Category Archives: Wichita

WuShock is unusual, but is it creepy?

wushockmascotWichita State University’s WuShock was named “the creepiest mascot” in a New York Post article this week. “Who knew a shock of wheat could be this angry?” the article asked. No. 2 on the list was the old Burger King mascot, with its leering plastic grin. OK, that one really was creepy. WSU wasn’t the only Missouri Valley Conference school to make the ranking. Little Egypt, the Egyptian hunting dog mascot of Southern Illinois University, was ranked the sixth creepiest. “Why not be more honest and call this one ‘Angry Mullet Head’?” the paper asked.

Now Joyland is nothing but memories, memorabilia

joylandJoyland’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.

New York Times summering in Wichita?

kochindustriesA 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.

Keeper of the Plains looking great at 40

keeperbridgeA powwow aptly marked this month’s 40th anniversary of the Keeper of the Plains, the 44-foot Cor-Ten steel sculpture that was designed by Blackbear Bosin and dedicated on May 18, 1974. Bosin, a Kiowa-Comanche painter, made the Keeper a gift to the city. Given that it’s become the most treasured and identifiable symbol of Wichita, it’s hard to believe now that it cost just $28,000 to fabricate and install at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. The dissent seven years ago over its updated surroundings, including its dramatic suspension bridges and “ring of fire,” has subsided, thankfully, with the Keeper’s plaza having become a favorite spot for visitors and locals alike. “It has conveyed everything I wanted to say,” Bosin once said. And 40 years later, the Keeper stands taller and prouder than ever, reflecting both Wichita’s cultural beginnings and aspirations.

Wichita common denominator in some Statehouse nuttiness

wichitaopenthread“The bill stems from an active anti-fluoride movement in Wichita, where fluoride is not added to the water.” “Wichita-based tea party group Kansans for Liberty is launching an e-mail campaign to try to resurrect a bill that would allow government workers and businesses to deny service to gay couples.” “A Democrat from Wichita says she wants to allow up to 10 strikes of the hand and that could leave redness and bruising.” It’s frustrating that Wichita is the common denominator in some of the recent Statehouse nuttiness. At least the No. 2-ranked Wichita State University men’s basketball team is putting a nice shine on the reputation and pride of the state’s largest city.

Welcome to Wichita, Monsignor Kemme

kemmeCongratulations to Monsignor Carl Kemme on being named the next bishop of Wichita. Kemme, who is currently vicar general for the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., will be ordained in Wichita May 1. Kemme said he did not seek the position and thought there were many other priests who were more qualified. His humility and pastor’s heart likely were reasons why Pope Francis chose him.

Answer racist graffiti with more art

muralgraffitiThe colorful mural at 21st and Park Place was painted by teens to celebrate the message that “immigration is beautiful” – which makes the racist vandalism of it seem all the more ugly. Delano’s Bluebird Arthouse also was targeted, presumably because it hosted a meeting of an artists group connected to the mural. Now, the community should respond to the sickening graffiti by helping Armando Minjarez and the others in ICT Army of Artists enrich north Wichita and other neighborhoods with more bright, enlightening public artworks.

Well done on successful United Way campaign

Congratulations to the United Way of the Plains for raising $15.6 million in its fall campaign. Some thought the campaign goal of $15.4 million was a stretch, given local layoffs and Boeing’s pullout of Wichita. But United Way officials and campaign chairman Scott Ernest, president and CEO of Cessna Aircraft, Co., had faith that this community would step up. They were correct. Thanks to the generosity of many, United Way will be able to help at least 37 different agencies serving in this community. Well done, everyone.

Kansas slow getting on board passenger rail expansion

Former Kansas Lt. Gov. Shelby Smith of Wichita has been championing expanded passenger rail service in Kansas for years. He gave his first testimony on the topic nearly five years ago, and has made 16 appearances before legislative committees in Topeka. Smith said there is strong support for Option 3 of an Amtrak feasibility study, which would link Kansas to passenger train service in Oklahoma and Texas and provide for daytime stops in Arkansas City, Wichita, Emporia, Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City. But he is getting frustrated with how long it is taking Kansas political leaders to act, noting that Oklahoma revived passenger rail service in 1999. “For Kansas to take another 15 years is embarrassing,” he said.

Should Wichita rename its new airport?

Jan Harrison and Phil Thompson of 104.5 “The Fox” started a petition drive to name the new airport terminal “Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower International Airport.” So far, more than 850 people support the idea, including former Sen. Bob Dole. What do you think? Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is an OK name, but as Harrison argues, it “is not memorable and a bit lackluster.” It’s also a hand-me-down name, as we took it after Kansas City renamed its airport.

City, kids blessed by Wichita Children’s Home

Congratulations to the Wichita Children’s Home on its 125th anniversary, which was Friday. The home started as an orphanage in 1888 and is now a crisis shelter that serves about 5,000 children and young people every year. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, a former resident of the home who now directs the Center for Combating Human Trafficking at Wichita State University, spoke of the dedication and commitment of the staff: “They don’t care how little money they might have. They don’t care how hard the work can be. They help those children day after day after day.” Wichita and tens of thousands of children have been blessed by work the home has done all these years.

Congratulations to McConnell on its tanker win

Wichita got a great, well-timed boost with today’s news that McConnell Air Force Base will be the main active-duty operating base for the KC-46A tankers, emerging the winner in the 54-base field. McConnell also was in the running to become a formal training base for the new tankers, a job won by Altus, Okla. But McConnell got what it wanted most with the Air Force’s decision, meaning it can expect to receive 36 new tankers in 2016 and the jobs and economic benefits of hosting them. That’s the perfect role for McConnell, which is currently the world’s largest tanker base, with 62 KC-135s, and the home of the Air Force’s 22nd Air Refueling Wing and the Air Force Reserves’ 931st Air Refueling Group. So even though Boeing Wichita won’t help build the tankers after all, due to Boeing’s decision to leave town by the end of this year, many of those planes will end up calling Wichita home. As Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, said in a statement: “We’re thrilled that McConnell AFB has been recognized as an indispensable part of America’s defenses and excited about the opportunities this creates for the rest of Kansas.” Congratulations and thanks to all who fought for and won this exciting new role for McConnell and Wichita.

Kochs could bring more balance to newspapers

“Mainstream media are alarmed by reports that billionaires Charles and David Koch are considering the purchase of Tribune Company’s eight daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times,” columnist Cal Thomas wrote. Reportedly, about half of the L.A. Times staff said they would quit if the Kochs bought the paper. “That should make things easier for the Kochs,” Thomas wrote. “They can start by replacing liberal quitters and others whose ideology has turned off conservative readers. They could hire reporters and editors who will try to win back readers and advertisers by providing the type of ideologically balanced coverage they seek.”

What it means to be on the front lines

A New York Times editorial Sunday headlined “Courage in Kansas” recounted some of the obstacles and threats that Julie Burkhart has faced in opening the South Wind Women’s Center, a women’s health care and abortion clinic in Wichita. These include a chilling jailhouse conversation that an anti-abortion group recorded with Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Burkhart’s former boss, Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller. Roeder said that Burkhart had put a target on her back. The editorial concluded: “Dangerous and unconstitutional legislative restrictions, unceasing harassment, threats of violence and fearful doctors having to hide their identities for self-protection: This is what it means to be on the front line of trying to deliver legal and necessary reproductive health care to women in Wichita.” Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups are criticizing the media for not giving more coverage to the case of a Philadelphia abortion doctor accused of delivering live babies and then killing them.

Honored to share name with USS Wichita

Never mind that Wichita is a long way from an ocean. It was a proud moment to learn last week that a U.S. Navy warship will again bear the city’s name and safeguard the nation’s liberty around the world. Lockheed Martin’s construction of the new USS Wichita should begin in the next couple of years in Wisconsin, according to the office of Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. The littoral combat ship, a kind of fast and maneuverable craft designed for combat close to shorelines, will be the third Navy ship named after Wichita and the first since 1993. As Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said: “Two great ships have already carried Wichita’s namesake, and its re-selection is a real honor for the city and for Kansas.”

Shocker women bowlers deserve cheering, too

The Wichita State University men’s basketball team appropriately received a lot of attention for its Final Four appearance. But don’t overlook the Shocker women’s bowling team, which will compete in the national championships April 18-20 in Lincoln, Neb. The women are nine-time national champions and are currently ranked No. 1. The team also has three players in the running for the 2013 collegiate player of the year award. Unfortunately, the Shocker men’s bowling team didn’t advance to the national championships this year, the first time the men have failed to qualify in 28 years.

Good luck, Shockers

Good luck to the WSU Shockers as they compete in the NCAA semifinals tonight. Top-ranked Louisville has a great team, but as Gonzaga and Ohio State found out, the Shockers aren’t intimidated. Even the freshmen don’t seem fazed about taking three-point shots when the game is on the line. These are no Cinderellas. Or if they are, they’re angry ones.

From Wichita Falls to Wichita

Congratulations to Tim Chase on his new job as president of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. Chase comes to Wichita after 12 years as president of the Wichita Falls (Texas) Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and with an impressive range of experience in economic development. It’s been nearly two years since the last permanent GWEDC president left – too long, especially amid such a deep downturn. Expectations are high for Chase’s ability to coordinate our community’s efforts to attract and retain businesses and to market itself not only as a hub for aviation manufacturing, research and training but as a fertile place for high-tech innovation and entrepreneurship.

Stolz spoke hard truth about bus system

Tom Stolz, deputy chief for the Wichita Police Department and the acting director of Wichita Transit, didn’t say anything the other night about the city’s bus system that hasn’t been said by many, many others. Still, his take on the system was strikingly blunt: “Our transit system is extremely cumbersome. It is unreliable. If you had to depend on our transit system to get you to work or to the doctor, don’t count on it. It is terrible for a city this size.” Stolz, speaking at a meeting of Wichita Independent Neighborhoods, also spoke the truth in saying the community needs to decide what bus system it wants. “Are we going to stay with this same model, which is hit and miss, or are we going to try and upgrade?” he asked. One thing Wichita won’t be doing this year is asking voters to increase the sales tax to improve the bus system, something the city’s transit advisory board had recommended. As of Oct. 30, Wichita Transit will have a new boss, Steve Spade, who has been the transit director for Chapel Hill, N.C.

NetApp expansion boosts Wichta’s spirit

Beaten down by all the aircraft layoffs, Wichita needed some good economic news. And it got it Thursday with NetApp’s announcement that it plans to add 400 jobs at its Wichita facility. These are good-paying jobs – averaging $73,000 a year – that will help diversify Wichita’s economy. Congratulations to local and state economic development officials for helping make this expansion happen, and thanks to NetApp for believing in Wichita. We needed the boost.

Let parents know about serious incidents at school

Wichita East High School principal Ken Thiessen said that parents weren’t notified about a student being arrested Tuesday for having a gun in his school locker because doing so would have been more disruptive than the incident, which was handled quickly and quietly by police. But should that be the criteria for whether to keep parents informed? If the incident is serious, such as a student bringing a gun and ammunition to school, parents should be told, regardless of how much disruption the incident caused.

Northeast Wichita fast becoming foodies’ paradise

News that Whole Foods Market is coming to the new Waterfront Plaza at 13th and Webb Road was a dream come true for many food-savvy Wichitans, and another welcome sign that the economy isn’t getting in the way of the community’s progress. The Austin-based chain is the go-to grocery in many communities for its natural and organic foods. Whole Foods will join new arrivals Fresh Market and Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage and long-established GreenAcres Market, making northeast Wichita the prime place to buy what it takes to eat healthfully and well. Still leading the wish list for Wichita: Cheesecake Factory.

Timely merger for ESS, Breakthrough Club

The community’s best wishes and generous support should be with the Breakthrough Club as it reaffiliates with Episcopal Social Services, which will move to the Breakthrough Club’s location at 1010 N. Main. The merger, announced last week, is a response to government funding cuts. Wichita has relied on both outstanding organizations to serve disadvantaged individuals with particular needs, including mental illness in the case of Breakthrough Club. Here’s hoping the two groups find strength as they pool resources and work together.

Outstanding news about Hawker Beechcraft

All of Wichita can second the cheer that went up among Hawker Beechcraft employees over the company’s decision not to close Plant 1 after all. The move, stemming from a joint partnership of the company and the Machinists union, spares hundreds of jobs from elimination or outsourcing. In a statement, the HBC Joint Partnership Steering Committee said: “In order to reduce lead time, improve response time and optimize cost, fabrication and assembly operations will be streamlined and balanced between our facilities. Plant I plays a critical role in this strategy.” With uncertainty still dogging the aviation-manufacturing sector – and lots of industry speculation about Hawker Beechcraft’s future under new CEO Steve Miller – such an optimistic sign comes as a boost to the community and its standout aviation workforce.

Rolfe’s enthusiasm will be hard to replace

It’s hard to imagine a more enthusiastic advocate for Wichita than John Rolfe. So it will be hard to see the native Wichitan leave his job as president and CEO of Go Wichita next month to join the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. As head of Go Wichita since 2001, Rolfe has unabashedly marketed Wichita as a premier destination for conventioneers and tourists and has welcomed bowlers, square dancers, athletes, gearheads, decorative painters and more. As the bureau wishes Rolfe and his family well in Houston, it will need to seek a replacement who similarly understands that Wichita can be a contender in competing for big conventions and the dollars they bring to the local economy.