Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mayoral candidates agree: shopping bags on heads don't make sense

Mayoral candidates Carl Brewer and Carlos Mayans say those people with shopping bags, tickets and a dinner plate on their heads don't make much sense to them.

"I probably would have used something a little different myself," Brewer said, laughing. "I've never been able to figure out exactly what the catch was to it."

"I think you said it all, it's a little different," Mayans said.

Their comments came during the candidates' last face-to-face debate on KNSS NewsRadio 1330 this morning after host Gene Countryman asked whether the taxpayer-funded signs, which are on billboards all over the state, were a good idea.

"It just seems baffling to me," Countryman said.
(Get a podcast of the show here.)

The Greater Wichita Convention and Visitor's Bureau and Greteman Group, which made the ads, also took some heat in 2004 when the ad campaign was first displayed. The slogan -- "We got the goods" -- didn't sound right to some grammar hawks. Ad writers, however, said the casual wording was intentional -- like the "Got Milk" campaign.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Election Commissioner predicts 20 percent (again)

In February, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale predicted 20 percent of registered voters would cast a ballot in the primary. Only 13 percent of those registered showed up. Given general elections have better turnout, Gale is sticking with 20 percent again Tuesday. It probably won't help that the National Weather Service forecasts a slight chance of thunderstorms for Tuesday. Rain tends to keep voters home. But a barrage of last minute campaigning might counteract it.

As of Thursday evening, about 1,000 people voted in person. Another 4,800 mailed-in their ballots and another 4,000 mail-in ballots are still out and could come back by Tuesday.

Here's a historic look at turnout in spring general elections:
2005: 38 percent (same sex marriage on ballot, too)
2003: 32 percent
2001: 12 percent
1999: 16 percent

See Tuesday's Wichita Eagle for more on municipal election turnout in Wichita and across the nation.

Partisan support for nonpartisan offices

Want lower taxes, better jobs, accountability, economic growth, personal freedom and limited government? The Sedgwick County Republican Party says their folks can do it -- even in the non-partisan offices of mayor, city council and school board.

That's the message in a recent Sedgwick County Republican Party mail-out flier that says "Wichita wins with Republican principles." It lists Republicans Carlos Mayans, Sue Schlapp, Paul Gray and both Paul Tobia and Jeff Longwell for city races. Also on their list: Cindy Duckett, John Stevens, Karl Peterjohn and Jeff Davis for Wichita School Board positions. Then, the tiny asterisks: "*We encourage you to support the candidate of your choice."

It's not just the Rs showing their party colors, though. Mayoral candidate Carl Brewer, a Democrat, has also had help from his party -- most notably from former Lt. Governor Tom Docking, who was one of three prominent Democrats to endorse Brewer in a letter sent to local Dems.

For more on the partisan nature of non-partisan elections and list of candidates' registered party affiliations, see this previous post.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Party on: ticket prices drop for R&B show

Want to see Earth, Wind & Fire on Saturday, but your money is funny and your change is strange?

Don't fret, you've got people. No, not H&R Block, but organizers of the Downing Concert Series, who have made more $35 tickets available.

Talk about a discount.

And if you paid more for your Kansas Coliseum seat, there's no need to complain. Every dollar raised through ticket sales from the concert, a pre-party and gala dinner will benefit the Center for Health and Wellness, the Boys and Girls Clubs of South-Central Kansas and The Opportunity Project school. These are organizations that are investing in children and healthcare in our community.

Now that's worth singing about.

Catch Friday's Eagle for more information or visit

10th and Volutsia clean-up cost the city $12,000

The dump of a yard at 10th and Volutsia was probably the strangest and most controversial clean-up in the city's history. It wasn't cheap either.

It cost the city $12,000 to clean up the mess. (Watch Sunflower's video of the clean up at this link.)

Here's what Environmental Services Director Kay Johnson had to say about it, according to the District 1 Advisory Board minutes: "Basically, we could not go behind the fence and the property suffered years of neglect, which was an issue. Turn over in staff was another issue. Municipal Court had no jurisdiction to enforce the law and it was not until the District Court intervened those things changed. It cost the City $12,000 to clean up that property." (See it all in this PDF of the minutes)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Who's speaking for whom?

A letter sent out to about 50 West Wichita residents on behalf of District 5 City Council candidate Jeff Longwell says he will propose a city ordinance to freeze senior citizens' property taxes. It also requests you send him money to pay for a $500 a day ad in the Wichita Eagle proposing his "FREEZE THE TAXES" campaign.

Longwell says the letter is bogus.

The letter was sent out by Patrick Quaney, a District 5 primary candidate who has since endorsed Longwell since losing the primary. He says he "misunderstood" Longwell's stance on freezing property taxes.

"I will lobby the Legislature to freeze property values, but I know I can't, as a city councilman, do that," Longwell says.

Read the letter here. You can also read a full story on the Eagle's website.

Fight against blight gains unlikely "partners"

The City of Wichita and Sunflower Community Action's working relationship is improving after the nonprofit group's meeting with city officials to discuss run-down properties.

The city agreed to provide updates to Sunflower in April and May after Sunflower revealed its "Dirty 20" list of properties to City Spokesman Van Williams and the city's Office of Central Inspections and Environmental Services department leaders. Both sides considered the meeting a success - the city was pleased with Sunflower's grassroots efforts to clean up blight in Central-Northeast Wichita and Sunflower was pleased the city started cases on several of the properties.

"We got to talk to each other, and not through the media or other groups," Williams said, "and the communication benefited from that."

Still, four Sunflower members are going to trial on misdemeanor charges the city pressed against them for illegal dumping and trespassing during a protest at City Manager George Kolb's house in December. The group hoped to pressure Kolb to clean up dumping at a house at 10th and Volutsia.

And the retirement clock goes to...

At nearly every Sedgwick County Commission meeting, one county employee who is about to retire is honored and thanked for her public service. Most days, the longtime employee graciously accepts his retirement clock, a certificate and words of appreciation from county commissioners.

This morning, though, Sheriff Sergeant Shane Brazil, who will retire April 1 after 22 years of service, used his opportunity to speak to point fingers at an administration that he said does not value the sacrifices law enforcement officers make every day. He said the county doesn't pay a fair wage or offer incentives to keep officers from taking other jobs.

Watch the video of this morning's commission meeting and what Sgt. Brazil says about County Manager Bill Buchanan. (Click on the video for March 28. When the video window appears, click on "C. Presentation of Retirement Clocks.")

Mayans doesn't like polls, polls don't like him

Ask Mayor Carlos Mayans about polls, and he'll tell you he hasn't taken any in six campaigns (five for state representative, one for mayor). A self-described populist, he says there's only one real poll -- Election Day. Mayoral candidate Carl Brewer, meanwhile, spent $14,000 on polling and phone banks.

Now a poll has been taken by KWCH Channel 12 and The Wichita Eagle. It shows Brewer up 22 percent over Mayans in the race for mayor. The automated phone survey polled 470 likely voters and was conducted by Survey USA a week before the April 3 election.

Of those asked, 58 percent plan to vote for Brewer, 36 percent plan to vote for Mayans and 6 percent said they were undecided or planned to pick someone else, presumably a write-in. There's a 4.6 percent margin of error. In the poll, Brewer leads among all age groups as well as among men, women, black and white voters.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Brownback: Iraq withdrawal timeline "like March Madness for terrorists"

Sen. Sam Brownback, who opposed President Bush's troop surge in Iraq, says "now is hardly the time to set a date for retreat."

That comes just a day after he was campaigning in Iowa and told The Des Moines Register that his opposition to the surge is a problem for some conservative voters.

Brownback's answer is to split Iraq three ways and lead the country into federalism. "If the surge works, federalism can provide the framework necessary to stabilize Iraq over the long term," he said in a press release. "If the surge fails, and Iraq’s sectarian violence deepens, a federal Iraq will be the only choice available to separate the warring factions while keeping Iraq from breaking apart – something that we cannot allow to occur in such a vital region."
See his full statement:

"U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today released a statement regarding the upcoming Senate vote on whether Congress should impose a deadline for withdrawal of troops from Iraq:

"We have arrived at a key moment for U.S. policy in Iraq. History recalls Operations Desert Shield and Storm in 1990 and 1991. It recalls the no-fly zones we maintained in the 1990s. It recalls the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. It recalls our sanctions against Saddam Hussein. And when history records Operation Iraqi Freedom, it will remember whether Congress provided the direction necessary to complete the mission or chose to cut it off prematurely. History will judge today s vote.

"The American people await this vote. The Iraqi people await this vote. Al Qaeda awaits this vote. A timetable for withdrawal is like March Madness for terrorists. The terrorists envision a timetable for withdrawal advancing through the House and through the Senate. They even have a timetable for withdrawal beating a presidential veto and becoming law. We need to break that bracket this afternoon.

"The surge is now underway. I did not support the surge, but I hope it works. The first reports have been encouraging, but the fog of war remains thick. Over the next few months, we will be able to assess whether the surge is working or not. Now is hardly the time to set a date for retreat.

"I am not saying we should have an open ended commitment, but I am saying that our mission over there - and not politics over here - should drive our policy. I know many of my colleagues believe we have nothing to gain by staying. But I believe there is a way forward.

"Everyone agrees that a political solution is crucial to success. And it turns out that the political solution Iraqis ought to pursue is the most American of all: Federalism.

"Thankfully, in the early days in America, we did not have the kind of factional violence and terrorism we've seen in Iraq. But it certainly included rivalries between the colonies and different visions of the future.

"The great solution chosen by the founding fathers was federalism - something embodied by the Senate itself. An Iraq with several federal regions, with Baghdad as a federal capital represents the best chance for Iraq to achieve stability.

"If the surge works, federalism can provide the framework necessary to stabilize Iraq over the long term. If the surge fails, and Iraq s sectarian violence deepens, a federal Iraq will be the only choice available to separate the warring factions while keeping Iraq from breaking apart something that we cannot allow to occur in such a vital region.

"I believe that instead of giving the terrorists a reason to be hopeful and sending mixed signals to our forces in the field, we should be talking about the possibility of a federal Iraq. The Iraqi Constitution calls for it. The Iraqi Parliament passed a law supporting it. The Kurdish region proves that it can be successful. Yes, a federal Iraq may require the presence of U.S. forces for some period of time. But as we have seen in Bosnia, our deployments in support of a political solution endorsed by all sides can bring lasting peace and a chance for a brighter future.

"For this reason, I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the Cochran amendment. We need to stop talking about how to retreat and start talking about winning in Iraq. A conversation about a federal Iraq is the best way for the Senate to contribute to success in Iraq."

Wichita may tone down the LED signs

People who own bright LED signs, like the one at a car dealership and car wash on North Rock Road, may soon have to dim them -- at least at night.

In a City Council workshop today, Council members voiced support for an ordinance that would require new LED signs to have dimming controls and require existing signs to reduce their brightness. Sign owners who can't control the intensity of their signs would have to come into the City Hall and talk to the Office of Central Inspection about modifying their signs or getting an exception to the rule. This decision is far from over, though. In workshops, the Council just gives city staffers some direction on what kind of ordinance they'd like to see.

John Lay, with George Lay Signs Inc., said requiring dimming controls won't be a big deal since most new signs have them. He said most of the signs that people are complaining about also have dimming controls.

Monday, March 26, 2007

It's your decision

After reading an earlier post on The Hall Monitor about a letter sent out to Wichita district employees, Superintendent Winston Brooks is clarifying a paragraph he wrote about the election.

In a email he shared with The Hall Monitor, Brooks wrote that employees should educate themselves on the candidates. He also wrote that there are other groups besides United Teachers of Wichita that they can contact to learn more.

Click below to read the full email.

Dear Colleagues:

I apologize for adding to your list of emails today, but clarification is needed regarding the intent of my email that I sent to you last night. First, the intent was to thank each of you for the great work you do in the Wichita Public Schools and on behalf of our nearly 49,000 students. Once again, I say thank you for your dedication, your passion, and your commitment.

Second purpose was to encourage you to stay focused on student learning for the remainder of the year. Finally, I encouraged you to go vote on April 3rd. I also suggested that you should educate yourself on the candidates who are running for the School Board and if in doubt, call UTW for recommendations. Unfortunately, this has been misconstrued as an endorsement of certain candidates by the Superintendent, not true.

In fact, if you choose to not contact UTW (which I thought was a logical choice since they are the bargaining agent for teachers); there are other agencies that you can also contact for recommendations. For example, you could contact the Wichita Eagle editorial board for their endorsements, or you can contact the League of Women Voters, or the Pachyderm Club, or the Chamber of Commerce, or the Wichita Independent Business Association. I suspect you could also contact both the Republican and Democrat local offices, although the School Board races are to be non-partisan.

I have no intent to unduly influence this election one way or the other and I apologize to anyone who might think that I have.

Once again, thank you for your work.

Winston C. Brooks

More on cameras on police cars

We reported in The Eagle today about Mayor Carlos Mayans and City Council member Carl Brewer supporting cameras in police cars. Both men supported it in their comments. But, as Sunflower Community Action members are pointing out this morning, that's not the full story.

Mayans asked Brewer to make a motion on the cameras during budget negotiations last year, but Brewer didn't. Later, Mayans made a motion of his own to shift $150,000 from the city's long-term spending to start a pilot project. Brewer voted against that. Only Mayans and Paul Gray supported it. See the full minutes in a PDF file here.

I'm not telling you what to do but....

Wichita schools superintendent Winston Brooks is happy that everyone is back from spring break but he wants to remind everyone to vote on April 3.

Not sure who to vote for? Call the union.

In an email given to the Hall Monitor, Brooks, who sent it out a district wide, thanked teachers and staff for their work during the year.

At the end, he urges everyone to do their civic duty and vote. Brooks writes:

"Finally, let me remind all of you that you owe it to yourself, to our students, to the District to go vote on Tuesday, April 3. As you all know, we have contested races in four out of seven School Board seats. Contested races are in District 1, 3, 4, and At Large. I strongly recommend that you educate yourself about the candidates in each of these races. If in doubt, I would encourage you to contact Paul Babich or Larry Landwehr of UTW should you need recommendations on who to vote for. I also want to remind you that those of us who reside within the boundaries of USD #259 will be able to vote for all four races."

The UTW or the United Teachers of Wichita, the teacher's union, endorsed incumbent Kevass Harding, district 3 candidate Barb Fuller and district 4 candidate Jeff Davis. The same candidates endorsed by a majority of the school board members.

So who really is responsible for Core Knowledge?

An item that didn't fit in yesterday's school board race story, puts district 4 candidate Cindy Duckett and Chip Gramke at odds. It starts out with a phrase in Duckett's literature that quotes Gramke. The quote said:

"Cindy was tremendously helpful in getting me the information [on Core Knowledge]," She did a tremendous job. If you look at the test scores of these two schools, it works."

Hold on says Gramke. That might not be entirely accurate.

"Did we discuss core knowledge? Yes," Gramke said in a conversation with the Hall Monitor last week. "Was she instrumental in starting the school? The people that were instrumental were Chip Gramke and Marty Marshall. They talked to the parents and pushed it through the board agenda."

Core Knowledge is a magnet concept for two schools in the district.

After calling Duckett for comment, a series of emails were sent out to school board members, including Gramke, and of course to the Hall Monitor. In one of them, she outline her exact contribution to the magnet concept:

"If asked, Chip may recall that I -- alone -- secured the donation of phonics and math textbook from Saxon Publishers in Norman, OK for every Bryant Core Knowledge student. He might also recall that I -- alone -- secured a large donation for the Bryant Core Knowledge library from Don and Faith Bell at Security Savings Bank in Olathe. He might also recall the numerous meetings at the UTW office with me, Greg Jones, Barb Fuller, David Payne and former school board member Marshall Jones to get this project going. Chip can be a sweetheart but I think his memory might be getting a bit cloudy."

Gramke, fellow board member Lynn Rogers, and businessman Fred Berry, will hold a press conference at 2:30 today in the 3rd floor boardroom in the central library. The gentlemen will endorse Duckett's opponent, Jeff Davis.

And in another twist Berry is listed as one of the contributors for CEO First, Duckett's non-profit that gives scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools.

Also on that list is at-large candidate Karl Peterjohn, the Kansas Taxpayers Network which Peterjohn heads, and state board of education member Steve Abrams.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mayans still supports WSU football

WSU football isn't Carlos Mayans' favorite topic these days, since it's led to such outcry from other City Council members. But Mayans still stands behind Wichita State University football as a way to boost the school's lagging enrollment.

"It's no secret that Wichita State University has lost students, in part, because of not having football," Mayans said, responding to a question at a voter forum Sunday. "This is not a true, full university. The football would bring a return of... more African American students," he said. When he said that, someone in the crowd at the Tabernacle Baptist Church said "that's stereotyping."

"Football is economic development to the city," Mayans said. The 1.5 mills of tax money was intended to pay off buildings and now those buildings are paid off, he said.

Mayan's opponent, City Council member Carl Brewer, has criticized the idea from the start. He response to the question was to say a mayor has "more things to do" instead of trying to convince a university's president to start a football program. "We have other things to be doing," he said.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Thank you, come again

Welcome to The Eagle's newest blog. Keep coming back and you'll see more of what goes on behind the political scene and more of what The Eagle's metro reporters hear as they walk the halls of power both in Wichita and around the state.

Sometimes we'll write about the first whispers of a larger plan, like a mayoral candidate's plan to make Wichita a wireless internet city. Other times it will be a glimpse of someone's life, like Sedgwick County Commissioner Tom Winter's fishing trip. We'll put out rumors, like those about Wichita School District Superintendent Winston Brooks becoming the next education commissioner. And we'll share the news we're tracking, like Sen. Sam Brownback's campaign to become the next president.

And it's not just politics. We'll track city organizations large and small, telling you about the scene at community events, like the Urban League of Kansas rally.

We're also hoping you'll vent your views, give us new ideas and have open discussions on the posting boards. So, enjoy. We have 50 posts below this one to get started.

What's all the fuss about? See for yourself

Sunflower Community Action members are awaiting their April 19 criminal trespass trails in municipal court. The charges stem from a well-publicized protest at City Manager George Kolb's house.

See what it's all about in this 8-minute video.

After Kolb's wife closed the door on them, Sunflower members (with megaphone in hand) sang "jingle bells, this town smells, take it all away, if you don't next Tuesday, we'll be here everyday."

"Are the police going to come?" someone asked. J.J. Selmon, a Sunflower leader who has advocated on behalf of upset neighbors, said even the police are upset with Kolb over their stalled salary negotiations.

Another YouTube video shows the mess at 10th and Volutsia before the city took the property owner to court and got the go ahead to clean it up and bill the property owner.

Wireless in Wichita? Brewer hints at it

He's not giving details. Not about who he's talking to. Not about what type of wireless system they'd try to bring in. But mayoral candidate Carl Brewer has said he's in discussions with an undisclosed company about a wireless internet deal that could allow Wichitans to browse the web while having a picnic at the park or sipping coffee at home.

And he's not just talking about the wireless that City Manager George Kolb has discussed with the Council to allow city workers to do work on the road. (See the PowerPoint here.) The Council decided against that plan with Sedgwick County and the Wichita School District. But Brewer says this idea would allow access for anyone with a computer -- not just government employees.

It's a popular idea nationwide. For example, the Los Angeles Times recently reported that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to make L.A. the biggest wireless network around. Also noteworthy, a story in The Eagle this week pointed out that large wireless networks also have their problems with privacy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Brewer and Mayans on their favorite topic: Business, business, business

It's the opening line of every mayoral forum between Mayor Carlos Mayans and Carl Brewer, and it sounds something like this: 'we need to diversify the economy, train our workforce and keep young people from leaving Wichita.'

It's certainly a key issue. But how does government pave the way for something that hinges so much on the private sector? The candidates have a similar line there, too -- keep doing what we're doing. Continue to take on some risk for the businesses by issuing bonds to pay for expansions and give tax breaks -- even though recent studies at Wichita State University show tax exemptions (state and local) have shifted tax burden from business and other special interests to homeowners and consumers. (Check out that study in a PDF file) Then, candidates say, cut down on regulations -- though no one is saying which regulations.

Need more? Check out how candidates responded to the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce questions.

Fearey has had enough

Sharon Fearey, the north-central Wichita City Council member, has had enough of Mayor Carlos Mayans' campaign claims. And, The Hall Monitor has noted, she's had enough of people putting words in her mouth.

She penned an editorial that ran in The Eagle this week, scolding Mayans for claiming that Council members are never in their offices. She countered too, saying that Mayans misses his share of city meetings. The tension also showed last Tuesday when Fearey didn't get a chance to explain her 'no' vote on move to overrule the city's historic preservation board decision that the proposed downtown Kelly Hotel and Conference Center doesn't fit in with nearby historic buildings. (See The Eagle's story here.)

In the meeting, Fearey said she hit her button, indicating to the mayor that she wanted to talk. But Mayans wrapped up the hearing quickly and called the vote. Fearey, a former preservation board member, never said 'yes' or 'no,' but went on record as a 'no' vote because, she said, architects and city planners could have come to a better compromise.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What's the Council up to next Tuesday? Lots.

It may be campaign season, but the City Council trudges on. Next Tuesday, your representatives will decide whether to fill in 18 acres of wetlands to make way for a big commercial development near 29th and Maize. Residents there have serious concerns about how this will affect flooding. Developers point to a recent consultant study that shows that if the city recreates the wetlands in the Cadillac Lake area, it should solve some of the existing flood hazards. But many people are not convinced.

And there's much more... The Council is also going to hear from Sunflower Community Action about eliminating blight. This public address follows shootings this week in some of the most blight-filled parts of town (See The Eagle's story). The address also follows a long battle to clean up a property near 10th and Volutsia, trespassing charges after Sunflower visited City Manager George Kolb's home and a citywide tour where Sunflower pointed out the 20 worst properties. They say they can't get Carl Brewer, who represents the area with all 20 homes, or Kolb to meet with them. So they're using the public agenda -- as they've done in the past to bring attention to issues.

Also noteworthy: Jennifer Lee gives an update on the struggling Old Cowtown Museum and the Council decides whether to overturn a Historic Preservation Board opinion about the design of the Kelly Hotel and Conference Center on East Douglas.

And if mayoral race politics flare up again like they did last week, hold tight and keep a lot of coffee handy if you plan to watch on Channel 7.

Need more? See the city's agenda.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mayans the Spartan

It's a rare day when Hollywood action finds any reference in the bureaucracy of City Hall. But Mayor Carlos Mayans, the council's current protagonist, found a link -- at least in explaining himself.

Expressing frustration about an Eagle editorial and his opponents this week, Mayans likened the uphill electoral battle he now faces to the new movie "300." Asked if he knows how the movie ends, Mayans said 'yes.' He's a self-described history buff. Mayans said he admires the Spartans for fighting off thousands of invading soldiers with only 300 men in an epic battle (see this USA Today story for some history perspective). As he said in Tuesday's debate, it's about principal. In the movie, the Spartans end up perforated with arrows and lose an impossible battle. But their courage is the story.

Mayans, who fled Cuba at age 13, said he groups the Spartans with other people he admires, including philosopher Socrates and Martin Luther King Jr.. Mayans has said his life has been about overcoming obstacles, which he has clearly done several times and made friends and enemies along the way. The question that lingers is will he clear the next bar on April 3.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Brownback's lean campaign

The New York Times reports this morning that as Sen. Sam Brownback tours Iowa in the early phases of his presidential campaign that he "is struggling to make himself known to most voters, and to convince them that his views on the issues are more important than the name recognition enjoyed by his better-known rivals in the crowded field seeking the Republican nomination."

And the paper notes that Brownback, who is traveling only with two aides, faces a crowded field of more popular candidates who, like Sen. John McCain, roll into town with busloads of reporters and staff members.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Brewer's got a friend in Sciortino

Former Sedgwick County Commissioner Ben Sciortino isn't done with politics just yet. Rather than sit on the sidelines after voters ousted him from the commission last November, he told The Hall Monitor he's going to help Carl Brewer run for mayor.

"I'm going to use what little influence I have left to see what I can do for him," Sciortino said simply.

What does Sciortino like about Brewer?

"Well, you need three things to be a successful leader: vision, a plan, and the courage to actually run for office," Sciortino explained. "I just think that Carl can work with the city council to get things done. He can bring everyone together. So I'll just see what I can do for him."

Brewer, Harding and the African American vote

Since city council member Carl Brewer announced his run for mayor, many have asked Barely Eagle if he would be the city's first African American mayor. He would not. A. Price Woodward Jr. (see photo on the left) was a city commission member from 1967 to 1970 and mayor from 1970 to 1971.

But Brewer would be the first African American elected by citywide vote -- like Carlos Mayans was the first Hispanic elected by popular vote. The historic possibility could galvanize African American voters more than in previous city elections, Ken Ciboski, a political science professor at Wichita State University told Barely Eagle.

"Poor African Americans who often do not vote will vote," Ciboski said. "I think people see a possibility for him to pay attention to their needs and their concerns. They see this as an opportunity to be recognized and have their voices heard." And, Ciboski said, if the city at large again has low turn out in April, a strong showing in the African American community could make it easier for Kevass Harding, an African American, to beat Karl Peterjohn in the race for at-large school board. As a total, African Americans make up 11 percent of the city's population, according to 2005 Census estimates.