Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bad drivers, bad roads or both?

With three inches of snow down and more falling, The Eagle started looking at snow removal practices Wednesday morning. Turns out Wichita has about the same bar that other cities do -- they don't plow until a couple inches have fallen. May be a common practice, but Wichitans aren't necessarily used to it.

Click the "Read more" link to see what readers wrote to The Eagle after the paper solicited comments on at lunch time.

As someone who lived 12 years in western MN and eastern ND, I can tell you this morning's commute was a breeze. Snow at least provides some traction and is much easier to drive on than ice. In the winter I actually prefer to drive on snow pack than scraped roads that become icy. The trick is to drive cautiously, don't take your half out of the middle, don't drive too fast, but don't drive too slowly either. Just a calm, steady pace. If you go too slowly, you can get stuck in the deeper snow and slush. It just takes common sense and courtesy.
My commute today was a little out of the ordinary for most working people. I walked out, sat down in the car and started it up. I opened a book (a mystery novel) and read a few pages while the car warmed up and defrosted, then drove off. The roads were dry and the commute was uneventful. I locked the car and walked into the house. This morning while most people was fighting the slick roads and snow, hoping to get to work on time without someone running into them, I was sleeping like a baby under a warm blanket. I got out of bed without an alarm clock going off and sat at the kitchen table with a hot cup of coffee, watching the fine snow drift down over the yard. Nature is so pretty and white, sparkling and glistening on top of the yellow-brown grass! On mornings like this I really enjoy working 2nd shift!
Driver here in Kansas lack respect for snow and ice. I am from North Dakota and learned to respect ice and snow.
Seems like the driver in this state never want to slow down.
Wonder why there are so many accidents when it snows.
Even when it rains here the accidents are above normal. Too much speed!!!!!!
My drive to work is not very far, so it was fine. I do, however, feel bad for the man who's car was stuck in the middle of the Harry & Hillside intersection. It looked as though his car died on him, not as though the snow was a factor.
I go north on Woodlawn to 21st St. for work. Coming in this morning just north past the Eastborough/Douglas signal light an ignorant driver (which is the norm) driving his truck higher than the posted speed limit (35 mph) trying to bypass all of us cautious drivers - there is one lane ahead heading towards Central with the left lane closed due to ongoing construction. This idiot in the left lane - speeding - then literally squeezing between the two cars along side him (one car in front of me) - of course we had to slam on our brakes for the jerk to squeeze in. Luckily no accident happened But idiots can't drive in good wheather much less bad wheater. I guess people don't care about losing their lives or costing others theirs. There is never, ever a cop around for speeders in this area.
When I first got out on the roads this morning at 6:05 a.m., it was not snowing. By the time I got up to the intersection of Central and Meridian, it had started snowing fairly hard. Then by the time I got to Zoo Blvd. and Hoover, the snow was already accumulating on the roadways. By the time I got home about 6:40, it had started snowing where we live (Washington south of Pawnee). The street was already covered with white and was getting slick.
I knew better than to take the freeways for it seems the people forget they are driving on possibly slick roadways. Pickup trucks seem to be the worst. They think they are heavier and therefore exempt from slipping and sliding. Of course, they find out different most of the time when they lose control and either flip their trucks or, gain back control and hopefully learn not to do that again.
I took back roads to work this morning – Pawnee to Rock Road. It was already pretty slick but people were generally taking it easy. I didn’t see any idiots thinking they were on dry pavement.
The commute to work this morning was terrible. I left for work early, and got to work late. I just don’t understand why traffic was stopped on I-235 when there was no accident in sight. I can understand people going slow on the highway for slick roads, but why in the heck do you have to STOP ON A HIGHWAY. Maybe the drivers test should include an IQ test.

Kansas lawmaker focuses on world conflicts

State Senator Donald Betts, Jr. - D, Wichita - has quite the world view.

He's making headlines by addressing Iraq. He wants lawmakers to pass a resolution that would put the state Legislature on record as opposing the Bush administration's plan to commit 21,500 additional troops to the Iraq war.

Betts told The Hall Monitor on Thursday that, his attention - and his plans - will turn to Sudan. He mentioned an announcement, the Kansas retirement system for state employees and the conflict that has garnered worldwide attention, driven mostly by MTV and BET campaigns.

Confused? Betts said he plans to clear things up as soon as Friday.

When will the arena sales tax go away?

How many more days will you have to pay the 1 percent tax to help pay for the downtown arena?

Ask Sedgwick County Manager Bill Buchanan and he'll be able to tell you.

Buchanan is keeping a running daily tally of how many days are left -- 344 as of today -- and letting commissioners, county staff and the media know almost every day.

"I just figure it's a good thing to do," he told The Hall Monitor at today's commission meeting.

County staff have taken to rolling their eyes, giggling and groaning when Buchanan does his daily update, but it's only begun for Buchanan: he's got 343 more reminders until the tax ends.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Board members get educated

One of the main criticisms of former state education commissioner Bob Corkins was that he had no educational experience and, by extension, didn't know what the state's education issues were.

But according to a media advisory sent to The Hall Monitor from the Kansas State Department of Education, neither do the board members.

The media advisory announces a meeting with Brenda Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. The organization has been contracted to help find the state education commissioner.

The topic of the meeting:

"Mrs. Welborn and State Board members will discuss the results of the environmental survey conducted by NASBE to define the top education issues in Kansas."

The national organization will base their discussions based on conversations with board members, the governor, legislative leaders, businesses and education organizations.

A House Divided

As Kansas Senator Sam Brownback runs for President, we can't help but note the Senator's conversion to Catholicism from his Methodist farm roots. His wife, Mary Stauffer Brownback, and their children remain members of the Topeka Bible Church. Brownback was brought into the Catholic Church by an Opus Dei priest. Interfaith families are often posed with many challenges. Given his high profile, The Hall Monitor wonders if this may be an issue that could create further challenges.

The Stauffer family helped create the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, and the family has owned major newspapers in Kansas, including the Topeka Daily Capitol.

Annual meeting becomes a "church" rally

If anybody can turn an annual business meeting into a church service, it's Brian Black, president and chief executive of the Urban League of Kansas.

On Monday, during the league's meeting at Botanica that drew more than 300 people, Black used Psalms 23, "The Lord is My Shepherd," to illustrate the tougher times he's experienced in his attempts to guide the league in moving more people to the economic mainstream.

Black said there were times he felt like he's walked through the "valley of the shadow of death" alone. But all he needed to do, he said, was to pause, look around and see that he wasn't alone. Surrounding him were other nonprofit organizations and business people who he's since joined hands with. Now they're walking together, supporting and promoting one another's mission.

To this, Black received a rousing round of applause and hearty "Amens."

Bel Aire's mayor race could be bitter

Two former mayors -- Harold Smith, mayor from 1991 to 1998; and Gary O'Neal, mayor from 1999 to 2005 -- have both filed against each other in Bel Aire's April 3 general election. At issue for the 6,500-resident community is how to market the city's vacant land and work on reducing the local debt load.. Within the past five years the community has rapidly grown.

Police union: Council candidates wanted

Well, the deadline to file for mayor and city council has passed, but the police union is still looking.

Aside from incumbents on the council, who are well aware of the Fraternal Order of Police's political clout, the union didn't hear from many other candidates. So they took out an ad in today's Eagle requesting a candidate who is "pro public safety, can prioritize the spending of tax dollars, and who believes the police deserve a fair contract."

They've been getting calls all day.

"We've heard from a couple of the sitting council member and the mayor," union president, Sgt. Chester Pinkston, said. "We haven't heard near enough from the rest of them and we're obviously looking at who we want to endorse for this."

The FOP represents more than 600 employees -- employees whose families have not been shy in supporting the department (as seen in their most recent protest, which included moms, dads, kids and dogs). Typically, the union endorses a candidate after the primary, but Pinkston tells Barley Eagle that members tonight will discuss an earlier endorsement this year.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Peterjohn for Duckett?

In an email received by The Hall Monitor, Wichita school board at-large candidate and long time anti-tax advocate Karl Peterjohn shows his support to district 4 candidate Cindy Duckett. Her company provides scholarships for students to attend private schools.

From the email:

"Cindy is running in district four in the primary but only one other candidate filed so she will be running district wide in the April 3 general election. I believe that she has an excellent chance of winning."

The email, written to James Hodges and recieved by countless others, shows that Duckett has given Peterjohn equal support.

"She was strongly urging me to file too and she was the last candidate to file before the noon deadline. I filed for the at large seat just seconds before her and am now one of five candidates to be narrowed down at the Feb. primary."

Negotiations at the speed of snail

Remember a month ago when hundreds of police officers picketed City Hall, signs in hand, pleading for more cooperation and fair salaries?

And remember when City Manager George Kolb was on every newscast in town telling taxpayers that they'd either see reduced city services or a tax increase if the police get what they want?

Well, it's been pretty quiet since -- all the salaries are stagnant and so are taxes. Since the PD and city issued a joint press release saying they wouldn't continue to vent their frustrations and roll out worst case scenarios at each other in the media, the issue has been publicly calm.

Sgt. Chester Pinkston, the union president, tells The Hall Monitor that the city is inching its offer up, little-by-little. But apparently not enough...

"We're still not near a settlement," Pinkston said.

"But we're still optimistic," he followed. "It's just moving at a snail's pace, unfortunately."

History shows that's often the way these things go.

Meanwhile, the fire department's union is in waiting. The city backed out their most recent meeting because one of their players couldn't make the meeting, Doug Pickard, president of the firefighters' union, said.

"We're just kind of treading water," he said.

It's not clear how the two contracts fit together, but, according to press release the city handed out in mid-December, "Any contract with this group (being the police) for more than the budgeted 2 percent will further increase pressure for a tax increase or reduction in other services."

Not exactly a pleasant scenario for city leaders in an election season where most of the 26 candidates out there are repeating the mantra of lower taxes, increased public safety and fiscal constraint.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Place to Call Home

It looks like Michael O'Donnell II, the city's youngest council candidate, may have to make a trip downtown before the campaigning begins. That's because he's still listed as a Bel Aire resident, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale confirmed after a Hall Monitor inquiry.

Gale says his office simply overlooked it. But they're calling O'Donnell II up to let him know it's time to update the address or be disqualified. Gale thanked The Hall Monitor for the catch but noted O'Donnell wasn't the first wrong address candidate.

Turns out King David Davis, who winds up on almost every municipal ballot in recent memory, needed to update his address too.

It's a tough start for both men, who have each lost bids for mayor in their last attempts.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Big city money... and it ain't from Wichita

Several Council members filed their campaign finance reports this week, and if addresses are any indication, Mayor Carlos Mayans has been looking beyond the city limits to corral support in 2006.

Among the donors are 24 out-of-town people, many of them with the same last name "Dugan." Turns out Dugan, who owns USF Dugan,
a big trucking company, has quite a big family, all of whom were willing to give Mayans the maximum $500 contribution. And that's helped Mayans jump far ahead his most prominent challenger, Carl Brewer.

Brewer, meanwhile, has wowed the Minnesotan developers who have refurbished many downtown buildings and sparked something of a move back to folks living downtown...

The northerners and, ostensibly, their Twin Cities area families gave Brewer nearly half of his $8,100 jump start on this year's race. (He says that his campaign fund has grown "substantially" since, but won't say by how much.)

Meanwhile Council member Sue Schlapp surpassed everyone in the race. And she pointed out to Barely Eagle that if you subtract all the cash Mayans rolled over from his previous reports ($10,824) and all the money she rolled from her account ($3,000), she's got more message power than the standing mayor and former state House rep.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

No love from Brooks to WSU

Wichita school district Superintendent Winston Brooks hasn't shown any love to Wichita State University, lately. Looking for a venue for a future game between East and Southeast high schools, Brooks explained at a Jan. 8 school board meeting why playing at Koch Arena wasn't a possibility.

"WSU denied us the opportunity to play at Koch Arena," he said. "At that time they were in the Top 20. Now that they're not, maybe they'll reconsider us playing there the second time around."

The last game between the high schools brought 5,000 fans to the Kansas
Coliseum. Since then, WSU has plummeted from 8th in the nation to 8th in
the Missouri Valley Conference.