Category Archives: Cowtown

Biden, McConnell came out well on fiscal cliff

Like the final votes to avoid the fiscal cliff, the lists of the winners and losers were bipartisan, at least in the view of Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza. The winners in the deal included Vice President Joe Biden (in photo) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, key negotiators in the final days. Losers included House Speaker John Boehner and Congress in general. Lawmakers’ “idea of compromise is agreeing on a date sometime in the future when they will – seriously this time – make the hard decisions,” wrote Cillizza. He named President Obama both a winner and a loser for beating the Republicans on the messaging until Monday’s “off-key” campaign-style “event with ‘middle class’ citizens.”

Would ban on assault weapons help prevent killings?

The National Rifle Association has argued that banning assault weapons is ineffective in curbing crime. However, Australia’s ban has significantly reduced murders and mass killings. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote: “In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The ‘national firearms agreement,’ as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.… In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings – but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half.”

At least Cowtown budget cut wasn’t worse

A $50,000 budget cut will be difficult for Old Cowtown Museum to absorb, but at least it wasn’t $100,000, as the city initially proposed. That proposal seemed arbitrary and was not handled well, as Cowtown’s board president first learned about it by reading The Eagle. Good for City Manager Robert Layton for finding some additional funding and reducing the cut, though it still seems unfair that Cowtown was singled out for a large funding reduction. Here is hoping that increased attendance and fund raising will help Cowtown make up some of the cut.

Huelskamp wasn’t worried about default

For someone less than halfway through a first term in Congress, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, is certainly sure about things, including that the U.S. was at zero risk of default this month. “That would have been a very devastating thing,” he said Friday in Dodge City. “But I want to tell you here today — in my honest opinion — that was never, ever going to happen . . . because we had sufficient dollars to pay our creditors. It’s 8 percent of our revenue, and we can’t pay them?” Huelskamp voted against raising the debt ceiling, describing the spending cuts in the deficit-reduction deal as “paltry.”

Health reform needed catchy name

Would a health care reform with another name smell sweeter to the American public? Its proper name, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or PPACA), is unfamiliar. “Puh-pack-uh? Is that some kind of llama?” asked Kaiser Health News’ Marilyn Serafini. The shorter Affordable Care Act isn’t much used outside the White House. At one point even those became fighting words, inspiring Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, to try to strike the word “affordable” from the bill’s title. Critics, of course, prefer to call it “Obamacare” (a term that the administration seemingly now has embraced by ensuring that people who search Google for that term see a sponsored link to When it comes to politically motivated names, though, not much tops the official name of the House bill to repeal health care reform: Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.

Republican blowout might benefit Obama

voterepublicanCan’t think of five reasons a GOP takeover of Congress would be good for President Obama? AOL Original’s John Merline could, seeing it as an opportunity for the president to come together with a “tamer GOP” to get a lot of things done in time for 2012. Plus, he wrote, “right now businesses are hoarding a huge pile of cash — about $1.8 trillion worth — in part out of concern about Washington. Putting a business-friendly GOP in charge of Congress could be all that’s needed to unleash a corporate spending and hiring spree. That’s pretty much what happened after November 1994. The Consumer Confidence Index shot up into the 100s — it had been languishing around the 70s during Clinton’s first two years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rocketed ahead. And unemployment fell to an average 5.5 percent in 1995-96 from 6.5 percent in 1993-94.”

Incumbents under fire

congressinsessionKansas isn’t alone in having throngs of candidates running for Congress. Associated Press reported that more than 2,300 people have filed for 471 House and Senate seats — the most candidates in at least 35 years — and the filing deadline is still pending in some states, including Kansas. The field is heavily Republican, reflecting the public mood, but there also are several hundred independent and third-party candidates. Meanwhile, primary voters continue to show themselves to be in a mood to blame incumbents, mostly Democratic ones. Two more fell last Tuesday in elections in Alabama: recent party-switcher Rep. Parker Griffith, R-Ala., and Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., who was running for governor.

Looking down (the pike) on Wichita

“I no longer think city and state government officials in Topeka have cornered the market on ways to blow tax money.” — Topeka Capital-Journal’s Ric Anderson, on the lackluster results of the city of Wichita’s investment in Old Cowtown Museum

Still no leader for Cowtown

cotownOld Cowtown Museum might have to go back to the drawing board in its months-long search for a new director.

Vice Mayor Sue Schlapp told The Eagle editorial board that the search committee has interviewed several finalists but hasn’t yet found someone who is the right fit.

“We’re wanting to make sure we get the right director who understands what our vision is,” she said.

She added that there’s not as much of a rush to fill the position, now that the council has delayed plans to build a new theater at the living history museum.
Still, the attraction needs strong leadership and new ideas. We hope Cowtown finds the right person soon.

Glickman laments rising cost of campaigns

glickmanDan Glickman (in photo), former 4th District congressman and current chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, was back in Wichita last week. He helped campaign for Donald Betts, who is running for Glickman’s old congressional seat, now held by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard.

Glickman told The Eagle editorial board that he spent only $100,000 when he first ran for Congress in 1976 (about $400,000 in today’s dollars), and he was able to buy 30-second advertising spots on the TV news back then for only $150. Now, he said, members of Congress continually have to raise money and often are paralyzed from doing anything that might upset their donors. “It’s an insidious system,” he said.

Cowtown should have better new year

CowtownToday’s agenda for the Wichita City Council includes consideration of a 2008 operating agreement for Old Cowtown Museum. It represents the city’s essential next step in assuming daily operation of and responsibility for the living history museum, which will remain a nonprofit organization with its own fundraising, collection management and board. Along with the Diamond W Wranglers’ dinner shows and the hiring early next year of a new director, the operating agreement should set the attraction on a stable new path. Having also agreed to invest nearly $3 million over three years to raise Cowtown’s health and safety standards, city leaders are doing their part to signal the high value they place on Cowtown as a cultural asset. The rest of the community will need to help ensure that Cowtown has a prosperous new year.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Cowtown still needs county’s help, too

The Sedgwick County Commission took a step away from Old Cowtown Museum last week in terms of financial support, just as the city of Wichita took over the cash-strapped cultural treasure. About $300,000 of a once-earmarked $519,000 from the county still could end up supporting Cowtown, but $115,000 was redirected as part of the passage of the county’s 2008 budget. It’s not surprising that the county would reassess its role at Cowtown, now that Wichita has opted to be responsible for Cowtown’s operations. But the county has been a crucial partner in working through Cowtown’s problems for the past year. Bowing out now would only make the city’s task more difficult.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

City oversight will pay off at Cowtown

After years of confusion about who’s in charge of the operations — and the bills — at Old Cowtown Museum, it’s good that the city of Wichita this week formally assumed lead control of the attraction.
Among other things, that means the city acknowledges its fiscal responsibility to maintain the living history museum’s buildings and grounds, which it owns. The city will spend up to $3 million for needed repairs and code upgrades at the site. As Vice Mayor Sharon Fearey said, “This relieves the board of so much pressure and lets them get back to doing the programming, education and taking care of artifacts.”
City officials also deserve credit for helping negotiate exciting new draws for the attraction, most notably the Prairie Wranglers. These changes point Cowtown in a positive direction.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Running a rooster to ground

The recent effort by city officials to crack down on Old Cowtown Museum’s animal code violations is — let’s agree — bizarre. I mean, owning a swaybacked horse is a crime? And smoke alarms are required in chicken coops?
What next? Air conditioning? Cable?
It got stranger when Rooster Cogburn flew the coop and reportedly started hiding at an undisclosed location. The mystery is as yet unsolved.
Any leads out there?
In my column Friday, I took a satirical look at how Sgt. Joe Friday of “Dragnet” fame might enforce Wichita’s animal code and solve the case.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Fresh paint won’t fix Cowtown’s maintenance problems

A few of the health and safety violations the city of Wichita found at Old Cowtown Museum seem petty. But many others are quite serious and, according to a letter given to Cowtown’s board this week by City Manager George Kolb, could endanger visitors and staff. Granted, it isn’t easy to keep mice, cockroaches and rain out of old, wooden buildings. But the letter revealed that Cowtown’s maintenance problems are sizable and won’t be fixed just by slapping on a fresh coat of paint.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

County unlikely to rescue Cowtown

A meeting on Old Cowtown Museum’s future drew a crowd of supporters Monday evening. But if Cowtown depends on the largesse of the Sedgwick County Commission, it’s in trouble.
Commissioner Dave Unruh told The Eagle editorial board that he doesn’t see many options for the struggling museum: Either “shut it down, or the city or county one ought to step up with a lot of support.”
And he made clear he doesn’t think it should be the county. Cowtown’s buildings and collections, he noted, legally belong to the city of Wichita. Cowtown “should be their project,” he said. “The city should take full responsibility for it.”
Unruh said the county has taken the lead on several major projects, including building the downtown arena and supporting Exploration Place. Cowtown is just one too many.
But the city, for its part, has shown little inclination to embrace Cowtown financially. Without significant support from local government, saving Cowtown looks like a long shot.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Riding to Cowtown’s rescue

It’s great to see a groundswell of support building for Old Cowtown Museum — and gratifying that many of the offers of help are coming from outside the city. Cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey of “Wildfire” fame has offered to perform a special Christmas benefit concert for Cowtown — a terrific idea.
But why stop there? Having an entertainer of Murphey’s stature as a regular at Cowtown would be a big draw. Another booster, True West magazine, is telling its 192,000 readers to send donations to the museum, which it calls a “national treasure.”
Wichita is on the national map as a major Western history hub. In fact, Murphey rightly says that Cowtown “could be and should be the ‘Williamsburg of the American West.’”
Now it’s up to locals to start seeing Cowtown’s huge potential. As our editorial today notes, Wichita can’t let Cowtown ride into the sunset.
Posted by Randy Scholfield