, and with them hopes for increased revenue around the city for the month of August.

While reports from years past have indicated the Chiefs camp’s impact on the local economy and tourism numbers could be overestimated, Hi-Ho Bar & Grill employee Mark McKnight said the bar benefits from camp every year.

“We’ve seen a great impact, especially from the Greater Kansas City area,” McKnight said. “I had a couple of ladies come in from Omaha that used to go to Wisconsin every year, and they said they absolutely adore and love coming to St. Joe.”

Estimating the number of people who come to St. Joseph and spend money is difficult, said Lindsay Bernard, sports marketing sales manager and visitor relations manager of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. It will take at least another month until the county sales revenue numbers for August are official, but it’s not only fans who are spending money.

“The Kansas City Chiefs organization alone, just knowing the number of people that they bring to camp for players, staff, and media, without even including our fans, is about half a million dollars just over a 15-day period,” Bernard said. “So that is a huge chunk.”

The Kansas City Chiefs moved summer training camp to St. Joseph in 2010 after having trained in Wisconsin for several years. Former state senator Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, played a crucial part in negotiating a $25 million tax credit package that brought the Chiefs back to Missouri. In addition to revenue, there are intangible benefits of having training camp in St. Joseph, he said.

“If you look at the notoriety that St. Joseph and Missouri Western gets, it’s pretty hard to put a dollar figure on that. People coming to town, that’s all been very positive,” Shields told News-Press NOW. “There are some of those things you don’t think about. The impact on young people who get to meet those players, it’s hard to put a value on that.”

The despite the camp’s location on the east side of St. Joseph, McKnight said plenty of visitors find their way Downtown.

“The distance between Downtown and campus doesn’t deter people because what brings them in is the Downtown area with its history,” McKnight said. “It’s such a quaint little town that we have here and people who live here need to discover what we do have and appreciate what he have.”

A special event brought hundreds of fans to Downtown St. Joseph on July 26. Made With Uncommon Character, a St. Joseph branding collaborative of communications managers of local businesses and organizations, organized the Red Rally for the first time this year.

“I think historically, visitors would stay more out towards campus,” Bernard said. “This year, the Downtown group worked really hard to do some promotion and get them down here.”

McKnight and Bernard both hope the Chiefs will return to St. Joseph next year. Even if the team moves its training camp, Bernard hopes some attendees will find their way back.

“They don’t realize what all St. Joseph has here,” Bernard said. “And then they see it. They maybe don’t have the time to stay that day, but then they are planning a return trip and they’re coming back. That’s our hope.

Good news for the good book
Trade war won't affect Bibles made in China

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative posted a 21-page list that reveals the immense scale of this county’s trade with China.

The list outlines Chinese-made consumer goods that are subject to a future import tariff, from pesticides and pet toys to TV sets and T-shirts. Those products face a 10 percent tariff in December, all part of the escalating trade tension between the United States and China.

The list is notable for what doesn’t appear on those 21 pages: the Bible. That’s good news for Christians who feared a tariff would amount to a “Bible tax,” resulting in a price increase or supply shortage for what’s easily the best-selling book in America.

“It’s as popular as it’s ever been,” said Jeanne Modlin, co-owner of a Christian book and gift store called Blessings of St. Joseph. “We sell a lot of Bibles, especially at Christmastime. That’s a number one item.”

Christian publishers began to worry in May when the United States placed Bibles and other religious texts on a list of items that faced an import tariff. Like shoes and smartphones, Bible production has moved to China, with fewer domestic companies able or willing to accommodate the thin paper, illustrations and other specialized printing needs that go into production of Bibles.

About half the world’s Bibles, possibly as many as 150 million copies, are printed in China, according to the Associated Press. In the United States, churches and religious publishers were able to breathe a sigh of relief last week when the Trump administration moved to exclude Bibles from future rounds of tariffs, meaning prices and supplies are likely to remain stable.

”Traditionally, historically, books have been excluded from tariffs,” Stan Jantz, president of CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, told the Associated Press.

For someone like Scott Killgore, pastor of Wyatt Park Christian Church, the Bible isn’t just another consumer good piled into a shipping container. His church would have been willing to do what it takes to maintain a steady supply of Bibles for study groups, worship services and newly baptized church members. But it might have been more difficult.

“We’re going to keep buying Bibles,” he said. “And if the price goes up, the price goes up. It’s the inspired word of God. So it’s worth quite a bit.”

Killgore said it’s satisfying to hear an entire sanctuary flipping pages of the Bible in unison during a worship service. “We will give a Bible to whoever needs one,” he said. “It’s very important to what we do.”

While Bibles are excluded from future tariffs, other religious and specialty products could get caught up in the trade war. The Trump administration threatened to delay many of the tariffs until December, to prevent a price spike for the Christmas shopping season.

Among the items that could be targeted for a future increase are rosaries and illustrated children’s books.

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Falkner pushes for online sales tax

The former mayor of St. Joseph said he believes communities across Missouri are missing out on millions of dollars in revenue on online purchases made within the state.

Bill Falkner, now a Republican state representative, said lawmakers need to create a framework to collect sales taxes online, a place where more and more people seem to be shopping.

“I think there is a feeling in Jefferson City that we need to address this,” Falkner said. “It’s just a matter of how we do it.”

The U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for states to rake in greater online sales tax collections in a 2018 ruling that upheld a South Dakota law. That decision overturned a decades-old precedent stating that businesses without a physical presence in a state — such as a store, office or warehouse — didn’t have to collect sales taxes on behalf of the state. In such cases, customers technically were responsible for paying the tax, but most didn’t.

“If you’re in the state of Missouri and you’re buying it from a company in Missouri, you’re going to pay sales tax, the sales tax where they sell it,” Falkner said. “If you’re ordering something from out of the state, that would classify as an internet sale and that’s the sales tax we are looking at capturing.”

As online commerce has grown, some large retailers such as Amazon already have begun collecting sales taxes in all 45 states that charge them, including Missouri. But others with a physical presence in only a few places haven’t been doing so.

“As mayor, I would get companies calling to complain because they hired employees, they paid rent on the building or had a building that they paid for,” Falkner said. “They were losing sales as people would come look at (their products) then go order it online.

“One business even told me, ‘Why should I invest in employees when I can just send out a catalog?’” he added. “So in the long run that’s hurting the local economy.”

Falkner sponsored legislation to address the matter during this year’s legislative session, but it didn’t get very far.

“There are several issues on it that different people do not like,” he said. “One is who collects the sales tax.”

Missouri charges a 4.225 percent sales tax. But counties, cities, fire and ambulance districts and various other local jurisdictions tack on their own sales taxes. A tax table available from the Missouri Department of Revenue shows about 2,350 different sales tax rates in Missouri, making it complicated for retailers who sell products throughout the state.

“You’ve got to come up with a third-party group to collect that sales tax and pay it to the state, and that’s going to cost you money,” Falkner told News-Press NOW. “The states that have already done it, the revenue they are bringing in well pays for it.”

There is also the issue of selling the collection of the tax to a Republican super majority, some of whom may balk at the idea of new streams of revenue. But Falkner said the tax isn’t new, it’s already on the books.

“All we are doing is trying to collect a sales tax through the use tax vehicle,” he said. “It’s confusing and that’s what makes it really hard to inform the public of what is going on.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Convicted murderer's case raises questions about fairness and parole procedures

Robert Hayner walked into a small room inside the Crossroads Correctional Center on March 14 of this year to face a parole board for the fourth time. As on his previous attempts, he was denied.

His previous denials were likely in large part due to his victim’s family speaking out. After all, he was involved in the 1994 murder of 20-year-old Stephen “Shorty” Owen. Hayner’s fourth denial, though, differed from the others.

“Every time I’ve gone up for parole it’s taken six to eight weeks (to get a decision),” Hayner said. This time it took one day.

READ: Hayner's parole denied by board

READ: Robert Hayner's letter to News-Press

Hayner’s cousin, Gary Hayner, described the process as he saw it this March.

“It’s a little intimidating. There’s a partition where the victim’s family is sitting and there’s a smaller area with a couple persons sitting in front of you,” Gary Hayner said. “In this particular hearing, there was a big TV screen and off to the right was a sixth person.”

That sixth person, Carrie Owen, a district administrator for the Missouri Department of Corrections, shares the same last name as the victim in this case. That’s no coincidence. Carrie Owen is married to victim Stephen Owen’s cousin. It’s unclear if district administrators are normally part of parole hearings.

Two days after the March parole hearing, Gary Hayner said he saw a Facebook post made by an Owen family member that said the family had found out a day before that Robert Hayer was denied parole.

“Not even my cousin had known (about that),” Gary Hayner said. “So the person who was actually incarcerated and went in front of the board hadn’t been told but the (victim’s) family had been told.”

The Missouri Department of Corrections denied repeated requests by News-Press NOW for an interview, but officials did send a statement by email.

“I’ve talked some more with probation and parole staff and confirmed that the district administrator did not have a vote in the parole hearing on this case,” said spokesperson Karen Pojmann. “All participants followed proper processes and protocol, and all pertinent information was provided to the board.”

But Robert Hayner said just the presence of a family member is enough to sway the parole board.

“I would say it is a conflict of interest because I don’t know if she said anything to them outside of the hearing,” Robert Hayner said. “They work with her. They have some type of working relationship with her. It has to be a conflict of interest.”

The murder of Stephen “Shorty” Owen

On Feb. 13, 1994 Robert Hayner, Ramsey Pickens and Shawn Hoffman committed armed robbery and murder. The why has never been answered, and maybe it never will be. Hayner was 16 at the time, Hoffman and Pickens were 20 and 21.

According to accounts presented in the original court proceedings, three men were looking for someone to rob on the North Belt Highway that February night. They zeroed in on Owen, who according to his mother, was talking to his girlfriend on a pay phone next to a pizza joint.

According to News-Press reports of the 1994 court hearings in the case, Hoffman pistol whipped Owen and forced him to drive his truck, with the trio inside, to a secluded area near West Highland Avenue and McArthur Drive. Owen was forced from his truck by Hoffman, marched to a field, and then shot.

“The first man shot him the back of the head and he fell to his knees and still, the second man shot him in the temple after hearing him mumbling, ‘You busted my stitches,’ or, ‘I need stitches,’” Nichols said in a letter.

Timeline: Hayner's History

The original court accounts indicate Hoffman was the first to fire, and then Hoffman and Hayner returned to the body to see if Owen was dead.

“They were both laughing when they came back,” Pickens said in court. “That’s why I didn’t believe they killed him.”

“This was an execution-style murder beyond anything that I can comprehend,” Circuit Judge Edwin Smith said at Hayner’s sentencing. “I have no mercy for you.”

Hayner said in his most recent interview that he isn’t sure he should be released, but he does think he deserves the same treatment as other offenders.

“I can’t specifically say a certain number of years, because when it comes down to it, there’s a person who’s never coming back,” Hayner said. “All I want is a parole hearing that’s fair and impartial.”

Just like Hayner’s parole hearing, the events of Feb. 13, 1994, have an irregularity. Original court accounts indicate each of three suspects shot Owen, but Hayner contends his shot may have missed.

“One thing that’s always bothered me is that it’s been put out there that there was a shot that was fired that actually missed the victim,” Hayner said. “I’ve always believed that I’ve missed.”

Hayner concedes that regardless of whether or not he actually shot Owen, he’s still guilty of murder. But still, that missing shot lingers.

“We fired four shots, and he was shot three times,” Hayner said. He contends Hoffman fired twice.

Last straw vs. second chance

Stephen Owen’s mother, Veronica Nichols, also wouldn’t agree to an interview with News-Press NOW, but she has spoken out about the case.

In a February letter to Buchanan County Judge Daniel Kellogg, Nichols asked for the judge to write to the parole board urging them to deny Robert Hayner and his co-conspirators parole.

“Our family and all of Shorty’s (Stephen’s) friends have greatly suffered over all these 25 years because of this heinous crime against a very loving son, brother and friend,” Nichols wrote in her letter.

“These three men made a choice to do what they did, and they deserve to stay in prison for much more time!” she added.

It’s unknown if Judge Kellogg, or anyone else, wrote a letter to the board. According to Pojmann, parole hearings are not subject to Missouri’s Sunshine Laws and thus the DOC did not provide any documents following a request from News-Press NOW.

According to Nichols, former Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Scroggins wrote a letter to the parole board for a 2014 hearing urging that parole be denied at that time.

“I’m not looking for nothing special, no sympathy. I just want to be treated like everyone else is being treated,” Hayner said.

Hayner’s co-conspirators in the murder case, Ramsey Pickens and Shawn Hoffman, both remain in prison. Hoffman was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Hayner plead guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action, receiving a life sentence with the possibility of parole on both counts.

Pickens also has been denied parole several times.

“There’s factors of the crime that people need to consider, like the involvement of each one of us and our ages,” Robert Hayner said. “You can’t forgive on something like that. I’m not the same person, and I just ask that I’m given a chance.”

As things stand, Hayner is next eligible for parole in March of 2022. Donald E. Phillips, the chairman of the Missouri Parole Board, sent a letter to Hayner in April that said the board’s decision will stand.

Read Robert Hayner's original letter to News-Press NOW about his latest parole hearing.