Category Archives: Kansas news

Phelps’ survivors are due respect he denied others

phelpssignThrough the anti-gay picketing that he and his followers did across the country, including at military funerals, Fred Phelps caused untold amounts of heartache for individuals and brought shame on his state. He also inspired many new laws, as the federal government and states sought, with limited success, to curb the Westboro Baptist Church’s First Amendment right to spew its hate for homosexuals. But as the group Equality Kansas suggested this week, the best way to respond to Phelps’ death at age 84 is with respect for his survivors and their privacy – the opposite of what he showed gays and lesbians and grieving military families for so many years.

Dedication of Capitol a great way to celebrate Kansas Day

capitalnewHappy 153rd birthday, Kansas. And a dedication ceremony of the newly restored Kansas Capitol is a great way to celebrate Kansas’ admission to the Union as a free state. Gov. Sam Brownback and other dignitaries will speak at the ceremony, which begins at noon in the rotunda. The restoration project returned some of the original opulence and grandeur of the building, as workers polished the pressed copper and uncovered some of the gold leaf. There also is now a visitor center with historical displays and a gift shop selling Kansas products. An article in the Sunday Eagle reported that “Kansas’ Capitol building was inspired by the state’s residents and what they thought the future would hold.” The restoration projects reflects pride in our state’s past and continued optimism about its future.

Analysis: Kansans are discourteous without cursing

cursingIn a national data and research firm’s analysis of more than 600,000 phone calls placed to businesses by customers over the past year, Kansas stood out for falling in the “Goody Two Shoes” category of states with the least cursing among callers while also being counted among the states lacking in courtesy. Ohioans cursed the most and also were in the top five for least courteous. The Marchex Institute, which conducted the study, also found that men did 66 percent of the cursing and that morning calls were twice as likely as afternoon or evening calls to involve cursing.

People wanted to make things right for veteran

The Veterans Affairs system is supposed to ensure that those who risk life and limb defending their fellow Americans do not face financial ruin once they return home. So it was heartbreaking to read in the Sunday Eagle about the foreclosure worries of 44-year-old Wellington homeowner Jerrod Hays, who was severely wounded serving in Iraq in 2007 with the Kansas National Guard and called the prospects of losing his home “worse than getting blown up.” The Eagle’s reporting brought an outpouring of concern and offers to help Hays and his family. And this week Hays learned that the VA had approved him for 100 percent disability status, which will boost his income, and that his mortgage lender is working with him on a solution. Hays’ story and its public reception confirm the willingness of people to step up to help make things right for our veterans. But what about all the others whose stories are going untold? The VA system needs to reliable for them, too.

Can rural Kansas stop population slide?

A Wall Street Journal article on efforts to stem rural depopulation looked at the experience of Kansas’ Greeley County, where population has increased 4 percent in the past two years (to 1,298) after a 30-year slide. It noted that officials are “trying everything from keeping the local movie theater open with volunteers to consolidating government and hitching onto a state program that offers student-loan payoffs and tax deductions for people who relocate” – Kansas’ 2-year-old Rural Opportunity Zone program, which reportedly has 600 participating residents of 73 rural counties, including 19 in Greeley County. Christy Hopkins, the county’s community development director, told the Journal: “Forecasters for some time have said – you guys are destined to fail. We know it’s taking time, and we’re not saying we have it all figured out, but we’re on a path.” But Kansas State University associate professor Laszlo Kulcsar had a gloomier view of the future for rural communities, telling the Journal: “I think we’re in for 10 more years of denial. After the next census, there is going to be a really rude awakening.”

Ugly comments don’t represent American values, Miss Kansas

Theresa Vail (in photo) did a great job representing Kansas in this year’s Miss America pageant, winning the online “America’s Choice” vote to advance as a semifinalist. It’s a shame she has been mentioned in some ugly comments about Miss New York Nina Davuluri, the first contestant of Indian heritage to win the title. Todd Starnes, a Fox News radio host, tried to politicize the pageant by tweeting that “the liberal Miss America judges won’t say this – but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values,” and that “Miss Kansas, a gun-toting, deer-hunting, military veteran was America’s choice – but not the liberal Miss America judges’ choice.”

Happy 100th birthday, Kansas State Fair

Congratulations to the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson for reaching the century mark – a feat that confirms the fair’s enduring value to the state as a showcase, marketplace and memory maker. Gratitude is due the many volunteers and leaders who have sustained and strengthened the fair over the decades, somehow keeping it both nostalgic and fresh. The tastes, smells, sounds and sights of the Kansas State Fair only come around once a year, and will be gone again after Sept. 15. Enjoy it while you and your family can, in the process helping celebrate the fair’s big birthday and its importance to the Sunflower State.

Arts funding is wonderful, but will it continue?

The National Endowment for the Arts’ decision to provide $560,800 in matching funds to Kansas is wonderful news for the Kansas arts community, which has struggled to get by since Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed state arts funding in 2011. But ongoing NEA funding is uncertain, as Brownback and the Legislature removed most of the state arts funding for this fiscal year that lawmakers restored in 2012. “If Kansas fails to provide more state support, future NEA matching funds will be cut,” the advocacy group Kansas Citizens for the Arts warned in an e-mail. Also, the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission has been incredibly slow in distributing grant money, which won’t please the NEA.

Curbing water use would have big impact on aquifer

If current irrigation trends continue, 69 percent of the groundwater stored in the Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas will be depleted in 50 years, according to a new study published by David Steward, a professor of civil engineering at Kansas State University, and other K-State researchers. But the hopeful news is that immediately reducing water use could extend the aquifer’s life through the year 2110. “We really wrote the paper for the family farmer who wants to pass his land on to his grandchildren knowing that they will have the same opportunities that farmers do today,” Steward said in a news release. “As a society, we have an opportunity to make some important decisions that will have consequences for future generations, who may or may not be limited by those decisions.”

Discerning eyes see plenty of beauty in Kansas

So a Business Insider poll declared Kansas as having the worst scenery in the nation, while picking neighboring Colorado’s as the best? Well, maybe if you need to be hit over the head by a view to see its beauty. But those with a discerning eye know that mountains, oceans or forests don’t have a monopoly on scenic splendor. The beauty of Kansas is subtle, but the state’s lush open spaces, diverse topography and abundant wildlife can inspire awe – in the spacious and undulating Flint Hills (in photo), of course, but in many other places in the state. Don’t believe it? Check out The Eagle’s online gallery of images of Kansas at its least ugly.

Kansas cities among worst-performing

Economically, Lawrence is the second-worst-performing small-metropolitan area in the nation, according to a new study. But other Kansas communities didn’t do that well, either. Of 179 small metro areas studied by the Milken Institute, Lawrence ranked 178th for creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth. Topeka came in 144th – better but not good. Among 200 large cities studied, Wichita was 146th while Kansas City was 104th. The ranking emphasized high-tech jobs, which is one reason why Kansas didn’t rank higher.

Kansas among deadliest states for workers

A new report from the AFL-CIO ranks Kansas as the 10th deadliest state for workers in 2011. Kansas had 78 workplace deaths in 2011 (7 fewer than in 2010). That’s a rate of 5.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers, compared with the nationwide rate of 3.5. Kansas also had 34,400 injuries or incidents of job-related illness. The study blames the poor record in part on a lack of safety regulations and inspectors. It said that Kansas had only 14 federal job safety inspectors and no state inspectors, and that those federal inspectors inspected only 786 of the state’s 87,223 work establishments in fiscal year 2012. But job accidents are also associated with certain types of work. States with significant mining, oil and gas extraction and agriculture sectors have higher job-fatality rates.

Kapaun award ceremony was moving, overdue

Thursday’s ceremony at the White House, in which the Father Emil Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor, was moving and long overdue. As our Friday editorial noted, Kapaun, who died in a Chinese-run prison camp during the Korean War, responded to danger and deprivation with courage and selflessness, saving lives, sustaining hopes, and even blessing and forgiving his captors. President Obama noted that though Kapaun didn’t fire a gun, he wielded the mightiest weapon: love. Sixty-two years after his death, Kapaun remains an example of how to live and how to serve others.

Happy birthday, Kansas

“Kansas as a paradise has her failings,” wrote Eagle founder Marshall Murdock on a windy day in April 1880, describing “dust, grit and sand everywhere in your victuals, up your nose, down your back, between your toes.” But on this Kansas Day, we recall with pride that Kansas entered the Union as a free state on Jan. 29, 1861, and we stand back in admiration and awe not only of Kansas’ rich heritage but also its impressive present and promising future. Happy birthday, Kansas.

Top Kansas stories heavy on politics

Politics and public policy dominated the top stories of the year in Kansas, according to a survey of Associated Press member newspaper editors and broadcast news directors. The state’s tax cuts and the conservative takeover of the Kansas Senate were named the No. 1 and No. 2 news stories of 2012, while KanCare, the state’s reform of Medicaid, came in at No. 3. Other state government issues in the top 10 were Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s continued crusades against voter fraud and illegal immigration (No. 6), the state’s bungled rollout of a new computer system for handling driver’s licenses (No. 9) and the Legislature’s failure to draw new political boundaries (No. 10). Other top stories included the heat wave and drought (No. 4), Kansas State University’s football season (No. 5), Boeing Co. pulling out of Wichita (No. 7) and the University of Kansas playing for the men’s national basketball title (No. 8).

100 years of women’s voting rights in Kansas

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Kansas granting women full voting rights – just a day before a national election in which the political parties have been scrambling to win over women. Kansas voters – all of them men – approved a state constitutional amendment on Nov. 5, 1912, eight years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote nationwide, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The Kansas amendment passed 175,246 to 159,197. Two earlier attempts to pass a voting rights amendment had failed in Kansas in 1867 and 1894. However, Kansas women were allowed to vote in school elections from the start of statehood in 1861, and they were allowed to vote in municipal elections in 1887. In fact, Susanna Salter was elected mayor of Argonia in 1887, becoming the first female mayor in the nation.

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.

Violent threats didn’t come from God

God has been wrongly portrayed by a local anti-abortion activist and a Kansas pastor in recent days. Angel Dillard, who is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for a threatening letter she sent to a Wichita doctor, claimed in a court filing that her message was “divinely inspired.” Meanwhile, incredibly, the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca in north-central Kansas said that it’s time for the U.S. government to begin killing gay men and lesbians, the Huffington Post reported. “They should be put to death,” Curtis Knapp told his congregation. “‘Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them, no?’ – I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.”

Farewell to Frank; glad Marshall’s staying

Kansans can wish Kansas State University men’s basketball coach Frank Martin well in his new endeavor of trying to pull South Carolina out of the SEC basement, and cheer on KSU president Kirk Schulz and athletic director John Currie as they seek a new coach who’ll be a positive and lasting asset for the Wildcats, the state and the Big 12. Seeing Martin ditch KSU after five seasons, four NCAA Tournaments and a 117-54 record, it’s fair to wonder whether there’s any loyalty these days between coaches and colleges. But Wichita State University fans just saw proof of its existence in the announcement that men’s basketball coach Gregg Marshall (in photo) plans to stay and build on his five seasons and 109-61 record, which have included a Missouri Valley Conference title and NCAA Tournament bid this season and the NIT Championship last year. Marshall said: “Wichita State is a special place, with great resources, from facilities to academics to people.” And a great men’s basketball team, thanks in large part to Marshall.

Kansas a better-than-average state to make a living

Kansas rated better than average in a new ranking of the best states to make a living. MoneyRates.com examined data on income, cost of living, taxes and unemployment. Virginia had the highest adjusted average income of $43,677. Kansas was No. 19 at $37,008. Of our neighboring states, only Colorado ($40,490) had a higher average income than Kansas.

A favorable opinion of Ike memorial

Frank Gehry’s proposed design for the planned national memorial honoring Dwight Eisenhower has been panned by the Eisenhower family and many commentators and critics, including at a congressional hearing Tuesday. They object to its nontraditional design and its portrayal of the 34th president and leader of the Allied forces in World War II as a Kansas boy. But Louis Galambos, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and an editor of “The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower,” argued in a Wall Street Journal commentary that Eisenhower was a “quiet master of change” who would be well-represented by the innovative design. “It is fitting that Frank Gehry emphasizes Abilene in the Eisenhower Memorial while simultaneously celebrating the changes that Ike brought to the nation that now seeks to honor him and his legacy,” Galambos wrote.

Topeka getting unenviable attention

Topeka, already infamous as the home of the Phelps clan, has had another rough month in the national media. And no wonder, given its alarming city-county fight over paying for prosecution of domestic violence cases. A sampling of some of the recent headlines generated by the state capital:
“Cut Government Spending, Support Domestic Violence” — the New Republic
“Enjoy Hitting Your Spouse? Move to Topeka” — Gawker website
“Topeka, Kansas, Is a Domestic-Violence Free-Fire Zone” — TakePart website
“Legalizing domestic violence: Topeka’s ‘terrible’ plan to save money” — the Week magazine
“At Least Tucson’s Not Topeka” — Tucson Weekly

Bel Aire is most-affluent area city

Though it is way behind Mission Hills in Johnson County, Bel Aire is the most-affluent area city with a population of 1,000 or more, according to a study by the Business Journals. Bel Aire, which is the seventh most-affluent city in the state, has a median household income of $80,723, and its median house value is $146,000, according to the study. Mission Hills’ median household income is $243,553 and its median house value is $883,000. The next four most-affluent area cities are Andover (ninth), Kechi (11th), North Newton (14th), Hesston (15th) and Derby (16th). Wichita is the 63rd most-affluent city, with a median household income of $44,202 and a median house value of $108,100. Eastborough has fewer than 1,000 residents.

Missed opportunity to mark Kansas’ birthday

The Kansas State Fair ended its 2011 run over the weekend with good crowds and good moods. That bodes well for the fair’s future. Where the fair fell flat was in its visible acknowledgment of the past. If you missed the comeback of the fabled wheat fountain, which referred to the 150th anniversary of statehood in its signage, you might have left the fair without knowing about the sesquicentennial at all. Fair organizers might want to leave their successors a reminder in the files to do more for the 200th anniversary in 2061.

CRP change helps Kansas ranchers

Good for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for modifying Conservation Reserve Program policies to help ranchers in Kansas and elsewhere affected by drought conditions. The policy changes extend the emergency grazing period on CRP land until Oct. 31 and allow producers to utilize harvested hay from expiring CRP acres when those acres are being prepared for fall seeded crops. “The modification of CRP policies is a positive step that will help Kansas producers in a difficult time,” Gov. Sam Brownback said. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., also praised the change: “I am grateful USDA has taken additional steps to expand relief to those producers suffering from this severe drought and higher feed costs.”