Monthly Archives: January 2007

Bad drivers, bad roads or both?

With three inches of snow down and more falling, The Eagle started looking at snow removal practices Wednesday morning. Turns out Wichita has about the same bar that other cities do — they don’t plow until a couple inches have fallen. May be a common practice, but Wichitans aren’t necessarily used to it.

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Kansas lawmaker focuses on world conflicts

State Senator Donald Betts, Jr. – D, Wichita – has quite the world view.

He’s making headlines by addressing Iraq. He wants lawmakers to pass a resolution that would put the state Legislature on record as opposing the Bush administration’s plan to commit 21,500 additional troops to the Iraq war.

Betts said on Thursday that, his attention – and his plans – will turn to Sudan. He mentioned an announcement, the Kansas retirement system for state employees and the conflict that has garnered worldwide attention, driven mostly by MTV and BET campaigns.

Confused? Betts said he plans to clear things up as soon as Friday.

Board members get educated

One of the main criticisms of former state education commissioner Bob Corkins was that he had no educational experience and, by extension, didn’t know what the state’s education issues were.

But according to a media advisory sent to The Hall Monitor from the Kansas State Department of Education, neither do the board members.

The media advisory announces a meeting with Brenda Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. The organization has been contracted to help find the state education commissioner.

The topic of the meeting:

“Mrs. Welborn and State Board members will discuss the results of the environmental survey conducted by NASBE to define the top education issues in Kansas.”

The national organization will base their discussions based on conversations with board members, the governor, legislative leaders, businesses and education organizations.

A House Divided

As Kansas Senator Sam Brownback runs for President, we can’t help but note the Senator’s conversion to Catholicism from his Methodist farm roots. His wife, Mary Stauffer Brownback, and their children remain members of the Topeka Bible Church. Brownback was brought into the Catholic Church by an Opus Dei priest. Interfaith families are often posed with many challenges. Given his high profile, The Hall Monitor wonders if this may be an issue that could create further challenges.

The Stauffer family helped create the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, and the family has owned major newspapers in Kansas, including the Topeka Daily Capitol.

Annual meeting becomes a "church" rally

If anybody can turn an annual business meeting into a church service, it’s Brian Black, president and chief executive of the Urban League of Kansas.

On Monday, during the league’s meeting at Botanica that drew more than 300 people, Black used Psalms 23, “The Lord is My Shepherd,” to illustrate the tougher times he’s experienced in his attempts to guide the league in moving more people to the economic mainstream.

Black said there were times he felt like he’s walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” alone. But all he needed to do, he said, was to pause, look around and see that he wasn’t alone. Surrounding him were other nonprofit organizations and business people who he’s since joined hands with. Now they’re walking together, supporting and promoting one another’s mission.

To this, Black received a rousing round of applause and hearty “Amens.”

Bel Aire’s mayor race could be bitter

Two former mayors — Harold Smith, mayor from 1991 to 1998; and Gary O’Neal, mayor from 1999 to 2005 — have both filed against each other in Bel Aire’s April 3 general election. At issue for the 6,500-resident community is how to market the city’s vacant land and work on reducing the local debt load.. Within the past five years the community has rapidly grown.

Police union: Council candidates wanted

Well, the deadline to file for mayor and city council has passed, but the police union is still looking.

Aside from incumbents on the council, who are well aware of the Fraternal Order of Police’s political clout, the union didn’t hear from many other candidates. So they took out an ad in today’s Eagle requesting a candidate who is “pro public safety, can prioritize the spending of tax dollars, and who believes the police deserve a fair contract.”

They’ve been getting calls all day.

“We’ve heard from a couple of the sitting council member and the mayor,” union president, Sgt. Chester Pinkston, said. “We haven’t heard near enough from the rest of them and we’re obviously looking at who we want to endorse for this.”

The FOP represents more than 600 employees — employees whose families have not been shy in supporting the department (as seen in their most recent protest, which included moms, dads, kids and dogs). Typically, the union endorses a candidate after the primary, but Pinkston says that members tonight will discuss an earlier endorsement this year.

Peterjohn for Duckett?

In an email received by The Hall Monitor, Wichita school board at-large candidate and long time anti-tax advocate Karl Peterjohn shows his support to district 4 candidate Cindy Duckett. Her company provides scholarships for students to attend private schools.

From the email:

“Cindy is running in district four in the primary but only one other candidate filed so she will be running district wide in the April 3 general election. I believe that she has an excellent chance of winning.”

The email, written to James Hodges and recieved by countless others, shows that Duckett has given Peterjohn equal support.

“She was strongly urging me to file too and she was the last candidate to file before the noon deadline. I filed for the at large seat just seconds before her and am now one of five candidates to be narrowed down at the Feb. primary.”

Negotiations at the speed of snail

Remember a month ago when hundreds of police officers picketed City Hall, signs in hand, pleading for more cooperation and fair salaries?

And remember when City Manager George Kolb was on every newscast in town telling taxpayers that they’d either see reduced city services or a tax increase if the police get what they want?

Well, it’s been pretty quiet since — all the salaries are stagnant and so are taxes. Since the PD and city issued a joint press release saying they wouldn’t continue to vent their frustrations and roll out worst case scenarios at each other in the media, the issue has been publicly calm.

Sgt. Chester Pinkston, the union president, tells The Hall Monitor that the city is inching its offer up, little-by-little. But apparently not enough…

“We’re still not near a settlement,” Pinkston said.

“But we’re still optimistic,” he followed. “It’s just moving at a snail’s pace, unfortunately.”

History shows that’s often the way these things go.

Meanwhile, the fire department’s union is in waiting. The city backed out their most recent meeting because one of their players couldn’t make the meeting, Doug Pickard, president of the firefighters’ union, said.

“We’re just kind of treading water,” he said.

It’s not clear how the two contracts fit together, but, according to press release the city handed out in mid-December, “Any contract with this group (being the police) for more than the budgeted 2 percent will further increase pressure for a tax increase or reduction in other services.”

Not exactly a pleasant scenario for city leaders in an election season where most of the 26 candidates out there are repeating the mantra of lower taxes, increased public safety and fiscal constraint.

A Place to Call Home

It looks like Michael O’Donnell II, the city’s youngest council candidate, may have to make a trip downtown before the campaigning begins. That’s because he’s still listed as a Bel Aire resident, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale confirmed after a Hall Monitor inquiry.

Gale says his office simply overlooked it. But they’re calling O’Donnell II up to let him know it’s time to update the address or be disqualified. Gale thanked The Hall Monitor for the catch but noted O’Donnell wasn’t the first wrong address candidate.

Turns out King David Davis, who winds up on almost every municipal ballot in recent memory, needed to update his address too.

It’s a tough start for both men, who have each lost bids for mayor in their last attempts.