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Recent Kansas Editorials

January 8, 2019

The Lawrence Journal-World, Jan. 7

Editorial: The president’s wall nonsense

With illegal immigration at its lowest level in a decade, it’s nothing short of stunning that the federal government is shut down over funding for a border wall.

Yet here we are, entering a third week of the shutdown because President Donald Trump has inexplicably chosen to dig his heels in on getting $5 billion to build a wall along stretches of the U.S. border with Mexico that do not already have such a barrier in place.

“As long as it takes,” Trump said last week when asked how long he was willing to let the shutdown last. “I mean, look, I’m prepared. I think the people of the country think I’m right. I think the people of this country think I’m right.”

Except, polling shows the opposite. Major polls conducted last month by Quinnipiac, Harvard, NPR and others all showed that a majority of Americans do not support the wall. And the number of wall supporters shrinks even more when asked if it is worth shutting down the government over.

The reality is that immigration from Mexico has been decreasing since 2007, and the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. is at its lowest level since 2004, according to the Pew Research Center.

Further, the majority of illegal immigration to the United States from Mexico occurs in and around heavily secured ports of entry like San Diego, El Paso and Brownsville, Texas, where 654 miles of wall, fencing and other barriers already exist. Spending billions to build a structure along vast, rural stretches of the border doesn’t help with security at the sections of the border that most need help.

No one is arguing for unsecure borders. The newly installed Democratic Congress voted Thursday to approve a stopgap funding bill that would reopen the federal government and provide $1.3 billion for border security in the form of manpower and equipment but not a wall. Trump has said he won’t sign it, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to let a bill come to the Senate floor that the president won’t sign.

It’s hard to know what the president’s end game is. He couldn’t get the border wall approved when Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate, so it seems odd to take this stance on the heels of a midterm election in which Democrats made their biggest gains in 40 years and took control of the House.

Trump may feel he is being true to his base of ardent supporters, among whom the border wall ranked high on their list of priorities. But his focus is sorely misplaced. Rather, his attention should be focused on the independent voters who took a chance on him in 2016 believing his style could prove effective at getting things done in Washington. Shutting down the federal government in an effort to get $5 billion for a wall that most Americans don’t feel the country needs is the opposite of getting things done.

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The Kansas City Star, Jan. 3

Laura Kelly is already on the case for Kansas kids with decision to name new DCF leader ′ The Kansas City Star

This is why voters elected incoming Gov. Laura Kelly: Because we need to do so much better for Kansas children, because we badly need transparency in state government and because there is zero time to waste in recovering all that was lost under Governors Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.

So good for her for marching so briskly into 2019. On Thursday, Kelly announced that she will replace Gina Meier-Hummel as head of the state’s child welfare system. The Kansas Department for Children and Families was on what seemed like permanent crisis footing long before Meier-Hummel got there in fall of 2017. But it has remained troubled under her sometimes questionable leadership, and a change was in order.

Meier-Hummel had a difficult job and did make some improvements, which began with a top-to-bottom audit.

But she talked about transparency and didn’t show enough of it. She decided to hire inexperienced and unlicensed social workers to fill jobs investigating reports of abuse and neglect. And she replaced contracts for foster care, family preservation and other services with grants that got around rules on no-bid arrangements.

Kelly asked the Colyer administration that she’ll soon supplant — in 11 days, her announcement noted, and we’re glad she’s counting — not to implement those grants at this point. Meier-Hummel immediately said she’d honor that request.

The governor-elect also said outright that the state’s procurement process wasn’t followed and that agency officials had tried to keep her from learning more about how the grantees were chosen.

We wanted Kelly to clean house and name names, for the sake of the state’s struggling families, and she’s already doing that.

As The Star has reported, the agency gave a major grant to a Florida nonprofit already facing heavy criticism for its foster care. An agency spokeswoman argued that they’d been hired to provide family preservation services, not foster care, but it’s still the same nonprofit group.

Meier-Hummel will be succeeded on an interim basis by Laura Howard, who for now will head both the DCF and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. A former regional administrator in a federal agency overseeing substance abuse and mental health services, Howard is currently director of the Public Management Center in the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas.

Meier-Hummel responded to Kelly’s no-nonsense announcement with a news release of her own. It listed her achievements, including starting a new Wichita abuse and neglect reporting line, “changing key policies and procedures and implementing further mandated training” and reducing the number of missing and runaway kids by just over a quarter. The suspended grants are in the “absolute best interest” of Kansas children and families, the DCF’s announcement said.

That’s a matter of opinion, but ours is that Kelly has done the right thing and is off to a promising start even before being sworn in as governor.

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