Authors Posts by Mary Rupert

Mary Rupert

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Sen. David Haley
Sen. David Haley

State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., succeeded in getting a provision passed in the Kansas Senate that would require cities and counties to fill vacancies on councils or commissions.

His bill to require police to wear body cameras while on patrol was not successful, however. He tried to amend another bill with the body camera provisions for law enforcement, and the motion failed after a lengthy debate, he said. “We got into a Ferguson discussion,” he said.

“I live in a real city, a larger city, and my city, Kansas City, Kan., and the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department already are moving to ensure we have dash and body cameras,” he said. The bill was “not for the protection of my citizens, (since there are already plans for the body cameras here), I’m concerned about Hooterville and Bug Tussle, Kan. Where a kid is killed under questionable circumstances, I would like to know.”

However, the mandatory body camera provision was opposed by Republican senators who cited its expense and called it an unfunded state mandate.

What remained after Haley’s proposal for mandatory body cameras was removed were provisions that would exempt police dash cameras and body cameras from the open records law, thus closing the videos to the public.

Bill to fill vacant elective positions on municipalities’ boards

At the same time, the bill to fill vacancies on commissions moved ahead.

Senate Bill 10, which would require cities and counties to fill vacancies within 60 days, was amended into Senate Bill 171, the controversial bill to change elections from the spring to the fall, he said. His amendment requires cities or counties to fill elected vacancies within 60 days by appointing a replacement, or else they will have to hold a special election to fill the position.

The provisions for a special election would not apply if the city or county appoints someone to the position within the specified time, or if the city or county had its own provision within its charter for filling a seat within a specified amount of time.

The idea for Senate Bill 10 grew out of the Unified Government Commission’s deadlock on filling the vacancy of the 1st District Commissioner, at large position. After the UG Commission was unable to reach the required six votes for any of the candidates, the position went unfilled for two years. It is now on the primary ballot Tuesday, March 3.

That elections bill passed the Senate, 21-18, with one person not voting, he said. The bill now goes to the House for approval.

Sen. Haley said that Senate Bill 10 had come out of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, but it was too far down on the list to be debated on its own merits as a stand-alone bill.

“In my experience, I sensed it would not be heard,” Sen. Haley said. That meant it would likely have died in the Senate, because of the lack of time to hear it, he added.

“So, after all we had done and worked for to ensure elected vacancies are timely filled, and after all the Elections and Ethics Committee work on the bill, I didn’t want to see that effort die in the bill we crafted,” Sen. Haley said.

He proposed that Senate Bill 10 be amended into Senate Bill 171, the bill changing municipal and school board elections to the fall.

“I was left in an odd position in voting for the amendment to attach Senate Bill 10 to a bill regarding the change of election to the fall that I ultimately did not vote for,” he said.

Sen. Haley said he had been prepared to vote for it, but when it seemed as if it didn’t need bipartisan support, he did not vote for it.

Senate Democrats generally felt that changing elections from the spring to the fall would shift partisan power to nonpartisan elections, which means “Kansas cities, city councils, county commissions, will become more infested with the conservative Republican mindset,” he said.

The original bill would have required cities, counties and school boards to have fall elections at the same time as state and federal candidates. The revised bill changes the city, county and school board elections to odd-numbered years in the fall, while the state and federal elections will be in even-numbered years in the fall.

Sen. Haley carried the amendment on filling vacancies. Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist., spoke on its behalf.

Sen. Haley said he was a little bit frustrated at the process of getting bills passed this year. He also was working on a body camera bill, a medical marijuana bill and a bill to increase job opportunities.

He said he has to really negotiate some agenda items with his conservative colleagues.

“I don’t have much to negotiate with, I’m in a distinct minority,” he said. “It irritates me as a legislator. And I have to expend so much political capital with my colleagues, so much legislative capital I have to use to get this bill through the system, through the legislative process, because one person or a group of persons don’t believe that elected vacancies need to be filled timely, and further, have worked against it,” Sen. Haley said.

And those persons are using his tax dollars to lobby and work against it as well, he added.

The bill had been opposed in hearings by the UG, which said it would cost too much to have a special election to fill a seat, and also that local control was an issue.

Sen. Haley said he did not like to hear statements by other elected officials that the 1st District, at large, commissioner was not needed.

Candidates now running for the position have said at recent political forums that they agree the district was affected by the lack of representation.

“None have discussed remedies, only commonly held deprivation of representation,” Sen. Haley said.

If he had been running for that office of 1st District at large, he would have discussed the budget, how monies that were set aside for each district were spent, and how that money was expended in the district, Sen. Haley said.

Sen. Haley has said that the people in the 1st District at large deserve to have representation, and he believes the vacancy should have been filled in a timely manner. The UG charter, however, did not state a method for breaking a tie, it did not state a time limit for the position to be filled, and it did not say a special election could be held.

If the UG commission feels there is no need for the 1st District at large seat, then they should get together, open up the charter to revisions and eliminate the seat, he said.

“It’s a dangerous precedent, leaving it vacant two years and telling the electorate we don’t need the seat,” Sen. Haley said.

Today and early Saturday morning may be good times to “advance vote” in the spring Wyandotte County elections.

That’s because a snowstorm is predicted to move into the area on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. There is a possibility of a 4-inch snowfall, according to early weather reports from the National Weather Service.

There is some conflicting weather information on the weather service report, including one chart that shows a slight chance of snow on Saturday morning, although another part of the forecast says it will be in the afternoon.

The winter storm on the weekend is serious enough for the Kansas Department of Emergency Management to send out an advisory to Kansas residents to “be prepared,” make sure their car emergency kit is stocked. If necessary, the state emergency plan may be activated, according to the KDEM.

The weather on Election Day currently is expected to be better than Saturday and Sunday, with a high of 52 and a 60 percent chance of rain in the forecast. However, another storm will be moving into the area Tuesday evening.

With the unpredictable February weather, we can’t really tell if the snow will all be melted by Tuesday. We don’t really know what the weather will do – we can only rely on forecasts that sometimes change.

Even though it is very cold today, it’s still a good idea to vote before any precipitation occurs.

Advance voting is going on currently in Wyandotte County at two locations. They include the Election Office at 850 State Ave., Kansas City, Kan., open normal business hours; and the satellite voting site at the Kansas Speedway.

The Election Office is open these hours:
Saturday, Feb. 28: from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 23, through noon March 2: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Voting closes at noon March 2 at the Election Office, 850 State Ave.

The Speedway voting site, 400 Speedway Blvd., near I-70 at 110th Street, is open these hours:
Saturday, Feb. 28: from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 23, through Friday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For some candidate stories, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/information-offered-on-primary-election/.

For more details on hours and locations of voting, visit http://www.wycovotes.org./

- Mary Rupert

Window on the West
by Mary Rupert

Mayor Mark Holland gave his state of the Unified Government speech earlier this week, and readers of this column will note that some, but not all, of the same information about economic development was in a column two weeks ago, when the mayor spoke at the Leavenworth Road Association meeting.

That column is at http://wyandottedaily.com/questions-and-answers-about-economic-development-projects-in-kansas-city-kan/.

What intrigues me is whether the Krispy Kreme grand opening at Wyandotte Plaza, just a couple hours before the mayor’s speech Tuesday, grabbed the attention away from the mayor’s day?

The mayor was not able to attend the grand opening that day because of his speech scheduled that morning, and he visited the new store at Wyandotte Plaza for an employee event the weekend before, according to the local Krispy Kreme communications officer. The company had rescheduled the grand opening two times because of delays and was finally ready to go on Tuesday, according to the spokesman. The store opening made national news, as it was the company’s 1,000th store opening.

Republicans including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer were on hand at the doughnut shop event to welcome the new store.

The mayor made a big media swing, appearing on broadcast news programs and talk shows the next day in order to get his state of the UG economic development message out.

I’m not really sure how the doughnut store opening fits with the UG’s healthy communities plan, but maybe a walking trail is needed at Wyandotte Plaza now.

It’s difficult being an unaffiliated candidate in Wyandotte County

Janice Grant Witt, a candidate for the Unified Government, 1st District at large, said she doesn’t expect to win but she is sometimes having an opportunity to get her message out during this campaign.

However, no unaffiliated candidates were allowed to speak at the Wyandotte County Third Saturday Democratic breakfast last weekend at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Witt said she was not asking to speak, but said she was questioned about whether she was really a Republican at that meeting. She said she is unaffiliated. Only Democratic candidates were allowed to speak at the meeting, and only those who were Democrats and unaffiliated could attend. Witt felt she was being questioned about her party in an attempt to remove her from the room. She was told she could not pass out her campaign information, too.

Witt said her husband, currently a Democrat, now is thinking of switching to unaffiliated status.

In past years some candidates have told us that it’s more fun to be the underdog, and then you can criticize the powers that be. Witt’s “tell it like it is” campaign included lots of criticisms at the forum held at the John F. Kennedy Community Center. But at the Armourdale forum held on Wednesday night, Witt left all her campaign speech behind and instead talked just about her efforts to help the homeless on that very cold night, and also about the Reola Grant Civitan Center, which she founded, at Victory Dodge on State Avenue.

The Armourdale forum has a policy of “no candidate bashing” and no debating, so it was quite a bit tamer than some other events held earlier this month.

On Saturday, Witt said she felt that she has a right to attend the Democrats’ meeting, as the meeting notice said unaffiliated voters could attend.

Access is an interesting thing. In general, people do not have access to a private organization’s meeting, unless invited or unless it is open to the public, while they do have access to government-sponsored public events. In general, they also have access to the places open to the public in public buildings – not necessarily to individual rooms in the building. Witt expressed the thought that she was in a public building and had the right to be there.

Legalities of access aside, however, many organizations have changed their approach to membership in recent years. That’s because a lot of the younger generation has expressed a fear of long-term commitment to membership. Organizations instead are holding single-day or weekend events to draw in the younger generation, which is membership-shy. I doubt that the organizations will get a lot of new members by double-checking individuals’ membership at meetings. Access and membership are some interesting issues that the political parties have to face in the future.

I enjoyed attending some of the forums, but my own experience was that the Democrats were the best at getting out information in advance about their candidate forum last Saturday morning, better than the other local groups that had forums. The Democrats sent out several email blasts about their upcoming event.

Is it Village East or Village West?

The name “Village East” appeared in some media reports again recently concerning the 98th and State Avenue Schlitterbahn area being developed for the Dairy Farmers of America headquarters.

I did not see the Village East name used again in the current UG documents or at the meetings, but only in some other media reports. The Village East name had surfaced on some documents when the first public announcement was made of the U.S. Soccer training facility near Schlitterbahn, but officials later said it would not be used for that area again.

That use of the name “Village East” is something State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., doesn’t like to see, since he has the rights to the name “Village East.” And in Sen. Haley’s opinion, Village East will be east of I-635, some day.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com.

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