Monthly Archives: July 2012

Former U.S. Sen. Kassebaum Baker endorses Schodorf in Senate race

By Simina Mistreanu

Former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker has endorsed Jean Schodorf in her re-election bid for the Kansas Senate.

She is running against Wichita City Councilman Michael O’Donnell in the Republican primary in District 25 in central-west Wichita.

“I believe Jean to be the best qualified candidate, based on her experience as a state senator and school board member, as well as her considerable skill in finding solutions to difficult problems by working with people,” said Kassebaum Baker, according to a release by Schodorf’s campaign office.

Schodorf said Kassebaum Baker’s endorsement is a positive event in a “very negative” race.

“This is just another example of somebody recognizing that we are talking about issues, about what’s good for Kansas and Wichita,” Schodorf said. “I don’t know how it will affect the race except that Nancy is very well respected and I hope that people will at least read what she has to say.”

O’Donnell said endorsements don’t affect political races considerably.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Senator Kassebaum would endorse a candidate that has voted to raise taxes numerous times and supports President Obama’s health care plan,” he said. “I’m more interested in receiving the endorsement from the good people of the 25th Senate District.”

O’Donnell also pointed out that he received campaign contributions from prominent business people and groups in Wichita.

Kassebaum Baker’s endorsement might not change people’s minds, but it could convince voters who were planning to stay at home during the primaries to go out and vote for Schodorf, said Mel Kahn, a political science professor at Wichita State University who is a Democrat. Kassebaum Baker served as a U.S. senator from Kansas between 1978 and 1997. Among the issues that she supported were education and access to affordable medicines. “I would say she is probably the most popular Republican in Kansas in the last 40 years,” Kahn said. “She’s not as prestigious as Senator (Bob) Dole, but she was more popular. She was so popular that after the first term she just used the name ‘Nancy’ on her advertising.” The categories of voters Kassebaum Baker might appeal to are women, moderate conservatives, people who oppose Gov. Sam Brownback’s policies and people who feel strongly about education, Kahn said.

O’Connor: Campaign signs being destroyed

Sedgwick County District Attorney candidate Kevin O’Connor said Thursday his campaign signs are being destroyed.

He’s not sure how many have been destroyed “because they go up and get torn back down again,” but he thinks about 16 have been knocked down.

“This sign destruction is ridiculous & immature,” O’Connor wrote in an e-mail.

He faces Marc Bennett in the Aug. 7 Republican primary. The accompanying picture was provided by O’Connor’s campaign.




Wichita manager formally presents $533 million budget to council

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton formally presented his annual budget to the City Council today, launching a month-long process of hearings that will lead to adoption of the $533 million 2013 spending plan.

Although the public was invited to comment today, nobody took advantage of the opportunity. The public will have three more chances to address the council before final passage, scheduled for Aug. 14.

Layton walked the council through a series of cuts and fee increases he proposes to balance the budget without raising general property taxes or laying off employees.

The biggest fee increase Layton proposed was $300,000 to be raised from a $1-per transaction “convenience payment fee” to be levied on residents who use credit cards to pay bills and fines.

At present, the city does not have an extra charge for paying with plastic, although the credit-card companies do charge the city a service fee, Layton said.

Council member Pete Meitzner said he thinks the proposed charge is reasonable.

“I think a dollar is a number everybody’s used to,” Meitzner said. “It is a convenience to be be able to pay online with a credit card.”

People who wish to avoid the fee could still pay by check through the mail or in person at City Hall, officials noted.

Other fee increase income the city manager outlined include:

– $280,000 in fire inspection fees for bars and other high-hazard establishments.

– $150,000 in court program fees. The new fee proposes to replace income that used to be collected by the state from alcohol and drug defendants to pay for evaluation costs.

– $50,000 in parking charges at City Hall. The increase won’t bring the charge to parity with the nearby Sedgwick County Courthouse, which Layton originally wanted to do, but an increase will discourage neighboring businesses from using City Hall as cheap parking, he said.

– $35,000 from a 15 percent increase in planning application fees.

– $30,000 in increased fees charged when the city garnishes wages to collect on owed debts, which it usually does to fulfill court orders.

The manager is also proposing a number of cuts and adjustments, including the elimination of seven police officer positions that were primarily funded by federal grants that are now expiring.

The change in police positions will save $68,000 in city funds, Layton said.

No layoffs are expected and some of the employees will be transferred to open jobs elsewhere in city government, Layton said.

The grants were helped the city pay police to compensate for the temporary loss of officers who were deployed overseas as military reserve and National Guard troops.

Those officers are expected to return to their city jobs soon, Layton said.

“The grants helped us over a hump and we will still be three (positions) better than we were before we applied for the grant funds,” Layton said.

One cut that may be noticeable to residents is a reduction in hours that libraries will be open to the public. Layton’s budget would save $150,000 by cutting 46 library hours a week, mostly during less-busy times at low-usage branches, he said.

Other proposed cuts include:

– $128,554 from cultural and arts funding.

– $100,000 each from the aquatics program and Old Cowtown Museum.

– $30,000 from marketing and the city’s cable TV channel.

– $20,000 in costs of leasing school district facilities for recreation programs. The programs will be relocated to city-owned facilities.

– $11,200 in travel costs for the sister-city program, reducing that expenditure by one-third. The program pays for city officials to travel to sister cities in China, France and Mexico to encourage business and cultural ties.

The public’s next opportunity to have input on the budget will come during a “Twitter town hall” at #wichitabudget, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The council is scheduled to hold live public hearings at its Aug. 7 meeting and before the final approval on Aug. 14. Those meetings will be at 9 a.m. at City Hall, 455 N. Main, Wichita.

Wichita Metro Chamber PAC announces endorsements

The Wichita Metro Chamber PAC announced its endorsements for the Aug. 7 primary today. The Chamber’s political arm sided predominantly with the more conservative of candidates, although the Chamber says its endorsements aren’t based on political labels and are rather intended to support the candidate most likely to help grow the economy and add jobs.

Chamber lobbyist Jason Watkins said the endorsements are based on their views of who is proactive on helping the state be more competitive by lowering the cost of business and reducing regulations.

Here’s their endorsement list. And here’s a link to their most recent ethics commission filing, which shows where recent contributions have come from.

South Central Kansas State House Candidates

District 72    Marc Rhoades

District 73    Clark Shultz

District 76    Willie Prescott*

District 76    Peggy Mast*

District 77    David Crum

District 79    Larry Alley

District 80    Kasha Kelley

District 81    Jim Howell

District 82    Pete DeGraff

District 84    Dan Heflin

District 85    Steve Brunk

District 86    John Stevens

District 87    Mark Kahrs

District 88    Joe Scapa

District 89    Peggy Elliott

District 90    Steve Huebert

District 91    Gene Suellentrop

District 92    Brenda Landwehr

District 93    George “Joe” Edwards

District 94    Mario Goico

District 95    Benny Boman

District 96    Rick Lindsey

District 97    Les Osterman

District 98    Phil Hermanson

District 99    Dennis Hedke

District 100  Bridget Schneider

District 101  Joe Seiwert

District 104  Ken Willard

District 105  Mark Hutton

District 116  Kyle Hoffman

South Central Kansas State Senate Candidates

District 14  Forrest Knox

District 16  Ty Masterson

District 25  Michael O’Donnell

District 26  Dan Kerschen

District 27  Les Donovan

District 28  Mike Peterson

District 29  Kenya Cox

District 30  Susan Wagle

District 31  Gary Mason

District 32  Steve Abrams

District 34  Terry Bruce

County Commission, District III

Karl Peterjohn*

Jeff Longwell*

Other Races

Judge William Woolley

*indicates dual endorsement

State audit: Poor management led to unsafe conditions at juvenile corrections facility

TOPEKA – Poor management, high turnover and lax discipline led to injuries and sexual misconduct at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka, according to a scathing audit released this morning.

The problems have been ongoing for years, and very little has been done to better protect children who are sent to the correctional facility for a variety of offenses, the audit says.

“I find this not only quite alarming, but really embarrassing to the state,” said Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration immediately released a statement that ties the audits wide-ranging findings to the firings of the state’s two top Juvenile Justice Authority officials earlier this year.

Commissioner Curtis L. Whitten and Deputy Commissioner Dennis Casarona were fired abruptly and with little explanation in late March. Brownback administration officials declined at the time to elaborate on why the officials were fired.

Brownback explained more in his statement today.

“After a thorough review of the facilities by the state’s top corrections officer in February, we moved aggressively to make changes, including substantial personnel changes in the leadership team at JJA,” Brownback said in a news release.

Brownback, whose administration has tried to make a series of changes to JJA, said the audit highlights “a failed social services approach to juvenile justice in Kansas.”

The Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka is one of two juvenile correctional facilities in the state and it houses about 220 boys and 20 girls, mostly ages 15 to 18.

The audit says that poor supervision and security policies at the Topeka facility led to injuries, sexual misconduct and theft. It lays the blame on high turnover that is result of low wages and lax leadership.

JJA didn’t perform adequate background checks on employees, which allowed people with drug convictions to be hired. The agency didn’t provide sufficient training, and some officers were promoted without statutorily-required training.

“JJA and KJCC officials appear to have favored convenience and expedience over safety and security,” the audit says.

Teresa Williams, acting JJA commissioner, outlined a series of changes and new training aimed at resolving the long-standing problems.

“This report is inexcusable,” she said.

Williams said salary, policy and management issues will be addressed.

“JJA is committed to operating a better, safer, more transparent and a more accountable state agency,” she said in a letter in response to the audit.

District 3 Sedgwick County commission challenger gets three endorsements from aviation leaders

Wichita City Council member Jeff Longwell, who is challenging Sedgwick County District 3 commissioner for his seat, announced at the Pachyderm Club meeting that three aviation leaders have endorsed his campaign.

Longwell said Jeff Turner, Russ Meyer and Lynn Nichols are supporting his campaign. Turner is CEO of Spirit AeroSystems; Meyer is former chairman of Cessna Aircraft; and Nichols is CEO of Yingling Aviation.

Former Congressman Tiahrt endorses Karl Peterjohn in commission race

Former U.S. Representative Todd Tiahrt today endorsed Republican incumbent Karl Peterjohn in the District 3 Sedgwick County commission race. Peterjohn faces Wichita City Council member Jeff Longwell in the Aug. 7 primary.

Tiahrt ended his endorsement letter with the sign-off “For Liberty.”

New DMV hazard to avoid: double billing on renewals

Add another car-registration hazard to hours-long waits in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles – the possibility of being charged more than once for the same car when you renew on the Internet.

The good news is it’s a problem you can avoid just by being patient.

Sedgwick County officials warned Tuesday that people who register online should not click the button to submit their registration more than once, no matter how long it takes to go through or how locked up the system seems to be.

The cranky computers that have caused lengthy lines at tag offices are the same ones that service the online system.

So, if the DMV office computer is down, the Internet registration system will also be slow, said Richard Vogt, the county’s information technology chief.

When their home computer takes a long time to process an online registration, some users respond by clicking on the “submit” button multiple times – it doesn’t speed anything up, but it will send multiple charge requests to your credit-card company.

“It does charge your credit card every time you click ‘submit,’” said County Treasurer Linda Kizzire.

And the user won’t immediately know that, because the system is not real time and it can take a day or so for the charges to process through the credit card company, Kizzire said.

Kizzire and Vogt said they don’t think anyone in Sedgwick County has wound up paying more than once for their registration.

Clerks in the treasurer’s office review a daily report of the online transactions looking for multiple charges on the same vehicle. Those stand out in the report and they think they’ve caught them all and corrected them, Kizzire said.

Vogt said there’s a simple way to avoid the potential for multiple charge – just don’t click on the submit button more than once.

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