Monthly Archives: April 2007

Live from the 10th floor? Maybe

You won’t see it on TV, but every other Thursday at 1:30 p.m. the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission meets on the 10th floor of City Hall to decide what this city will look like. It’s often decided in pieces — such as can a subdivision expand or can someone sell a house and turn it into a business. Other times, it’s not so simple. For example, can a Wal-Mart SuperCenter move in or is it OK to relocate some wetlands to make way for development?

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Going green… and building up downtown at the same time

City Council members say there’s no doubt that more parking is needed downtown, especially with the forthcoming arena and all the commercial and residential developments that have been envisioned in the blocks around it. But they’re also thinking about green space for playgrounds or just benches and trees to give people a place to chill out. Green roofs even came up.

City planners are proposing that 5 to 10 percent of each development, be it a shopping area or office building, should be green space. City Council member Sharon Fearey said in a workshop last week that she’s hoping the city can convince developers to put their pieces together to make larger open areas in the heart of downtown. She also advocated for green roofs, a concept used in many cities to cut down on the heat generated by all the blacktop, cut energy costs in the buildings and offer grassy space in the most unlikely of spots — several stories above ground. Fearey said green roofs could be integrated into parking ramps since many people don’t like parking on the top level anyway because there’s no protection from summertime heat or weather.

Read more about green roofs at this industry website. Read more about these types of concepts in this National League of Cities article. See the green roof atop the new Minneapolis Library here.

Wanted: someone to lead Kansas education

The Hall Monitor has learned that the Kansas State Board of Education has chosen five candidates in the search for the state’s next top education guru.

The board members met in late March with the National Association of State Boards of Education. The national organization is helping the board conduct a nationwide search for the next commissioner. Former commissioner Bob Corkins resigned last November after some conservative members of the board lost their re-election campaigns. That changed the board majority from conservative to moderate.

For the moment, the identities of the five candidates is hush-hush. Board vice-chair and Wichita’s representative Carol Rupe said that the board read all the applications that were presented to them by the search firm but she couldn’t give out any of the candidate’s names. “I don’t know if that’s public information yet,” she said.

All five candidates will be interviewed April 26.

What’s the Council up to next? Lots of ceremony

Here’s what Tuesday’s City Council meeting looks like: Pray, Pledge of Allegiance and then ceremony (swear in the new mayor), ceremony (swear in a new council member), ceremony (tribute to Bob Martz). Oh, and once the new Council lineup is in place, they’ll dive into several issues.

Here are the hottest items:

  • Pick a new vice-mayor to replace Paul Gray, who is finishing his one-year term. (See procedure here.)
  • Vote to sign an agreement with the US Army Corps of Engineers to do a massive, $4.5 million flood protection project on the Cowskin Creek that will essentially cut a 300-foot wide overflow shelf into the shoreline. City drainage engineers say it could reduce flooding by more than a foot in some residential areas during the type of downpour that comes about once every 100 years. (See previous Eagle story.)
  • Consider a $45,000 contract for drug and alcohol testing of transportation, police and fire employees. That kicks in some new random tests agreed the unions agreed to about a year ago, and it comes at a time when both the police and fire unions’ men and women are working under an expired contract.
  • Decide whether to OK a $67,225 remodel of the planning department’s meeting room that includes audio/visual components.
  • Rename Harvest Park, 9500 Provincial Lane, as “Bob Martz Park” in honor of former District 5 City Council member Bob Martz, who died of an apparent heart attack in January.
  • Vote to rezone an oddly shaped swath of land near McConnell Air Force Base to “Air Force Base District” as part of the city’s massive rezoning around the base to show military officials who may be preparing the next round of base closures McConnell is prepared for future expansion and has terrorism safeguards.

See the full agenda.

Kansas health: truth in numbers

Want to know how long people are staying married in Kansas, what people in Kansas are dying from or what age group is having more babies out-of-wedlock?

Don’t look to the gossip columns. Look to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which released its 2005 Summary of Kansas Vital Statistics Tuesday. It’s the most up-to-date information on Kansas birth, deaths and marriages available from the state agency.

Among other interesting facts:

  • Kansans are continuing to delay marriage.
  • Slightly over half of the Kansans seeking abortions were 15 to 24.
  • The black infant death rate continues to be over two times higher than the rate for whites.

For the inside scoop, see the PDF report here.

A long night… and it’s not getting any easier

It was 2 a.m. by the time Mayor-elect Carl Brewer got out of his election party at the Courtyard by Marriot in Old Town. And he was up before sunrise and working by 7:30 a.m. today to figure out how he’ll leave his post at Spirit AeroSystems in the next few weeks and responding to a batch of congratulatory e-mails.

At his neighborhood city hall, he got hit with TV interview after TV interview after Hall Monitor interview this afternoon. He even picked up a cold somewhere along the way. It’s not getting any less hectic. He’s setting up meetings with the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce (to talk about bringing in new businesses), City Manager George Kolb (to talk about a citywide wireless internet system), newly elected Council member Jeff Longwell (to get to know him better) and others.

Saturday morning, he’ll be at Ryan’s Grill Buffet & Bakery, 3323 N. Rock Rd. (See map.), for his monthly breakfast with community residents — only this time near record attendance is expected. Some of them are likely to be people who want to fill the District 1 seat Brewer is leaving. “I think you’ll see who’s interested if you come there,” Brewer said.

(People interested in petitioning for Brewer’s seat can learn how the city fills vacancies here. See the full city ordinance here.And see a map of District 1 here.)

Who should fill Brewer’s City Council position?

As people sipped Coronas and sodas and mingled among the crowd at Carl Brewer’s campaign party Tuesday night, I was working the scene, trying to find out who’s going to fill Brewer’s shoes in District 1. We’ve got a list of potential contenders and we’re hoping you’ll add to it by clicking on the “comments” link below. The right person will need 100 signatures from district residents, an affirming vote from the District Advisory Board and a majority vote of the City Council.

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Where to party with the candidates

Want to see the face of victory or defeat? How about listen to a consolation or victory speech? How about free pretzels and punch? It all happens Tuesday night — when candidates rise and fall.

Carl Brewer’s watch party will be at 7 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott in Old Town, 820 E. 2nd St. Mayor Carlos Mayans’ party starts at 7:30 p.m. at The Broadview Hotel, 400 W. Douglas. Les Osterman isn’t planning on a party. Sue Schlapp’s party will start at 7 p.m. at BG Bolton’s Sports Grill, 11423 E 13th Street. Paul Tobia will be at his home.

School board candidates Karl Peterjohn, Cindy Duckett and John Stevens will have a watch party at Oscar’s Sports Box at 353 N. Mead. Jeff Davis, Barb Fuller, and Betty Arnold, will be at the River City Brewery at 150 N. Mosley. Kevass Harding will make an appearence there but will spend most of the night at his church with his supporters at 1502 N. Dellrose.

We will hit as many of these places as possible. Stay tuned.

Church stakes claim in future gambling zone

This weekend, the Rev. Terry Fox, a vocal gambling critic, announced that his church has purchased one acre of land in the heart of what could become a gambling hot-spot.

Summit church plans to build in the commercial development district at Wild West World Amusement Park. The Park City property sets across the street from the Wichita Greyhound Park where a new bill would allow slot machines to be installed. The bill also allows destination casinos in four areas of the state – in either Sedgwick or Sumner Co., Ford County, Wyandotte County and either Cherokee or Crawford County. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has promised to sign the bill into law.

Fox said Summit Church is now in a prime position to minister to people with gambling addictions.

“We want to be a church that – rather than criticizing and complaining – will be here to help people,” said Fox, who added that the church could break ground before this year ends.

Read more about the church’s plans in Monday’s Eagle.