Recently, charges of cronyism were leveled at Wichita’s mayor and certain city council members. Webster defines “crony” as “an intimate friend, a chum”.
Have city officials been favoring their chums with special treatment? Should they recuse themselves from discussions and voting when some item impacts someone they know?
Long-time civic volunteer Rod Stewart criticized the critics in a recent op-ed piece in the Wichita Eagle. Stewart wrote that in his many years working with the city he’s never seen anything that might be considered “scandal” or “cronyism”. Stewart says every citizen has a right to share his or her opinions, but he doesn’t care for the “constant carping” of groups and individuals who always seem to be against everything City hall tries to do.
I always say Wichita is the biggest small town in America. In five minutes’ conversation, I can find some personal connection with a Wichitan I’ve never met. It’s part of Wichita’s charm. But it also means our elected officials’ decisions often impact friends and acquaintances.
Our thought for today is from Elbert Hubbard:
“Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.”
The City of Wichita faces a familiar problem in planning budgets for 2014 and 2015 … not enough revenue to cover projected spending. They’re called deficits.
The City has a projected general fund deficit this year of $1.3 million … $3.6 million in 2014 … and $4.9 million in 2015. The picture could change if the local economy comes back with any strength, boosting revenues from sales and property taxes, and fees. But so far, the recovery has been slow and weak.
The City juggled its spending in order to overcome deficits of $1.4 million in 2012 … and $6.5 million this year.
Sedgwick County has faced the same problem in recent years. The County and City have avoided raising property tax rates to fill the gaps, but have relied on increases in property values to boost tax revenue. But property values haven’t gone up much for several years.
Of course, the Wichita school district faces similar problems and its revenue stream is largely dependent on the state legislature.
Our thought for today is from Joe Weinstein:
“My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to 99 cents a can That’s almost seven dollars in dog money.”
Recent news of the Boston Marathon bombing and the devastating explosion in Texas remind us that anything can happen to any of us … any time, anywhere.
Life is a risky business.
Of course, we can all raise the odds in our own favor. I have a few minor, on-going health concerns. The longer we live, the more likely that these frail human shells will be invaded by some affliction or injury. But I try to lessen the risk of anything serious by exercising daily. I have a few aches and pains, but I’m certain I’m doing my body some good every time I lace up my Nikes.
Obviously, the people who were killed and injured in those incidents I mentioned never saw what hit them. We can’t lessen the risk for random acts of senseless violence.
Laws can help lessen the risk of violence or acts of nature to a degree, but they can never eliminate it.
Life is a risky business.
Events of the past few days have reminded us of the importance of first responders. That’s a term that came after 9/11, designating police, firefighters, and ambulance technicians who rush to the scene during an emergency, natural or man-made.
The Boston Marathon bombing and the massive fertilizer plant explosion and fire in Texas reminded us of the important work that first responders do in this world … always striving to move quickly, provide protection, and save lives. Several died in these recent events.
Sometimes it seems we forget about the first responders, until some big, ugly tragedy hits the news. Then we cheer them for a time … and eventually let them slip from our attention.
I have two brothers I consider first responders. My late brother Mike worked for the Forestry Service and helped battle big fires in the west. My brother Jerry spent many years operating a Wichita Fire Department Rescue squad.
No one could be prouder of two first responders than I am.
Our thought for today is from Cicero:
“Live as brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts.”
Today is Administrative Professionals Day … also known as Admin Day … in North America.
The National Secretaries Association came up with the idea in 1952. Secretaries Day was part of National Secretaries Week. The purpose was to recognize “the secretary, upon whose skills, loyalty, and efficiency the functions of business and government offices depend” …and to call attention “through favorable publicity, to the tremendous potential of the secretarial career”.
My wife has been an administrative assistant for the majority of her 40-plus years in the workplace, though she never minded being called “secretary”. She’s done the heavy lifting for several bosses … some good, some not so good.
She’s organized huge, off-site meetings … done budgets and bookkeeping … searched for a boss’s lost dog … taken their kids to school … and even sold a Learjet for a boss on vacation.
Through it all, Shelley’s kept a bright disposition and a positive work attitude.
On her behalf, I salute administrative professionals everywhere.
Our thought for today is from Garson Kanin:
“In a professional once engaged, the performance of the job comes first.”
To some degree, you can see homeless people in every sizable city in America. Times have been tough for all of us the past few years. People have lost jobs and they’ve lost their homes. There are families living out of cars.
There are also the chronically homeless. These are people with “disabling” conditions. We have 91 of them in Sedgwick County, according to the 2013 Point-In-Time Homeless Count, which is mandated in communities receiving federal assistance to deal with homelessness.
The survey showed 538 homeless people in the county in 2013 … down 2.2% from 550 in 2012. Of that 538, 71 are “unsheltered” … people who are staying on the streets, under bridges, or in a car. The number of homeless in the county peaked in 2011 at 634.
Some of these people have drug problems or medical conditions. Some of our homeless are families with children. The United Way of the Plains is leading the effort to deal with an on-going problem for our city and county.
Our thought for today is from John Howard Payne:
“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”
Sometimes the bad news comes at us in waves. We’re just getting our thoughts around some senseless, violent act like the Boston Marathon bombing when a fertilizer plant explodes in Texas. Then come the stories about the suspects in the Marathon bombing.
My wife shook her head the other night and said she didn’t know if she could stand hearing one more awful news story. Remember, she lives with a guy who reports this stuff daily.
I never set out to be a person bringing bad news to you every day, and much of the time I’ve reported news that is not all gloom and doom.
Reporting really bad news doesn’t usually upset me. There was one time when I found myself distressed and even depressed. It was the weekend after 9/11. I was sitting on my porch swing on a beautiful afternoon when a great feeling of sadness came over me.
I consider myself a professional … but sometimes the bad news is just too much.
A deranged person goes to a public place and starts shooting … killing and wounding many. It happens only occasionally in the U-S-A … though it sometimes seems to happen almost daily. Modern media magnifies the story with repetition, causing the story to take on more significance than such a story might deserve.
We media people tell you the story … sometimes over tell you … and you naturally respond. Many call for something to be done about gun violence. Politicians start talking and alarmed Americans begin buying guns and ammo in record numbers. They’re afraid “the government” will take away their guns or restrict their gun ownership.
It will never happen, but fear … especially irrational fear … is a terrific motivator.
Some states have passed tougher gun restriction laws since the latest mass shooting, other states have moved to protect gun ownership.
Last week the Sedgwick County Commission passed a resolution supporting the Second Amendment right to own guns.
In my opinion, totally unnecessary. I guess my fear is not as great as some folks’.
Our thought for today is from Amy Tan:
“You see what power is – holding someone else’s fear in your hand and showing it to them.”
That's The Report … I'm Steve McIntosh … Newsradio 1330 KNSS.
Obviously it was an act of terror. Anyone setting off bombs in public places creates terror. But were the people who set off those bombs in Boston “terrorists” by definition … “one who rules by terror”?
Who did this? Why did they do this? How did they build the bombs and plan the attack?
These questions beg immediate answers, which are often impossible during the first few hours and even days after such an attack. Unlike Oklahoma City or 9/11, there were no quickly-identified suspects.
The deliberate process of police investigation takes time. There is a mountain of forensic evidence to sort through. Every bomb fragment will be collected and identified … from the scene and from the victims.
Was there surveillance video and did it capture any images?
Thanks again to the emergency responders … to the men and women who run toward the scene and not away from it.
Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
The deadline for filing income taxes came this Monday. What do Americans think about the annual chore?
The Pew Research Center polled a thousand Americans and discovered that 56% of those surveyed have a negative reaction to doing taxes, with 26% saying they hate doing them.
But 34% say they either like or love doing their taxes.
29% of those who gave a positive response say they like getting a refund, 17% say they just don’t mind it or they’re good at it, 13% say doing their taxes gives them a sense of control, while the same percentage cites a feeling of obligation … that it is their duty to pay their fair share.
Reasons given for not liking to do taxes: too complicated, don’t like paper work, afraid of making mistakes, inconvenient, and time consuming. Just 12% say they dislike doing their taxes because of how the government uses tax money.
You can find more on the survey at the Pew Research Center web page.
Our thought for today is from Arthur Godfrey:
“I’m proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is I could be just as proud for half the money.”
Frankly, I’ve been a bit fuzzy on the federal budget process the past few years. The Constitution calls for the annual spending plan to come out of the House and be negotiated with the Senate before it’s sent to the President. But this may be the first time in several years that the Senate proposes a budget.
Last week President Obama sent Congress his proposed budget, with a price tag of 3.77 trillion dollars. Initially, the plan has angered Republicans who are upset by higher taxes, and Democrats upset with cuts to Social Security benefits.
As one American facing possible retirement within a few years, I favor a serious treatment of the entitlements. If that means small adjustments in contributions and benefits, I am on board.
I also question the necessity of increasing taxes when our elected officials can’t seem to slow the growth of spending. If they can’t manage cuts in increases, can we at least get a freeze for a year or two?
Today is the deadline for filing our federal and state income tax returns. Of course, you can file an extension. I did that one year when my accountant simply failed to get the returns finished for many of his clients. He is no longer my accountant.
My wife has assumed responsibility for our annual tax returns. I could ask my daughter to do it. She’s an accountant. Her husband is a C-P-A and tax specialist. He is far too busy this time of year to deal with his in-laws’ taxes. Besides, my wife and I don’t have a lot of complicated sources of income, and Shelley does a great job.
We’ve been paying income taxes since we were 16, and we believe it’s a civic responsibility. We don’t complain about it. We would like to pay less, but we don’t think we’re being financially mistreated by our government.
After all, “taxation without representation is tyranny”. The problem, we believe, is with the representation part.
Our thought for today is from Benjamin Franklin:
“But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
My first memories of watching television include the Mickey Mouse Club. For my sixth birthday my parents gave me a red Mickey Mouse guitar with a crank on the side so I could play the show’s theme song.
My favorite Mouseketeer was Annette. I suspect that may have been true for a good many young American boys, just noticing girls and captivated by the dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty on the screen every afternoon.
I didn’t care much for the beach movies she made later, but there was no denying that Annette Funicello became a beautiful, shapely young woman.
I was troubled to learn several years ago that Annette had multiple sclerosis. That must have been really tough for someone who loved to dance … who was discovered by Walt Disney while performing as a ballerina in “Swan Lake”.
She died at the age of 70, from complications from M-S.
She was and will always be my favorite Mouseketeer.
Our thought for today is from Anne Frank:
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
On the map by Steve McIntosh,posted Apr 11 2013 1:41AM
In this time of ignorance of simple geography and the employment of the attractive simpleton as network broadcaster, I am not entirely surprised at some of the media reaction to Wichita State University’s appearance in the Final Four.
The network people seemed lost at times when it came to discussing the Shockers and their tough season, and the city they represent. I understand Wichita was misspelled on T-V graphics a time or two. The network guys were fascinated that one of our players comes from a town with two traffic lights in western Kansas. I’m surprised we didn’t see comparisons with Opie, Andy, Barnie, and Gomer.
But generally speaking, the team, the coach, and the fans showed up well in the national spotlight, in my opinion. Our people were well-behaved, well-spoken, and showed class.
It’s nice to have our city in the national spotlight for something that is positive.
Well done, Shockers … and fans.
The recent firing of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice for physically and verbally abusing his players … caught on video … stimulated some reflection on coaches I have known.
My first coach was my father, in little league baseball. He was understandably more patient with our teammates than with my brothers and me, but I don’t recall any major flashes of anger.
My favorite coaches were the teacher types, communicating the how and why of the game.
Conditioning became more important as I grew older, and coaches drove us hard. But I realized the payoff for that conditioning was a good performance and often, victory.
Coaches also imparted their philosophies about sportsmanship and how to win and lose with grace and dignity.
I never had a coach I hated or couldn’t get along with. I figured if they let me on the team, I owed them something.
Athletic coaches should never take their responsibilities lightly.
Our thought for today is from Brooks Clark:
“Good coaches teach respect for the opposition, love of competition, the value of trying your best, and how to win and lose graciously.”
Last week Sedgwick County Chief Financial Officer Chris Chronis said we ought to consider “hugging a bureaucrat”. Has he lost his mind?
Chronis pointed out to the county commission that since 2009, the county has 10% fewer employees, even as county population has gone up 10%. And since 2007 – Chronis says – the county’s property tax collection has dropped by 6%.
So the county has trimmed the fat … and it’s operating lean, with fewer people tackling a larger workload.
Will this satisfy those who constantly scream about bloated, ineffective government bureaucracies? I doubt it. Most people are ill-informed about local government issues. They don’t realize the city and county have avoided raising property tax rates for years, public employees have seen very little improvement in compensation, and that city council members and county commissioners have said “no” to pay increases in the past.
I won’t hug a bureaucrat, but I would like to say thank you for their thrifty efforts.
Our thought for today is from Aesop:
“It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.”
Rutgers fired basketball coach Mike Rice after a video of a practice surfaced … showing Rice kicking, shoving, and berating his players with homosexual slurs … and throwing basketballs at his players’ heads. Obviously, the guy is a bully, and he’s probably been doing this for years.
I played on seven school basketball teams as a kid … and on football and baseball teams as well. I can’t remember ever encountering a bully coach. On some of those teams, such a coach might have found himself abruptly seated on the floor.
I’ve seen coaches angry, shouting at players … but never calling them names.
I understand some coaches allow players to bully each other. Never saw that, either.
Sports can be very emotional for players and coaches, as well as fans. I’ve seen players and coaches lose their tempers … but not control. When you “blow up”, you give the opposition a huge advantage.
I wonder how many other bully coaches are operating on campuses right now.
Our thought for today is from Marie De France:
“A bully is not reasonable … he is persuaded only by threats.”
Is Democracy on the ropes? Is a large part of our world choosing military dictatorship, Islamic law, or even anarchy over traditional democracy as a form of government?
A British organization recently surveyed young people in Pakistan about their government preferences. 38% chose Islamic Shariah law. 32% favored military rule. And 29% said democracy.
Where are today’s champions of democracy? Here in Sedgwick County only 6% of the registered voters bothered to cast ballots this week in the local election. SIX PERCENT!
Makes me wonder if voting … the democratic process … is even remotely important to today’s citizen.
Certainly the political side of government is at low tide, thanks to nasty partisanship. Politicians bicker a lot and seem to accomplish little of any importance. Sober, mature, moderate thinkers simply are not electable … or don’t last long if they are elected.
Who is making a good case for democracy?
Surely not the 94% of the Sedgwick County citizens who didn’t bother to vote this week.
Our thought for today is from George Bernard Shaw:
“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”
I thought the C-B-S network color commentators on the Wichita State/Ohio State basketball game the other night were abysmal. They both shared plenty about Ohio State, even as the Shockers built up a big first-half lead.
I’ve always believed ex-jocks in the broadcast booth are sometimes quite lazy when it comes to preparation. Somebody probably handed them their pre-game notes on W-S-U at half time.
I think there are two story lines to the Shockers’ appearance in the Final Four, for the second time in the program’s history. First for me is the amazing way the coaches have kept a winning team together, even as several of their starters were injured. This is a testament to tough players and good coaching.
And that brings me to the second story line: will coach Gregg Marshall stay at Wichita State after this season? I’m sure he’ll be getting some attractive job offers in the days ahead.
Our thought for today is from Pearl Buck:
“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”
Basketball by Steve McIntosh,posted Apr 3 2013 1:40AM
This has been an exciting season for Wichita State basketball … as well as Kansas, Kansas State, and several junior colleges in south central Kansas … men and women.
I grew up playing basketball and baseball and football … and I was best at basketball. In the 1960s, every other driveway in my west-Wichita neighborhood had a basketball goal. We played in the summer’s heat and winter’s cold, wearing stocking caps and gloves.
When I played for Hadley Junior High, the Wichita State team with Dave Stallworth and Nate Bowman was just coming into its own. Dave the Rave was my favorite, but I also enjoyed Bowman’s interesting post play and the guards … Ernie Moore, Leonard Kelly, John Criss, and Kelly Pete.
They upset several top-ranked teams and even went to the Final Four.
I’m not nearly the Shocker basketball fan I was as a teen. But watching a game at the Round House is always a treat, and I share everyone’s excitement about this season’s W-S-U team.
The debate over a new high school in southeast Wichita is understandably emotional for some folks who attended Southeast High. They don’t want to see their alma mater abandoned. For some, it was the scene of their happiest times and they have many warm memories.
But other former Buffaloes may be comfortable with seeing the place bulldozed. Not all of us carry fond memories of those golden school days of the past.
If a new school is built further east, the present Southeast facility could house other functions and programs … losing the traditional aspect of the school. If that happens, could a portion of the building be preserved for a kind of museum? Trophies, photos, and records of the school’s past could be on display for former students and faculty to examine and reminisce.
I have a feeling the school district is going to build a new high school, and I regret that some folks are going to be quite upset about it. I think we ought to be sensitive to their feelings.
Our thought for today is from Robertson Davies:
“The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealized past.”
At last week’s meeting, the Wichita Board of Education dealt with idiotic social media rumors and emotional input on the future of a high school in southeast Wichita. Apparently, a good many people believe the Board has already decided the issue. They have not.
Should U-S-D 259 build a new high school further to the southeast … where population growth is projected … or renovate the current Southeast High School? Or should it do both?
Problem is, there is not enough 2008 bond money available to keep both schools open, staffed, and operating … thanks to state funding cuts the past few years. Superintendent John Allison says citizens should blame the legislature, not the school district.
It appears constructing a new school will be less costly overall, in the long run.
Southeast students, faculty, and graduates are understandably proud of their school. But ultimately, their pride may be a lower priority than what is best for the school district overall.
Our thought for today is from Flannery O’Connor:
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”