Monthly Archives: April 2010

Kansas Democrats get another candidate for U.S. Senate

Her name is Lisa Johnston.

She’s an assistant dean for student academic services at Baker University, and she lives in Overland Park.

She’ll be kicking off her bid at noon Wednesday at the Hudson Auditorium at Johnson County Community College.

Sean Tevis, a 2008 Kansas State House of Representatives candidate, will introduce Johnston.

Here’s her website.

She joins Charles Schollenberger who just reported $100,000 in his campaign warchest and Patrick Coriolan, who hasn’t raised a penny, according to the Federal Election Commission.

That means there will be an Aug. 3 primary. The winner takes on Republican Todd Tiahrt or Jerry Moran.

Sedgwick County throwing away less trash

011708landfill_th2The weak economy may have one upside: Less trash going into the landfill.

Sedgwick County is throwing 11 percent less trash compared with three years ago, environmental resources director Susan Erlenwein told commissioners this morning.

That probably doesn’t mean people are recycling more, she said. It’s because we’re making fewer purchases because of the economy. Fewer purchases equals less stuff to throw away.

Cardboard is what businesses throw away the most; grass clippings are what residents throw away the most, she said. She encouraged people to mulch mow their yards, which is more environmentally friendly and can be good for yards.

The lawmakers are back in town

Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard chats with a page visiting the Senate for the day.

Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard chats with a page visiting the Senate for the day.

TOPEKA – The Legislature has returned to Topeka for the veto session.

Usually, the mini-session lasts a handful of days and is used to make minor budget changes and attempt to override vetoes the governor has issued during the break.

This year, lawmakers have a much fuller plate. Still up for discussion are the main budget proposals from both the House and Senate, a highway plan and possible tax increases.

Lawmakers are also planning to take up a veto override vote for a late-term abortion bill that Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, vetoed earlier this month.

Many lawmakers and lobbyists are bracing for a longer-than- average veto session.

For more, check back with the Wichita Eagle.

Art garden to be featured at Sedgwick County Park

Connor Hardin throws bread to geese at Sedgwick County Park in 2009

Connor Hardin throws bread to geese at Sedgwick County Park in 2009

Sedgwick County commissioners have approved designating an area of Sedgwick County Park, near the zoo, as an art garden.

The Arts Council will review and make recommendations about art to be featured in the garden.

Mental health awareness week focuses on children

The colorful handprints of 1,700 children helped by Comcare, Sedgwick County’s mental health agency, are featured on a sign displayed to commissioners this morning.

It took several county employees to bring the sign in to the commission’s chambers and hold it up. The sign was so big many of the employees holding it couldn’t see over it. It wrapped around the entire seating area. Commissioner Tim Norton joked that it was not unusual for county employees to be behind the scenes.

Comcare director Marilyn Cook said the sign was created with Crayons, glitter, markers and other materials by children in the waiting room of Comcare.

Comcare is using Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week to increase public knowledge and interest in mental health issues affecting children.

Proclamation about fallen officers gets emotional

Brian Etheridge

Brian Etheridge

Sedgwick County commissioner Karl Peterjohn became emotional this morning during a proclamation about fallen law enforcement officers.

Referring to the death of sheriff’s deputy Brian Etheridge in September, Peterjohn said the word “tragedy” didn’t do justice.

A tragedy, he said, is a tornado, “an act of God.” Etheridge’s death was an assassination, Peterjohn said.

A sheriff’s official accepted the commission’s proclamation for National Peace Officer Memorial Week.

Transportation Department unveils anti-texting posters

textingposter

TOPEKA – As part of a push to ban texting for all drivers, the Kansas Department of Transportation unveiled Tuesday a poster series urging drivers to stop typing while their car is moving.

There isn’t a lot of data yet showing the impact of texting while driving, said Lt. Gov. Troy Findley, a Democrat. “But we really don’t need a lot of data to know that it’s a really bad idea.”

The five posters were designed by Kansas State University graduate student Brian Bookwalter, 32, and include images such as a bare foot with a toe tag reading “NT BSY JUST DRVN” with the question “What will your last text message say?” beneath it. Read More »

Downtown condo project gets final approval

Exchange Place

Exchange Place

Downtown Wichita’s largest residential developments in decades lurched ahead this morning with the City Council’s final approval of an extra $1 million in public financing.

Though the condo development’s prospects were in question just a week ago, a $900,000 influx of private money proved enough to convince council members that the deal, though risky, is worth the public taxpayer investment, which is expected to be recouped by increased property tax payments over the next 20 years.

Council members this morning voted 5-2 — the same as last week’s vote — to approve the increase in tax increment financing to $10.3 million. That money is expected to secure a $30 million federally backed loan.

Council members Jim Skelton and Paul Gray opposed the deal, and they have called it too risky in previous discussions.

Real Development‘s project promises 230 apartments with rooftop lounge areas, around 64 nighttime and 100 daytime public parking spaces, and a ground-level retail strip that includes some kind of small grocery store in the building at Douglas and Market. Read More »

Tea party supporters applaud city decision to dismiss parking tickets

Supporters of the “tea party” protests were pleased Monday after Wichita Police decided to dismiss about 45 tickets issued to demonstrators who parked in a permit-only lot during an April 15 tax-day rally near City Hall.

The city government also has decided to ease restrictions on the parking lot — which is next door to City Hall — so residents can use it for activities after 5 p.m. and on weekends and holidays.

Tyler

Tyler

Lynda Tyler of Kansans for Liberty, who organized the tax-day protest and several other tea-party events in the past year, said it’s an example of what citizens can do when they get involved and make their voices heard.

“It’s kind of an interesting example of the tea party movement,” Tyler said. “Americans just want to be treated equally and fairly.”

Police Chief Norman Williams said he and Capt. Troy Livingston reviewed the situation and concluded that in the past, some people had been allowed to use the parking lot after City Hall business hours.

“We wanted to try to do the right thing to be consistent,” Williams said.

Tyler said a number of tea party supporters complained to city officials after a story in The Eagle last week reported that police wrote at least 71 parking tickets in the vicinity of the tax-day demonstration.

That total included 45 tickets written in the parking lot at the Rounds & Porter building, an old city-owned warehouse that police use for evidence storage.

Signs at the entrances to the lot designate it for permit parking only. It is heavily used by City Hall employees during the day, but empties quickly after 5 p.m.

Johnston

Johnston

Sedgwick County Democratic Party Chairman Kelly Johnston, an opponent of the largely conservative and Republican tea party movement, had a mixed reaction to the tickets being rescinded.

“I thought (City Council member Sue) Schlapp put it pretty well, a no-parking rule is a no-parking rule,” he said.

However, he added that he trusts the police chief to make a judgment call on whether there was a deficiency in enforcement that would justify voiding the tickets.

Police said they will work with the Municipal Court to ensure that demonstrators who parked at the Rounds & Porter lot for the tea party will have their tickets dismissed. Those who have already paid will get a refund by mail in 7-14 days, Livingston said.

Schodorf

Schodorf

State Sen. and congressional candidate Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, attended the tea party and was among those who received a $35 ticket for parking at the Rounds & Porter building.

“I’ve paid my ticket and moved on,” she said of her own fine.

But Schodorf said she had considered filing a bill in the Senate, seeking to make it easier for ordinary citizens to use empty publicly owned parking lots after hours.

“It’s good we don’t need to do that,” she said.

She said rescinding the tickets “shows that government is willing to work with the people.”

Longwell

Longwell

City Council member Jeff Longwell, who attended the tea party and checked out the parking ticket complaints that evening, worked with City Manager Bob Layton to change the rules at the Rounds & Porter lot.

He said the manager agreed that there was little reason to reserve the lot for employees 24 hours a day. “We’re not really using that at night,” Longwell said.

Livingston said two ambassadors — the city’s name for its parking enforcement officers — were dispatched to the tea party to check for violations that could endanger public safety, such as parking too close to intersections or blocking driveways and crosswalks.

April 15 tea party on Central

April 15 tea party on Central

Police were especially concerned because organizers had estimated as many as 2,000 demonstrators might show up. About 850 signed in at the event, Tyler said.

The ambassadors ticketed the cars in the Rounds & Porter lot after receiving complaints from city employees that the protesters were parking there. They warned away about 30 drivers who were in the process of parking at the lot, Livingston said.

All the tickets were written after 5 p.m. and the department’s review found “no public safety concerns or issue that existed in that particular parking lot,” Livingston said.

He also gave the department’s answer to allegations that the city has ramped up parking enforcement to generate more revenue.

Livingston said Wichita doesn’t make money on parking tickets after factoring in salaries and processing costs.

“People get upset if we write tickets,” he said. “People get upset if we don’t write tickets. So we’re in a difficult position.”

Jail consultants miss report deadline

jailpaperworkJustice Concepts Inc., hired by Sedgwick County in August 2008 to find ways to reduce the jail’s population, has missed another deadline.

The firm’s 10-month contract with the county expired in June, and county commissioners recently voted not to give the consultants more time to finish their work with the exception of a few tasks already started.

One of those tasks was a report about whether it would make sense to use closed prison facilities in Labette and Butler counties to house jail inmates.

Justice Concepts said it would turn in its recommendations by April 19 but didn’t do so. Last June, consultant Nancy Insco said the report about Labette County was on the hard drive of her computer at work.

Commissioners are expected to talk about the missing report Tuesday at their meeting with county staff.