Obama dines at Arthur Bryant's ahead of address on economy - FOX Carolina 21

Obama dines at Arthur Bryant's ahead of address on economy

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President Obama talks to supporters at KCI President Obama talks to supporters at KCI
President Obama walks into Arthur Bryant's, a legendary KC BBQ restaurant President Obama walks into Arthur Bryant's, a legendary KC BBQ restaurant
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Businesses, residents and commuters are ready for Kansas City's first presidential visit in nearly a year.

After arriving in Kansas City Tuesday night, President Barack Obama and his entourage headed to Arthur Bryant's, an iconic barbecue restaurant just east of downtown, where he had dinner with four concerned residents who wrote the White House letters. He mingled with the gathered crowd and restaurant goers, thrilling many of them.

Just as he did last September, Obama's visit to Kansas City will focus on domestic issues. Obama is scheduled to talk about the economy during an 11 a.m. address Wednesday at the Uptown Theater in Midtown, which Democrats often choose as a place to hold local and regional events.

Tensions in Ukraine and Gaza are dominating headlines, but Obama is pivoting to the recovery from the Great Recession.

Many Kansas City area residents want to know what is being done to improve the economy and create more jobs.

Maria Barrera said the area needs more federal funding for road improvements.

"There are still people dealing with the recession here in Kansas City," she said. "It looks like there was a change but it's not local."

Others have questions about the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City, and Kansas City Mayor Sly James were among those welcoming Obama to Kansas City.

Commuters are bracing for the detours due to the presidential visit. The Area Transportation Authority says metro buses will be rerouted due to road closures, including the Main Street Max and Troost Max. Wyandotte Avenue between 11th Street and 17th Street is closed with the president spending the night in a downtown hotel.

Businesses along Broadway know customers will have issues reaching them during the presidential visit but welcome the extra attention.

"We're in such a lively area. It's really a blessing to be on Broadway. That way you get to see everything, you get to meet so many different people," said Kansas City resident Mary McQuarters.

Edible Arrangements has pushed their deliveries on Wednesday to their Lenexa branch due to the expected traffic issues. But store representatives are fine with that.

"We're actually really excited about it with it being a new and up-and-coming area," said Nicole Presson of Edible Arrangements. "We just feel that it's going to be great for this area with him coming."

Some businesses are hoping for an unexpected presidential visit such as Kansas City's iconic barbecue joints. Obama has had his visits catered by Oklahoma Joe's in the past.

Gates has named a platter in honor of then President Bill Clinton while George W. Bush frequented KC Masterpiece. Arthur Bryant can brag about Presidents Jimmy Carter and Harry Truman chowing down at the joint.

And now they can add Obama. He strolled into the restaurant just before 8 p.m. Tuesday and left at 8:57 p.m. He was in his shirtsleeves when he greeted bystanders hoping to meet him. A few women cheered as he left the restaurant. He held an infant and another small child with braids.

He ordered a half slab, a bottle of water and a Bud Light. He also wanted coleslaw, but was told the restaurant had run out.

"You've got to have some coleslaw around here, don't you?" he said. "You're out of it? You didn't save any for me?"

But they didn't.

"Come on, man, I thought you were going to hook me up," he added, as the workers grinned.

At the cash register, he pulled out a wallet and some cash. A $50 bill was visible on top.

"I want to pay for everybody," he told the woman at the register. He was apparently referring to the letter writers that he dined with.

He and his guests ate in the side dining room. While waiting on his food, the president greeted thrilled diners.

A fast-pitch softball team of 16-year-old girls from Illinois sat in spots throughout the restaurant, finishing up their meals in navy blue uniforms. The president learned they are playing in a tournament in Independence, and offered to cheer for them.

"He's so handsome, oh my God!" one diner exclaimed.

"I'm paying for her food," he said after hugging her.

"You're so handsome," she continued. "The First Lady is so lucky."

She became choked up as she shook his hand a final time before he headed to eat with his guests.

Here is the information on the four letter writers that the president dined with:

Victor Fugate

In January of 2012, Victor sent you a letter to thank you for the student loan help he received from the Income Based Repayment Plan. Currently, Victor works for the Missouri Department of Mental Health and sees firsthand how the ACA is impacting people's lives. He has also personally benefited from the ACA, using an exchange to get health care when we was laid off from his job as a financial counselor. Victory is married and has a 4-year-old daughter.

Valerie McCaw

Last week, Valerie sent you an email to voice her frustration about how hard it is to make a living. As a single mom and a small business owner, she works seven days a week and still struggles to pay her bills. Valerie is a small business owner and engineer. She started her firm, VSM Engineering, 11 years ago and has four part-time employees. Her son is in college out of state and his tuition is almost 40,000 a year.

Mark Turner

In June, Mark wrote to you about teaching a GED program and trying to make a difference in the lives of young people. Mark works for the Full Employment Council, a non-profit that helps those who are unemployed and under employed. The Full Employment Council, along with the city of Kansas City, recently received a $1 million grant from DOL to fund Face Forward KC an initiative to provide educational services, job training and placement services, mentoring services, and legal assistance to juvenile offenders and at-risk youth. Mark has married for 34 years and has two children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Since he wrote the letter he has taken on an additional role of teaching a GED program named Project Rise. He is still employed by the Full Employment Council but wanted to highlight this additional role.

Becky Forrest

In August of 2013, Becky wrote to you about the work that was being done through her neighborhood association. Becky has been the President of the Town Fork Creek Neighborhood Association for 11 years and said she has learned so much in this role. The association runs the Mary Kelly Community Center. She said that she wanted you to know that people in her community were working hard to improve their neighborhood and positively impact the lives of those around them.

Forrest said she is working to help restore pride in neighborhoods. She said change must come one person, one block and one neighborhood at a time.

She wrote the president in January about her center's efforts and highlighted her staff. During the dinner at Arthur Bryant's, the president complimented Forrest on her efforts and encouraged her to keep up the great job.

"I think a lot of kids feel like nobody care and I'm hoping and praying this shows them, 'Yes, we care,'" she said. "Maybe we can also show them how to respect and treat themselves as well as others."

The center offers GED and computer classes to both adults and children.

"I'm not from here but I chose Kansas City to be my home and I want it to be the best that it can be," Forrest said.

For her part, McCaw thought the call from the White House was a joke. The four diners were required to put their cell phones and personal belongings in the trunk of a government vehicle. So while other diners would post pictures on social media from the restaurant, the four diners could not.

"It was a real privilege to have dinner with a sitting president," she said, adding that the president was familiar with their stories and was quite engaged during dinner.

After leaving the restaurant, Obama headed to the Crowne Plaza in downtown Kansas City.

The area was a busy place as police blocked off the streets while waiting for the president's motorcade.

But the buzz downtown wasn't all about his visit to the metro, especially for some Ted Nugent fans staying in the same hotel as Obama.

Nugent was also in town playing at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland.

"I work for the government, and I still have goosebumps because this is the closest I'll ever get to him," Nicole Spears said.

What would you like to ask the president? Share your thoughts on KCTV5's Facebook page. Click here.

For more information on the ATA's re-routes, click here.

KCTV5's Jamie Oberg and Chris Oberholtz contributed to this report.

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