New administrator speaks at Congressional Forum

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

One of the first things Cheryl Harrison-Lee plans to do is listen.

That was the message she delivered as the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the Congressional Forum. About 35 persons attended via Zoom Friday, Feb. 18.

The forum is part of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce.

Harrison-Lee was recently appointed Interim Wyandotte County administrator, succeeding Doug Bach, who resigned. She comes after Tyrone Garner became mayor and chief executive officer of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. Harrison-Lee will serve until April of 2023; when asked what the future might be after the interim period, she said
she will be taking it one day at a time and will make a determination then.

Harrison-Lee, who is also chairperson of the Kansas Board of Regents, discussed the importance of an educated workforce. Many Wyandotte County businesses continually complain that their top need is having well-qualified employees.

She said it will be important for the public and private sectors to cooperate to help meet that need. Greg Kindle, the president of the Wyandotte County Economic Development Council, told Harrison-Lee that there are about 7,000 job openings in Wyandotte County.

Harrison-Lee said it will be important to establish short-term and long-term goals after her listening tour. These goals will be established after a strategic plan determines community needs.

Before coming to Wyandotte County, Harrison-Lee was executive director of the Kansas Office of Recovery; she administered and distributed federal funds of $1.034 billion statewide to those impacted by Covid-19. Gov. Laura Kelly appointed Harrison-Lee to the position.

From 2012 until 2018, Harrison-Lee was city administrator for the city of Gardner in Johnson County. She resigned from that post and received $350,000 in severance pay.

Much of Harrison-Lee’s professional life was spent in the central Florida area. She worked in management for cities including Orlando, Daytona Beach, Osmond Beach and Titusville. One of her more significant accomplishments was developing a plan for the reuse of Orlando Naval Training Center.

Harrison-Lee has an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of South Carolina and a graduate degree from the University of Florida.

She has one son.

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

Congresswoman favors ‘common sense’ approach to legislation

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist., said she is part of a group of “common sense” Democrats in Congress who carefully spend taxpayers’ dollars. This was a comment she made at a luncheon meeting of the Congressional Forum Friday, Dec. 17, at Children’s Mercy Park.

Good roads and bridges are important to business and industry, Rep. Davids said. In a prepared news release, Rep. Davids said, “The Kansas Third is home to vital trucking and logistics and we are growing fast…” Good roads are important getting goods to market, she said.

Rep. Davids was the only member of the Kansas Congressional delegation to vote for the infrastructure bill. Rep. Davids is the only Democrat member of the delegation. The infrastructure bill will fund improvements to the I-435 and State Avenue intersection. The state of Kansas will receive more than $500 million in federal funds for road and bridge repair.

The Unified Government hopes to receive federal aid to fund its storm water program. Storm water is a particularly acute problem in the eastern areas of Wyandotte County.

Rep. Davids spoke in favor of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which passed the U.S. House, but is stalled in the U.S. Senate. Rep. Davids said the child care provision of the bill would help lessen the shortage of workers.

Recently elected Mayor Tyrone Garner introduced his chief-of-staff. She is Dr. Mildred Edwards, a business consultant who received her doctorate in community psychology from Wichita State University. She is an adjunct faculty member at the Public Management Center of the University of Kansas.

The Congressional Forum is part of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce. The next meeting of the forum will be at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 21, at Children’s Mercy Park.

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

Legislative Committee anticipates 2022


by Murrel Bland

The Legislative Committee of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce is looking ahead to the 2022 session of the Kansas Legislature in developing its legislative agenda.

About 25 members of the committee met Friday, Nov. 12, via Zoom.

The agenda will have many of the same issues as the legislative agenda for 2021 had, according to Mike Smallwood, the Legislative Committee chairman.

Those issues include support for continuing STAR bonds—a financing mechanism which uses sales tax revenue for major developments such as the Legends Outlet; streamlining of the permit process at the Unified Government; equitable rates for storm water control; consistent property tax that would use a several-year valuation average; high-quality education that would provide the necessary work force; expanded Medicaid for the underserved population; expanded gaming that would include sports wagering; lowering the sales tax on food; and origin-based sales tax.

The Kansas Legislature, which is Republican-dominated, has petitioned the Democrat Governor Laura Kelly to call a special session of the Legislature, starting Monday, Nov. 22. The Republicans are alleging that President Joe Biden is overreaching his administration’s authority in forcing Kansans to choose between their personal beliefs and their livelihoods.

The hope is that the session will pass two bills and be completed with its work before Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 25. Two bills have been proposed. One would prohibit employers from questioning the sincerity of a worker’s religious beliefs or medical needs; the other would provide unemployment compensation for workers who would be fired for refusing to get vaccinated.

State Rep. Pam Horton Curtis, a Democrat from the eastern part of Wyandotte County, said she doesn’t feel the special session is necessary.

It would appear that there may be a good chance that the sales tax on food could be removed. Republican and Democrat leaders say they would support the removal. A controlling factor is that the state has about a $1.3 billion surplus. Estimates are that revenue is expected to be about $10.96 billion as of July 1 with an ending balance of $2.89 billion. The governor said although there is enough money to take the tax off food, there is not enough revenue to bundle it with other tax cuts.

One of the issues will be the redistricting of congressional and state districts. The hope is that it can be done early in the legislative session so not to interfere with other legislative matters.

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