Editorial Roundup: Kansas

Topeka Capital-Journal. June 11, 2021.

Editorial: Many are in a needless panic about critical race theory. Legislators must instead stand up for common sense.

Moral panics don’t produce good policy. Neither does banning things.

The current fracas about critical race theory on the right is just such a panic, and if legislators don’t stand up for common sense, they will be forced into ridiculous positions at the Kansas Statehouse next year.

We must understand what’s going on here. First of all, critical race theory isn’t a specific thing. It’s an umbrella term that refers to multiple ideas and concepts about how racial discrimination continues to affect communities in the United States. They fit into a framework that attempts to explain why our country is still divided and why communities of color still face obstacles and barriers not faced by white people.

Secondly, our country still includes plenty of racist people. The resurgence of white nationalists over recent years — and former President Trump’s flirtation with them — should make that clear.

The former president’s party has therefore decided that, rather than deal with racism in its own ranks, it should create a bogeyman on the left. Critical race theory has become a cudgel to use against political enemies, while winking and nodding to those who believe that the proper America is white as a Ku Klux Klan sheet.

Fox News has decided this is a crisis, and GOP-controlled state after GOP-controlled state is falling into line. These debates have everything to do with obscuring the truth rather than addressing real needs.

But here’s the truth.

The past impacts our present and future. History can be ugly, but we need to come to grips with it. Systemic racism has affected generations of Americans, and you can see the effects in wealth accumulation, health outcomes, education, policing and more. This isn’t about “guilt” — it’s about reality.

Our country has deprived an entire community of people of their basic rights, simply because of the color of their skin. Covering your eyes doesn’t make that go away.

This is part of a disturbing trend that we saw last session in the Legislature. You could see it in the youth transgender sports bill and voting rights restrictions. Our state wasn’t experiencing issues. There was no problem. There was a slick, outrage machine that exploited voters and legislators.

You could even see it in the Legislature’s attempt to add civics and financial literacy requirements for high school students. Those may be good ideas, but we have a state board of education. That’s why we have it. Legislators don’t need to weigh in on every single debate or see themselves as a magical fix to a random oversight.

If we value teachers, if we trust our systems and procedures, let them do their work. Avoid moral panics and partisan temptations.

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Lawrence Journal-World. June 12, 2021.

Editorial: Let’s make sure we think through any changes to the Lawrence City Commission

A couple of groups deserve thanks right now. One is the large group of candidates seeking election for the Lawrence City Commission and the Lawrence school board. Good government starts with people being willing to participate, and there is a strong number of candidates for each board.

The second group is the people looking at how elections ought to be conducted in the future. Specifically, this group is looking at how the Lawrence City Commission should be structured. It is important work, and current city commissioners should be congratulated for creating the task force, and task force members should be thanked for their service.

Let’s take our time congratulating and thanking because perhaps it will slow us down in implementing the changes recommended by the task force. Those recommendations are being delivered to the City Commission at its Tuesday meeting. Hopefully, commissioners adopt an appropriate pace on moving forward. That pace would involve more time for the recommendations to filter through the community and allow more robust discussion.

Ultimately, state law requires changes of this nature to be voted on in a citywide election. That could happen as soon as November, but it is not required to happen that soon. Let’s not focus on a date yet, but instead on the quality of the conversation. What do we really want to put in front of voters?

The task force’s recommendations can be broken into three parts:

• Create a new type of mayor in Lawrence. The mayor would serve a four-year term instead of the current one-year term. Importantly, the mayor would be elected directly by the people rather than through the current process where the five city commissioners choose one of their own members to be mayor.

• Start electing city commissioners by geographic districts. Currently, there are no districts.

• Increase the number of commissioners from five to six. With the addition of the mayor, who would be allowed to vote on all items, the total number on the commission would be seven.

At first blush, the idea of a directly elected mayor is more attractive than the idea of creating a set of City Commission districts. Perhaps the most important part of the directly elected mayor idea is the four-year term. It would raise the stakes of a mayoral election, and perhaps that is good.

While the mayor would still just have one vote and no veto power, the position could produce benefits. First, it would seem natural for the mayor position to take the lead in creating a vision for the city. Lawrence does not do well on the visioning front. We struggle to identify our competitive advantages as a community, and we rarely get past the point of saying we want to be a nice place to live. So does everyone else. What advantages do we have that will allow us to prosper enough to be that nice place to live? A focused mayor position could be helpful on that front.

Second, such a mayor could develop much stronger relationships with leaders in other communities. This is important. Lawrence struggles with understanding its role in the state of Kansas, and the community is far from beloved in all corners. A more active regional representative would have benefits.

As for districts, lets talk about them more. But a reasonable fear exists that the most significant change to come from districts would be a dilution of the hiring pool. If you have to choose six people with six geographic requirements, it seems likely you aren’t going to get the six best people. That should be the focus. How can we find people who have taken the time to learn the issues and have the ability and interest to serve? We’re not that big of a town yet. In a place of 100,000 people, you don’t want to put too many limitations on who you can choose to lead you.

It would be one thing if Lawrence was so big that it was truly difficult to find your city commissioner. That shouldn’t be a problem in Lawrence. Though, there is one simple thing commissioners could do on that front: Start meeting in person again. A simple way to find a commissioner is to go to a meeting and bend their ear after it.

It is a good reminder that a simple solution is sometimes the best one.

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Manhattan Mercury. June 11, 2021.

Editorial: Join in Manhattan’s first-ever restaurant week

Get your forks ready: Today is the beginning of Manhattan’s first-ever Restaurant Week, and we think it sounds pretty neat.

Now through June 20, patrons pay $5 for a “passport” and then present it at one of the participating restaurants to get access to certain specials. For each stamp on the passport, patrons are entered for prizes.

The money goes to Konza United Way, which raises funds for area nonprofit organizations. Donations to United Way support community initiatives intended to improve education, financial literacy and health.

The event is also a chance to help local restaurants, many of which have struggled through the course of the pandemic. Those businesses donated to participate in Restaurant Week, and they’re giving a portion of the proceeds to United Way.

And let’s not forget that it’s fun to participate. Customers have a reason to go out to eat, to try new places and new dishes. Those who don’t want to eat in a restaurant also can participate; delivery service EatStreet is donating $1 per order for participating restaurants.

So essentially, Restaurant Week is a win-win-win: Nonprofits benefit. Restaurants benefit. Diners benefit.

For more information, go to konzaunitedway.org/restaurantweek. You can buy a passport online at that site or in person at either the Konza United Way Office, 555 Poyntz Ave., Suite 269, or the chamber of Commerce, 501 Poyntz Ave.

Many cities have similar restaurant weeks. Starting such an event here is an excellent way to showcase the many local restaurants we have. Let’s help it be a great success.

These are the participating restaurants: AJ’s NY Pizzeria, Bluestem Bistro, Bourbon and Baker, Coco Bolo’s, Cox Brothers BBQ, Guilty Biscuit, Old Chicago, LABCo Market and Restaurant, Pizza Ranch, Powercat Sports Grill, Rocking K’s, Tallgrass Taphouse, Wine Dive, Houlihan’s, Kite’s Bar and Grill, Liquid Art Winery, Nico’s Little Italy, Manhattan Brewing Company, Moe’s Original BBQ, Mr. K’s.

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