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.
Touring Reading, Kansas to View Tornado Damage
On Saturday evening, an EF3 tornado severely damaged the town of Reading, Kansas and strong storms swept through 16 counties. I traveled to Reading early Monday morning to tour the damage, and see how I can be of help. I walked through the community with Lyon County Commissioner Scott Briggs to see the damage and to get an update on relief efforts. Mayor Lonnie Atchison explained that Reading has spent recent years focusing on community improvements, including refurbishing the community center, which was completely destroyed by the tornado. None-the-less, there is a can-do spirit evident in the clean-up efforts already underway by local officials and residents alike.
I spoke with Lyon County Emergency Management Coordinator Rick Frevert and Sherriff Jeff Cope about the work ahead. Many people are rallying to the cause like you so often see in Kansas – neighbors are coming to the rescue of their neighbors, and folks who don’t even know anyone in Reading are helping out. I’d like to thank the many volunteers and emergency workers from across our state who are helping their fellow Kansans during this trying time. I will continue to work closely with Governor Brownback to make certain local residents get the help they need as they recover. Click here to view photos from my visit.
Congratulating Class of 2011 at Johnson County Community College
On Friday evening, I had the privilege of addressing the graduating class of 2011 at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. For more than four decades, JCCC has given thousands of Kansans access to an affordable, high-quality education and the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
During my remarks, I challenged the graduates to not define success by their resume, job title or salary, but instead by the kind of person they become. In life, each of us has a higher calling. Not just to make a dollar, but to make a difference. Not just to find happiness, but to fulfill a purpose.
Our country faces many challenges, but we have a reason to be hopeful for our lives and for our futures. President Eisenhower once said this many years ago to a class of graduates: “The nation’s future is what you make it. … I have faith in America’s young men and women, and in the future they will build.” I also share that optimism for the class of 2011 at JCCC and across Kansas. Thanks to President Terry Calaway and members of the board of trustees for the kind invitation to participate in the special evening. Click here to view photos from the event.
The United States Has Hit the Debt Ceiling
On Monday, the United States government reached its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit. It’s up to Congress to decide whether to raise the debt ceiling for the eleventh time in the last decade. The hard truth is our country is broke. Our national debt is the responsibility of several Congresses and presidents – from both political parties – who have allowed us to live well beyond our means for far too long. Simply raising the debt limit without a serious plan to reduce our debt will only continue this pattern of fiscal irresponsibility.
I have notified the President that I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling without a significant reduction in spending and a change in the way business is done in Washington.This will take the leadership of President Obama and both political parties to craft a serious plan to reduce our debt. The plan must include significant spending reductions, a balanced budget amendment, and reforms to address our long-term unfunded liabilities.
The time to correct our failures is now. The consequences of failing to tackle our debt will be far greater than failing to raise the debt ceiling. Click here to watch a video addressing the magnitude of this issue on the future of our country.
Voting in Favor of Relief at the Pump
This week I voted in favor of the Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011, which aims to bring an end to the Obama Administration’s de facto moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration, while improving environmental safety. Unfortunately the bill failed by a vote of 42 to 57.
Rising gas prices and recent events in the Middle East clearly demonstrate the importance of having access to an ample domestic energy supply which is both affordable and reliable. By cancelling numerous oil and gas lease sales last year and refusing to issue new drilling permits within a reasonable amount of time, the Obama Administration has stifled our domestic energy sector and the jobs that come with it. It simply lacks common sense for the United States to restrict access to oil and gas exploration at home while continuing to import more than 8 million barrels of oil a day.
Higher fuel prices are increasing operating costs for Kansas businesses and are particularly challenging for those living in rural Kansas, who drive long distances each day to work and school. The fact is increased domestic energy production will result in lower energy costs. If we do nothing, gas prices will continue to escalate. The administration has refused to conduct lease sales and issue drilling permits in a timely fashion, so Congress must attempt to fill the void. Click here to read about my recent request that the president reconcile the conflict between his stated goals of lowering energy prices, creating jobs and reducing our reliance on foreign energy, with certain ongoing, damaging actions by his administration.
Greeting Honor Flight Veterans at the WWII Memorial
On Tuesday, I was honored to spend some time with World War II veterans from Kansas at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. These veterans, who hail from towns like Concordia, Phillipsburg, Smith Center, Glade and others in the north central part of Kansas, represent the best of America – a willingness to sacrifice for the greater good and for the betterment of future generations.
The veterans I visited with were visiting Washington, D.C. with the Honor Flight Network, a grassroots organization that enables veterans to visit the WWII Memorial created in their honor in 2004. A driving force in the creation of this Memorial was former Kansas Senator Bob Dole. To the delight of the veterans, Senator Dole showed up while the veterans were walking through their Memorial. It was a great experience for me to interact with Senator Dole and fellow members of The Greatest Generation. The day truly reaffirmed my commitment to do all I can to make our nation a better place for future generations. Click here to view photos of their visit.
Joining Defense Secretary Gates to Break Ground on New Ft. Riley School
On Thursday, I traveled to Ft. Riley to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for a much-needed elementary school on post. Kansans can be proud that we are making certain the needs of those who serve in our nation’s military are being met, and while they’re deployed overseas, their children have access to quality education.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, whose personal involvement secured the resources to begin construction of the new school, was on hand to give remarks and observe a group of preschoolers turn the first shovelful of dirt on their future school. Also attending the ceremony were Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, officials from the Geary County school district including Superintendent Ron Walker, Governor Sam Brownback and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins.
Secretary Gates visited Ft. Riley a year ago and met with military spouses who shared the need to improve the quality of the post’s public schools, which face severe overcrowding problems since the 2006 return of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division to post which brought thousands of new soldiers, family members and civilians with it. Secretary Gates took these comments to heart, bringing us this groundbreaking of a new elementary school along with additional funds to upgrade an existing elementary school. This event marked a significant step to addressing the deficiencies.
As the military installation facing some of the most severe school problems in the country, the DOD has also identified a need to build two additional elementary schools and a middle school at Ft Riley. To address this need, in April, I was pleased to support passage of a DOD program that dedicates resources for public school construction and renovation on installations across the country with the most serious deficiencies in condition or capacity, such as Ft. Riley. Click here to see a photo of some of the excited preschoolers that attended the groundbreaking for their new school.
Continuing the Statewide Listening Tour
My listening tour continued this week as I visited Wyandotte, Jackson and Pottawatomie counties. I had the pleasure of hosting my first ever town hall meeting in Wyandotte County on Monday. There was a wonderful turn out of residents and business owners to discuss issues important to them, including five students from Arrowhead Middle School Debate Team. I visited with attendees about jobs creation and the importance of reducing burdensome federal regulations, which cost business owners money and stifle economic growth. Thank you to Cindy Cash of the Kansas City Chamber for organizing the event and to the elected officials and public servants who attended, including State Senator David Haley, State Representative Tom Burroughs, Edwardsville Mayor John McTaggart, Unified Government Commissioner Tom Cooley, and Kansas City Community College Trustee Wendell Maddox.
On Thursday, my annual listening tour continued in Hoyt and St. Marys. At the community center in Hoyt, Jackson County residents shared their views on overregulation by the EPA, the rising price of fuel, and federal spending. Kansas communities bear a regulatory burden that stifles economic growth, especially community banks, farmers and business owners. We need to lower this regulatory burden and allow our rural communities to thrive. It was good to see some old friends in Hoyt, and a special thanks to Hoyt Mayor Neale Sutton and County Commissioner Larry Fenske for attending.
Later Thursday morning, Pottawatomie County residents gathered at City Hall in St. Marys to share their concerns about the future of Kansas businesses and our nation’s debt. We also discussed the importance of rural health care and the future of health care reform. Thank you to Mayor Kevin Werick and City Manager Maurice Cordell for hosting. Thanks also to State Representative Richard Carlson and City Commissioner Doyle Pearl for attending. Click here to view photos from my stops.
Community Housing of Wyandotte County, Inc.
While in Wyandotte County on Monday, I also visited with the staff and board members of Community Housing of Wyandotte, Inc. (CHWC). They serve the urban core of Kansas City, Kansas by providing affordable housing and housing education to first-time and low-income residents. CHWC is non-profit and a great example of using public funds to stabilize, revitalize and reinvest in our neighborhoods through improved housing and other quality of life improvements. Thank you to Annie Trotta with CHWC for inviting me and for Executive Director and CEO Donny Smith for hosting me. Click here to learn more about the great work CHWC does to help ensure everyone who wants to own their own home has a chance to. Click here to see a photo from my visit.
Upcoming Listening Tour Stops
This month and next, I am continuing my statewide listening tour. Please find more information about my upcoming town hall meetings below. If you’re nearby, I encourage you to stop by to share your thoughts.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Allen County, Iola
Location: American Legion
Address: 712 West Patterson Avenue
Time: 1:30-2:30 PM
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Sedgwick County, Wichita (hosted by Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce)
Location: Hyatt Regency Hotel
Address: 400 W. Waterman
Time: 12:00-1:00 PM
Wednesday, June 1,
Butler County, El Dorado (hosted by El Dorado Rotary Club)
Location: El Dorado Civic Center
Address: 201 East Central Avenue
Time: 12:00-1:00 PM
Chase County, Cottonwood Falls
Location: Prairie Pastimes
Address: 220 1/2 Broadway
Time: 2:15-3:15 PM
Marion County, Florence
Location: Doyle Creek Mercantile
Address: 510 Main Street
Time: 4:00-5:00 PM
Saturday, June 3,
Dickinson County, Abilene
Location: Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum
Address: 200 SE Fourth Street
Time: 3:30 – 4:30 PM
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C. office from across the state, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits.
Association of Conservation Districts
Pat Lehman of Lawrence
Clemme Rambo of Overland Park
John Kendrick of Fort Scott
Trina Green of Kansas City
Nancy Volpe of Overland Park
Michael Lemon of Lawrence
Delia Barnett of Wichita
Amy Jones of Arkansas City
Angela Henry of Iola
Marcia Dvorak of Lawrence
Matt Stuckey of Iola
Nancy Volpe of Overland Park
Jan Voss of Arkansas City
Deborah Timmins of Garden City
Lorraine Davis of Maize
Charles Schwegler of Kansas City
Lisa Wenger of Parsons
College of Radiology
John Lohnes of Wichita
Ngondi Kamatuka of Lawrence
American Urological Association
Ajay Nangia of Kansas City
Varadaraj Pai of Parsons
Society of Landscape Architects
Tod Hueser of Prairie Village
Rick Howell of Prairie Village
Andrew Bias of Wichita
Thomas Roberts of Lenexa
Jeff Gillam of Wichita
Loyde Davis of Colby
Jihyun Youn of Colby
Delegation of OPASTCO
Larry Sevier of Lenora
Dick Veach of Ulysses
Catherine Moyer of Ulysses
Steve Davis of Medicine Lodge
Tom Gleason of Lawrence
Brian Boisvert of Wilson
In the office this week to tour the Capitol were Kenton, Angela and Reese Gleason of Jetmore; Kevin and Kim Lauffer of Protection; Laci Ulrich of Baldwin City; Larry, Norma, Courtney and Zachary Hauser of Olathe; Brooke and Barb Lindell of Overland Park; Lorraine Martin of Lenexa; John and Janet Clason of Paola; Nathan Nece and Megan Ranney of Wichita; David, Victoria, Amanda and Spencer Prather of Lake Quivira; Joy Gipple of Shawnee; Will and Bryanne Horn, and Larry and Catherine Dunlap of Salina; Maureen Dunlap of Lawrence; Michael and Judith Anderson of Bonner Springs; Richard and Michael Rogers of Hutchinson; and Joni Baeke-Hartong and Heidi Hartong of Leawood.
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.