Archive for Opinions

Wyandotte woman organizes metro-wide event to send love to newcomers

Hannah Johnson, of Wyandotte County, organized the event to welcome newcomers to the metro area. (Photo copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

by Rebecca Tombaugh
Reporting artist

Dixie cups. With hearts. Chatter. Kids.

A child’s voice is heard.

“It’s mine!”

Boxes of crayons.

Black sharpies.

Three little girls. One looks over the shoulder of another coloring on a postcard. She holds it up to show to the two girls on each side.

They huddle over the postcard.

Round tables. Metal chairs.

A young woman with a purple jacket wearing a backpack sits down to write at a table. At another table, a woman sits her baby on the table top. At another table is a man with a beard wearing a khaki hat. The string of his hat hangs loose under his chin. He stops writing. He holds his pen up in mid-air. His eyes glance toward the wall. He tips his head and starts writing on his postcard.

“Man with Khaki Hat” (Art copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

A toddler stumbles along the back wall crying all the while, an American flag hangs perfectly still in the corner not making a sound.

It’s Saturday morning, and the fifth floor of the Kansas City Public Library, 14 W. 10th St., in Kansas City, Mo., is full of children, strollers, men and women, young and old, families, babies and backpacks — all here for “To Immigrants with Love Open House Valentine Event.”

“People, Crayons, Round Tables and an American Flag.” (Art copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

Hannah Johnson, of Wyandotte County, is with Americorps Vista. She organized the event.

“I’ve been really happy,” she says. “There were people lined up before we opened up.”

In the main room everybody is writing on postcards and kids are coloring valentines that will find their way immigrants and refugees in the metro.

A man in the room walks up to a giant valentine box.

“Do these cards go in here?” asks the man.

“Yeah,” says Nathan Hernandez with a big smile. He is a volunteer at the event. He is part of the local group “Resistance KC.”

“We promote love and acceptance of all people,” he says.

Nathan Hernandez volunteered to show people where to go at what he called a “positive protest.” (Photo copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

Hernandez says the group provides volunteers for activist events. He calls this a “positive protest.”

He says the group formed after the election.

“It’s important because people are important, and people’s rights are important,” he says.
More people get off the elevator and walk toward Hernandez, who gestures to the tables in the main room.

“In the middle of the tables there are crayons…,” he says.

The elevator doors open and more people approach.

“Hey guys!” says Hernandez. “Are you here to color postcards?”

In the wide hallway, everybody lines up to take a selfie with their valentines to be sent along with their valentines.

“3 Little Girls.” (Art copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

The three little girls, along with their parents, hold their valentines with both hands and pose for their selfie to send with their valentines. The photographer gives instructions. The shortest girl crosses her feet at the ankles.


The little girls freeze in place.

“One more…”

The girls giggle.

Nearby, Julie Robinson watches the people passing by. Robinson is the refugee and immigrant services outreach manager for the library.

“This is the largest event we’ve done,” she says.

So many showed up they may run out of cards, said Julie Robinson, refugee and immigrant services outreach manager at the Kansas City Public Library. (Photo copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

Robinson says they printed 1,000 cards and were down to about 200 after the first hour or so.

“It’s an awesome thing,” she says.

Robinson says this event is to show the people that are coming that Kansas City really welcomes and appreciates them coming here.

“Moving to a new country is hard,” says Robinson. “We want to be their neighbors.”

And, she says welcoming newcomers doesn’t have to be a one-time event, but can be a daily occurrence.

“Smile at people whether you know them or not just so they feel welcome,” she says.

The author of this article wrote a postcard to immigrants in Kansas City. (Photo copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

Rebecca Tombaugh is a reporting artist in the Kansas City area. She is a former managing editor of the Kansas City Kansan.

Copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh

History of KU Health System traced to 1905

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

It all started in 1905 when Dr. Simeon Bell donated land and $50,000 to establish a hospital that was to become an academic medical center in the Rosedale community.

Today, according to its website, The University of Kansas Health System has become a “destination academic medical center sought by patients and top-notch medical professionals from around the country. “

Kenny Wilk, a consultant for the Health System, told of the history of the institution to members of the Congressional Forum Friday, Feb. 17, at the Reardon Convention Center. He also told how the independent Health System came about nearly 20 years ago when he was a state legislator representing Leavenworth County.

Wilk said that the hospital was losing money. That led to the Kansas Legislature establishing a separate KU Hospital Authority that is now called The University of Kansas Health System. Although the Health System is independent, it continues to cooperate with the academic entities including the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing and the School of Health Professionals.

Wilk said that the hospital has 800 beds and during 2016 had 55,000 admissions. That compares to 13,000 admissions 1998. Wilk said it has a world-class reputation that attracts patients from across the country. The hospital has more than 10,000 employees.

The Health System continues to expand to meet patient demand, Wilk said. The new 13-story Cambridge North building will open soon. It cost $370 million.

Wilk also told of a new branch of the KU Medical School at Salina. He said that this was established because studies show that students tend to stay close to where they study medicine. Western Kansas communities have had challenges attracting medical doctors and nurses. There is also a KU Medical School in Wichita.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

Opinion column: Mayoral contest looks different this year

Window on the West

by Mary Rupert

There’s something different about the mayoral contest this year in Kansas City, Kan. It’s because the contest was shifted from the spring to the fall this year.

While it may seem like city campaigns should be in full swing, in reality, they are just getting started.

The mayoral contest in Kansas City, Kan., is shaping up so far as a two-person race, but it may not stay that way.

On Feb. 6, incumbent Mayor Mark Holland filed for re-election, and challenger David Alvey also filed for mayor. During the past few months, there has been speculation that others are interested in the office, also.

Stopping by the election office on Thursday, Feb. 16, William Crum was told that those two were still the only candidates officially filing for mayor. However, more than a dozen information packets about filing for office have been requested from the election office. That shows some additional interest, with the possibility that others may file. The filing deadline is noon June 1, the primary is in August and the general election is in November.

In the last primary campaign, in spring 2013, five candidates sought the office. The general election was between Holland and Commissioner Ann Murguia, with Holland receiving 56 percent of the vote to Murguia’s 43 percent. Former Commissioner Nathan Barnes was in a close third place in the primary.

Sen. David Haley

A frequently mentioned possibility for a mayor’s campaign this year is State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist. After a legislative forum on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Main Kansas City, Kan., Public Library, Haley was asked whether he was going to run this year.

Sen. Haley said he was excited that there would be a vigorous debate, and he was listening closely to what the candidates propose to do. He indicated he would be monitoring the campaign on issues in which he was interested.

“I just want to hear a genuine commitment (from each candidate),” Sen. Haley said. He added he had a solid reputation that could only be diminished by running. However, he did not specifically say he would or would not run for the mayor’s office.

Incumbents traditionally have a large advantage in elections, mostly because they already have good name recognition. Incumbents also can make an announcement about major economic development initiatives, for example.

But the incumbent’s advantage may be smaller this year with election law changes that allow more time between the primary and general elections, formerly just around a month or so, and now about three months. The elections were moved to the fall of the year by a state law change. Instead of a primary in February and an election in March, now there will be a primary in August and a general election in November.

Alvey said last week that he expected the longer election season this year to help him, as it gives him more time to get to know the voters.

While state legislators changed the election timing this year, another issue from the last Kansas City, Kan., campaign hasn’t been changed. At the last election, the election cycle and how it affected Commissioner Nathan Barnes was an issue. In the UG’s election cycle, the 1st District candidate had to give up his UG seat in order to run for mayor, but not the 3rd District candidate. In some other cities, there is a rotation, but here, the 1st District commissioner and about half the commissioners are always running the same year as the mayor. That means a UG commissioner from one of those districts has to give up his seat to run for mayor, while commissioners from other districts do not have to risk as much.

While it may be too late to change it for this election, the issue still needs to be studied again in the future.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email