Monthly Archives: June 2011

Commissioner Peterjohn calls for resignation of New York Times columnist

Sedgwick County commissioner Karl Peterjohn this morning called for New York Times columnist David Carr to resign, or be fired, because of comments Carr made recently on a TV show.

Carr recently appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher” and made a comment that Kansas is a place of “low-sloping foreheads,” which Peterjohn said was worse than calling Kansans neanderthals.

Carr, who is originally from Minnesota, caught himself while live on TV and chastised himself, asking himself if he had really said that out loud.

He has since apologized on social media.

He said earlier this week in a Tweet to an Eagle reporter — not in response to Peterjohn’s comments — that he was in the “naughty corner for the foreseeable future.”

Peterjohn said Carr’s comment illustrated how the mainstream media perceives everyday people.

Sedgwick County commissioners rule Valley Center has followed annexation service plan

Sedgwick County commissioners this morning voted 3 to 2 that Valley Center has complied with an annexation service plan.

But the board, and one of the county’s attorneys, also said that the service plan was relatively weak compared with other cities’.

A handful of residents spoke at the meeting and said Valley Center had failed to make good on the promises it made when it annexed their neighborhood.

Stay tuned for updates.

Delinquent property tax bills go out in Sedgwick County

Forgot to pay your property taxes? Be on the lookout for a reminder from Sedgwick County.

The treasurer’s office this week is mailing out about 23,000 delinquent 2010 real property tax bills and about 600 delinquent second-half personal property tax bills.

Treasurer Linda Kizzire has been trying to get a bit more assertive about past due taxes, adding a big red “DELINQUENT” stamp on notices.

In addition to paying in person at the treasurer’s office, property owners may pay their taxes online by visiting the treasurer’s website at www.sedgwickcounty.org. Residents should select the “tax payment system” option and use a MasterCard, VISA or Discover card to pay online.

A reminder service also is available at www.sedgwickcounty.org. Property owners can sign up to receive an e-mail reminder of real estate and personal property taxes due each year. An e-mail address is needed to register for the service.  

Sedgwick County Manager Buchanan to serve on KPERS commission

Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan will serve on a new commission formed to strengthen the state’s retirement system.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, today announced two appointments to the group, charged with examining the Kansas Public Employees Retirement (KPERS) system and making recommendations to the Legislature to improve the long-term financial strength of the plan, a news release said.

Buchanan was Morris’ public appointment to the board. Morris also appointed Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence.

“I am pleased to have Senator King and Mr. Buchanan at the table,” Morris said. “With input from legislators, citizens and financial experts from across the state, I am confident the commission will come back to us with a plan that will protect both our retirees and our bottom line.”

Buchanan, the news release said, has more than 16 years of experience with public retirement plans in Kansas and in other states. He has served on the board and as chairman of a defined contribution system; taken part in two different deferred compensation plans; and has hands-on experience with both the participant and administrator aspects of public retirement plans.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to work with other Kansans to find a solution that is fiscally responsible for our state and respectful to the many retired men and women who have paid into KPERS over the years,” Buchanan said in the news release.

County commissioner: Gunpowder and beer don’t mix

Gunpowder and beer don’t mix, Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Skelton reminded residents Tuesday, noting that the Fourth of July is around the corner.

Skelton joked that he knew that from experience.

Commissioner Jim Skelton starts District #5 advisory board, first meeting Wednesday

One of Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Skelton’s campaign promises was that he would create a district advisory board for residents of the southeastern part of the county.

Skelton, who represents District 5 including Derby and Mulvane, will have his first district advisory board meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Derby Recreation Center, 801 E. Market in Derby.

Skelton will speak about the district advisory board’s by-laws. Sedgwick County Counselor Rich Euson will make a presentation about zoning and land use, and Sedgwick County Budget Director David Miller will speak about the county’s financial situation and budget issues.

The board plans to meet monthly.

Planned Parenthood sues the state over defunding legislation

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri is fighting back in court against the Kansas Legislature and the governor, who stripped the organization of federal family planning funds because of its affiliation with abortion services.

The organization filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to force the state to restore about $330,000 that used to provide birth control and other reproductive health services at clinics in Wichita and Hays.

The Wichita clinic serves about 4,700 clients a year, mostly women but some men, while Hays serves 960, said Peter Brownlie, Planned Parenthood’s president and chief executive officer.

In addition to birth control, the clinics provide screening for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer. They do not provide abortions, though a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park does.

Brownlie said the federal money represents about one-third to one-half of the clinics’ funding. The group intends to keep the clinics open, but loss of the money would likely lead to ending a sliding fee scale that provides care for poor people at lower cost, he said.

The funding comes from the federal government and is administered by the state.

Gov. Sam Brownback, who signed the new provision into law May 28 as part of the budget bill, issued a statement saying he will uphold it.

“The law currently says the plaintiff (Planned Parenthood) does not qualify for public subsidy because of its business practices,” the statement said. “And Kansas taxpayers made it clear they do not wish to underwrite organizations that perform abortions.”

“That’s what makes it absurd and outrageous,” said Brownlie. “If Gov. Brownback and his allies in the legislature were serious about reducing abortions in Kansas, they would work to prevent unintended pregnancies. About half of them result in abortions.”

Read More »

Former US attorney and Wichita State instructor to prosecute consumer crime

Williams

Jackie Williams, a former US attorney for Kansas, has joined the state Attorney General’s Office to work in prosecuting consumer fraud.

Department spokesman Jeff Wagaman said Williams will leave his current job as Topeka city attorney later this month and start his new job July 1.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, himself a former consumer-protection attorney,  hired Williams as part of a plan to beef up that aspect of the office, Wagaman said.

Williams is well-known in Wichita, having worked for 30 years here as a federal prosecutor and college instructor.

He was appointed US Attorney for Kansas by President Clinton in 1996. He resigned the position  in 2001 after the change in administrations.

Williams taught as a senior fellow at Wichita State University’s criminal justice program from 2001 until taking the job in Topeka in 2008.

The consumer protection division investigates and prosecutes alleged violations of state laws banning deceptive business practices. Telemarketing and door-to-door sales fraud, identity theft and unfair debt collection are among its main areas of focus.

“Jackie Williams is among the most respected career prosecutors in Kansas,” Schmidt said in a statement. “His experience and skills will be tremendous additions to our consumer protection efforts.”

Williams will report to Deputy Attorney General Jim Welch, who took over the consumer protection division after leaving a similar post with the state Insurance Department.

Wichita City Council hits the restart button on air terminal

The Wichita City Council voted today to restart the process and move forward with building a new terminal at Mid-Continent Airport.

The council originally voted in 2004 to build the $200 million project — $160 million for a terminal and $40 million for parking and rent-a-car facilities. But it was put on hold in October because of the troubled economy.

Today, Airport Director Victor White told the council – which also acts as the Airport Authority — that now is the perfect time to go forward because construction costs have bottomed out and are projected to start rising again.

The project is forecast to be paid for through fees levied on airlines and airport users, combined with parking and concession income. However, $90 million will be raised through general obligation bonds, which would be backed by city tax funds if airport revenue falls short.

Check out artist renderings of the new terminal

Stormwater management not sexy or inexpensive but crucial, county leaders say

As Sedgwick County talks about how to spend taxpayer dollars next year, commissioners and staff are discussing what their priorities are, and one of them is reducing flooding-related problems across the area.

Commissioner Tim Norton said he has received more phone calls and e-mails from constituents about flooding in his 11 years on the board than any other issue.

The problem is that solving the stormwater management problem is an expensive endeavor. Some commissioners say they will not raise taxes.

Jim Weber, assistant public works director, said studies show that the public’s preference to pay for solutions is a voter-approved sales tax.

Stay on Kansas.com for more information.