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Author Archives: Rhonda Holman
June 19, 20146:00 a.m.
Joyland’s death probably was assured the moment it closed in 2006. Still, it was fun to root for the old amusement park and its wooden roller coaster as volunteers tried to raise awareness and money to give Joyland another life. The removal of its iconic sign and folding of the nonprofit restoration group in recent days have dashed any lingering hopes for the park, though. Thanks are due owner Margaret Nelson Spear for donating the merry-go-round to Botanica, and to the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County for stepping in to save some of the park’s most memorable signage. Now the community can start hoping that the vandalized, decaying property at 2801 S. Hillside will find a positive new use.
June 18, 20141:18 p.m.
In a sobering commentary in the Kansas City Star, physician and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer likened a difficult breech birth at an International Medical Corps clinic in South Sudan to the crisis of violence, famine and disease facing the new nation. The young woman had walked for miles after going into labor and before finding a ride and help at the clinic, but she and her 4-pound daughter survived, wrote Colyer, who recently spent two weeks in South Sudan. “Aside from recognizing the enormity of the potential calamity that awaits South Sudan and encouraging the peace process, important concrete steps are also needed,” he wrote. “These include: creating humanitarian corridors to ship more supplies to hard-hit areas, allowing U.N. forces to patrol cities like Malakal until local security is adequate so that humanitarian groups can effectively carry out their work, and allocating funds already committed to South Sudan by the international community next year for use this summer to ward off the looming threat of famine.”
June 18, 20146:00 a.m.
Because Sedgwick County can’t predict when the average 1,400 calls a day will come in to the 911 center, it’s not surprising that dispatchers sometimes are all busy. But even if a two-minute wait is unavoidable at times, such delays should not be treated as acceptable by county officials. And as officials work to avoid queuing up 911 callers, residents should think again about whether that 911 call is really necessary. It’s nuts that, as Kim Pennington, director of Sedgwick County 911, told The Eagle, “We have people calling us to get the phone number for the jail, people calling us about what time they have to go to court, calling us asking us when it’s going to quit raining. We had a lady three weeks ago in Derby call because McDonald’s didn’t make her double cheeseburger correctly.”
June 17, 20142:19 p.m.
A New York Times article and video chronicles life in what it calls “Kochville,” detailing the vast charitable footprint of Koch Industries and the Koch family in Wichita (Wichita State University’s Charles Koch Arena, the Sedgwick County Zoo’s Koch Orangutan and Chimpanzee Habitat, etc.) and complicated feelings locally about the Kochs’ even more vast political giving. Elsewhere, and especially on the Senate floor during the anti-Koch rants of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Charles and David Koch “are ready villains,” noted the Times’ Carl Hulse. But as Wichita Festivals CEO Mary Beth Jarvis, formerly of Koch Industries, told the Times, “There is almost no one in town who doesn’t have a friend, a neighbor, a relative who works out at Koch.” Last week the Times visited north Wichita as part of its interactive “The Way North” series about traveling up I-35 to see how immigration is changing the U.S., noting that Wichita’s Hispanic population has increased from 9 to 15 percent since 2000.
June 17, 20146:01 a.m.
How can it be that Congress is so unpopular, with an approval rating of 16 percent, yet congressional incumbents are so overwhelmingly favored to win, even after “Cantored” became a verb last week? Looking at the new Gallup Poll, the Washington Post’s Fix blog observed: “The lowest approval rate prior to 2014 was in the Republican wave of 1994, when only 22 percent of Americans approved of the job that Congress was doing. And that year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, ‘only’ 90 percent of Congress won re-election.” The Fix added: “People tend to re-elect their own members of Congress, regardless of how they feel about Congress on the whole. (They pay very little attention to politics and vote for the name they know over the one they don’t.)”
June 17, 20146:00 a.m.
Restaurants can be just as important to the airport experience as airline service and building design, so it was great to see that the new terminal at the newly named Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport plans to kick things up a notch. The concession lease agreement with Georgia firm MSE Branded Foods on Tuesday’s City Council agenda calls for an interesting mix of local flavor, with a River City Brewing Co., and national names Chick-fil-A and Dunkin’ Donuts. It limits MSE to charging customers no more than “local area street pricing” plus 10 percent – still a lot, but consistent with most airports’ gouging of what is, after all, a captive audience.
June 16, 20141:39 p.m.
A seat on the House Agriculture Committee was a given for Kansas. But a year and a half after losing his spots on that panel and the House Budget Committee because of his combative relationship with House leadership, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, shows no signs of remorse. “The loss of the two seats – that was punishment for being too conservative,” he told Fox News host Mike Huckabee over the weekend. In discussing last week’s primary loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Huelskamp said: “At the end of the day, you’ve got to represent your constituents.” But how did getting booted off the ag panel represent Kansas’ “Big First”? The Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling noted that Huelskamp’s own GOP primary challenger, Alan LaPolice, has made regaining the ag spot a top priority: It’s possible, Helling wrote, “that rural Kansas voters will wonder why their current congressman would rather appear on Fox News than, you know, work on farm policy.”
June 16, 20146:01 a.m.
National Security Agency snooping may be one of the few points of identifiable disagreement between Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and his predecessor-turned-challenger. “Mr. Pompeo says NSA isn’t listening to our calls but Gen. Clapper admits they are,” former Rep. Todd Tiahrt tweeted last week, linking to a commentary about Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s admission that analysts searched the content of Americans’ e-mails and phone calls without a warrant. But Tiahrt cast votes supporting President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping and the Patriot Act, which granted authorities sweeping new surveillance powers. And in a 2007 hearing, Tiahrt told then-DNI Mike McConnell: “I’m glad that we were able to update the law to move ourselves as a country into the electronic age…. I too am very hesitant to inject more lawyers and judicial process into the system, which appears to only slow things down and makes us in essence less safe.”
June 16, 20146:00 a.m.
Because of “hard-right policies that have upset GOP moderates,” political scientist Larry Sabato included Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback among four incumbent governors – along with Georgia’s Nathan Deal, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Hawaii’s Neil Abercrombie – who “have had enough missteps or managed to create enough opposition so that they must work hard for second terms” and whose “upset cannot be ruled out.” Sabato, of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, wrote in Politico Magazine: “Just as the Senate map this year favors Republicans because of a heavy concentration of solid red states, the governorship map leans slightly toward Democrats because a few GOP executives elected in the 2010 Republican landslide are vulnerable in blue or competitive states.”
June 15, 20146:02 a.m.
The Weekly Standard took note of the “curious challenge to a GOP incumbent” being posed by former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (in photo) to his successor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. An article by Mark Hemingway headlined “A Referendum on Earmarks” explored Tiahrt’s efforts to blame Wichita’s economic woes on Pompeo, quoting Tiahrt campaign manager Robert Noland as saying, “Half our aviation companies have left in the past couple years” and “when Todd was in office he did a lot of work to try to keep jobs here.” Hemingway observed: “It’s certainly a novel approach in the tea party era for a GOP candidate to signal they intend to bring home the federal bacon.”
June 15, 20146:01 a.m.
Congratulations to Spirit AeroSystems, whose festive send-off of the 5,000th Boeing Next-Generation 737 fuselage on Wednesday stood out as a proud moment in an otherwise unsettling week for aviation in Wichita. The murkiness of the future was underscored by the layoff notices at Bombardier Learjet and the raging rumors about Spirit’s plans for its parts fabrication and non-Boeing assembly work. But it was great to pause and celebrate the contributions of Spirit’s workforce and Wichita to the astonishingly enduring success of the 737.
June 15, 20146:00 a.m.
Hard to believe, but The Eagle’s Opinion Line marked its 20th birthday on Saturday. A few favorites from the archive of anonymous comments:
“The real question about Clinton’s upcoming trial in the Senate is whether he should be tried as an adult.”
“I hope no serious injuries were sustained by our local politicians patting themselves on the back at the BTK news conference.”
“When we finally get serious about locating Osama bin Laden, we will simply tell the AARP he is over 50.”
“You know the economy is in bad shape when you see a Jaguar sporting a Papa John’s pizza delivery sign.”
“Don’t believe in voter fraud? Just try to find someone who voted for Obama.”
“You have to love Opinion Line – Wichita’s community restroom wall.”
June 14, 20146:00 a.m.
So there will be no constitutional crisis over state funding of K-12 schools, at least for now. That’s a relief. This week three judges signed off on the new state law meant to remedy inequities in school funding by July 1, which means the Legislature’s $129 million response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s Gannon decision will stand and school districts will get their scheduled state aid. There was plenty to dislike about the bill and its passage, without sufficient scrutiny of its unwarranted policy provisions. But some districts will see benefits, as will some property tax payers. The big test of the Gannon lawsuit lies ahead, though, as the three-judge panel takes another look at whether state funding is unconstitutionally low overall.
June 13, 20146:01 a.m.
The questionable hiring and abrupt resignation of former state Rep. Phil Hermanson as KanCare inspector general brought to mind other doomed Brownback administration appointments, including of a chief information technology officer with a diploma-mill degree and of former Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Rob Siedlecki (in photo). An aggressive socially conservative reformer who clashed with lawmakers, Siedlecki lasted only about a year before returning to Florida. Last month he filed for the Florida House, running against a one-term Democrat and promising “to use my experience to improve the health and well-being of our children and families, strengthen our economy, improve education, and make Saint Lucie County the best place to live, work, and play at every age.”
June 11, 20146:00 a.m.
In the months leading up to last week’s tight GOP Senate primary in Mississippi, Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., were often mentioned together – longtime incumbents facing tea party challengers to their right. So why is the 76-year-old Cochran facing a June 24 runoff and seemingly in trouble while 78-year-old Roberts is looking strong for the August primary? “Cochran is an old-school pol who doesn’t often lead the charge against President Obama. He’s courtly, low-key. His opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, is a firebrand who’s been compared to a Southern preacher. That in-your-face approach appeals to conservative voters,” wrote the Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske. Meanwhile, Roberts has “been consistently tough on the president. And while he’s brought home his share of pork, he isn’t in Cochran’s league. Roberts votes so consistently conservative that his opponent, Milton Wolf, has struggled to make a case before the August primary,” Kraske wrote.