Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday March 11, 2011

Owens said to be blocking judicial selection reform. From National Review Online All Eyes on Kansas: “Unfortunately, I am reliably informed that the liberal Republican chair of the state senate Judiciary Committee, Tim Owens, is obstructing the reform legislation, refusing to even hold a hearing. I hadn’t heard of Owens until now, and I doubt very many people have, but apparently this is not the first time he has used his power to thwart the goals of his colleagues. … If Owens wants to make policy for the entire state of Kansas, he should run for statewide office. Until then, he should at least hold a hearing and allow a vote on this judicial-selection-reform bill that has the support of the state’s governor and house of representatives.” … It’s not surprising that Tim Owens, an attorney and Republican from Overland Park, would be obstructing reform measures that would take power away from the state’s bar in place it in the hands of the people. The characterization by NRO of Owens as liberal is accurate, as on last year’s Kansas Economic Freedom Index, Owens scored just 20 percent.

Cabela’s bank. Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star: “World’s Foremost Bank, the Lincoln-based credit card operation run by outdoors retailer Cabela’s, has settled allegations of unfair and deceptive practices for more than $10 million, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. announced Tuesday.” Cabela’s was recently awarded a large and generous hunk of corporate welfare from the City of Wichita, on the threat that the merchant would not open a store in Wichita unless such welfare was forthcoming. Cabela’s: an honorable company? You decide. Also you decide whether Wichita’s “due diligence” investigation of the backgrounds of its partners should have been aware of this.

Scott Walker. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker writing in the Wall Street Journal: “In 2010, Megan Sampson was named an Outstanding First Year Teacher in Wisconsin. A week later, she got a layoff notice from the Milwaukee Public Schools. Why would one of the best new teachers in the state be one of the first let go? Because her collective-bargaining contract requires staffing decisions to be made based on seniority.” Walker goes on to explain some of the fiscal aspects of his efforts, but there are other very important goals to achieve, he writes: “Beyond balancing budgets, our reforms give schools — as well as state and local governments — the tools to reward productive workers and improve their operations. Most crucially, our reforms confront the barriers of collective bargaining that currently block innovation and reform.” The situation where an outstanding teacher would be laid off instead of a less-effective teacher would happen in Wichita, too, as the Wichita teachers union contract requires the same policy as does Wisconsin’s. Situations like this, not to mention the financial factors, as why public worker unions are harming America.

Outsourcing opposed by Kansas state workers. Kansas Organization of State Workers opposes a bill creating the Kansas Advisory Council on Privatization and Public-Private
Partnerships Act. The purpose of the bill (HB 2194) is to seek ways to improve the operations of state agencies, as described in the supplemental note of the bill: “1) focus on the core mission and provide goods and services efficiently and effectively; 2) develop a process to analyze opportunities to improve efficiency, cost-effectiveness and provide quality services, operations, functions, and activities; and 3) evaluate for feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency opportunities that could be outsourced.” … This is the type of efficiency-seeking efforts that many private-sector firms undergo regularly. But not so much for government. In fact, state employees are actively opposing this bill. Here’s what the state worker advocacy group KOSE says: “Our services are under threat from a privatization proposal and it’s up to us to stop this devastating bill in Senate Committee. HB 2194, misleadingly called the council on efficient government act, establishes a partisan commission of big-business interests to privatize state services putting a wolf in charge of the hen house. To be clear, this bill allows for future privatization of nearly all services provided by state workers.” It’s not clear who KOSE means when writing “our services.” Not to mention the fact that right now the wolf (government worker unions) are in charge of the hen house (the politicians whose support they buy with union dues). … When the City of Wichita outsourced some maintenance of parks, they estimated it would save a certain amount. After starting the project, the city saved even more than first thought. … The state has a responsibility to its citizens to operate as efficiently as possible. If it is possible to have work done less expensively through outsourcing, the state should do so. The state’s first responsibility is to the taxpayers, not a state worker jobs program.

Tilting at wind turbines. “Switching from conventional sources of electricity like coal and natural gas to renewables like wind and solar, our elected leaders tell us, will reduce pollution, advance renewable technology and spark a green jobs revolution. Is renewable energy really a green pathway to a brighter economic future? Or is it nothing more than a heavily subsidized impossible dream?” Reason TV takes a look at wind energy in the video Tilting at Wind Turbines: Should the Government Subsidize Renewable Energy? Locally, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer promotes manufacturing of wind power machinery as good for Wichita’s economic development, and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback supports renewable energy standards for Kansas.


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