Monthly Archives: October 2012

Peterjohn, Ranzau were right about cell tower

Good for Sedgwick County Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau for not being satisfied with a $280,000 local offer to buy a county-owned cell tower at the former Wichita Greyhound Park. They had pressed county staff to try to do better, and the tower was sold at auction Monday for $610,000 to a Florida company. That purchase is expected to close late next month, giving the county more than half a million dollars it can use as it continues a multiyear effort to balance its budget.

More Kansas kids finding new homes

It’s encouraging that there has been an increase in the number of adoptions finalized in Kansas. There were 777 adoptions finalized in the 2012 fiscal year and 761 finalized in 2011. Those numbers were up from 721 in 2010, though fewer than the 816 finalized in 2009. “Adoption is a beautiful example of the power of family to change the course of a child’s life,” said Gov. Sam Brownback, who has made adoptions a priority. “All children deserve to grow up with parents who love them and are committed to them.”

Beware of campaign-mailer claims

Just in time for Halloween, some groups are trying to scare voters with campaign mailings that make false or misleading claims. The Kansas Democratic Party apologized for a mailer stating incorrectly that Rep. Joseph Scapa, R-Wichita, and Rep. Jana Goodman, R-Leavenworth, “voted for the largest cut to education in Kansas history.” That was referring to the 2011 state budget bill, which the lawmakers voted against (though they voted for earlier versions of the budget that cut aid to public schools even more, Associated Press reported). Meanwhile, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce sent out mailings opposing some Democrats and claiming that the state’s economic policies left “154,643 unemployed Kansans” – when the actual number is 87,416. The mailers also blasted Democrats for supporting the temporary statewide sales-tax increase in 2010 – the same tax that the Kansas Chamber later advocated be made permanent.

Independent expenditures swamping election

Spending by independent groups (the vast majority of which favors conservatives) has surged this election cycle, the website OpenSecrets.org reported. As of Tuesday morning, $838 million had been spent on independent expenditures so far during the 2012 campaign by third-party groups, many of which don’t have to disclose their donors. In the 2008 presidential election cycle, $138 million was spent on independent expenditures. The spending increase was fueled in large part by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political expenditures.

Brownback showing leadership on water

Kansas faces long-term challenges relating to the supply and quality of water, especially in meeting the demands of the energy industry and agriculture. Good for Gov. Sam Brownback for hosting a Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas on Tuesday and Wednesday in Manhattan, featuring speakers including Sen. Pat Roberts and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Among the key questions on the table – how to conserve and extend the Ogallala Aquifer. The governor has done good work on water policy so far in his term, this year repealing the 67-year-old “use-it-or-lose-it” policy. He and other state leaders will need to continue to be foresighted and collaborative to ensure Kansas has the water it needs far into the future.

How would Romney be handling Sandy?

Hurricane Sandy is prompting questions about how Mitt Romney would approach emergency management, especially given that he said during a 2011 primary debate that disaster relief might be better handled by states. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better,” he said then, adding that it was “simply immoral” to rack up debts and pass them onto our children. A Romney campaign official said Monday that the candidate would not abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but that “as the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.”

Kansas could see big drop in Medicaid funding

Kansas could see a 36 percent reduction in federal Medicaid dollars over the 2013-22 period, or about $12 billion, if policies advocated by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan go into effect, the Kansas Health Institute News Service reported. Nationwide, federal Medicaid spending would drop $1.7 trillion between 2013 and 2022 if the policies are implemented, according to a new report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Of that total, $932 billion would come from repealing the Affordable Care Act, and $810 billion would come from converting Medicaid to a block grant program for states and capping the amount of federal aid each state could receive.

Missing Honor Flight money is costly

The Central Prairie Honor Flight group in Great Bend already had been kicked out of the national Honor Flight organization because of administrative problems and other concerns. But the arrest last week of its former director on charges that she stole more than $100,000 from the charity could damage the Honor Flight program. People and businesses gave money to Central Prairie to help send World War II veterans to see the National World War II Memorial (in photo) and others in Washington, D.C. They and others may be less likely to support future flights if there has been a violation of trust. Area veterans also are victims, as the money reported missing could have paid for two more charter flights.

‘Fiscal cliff’ already costing jobs

Concern about the “fiscal cliff” already has wiped out nearly 1 million jobs this year, and if Congress fails to act it could result in nearly 6 million jobs lost through 2014, according to a new report by the National Association of Manufacturers. “Everyone is blaming everyone else as the country grinds to a halt,” one manufacturing company executive told the Washington Post. “I don’t think the political leadership in this country has an understanding of how long it could take to turn this boat around.”

Presidential race still a dead heat

The presidential race remains a dead heat, according to the Real Clear Politics latest average of 10 different national polls. Mitt Romney is slightly ahead, 47.8 percent to President Obama’s 47.1 percent. Neither candidate has more than a 3-percentage point lead in any of the polls, which is within the margins of error of the polls.

Gas customers shouldn’t pay for bonuses to executives

Natural-gas customers shouldn’t have their rates go up to pay for bonuses to utility executives for making more money for stockholders. But $8 million of the $32 million-a-year rate increase requested by Kansas Gas Service would do that. The utility argues that the bonuses help attract top-quality executives, who are then better able to run the company efficiently. But if those executives are making money for stockholders, the stockholders should be the ones paying for the bonuses.

Super PAC spending on judicial race is troubling

Something certainly smells about an out-of-state political action committee spending money on a Sedgwick County judicial race. The Georgia-based super PAC Safe Nation has been running a radio ad in Wichita criticizing District Court Judge Richard Ballinger and urging people to vote for his challenger, Zoe Newton, who works for businessman Wink Hartman. Why would people in Georgia care about a low-level judicial race in Wichita? They probably don’t. More likely, someone from Kansas is funneling money through a straw organization to try to avoid attention and contribution limits. Such moves have become common in national races and some statewide races. But it is particularly troublesome if the practice spreads to the election of local judges, who are supposed to be independent.

Overland Park rethinking open carry

The Overland Park City Council is rethinking its decision last month to allow the open carry of guns. The council approved open carry after an opinion by Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office that cities “may not completely prohibit the open carry of a loaded firearm on one’s person.” Wichita also removed its restrictions on open carry. The change didn’t go over well in Overland Park. “The public has not been pleased,” council member Jim Hix told the Kansas City Star. The council is now considering restrictions on open carry that would mirror the state’s concealed-carry gun law.

Dueling education tip websites

Ken Willard, chairman of Gov. Sam Brownback’s school efficiency task force, said that an online portal that allows the public to anonymously report examples of waste and inefficiency in public schools wasn’t intended to be negative. “If it sounded accusatory, that’s unfortunate because that certainly is not my position,” Willard told the Lawrence Journal-World. “But I think there probably are some things that could be done more efficiently, and if that’s the case we want to identify them in as positive a manner as possible to make recommendations.” Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, had complained that the website “seems like nothing more than a forum to demonize educators.” As a result, Democrats launched their own website seeking examples of how funding cuts have affected local schools. Democrats also have accused Brownback of creating the task force to provide cover for more budget cuts, noting that he initially didn’t appoint anyone to the task force who worked in education.

O’Neal, Morris have different views on Legislature, GOP

It’s not surprising that the outgoing leaders of the Kansas House and Senate have different takes on what the Legislature will be like next year. House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, dismissed concerns that Gov. Sam Brownback wouldn’t have any meaningful opposition in the Legislature. “It’s an oversimplification to assume anything that the governor proposes the House and Senate will automatically stand up and salute,” O’Neal told the Topeka Capital-Journal. He noted, for example, that Brownback would have a “hard sell” convincing lawmakers to extend the statewide sales tax. But Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said that next year’s Legislature is “going to be a rubber stamp on everything.” Morris, who was targeted for defeat by Brownback and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce (which O’Neal is leaving the Legislature to lead), said that Republicans used to respect different views and not “steamroll people into, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’” Now, he told the Capital-Journal, “when we have disagreements within the party, it’s like a war.”

Brownback stumps for Romney

After supporting Rick Perry and attending rallies for Ron Paul and Rick Santorum during the GOP primaries, Gov. Sam Brownback engaged in more presidential politics Tuesday by campaigning for Mitt Romney in northeast Ohio. Brownback told a Youngstown crowd that at Monday’s debate, Romney “looked like the president much more than the president.” Brownback said he saw Romney’s main message during the debate as: “You can’t have a strong foreign policy without a strong economy.”

Presidential debate unlikely to affect election

Though polling after Monday night’s presidential debate showed President Obama as the clear winner, the debate is unlikely to make a significant difference in the election. An average of “snap polls” of debate viewers had Obama winning by some 17 percentage points (including a 30-point win in a CBS News poll). But the topic of the debate – foreign policy – is not a priority for most voters, and Mitt Romney was able to meet the basic test of the debate: appearing as a credible commander in chief.

GOP infighting isn’t hurting voter registrations

In further evidence of the split between Republican moderates and conservatives, six moderate GOP state senators – including Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita – have endorsed Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. “Hensley has reached across the aisle to work with Republican leadership on a number of serious issues,” said Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood. “Good policy has always trumped partisanship in his eyes.” But the infighting doesn’t seem to be hurting the Republican Party. As of the first of this month, 782,161 Kansans were registered as Republicans, while 439,639 were registered as Democrats. The difference of 342,522 is a new record high. “The rising GOP numbers trash the idea that all the infighting between moderates and conservatives has undermined party prospects,” Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske wrote. “Just the opposite appears to be happening.”

Open thread on presidential debate

Dole has high praise for McGovern

“There can be no doubt that throughout his half-century career in the public arena, George McGovern never gave up on his principles or in his determination to call our nation to a higher plain,” former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole wrote of the former Democratic presidential candidate, who died Sunday. “America and the world are for the better because of him.” Dole acknowledged that it might seem a bit odd for him to be praising McGovern, whom Dole described as an “unapologetic liberal.” But Dole and McGovern formed a close bond working together on hunger issues. While colleagues in the Senate, they helped reform the food-stamp program and expand the school-lunch program. After they left office, they helped expand global school feeding, nutrition and education programs, for which they were named the co-recipients of the World Food Prize in 2008. Dole called McGovern “one of the finest public servants I had the privilege to know.”

Graves stacking donations high for Romney

Former Gov. Bill Graves topped the list of lobbyist bundlers of campaign contributions for Mitt Romney during the third quarter. Graves raised nearly $1.1 million for the GOP nominee in his role as CEO of the American Trucking Associations. From July through September, 42 lobbyists raised nearly $9 million for Romney. Other pro-Romney lobbyists on the list represent defense contractors, energy companies, financial firms, and pharmaceutical and health-related businesses. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Graves has now raised more than $1.6 million for Romney — delivering more money than any of the 62 other lobbyists named in federal filings. In a related story reported by Politico, some expect a Romney White House to rescind current rules preventing lobbyists from taking top administration jobs.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

The following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Town Hall Attendees Still Standing Patiently Waiting for Their Questions to Be Answered
Romney Sets New Personal Best for Faking Empathy
Bruce Springsteen Accidentally Plays ‘Big Government’s Stealin’ Our Livelihood’ at Obama Rally
Ryan Handed Romney’s Latest Political Positions Before Walking on Stage
Pennsylvania Republican Doubts Vote He Just Suppressed Would Even Have Made a Difference
Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad to Obama

Is school voucher ‘tidal wave’ headed for Kansas?

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said recently that “the writing is on the wall” in regard to school vouchers, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “In my opinion, it’s like a tidal wave that’s coming, and I don’t know that the education establishment can withstand it forever,” Rhoades said. Actually, the reason vouchers haven’t been able to clear the Legislature is not because of the “education establishment.” Many conservative lawmakers have been concerned about the cost of vouchers and how they might affect small school districts.

So they said

“I don’t often go to ribbon cuttings, but I’d go to that one.” – Rep. Mike Pompeo (in photo), R-Wichita, on the idea of Boeing reversing itself and keeping the Air Force One work in Wichita

“Communities don’t have health problems. Individuals do.” – Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau, likening water fluoridation to collectivism and communitarianism

“If they reimbursed you for pain and suffering, they would be paying quite a bit more.” – Harvey County Commissioner Marge Roberson, in the Newton Kansan, about a $4,558.50 check from the state to help with overtime costs for the computer switch and resulting long lines for tags and driver’s licenses

“I was against a young man who I considered a friend.… He was asked to run by Sam Brownback. And will be a puppet of Sam Brownback.” – Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, in a Financial Times article headlined “Moderates lick wounds in ‘bleeding Kansas’”

Coliseum’s conversion is exciting to see

It is exciting to see the former Britt Brown Arena at the Kansas Coliseum complex being transformed into the Aircraft Structural Testing and Evaluation Center, an expansion of the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University. Developer Johnny Stevens and NIAR are remodeling the arena so that NIAR can conduct structural tests on aircraft as big as Boeing 737s and 787s. Work at the center is expected to begin within a month, and the offices are scheduled to be open the first week of January. The new center will further enhance Wichita’s stature as an aviation manufacturing and research hub.