Letters to the Editor

Letters on sales tax, Brownback’s education record, environmental record, Medicare, state budget problems, Flaherty, Kobach, voter registration, campaign lies, Roberts

Time to say ‘yes’ again to progress

Remember when Wichitans collectively said “yes” to making great things happen in our city?

▪  Twenty years ago an innovative public-private partnership turned half-empty brick warehouses into Old Town, a dining-entertainment-retail-residential area that today is the heart of our city. Old Town’s economic engine keeps purring along with business expansion to the east and west of those first core blocks.

▪  Fifteen years ago we approved a bond issue to modernize our public schools. Six years ago, we approved another bond issue to continue this modernization vital to our children and economy. These renovations will make a difference for decades.

▪  Ten years ago we approved a 30-month sales tax to build a downtown arena. That tax ended, and we had a spanking-new, debt-free sports-entertainment arena that contributes to downtown’s vitality and brings visitors to our city. The Kansas Coliseum that the naysayers wanted to save is now home to an economic engine, the National Institute for Aviation Research.

It’s time for Wichitans to again collectively say “yes” to progress – new roads, jobs, water and transit systems – and to a better future for our city.



Remiss in duties

I received an open letter from the mayor and city of Wichita about the 1-cent sales tax.

If the mayor and the City Council would worry more about Wichita’s infrastructure and less about another failed plan to revitalize downtown, while making their business cronies rich, our streets and parks and golf courses would be fine. Infrastructure is not sexy – like a new arena – but think of it like food on the table and a roof over the city’s head.

City Council members have been remiss for many years in their duties to make Wichita a place of which we can be proud – where kids can swim seven days a week and one can drive on all streets, not just the ones where the latest development takes place. Shame on them.



Notice a windfall?

To those opposing the temporary sales tax: I ask you to think back to January 2008. Did you notice a sudden windfall? Were you significantly richer when the 1-cent arena sales tax expired?

If you are honest with yourself, you will have to admit that it didn’t make any noticeable difference. That is the same “impact” another temporary 1-cent tax would make to most people – yet would provide a long-term water solution for our city.

There have been too many false claims about this issue. Please be honest with yourself and our city when you vote.



Work harder for us

Voting on the sales tax issue is easy. Simply mark “yes” or “no.” The really hard part is knowing which one to mark.

One thing is certain: If the tax increase passes, we have it. If it doesn’t, the city can go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that is more likely to be accepted.

We should have faith in our government officials, but it shouldn’t be a blind faith. They took a lot of time and effort to find out, from us, what we feel are the priority issues facing us. Perhaps they should expend some better effort to explain to us in greater detail how they plan to address those needs, so we can see how realistic those plans are.

As it stands, it appears the city wants a hefty amount of money that would come from a 14 percent increase in what we currently pay as sales tax. Send a clear message to the city to work harder for us. Vote “no.”



Stellar record

As a former public school teacher who was certified for 30 years, I am dismayed by the endless stream of misinformation disseminated by the K-12 establishment regarding Gov. Sam Brownback’s record of support for public education. Brownback took office in January 2011, halfway through the previous governor’s fiscal-year budget. He and the Legislature have increased K-12 state funding in addition to restoring solvency to a bankrupt pension system.

I urge you to think clearly and do your own research regarding the records of both gubernatorial candidates. Brownback has a stellar record of leadership on education funding, technical training, sanctity of life, Second Amendment rights, state sovereignty, establishing a business-friendly tax environment, growing jobs and creating a leaner, more-efficient state government. Please join me and other limited-government, pro-life, pro-family voters by casting your vote for the future of Kansas. Vote Sam Brownback on Tuesday.



Education governor?

After 37 years of teaching, I have retired. But whenever Gov. Sam Brownback appears nearby, I’m there urging him to support public education.

He has said he doesn’t know why “the teachers” don’t support him. He knows exactly why. We were indignant when he signed a law eliminating teachers’ state-mandated rights to due process. Today if one asks why she is being fired, an administrator can say, “I don’t have to tell you.”

Recently, Brownback announced some ambitious goals for Kansas schools. Yet within days, he refused to support a grant application for $60 million toward preschool education. His failure doomed the grant application by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet.

The grant would have brought back to Kansas some of the tax dollars we send to Washington, D.C. We will educate children in other states while our own will continue to struggle, not receiving the early learning experiences that would benefit them academically, socially and behaviorally.

Why would a man in Kansas’ highest office deny the youngest Kansans this opportunity? Brownback has not been an “education governor.” Please vote for Paul Davis.



Poor stewardship

Gov. Sam Brownback recently criticized Democratic challenger Paul Davis for his positive environmental record and for the Sierra Club’s endorsement. But what about Brownback?

Brownback lessened funding for water conservation and has cut an annual fund transfer for the state water plan fund over the past three years, contrary to state statute. He appears to be withdrawing his support for our successful renewable energy law credited for spurring economic development across the state. He gutted the state’s energy conservation program, which was already lowering electricity bills for hundreds of Kansas’ families.

The governor’s backers in the Legislature wanted to arrest federal authorities for helping to protect increasingly threatened Kansas wildlife, and the administration recently downgraded protection for rare Kansas species based purely on politics, not science. Brownback has been totally inactive on climate change while 32 other states have created state climate action plans.

Brownback continues to push for water-intensive, pollution-heavy animal feedlots in western Kansas, putting more strain on our depleting Ogallala Aquifer. His administration also lobbied to remove county authority over such operations.

The Kansas Sierra Club advocates for better environmental stewardship. We’ve endorsed dozens of Statehouse candidates, both Republican and Democrat, who have demonstrated excellence to this regard, but Brownback is clearly not one of them.


Legislative director

Kansas Sierra Club


Hands off Medicare

Medicare recipients need to assess the outcome should the state take over Medicare. Those who have followed the fate of people covered by KanCare know that privatization has led to denial of services, late payments to medical providers, and other practices designed to enhance the profits of those companies in charge of KanCare.

If Medicare is privatized, as probably will be the case if the health care compact gets congressional approval and survives legal challenges, senior citizens will face the same fate as those who are now under KanCare. We will face denial of services and our providers will face late payments. Seniors also will be at risk if they seek medical care at places like the Mayo Clinic or the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

I paid for Medicare when I worked, and I am still paying for it. It works without a hitch for me and for other senior citizens. In their zeal to deliver a blow to the Affordable Care Act, our state legislators have set up the stage to devastate senior citizens’ health care.

This is why I plan to vote for Paul Davis and Jill Docking and others who will oppose the health care compact.



Medicare is safe

There has been a lot of interest lately in the health care compact, legislation passed during the 2014 legislative session that, if approved by the U.S. Congress, would allow participating states the ability to opt out of certain federal health care laws, especially the Affordable Care Act. Many politicians and editorial writers have tried to frighten our seniors by saying the compact will privatize the Medicare system in Kansas. This is just not true.

When the Legislature passed this bill and Gov. Sam Brownback signed it, the intent was not to bring Medicare under state control nor to privatize the Medicare system but to provide more flexibility with the ACA. In fact, the governor clearly stated that he “would strongly oppose any effort at the state level to reduce Medicare benefits or coverage for Kansas seniors.”

The reality is that without congressional approval, the health care compact never becomes effective. Should Congress approve the compact, the Legislature must go through the legislative process of developing a bill, holding committee hearings to assure public input, and having committee and floor votes. I have full confidence that the seniors in our state would not allow the Medicare benefits they have paid into all of their lives to change without communicating appropriately to legislators and policymakers.

The governor and his administration are committed to preserving those benefits and have no desire to take over control of the Medicare program or to privatize it, as many have incorrectly reported.


Kansas budget director


Budget won’t balance

Kansas budget director Shawn Sullivan recently wrote: “With the growth in the economy and efficiencies to be found by governing better, the budget will be just fine.” But even if the Kansas economy improves, it will be almost impossible for revenue to keep up with expenditures, for several reasons.

First, approved spending for the current fiscal year exceeds estimated revenue by $350 million. There is a beginning balance of $380 million, meant to cover the shortfall, with $29 million left over. However, revenues are currently more than $45 million short of projections.

Second, reality is now intruding on the blue-sky hopes of the administration. Last year Kansas tax collections were more than $300 million below the initial estimates. We are on a similar (though less drastic) path this year, largely due to predictions based on overly optimistic assumptions about economic growth that income tax reductions would generate.

Because the revenue tank will be empty at the start of the next fiscal year, when additional tax cuts are scheduled, state services must be reduced further. This conclusion is based on the analysis of the independent Kansas Legislative Research Department, as well as on common sense.



Flaharty honest

I endorse Sammy K. Flaharty for House District 93. I have known Flaharty for more than 40 years. She was my business partner for 20 years, and we are still close friends. She is one of the most honest and kind people I have ever known.

As a business partner, she was very astute with the administration of our joint venture. I always knew I could count on her to do what was necessary. She is very good at math, and we need that in the Statehouse. She has never had bankruptcy or any other such marks on her character. She always said what she meant and meant what she said.

Flaharty has always been involved in some agency or organization helping people. She will care about her constituents deeply, as well as the people of the state of Kansas. She will do her best to rescind the health care compact that threatens our Medicare.

A vote for Sammy K. Flaharty is a vote for integrity.



‘Jim Crow’ laws

Our part-time Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, demanded passage of our current “Jim Crow” voter registration laws. These laws have accomplished exactly what he intended. They are keeping thousands of Kansas citizens from voting, especially minorities, women, the poor and elderly.

The late Kansas House member Theo Cribbs was proud that he and his family came to Kansas from the Deep South, because people of color could register and vote in Kansas. I can only imagine his disgust with the state of voting rights in Kansas now. Under current law, even my own mother could not register and vote in Kansas.

We currently have more than 22,000 Kansas voter registrations being denied by Kobach. He knows that the only way people like him can get re-elected is to keep as many citizens as possible from voting. What a disgrace to the legacy of Kansas as a leader in civil rights.



Correct registrations

My husband and I recently moved back to Kansas and applied for Kansas driver’s licenses. The lady at the Division of Vehicles asked us if we wished to register to vote. We said “yes,” and appreciated the convenience. We received our driver’s licenses in the mail but not our voter registration cards. It turns out we were not registered to vote.

We got a letter from the Sedgwick County election commissioner telling us that we needed to submit copies of our birth certificates and a marriage license to complete our registration. The DMV made copies – why were they not forwarded with our applications? The Election Office told us that voter applications from the DMV often are not accompanied by a copy of the birth certificate, but that it would be a great help to them if they were.

If voters do not complete their application, the Election Office must send them a letter, another letter and then call them. That is a waste of time and money, and it surely causes unnecessary confusion and inconvenience for the applicants. It appears to be something easily corrected. Why has it not been done?



Get ready for lies

A recent Opinion Line comment stated: “The inevitable has happened – the big money is overwhelming the Davis and Orman campaigns’ TV time.”

Just wait. This last weekend before the election, that same big money likely will put on a smear campaign to discredit Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis and independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman with lies they won’t have time to refute. Oh, I do hope the smart Kansas voters will see through that dishonesty.


Bel Aire

No-shows common

This is not written in direct support of Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. But some sage Opinion Line commenter observed in his defense that there are many committees (and, I would add, subcommittees and special committees) that exist and that senators are assigned to, but that most hearings are really just grandstanding.

I was an executive in the federal government for a dozen or so years and frequently was called to attend and be a witness in such hearings. At one, I dutifully showed up with my testimony, but no committee members did. Staff quickly went out in the hall and commandeered a passing member (but not a member of the committee) to come in and preside, which he did. He read the questions the staff had prepared.

That’s what most committee members do – read the questions prepared by staff. I often wondered if the member understood the questions or really cared what answer I gave to them.



Already retired?

Given how Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has failed to attend so many of his Senate committee meetings, it seems he has already retired to his recliner in Virginia at the expense of us Kansans.


Valley Center

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