Archive for Opinions

Legislators express different views on fiscal matters

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

Tom Burroughs and Steve Fitzgerald have different views about how to solve the budget shortfall facing the state of Kansas.

Burroughs, representing the 33rd District that includes the Muncie community, Edwardsville and Bonner Springs, and Fitzgerald, who represents the Piper community, Lansing and Leavenworth, presented their views at a legislative coffee Saturday, March 11, at the Bonner Springs Library. About 50 persons attended; the League of Women Voters and the NAACP of Bonner Springs, sponsored the event.

Burroughs is a moderate Democrat and Fitzgerald is a conservative Republican. Both voted against a budget proposal that Gov. Sam Brownback proposed. Now legislators are trying to find a tax plan that would solve the state’s immediate shortfall of about $280 million. Brownback had proposed increasing the tax on alcohol and tobacco and business filing fees.

A proposal to increase state income tax and eliminate the “LLC loophole” passed both houses, but didn’t quite have enough votes to withstand a veto by the governor. This loophole exempts small business owners from paying state income taxes. This was supposed to boost the state’s economy. However, its critics said it did not, but simply was a “free ride” for business. Burroughs said he didn’t vote for the proposal because it didn’t really address the needs of the state adequately.

Fitzgerald said that one of the reasons that the “LLC loophole” didn’t work as well as planned was because two of the state’s major industries—agriculture and oil and gas—were suffering.

In addition to the current shortfall, legislators are having to come up with a new funding formula for K-12 education. This comes after a recent decision from the Kansas Supreme Court that ruled school funding is not adequate. The court did not specify an amount, but gave the legislators until June 30 to come up with an acceptable plan. There are committees in both the Kansas House and Senate working on this formula.

Various dollar amounts have been suggested as to how much funding may be needed. They vary from $372 million to $700 million, according to Kathy Damron, a lobbyist for the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce. Fitzgerald said it may be possible for districts to draw on excessive reserves to meet this obligation. Fitzgerald acknowledged the court action. However, he said that the state spending on schools is at an all-time high.

Both Fitzgerald and Burroughs discussed the retirement fund for state employees. Both said that those presently receiving retirements are safe—that the state can’t draw on those funds. Burroughs was critical of delaying payments to the retirement fund.

Burroughs said that state employees don’t receive that much money and have not received a raise for about nine years.

There have been a couple of proposals to increase the motor fuels tax. A Kansas Senate bill would boost the tax 5 cents a gallon; the Kansas House has a proposal for an 11-cent increase. This revenue would fund work on highways. Burroughs said that about $2 billion has been taken from the Kansas Department of Transportation to shore up shortfalls in other areas. Kansas has per capita more miles of roadways than any other state.

Conservative critics such as Jeff Glendening said that the state has allowed “spending to spiral out of control.” Glendening said an efficiency report in 2016 showed how about $2 billion could be saved over a five-year period; however, these suggestions were not implemented. Glendening is the state director for Americans for Prosperity.

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

At Yoder’s OP office, a protest in poetry and art

“We The People at 79th and Marty.” (Video and photo copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

This week, President Trump was reported in The New York Times to have informally told Planned Parenthood they would get their $500 million in federal funds if they would stop abortions.

No federal funds are used for abortions, said Planned Parenthood, which rejected the deal. In addition, the Republicans’ health care bill calls for defunding Planned Parenthood.

On Tuesday, the local Planned Parenthood called for a rapid response rally at 5:30 p.m. in front of Congressmen Kevin Yoder’s office at 7326 W. 79th St., Overland Park, Kan. Yoder represents the Third District, which includes Wyandotte County.

A Poem About A Protest For Planned Parenthood In Front of Third Dist. Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder’s Office

by Rebecca Tombaugh
Reporting artist

I didn’t bring a sign
Who’s in charge
of Paying us?

Pink Pink Pink Pink
Pink hats
Pink coats
Pink signs

When does it start
Jack Acuff
Planned Parenthood
is coming

old woman, Pink hat, gray sign
sitting next to
old man, Pink hat, gray sign

There’s Jack
I just want to
Thank you all
for coming out
So quickly
On such short notice
This is
Private Property
Let’s move to the other side of the sidewalk
OK we can
start now

We got 99
I was going to say 1.5 million
But I’m really bad at that


“Dog, Girl, Sign” (Inking copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

Man wearing a T-shirt
Defender of the Constitution
it says
Walks along the sidewalk of Protesters
His dog on a leash
wearing an American flag coat and
an American flag hat
He stops
dog pees

Signs held in the air
Thank you
Thank YOU
Big white utility truck
With a boom

Woman with tambourine
Rattle rattle shake

“Two Men, Two Pink Signs” (Inking copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

Man with Pink hat
Another man
With Pink hat
Man with Pink sunglasses
Man with sign
Man with a sign
on a stake
Man helps woman put on a Pink sash
It says

In three minutes we are walking down the street
Police siren
Car pulls over
What did he do
I don’t know
He musta done something
He didn’t have a license plate

Pink shirts
Yellow light
Red light
Green light
Middle finger
Thumbs down
Green metro bus
Honking waving
Beep beep
Beepy beep beep
Police SUV
What time is it
That’s all we’ve been out here
How much longer
Next time we bring wine
In a camelback
Honk honk
Thumbs up
Woman driver shakes head no
I can
people would be so against abortion
Girl driver middle finger
I’m surprised
A girl
did that

Green metro bus
Street lights
Dog’s flag hat slips to one side
Man in Superman shirt and cape riding a bike on the sidewalk
For a minute
to take a Photo of the Protesters

“Man with Sign and Flag” (Inking copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

Five more minutes
And we head


So how’s it feel like to be a Protester

Sign in trunk

(Video, photo, inkings and poem copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

‘Sign, sign, everywhere a sign’

Marching along 45th and Oak streets, several hundred people participated in the “March 4th For A Free Press” rally organized by group “The People Vs. The President of the United States” on Saturday at Theis Park. “Woman With Pink Sign” (Inking copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

by Rebecca Tombaugh
reporting artist

Ron Meyer says he is a teacher. He, in fact, is with a group of school teachers. He adds, with emphasis, they are, “PUBLIC school teachers.”

Meyer’s grandfather was from Rosedale. Now, Meyer, standing on the corner of 45th and Oak streets in Kansas City, Missouri, at Theis Park, which is the south lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, is holding one corner of a big vinyl sign that reads “unity in diversity” with a rainbow of colors as the background.

“We should go,” he told his friends earlier, after hearing about the “March 4th for a Free Press” on Saturday.

This is their first protest together as a group, he says. Meyer says teachers are busy, but they intend to participate in more.

“Anytime we are free,” he says.

The teachers spent some money on this sign and another that reads “Love Trumps Hate” with stars in rainbow colors. Meyer says teachers reuse things all the time and will take these to future protests.

Being teachers, he continues, they are liberal-minded, and he and his husband are gay, and they were concerned about the Betsy DeVos confirmation, and were shocked by the barring of the press from the White House.

“I don’t care if it’s a Democrat or Republican, that’s frightening,” says Meyer. The press, he says, keeps everyone informed and the White House transparent.

“It’s very important,” he says. “We can’t have the press bullied by this administration. They need to be free and safe to report.”

Meyer says protests are important.

“We need to let people know we are going to work to make sure we are not going to be complacent and let things happen,” he says, from the Muslim ban to transgender issues. “We cannot put our heads in the sand.”

Meyer says a lot of cars driving by honk in support. A few people make what he calls “unkind gestures.”

Meyer challenges everyone in the metro area to not be afraid to exercise what he calls their “civic duties.”

“I challenge everyone to let their voices be heard no matter what side of the fence we’re on,” he says.

A small group of passersby ask if they can take a photo of the banner. Of course, says Meyer. At the same time, two men walk up and asked if they can kiss each other in front of the banner. Everyone says “yes” in unison and take more photos as the couple embraces.

Holding the other corner of the sign is Meyer’s husband, Jeff Curran. The couple has been together for 22 years. Curran says he has been watching the news and social medial related to the current administration.

“They are stripping rights from people!” he said.

This angered him. The Muslim ban was barring people from America–the melting pot, he said.

“I can’t believe they would stop people from coming in!” he said.

Curran, a banker, says when he heard about the march in support of the press, he said, “We’re going!”

“We’re going,” Jeff Curran, third from left, told his husband Ron Meyer, fourth from left, and friends about the protest having watched the news about the current administration. (Photo copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

This is his first protest, but he plans on participating in more. He won’t sit back, he says. And, Curran, a banker, says he is not hesitant and not afraid to be seen. He is out as a gay man, and he says the protests are no different.

“It’s time for us to come together, we have the same feelings, the same concerns,” says Curran. “I’m proud to be here. This is who I am. Passionate. It’s time for people to stand up. It’s time.”

Marge Steinhouse with her sign “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.” (“Marge” inking copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

A little ways down the sidewalk, Marge Steinhouse, of Blue Springs, Missouri, holds a sign that reads “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”

“Freedom of the press,” she said, is the reason she showed up.

Steinhouse went to the Women’s Sister March on Washington in Kansas City, Missouri. And, she attended the President’s Day Protest at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain recently.

She brought her grandchildren with her to some of them.

“So they know they have to participate in democracy,” she says.

Jean Cummings left her sign at the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., after the Women’s March in January. (“Sign On My Phone” inking copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

Her sister, Jean Cummings, of Leawood, Kansas, stands nearby with the same sign as her sister. She is wearing buttons that read “No Ban No Wall” and “Nasty Women Get S— Done” and her shirt reads “Nasty Woman.” The sisters recall their parents took them with them when working the election polls in the 1980s.

Left to right, sisters Jean Cummings and Marge Steinhouse recalled their parents took them along when they worked the polls in the 1980s. (Photo copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

Cummings is married to a Muslim. She says he is nice and not a terrorist.

“I’ve vetted him,” she laughs.

They had a restaurant, and it burned down, she explains. So now, they have a business making hummus that was called “Mohammad’s Hummus,” but they changed the name to “Mo’s Hummus.” She was for changing the name, while her kids thought she was “insane.”

Said Cummings, “I know what hate looks like.”

This is not the first protest for Cummings. She traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March in January.

Jean Cummings shows a photo on her phone from her trip to Washington, D.C., to the march in January. (Photo copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh)

She says her sign, “I’m With Her,” was left behind.

“I left it outside the Trump hotel,” says Cummings.

Rebecca Tombaugh is a reporting artist in the Greater Kansas City area.
Story, art and photos copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh