Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor on ADA, water rates, going in reverse, arts, school heroes, King memorial, Libya

Disabled waiting lists violate ADA

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Olmstead case that unjustified isolation of people with disabilities constitutes discrimination. The court ruled that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) may require states to provide community-based services rather than institutional placements for those individuals.

Currently in Kansas, there are more than 5,000 people with developmental and physical disabilities who are entitled to home- and community-based services. They have not been able to access those services, however, and remain on waiting lists, sometimes for years. Advocates for people with disabilities have long argued that the long waiting lists constitute a violation of the Olmstead ruling.

Kansas legislators and the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services have not supported efforts to create a state plan for complying with the Olmstead ruling and eliminating the waiting lists.

The time has come for Kansas to comply with the ADA and put into place an Olmstead plan to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

Everyone who is on a waiting list for home- and community-based services should call or write the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., to file a complaint. It's time to let your voices be heard.


Executive director

Independent Living Resource Center


Rates shocking

Wichita is my permanent address, but I spend six months in Sun City, Ariz., in the winter. Sun City has more than 40,000 residents and is about 30 miles west of Phoenix. Water is precious in the Phoenix area, as we get only about 10 to 12 inches of rain a year at most, compared with Wichita's more than 30 inches of average rainfall.

I compared my water bills for April in Sun City (about 11,000 gallons of usage) and June in Wichita (about 11,000 gallons). I was shocked to find that the cost of water was 37 percent higher in Wichita.

I have long believed that the water officials in Wichita were slamming it to the residents of this city. To add insult to injury, now they want to raise the cost even more during a recessionary period (Aug. 21 Eagle). When is all of this going to stop?

Use too little (such as when we get too much rain) and they raise the rates; use too much (according to them) and they raise the rates. It is time for taxpayers to rein in this runaway thinking.



Going in reverse

The Wichita Symphony Orchestra musicians are taking another decrease in pay, the third in two years (Aug. 21 Arts & Leisure). The symphony, Music Theatre of Wichita, Wichita Grand Opera and other local organizations will receive no money this year from the Kansas Arts Commission (Aug. 20 Eagle).

Public schoolteachers will not receive a raise again. New schools are being built at the same time teachers are being laid off.

A report says that residential water users are paying more for water than commercial users, and an advisory committee wants to leave it that way (Aug. 21 Eagle).

The Wichita Library Board wants a new Central Library that will cost $48 million and have substantially higher operating costs while the city is laying off workers (Aug. 13 Eagle).

The United States pays twice as much per capita as any other developed country for health care, yet about 50 million are without health insurance while many say the government needs to stay out of health care.

Social Security recipients haven't had a benefit increase since 2009, and the state hasn't properly funded its pension fund for years. The United States is in 2 1/2 wars, but Congress cut income taxes.

I get the feeling that we not only have put the economic bus in reverse, but we are ready to step on the gas.



Fitting honor

What an honor for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to have a national memorial built in his name. He was a trailblazer for civil rights and equality. He worked hard to make positive changes and to try to put an end to racism.

It is great that many years from now, people of all races and religions will be able to visit the monument of a man who dreamed of peace, freedom and love.



NEA correct

The National Endowment for the Arts was correct in finding that the new configuration of the Kansas Arts Commission, still undefined and unclear, was ineligible for federal funding (Aug. 20 Eagle). All federal agencies have guidelines and policies; taxpayers rightly demand accountability and fairness in federal funding.

Why Gov. Sam Brownback assumed that the commission would receive funding without qualifying remains a mystery.

Equally mysterious were commission chairwoman Linda Browning Weis' comments that she thought the NEA understood the commission was "a work in progress" and the commission would do what it needs to do to "get this right."

The commission wasn't a work in progress until the governor took his unprecedented action and Kansas became the only state in the nation to completely jettison its state arts agency and funding. As a former chairman of the commission, I know that the commission had been a fully functioning, effective and efficient state agency that operated openly and fairly — and was clearly important to arts organizations, artists and communities throughout the state. The commission already had it right.

The arts are so much more than funding. They are about keeping rural Kansas viable, creating jobs and providing all Kansans with a high quality of life. This is what all Kansans want.



School heroes

This past week ushered in my 54th school year as an elementary educator. I feel qualified to make some observations about our public schools, the institutions that seem to be readily criticized and rarely commended:

* Unpaid school board members unselfishly give enormous outlays of their time and energy. Thank them.

* Central office and building administrators labor tirelessly for far more hours per week than most workers. Appreciate them.

* Support staff and paraprofessionals are paid menial salaries, yet provide valuable services to students. Be grateful for them.

* Classroom teachers, my personal and professional heroes, never could be compensated adequately for the contributions they make to the overall welfare of young learners. Find some creative, sincere and regular ways to thank them this school year.

Our public schools are feeling the lean budget pressures at least as much as any other institution. My reaction to those who glibly suggest that "our public schools are failing" is to invite them to walk in the shoes of any of those cited above — especially to follow a classroom teacher for a day. Further, I suggest that we respect and acknowledge the dedication of our public school representatives more intentionally this school year. They richly deserve this.



Why Libya?

Amid a congratulatory atmosphere praising President Obama's "success in Libya," I find myself in a mood of dread and despair. Once again the news pundits exercise their knee-jerk responses. Gone is any semblance of analysis as to why we are engaging in an unconstitutional war in violation of international law.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 explicitly prohibits funneling weapons to Libyan rebels in their efforts for regime change. Obama also has violated the U.S. Constitution, sidestepping Congress by ignoring the War Powers Act.

Soothing words like "this is really not a war" will not cut it. Ironically, Obama also is hailed as a master war strategist and victor.

Who are the rebels? What we do know is that Libya is a significant producer of high-quality oil.

When will we ever learn? Must we jump on the bandwagon and only later, after spending billions and losing lives, question how we got into this? Shades of Iraq. Shades of Afghanistan.