The past few years have necessitated that south-central Kansas make its own luck, as it builds on its heritage as a place where aircraft, businesses, careers and dreams are made. Here’s hoping that in 2012:
•Aviation takes off
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. Whatever the outcome of Boeing’s rethinking of its Wichita operation, and whatever the fate of those air-refueling tanker jobs Wichita counted on, the community can expect Spirit AeroSystems to solidify its reputation as the world’s largest aerostructures manufacturer, and look to Cessna Aircraft, Bombardier Learjet and Hawker Beechcraft to be on the leading edge of general aviation’s frustratingly slow rebound. The state can help, by ensuring that the deal is done to enable Learjet’s $52.7 million, 450-job expansion at Mid-Continent Airport, as it keeps funds flowing to the National Institute for Aviation Research and the National Center for Aviation Training and helps south-central Kansas businesses generally by continuing the $5 million-a-year state support of affordable airfares. President Obama could help, too, if he would stop treating jet ownership as a frill for fat cats and stop advocating more user fees and taxes for aviation.
. Even in the worst economy since the Depression, Mayor Carl Brewer and the City Council have managed to keep the downtown revitalization moving, with the help of Sedgwick County’s 2-year-old Intrust Bank Arena, the beautifully restored Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview and numerous forward-thinking developers and business owners. There should be no stopping downtown in 2012, either – including by the Americans for Prosperity-led Feb. 28 ballot referendum challenging the Ambassador Hotel’s guest-tax financing.
Through more executive orders and his loyal majority in the Legislature, Gov. Sam Brownback is poised to push through monumental changes in tax policy, school finance, Medicaid, the state employee pension system and more. That’s on top of the once-a-decade redistricting, and as conservative Republicans aim to unseat moderate state senators via the August primary and Secretary of State Kris Kobach pushes for an unneeded Alabama-style crackdown on illegal immigrants. What promises to be a big, volatile legislative session could also benefit Kansans and the state budget and economy, but only if lawmakers vet Brownback’s ambitious agenda thoroughly and Kansans let their views be known to their representatives and senators.
•USD 259 survives its squeeze
. As it’s trying to build new schools and change boundaries accordingly, as per the $370 million bond issue voters approved in 2008, the Wichita district is dealing with millions of dollars of cuts in state funding, challenging demographic changes and the escalating mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind law. But the benefits of the bond issue are real and lasting, both to students and to the local economy. And with sound and prescient management, the district can overcome this tough time.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman