Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them.
Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday
On Monday, America celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. I recently visited the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C., and found myself inspired by its powerful message and beautiful setting overlooking the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial. Inspirational messages from Dr. King’s sermons and speeches are etched into the stone of the monument. One quote in particular stood out to me: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Click here to see some photos from my visit to the memorial.
Urging Boeing to Convey Wichita Facility to Speed Transition
Earlier this month, Boeing announced it would close its Wichita facility by 2013. Despite the loss of more than 2,000 Boeing jobs, I am confident that given Wichita’s skilled workforce, leading facilities, and dedicated leaders, the city will bounce back and maintain its reputation as the Air Capital of the World. To minimize the impact of Boeing’s departure on the Wichita economy, this week I asked Boeing CEO James McNerney to consider conveying the property to a local or state development authority. I also called on Mr. McNerney to meet with state and local officials to explore this option further.
The city of Wichita and the state of Kansas have been key partners in Boeing’s success over the years. According to news reports, since 1979 the city of Wichita has provided more than $3.5 billion in industrial revenue bonds to finance Boeing facilities and $650 million in property tax abatements. Boeing has also profited from lower taxes and worker training programs put into place by the state of Kansas. Additionally, Boeing has benefited from a supportive federal congressional delegation, which stood by Boeing throughout the last decade in the fierce competition for the Air Force tanker contract. Click here to read more about my request of Boeing. Such a contribution would enable the city of Wichita to attract new industries and get its economy back on track.
Irresponsible to Raise Debt Ceiling Without Plan to Reduce Our Debt
This week President Obama asked Congress for authorization to raise the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion. His request is yet another painful reminder of Washington’s out-of-control spending habits and failure to live by a budget. Our country’s debt now stands at more than $15 trillion and has grown by nearly $4.5 trillion in the past three years alone.
Last year, I informed President Obama that I would not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless I saw substantial reductions in spending and structural changes in the way business is conducted in Washington, D.C. Nearly one year later, here we are again with the same request – yet the President and Congress have failed to put forward a long-term plan to address our growing fiscal crisis.
The recommendations put forward by the Bowles-Simpson Commission represent a good starting point and should be seriously considered by Congress and the President. Given the bipartisan support for many of their proposals, I am disappointed their recommendations continue to be ignored. Simply raising the debt limit without a serious plan to reduce our debt will only continue this pattern of fiscal irresponsibility, so I will not support this request.
Good News: Southwest Airlines Coming to Wichita
Kansans received some good news this week when Southwest Airlines announced its plans to serve Kansans through Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. Last week I joined Governor Brownback, Mayor Brewer and Commissioner Unruh at a meeting with Southwest Airlines in Dallas to encourage this development. On Friday I was pleased to learn that Southwest chose to maintain air service at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport via Air Tran – but will eventually fully switch over to Southwest Airlines and then expand. Their presence in Wichita will be a big boost to our state’s economic future and enhance Kansans’ quality of life. I look forward to flying Southwest of out Wichita soon. Click here to learn more about this announcement.
Learjet Expanding in Wichita
Wichita also received some good news earlier in the week from Learjet. On Tuesday morning I joined Governor Sam Brownback and Steven Ridolfi, President of Bombardier Business Aircraft, as they announced details to further expand Bombardier’s Learjet site in Wichita. This announcement is good news for Kansas and provides a brighter future for Kansas workers and their families.
The growth of the site includes the expansion of the Bombardier Flight Test Center, the establishment of a Bombardier Center of Excellence of Engineering and Information Technology, new facilities for paint and production flight test, and a new delivery center. This expansion will help create 450 new jobs over the next decade.
I am grateful for the loyalty Bombardier-Learjet has shown to Kansas and the Wichita community. Bombardier-Learjet will be served well from the hard work and excellence given daily by dedicated Kansans. I want to especially thank Bombardier Business Aircraft President Steven Ridolfi and his colleagues for inviting me to take part in this important event. Our state’s congressional delegation is committed to doing everything we can to create an environment where businesses like Bombardier-Learjet can succeed and, in the process, create good paying jobs for Kansas citizens. Click here to see a photo from the Learjet announcement.
Touring Aeroflex in Wichita
On Tuesday afternoon I had the opportunity to tour Aeroflex in Wichita. Aeroflex develops and manufactures complex and highly technical products used in the aerospace, communications and defense industries including semiconductors and test and measurement systems. Simply put, Aeroflex produces cutting-edge technology that saves lives and is of great importance to our nation’s vital industries. Thanks to General Manager Jeff Gillum, Director of Operations Charlie Bickford, Marketing Communications Manager Jim De Broeck, and Manager of Legislative Affairs Government Relations and Trade Jill Wyman for the informative briefing. Thanks also to all the Aeroflex employees who joined us and shared their thoughts. Aeroflex is a great example of the highly skilled and experienced workforce Kansas has to offer. Click here to see a photo from the visit.
Cheering on the Wichita State Shockers
On Tuesday night, I cheered on the Wichita State Shockers in Charles Koch Arena as the Men’s basketball team defeated the Illinois State Red Birds by a score of 65-62. It was an exciting, down to the wire contest. Congratulations to Coach Greg Marshall and his players who are off to a 4-1 start in the Missouri Valley Conference Season. Thanks to Wichita State University President Don Beggs for hosting me at the game. I enjoyed visiting with so many Shocker faithful, who are rightfully proud of their school and its success – both on the court and in the classroom.
Visiting Kansas Schools to Discuss No Child Left Behind
Throughout the week, I traveled to several Kansas schools to visit with students and educators and to get their thoughts on federal education policies. Ten years ago this week, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education – was signed into law. The House and Senate are currently both working on legislation to overhaul this law. I voted against NCLB because I believe the law’s “one-size-fits-all” federally-mandated approach to education is the wrong policy for Kansas students, teachers and administrators. Our schools have no problem being held accountable; they simply ask that the federal government afford them sufficient flexibility to tailor education plans to the unique needs of their students. Since NCLB’s passage, I have committed myself to making sure Kansas students and schools have every opportunity to succeed by supporting policies that would return control to local schools and ease excessive federal burdens.
Goddard’s New Eisenhower High School
On Tuesday, I had a great visit at Eisenhower High School in Goddard. This beautiful new facility, which will graduate its first class in May, is the only high school in Kansas named in honor of our nation’s 34th President. This new campus opened its doors in August for the 2011-2012 school year with an enrollment of about 750 students in its inaugural year, including 90 seniors who chose to transfer from Goddard High School to be part of Eisenhower’s first graduating class. Thanks to Superintendent Justin Henry, Principal Bill Kelley and the students and faculty at Eisenhower for making me feel so welcome. I was pleased to see students excited about learning and teachers excited about teaching. Click here to see a photo.
Wichita Northwest High School
On Wednesday morning, I had a great time visiting with students at Wichita Northwest High School and speaking to members of the U.S. Government classes. I am a believer that what happens in classrooms is critical to the future of our state and country. My time at Northwest High School was a great opportunity to learn about what matters to 17 and 18 year olds and visit with faculty members who work hard to create a bright future for their students. Thank you to faculty members Tom O’Connor, Jim Woody, Michael Alldaffer and Trasa Castillo for allowing me to spend time with their students. I enjoyed our conversations and wish the students continued success during their high school careers and beyond. Click here to see a photo.
Hiawatha and Atchison Schools
On Friday, I had the opportunity to visit several schools in Northeast Kansas to talk with students and faculty members. I started the morning at Hiawatha High School (HHS), where I had the opportunity to visit Mr. Krauter’s geography class and get a glimpse of what students are learning. I also stopped by Mrs. Lindstrom’s Red Hawk Bank, which is a functioning bank branch in the school open to students and faculty during lunch, and operated by the students in the accounting classes at HHS. What a great way to give students real world experience in banking and the chance to manage their own finances before they live on their own. Thanks to Superintendent John Severin, Principal Allen Jeffery, Vice Principal Andrew Gaddis and Mayor Crosby Gernon for a great visit and welcoming me to the school. Click here to view photos from the visit.
My next stop was in Effingham to visit with students at Atchison County High School, which has achieved the Kansas Standard of Excellence in reading and math. I enjoyed visiting with students in Mr. English’s government class – who asked great questions. I also enjoyed quizzing students in Mr. Lucas’ class who were getting ready for a “We the People” competition – a great way to promote civic awareness and responsibility. Click here to view photos.
Thanking Kansas Lions for Their Service in Kingman and Salina
Lions Clubs work to make Kansas communities strong and I have been a member of the Hays club for many years. This week I had the opportunity to visit with Lions and thank them for their commitment to service at both the Kingman Lions Club meeting and the Kansas Lions Club Mid-Winter Rally in Salina. Before heading home to Hays on Wednesday, I stopped in Kingman to speak to the Lions. I enjoyed visiting with more than 40 Kingman members and learning about the many important projects in which the club is involved, including a community pancake feed on January 28th. Thanks to Corey Minor, Kingman Lions Club President, and to my friend Bob Wunsch for arranging my visit.
On Friday I spoke to fellow Lions Club members at the Kansas Lions Club Mid-Winter Rally in Salina. Last year, the more than 6,300 Kansas Lions provided leadership and service opportunities for hundreds of youth; gave deaf and hard of hearing children the chance to attend Rock Springs Camp near Junction City; conducted sight screenings across the state; and responded to the tornado in Reading by sending food, clothes, and household items. In addition, Kansas Lions obtained a $10,000 grant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation to help with tornado recovery. Thanks to Sylvia Reinhardt and Linda McCormick for welcoming me at the Mid-Winter Rally.
Lions make a positive and noticeable contribution to the special quality of life we enjoy in our Kansas communities. In the Senate I have introduced legislation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first Lions Club in 1917 through the creation of a Lions Commemorative Coin. This coin is not only a great way for Congress to recognize and honor Lions’ service – it would provide about $8 million to support the efforts of Lions, with no cost to taxpayers, and help countless people in need in our communities. I am working hard with Lions Club members and Lions Clubs International to build support for the legislation.
Speaking at Rotary Clubs Around Kansas
Communities across our state are strengthened by Kansans who participate in civic clubs. This week I had the opportunity to speak at several Rotary Clubs throughout Kansas as I traveled the state. My first stop was at the Wichita West Rotary on Tuesday. We had a good conversation about several topics including government spending, the need for jobs, and my request that Boeing convey its Wichita facility to a local or state development authority upon its closure in Wichita. Click here to view a photo.
On Wednesday night I was the keynote speaker at a meeting of the Valley Falls Rotary Club and enjoyed visiting with local Rotarians and their spouses. Members of the Valley Falls Rotary were interested in having a conversation about what Congress plans to do to get our economy growing. Special thanks to Gary and Jayne Coleman for the invitation. Thanks to Assistant District Governor of Rotary John Donovan for joining us, as well as Mayor Charles Stutesman. Click here to view a photo.
Finally, on Friday I visited the Holton Rotary Club comprised of local business and professional leaders where we discussed job creation and the reauthorization process for No Child Left Behind. Thanks to former State Representative Becky Hutchins and current State Rep. Trent LeDoux for joining us. Special thanks to Mayor Rich Mulroy for joining us and to Club President Grace Haverkamp for hosting me. Click here to view a photo.
Remembering Gloria Doreen (Dole) Nelson
On Wednesday, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Gloria Doreen (Dole) Nelson, of Russell – one of Sen. Bob Dole’s sisters. Gloria was a wonderful person and I know that she will be greatly missed. As a devoted wife and mother of six children, Gloria was deeply committed to her family and community. Her involvement with Elks Lodge and the Ladies Auxiliary of Russell’s VFW and American Legion Post 99, were a testament to her love of country and support for those who have served and who continue to serve our nation. In this time of hardship, Robba and I extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to Gloria’s family and friends.
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
Newsletter Sign-up Form
Note: Fields marked with an * are required.