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Headlines for Monday, May 15, 2023

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Emily Fisher

Project Funds Axed After Kansas Lawmaker Defies Governor on Abortion, Trans Rights

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed state funding for a project long advocated by a Democratic lawmaker who broke ranks to override the governor's vetoes and give Republicans crucial support for laws restricting abortion and rolling back transgender rights.

Apparently, Rep. Marvin Robinson's decision had consequences.

Kelly axed $250,000 in the next state budget for drafting a state plan to develop the Quindaro Ruins in Kansas City, Kansas, which Robinson represents. Quindaro was a short-lived town and a station on the Underground Railroad that helped enslaved people escape to Canada. A proposal to build a landfill there in the 1980s led to an investigation of the site and the discovery of multiple buildings' foundations.

Robinson, who is Black, advocated for the site's restoration and development as a national historic landmark for several decades before he won an open House seat last year. Democratic leaders called on him to resign after he voted to override Kelly's veto of a measure banning transgender female athletes from girls' and women's sports, giving Republicans the super-majoirty they needed.

Robinson's votes were also crucial to Republicans enacting two other new laws over Kelly vetoes amid a national push on culture war issues by GOP state lawmakers. One is a sweeping bathroom law that could also prevent transgender people from changing the gender markers on their driver's licenses. The other will require abortion providers to tell patients that medication abortions can be stopped using a regimen that major medical groups see as ineffective and potentially dangerous.

Kelly told lawmakers in her veto message Monday that the Quindaro site is a “fundamental piece of Kansas history,” but noted that Republicans added the money to the budget during their final days in session this year. Kelly said the idea had not been vetted, and her veto will stand because lawmakers have adjourned for the year.

“Advocates should work through the proper channels to seek funding for this measure and ensure that it receives the recognition it deserves,” Kelly wrote in her message.

Michael Austin, chair of the Kansas Black Republican Council, said Kelly had “callously” denied funs to an important project while offering “hollow rhetoric” to Black residents.

House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita, Republican, said in a statement that preserving the Quindaro site should be a bipartisan priority "excluded from the wrath of political punishments.”

State Rep. Patrick Penn, of Wichita, the Legislature's only Black Republican member, told the House before it passed the budget measure that Robinson did not know that GOP lawmakers included funds for Quindaro. State Sen. J.R. Claeys, a Republican from central Kansas, told The Kansas City Star that he pursued the funding to give Robinson "a win in his first year” after fellow Democrats treated him poorly.

Robinson did not respond to emails seeking comment on Kelly's veto, and the telephone number listed for him did not allow people to leave messages.

He voted 18 times this year to override Kelly vetoes of bills or budget items, starting with the measure on transgender athletes. The measure was a priority for GOP leaders, as was the abortion medication measure.

Robinson's vote to block Kelly's veto of the bathroom measure vexed fellow Democrats because the new law is broader than those in other states. It applies outside public schools, extending to prisons, jails, rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters. Supporters argued they were protecting cisgender women’s and girl’s privacy, health and safety.

The new law recognizes only two sexes, male or female, and defines them based on reproductive anatomy at birth. Because of that, Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican, said earlier this month that he believes it prevents transgender people from changing the gender markers on their driver's licenses. A spokesperson for the state agency that issues the licenses says it is still reviewing the issue.

Critics see the law as attempting the “erasure” of transgender people.

“It just sounds like something to do to be nasty,” Luc Bensimon, a Black transgender Topeka resident and activist, said during a recent interview.

Later, he added, “You know, it’s scary.”


Baby Found Dead in Wooded Area in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) — Police are investigating the death of a young child who was found in the woods in the eastern part of Kansas City, Missouri. On Saturday night, police found a dead baby in the woods (near the intersection of E 41st Steet and Pittman Road), about a mile northeast of the Truman Sports Complex. According to KCTV, police could not immediately identify the baby, nor the infant's age or gender. Currently, police are treating the case as a death investigation, as the medical examiner has yet to determine a cause of death. Off camera at the scene, a man who lives in the area told KCTV that homeless people live in the woods where the baby was found. He also told reporters that people go there to smoke marijuana. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS.


Baby Killed by Train in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMBC) — A one-year-old girl was struck and killed by a train in Missouri over the weekend. KMBC TV reports that officers were called to the crash Saturday morning in a rural area near Hardin, Missouri, about 50 miles east of Kansas City. Investigators determined that the girl was on the tracks when an eastbound BNSF freight train struck her. The investigation is continuing. The Ray County Sheriff's Office says no further information will be released at this time.


Police Peacefully Resolve Standoff in South KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMBC) — Police have peacefully resolved a five-hour standoff with an armed man inside a south Kansas City home. KMBC TV reports that a suspect is in custody following Sunday evening's incident. Police initially responded to a residence on Ford Avenue to investigate a report of domestic violence. Two victims, an unidentified man and woman, contacted police outside the home and told officers they got into a physical altercation with the armed suspect. According to police, the female victim told officers that the armed suspect assaulted her physically and threatened her with a gun. Both victims exited the residence and called the police. For hours, police tried and failed to get the man to surrender. Around 7:30 pm, the suspect finally exited the home and turned himself over to police without incident.


Seismic Activity in Central Kansas Shakes Residents Awake on Mother’s Day

LINCOLNVILLE, Kan. (WIBW) — An earthquake near Lincolnville, Kansas, shook some residents awake in the early morning hours of Mother’s Day. According to WIBW TV, the U.S. Geological Survey earthquake map indicated that a 2.5 magnitude quake shook Central Kansas just before 4 am Sunday. The epicenter of the rumbler was about 9 miles southeast of Lincolnville in Marion County at a depth of about five miles. The USGS says Kansans for about 40 miles around could feel the seismic activity. In early April, a 3.2-magnitude earthquake rattled the area as well, this time about 4 miles north of Bennington. Residents in Salina, Newton and Wichita reported that they also felt this quake.


Tornadoes Tear Through Brown and Jackson Counties Friday Night

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) — No one was hurt late Friday when tornadoes touched down in northeast Kansas. The National Weather Service says an EF-2 tornado stayed on the ground for 1.2 miles in Brown County and an EF-1 tornado stayed on the ground for 3.5 miles in Jackson County.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the EF-2 tornado touched down at 7:03 pm Friday, about four miles west of Reserve in northern Brown County, and reached a maximum width of 1.2 miles. The tornado rose back into the sky at 7:12 pm. Its estimated peak winds were 112 mph. The EF-1 tornado touched down at 7:11 pm, just north/northeast of Holton, and reached a maximum width of 50 yards. The tornado caused property damage before rising back into the air at 7:20 pm. Its estimated peak winds were 90 mph.

(Additional reporting)

Friday Night Weather Turned Extreme in Eastern Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW/KPR) — A line of severe thunderstorms developed Friday along Brown, Jackson, Jefferson, Lyon, Nemaha, Osage, Riley, Shawnee, and Wabaunsee counties. WIBW TV reports that storms included lightning, damaging wind gusts, hail, and tornadoes. Several tornado warnings were issued for places like Brown, Jackson, Nemaha and Greenwood counties during the span of the storms.


New Book Explores State's Deadliest Tornado, Udall 1955

UNDATED (KPR) — This month marks the anniversary of the deadliest tornado in Kansas History. On the night of May 25, 1955, a massive tornado tore through the small, south-central Kansas town of Udall, killing 77 people. A new book tells the story of that fateful night. Without Warning, written by Jim Minick, details the night of the tornado as well as the aftermath. The book is published by University Press of Nebraska.

Listen to KPR Commentator Rex Buchanan reviewWithout Warning.


New Bill Will Increase Time Young People Spend in Detention

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Governor Laura Kelly has signed a bill into law that will increase the amount of time kids could spend in detention. But the bill would also increase services to those kids. Kansas kids with probation violations could spend 24 hours in detention for their first offense, 48 hours for a second and 15 days for a third offense. That reverses some criminal justice reforms from six years ago. Opponents of the bill say too much detention time is harmful for children. But supporters of the bill say more detention is needed so kids know there are consequences to their actions. The legislation does expand services to Kansas kids, like expanding the uses for juvenile crisis centers which should make it easier to build those facilities.


$5 Million Grant Expected to Restore Jayhawk Theatre in Topeka to Former Grandeur

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) — A $5 million grant will help transform Topeka's historic Jayhawk Theatre into an even finer show place. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce will help restore the building to its former grandeur, making it appear as it did in 1926. Among other upgrades, the theatre plans to increase seating and standing capacity.

One supporter of the project is Kansas House Minority Leader Vic Miller, a Topeka Democrat. He says the fully restored theatre will be "the jewel of Kansas. Not Topeka. Of Kansas."

The Jayhawk Theatre opened in 1926 and hosted movies, pageants, concerts and other live performances until it closed in 1976. The theater was nearly torn down in 1992. The following year, the Kansas Legislature recognized it as the official state theater of Kansas.


Monkeypox Emergency Ends but Concerns Remain in the Midwest

UNDATED (KCUR) — The World Health Organization has ended the global health emergency for monkeypox, now known as mpox. But doctors say the disease is still a threat to the Midwest. Since January 2020, the CDC has reported 219 mpox cases in Missouri and 50 cases in Kansas. A vaccine has been available since last August, but health agencies are starting to see breakthrough cases. Greg Poland is the director of vaccine research at Mayo Clinic. He said new cases are a regional concern, especially on the heels of COVID-19. “In some ways, we may be less well-prepared just out of fatigue and denialism than than ever before," he said. The CDC is warning of an uptick in mpox cases in the Chicago area. Some of those infected were already vaccinated against the virus.


Kansas Residents Hope Recent Rains Can Help Alleviate Drought

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE/KPR) — People in Wichita spent Sunday afternoon casting their fishing lines into the Arkansas River and other local rivers which have increased in volume after recent rains. Some residents have even been getting out on their kayaks for use along the Arkansas River. Recent rains across the state have eased the dry conditions, but most of central and western Kansas remain mired in a severe to extreme drought.

KAKE TV reports that one area of Kansas that's seen the worst of the drought is the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in central Kansas, which at times, has completely dried up. The Bottoms is one of the most critical resting spots for migratory birds in North America.


Pilot Injured in Small Plane Crash in Gardner

GARDNER, Kan. (KCTV/KPR) — A Kansas City pilot was injured Saturday when his plane crashed at the Gardner Municipal Airport. The Kansas Highway Patrol reports that the plane crashed shortly after take-off . KCTV reports that the pilot, 61-year-old Jackson Letts, was hospitalized after the crash with suspected serious injuries; another occupant in the plane suffered minor injuries. The Highway Patrol continues to investigate the cause of the crash.


TC Energy: Finished Recovering Oil from Kansas Creek After Keystone Pipeline Spill

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (Reuters) — TC Energy officials say the company is finished recovering oil from a rural Kansas creek where its Keystone Pipeline spilled 14,000 barrels of oil in December. Reuters reports that crews will remain onsite until the third quarter of this year to finish restoring the Mill Creek shoreline. In a statement, TC Energy said restoration activities and environmental monitoring are continuing.

Keystone's spill into a Kansas creek was the biggest U.S. oil spill in nine years and prompted a 21-day shutdown of a portion of the pipeline, which ships crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries. In April, the Calgary-based company released the findings that showed the oil spill was caused by a progressive fatigue crack, which originated during the construction of the pipeline.


Company Announces Plans for Former Schlitterbahn Waterpark Site

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KC Star/KPR) — The company that’s redeveloping the defunct Schlitterbahn waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas, has announced ambitious plans for renovating the attraction including the addition of a new art museum, a sports arena, a Hilton hotel and the area’s first Margaritaville resort and hotel. TheKansas City Star reports that the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, has given preliminary approval to revised plans for the $880 million dollar project. The full commission is expected to vote on the plan next week. The Schlitterbahn water park closed in 2016 after a 10-year-old boy died on a 17-story water slide.


Program Gives Kids Free Access to Kansas Attractions

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - The state of Kansas is again giving students free admission to more than 100 museums, zoos and other attractions through the Sunflower Summer program. The program, now in its third year, runs through a smart-phone app and is funded with federal COVID-relief money. Kids from preschool through 12th grade can get free tickets, along with any two adults who go with them. Sunflower Summer starts May 26th and runs through August 13th or whenever funding runs out. More information is available at SunflowerSummer.org.


Kansas State Employee Virtual Job Fair Set for May 17

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The state of Kansas is hiring. Job-seekers are invited to attend the State of Kansas Agencies Virtual Job Fair Wednesday, May 17 (8:00 am to 5:00 pm). This virtual fair, which is hosted by KANSASWORKS, will focus on highlighting employment opportunities within many of the state’s 98 government agencies.

Registration is required to participate in the event, regardless of previous participation.

The Virtual Job Fair portal features a job-seeker training video, a list of participating employers, and channels for attendees to register and log in. Job-seekers are encouraged to dress professionally, as
employers might request to engage in a video interview. Candidates can participate via any digital device. Any individual with a disability may request accommodations by contacting their nearest workforce center at (877) 509-6757 prior to the event.

Click here to register for the May 17 State of Kansas Agencies Virtual Job Fair.

KANSASWORKS links businesses, job candidates and educational institutions to ensure that employers can find skilled workers. Services are provided to employers and job candidates through the state’s 27 workforce centers. KANSASWORKS is free for all Kansans to use. State employment opportunities can be found at jobs.ks.gov.


Kansas City Police Officer Saves Child’s Life at Royals Home Game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — A Kansas City police officer helped save a child's life at a recent Royals game. Officer Matt Deloux took his son to Kauffman Stadium last Thursday. WDAF TV reports that the officer was standing in the parking lot when he found himself in the middle of an emergency. A nearby child was choking. The officer immediately stepped in to help. He put his arms across the boy’s diaphragm, bent him over and hit his back several times. Finally, some chocolate stuck in the child's throat was dislodged. The Kansas City Police Department says officer Deloux saved his own son’s life several years ago when he was also choking on food.


K-State Signs Football Coach Chris Klieman to 8-Year, $44 Million Contract

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas State signed football coach Chris Klieman to a new eight-year contract Monday that will pay an average of $5.5 million annually and could keep him tied to the defending Big 12 champion Wildcats through the 2030 season.

The $44 million deal replaces a contract due to end after the 2026 season that paid Klieman an average of $4 million annually.

“What we have been able to accomplish in our first four years here is due to the culture that our players and staff have been able to create,” Klieman said in a statement. “I am excited to continue to lead this football program and put a product on the field each year that can compete at the highest level.”

Klieman added that Kansas State, which is situated about 2 hours from Kansas City and must overcome some geographic disadvantages when it comes to recruiting, has everything it needs to consistently contend for championships.

That includes a new indoor training facility that just opened next to Bill Snyder Family Stadium, which itself has undergone millions in renovations over the years, putting it in the upper echelon of major college football stadiums.

“Chris has done an unbelievable job building a program in four years that not only has won a Big 12 championship but even more importantly, one that players have taken great pride in and helped sustain a championship culture,” said Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor, who hired Klieman away from North Dakota State to replace the retired Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder.

“We want to continue the momentum that he and his staff have fostered,” Taylor said. “We are excited that Chris will be the leader of out football program for many years to come.”

The 55-year-old Klieman won four national titles in five years at North Dakota State, which plays a step down in the Football Championship Subdivision, but many still wondered whether that success would translate to college football's highest level.

Turns out it does.

Klieman went 8-5 and reached the Liberty Bowl in his first season, slipped to 4-6 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and went 8-5 again the following year with a win in the Texas Bowl that provided momentum into last season.

Led by All-American running back Deuce Vaughn and defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah, a first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Wildcats beat TCU in the Big 12 title game — before the Horned Frogs went on to the College Football Playoffs. It was the first conference title for Kansas State since 2012, when Snyder was in his second tenure in Manhattan, Kansas.

Klieman is 30-20 in four seasons with the Wildcats, while his overall college coaching record of 102-33 puts him among the best winning percentages in history. The 30 wins are the most by a Kansas State coach over their first four years.

Kansas State should contend for another Big 12 championship this season.

The Wildcats return quarterback Will Howard, all five starting offensive lineman and several playmakers on defense, including linebacker Daniel Green and safety Kobe Savage. They added Florida State transfer Treshaun Ward to replace Vaughn at running back, Iowa wide receiver Keegan Johnson and one of the best freshman classes in school history.

Kansas State opens the season September 2 against Southeast Missouri State.


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Tom Parkinson and Kaye McIntyre. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. These ad-free headlines are made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.