Letters to the Editor

Letters on blight bill, cage elevator bill, Islamic Society speaker, city parks

Blight bill invited cronyism, abuse

There is a distinctly American idea that makes our structure of government unique among nations and history: Power lies with the people, and government exists only to secure their inalienable rights. Every person is entitled to these protections. Senate Bill 338 threatened that basic constitutional premise, and that’s why I vetoed the misguided legislation.

Known as the “blight bill,” SB 338 allowed local government to take land and homes from Kansans and give them to private organizations. The bill gave local officials unrestricted power to choose which properties could stay and which they could take, based on rules they wrote themselves. It grew the power of local governments to seize property while limiting the protections of citizens. Most significantly, this bill increased the risk of government abuse and cronyism. Eminent domain without restraint is wrong.

Kansans from across party lines expressed their concerns about how this bill would disparately impact low-income and minority communities. The expansive definition of blighted or abandoned property included in this bill would grant enormous power to local governments as they determine zones and codes. Such loose limits on self-written regulations allow municipalities far too easy an opportunity to unjustly rob these citizens of the right to maintain their own property. Putting the seized property under the ownership of private organizations only begs for cronyism and systematic abuse.

Authority to take property from one private citizen and give it to another ought to be limited, but this bill willfully and grossly expands such authority without adequate safeguards.

Gov. Sam Brownback, Topeka

Elevator bill no joke

I admit, I thought it was a joke. Our governor signed a bill into law declaring “the cage elevator in the Kansas state capitol building as the official cage elevator of the state of Kansas.”

But, nope, there it was, a bill to do just that introduced by our 40 fine state senators apparently intent upon preserving this piece of American history. The bill was reviewed in a hearing and passed out of the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs on March 3, approved by the full Senate, referred on to the House Committee on Vision 2020, then approved by the House before being sent to the governor.

The proponents of the bill, now law, note that the elevator was installed in 1923 and that “schoolchildren may be observed daily studying closely ... the mechanical operation of this passenger elevator in a way beyond the ability of books to describe.” And yet many people still think that our Legislature isn’t paying attention to our kids’ education.

Ronald Lyon, Wichita

Pompeo a leader

I grew up in Eureka before attending the U.S. Naval Academy and serving with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, I have seen the hate of radical Islam firsthand and the destruction it brings. That is why I am gravely concerned when the Islamic Society of Wichita invites, promotes and raises funds off of an individual such as Sheikh Monzer Taleb, who has repeatedly been linked to Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

From my experience overseas, I also recognize courage when I see it. Whether in a combat zone or the corporate boardroom, it takes a leader to step up and do what is right. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, is that kind of leader. He exemplified courage and sound judgment when he called on the Islamic Society to cancel its fundraising event with the sheikh.

A mouthpiece for Hamas should have no place in Wichita, and no place in communities that seek to foster inclusive and productive dialogue.

As Pompeo has stated, “there are many Muslims of goodwill and (who) despise this extremism as much as anyone of any other faith.” We need to embrace American Muslims who stand against radicalism, and together we can fight to prevent radical Islam from taking root here in Kansas and in the United States.

Grant Moody, Eureka

Speak up for society

The following letter was submitted by Allen Polen, Joyce Polen, David Nichols, Larry Hahn, Linda Hahn, Don Brewer, Mary Jarvis, Margaret Anderson, Robbie Banks, Dave Seaton and Callie Seaton, members of Progressive Christian Conversation in Winfield:

We, as a progressive Christian group in Winfield, were appalled to learn of the threat to the Islamic Society of Wichita’s security and First Amendment rights.

Those who threatened to protest the society’s March 25 fundraiser with firearms could be called terrorists. By denying the society’s opportunity to raise funds to support its mosque and its children, they infringed on the society’s freedom of religion.

The denial of the society’s freedom of speech diminishes the First Amendment freedoms of all of us. Those who called on the society to cancel its speaker’s appearance failed to recognize that the society members had the right as Americans to host him.

We are joining religious leaders of Wichita in speaking up for the Islamic Society. We do not share the same faith, but we respect it. We seek to be followers of Jesus and believe He would have shared our support for society members and their right to practice Islam without interference.

Mind own business

I was amazed and amused by the article “Analysts, militias weigh in on mosque controversy” (April 10 Insight).

I am a 78-year-old natural citizen, and proud of it. I am a strong believer in the words of our Constitution and in freedom of speech and religious preference.

I have been in recovery for more than 30 years. I would dread having a spokesman who has had four DUIs, is a convicted felon, and owes our state more than $3,000. He needs to get a life.

If the militias must protest something, let them join with law enforcement to eliminate prostitution and pimps. They take a far greater toll on our society than a group of innocent and law-abiding Muslims.

As for Rep. Mike Pompeo: He wasn’t elected to safeguard our religious beliefs. He has done a poor enough job in addressing far more pressing problems in our nation. He is a puppet for his ultraconservative benefactors.

I say: Live and let live. And mind your own business.

Robert J. O’Brien, Wichita

Enjoy city parks

Each spring, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation invite everyone to celebrate National Park Week. From April 16 to 24, you are invited to celebrate all that America’s more than 400 parks have to offer.

Locally, the Wichita park system is composed of 127 parks, including a number of public open spaces that total more than 4,902 acres of land. A system of greenways is planned to ultimately connect many of the city’s major parks and provide additional hiking and biking opportunities.

The Wichita park system offers recreation opportunities to residents including organized and individual activities at eight community recreation centers, nine swimming pools and 53 athletic fields. It also offers recreation through hiking, biking and fitness trails. All facets of recreation can be found in Wichita parks, and add beauty and enrichment to the lives of all.

Park and Recreation Department employees take pride in working to provide Wichita with the best park system, and are a valued community partner to many organizations.

Going to a park is free, good for Wichita and good for you. I would encourage everyone to make it a priority to try a new adventure and go enjoy Wichita’s parks.

Becky Tuttle, Wichita

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