Editorial Roundup: Kansas

Kansas City Star. October 7, 2021.

Editorial: Johnson County GOP chair resigns after colleague alleges he grabbed her

Just days after we reported on allegations Johnson County GOP Chair Fabian Shepard grabbed and kissed the Wyandotte County Republican vice chair outside an event, Shepard is resigning his post.

Shepard told the Sunflower State Journal that he is stepping down because “the allegations had become too much of a distraction.” Shepard also resigned from the Johnson County Library Board and Mental Health Center Advisory Board.

Stephanie Cashion, Wyandotte County GOP vice chair, said late Thursday morning that she had yet to hear anything from either the Johnson County or the Kansas Republican Party about the resignation. That does make us wonder if they’re more interested in optics than in Cashion’s safety and well-being.

Cashion shared her story with The Star Editorial Board last week, and told us what she’d said in a report to Bonner Springs police on Sept. 3. She said Shepard led her outside of a pro-life event there on Aug. 20 and grabbed her and kissed her twice before she could pull away.

Shepard adamantly denied the allegation, and his supporters questioned Cashion’s veracity and motives in coming forward, though she did so only reluctantly, after being disparaged on social media.

Duane Beth, Wyandotte County GOP chair and the first to see Cashion at the event after the alleged incident, told us Cashion “looked scared and quiet and upset when I saw her, when she walked in the door.” He says that later that night she tearfully described to him what had happened.

“I am glad Fabian made the right choice and stepped down,” Beth said Thursday. “It was the right thing to do.”

GOP officials clearly saw anger building among Cashion’s supporters toward Kansas GOP Chairman Mike Kuckelman for what they felt was a cursory and reflexively dismissive inquiry into the incident. As recently as last week, Kuckelman shrugged it off as a “he said/she said” situation between two adults.

Worse, he blamed Cashion for speaking out. “You don’t go to media,” he said. “You don’t do news articles about it.”

She didn’t “go to the media.” We came to her. Yes, you absolutely do news articles about such behavior, at least in 2021.

And yes, the Kansas Republican Party should still investigate the investigation.

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Topeka Capital-Journal. October 8, 2021.

Editorial: Governor was correct to create a child advocate office. The Kansas Legislature must set it in stone.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly this week signed an executive order to create a child advocate office.

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Jason Tidd reported the independent Division of the Child Advocate will be focused on child welfare oversight, investigate complaints from families, recommend structural changes, help people navigate the child welfare system and expand coordination among interested groups.

Upon signing, Kelly called the order “a true victory for Kansas kids and families.” We agree. Thank you, Governor, for working to ensure Kansas children and their families are safe and get the help and services they may need.

We think it’s a needed office, and this executive order was acceptable in the light of the Legislature not taking action.

For years, the Legislature has known about the problems plaguing the system. They’ve had plenty of opportunities to do something about it. During the last session, bills in the House and Senate stalled after debates over who the advocates’ office should report to.

“As often happens, however, during the legislative process, reaching consensus was difficult and time ran out,” Kelly said. “Knowing how important this child advocate position is, I directed my team to explore every possible solution to get this done.”

The governor’s actions seem like a fair approach.

Kelly told The Capital-Journal the advocate’s office is structured in a way to give it independence from the governor. While she will appoint the officeholders, they will serve for set terms instead of at the pleasure of the governor. Neither she nor the Legislature can fire the appointees.

We’ll see in coming months how this plays out, but from the looks of it, we’re seeing positive momentum.

There are still some questions that come about from this order, such as how many people will work in the office. To do this job effectively, the office will need adequate staffing, and one or two people won’t cut it.

Additionally, will this office outlast Gov. Kelly?

At the moment, a new governor could come in and dissolve it as easily as she created it. In doing so, they’d only be hurting at-risk children and Kansas families.

For that reason and others, we hope the Legislature will pass a bill to make this executive order a permanent office that wouldn’t be able to be undone by another executive order.

Kansas’ children are counting on it.

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Lawrence Journal-World. October 9, 2021.

Editorial: New growth regulations put pressure on the city to actually grow

County and city commissioners are correct that certain types of development near the edges of the Lawrence city limits can make it difficult and expensive for Lawrence to grow in an orderly fashion in the future.

If you allow a significant number of 3 -to 5-acre homesites to be built along the edge of the city, it can make it very difficult to build streets, sewers and other infrastructure that a growing city needs to function.

Thus, there is some logic in the regulations that were recently approved by both commissions. Those regulations greatly limit the ability for property owners to build those rural homes near the city limits, and generally say property owners need to get their lands annexed into the city limits if they want to pursue residential development.

That doesn’t mean it is a particularly appealing solution, though. There were less aggressive ways to do this. But two bodies comprised entirely of individuals who live in the city of Lawrence came up with a solution that protects that community’s interests but may well create problems for rural residents who are trying to manage their lives and interests.

Think of farmers for a moment — a group pretty critical to the much-talked-about idea of preserving agricultural land in Douglas County. The new regulations make it harder for them to sell a small piece of land for some cash flow.

Instead, they create a greater likelihood that farmers will need to sell large chunks. In the past, farmers could sell a few acres at a time Those buyers generally were people who wanted to build a rural home or two.

Now, with the requirement the property must be annexed into the city, the buyers of such property are going to be full-fledged developers and annexing a couple of acres at a time into the city limits isn’t profitable. There will be much more pressure on farmers to sell large chunks of their land.

So, these regulations are far from perfect, but growth is rarely perfect. A group of city-dominated commissioners, essentially, have asked rural landowners to live with that premise — growth is rarely perfect.

Now, it is incumbent upon those city commissioners to also live with the same premise.

These regulations create new pressures and expectations that the city of Lawrence is going to allow annexations and become more aggressive in addressing the lack of supply of new homes in Lawrence. It creates an expectation that Lawrence is going to live up to its role in the state of being one of the few communities that are predisposed to growth.

But, are our leaders of such a mindset? We should get some answers soon. Here are three canaries we can send into the coal mine for an answer:

• In the development community, it is clear that the hundreds of acres just west of Bob Billings and the SLT interchange could provide a much needed boost in the supply of residential building lots. It also is clear that the way to do such a development is a large scale annexation of a few hundred acres that can be master planned for efficiency. Will the city really be comfortable annexing a few hundred acres for development?

• The city talks about infill development, yet a large swath of the southern end of downtown — the former Allen Press property — basically has been blighted and awaiting redevelopment for years. The property owner is on at least his third developer in trying to get the property redeveloped. Each time the city finds a way to get to “no” on plans for infill development on that site. Will the city feel any more pressure to get to “yes” this time?

• The intersection of the SLT and Iowa Street is one of the most improved intersections in all of Douglas County, and it was more than 20 years in the making. Yet, the city has never been able to figure out what type of development should be allowed at this intersection that has been the site of more than $100 million of federal and state investments. Retail is a logical choice for the site, yet the city turns it down. If not that, then what? What is completely illogical is that the city still doesn’t know what it wants for that property, especially since parts of the vacant land have been annexed into the city for decades.

Lawrence is a great place, but it won’t be forever if we remain fixated on the search for perfect.

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