Monthly Archives: April 2011

Statehouse cafeteria question? Call the Department of Revenue, apparently

TOPEKA — Here’s a fun post from the Statehouse for your day:

So I’m up here again for a week or two covering the Legislature’s wrap-up session. I couldn’t remember if the cafeteria in the Docking Building accepted debit or credit cards, so I called the Statehouse tour center to find out.

I asked my question: “Does the cafeteria accept credit cards?” After a brief pause, the very nice woman who answered the phone gave me this number to call: 785-296-3909.

I then called, and guess who answered?

Someone from the Kansas Department of Revenue.

I guess that made sense. Or cents.

Kansas House speaker: Time to move on from feral hog debacle

TOPEKA — Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, says a resolution calling for censure of Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, is a waste of time and takes away from the state’s pressing problems.

Peck got into hot water in March during a discussion about wild hogs. He suggested that if shooting hogs from a helicopter worked, the state could have a solution “to our illegal immigration problem.”

“Representative Peck spent a few seconds uttering a comment for which he has since apologized numerous times,” O’Neal said in a news release issued today. “The Democrats have spent more than two months focusing on a statement that all parties, including Representative Peck, agree was inappropriate and regrettable. I would encourage the Democrats to refocus and join us in addressing the pressing issues facing our state and achieving workable solutions.”

Democrats are calling for a resolution censuring Peck. O’Neal said “No further time, energy or money should be wasted rehashing this event in an attempt to distract from the priorities of growing the economy, increasing jobs in Kansas and passing a responsible budget.”

County medical society lobbies for Project Access funding

WICHITA — Dr. Jon Rosell, executive director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, has asked Sedgwick County commissioners to approve the funding for Project Access that it denied last week.

“We’re experiencing a significant demand for our services,” he said at this morning’s weekly commission meeting.

Project Access helps connect the poor in Sedgwick County with access to health care.

Last week, four commissioners couldn’t reach a majority on an agreement with the Central Plains Regional Health Care Foundation and Wichita to cooperate on the project, depriving it of  $250,000 the commission had agreed last August to put in the county’s budget for the program. That money would have supplied slightly less than a third of the program’s budget.

Rosell said that this month alone, 80 patients were referred to Project Access for help getting health care. He expects up to 2,200 enrollees in the program this year.

The matter was not on the commission’s agenda, and commissioners took no action.

The issue is expected to be brought up again when all five commissioners are present. Only four were present this morning. Tim Norton, who voted to approve the agreement last week, was absent. Jim Skelton, who was absent last week, attended the meeting and said he wanted to see the matter on the agenda again “at the earliest opportunity.”

Rep. Pompeo talks about first 100 days in Congress

Pompeo

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, stopped in to The Eagle this morning to talk to about his first 100 days in Congress.

Pompeo said there is a “lot of unfinished” business in Washington, mostly related to the budget.

As lawmakers focus on the federal budget deficit, Pompeo said, you “try every day to do what you said you would in the campaign. Your task is to come up with effective policy. We have a divided government today. That even understates it.”

Pompeo voted for a budget bill that cuts spending by $38 billion over 10 years, “which in Kansas is real money,” he said. “I thought it was the right thing to do at that moment.”

Pompeo said he wants to strengthen Social Security and “fix” Medicare. Doing so, he said, will mean difficult decisions to reduce spending.

“You can’t just push the chairs around,’ he said. “Doing nothing is not an option. I have not heard the argument that doing nothing will help seniors.”

Pompeo also spoke about the aviation summit Gov. Sam Brownback held in Wichita on Monday.

Pompeo noted that in all but one case, the headquarters of aircraft companies in Wichita are not in Kansas.

He said regulatory policy and tax policy “matter an awful lot about where businesses are going to go.”

Folks in Washington, he said, “are jealous of our ability to keep our manufacturing base.”

Wichita has a trained workforce, but that’s not enough to compete with other states that offer better tax policies, he said.

Pompeo also said that he “will always support funding for NCAT and NIAR (the National Center for Aviation Training and the National Institute for Aviation Research) but “resources are going to be much, much less.”

Pompeo said it has been difficult to tell constituents who come to his office asking for support for a program — no matter how worthy the cause — that funding just isn’t available.

“This fiscal crisis we face. . . it’s real,” he said. “It’s where we find ourselves.”

City flips on idea to limit uses of special tax districts downtown

Real Development's Exchange Place project is one of several redevelopment plans financed in-part by TIF dollars.

Officials with the city and the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation said last week their evolving public incentive policy for downtown included limiting the use tax increment financing.

Under the initial proposal, TIF money wouldn’t be used to buy land for developers or cover the costs of demolishing blighted buildings.

But they’ve changed their minds.

In an e-mail Monday, Terry Cassady, the city’s development assistance director, said that the plan will now allow developers to use TIF dollars in any way state law allows, which includes land acquisition and demolition.

The move comes just a day before she and other downtown officials present their investment policy to the city council in a 9:30 a.m. workshop. Read More »

Resigned Kansas Bioscience chief Tom Thornton lands at Cleveland Clinic

Thornton

Tom Thornton, who recently resigned under fire as the head of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, has taken a job with a business incubation group associated with the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a spokesman for the hospital system said today.

“He’s been here all week,” said Brian Kolonick, spokesman for Cleveland Clinic. He said Thornton is working in the hospital system’s Innovations division and his primary responsibilities involve working with entities seeking to commercialize new drugs and medical treatments.

Thornton resigned from the Kansas Biosciences Authority last week. At the time, authority officials said he had found another job, but would not reveal where he was going. Read More »

Water bill look high? Blame the weather or the wireless meters

Some Wichita water customers may notice some irregular billing, according to a notice posted on the city’s web site.

One problem stems from this year’s snowy winter weather, which caused the city’s water meter readers to fall behind. (It takes longer to check the meters when they’re covered with snow and/or frozen shut.) In those cases, customers may notice their water billing cycle included more days than usual, often leading to higher bills. When that happens, the longer billing cycle often means the customer’s next bill (a shorter than usual cycle) will arrive shortly after they paid the last one — so the bill shows a previous balance that may have already been paid, said Joe Pajor, assistant director of public works and utilities.

Another problem involves the automatic meter readers that send electronic signals to city vans that drive by to collect water usage data. About half the city has automatic readers, and roughly 5 percent of them have malfunctioned, often billing customers for less water than they actually used. Then customers receive higher bills when the city corrects for water that wasn’t previously charged for. Read More »

Sedgwick County commissioners deadlock on money for Project Access health-care program

A program that helps connect Sedgwick County’s poor with access to health care will go without $250,000 it had counted on for now because of political gridlock.

Four Sedgwick County commissioners couldn’t reach a majority when voting Wednesday on an agreement with the Central Plains Regional Health Care Foundation and the city to partner on Project Access. In August, commissioners voted to put $250,000 into the county’s budget to support Project Access. Wednesday’s agreement would have solidified that commitment.

Because commissioners didn’t approve the agreement, Project Access won’t get the money, which represents slightly less than a third of its budget, for now. The non-profit group hopes commissioners will reconsider when a fifth commissioner who was absent Wednesday returns.

“We’re being deluged with phone calls right now. We have patients calling asking ‘What’s going to happen to me?’ ” said associate executive director Anne Nelson. “This is a really critical decision that has been made that affects our program.”

Read More »

TV mogul Norman Lear to bring original copy of Declaration of Independence to Eisenhower Library

ABILENE — One of the last original copies of the Declaration of Independence and a visit from a famed television producer will highlight a week of activities beginning Monday at the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.

On public display starting Tuesday will be a “Dunlap Broadside,” one of the original printing run of 200 copies of the Declaration that were printed overnight on July 4, 1776, and distributed to the colonies to drum up support for independence. Only 25 still exist.

The document is identical to the Declaration displayed at the Library of Congress and actually predates the better-known caligraphy version at the National Archives in Washington.

“It’s basically taking this document to the people rather than the people having to travel to Washington DC to see it,” said museum spokeswoman Samantha Kenner.

Lear

Television producer Norman Lear, whose family foundation owns the Broadside, will start off a week of observances with remarks at a reception at 6 p.m. Monday at the library.

Lear is best known for producing a string of hit shows in the 1970s including All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Maude, One Day at a Time and Sanford and Son. He is also known as a longtime supporter of progressive, civil rights and First Amendment causes and is founder of People for the American Way.

Monday’s event will also feature private viewing of the Declaration and a performance reading by the Great Plains Theatre. Read More »

Commissioner Peterjohn says President Obama offended him

Moving politics off the local front to the national, Sedgwick County commissioner Karl Peterjohn said he was offended by President Obama’s recent comment that Republicans were trying to turn the United States into a third world country.

Peterjohn, a Republican, recalled starting his term on the commission wearing a button of the president.

He said Republicans on the commission have worked well with Democrats (there is one on the board now) to get business done.

Peterjohn said he did not vote for President Obama but will be hoping for change in 2012.