Kansas City, Missouri Voters Approve $1 Billion Airport Project
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Voters in Kansas City, Missouri, have approved a $1 billion project to build a new privately financed airport in the city. Tuesday's vote followed years of debate on whether to demolish the current three horseshoe-shaped terminals at Kansas City International Airport and replace them with a single terminal. Voters approved the measure by a 3-to-1 margin. Supporters argued the current 45-year-old airport has outlived its usefulness and gives an embarrassing first impression to leisure and business travelers. They said the single terminal would provide more security, more comfort for passengers and the possibility of more flights. It will be funded by user fees and the airlines, not tax dollars. Opponents wanted to redesign and renovate the current structures. They said the single terminal would be less secure and less convenient for travelers.
Army Vet Joins GOP Race for Kansas 2nd Congressional District
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Army veteran and Harvard University graduate with no previous political experience is joining a crowded race for the GOP nomination in Kansas's 2nd Congressional District. Steve Watkins, of Topeka, said Tuesday he will join a crowded field seeking the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who is not seeking re-election. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Watkins attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, served in the Army and earned master's degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Watkins says he wants to bring conservative Kansas values of hard work, service to country and integrity to Congress. Watkins is also an adventurer. He competed in the Iditarod and attempted to climb Mt. Everest, but he was caught on the mountain by an earthquake.
High School Administrator Unseats Kansas City, Kansas Mayor
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A high school administrator has unseated the mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that David Alvey upset Mark Holland on Tuesday. Holland says his opponent did a "better job" at getting supporters to the polls. He also pledged to assist Alvey in a smooth transition to the mayor's office. Besides working for Rockhurst High School, Alvey also is director of the Board of Public Utilities. Property taxes have been a frequent complaint, and Alvey had criticized Holland for making only modest reductions in property taxes during the last two years. Another issue was that under Holland and his two predecessors, new projects and attractions have popped up in western Wyandotte County. But development has languished east of Interstate 635.
Lawrence Voters Approve Sales Tax Questions, Women Win Majority on City Commission
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Women have won what may be a historic majority on the Lawrence City Commission. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the female majority is made up of Mayor Leslie Soden and two women who won their races Tuesday - incumbent Lisa Larsen and newcomer Jennifer Ananda. There hasn't been a female majority on the five-member commission in at least several decades, and it may be a first. Ananda, an attorney and social worker, says she is "incredibly proud of the history that Lawrence has," adding that she thinks "it's time for this." Ananda currently handles complaints of discrimination and harassment at the University of Kansas in her role as deputy Title IX coordinator and policy specialist. The commission's two male members are Matthew Herbert and Vice Mayor Stuart Boley. Voters in Lawrence also approved all three of the sales tax questions on the ballot. The three proposals are projected to generate $116 million dollars in revenue over a 10-year period for transit, infrastructure and affordable housing. All three of the proposals were approved with comfortable margins of between 62 and 73 percent of the vote.
Topeka Elects Councilwoman De La Isla as New Mayor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The City of Topeka has a new mayor. Topeka Councilwoman Michelle De La Isla narrowly won the mayoral race Tuesday night with 51% of the vote. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that it was a tight race against businessman Spencer Duncan, who was seeking public office for the first time. 41-year-old De La Isla, a Topeka resident since 2005, will become the city’s second female mayor, following Joan Wagnon, who held that position from 1997 to 2001. De La Isla has represented south Topeka’s District 5 on the city council since April 2013. She says the first thing she plans to do as the capital city's new mayor is to sit down with outgoing Mayor Larry Wolgast to discuss strategies that are working for the city. Wolgast opted not to seek re-election this year.
State's Third Largest District Transformed After Controversy
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — The board for the state's third largest school district has been transformed in an election that followed the departure of its leader who was one of the only superintendents in the state to back Governor Sam Brownback's push to repeal the state's school funding formula. Shawnee Mission voters overwhelmingly voted out the race's only incumbent Tuesday and elected three first-time candidates. They've promised a new direction as the nearly 28,000-student district in suburban Kansas City seeks a replacement for former leader Jim Hinson, The Kansas City Star reports. Hinson, who was just 54, announced in April that he was retiring to spend more time with his family after becoming a lightning rod. Although he was praised for overseeing the passage of a $223 million bond issue, overhauling security and expanding early childhood education, critics pushed back in part over his support of Brownback's 2015 plan to replace the school finance formula with block grants. The policy was ruled unconstitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court in March. The district also prohibited staff from wearing safety pins to show support for the disenfranchised after last year's election. The Shawnee Mission district is a key player in any debate over school funding because of Johnson County's political clout. The county's voters have long voiced strong support for public schools and shown their willingness to raise local taxes to help support them. They put pressure on their legislators to back proposals allowing for greater local flexibility, even if those proposals are deemed unfair to poor districts elsewhere. One of the newcomers is pastor and former Olathe Schools teacher Laura Guy, who took 60 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Craig Denny. "I think (voters) are ready for new leadership and some new ideas and new decisions," Guy said. Civil rights attorney and education advocate Heather Ousley defeated attorney Mandi Hunter with a 66 percent of the vote for an at-large seat. In August, Ousley and Hunter pushed longtime school board member Cindy Neighbor, who was first elected to the board in 1997, out of the running. Also winning a seat was Mary Sinclair, of the Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA and Kansas PTA, who overpowered retired environmental science teacher James Lockard with 77 percent of the vote.
Public Report Not Created in Topeka Man's Shooting by Police
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An advocate for open government contends the Topeka and Lawrence police departments are trying to bypass the state's open records laws by not creating a standard public document on the fatal shooting of a man by Topeka police officers more than a month ago. Both departments have denied requests for incident and offense reports on the Sept. 28 shooting of Dominique White, which is being investigated by the Lawrence police department. They have not created the first page of the Kansas Standard Offense Report, which is a public record under state law and is routinely released, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . Ron Keefover, president of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, said he had never heard of a police department failing to issue such a report. "I think that's a purposeful attempt to circumvent the Kansas Open Records Act," Keefover said. "Suddenly because this involves one of their own, they're not creating one." The state's open records law doesn't require government agencies to create records upon request but they are required to release reports that already exist. Luther Ganieany, legal adviser for Topeka police, initially denied a request for the report "due to concerns for the safety of the officers involved in the incident." When asked to release the report with officers' names redacted, Ganieany said the department didn't create the report because Lawrence police are handling the investigation. Ganieany said Kansas law requires that a report be created within 72 hours after police know an offense was committed, "which could mean police have yet to decide whether White's shooting was an 'offense.'" The Topeka police department said in a news release after the shooting that the officers shot White in a park when he was trying to flee and reached for a pocket containing a handgun. The Capital-Journal reported White's death certificate said he died from gunshot wounds to his back. Lawrence police spokeswoman Kim Murphree said her department didn't create a front page for an offense report on the shooting and has generated only criminal investigation narratives and corresponding criminal investigation records. The department didn't explain why a front page wasn't created. Lawrence police said last month that releasing incident and offense reports would interfere with the ongoing investigation. Murphree again denied access to the full report on Monday.
Judge Orders Government to Produce Material in Kansas Prison Recording Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ordered the U.S. government to give grand jury materials to a court-appointed official investigating the recording of attorney-client meetings at a federal prison in Kansas. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson gave prosecutors until November 21 to produce grand jury transcripts related to a prison contraband case in which criminal defense lawyers discovered that the privately run Leavenworth Detention Center was routinely recording meetings between attorneys and their clients. The recordings at issue were made as part of a grand jury investigation in the contraband case. A special master is looking into the government's collection and use of conversations between attorneys and their clients that are supposed to remain private. The special master recently informed Robinson that the U.S. attorney's office has stopped cooperating with the investigation. Robinson cited that in issuing her order Tuesday.
Kansas Attorney Ranked as Unqualified for Federal Bench
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An American Bar Association rating committee has rated a Johnson County attorney as "not qualified" for a seat on the federal bench. The committee announced its rating for Holly Lou Teeter Tuesday but did not publicly state a reason. The Lawrence Journal-World reports an ABA publication says the committee generally believes a nominee to the federal bench should have at least 12 years of law experience to be qualified for the federal bench. Teeter, a 2006 graduate of the University of Kansas School of Law, currently has 11.5 years of experience. An independent website called the Vetting Room indicated that Teeter's relative lack of experience is unlikely to affect her chances for confirmation. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider Teeter's nomination Thursday.
Kansas Lawmakers to Spend $400K for Help on School Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislative leaders plan to spend $400,000 to get help in drafting a new public school funding law, including separate lawyers for the House and Senate. The five top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature agreed on the plan Tuesday. The House and Senate each would spend $100,000 to hire its own attorney. Lawmakers also plan to spend $200,000 to hire a school finance expert to study how much it will cost to meet a court mandate that the Legislature finance a suitable education for every child in the state. The two Democrats present at legislative leaders' meeting called it a waste of money and opposed it. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last month that spending on public schools is not sufficient.
President Trump Approves Kansas Disaster Declaration
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — President Donald Trump has approved a disaster declaration for Johnson and Wyandotte counties for heavy damage from storms in late July. The declaration from the president orders federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts for areas affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, and flooding from July 22 to July 27. Federal funding is available for local and state governments and some private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repairs or replacements needed after the storm. Some federal funding also is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation statewide. Johnson County emergency management coordinator Dan Robeson says the storms did about $6 million uninsured damages in the county. Significant damage was reported to Leawood public facilities including a golf course and city park.
Arrest Made in Unfounded Email Threat Against Pratt Schools
PRATT, Kan. (AP) — The superintendent of Pratt schools says a suspect has been arrested after the district received a threatening email. The email was received on Monday by several administrators and staff. The threat prompted the district to cancel classes Tuesday. Police and staff searched the district's buildings Tuesday and found the district was safe. Classes resumed on Wednesday. Superintendent Suzan Patton said in a note to parents that Pratt police told the district Wednesday that developments led to an arrest in the case. No further details have been released. The case remains under investigation.
Advocates Say Topeka Defendants Received Light Sentences for Sex Trafficking
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates for victims of sex trafficking in Kansas say they are pleased federal prosecutors are searching for traffickers but they are upset that two people convicted of sex trafficking this week in Topeka received relatively light sentences. 43-year-old Frank Boswell, of Topeka was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. And 34-year-old Rachel Flennkin, also of Topeka, was placed on three years of supervised release for three crimes related to the sex trafficking ring run by Boswell out of a strip club in Lawrence. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Boswell had as many as 20 women working for him as prostitutes. A spokeswoman for the Topeka-Shawnee County Human Trafficking Coalition, says a 46 month sentence is not enough time for the crimes Boswell committed.
Ex-Kansas Commerce Secretary Ends Run for Congressional Seat
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas commerce secretary has ended a congressional race days after Governor Sam Brownback's office confirmed he was fired partly over questions about state contracts. Ex-Commerce Secretary Antonio Soave posted a statement Tuesday on his campaign's Facebook page citing family reasons for ending his bid for the GOP nomination in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas. Soave said he and his wife are expecting a sixth child after a miscarriage earlier this year and stress from the campaign was greater than anticipated. Brownback's office said Friday that he fired Soave in June amid questions about Department of Commerce contracts for consulting and marketing services. The Kansas City Star reported that at least nine Soave associates landed contracts during Soave's 18 months as secretary.
Kansas State Black Student Union Wants Graffiti Hoaxer Prosecuted
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - The Black Student Union at Kansas State University is calling for criminal charges to be filed against the 21-year-old black man who defaced his own car with racist graffiti in what he described as a Halloween prank that got out of hand. The group released a statement saying it was "appalled, disgusted and hurt" by the false report. Police earlier had announced that Dauntarius Williams had admitted that the incident was a prank. Police said they thought bringing charges against Williams would not be in the community's best interest. The Black Student Union said that the fact that an African American man was involved did not diminish its effect on students and the community and they are urging Riley County authorities to reconsider charges against Williams.
Salina Adds Sexual Orientation Protections for City Workers
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A new resolution says Salina city employees cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Salina city commissioners voted Monday to add those categories to the city's personnel manual. The resolution applies only to city employees. The Salina Journal reports the commission also approved a resolution adding public accommodation protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for access to city facilities and services. Natalie Fischer, the city's director of human resources, said she had received positive responses to the proposal from city employees. There was no public comment but several people in the audience applauded after the vote.
Leavenworth Mother Guilty in Beating of Another Woman
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - A Leavenworth County mother has been convicted of repeatedly punching another mother after their children fought. Jurors found 34-year-old Amanda Lee Gross guilty of battery. The attack happened February 2 in Leavenworth after the victim went to Gross' house to talk about a fight their children had in school that same day. According to testimony, Gross ran out of the house and punched the woman three or four times in her face. Gross followed her to her car and hit her two more times. Authorities say the victim suffered several injuries, including a broken orbital bone, a nasal fracture, a cut on her lip that required stitches and a busted tooth that had to be extracted.
Nelson-Atkins Adds 800 Photos with $10 Million Hall Gift
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City has used a $10 million gift from the Hall Family Foundation to add 800 new photographs to its collection. The museum announced Wednesday that curators have been acquiring the photographs for the last two years. The new photos represent the work of about 150 artists from more than a dozen countries, and span more than 190 years. The foundation has long supported the museum and its photography collection. In 2005, Hallmark Cards donated all of its 6,500 photography collection to the museum. The museum plans to show 100 of the new works this spring in an exhibition titled "The Big Picture: A Transformative Gift From the Hall Family." It is scheduled to run from April 28 to October 7.
Kansas Jayhawks Defeat Fort Hays State, 86-57, in Final Exhibition Game
LAWRENCE, Kan. -The number four-ranked Kansas University Jayhawks defeated the Fort Hays State Tigers in the season’s final exhibition game Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. Fort Hays State kept the score close in the first half but KU quickly returned to form after halftime running away with an 86-57 win. KU Senior Devonte’ Graham scored 16 of his game-high 27 points while playing just 13 minutes in the second half. Kansas extended its home exhibition winning streak to 48 games and assured the Jayhawks of heading into the 2017-18 schedule on a positive note. The regular season begins Friday when KU hosts Tennessee State.