Letters to the Editor

Letters on Schodorf, Kobach, retaining justices, tax cuts, expanding Medicaid, sales tax, Sloop, Kahrs, Docking, moderates, silly season

Schodorf The Wichita Eagle

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Schodorf is fair

I am writing because I strongly support The Eagle editorial board’s endorsement of Jean Schodorf for secretary of state. The differences between Schodorf and Kris Kobach are clear as day.

Kobach has dedicated his time in office to promoting his personal agenda. Most egregiously, he tried to keep Democrat Chad Taylor’s name on the U.S. Senate ballot instead of fairly administering our state election laws.

Schodorf, by contrast, has a history of public service as a member of the Wichita school board and a state senator. I know we can trust her to be a fair and impartial arbiter of our state election system.

Kobach has devoted his time in office to making it harder for Kansans to vote. The results have been disastrous. More than 22,000 Kansas recently have been on Kobach’s suppressed voter list.

Schodorf is committed to making voting easier for Kansas. She supports same-day and automatic voter registration, and she says she wants to make Kansas first in the nation for voter turnout.

The choice is clear. Show Kobach the door on Tuesday.



I remember

I remember a time when the job of the secretary of state was to ensure free elections, appoint competent election staff and register business in Kansas, not moonlight in other states writing legislation to disenfranchise voters or pick which candidates appear on local ballots.

I remember a time when the Kansas attorney general prosecuted murderers and pursued white-collar crime instead of spending millions hiring private legal firms to defend unconstitutional statutes favored by the Republican Legislature and governor.

I remember when a Kansas governor cared for all citizens, not just deep-pocket oilmen and corporate farmers, cutting social services, tampering with Medicare and Medicaid, and ruining the state’s credit rating to give tax cuts to business.

I remember a time when our congressman and senator were proud to serve on the agricultural committees and make a real difference for the farmers of Kansas.

I remember when our educational system was a shining star in comparison with those of most other states, instead of underfunded and sliding into mediocrity.

If you remember a positive, progressive Kansas, too, then you must reject the current Republican politicians who have created this mess. We can do so much better.



Retain justices

Everyone who cares about the U.S. Constitution should vote on Tuesday to retain Kansas Supreme Court Justices Lee Johnson and Eric Rosen.

The due process clause of the Constitution requires that all persons – even those we hate for what they have done – must receive fair and equal treatment under the law, and that includes special care prior to imposition of a death sentence. Johnson and Rosen upheld their obligations as judges to apply that clause, knowing that their decisions would be unpopular, but basing their opinions on the Constitution and their commitment to the rule of law.

In State v. Carr, the Kansas Supreme Court justices upheld convictions of the notorious Carr brothers. The court also ruled, however, that numerous errors occurred during the sentencing phase of that case, and that each brother was entitled to a separate determination of whether he should be put to death. In more than 175 pages of careful analysis, the justices explained their ruling and returned the case to Sedgwick County for separate death penalty hearings. Their conclusions were reasonable, consistent with decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, and in line with all that I have learned in more than 30 years of teaching constitutional law.

While we should comfort families of the victims, our natural anger that errors were made in court should not be taken out against the judges who made the difficult but necessary decision to order corrections.



Tax cut won’t work

I was a practicing certified public accountant before my retirement, but understanding why Gov. Sam Brownback’s experiment in governance has been a failure requires only some basic critical thought and not any lofty degree in tax policy.

As an example, many Kansas law firms, under the tax law changes enacted by the Republican leadership, no longer pay any income tax. The owners just got a pay raise. According to Brownback and the Republican Legislature, that will spur hiring. But law firms, like any other business, will hire when and only when the business needs more workers (lawyers in this case). How did increasing the wealth of the owners increase the firm’s business to such an extent that more attorneys are needed?

On the other hand, cuts in government spending (required by the loss of revenue resulting from the tax cuts) have directly resulted in a loss of employment. And not just a loss of government jobs. When one small Kansas town closes its school because of the cuts to education, teachers become unemployed, as well as administrators and janitors and other school personnel. Their unemployment means less spending, which means other businesses in that small town also see a decrease in revenue, which might mean more reductions in employment.

So the “shot of adrenaline” in the form of tax cuts may as well have been administered to a corpse.



Expand Medicaid

Gov. Sam Brownback and his legislative allies have refused to allow the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. This politically inspired decision is playing a game of Russian roulette with the health of all Kansans. Instead of pouting by trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act, they should ensure that Kansans have health insurance and our hospitals have the funding to survive.

The rate of uninsured people in Kansas rose from 12.5 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent in 2014. This means that tens of thousands of people could be insured but aren’t. These aren’t just statistics. According to a study from Harvard University and the City University of New York, people will suffer, and some of them will die. Just so Brownback and his allies can score political points.

These decisions, however, don’t just affect someone else; they affect all of us. Rural hospitals are fighting for survival, and the decision to refuse Medicaid expansion is taking a heavy toll on them.

At a time when three hospitals in McPherson County are asking us to tax ourselves to save our hospitals (and we should), the chief financial officer of McPherson Hospital has said that the failure to expand Medicaid will cost it a few hundred thousand dollars every year.

The refusal to expand Medicaid makes no sense. Kansas cannot afford Sam Brownback. It’s time to terminate his government job.



Fix foundation

I grew up in a 100-year-old farmhouse in western Kansas. Even though we didn’t have a lot of cash, my parents made sure the basics were fixed to maintain our home’s value. My mother eventually had to put in a new foundation, which was expensive and not exciting but necessary.

Communities are the same. For too long we’ve deferred our needs. Over the past two years, the people of Wichita said that our priorities were foundational infrastructure needs for every community – water, jobs, transit and streets. We now have a choice whether to address these challenges before they get more expensive to fix.

We have three choices before us. One is to fund our priorities with a 1-cent sales tax that ends in five years and visitors help pay. This would cost senior citizens and low-income Wichitans less than the second option, which is paying 50 percent higher water rates for years.

The third is to not to invest, and to leave it to our children and grandchildren to stand our home back up.



Do job funds work?

Do tax-funded job programs at any level of government fill any need that private markets don’t already fill? Would private markets further fill the need if government did not intervene in the marketplace? Tax-funded job creation might sound like something that should boost the economy, but five decades of federal experience indicate otherwise.

A 2011 Government Accountability Office report found that there are 47 federal employment and training programs. More important, the report said that “little is known about the effectiveness of employment and training programs we identified.” That is remarkable; taxpayers have been funding these sorts of programs since the 1960s, yet federal auditors still aren’t sure how well they work.

Regarding the earmarking of $80 million of the proposed sales tax increase for job growth: Has anyone taken the time to consider what each new job created will have cost once the program concludes? Progressives have long asserted that lower taxes do not create jobs. If that is so, how then do higher taxes do it? For that matter, how do taxes of any amount do it?

With water the biggest concern, the sales tax remedy ought to apply solely to it. A half-penny tax raised for a concern common to all is more appealing than a full-penny tax raised to include concerns government can neither effectively nor efficiently address.


Rose Hill

Sloop cares

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of folks on doorsteps in House District 88 in southeast Wichita. I have learned that lots of voters are looking forward to voting for Rep. Pat Sloop, D-Wichita.

In 2012, after a career as a licensed clinical social worker, Sloop came out of retirement to represent the district in the Legislature. In Topeka she has worked hard for Kansas citizens to have opportunities such as a good education, access to health care, and a more balanced approach to taxes. These have presented challenges, as we all know, but Sloop showed up and did her best for us. She had a perfect record of being there for every vote in the 2014 session.

Sloop loves meeting with citizens. She is a good listener and is extremely knowledgeable about the various programs that are part of state government. Neighborhood groups know they can count on her to bring them up to date on legislative issues, as well as to support them in their community-building endeavors.

Voters in District 88 need to keep a dedicated public servant like Sloop working for them in Topeka. Vote Pat Sloop on Tuesday.



Kahrs clear choice

When it is time to vote for Kansas House District 87, the clear choice is Rep. Mark Kahrs, R-Wichita.

I have known Kahrs and his family for many years, both in social and professional settings. I served with him for several years on one of the city’s citizen participation organization boards. He was always prepared, listened respectfully to citizens, asked thoughtful questions, and carefully arrived at workable solutions for their problems and concerns. He is a man of true character and honor, and is blessed with intelligence and a commitment to public service.

Because of my years of real estate experience, I appreciate his pledge to fight to keep our property taxes lower and to help families retain more of their hard-earned money. During his first term in office, he has kept this and many other important promises.

Kahrs is a small-business owner and understands the necessity of growing the economy and creating jobs for Kansans.

Please vote for Mark Kahrs, a young man with old-fashioned honor.



Docking has integrity

What is the most important personal value characteristic for leadership? Integrity. If there was one word to describe Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Jill Docking, it would be “integrity.” She walks the walk and has devoted her life to public service. There is no hidden agenda. She could sit back and take the easy road but chooses to support Paul Davis for governor, because she knows it’s the right thing to do.



Vote for moderates

Tired of a retired senator still holding down an office in Washington, D.C.? Concerned about the governor’s attempt to grab control of the Medicare program? Bothered by 22,000 Kansans being deprived of the right to vote? Unhappy with the raid on the state highway fund? Want a Sedgwick County commissioner who can actually work with others? Then you have a rare opportunity to do something about those concerns.

Our current U.S. senator, governor, secretary of state, and District 4 county commissioner have highly qualified moderate challengers. Each would help move the county and the state back toward the middle ground, where the real concerns of our voters can be addressed without the rancor we have come to expect.

If you care about the direction our state is headed, this is your chance to do something about it. Vote for Paul Davis for governor, Jean Schodorf for secretary of state, Greg Orman for U.S. Senate, and Melody McCray-Miller for County Commission in District 4. It is time for moderates to reclaim our state and remain in the majority on the County Commission.



Far from silly

Thirty years ago when I ran for local office, they used to call it the “silly season.” Well, it wasn’t silly then and it’s far from silly now.

We are making critical decisions about the future quality of our lives on Tuesday. And it is discouraging that people don’t know the candidates, the issues and the choices.

My favorite course to teach at a local university was “Media and Culture.” In every class, only about 1 percent of the students – intelligent, ambitious, hardworking people in business and industry – read the newspaper, paper or digital. Most had never heard of the editorial page. Yet the local paper is the primary source of information about state and local issues. In every class, students admitted they did not want to know the news.

Deliberate ignorance is a right, to be sure. We are busy. It makes life so much easier not to critically think about issues. It is so much easier to let someone else make decisions for us. And then vote.

There is nothing silly about the season or deliberate ignorance. But you’re reading this. I’m preaching to the choir. Share your newspaper with a neighbor who doesn’t – get it.



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