An article in NY Times is raising some interesting questions about the Tea Party Movement. If the election of Scott Brown was such a win for all Tea Partiers, then why all the problems with the upcoming Tea Party convention ?
This movement seems to be catching on. There is a link in the article to check the banks in your zip code. What are your thoughts about this movement’s chance of success? Will it make a difference or are they just Don Quixote chasing those windmills?
We won’t be able to firm up everything until tomorrow since Iggy is at work today and 6176 won’t have computer access until tomorrow, but we can make most of the plans!
Let’s make sure we have the necessary supplies. We can get free paint at the place David told us about, so let’s talk about that and see whether that is the route to go, at least for the primer. Ladders? Brushes? Sprayer? Drop cloths? Caulk? Sanding equipment? What else? Who will the crew consist of?
So much to discuss! I’m getting excited! Anytime I can get together with the bunch of you and help someone we all love is a good time! Let’s do it!
I’ve got a sad task in this column today. I scrapped what I was writing yesterday when we received word this morning that a much-loved WaKeeney icon has left us. Mike Dreiling, our own “Mr. WaKeeney” passed away Monday night. It was a day we always knew would come, but somehow, I just wasn’t prepared, and I kept hearing the Beatles sing “I heard the news today, oh, boy”. And when I heard the news, a whole bunch of thoughts and memories came flooding back, along with a few tears.
When I was little, on our weekly visits into town, there was no place I was more excited about visiting than the hardware store. One reason was because I never failed to convince my Dad that I NEEDED some peanuts from the red and chrome 5-cent machine located on the counter. They were always the good kind of Spanish peanuts, slightly oily and very salty, with the red skins that slipped off and fell to the bottom of those little, tiny, brown paper sacks Mike would always give me. I’m not sure if it was the nuts or the cute little sacks that made me insist on peanuts at every visit.
When I was really small and scrawny (yes, there was such a time) Mike would have to help me up to reach the machine, where I carefully deposited my nickel and turned the handle. I had to hold that mini-sack exactly under the spout so as not to lose any of the precious peanuts it dispensed, and sometimes, I just wasn’t tall enough, but I could always count on Mike to help me out. Then, and only then, could I walk around the store, peanuts in hand, and look at all the stuff on the shelves.
I was never impatient to leave when we visited Mike’s store. Oh, I liked Mr. Jeffries when he was the proprietor, but it was really Mike I wanted to see. He always talked to me like I was an adult, never, ever like I was a pesky kid, which was most likely the case.
I liked to look at the pocket knives on display, always wishing and hoping that one of them would go home with me, but that never happened. Knives were not for girls, my Dad would scoff, but Mike never treated me like just a girl. He would patiently answer all of my questions about the various tools and gadgets to be found on the shelves. I especially loved the ropes of all sizes and materials that magically sprouted from a hole in the floor. Some of those ropes became leads for my 4-H steers, and some became leads for my horse, and some were just used by Dad for unknown but always interesting farm things. I knew that we could always count on Mike to give us just what we needed. He always knew things that fascinated me and he showed me how to tie knots and which rope was used for every task. Continue reading
Our shrinking community
This week was the annual publication of estimated population numbers for communities in northwest Kansas. Of course, the news was mostly bad as more people are generally leaving the small towns in western Kansas. WaKeeney and Collyer were in the middle of the pack, with population declines of .81% and .84% respectively. So actually, with less than one percent decline in 2008, I’d say we are holding our own compared to previous drops in population. But overall, the news for small towns out here is grim in terms of population.
There are a lot of great things about living in a small town, and you’ve read about many of them right here on Page 3. I frequently wax sentimental about how wonderful rural life is, how nice it is to know your neighbors, and how different country towns are from their city cousins.
But as anyone who has lived in small towns will tell you, there is a dark side to small town life as well. I generally don’t dwell on those dark downsides, but something happened in our office this week that caused me to shelve my original column and devote this space to one of the biggest reasons new people decline to move to WaKeeney, and why many young people decline to stay or come back.
It has to do with the closed nature of local government, the lack of transparency in how “things” operate, and how difficult it is to feel welcome in WaKeeney, no matter what the flags say. When citizens are kept in the dark about how their city operates, it creates feelings of mistrust and it causes them to not participate in the political process or community activities.
Since the “new” version of the WaKeeney City Council was seated this spring, there has been a disturbing trend toward secrecy and away from open government. One of the first actions taken by the new city council was to end the public broadcasts of city council meetings, and in fact, to end recording those meetings at all. People who were not able to actually attend the regularly scheduled meetings could previously tune in to local cable tv to see the meetings broadcast live, and hear what their elected officials were doing. Those without cable could pick up a DVD recording of the meeting, and those with failing eyesight could listen to audio tapes of the meeting that were made available at city hall. All that ended when the city decided this spring to stop all recordings of city meetings.
And to make matters worse, several “special meetings” of the council were held without any notice in the local paper or even in the Hays Daily. All that was required under the Kansas Open Meetings Law was that notice be posted at city hall. However, if you are not a daily visitor down there, you, as taxpayers and voters, were effectively excluded from those meetings because you didn’t know about them. It sort of makes one wonder what was and is going on over there that is more important than the public’s right to know.
And now, given the council’s actions to end recordings of the meetings, it’s impossible for citizens to know, first hand, what is said in city council chambers at these “special” meetings, held outside the normal time frame. Yes, minutes of the meetings are available, but as anyone who has read those minutes knows, they are carefully edited and are only brief notes on what actions are taken. Discussions are not quoted and it’s hard to know who said what and which positions belong to which elected official.
So in light of all this new secrecy, and in the interest of keeping local residents informed about what goes on with your city council and your city tax dollars, the editor of the Western Kansas World submitted a request, under the Kansas Open Meetings Law, that the newspaper be informed in advance of all “special” meetings. He further requested that agendas for these meetings be sent to the newspaper in advance of the “special” meeting. It was a routine letter, simple and to the point, and it followed the formal format generally used by news media across the state.
And your Mayor, Lionel Sawyer, responded to that request in a most unusual way. On Tuesday morning, he stomped into the World office and confronted Editor Jerry Millard in a most unprofessional way. He shoved a copy of the Kansas Open Meetings Law in the editor’s face with a belligerent sneer, saying, “here, this is for you and your friends” and proceeded to stomp back out the door in a fit of pique. Customers who were in the office at the time were stunned. One of them commented that if anyone had spoken to him that way, he’d have punched the Mayor in the nose. Fortunately, Jerry has more composure than that, but everyone in the office was just stunned by the Mayor’s tantrum.
The Open Meetings Law that was highlighted by the Mayor was 5.32 H. “Agenda Provisions”. This section notes “The Attorney General has said that an agenda, when prepared, must be made available to a requester.” But it was the next sentence that the Mayor highlighted with a yellow marker. “Copies of an agenda, however, do not have to be mailed if they can be obtained at a public place.” In other words, the city wasn’t going to send any agendas to us. If we wanted them, we could come get them. Of course, we’d have to actually know about these “special” meetings before we could walk over to city hall and pick them up. It was a classic “catch 22”.
Jerry found all of this odd, as we always receive agendas, in advance of meetings both “special” and ordinary, from the Trego County Commissioners and the USD 208 Board of Education. They’ve never complained about sending anyone agendas. But apparently, Mayor Sawyer and the new city council see things differently. So Jerry set out to find what their policy is regarding sending this information to other media. Continue reading
I watched a special last night on the collapse of this countries infrastructure. They talked about the fact there was no collective database on the levees in this country until after Katrina. They talked about the fact states like Texas having only seven people to inspect over 1500 levees; about Mississippi having one inspector for over 1000 levees; about how it would take upwards of $1.6 trillion to bring all the levees up to 100 year flood standards. How California’s waterways are susceptible to flooding by the Pacific ocean if a 6.7 earthquake hits in the wrong area. And if that happens, Northern California all the way to Los Angeles will have six months fresh water max, with repairs to the fresh water system two years away minimum. It will happen.
We’ve seen what’s happening to our bridges, both in this state and the nation. Look at the energy grid: it’s a mess. One shorted line took out over fifty million homes and businesses. A smart grid is decades off, and it’s needed now. There is no excuse for this not to be happening. There is an atmosphere of neglect in this country, and it boils down to money . . . again. While we’re bailing out banks and financial institutions, our infrastructure is crumbling. Obama has promised to do something about it, but hypocrites like Sanford turn down the money for purely political reasons. There should be NO politics involved in repairing this countries infrastructure: this is our national security at risk. When you’ve got a system in place that requires little thought by an outside enemy of this country to shut down, then the problem becomes major. That system is the one we now have in place. It needs fixing, and it needs it now. Why not build on the nationalistic premise of making this country strong again, and using a volunteer work force to start it going?