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Mary Rupert


Dearl Parker was one of the first people to cast a vote at a new advance voting center at the Kansas Speedway, near 110th and State Avenue. This center will be open until 3 p.m. today, July 26, and in the coming week for advance voting. (Staff photo)

Paige Wynn was one of the first people to cast a vote at a new advance voting center at the Kansas Speedway, near 110th and State Avenue. This center will be open until 3 p.m. today, July 26, for advance voting. (Staff photo)

by Mary Rupert
A new advanced voting facility opened Saturday morning at the Kansas Speedway, near the intersection of I-70 and I-435 in Wyandotte County.

Shortly after a ribbon-cutting ceremony, voters began to cast their ballots for the primary election. Voting takes places in a Speedway building that is north of the 110th exit on I-70, on the south side of the Kansas Speedway.

Election Commissioner Bruce Newby said voters now have a new satellite voting center, as well as some existing options, to vote in the primary election. Advance voting also will take place during office hours at the Wyandotte County Election Office, 850 State Ave.; and by mail. Voters may turn in their advance ballots at the new satellite voting center, as well as at the election office, he said. Voting also will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Aug. 5, at the regular polling places.

The new satellite voting facility will offer only touch-screen voting, Newby said. All Wyandotte County registered voters may vote there. There are 228 different ballot styles in Wyandotte County for the primary, according to the voters’ districts, so having paper ballots there would be difficult, he added.

Being close to both I-70 and I-435, the new satellite voting center is very accessible for voters, he added, and it has ample parking.

“We look for this site to be the start of something good in Wyandotte County,” Newby said. “We hope to repeat this in every election from now on.”

When the election office was located at the former courthouse annex about eight years ago, there were a lot of advance voters there, Newby said. Many of those voters did not vote in advance when the election office moved to 850 State Ave.

“I’m hoping to regain those advance voters from the west side that we lost,” he said.

As of Friday, July 25, the election office had received back a little more than 100 advance ballots for the primary election.

Newby said he hopes there will be a lot of interest in this upcoming election. There are contests in both the Democratic and Republican primaries this year. There is a three-way race in the Democratic primary and a five-way race in the Republican primary. “So their vote matters,” he said.

Besides state and federal candidates, there is a three-candidate Wyandotte County judge race in the Democratic primary, and an Edwardsville city sales tax on the primary ballot. Among the many interesting contests on the Republican side are five candidates running for state insurance commissioner. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts faces heavy primary opposition from a Leawood doctor. In the Democratic primary, Kelly Kultala and Reginald Marselus are running for the U.S. House, 3rd District.

The new advance voting facility at Kansas Speedway will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 26; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, July 28, through Friday, Aug. 1; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2. There are signs directing voters to the polling place.

For more information on elections, visit www.electionwycokck.org or call 913-573-8500.

Dearl Parker, right, checked in before voting today at a new advance voting center at the Kansas Speedway. (Staff photo)

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held today for a new advance voting center at the Kansas Speedway. Election Commissioner Bruce Newby cut the ribbon. Also in the photo are Josh King, left, a program coordinator; Frances Sheppard, assistant election commissioner, center; Kim Strauss-Rivera, program coordinator, second from right; and Matt Woehrle, program coordinator, right. (Staff photo)

Election workers looked over identification for voters today at the new advance voting facility at the Kansas Speedway. (Staff photo)

Advance voting took place Saturday at the new advance voting facility at the Kansas Speedway. (Staff photo)

A building at the Kansas Speedway will serve as a new advance voting facility. (Staff photo)

Signs marked the new advance voting facility at the Kansas Speedway. (Staff photo)

Kansas is losing ground when it comes to children’s well-being, according to information contained in the national Kids Count Data Book.

While Kansas is ranked 15th in the nation, it is worse in all four areas of economic well-being that were studied, according to Christie Appelhanz, vice president of Kansas Action for Children.

“That’s alarming,” Appelhanz said. “We know that the odds are stacked against poor children, families are still struggling from the recession, and we’re not keeping pace with the rest of the nation when it comes to those economic indicators.”

Kansas ranked 20th in the nation on childhood poverty, and it lost ground during a seven-year period. The Kids Count Data Book was released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“One of the alarming trends we’re seeing is that childhood poverty is growing,” she said. “The percentage of Kansas kids in poverty has risen from 15 percent in 2005 to 19 percent in 2012.”

County data, which was released last fall for 2012, showed Wyandotte County was among the poorest areas in Kansas, with 40 percent of the population considered in poverty, as compared to 19 percent of the population in Kansas.

Wyandotte County also had a reading proficiency rate of 69 percent compared to Kansas’ 87 percent; a prenatal care rate of 67 percent compared with the state’s 82 percent; 8.3 percent low birthweight babies compared with the state’s 7.1 percent; an 8.66 percent infant mortality rate compared with the state’s 6.07 percent; and 46.2 violent teen deaths per 100,000 teens compared to the state’s 29.8.

Wyandotte County has a number of programs aimed at reducing these high rates, such as Healthy Communities Wyandotte.

While Kansas is losing ground on these ratings, it was still ranked above Missouri, which was 29th on the list.

“We know that public investments matter, if we want to lift children out of poverty,” Appelhanz said. “If we want to change what poor children are experiencing, we need to make sure they have access to food, shelter, and early learning opportunities.”

She said Kansas Action for Children was concerned because this is a time of diminishing state revenues, and that hits poor children especially hard. “They’re especially vulnerable in times like this,” she said.

“There’s a lot of talk about childhood poverty in Kansas, but we really need to make investments in the long-term economic success of our kids,” Appelhanz said. “In order for kids to be successful, they need strong families, good schools, and supportive communities, but right now the odds are stacked against them in Kansas. The trends are really alarming.”

They’re not just looking at trends from one year to the next, but for a five-year period or longer.

“From 15 percent in 2005 to 19 percent in 2012, we know in Kansas we’re moving in the wrong direction,” she said.

For more information on the Kids Count Data Book, visit http://www.aecf.org/resources/the-2014-kids-count-data-book/.

Mayor Mark Holland called for further cuts in public safety overtime during a budget workshop Monday evening at City Hall.

Holland said $1 million in cuts in the overtime budgets for the Kansas City, Kan., Police and Fire departments were a step in the right direction, and he proposed that the Police, Fire and Sheriff’s departments each find another half-million in cuts.

“We had about $5 million in public safety (overtime) last year and if we saved $1 million we’re about 20 percent down,” Holland said.

It is important to figure out how to make it sustainable over time, he said. Staffing has been reduced 20 percent in all other departments, but has been increased 10 percent in public safety, he said.

“I think the biggest threat to our public safety is our running out of resources to properly fund them,” Holland said. “My concern is that with the budget we have presented, we have another time of decreasing fund balance, and I’m very concerned about our losing our bond rating. I think the cost of losing our bond rating exceeds the cost of making some changes this year to show that fund balance going up.”

“If we asked police and fire to take a $500,000 cut in 2015, from what the administrator has recommended, and drop that million dollars down to the city general fund, it would represent a 1 percent cut in their operations for the 2015 year,” he said. He believes these departments could make a 1 percent cut, adding they still have that much in overtime. He said he didn’t want to spend any of the money but drop it all to the bottom line. If they and the Sheriff’s Department could make $500,000 in cuts, it would increase the fund balance by $1.5 million, he said.

As an example, he mentioned the Fire Department has a full recruit class and can drive the overtime rate down. He believes there are additional efficiencies the police can find, and have found some efficiencies already.

“When you have $50 million budgets, I think there’s an opportunity to find more efficiencies,” he said.

He said the UG’s chief financial officer, Lew Levin, has made a compelling case that losing the bond rating and paying higher interest rates will be more costly over time to the city than making some minor budget changes.

Holland said the Sheriff’s Department highest overtime was from court transport, out of county transport and patrol. In 2013 overtime in the operations division of the Sheriff’s Department exceeded $600,000. He said there needs to be a conversation with the district attorney’s office on doing more video arraignments. Also, the UG needs to make sure there is no duplication of services in road patrol.

Holland said that if the largest departments couldn’t do a one or two percent cut, there were other problems. “We need to be aggressive about it,” he said.

Commissioner Angela Markley asked if some funding could be found in the budget for more equipment for these departments. Holland said the cost of equipment would go up in the future if the bond rating is lowered.

Commissioners Hal Walker said there were certain areas that they would not want to see cut.

Administrator Doug Bach was asked to come up with some budget changes that would make some additional cuts from these departments and come back to the commission for discussion and approval.

In other action, the commission cut the community survey for the 2015 budget year, an expected expense of about $45,000. Commissioners talked about bringing it back a year later.