Monthly Archives: September 2009

Former Salina Mayor to announce congressional run

Capitol BuildingIt appears the massive 1st Congressional District is about to get its first Democratic candidate. Alan Jilka, the former mayor of Salina, plans to announce a run for the seat at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Salina city-county building.

The press release only says Jilka will “announce plans to seek national political office.” But a peek at kind of gives it away.

Jilka, 46, spent 12 years on the Salina City Commission. He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for State Senate in 2004. Incumbent Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, beat him with about 59 percent of the turnout. (View Jilka’s 2004 campaign finance reports.)

No other Democrats have stepped into the heavily Republican race (fill us in if we’ve missed someone). Here’s the GOP field (as we know it today): Sens. Jim Barnett of Emporia and Tim Huelskamp of Fowler; Tracey Mann, a commercial real estate agent from Salina; Rob Wasinger of Cottonwood Falls, former chief of staff to Brownback; Hays educator Sue Boldra; and former Salina Mayor Monte Shadwick.

Group seeks more eyes on police activity

video tapeSunflower Community Action today plans to press City Manager Robert Layton and Police Chief Norman Williams to buy video cameras that would record police in action.

The group has pushed for dash cameras in cars for years. But this time, they’re asking the city to spend roughly $186,000 generated by drug busts to buy cameras that would mount on a police officer’s uniform. It’s a reaction to police saying that dash cameras only capture about a third of police officers’ interaction with the public.

In an e-mail, Layton told Sunflower that the city plans to release a report in October on the pilot dash camera program it started about a year ago. “Unfortunately, the cameras are taxing our data system and we need to find a way to store and index the information generated by the cameras,” Layton wrote.

Sunflower offered the following links to the on-person cameras:;jsessionid=080B6A8C38069976CA66E9F842F87895

Mayor Brewer and council “shocked and saddened” by Monday’s shootings

American Flag loweredFlags at Wichita City Hall and other city buildings have been lowered to half staff in honor of Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Etheridge, who was killed Monday.

“We’re just really shocked and saddened by what has happened,” Mayor Carl Brewer said in an interview with The Eagle. “It has affected all of our law enforcement agencies.”

Brewer said the city is providing counselors for police officers who were involved in the shootout and others who may be shaken by the violence.

“Every time they make a stop or enter a house, they don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “This demonstrated just how much risk there is.”

Brewer said the city council plans to issue a statement asking the community to embrace Etheridge’s family and pray for them.

“It’s been years since we’ve seen something of this nature happen,” he said. “It’s even more troubling that this is a young man in his 20s with a family.”

Scott Moore’s first day in Peoria

Scott Moore, Wichita's interim city managerFormer Assistant City Manager Scott Moore is in for a tough start at his new job as city manager of Peoria, Ill. Like Wichita, Moore’s new city is facing layoffs, pay freezes and a lot of red ink.

“It’s obvious Scott will have a relatively short honeymoon period just from the standpoint that we have a lot more work to do on this budget,” at-large City Councilman George Jacob told the Peoria Journal Star.

For more, see the Journal Star’s story about Moore’s first day.

Meth grant to add prosecutors, boost education efforts

Kansas will receive a $1 million grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance to assist the state in prosecuting methamphetamine crimes, training law enforcement officers and educating children on the dangers of the drug, Attorney General Steve Six announced today.

The grant will provide funding for two specialized prosecutors to handle drug crimes in the southwest and southeast areas of the state.

It also will provide training on safe evidence collection and meth lab detection for 180 state and local law enforcement officers.

“From training law enforcement to prosecution to conviction, this comprehensive initiative enhances our ability to hold criminals accountable and protect our families,” Six said.

In addition, the grant will provide additional resources to educate children on the dangers of meth use. The new resources will be delivered through existing DARE anti-drug programs in schools.

Longwell pitches Tiahrt a soft endorsement



City council member Jeff Longwell was quick to divert any praise for the new Cowskin Creek flood reduction project to Bob Martz, the former council member who died while in office in 2007. But he gave Congressman Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, a little love too.

As he introduced Tiahrt, who is running for US Senate in a hot, multi-candidate race, Longwell called Tiahrt his favorite congressman. Then came the pitch.

“I hope I can call him my favorite senator someday,” Longwell said. Read More »

Website tracking recovery money spending now online

Those interested in just where and how federal recovery money is being spent have a new resource. breaks down spending to a city level including what group received the money and how much. The information can also be sorted by Congressional district.

The site, which was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, describes itself as a way to “increase accountability to guard against fraud, waste, and abuse.”

As of Sept. 24, Kansas has received $1.2 billion for 1,139 grants, contracts and loans.

Of that money, the 4th Congressional District, which includes Wichita, has received almost $42 million in 169 grants, loans and contracts.

Governor calls for national energy standards

Gov. Mark Parkinson said today that it will take “almost a Marshall Plan” to develop green energy in America.

Parkinson called for national standards to require renewable energy use and subsidies and regulatory changes favoring environmentally friendly energy sources, especially wind power.

He said in the last five years, Kansas has gone from essentially no wind power to the No. 7 producer in the country, with more than 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity now on line.

But taking wind power nationwide will require improvements to the transmission system and other actions by the federal government, he said.

Parkinson made his remarks to the annual meeting of The Energy Council, a group of elected officials and energy company executives from energy-producing states, Canada and Venezuela.

Some representatives from other states were cool to the idea of federal intervention.

Alaska state Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, said the federal government can’t supply solutions that would help all states.

Alaska, for example, has its highest power demand during winter months when the nights are long and winds are generally calm, he said.

“A universal fix is not the answer,” he said. “It’s got to be a local fix.”

Betty Arnold to announce county commission bid

Wichita school board member Betty Arnold plans to announce tonight a run for Dave Unruh’s District 1 seat on the Sedgwick County commission. A Democrat, Arnold will speak at 6:30 p.m. today at Eaton Steakhouse at Douglas and St. Francis. So far, Unruh and Dion Avello, the mayor of Derby, are the only commission candidates to have officially filed for office. Avello is in commissioner Gwen Welshimer’s district.

Kansas labor secretary urges unemployment extension

Saying more than 3,000 Kansans will exhaust their unemployment benefits in the next two months, state Labor Secretary James Garner called on Congress to extend benefits for displaced workers.

Garner joined nine other state labor chiefs at Niagara Falls, N.Y., to press the Senate to follow the House in passing a benefits extension bill.

The House version would allow unemployed workers who exhaust their benefits to get an additional 13 weeks of payments, if they live in a state with an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent or more.

Kansas unemployment is at 7.1 percent, not high enough for workers here to qualify under the House measure.

Garner called on the Senate to drop the benefit-limiting provision when it takes up its version of the bill.

“Action taken by the House this week is a step in the right direction, but I would urge the Senate to consider expanding benefits in states that have not yet reached the 8.5 percent unemployment threshold,” Garner said.