Editorial Roundup: Kansas

Kansas City Star. August 6, 2021.

Editorial: UG Mayor Alvey blocking a vote on badly needed municipal ID and immigration reform

Wyandotte County residents who support an inclusive, vibrant community must press their case for an immediate vote on a new municipal identification program.

That means a Unified Government vote on the “Safe and Welcoming” ordinance before the November election. And it means rejecting candidates who oppose it, including Mayor David Alvey, who has refused to allow an open debate on the plan.

“We’re adamant to push it through this election cycle,” said Rev. Rick Behrens, a member of the broad coalition supporting the measure.

The ordinance would create a municipal ID for the 30,000 Wyandotte County residents who now lack any photo identification. It would help the elderly, the homeless, foster children, victims of domestic abuse — and 15,000 to 18,000 undocumented migrants, who often struggle to open bank accounts, enroll children in school, buy medicine or lease a home.

A municipal ID program is up and running in dozens of communities, including Detroit, Little Rock and Philadelphia. “The card helps create a more welcoming Philadelphia that embraces everyone who lives here,” the city says.

KCK must share that goal, but Alvey has bottled up the plan for months. He continues to deprive the community of a vote on this important measure because it contains a second provision barring local authorities from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

“KCKPD shall use its resources and authority to protect the public in Kansas City, Kansas, including residents without legal status,” a draft of the proposed ordinance says. “It is not the mission of the KCKPD to enforce federal immigration law.”

That part of the ordinance is critical to the success of the ID program. Without an assurance that their information won’t be handed over to the feds, undocumented migrants won’t enroll, defeating the whole purpose of the municipal ID.

“Passage of the Safe & Welcoming ordinance mandating ICE noncompliance and recognizing a community ID will help break up the dark cloud of fear hanging over so many of our fellow Kansans,” the Safe and Welcoming Coalition said in a news release.

Alvey has rejected that argument. He claims grant agreements with Washington preclude any ban on local-federal immigration cooperation.

It isn’t clear that is the case. The Unified Government could easily seek waivers from any grant contracts requiring cooperation among law enforcement agencies, waivers the Biden Administration seems likely to support.

Alvey also says barring cooperation is unnecessary because police and the feds don’t work together now. “We do not work with ICE to support their policies,” he said on KCUR. “We don’t do immigration enforcement.”

Behrens says there is anecdotal evidence that the agencies do work together. But Alvey’s argument fails even as a matter of logic: If existing grants mandate local and federal cooperation, how can the KCKPD “not work” with ICE? It makes no sense.

Tyrone Garner, who is Alvey’s mayoral opponent in November, has endorsed a vote on the Safe and Welcoming ordinance and supports it. It’s the right thing to do, and a key decision point for voters in Wyandotte County.

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Topeka Capital-Journal. August 6, 2021.

Editorial: AG Derek Schmidt likes to say he’s defending laws passed by the Legislature. What about the Kansas constitution?

Let’s take a moment to consider some recent actions by Kansas Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Derek Schmidt.

He’s asked the state Supreme Court to end a stay on a law that stripped Gov. Laura Kelly’s pandemic emergency powers. A lower court judge had found the law unconstitutional.

He’s asked that same state Supreme Court to reconsider its blockbuster ruling that the right to an abortion exists in the state constitution.

After the Douglas County district attorney said she wouldn’t enforce a new law that could target nonpartisan voting groups, he said his office would prosecute violations in the county.

It looks to us as though Schmidt is more focused on his run for governor than his job as AG.

Let’s take them one at a time. The attempt to restrict emergency powers during the pandemic was ridiculous to start with, a clear partisan attempt to score points as a virus ravaged Kansas. The stay on the law — by a judge whose sole job is to interpret legal matters — was the right move.

And as the delta variant swamps state hospitals, perhaps Schmidt should have had second thoughts about limiting officials’ ability to react to public health emergencies.

Asking the Supreme Court to reconsider its finding about abortion rights? That’s even stranger. Schmidt appears to be trying to remind voters of the court’s decision, rather than serve any larger legal purpose.

And if it helps turn folks out in an attempt to limit women’s rights next summer? Well, opponents to abortion rights might see that as a bonus.

Finally, picking a fight with Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez seems strange from any perspective — except the political one. Like Schmidt, she’s an elected official who was chosen by voters to make legal decisions. Like Schmidt, she’s called upon to make tough calls on behalf of those she represents. If she believes she can’t enforce the law in good faith, perhaps that means it’s worthy of further examination.

We recognize Schmidt’s stance. He has said he’s responsible for defending laws passed by the Legislature. But the state’s constitution matters as well. And judges and elected officials represent critical perspectives and constituencies.

Here’s the thing: In all of these cases, the attorney general is taking high-profile, public stances that could well enhance his standing as he runs for governor against Laura Kelly.

Schmidt’s not a disinterested bystander, applying the law like some distant Socratic figure. He’s a willing and enthusiastic participant in the hurly-burly of Kansas politics.

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