Recent Kansas editorials

The Hutchinson News, Oct. 25

Competition for gov

Addition of Docking strengthens a ticket that will challenge Brownback

Whether enough Kansans will see the Democratic ticket for governor in 2014 as the dream team, who knows at this point. But it is the best ticket the Dems have fielded since Kathleen Sebelius – a popular governor who’s not so popular right now as secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration – and Mark Parkinson.

Democratic candidate Paul Davis seemingly strengthened his bid for governor by making an early announcement on Tuesday of Wichita businesswoman Jill Docking as his running mate. The two did a four-city announcement tour in a school bus, reinforcing the point that public education will be one of their key issues in the 2014 campaign.

Davis alone is a solid candidate, a bright Lawrence lawyer who serves in the House as minority leader. Be that as it may, he doesn’t enjoy widespread name recognition across the state. His running mate, however, brings that to the ticket.

Docking is a career financial advisor and former chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents. She is the wife of former Lt. Gov. Tom Docking, son and grandson of two former governors. And, more importantly, she brings good ideas and a strong voice of her own to the race. Before Davis formally announced, Docking was speculated as the candidate to be on the top of the Democratic ticket.

They will run aggressively against incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback, the reformist Republican who has plenty of positions they can attack – namely a tax plan that has eliminated income taxes for business owners and shifted more burden to the poor and middle class, and a correspondingly frugal state budget for public education and social services.

The Democrats think Brownback is vulnerable, and the latest Survey USA poll shows that he has a 58-percent disapproval rating among Kansans. And in the first gubernatorial race polling since Docking joined the Davis ticket, Survey USA showed the Democrats ahead of Brownback and Jeff Colyer 43% to 39%

In any event, some of Brownback’s policies have been controversial, and the Democrats finally have fielded a ticket that at least ought to make re-election a challenge for the Republican in a decidedly red state. And if Kansas voters tune out the campaign television commercials long enough to listen to the debate, they should discover they have a clearly different philosophical choice for governor in the November election next year.


The Kansas City Star, Oct. 24

Discriminatory voting plan an embarrassment for Kansas.

Kansas’ new proof-of-citizenship requirement has suspended the voting privileges of nearly 20,000 Kansans. It is causing headaches in multiple state offices, and there is a good chance it will be overturned in court.

So how does Secretary of State Kris Kobach propose to handle this debacle? By moving to a system even more discriminatory and cumbersome.

Kobach wants to create a framework whereby some Kansans would be eligible to vote in congressional and presidential races but not for state or local candidates. Other Kansans could vote for all candidates and issues on the ballot.

And some people wouldn’t be able to vote at all, even if they thought they had registered properly.

The problem begins with a new law requiring Kansans to submit proof of lawful presence, like a birth certificate or passport, when registering to vote. …

In Kansas, citizens don’t need proof of citizenship to renew their driver’s licenses. If they register to vote at the same time, they don’t necessarily have proof of citizenship documents with them. These are the would-be voters whose registrations are in “suspended” status because they are transmitted to election offices without the documentation required by Kansas law.

Kobach has sued the U.S. Election Assistance Coalition, seeking to adopt the terms of the Kansas proof of lawful presence law for Kansas elections. His contingency plan is to allow newly registered voters who have complied with federal registration requirements — but not with the more stringent state law — to vote only in federal elections.

Those voters would have to fill out a federal form. If they use a Kansas voter registration form but don’t provide proof of U.S. citizenship, they can’t vote at all.

If this sounds like a mess, it is. It’s also a stain on Kansas, harkening back to post-Civil War days in the South when black citizens sometimes had to register multiple times and meet stiffer requirements to vote in state elections than the federal government required.

The solution to this tangled problem is beautifully simple. There is no evidence that non-citizen voting is a problem in Kansas. The Legislature should repeal the law requiring proof of citizenship — or risk a fiasco in the 2014 elections.


The Topeka Capital-Journal, Oct. 23

SNAP should provide healthy food

The Landon Lecture at Kansas State University earlier this week, which brought six former secretaries of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the campus, reached some high notes and hit some low points as the distinguished guests talked about agriculture and food programs in this country.

Among all that was a suggestion from Mike Espy, who led the USDA for two years under President Bill Clinton, that many would shrug off but may warrant more discussion.

Espy said it would be reasonable to experiment with removing some of snack foods from the list of things that can be purchased through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program.

SNAP, Espy said, should be altered so recipients wouldn’t be able to buy foods unacceptably high in calories, laden with salt, loaded with trans fats or packed with fructose corn syrup. Leaving aside the argument that sugar is sugar — whether it be fructose corn syrup or sugar refined from sugar beets or sugar cane — Espy makes a point that may not be politically correct but is worthy of consideration.

The former agriculture secretaries also touched on child obesity during a free-wheeling discussion, and no one doubts this country has a problem with obesity among children and adults.

Isn’t it reasonable to help people make good choices for themselves and their children that many won’t make for themselves?

Yes, it smacks of a “Big Brother” scenario. But, in this case, isn’t “Big Brother” actually the one paying for the food? And shouldn’t “Big Brother” be interested in ensuring the food purchased through SNAP really is nutritious, rather than potentially harmful to the recipients’ health?

Young people living in a home that qualifies for the SNAP program eat what their parents purchase and take home. If the parents are loading up on food high in calories but low in nutritional value, that’s what the children are going to eat, too. Then, when the children eat elsewhere, it’s likely they’re going to opt for the same type of food even though foods that present a healthier option are available.

Dan Glickman, a Kansan who served in the U.S. House of Representative and later as the head of USDA, agreed there should be consideration of removing foods that contribute to elevated health costs from government programs that deliver food to Americans.

It makes little sense to declare war on obesity through the national school lunch initiative, as the current administration has done, but show no concern about consumers purchasing high-calorie, low-nutrition foods through SNAP.


The Lawrence Journal-World, Oct. 22

Setting the pace

Since her arrival on campus two years ago, Neeli Bendapudi, dean of the Kansas University School of Business has been nonstop in her efforts to build a stronger, more vigorous and involved business school and encourage the public to realize the overall excellence of KU.

And, as last week’s ceremonial groundbreaking for a new $65.7 million business school building demonstrated, she gets results. Since her arrival in Lawrence, she has traveled the country telling alumni and friends about her dreams for the business school — the importance of a new building, as well as her desire to revitalize the school’s curriculum.

Her enthusiasm and zeal is infectious, and she doesn’t limit her efforts to the School of Business. She is quick to offer her help, if asked, to others on the campus relative to how they might advance or strengthen their own programs. She is an asset for the entire university.

A group of legislators are touring the state this week and next, visiting each of the six state universities plus the KU Medical Center in Kansas City. Their mission is to have face-to-face visits with a broad cross-section of representatives on each campus to get a better understanding of the fiscal need of the schools, how effectively the schools spend state funds and how the schools can do a better job of educating and training students to be productive members of society following their graduation.

The best thing these lawmakers could do would be to spend as much time as they can with Bendapudi. They wouldn’t get any double talk or pie-in-the-sky nonsense. They would get the unvarnished facts and hear what needs to be done to get the state’s higher education system back on track.

The simple answer is the state needs more people like Bendapudi — people who put action over talk and who strive for excellence, people with a genuine enthusiasm and excitement for what can be accomplished with a commitment to educate and inspire young men and women.

Last Friday’s ceremony groundbreaking for a new School of Business building might and should serve as an eye-opening event and perhaps a model for what could be accomplished throughout the university, as well as throughout the Regents system, with visionary leadership and enthusiasm.

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