Commentary by Andy Speagle, Vice Chairman, Sumner County Democratic Party — What is wrong with my state?
Like many of you, I’m a born, raised and educated citizen of Kansas. I grew up in a small town and was always amazed at the beauty of this state and the friendliness and caring that I saw from my fellow Kansans. I served for nearly a decade in the U.S. Army, and upon my departure from that institution I looked forward to returning home to my native land. Sadly, as the years have drawn on, I’ve become somewhat less enamored with my home state.
The current failed government experiment, led by Governor Brownback and his cronies in Topeka, threatens to destroy our state. As we stare down the barrel of another almost $300 million revenue shortfall, we are left looking forward to another raiding of our highway funds, primary, secondary and higher education budgets, retirement funds and other key social programs. The government’s continued refusal to expand Medicaid via the Affordable Care Act leaves many of our seniors paying much higher medical care costs than necessary. Why? How could this happen to the state I call home? How did we allow this to happen?
It’s clear that our governor and state legislators have forgotten that their jobs are to serve the people; not themselves, not special interests and not their big business buddies. What’s ultimately sadder is that we seem to be continuing to allow this. When did we forget that the folks in Topeka don’t rule us, aren’t our lords and masters and are elected merely to represent and serve our best interests? Does anyone truly believe it’s in our best interests for our schools to go unfunded, for our highways to fall into disrepair, for our citizens to be denied access to affordable health care options?
Commentary by Steve Abrams, State District 32nd District — I was recently the target of an editorial by Kyle Green, an accusatory, ill-informed interpretation of the “facts.” Mr. Green’s attack piece illustrates why the education debate has raged in Kansas since the 1970’s, under governors and legislative majorities of both parties, with still no finality in sight. Offering ideas that challenge the status quo, for even a modicum of discussion, is met with derision – particularly if there is even a mere suggestion that schools might 1) run more efficiently; 2) focus resources more intently on student achievement; or 3) try new methods of operation or instruction to keep pace with the modern needs of students, employers and our communities.
At various points over the past many decades of wrangling over this issue, the legislature has asked the education industry to put forth a dollar figure and expected outcomes to be achieved. The response remains a moving target. The legislature has on multiple occasions increased funding, only to later be met with more litigation, and demands for even more money. So, to Mr. Green and his industry attorneys, we must ask for a definitive and final answer to the question “Kansas families have finite resources, how much more of their wages do you require?”
But, even more imperative, we must also ask Mr. Green, why it is that his industry believes tax dollars are the only measure of an education, rather than employing a measure of what is actually being learned and how well students are prepared to either enter the workforce or pursue higher education?
Commentary by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — The latest throw down at Wellington City Hall comes courtesy of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Water quality has become the hot topic since the unfortunate situation in Flint, Mich. The feds have mandated to KDHE that stiffer water regulations must apply.
As a result, KDHE has issued a warning to the city of Wellington that it will face stiff fines if it doesn’t stop supplying untreated water to those in the Mayfield area who have tapped in the water lines in turn allowing them to pump for much needed water on their private properties.
According to James Jordan story (see here), there has been a gentleman’s agreement since the 1950s in which the city can drill on the personal property of those living in rural Sumner County, east of Mayfield. In turn, these property owners could have access to city water near these wells – albeit it be untreated water.
Originally, there were 25 property owners who agreed to the deal. Earlier this year, the council attempted to contact these 25 owners, and 13 of them responded that they don’t want or need water; or could not be reached. That left 12 who responded and needed water. The city formed an agreement with seven property owners to be given $6,000 to help dig a well. The other five property owners have not taken the deal, including one who has refused saying $6,000 wasn’t enough.
Commentary by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — I don’t think I ever met Sibyl Wells. If I had, I don’t remember.
We may have had a conversation. I may have taken her picture sometime, somewhere.
But when she died at 97 years of age, I placed her obituary on Sumner Newscow on Oct. 22, 2015 without any kind of recognition or remembrance (see obit here). Did I remember reading that obituary the first time? Not in the least.
We feature a lot of obituaries on this site. Since April 17, 2015, Sumner Newscow has run 193 obits. I would venture to say I recognize about 30 percent of the people, who have left us recently. Unfortunately for myself, Sibyl Wells was not one of them.
So goes life. After placing her obit, I moved on not remembering.
But then something happened. I received an e-mail in March from Sumner Regional Medical Center. The endowment foundation was receiving a sizable donation from someone who had recently died. I learned that Sibyl Wells had donated more than $100,000 to the service organization that helps the local hospital with philanthropy endeavors including the purchase of equipment.
by Ed Trimmer, State Representative, 79th District — On the last day of the regular session, the Kansas House and Senate passed an education equalization formula. The Governor recently signed it. The legislative process was rushed and confusing. The final result was a plan that I believe makes little sense. The Supreme Court will begin hearings on May 10 and a great many educators and others believe they will not accept the new formula as constitutional.
The need for a new funding formula came as a result of the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling that Governor Brownback’s block grant funding formula was unconstitutional. It took legislative leadership about three months to finally act on school finance. Only after repeated condemnation from the press and school supporters for the apparent lack of action, was something finally done.
Two days before the end of the regular session, a finance formula was amended into an unrelated bill in conference committee. Through a parliamentary move, the two Democrats on the conference committee were denied a vote. Since the bill was sent back to the House and Senate as a conference committee report, legislators could not amend the bill and could only vote yes or no. At no time were any members of the House allowed input, except for the two Republican members of the conference committee.
The following is a guest editorial by Kyle Green, who is a Social Studies teacher at Oxford High School. He also coaches head boys basketball, baseball and assists with football.
Commentary by Kyle Green, Oxford High School — Since the demise of the 1992 school finance formula, the Kansas Legislature has had trouble developing a new school finance formula that would satisfy the masses. When I say developing a new finance formula, I mean they haven’t really tried until now. Before the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the block grants that replaced the 1992 formula, there was no movement at all from the Legislature this session to develop a new formula. However, after the Supreme Court struck down the Block Grants, a hasty piece of legislation was crafted by our own Sen. Steve Abrams and Rep. Ron Highland before they went on break a few weeks ago.
HB 2741 is wrought with issues. First, it allows parents 70 percent of the per-pupil state aid that would have gone to their local school district to instead pay for private schools, including religious schools or home schools. Such accounts would be administered by the state treasurer. Students who are eligible for this are ones who have yet to start school or who have previously been enrolled in public schools. The constitutionality of this issue will be challenged almost immediately.
The following is a letter presented by the committee of the Wellington Project Prom – which will be putting on the after prom on April 23.
Submitted to Sumner Newscow — Since 1987 the community of Wellington has been nothing but supportive of Project Prom. We’ve made some changes this year and as valued supporters, we’d like to take the opportunity to fill you in on those changes. As you may have heard, we are changing the venue for this year and it’s generated some very reasonable questions that this letter will hopefully answer.
Each year we survey the students looking for opportunities to improve our event. Their input is invaluable in making sure that what we’re doing will keep them coming back and committing to a drug and alcohol free extension of their prom night celebrations. The most frequent answer is a change in scenery since they attend school, most of their extra-curricular and even the magical event of Prom at the school. We heard them and have been trying for a few years to work out the logistics of such a request.
Ultimately, we’ve decided to experiment with the option of alternating the venue from WHS to an off-site location every other year. This allows each junior and senior student to experience both formats from one year to the other. We think our current event at WHS is still great and the students are always very grateful for the fun. We do, however, believe that changing it up each year gives them more incentive to attend both years. Since attendance is the key to achieving our goal of keeping kids safe on prom night, we felt we needed to be responsive.
Below is some general information concerning this year’s changes:
Commentary by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — The primary season for the Republicans has become a disaster and it is getting worse by the week.
Now with Ted Cruz and that orange haired fellow playing National Enquirer gutter style politics by throwing one another’s wives under the bus, it is apparent:
The Republicans don’t have a viable Presidential candidate to bring to voters this November.
This is why, the national Republican Party “establishment,” those who truly love the party and have been there forever, needs to simply take over, much like irate parents do with their fussing, fighting children.
And come July, the Republican Party elite should open the convention by trotting up some stanch Reagan-era Republican like Bob Dole, who will step to the stage to open the convention and announce:
“Enough is enough. Trump, go home. Cruz, go home. Kasich, maybe you can stay but shut up. Now this is what we are going to do. We are picking someone else. Someone with a brain, someone who is reasonable. Someone who hasn’t embarrassed himself. So are there any nominations? OK, since there are no nominations, I nominate Paul Ryan as President and Mitt Romney as Vice President. Do I hear a second? (Some old fart in the audience yells a second).
“I now pronounce the nominations close. All those in favor state ‘eye.’ (few yell) All those oppose say ‘nay’ (many scream). Motion passes. Ryan is our nominee for President, Romney is our Vice President. I now proclaim this Convention over! Now let’s go drink beer.”
It would be great. Trump and his supporters will scream and holler and start a third party campaign. Cruz will simply scream and holler. There will be mass chaos and it will be fun to watch.
And come November, the inevitable will happen: Hillary Clinton will be elected.
by Ed Trimmer, State Representative 79th District — Medicaid expansion has been a very misunderstood issue in Topeka. It involves using largely federal money to provide expanded health care coverage for more than 150,000 Kansas citizens. These citizens work but make too much money to qualify for the current Kansas Medicaid program, and at the same time, do not earn enough to qualify for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Here are some of the compelling arguments that I believe indicate we should expand Medicaid and accept federal money.
Commentary by James Jordan, Sumner Newscow — Transparency is a word that gets thrown around a lot at governmental meetings. Politicians like to use it, and media folks do too. Local governing bodies get tired of hearing about it, but as media members, that is part of our job. We can’t really report on what we don’t have access to. We do keep a close eye on that because even if they are making a good effort to be transparent, you don’t want to make it easy when the going gets tough and they really do want to hide something.
I think we are seeing a bit of progress though with the Wellington City Council. The council has never been really bad. I have experienced much worse in other states. But even the best bear watching. Any of us might bend things a bit when in a pinch. Who hasn’t gone over the speed limit when they felt the need?
Recently, we reported that the city of Wellington had self reported what they thought might have been a KOMA (Kansas Open Records Meeting Act) violation. Turns out it was, and now they have to go watch a presentation on the law itself.
That meeting was a town hall meeting where several council members showed up. Because most of them spoke, it became a violation. Had only two been there, or if they had remained silent, it would not have been a violation.
It was unintentional.