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Recent Kansas editorials

November 20, 2018

The Kansas City Star, Nov. 19

Emanuel Cleaver, Sharice Davids should support a new leader to replace Nancy Pelosi

Even before the next Congress convenes in January, area Reps. Emanuel Cleaver and Sharice Davids may have to cast a wrenching vote that could divide the Democratic caucus in Washington:

Should they support Nancy Pelosi to be the next speaker of the House?

Cleaver, the Kansas City Democrat, has struggled with the question of whether to support Pelosi in the past. But he’s not struggling now. On Thursday, he committed to Pelosi.

“You’ve got to have somebody to beat somebody,” he said about the anti-Pelosi faction in the House. “You guys don’t have anybody.”

Davids, the Democrat who beat incumbent Kevin Yoder in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District and won’t even be sworn in until January, is equivocating. But prior to the election she said, “I want new leadership across the board.”

“I ran for Congress in part because I think we need new leaders at the table,” she said in a statement to The Star on Friday. “I have not yet made a decision on who to support for speaker, but I do know I will only support someone who will address the needs of Kansans and who articulates a clear vision for how we can productively move forward in Washington.”

But Davids shouldn’t hesitate to oppose Pelosi and seek fresh leadership for a caucus in desperate need of it. In fact, if she winds up backing Pelosi, she could pay a price when she seeks another term in 2020, given her pre-election statements.

A key secret-ballot vote will come on Nov. 28. Already 17 Democrats have signed a letter opposing Pelosi, which suggests she may lack the 218 votes needed to become speaker.

Pelosi is 78. She’s already served as a party leader longer than any Republican or Democrat in the past 40 years. And she, of course, has served as a Republican target for what seems like forever.

No question she can be effective. One has to look no further than her work during the early years of President Barack Obama’s administration when, as the first woman speaker, she ushered through a series of monumental bills. They included the $787 billion economic stimulus package, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, a cap-and-trade climate change bill that died in the Senate and the Affordable Care Act.

The health care overhaul might never have become law without her. She also raises wheelbarrows of dollars for Democratic candidates in an era when money speaks all too loudly.

Put another way, Pelosi can back up her own self-assessment. “I am a master legislator,” she said. “I just love it. I consider myself a weaver, like I have a loom. And I bring all these different threads together.”

But as the years pass, Pelosi is also something else: an albatross around the neck of the Democratic Party. All parties need new leadership now and then, particularly in this era when ongoing frustration with Congress has voters placing an outsized premium on fresh faces. (Davids and Missouri’s U.S. Senator-elect Josh Hawley are proof of that).

Pelosi is convinced that she’s the exception to this rule, but the grim truth is she’s holding back her party. In the fall campaign, Republicans again featured her prominently in ads across the country as a way to motivate their base.

“The only individual who energizes Republican voters more than Nancy Pelosi is President Trump,” GOP strategist John Ashbrook told CNBC in October.

She has but a 28 percent favorable rating in the polls and a nearly 53 percent unfavorable score. “She’s our secret weapon,” Trump said of Pelosi during an Ohio speech this fall. “I just hope they don’t change her.”

She brands her party as California, big-government liberalism at a time when Democrats are more nuanced than that. Yes, some of the onslaught of criticism can be attributed to sexism. Still, Pelosi’s been around a long time, and Democrats and the country would be well-served by a new approach and fresh thinking.

We hope our Democratic representatives recognize as much.


The Topeka Capital-Journal, Nov. 18

We must help, listen to our children

Last week, Kevin Hines visited Topeka. Nearly 20 years ago, he tried to kill himself. He lived, surviving the fall from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and he has since traveled the country telling his story.

He spoke at the Topeka Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, making an appearance that one hopes not only saved lives but continued a conversation about the toll of suicide. Too many young people die this way. Suicide, far from being any sort of personal failing or romantic drawing of a curtain, is in fact an urgent mental health issue.

In speaking with The Topeka Capital-Journal, Hines noted a recent New York City requirement that third-graders be educated about mental health and suicide prevention. Similar programs could go far not just in New York, but in Topeka and across Kansas. Parents may not be ready to acknowledge the pain that their children experience, but their children deserve to live healthy, productive and long lives.

“We need to start teaching our kids ... how to defeat pain, how to cope with it, how to survive it, how to be resilient in the face of it,” Hines told The Capital-Journal.

Later last week, Topeka welcomed another nationally noted speaker. Nathan Harmon spoke at Hayden Catholic High School on Thursday. His friend died in a car he was driving while drunk. After being released early from prison, Harmon has worked to honor the memory of Priscilla Owens, while urging young people to consider the choices they make.

“There’s a lot of students, there’s a lot of people, that are screaming for help, but they’re silent,” Harmon told The Capital-Journal. “These talks, we’re trying to let people know that it’s OK to not be OK, and that they’re not alone, and that many of us are facing challenges, adversity. But giving up is not an option.”

Harmon and Hines have mutually reinforcing messages. We cannot grow healthier as a community, we cannot help young people in the way they need, unless we’re willing to communicate openly and freely.

And adults have a huge responsibility. Our current toxic political climate, our denial of such long-term threats as climate change and resource depletion, can make it seem as though the future will feature nothing but overwhelming challenges. We owe it to today’s teens and young children to repair these problems, to show them that adulthood and our country are worth waiting and working for.

But we most all work together. We must speak, and above all, we must listen.


The Iola Register, Nov. 15

Legislator’s allegiance will soon be known

Taking the high road is what got Laura Kelly elected our next governor of Kansas.

She didn’t accuse public schools of being mismanaged. She didn’t accuse undocumented immigrants of voter fraud. And she didn’t mock supporters of gun control.

Kelly’s calm resolve was in stark contrast to the bombastic style of her oppenent Kris Kobach and the balm Kansas voters needed. Simply put, voters showed they prefer common sense to theatrics and consensus-building to polarization.

So listen up, legislators.

Instead of casting aspersions on our governor-elect — there’ll be “very liberal” spending, predicts Susan Wagle, Senate president; she expects a “free lunch,” rejoined Ron Ryckman, House Speaker — we ask that you give progress a chance.

Kelly’s win is a message that we want you to raise our quality of life by expanding Medicaid so another 152,000 Kansans will have access to health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay and the longer we opt out of its benefits, the more we are hurting our least off. By broadening the umbrella of coverage, not only will more Kansans receive health care, but also rural hospitals and clinics will receive critical reimbursements for their care.

Kelly’s victory reflects our support of public education and the need to invest in our schools by providing programs that enable every child to reach their potential. And there’s no better recruitment tool than a decent salary for teachers.

Kelly’s success gives voice to low- and middle-income wage earners who are unfairly penalized by the sales tax on food. Everybody needs food, but not everybody has the same means to procure it. Kansas is but one of a few states that taxes food the same as other products. At 6.5 percent — not counting what local municipalities may tack on — the sales tax on our food exceeds that of most other states.

KELLY WON because her goals for a healthy and prosperous Kansas aligned with those of a majority of voters.

But she can’t do it alone.

And by their actions, we’ll soon know which legislators are there to serve the greatest number of Kansans and which are there to cater to a select few.

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