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Headlines for Wednesday, November 8, 2023

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Emily Fisher

KCK Mayor Wants Independent Investigation into Police Department, Unified Government

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KMBC) — The mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, Tyrone Garner, is calling for an independent investigation, preferably a federal one, of that community's police department and the Unified Government. It comes after a federal lawsuit was filed claiming the KCK police department ran a criminal enterprise involving drugs, sex, and murder for decades while terrorizing the black community in the process. According to KMBC TV, before being elected mayor, Garner served at the KCK police department for 32 years. Civil rights groups have called for a federal civil rights investigation for more than two years.


City of Wichita Elects New Mayor

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Former television reporter Lily Wu has been elected Wichita’s next mayor, unseating incumbent Brandon Whipple. The Kansas News Service reports that unofficial results show Lily Wu got 58% of the vote, handily defeating incumbent Brandon Whipple, a former Democratic legislator. Wu, a registered Libertarian, is a political newcomer who campaigned on a pro-business, pro-police platform. She’s backed by the Koch-affiliated conservative group Americans for Prosperity. She says she’ll focus on on public safety, economic development and reducing inflation. Wu is the first Asian American to be elected mayor of Wichita.


Kansas Families Face Financial Hardships

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — One in four Kansas households live above the poverty line but still struggle to afford basic necessities, according to a new report by United Ways of Kansas. The report is based on 2021 data. It found that while 12% of Kansans live in poverty, an additional 27% work low-paying jobs and have little savings. Lisa Gleason, with the United Ways of Kansas, says the report offers a picture of financial hardship that the state's official poverty rate misses. "Grocery store cashiers, our CNAs, our childcare workers - these individuals are working hard, but gosh... they are not able to keep up with the rising costs of housing and food and health care," she said. Certain groups are more likely to struggle, including 60% of Black households and 73% of single moms.


KU Chancellor Responds to Vandalism Incident at Jewish Fraternity

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KAKE) — The University of Kansas is responding to a report of vandalism that happened at a Jewish fraternity in Lawrence. An Israeli flag was cut from the flagpole at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity this week. The damaged flag was later found blocks away. On Tuesday, KU chancellor Douglas Girod released a statement acknowleging the event was likely an act intended to intimidate members of the KU Jewish community. KAKE TV reports that the chancellor encourgaged students and staff to report to police any acts of intimidation, vandalism or threatening behavior.


Hunting Incident Injures Man in Ellis County, Another Man Arrested

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) — A 70-year-old man was injured while hunting in Ellis County. Officials have not released when the incident happened or any additional information about the victim. The incident happened in rural Ellis County. KWCH TV reports that a witness at the scene told deputies that he and the victim were hunting when someone shot a rifle multiple times at a deer decoy. The victim was shot in the face and taken to the hospital with a non-life-threatening injury. Deputies arrested an Ellis County man for aggravated battery with a weapon and numerous hunting-related violations.


Killing a Whooping Crane in Kansas Can Trigger a $100,000 Fine

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) is asking waterfowl hunters to use extra caution when in the field due to the presence of an endangered species. Officials are warning waterfowl and sandhill crane hunters in Kansas to be mindful of whooping cranes. Killing one is a federal crime and can result in a $100,000 fine and up to a year in jail. In August, the Department of Justice said three Oklahoma men were ordered to pay $68,000 in fines for killing four endangered whooping cranes.

KSNT reports that whooping cranes have already been observed recently at several reservoirs and wetlands in Kansas. They are most commonly seen in Rice, Reno, Barton and Stafford Counties. The cranes, which travel over Kansas regularly in the spring and fall, are the tallest of North America’s birds and can have up to an eight-foot wingspan. Critical habitats for the birds in Kansas include the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and all lands and waters in the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.


Kansas Officials Begin Process of Restoring Court Information Access After 'Security Incident'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly a month after a “security incident” with all the hallmarks of a ransomware attack, Kansas judicial officials are slowly renewing public access to court information. But for now, that access requires a trip to the state's capital city.

The state's judicial branch on Tuesday announced it has opened a public access service center at the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka. The center is staffed by judicial workers and includes 10 computer terminals. Appointments are required and the center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Appointment requests may be made online. The center is for searching case information only, and electronic payments cannot be made there, according to a news release from the state.

The release said efforts to bring the judicial branch systems back online will occur in phases and that no firm timeline has been established on when all functions will be fully restored.

The massive outage on Oct. 12 left attorneys unable to search online records and forced them to file motions the old fashioned way — on paper. The disruption has caused a huge slowdown of court operations across the state.

Since 2019, ransomware groups have targeted 18 state, city or municipal court systems, said analyst Allan Liska of the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. That includes one in Dallas, where some jury trials had to be canceled this year.

But state-focused attacks have been much less frequent, and have not rivaled what happened in Kansas.

State officials have released few details about the investigation. They have not said if the incident was determined to be malicious, or if there was a demand for ransom. A message left Wednesday with Judicial Branch spokeswoman Lisa Taylor was not immediately returned.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and federal authorities are looking into the incident, KBI spokesperson Melissa Underwood has said.

(–Additional reporting–)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) — The Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka has opened a public access service center to give the public their first access to district court case information since court information systems were taken offline following a security incident last month. According to WIBW TV, the public access service center has 10 computer terminals that visitors can use to search district court case information. The service center is part of the early recovery phase to bring back the Kansas Judicial Branch information systems. The judicial branch is still developing a firm timeline when all information systems will be fully restored. Kansas court information systems have been offline since October 12.


Officials: Three Honduran Nationals Found Dead Inside KC Home from CO Poisoning

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) — Authorities in Kansas City say three people died inside a home from carbon monoxide poisoning. Emergency crews responded to a residence Monday morning (in the 6800 block of East 12th Terrace Avenue), where they located three male bodies, two adults and one teenager. According to KCTV, a power generator had been running inside the home overnight. The three males were later identified as Honduran Nationals (42-year-old Alex Solsa Silvia, 34-year-old Santos Ortiz-Acosta and 14-year-old Elvin Romero). Officials say power generators should only be operated outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.


Kansas Game Wardens Investigate 4 Illegal Deer Killings

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is investigating the illegal killing of four deer that were left to rot in farm fields over the weekend. Game wardens are now trying to find those responsible. Three of the deer were killed south of Waldo in Russell County. KSNW TV reports that those responsible could face several hunting violations.


Biologists Fight Invasive Honeysuckle Plants Taking over Kansas Green Spaces

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — An invasive plant is slowly taking over outdoor areas across the Sunflower State. KSNT reports that officials are trying to contain the spread of invasive honeysuckle plants. The plants can be found in bush and vine varieties. The bushes are more aggressive and are creating problems for the Kansas Forest Service (KFS). Bush honeysuckle plants bear white flowers and have a sweet smell in the spring and produce red berries in the fall. Forest Service officials say the plants are a threat to the state's native ecosystem, especially in the eastern third of the state. The plants compete with native vegetation and crowd out other plants. Officials say established honeysuckle is also difficult to remove.


Overland Park Drops Ban on Milkweed, Other Native Plants

UNDATED (KNS) – The second-largest city in Kansas has dropped its ban on certain native plants including milkweed. The Kansas News Service reports that Overland Park’s old rules banned a number of native wildflowers that Midwest cities have traditionally seen as weedy. These banned plants include common milkweed – which feeds monarch butterfly caterpillars. The city council voted unanimously to change that. The new rules promote native plants – and discourage non-native invasive ones. A Johnson County cost-share program also encourages homeowners to use wildflowers and trees that evolved in this region. These feed pollinators and alleviate storm-water problems like erosion.


KU Men's Basketball Coach Gets New Lucrative Contract

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — With an NCAA investigation in the rear view mirror and a new season underway, the University of Kansas has amended the lifetime contract of Bill Self, making him the highest-paid coach in college basketball. According to multiple media reports, the amended deal is worth $53 million for five years. Self's new contract tops coach John Calipari's $44 million deal with Kentucky. Self's deal pays him an average of more than $10 million a year. Self has a rollover contract, which means it's extended a year after the conclusion of each season. The Jayhawks are currently ranked No. 1 and opened their regular season this week with a one-sided win over North Carolina Central. KU escaped serious penalties after a lengthy NCAA investigation into its program.

(AP version)

KU Coach Bill Self Signs Richest College Basketball Contract Ever Given by a Public University

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self signed a lifetime contract Tuesday that will pay him $53 million over the first five years, easily surpassing Kentucky coach John Calipari for the richest deal ever given to a college basketball coach at a public university.

Self will make more than $13 million this season in base pay, professional services and royalties along with a one-time signing bonus and retention payments, including some that were deferred during the pandemic. At the conclusion of each year, another is added to the deal, and Self will earn a one-time, $5 million retention bonus if he serves out the first five.

The deal includes a provision that allows the renegotiation of terms, including Self's pay package, after the 2025-26 season. It already surpasses the deal signed by Calipari that will pay him $8.5 million to lead the Wildcats this season.

“Bill Self is undoubtedly the most consistent coach in college basketball, and a restructuring of his contract terms were long overdue,” Kansas athletic director Travis Goff said. “In an ever-changing collegiate athletics environment, our strong commitment to Coach Self positions KU basketball to maintain and enhance its status as the most storied program in the country."

The top-ranked Jayhawks opened this season by routing North Carolina Central on Monday night.


Kansas Colleges and Universities Waive Application Fees Through Thursday

TOPEKA, Kan. (KAKE) — More than 50 colleges and universities in Kansas have dropped application fees through Thursday for residents of the state - regardless of age or income. The six state universities supervised by the Kansas Board of Regents, Washburn University in Topeka, 19 community colleges, six technical colleges and 21 private independent colleges are participating in the program to waive applications fees. Officials say the objective is to temporarily remove an impediment to higher education and increase the state's rate of college attendance. KAKE TV reports that in the past decade, the rate of Kansas students attending college has declined. In 2021, only 60% of Kansas high school graduates enrolled in a college, university or certificate program.


Kansas Football Team Moves Up in College Football Playoff Rankings

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KWCH) — The Kansas football team has moved up five spots to No. 16 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. The 7-2 Jayhawks are off to their best start in the first nine games of its season since 2007. Last weekend, KU defeated Iowa State 28-21. KWCH TV reports that KU also climbed higher in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Polls. Kansas will put its new ranking to the test as the Jayhawks are at home for two straight home games against Texas Tech followed by the Sunflower Showdown against Kansas State.


Bill Self on His Lifetime Contract with KU: 'I'm Excited That I Will Finish My Career Here'

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Bill Self intends to finish his coaching career at Kansas, making his clearest statement yet one day after the announcement of a lifetime contract that will pay the Hall of Famer $53 million over the first five years and make him the most highly compensated men's basketball coach at a public university.

Self has said repeatedly over the years that he is content with the Jayhawks. But there has always been the suspicion that an NBA team could come calling — perhaps Oklahoma City, near where he grew up, or San Antonio, where he has long been rumored to be in line to succeed close friend Gregg Popovich with the Spurs.

Yet the 60-year-old Self was as definitive as ever about his future while speaking Wednesday with a small group of reporters.

“Make no mistake, they can still get rid of me. That's why contracts are written where there is, ‘If this happens or that happens, this happens and these are the consequences,” said Self, whose amended contract amounts to a five-year deal that extends each year. “But that's the way it should be, you know, in every walk of life. But I'm excited that I will finish my career here.”

Kansas athletic director Travis Goff said he approached Self early this year about amending his contract. The reason it took so long to announce was because of the back-and-forth with lawyers, not because the university was awaiting a decision from an independent panel on an investigation into NCAA rule violations.

The panel last month lowered what had been five Level I violations and gave the Jayhawks relatively minor penalties.

Self's amended deal will pay more than $11 million this season, including a one-time signing bonus and retention payments that include money deferred during the pandemic, and far outstrips the contract signed by Kentucky coach John Calipari, who had been the most highly-compensated coach at a public university. (It is unclear what private schools, such as Duke, have paid their coaches because they are not required to make those contracts public.)

“I mean, literally, we're talking about the most consistent, most successful coach in modern basketball,” Goff said Wednesday, “and for a number of reasons, I didn't feel like his contract was reflective of that. And so, to me that's what this contract reflects. It reflects having the best coach in college basketball at the helm and not necessarily ensuring, but maybe it's viewed as cementing, him to finish his career right here at Kansas.”

Self did not say how long he would continue coaching the Jayhawks, who are ranked No. 1 and coming off a season-opening rout of North Carolina Central on Monday night. But he did acknowledge that after more than three decades at a head coach, he has made the turn — in golf parlance — to the back nine of his career.

“Not only the back nine, but I'm on the back, you know, three or four,” Self said. "But that's OK. You know, I've been a head coach now for 31 years. And 23 of them have been in the fastlane, OK? I don't even count Tulsa as the fastline, or Oral Roberts, but Illinois and Kansas? That's the fastlane. I mean, you're competing against the big boys daily.

“So you know, could I do it for another 23 years now, or would I want to? No,” he continued. “But I could do it for several more, absolutely. I don't have a timeframe on when the end is, but I say closer to two thirds of the way (through his career).”

One potential determining factor is Self's health.

He was taken to the hospital on the eve of the Big 12 Tournament in March with heart trouble, and wound up having an aortic valve replaced. Self missed the entire conference tournament, where the Jayhawks lost to Texas in the title game, and the NCAA Tournament, where the No. 1 seed and defending champions lost to Arkansas in the second round.

“I don't think I'm doing much different. I don't think I would in games anyway,” said Self, who is quickly approaching the top 10 in career Division I wins. “I think I would more in practice, but I don't. I don't. I don't sense a big change.”

One thing Self probably doesn't have stressing him out anymore is money. Then again, it doesn't seem like that has ever been a factor, even when he was making $4,400 a year just starting out as an assistant to Larry Brown in the mid-1980s.

“You know, the thing about it is, I'm happy for anybody when they do well. I'm not jealous about that at all,” Self said. “But I will tell you, me or whoever it is, when you have your team play close to their ceiling, that is far more important toward happiness in our world than what other people may think it is.”


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.