Monthly Archives: March 2007

More on cameras on police cars

We reported in The Eagle today about Mayor Carlos Mayans and City Council member Carl Brewer supporting cameras in police cars. Both men supported it in their comments. But, as Sunflower Community Action members are pointing out this morning, that’s not the full story.

Mayans asked Brewer to make a motion on the cameras during budget negotiations last year, but Brewer didn’t. Later, Mayans made a motion of his own to shift $150,000 from the city’s long-term spending to start a pilot project. Brewer voted against that. Only Mayans and Paul Gray supported it. See the full minutes in a PDF file here.

I’m not telling you what to do but….

Wichita schools superintendent Winston Brooks is happy that everyone is back from spring break but he wants to remind everyone to vote on April 3.

Not sure who to vote for? Call the union.

In an email, Brooks, who sent it out a district wide, thanked teachers and staff for their work during the year.

At the end, he urges everyone to do their civic duty and vote. Brooks writes:

“Finally, let me remind all of you that you owe it to yourself, to our students, to the District to go vote on Tuesday, April 3. As you all know, we have contested races in four out of seven School Board seats. Contested races are in District 1, 3, 4, and At Large. I strongly recommend that you educate yourself about the candidates in each of these races. If in doubt, I would encourage you to contact Paul Babich or Larry Landwehr of UTW should you need recommendations on who to vote for. I also want to remind you that those of us who reside within the boundaries of USD #259 will be able to vote for all four races.”

The UTW or the United Teachers of Wichita, the teacher’s union, endorsed incumbent Kevass Harding, district 3 candidate Barb Fuller and district 4 candidate Jeff Davis. The same candidates endorsed by a majority of the school board members.

So who really is responsible for Core Knowledge?

An item that didn’t fit in yesterday’s school board race story, puts district 4 candidate Cindy Duckett and Chip Gramke at odds. It starts out with a phrase in Duckett’s literature that quotes Gramke. The quote said:

“Cindy was tremendously helpful in getting me the information [on Core Knowledge],” She did a tremendous job. If you look at the test scores of these two schools, it works.”

Hold on says Gramke. That might not be entirely accurate.

“Did we discuss core knowledge? Yes,” Gramke said in a conversation with the Hall Monitor last week. “Was she instrumental in starting the school? The people that were instrumental were Chip Gramke and Marty Marshall. They talked to the parents and pushed it through the board agenda.”

Core Knowledge is a magnet concept for two schools in the district.

After calling Duckett for comment, a series of emails were sent out to school board members, including Gramke, and the media. In one of them, she outline her exact contribution to the magnet concept:

“If asked, Chip may recall that I — alone — secured the donation of phonics and math textbook from Saxon Publishers in Norman, OK for every Bryant Core Knowledge student. He might also recall that I — alone — secured a large donation for the Bryant Core Knowledge library from Don and Faith Bell at Security Savings Bank in Olathe. He might also recall the numerous meetings at the UTW office with me, Greg Jones, Barb Fuller, David Payne and former school board member Marshall Jones to get this project going. Chip can be a sweetheart but I think his memory might be getting a bit cloudy.”

Gramke, fellow board member Lynn Rogers, and businessman Fred Berry, will hold a press conference at 2:30 today in the 3rd floor boardroom in the central library. The gentlemen will endorse Duckett’s opponent, Jeff Davis.

And in another twist Berry is listed as one of the contributors for CEO First, Duckett’s non-profit that gives scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools.

Also on that list is at-large candidate Karl Peterjohn, the Kansas Taxpayers Network which Peterjohn heads, and state board of education member Steve Abrams.

Mayans still supports WSU football

WSU football isn’t Carlos Mayans’ favorite topic these days, since it’s led to such outcry from other City Council members. But Mayans still stands behind Wichita State University football as a way to boost the school’s lagging enrollment.

“It’s no secret that Wichita State University has lost students, in part, because of not having football,” Mayans said, responding to a question at a voter forum Sunday. “This is not a true, full university. The football would bring a return of… more African American students,” he said. When he said that, someone in the crowd at the Tabernacle Baptist Church said “that’s stereotyping.”

“Football is economic development to the city,” Mayans said. The 1.5 mills of tax money was intended to pay off buildings and now those buildings are paid off, he said.

Mayan’s opponent, City Council member Carl Brewer, has criticized the idea from the start. He response to the question was to say a mayor has “more things to do” instead of trying to convince a university’s president to start a football program. “We have other things to be doing,” he said.

Thank you, come again

Welcome to The Eagle’s newest blog. Keep coming back and you’ll see more of what goes on behind the political scene and more of what The Eagle’s metro reporters hear as they walk the halls of power both in Wichita and around the state.

Sometimes we’ll write about the first whispers of a larger plan, like a mayoral candidate’s plan to make Wichita a wireless internet city. Other times it will be a glimpse of someone’s life, like Sedgwick County Commissioner Tom Winter’s fishing trip. We’ll put out rumors, like those about Wichita School District Superintendent Winston Brooks becoming the next education commissioner. And we’ll share the news we’re tracking, like Sen. Sam Brownback’s campaign to become the next president.

And it’s not just politics. We’ll track city organizations large and small, telling you about the scene at community events, like the Urban League of Kansas rally.

We’re also hoping you’ll vent your views, give us new ideas and have open discussions on the posting boards. So, enjoy. We have 50 posts below this one to get started.

What’s all the fuss about? See for yourself

Sunflower Community Action members are awaiting their April 19 criminal trespass trails in municipal court. The charges stem from a well-publicized protest at City Manager George Kolb’s house.

See what it’s all about in this 8-minute video.

After Kolb’s wife closed the door on them, Sunflower members (with megaphone in hand) sang “jingle bells, this town smells, take it all away, if you don’t next Tuesday, we’ll be here everyday.”

“Are the police going to come?” someone asked. J.J. Selmon, a Sunflower leader who has advocated on behalf of upset neighbors, said even the police are upset with Kolb over their stalled salary negotiations.

Another YouTube video shows the mess at 10th and Volutsia before the city took the property owner to court and got the go ahead to clean it up and bill the property owner.

Wireless in Wichita? Brewer hints at it

He’s not giving details. Not about who he’s talking to. Not about what type of wireless system they’d try to bring in. But mayoral candidate Carl Brewer has said he’s in discussions with an undisclosed company about a wireless internet deal that could allow Wichitans to browse the web while having a picnic at the park or sipping coffee at home.

And he’s not just talking about the wireless that City Manager George Kolb has discussed with the Council to allow city workers to do work on the road. (See the PowerPoint here.) The Council decided against that plan with Sedgwick County and the Wichita School District. But Brewer says this idea would allow access for anyone with a computer — not just government employees.

It’s a popular idea nationwide. For example, the Los Angeles Times recently reported that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to make L.A. the biggest wireless network around. Also noteworthy, a story in The Eagle this week pointed out that large wireless networks also have their problems with privacy.

Brewer and Mayans on their favorite topic: Business, business, business

It’s the opening line of every mayoral forum between Mayor Carlos Mayans and Carl Brewer, and it sounds something like this: “we need to diversify the economy, train our workforce and keep young people from leaving Wichita.”

It’s certainly a key issue. But how does government pave the way for something that hinges so much on the private sector? The candidates have a similar line there, too — keep doing what we’re doing. Continue to take on some risk for the businesses by issuing bonds to pay for expansions and give tax breaks — even though recent studies at Wichita State University show tax exemptions (state and local) have shifted tax burden from business and other special interests to homeowners and consumers. (Check out that study in a PDF file) Then, candidates say, cut down on regulations — though no one is saying which regulations.

Need more? Check out how candidates responded to the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce questions.

Fearey has had enough

Sharon Fearey, the north-central Wichita City Council member, has had enough of Mayor Carlos Mayans’ campaign claims. And, The Hall Monitor has noted, she’s had enough of people putting words in her mouth.

She penned an editorial that ran in The Eagle this week, scolding Mayans for claiming that Council members are never in their offices. She countered too, saying that Mayans misses his share of city meetings. The tension also showed last Tuesday when Fearey didn’t get a chance to explain her ‘no’ vote on move to overrule the city’s historic preservation board decision that the proposed downtown Kelly Hotel and Conference Center doesn’t fit in with nearby historic buildings. (See The Eagle’s story here.)

In the meeting, Fearey said she hit her button, indicating to the mayor that she wanted to talk. But Mayans wrapped up the hearing quickly and called the vote. Fearey, a former preservation board member, never said ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but went on record as a ‘no’ vote because, she said, architects and city planners could have come to a better compromise.

What’s the Council up to next Tuesday? Lots.

It may be campaign season, but the City Council trudges on. Next Tuesday, your representatives will decide whether to fill in 18 acres of wetlands to make way for a big commercial development near 29th and Maize. Residents there have serious concerns about how this will affect flooding. Developers point to a recent consultant study that shows that if the city recreates the wetlands in the Cadillac Lake area, it should solve some of the existing flood hazards. But many people are not convinced.

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