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.
Robba and I joined many Kansans this week in celebrating Thanksgiving with our family. I hope you and your family also enjoyed time together and had a chance to reflect on all we have to be thankful for as Americans.
Deficit Reduction Committee Fails to Reach Agreement
On Monday, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction announced their failure to reach a deficit reduction agreement. I share the tremendous disappointment of many Americans as another opportunity to solve our nation’s debt crisis passed us by. But, the inability of the super committee to find common ground is nothing new for a Congress that often puts political party above love of country. When I opposed the deal that formed the super committee in August, I did so in part because I believe each member of Congress was elected to make difficult decisions – and that those decisions should be debated in the light of day.
The super committee’s inability to identify $1.2 trillion in savings means that beginning in 2013, that amount will be cut from the budget in defense and domestic programs. While some spending reductions are planned to take place, tackling our country’s fiscal problems takes more than a committee; it takes courage. Now more than ever, Congress and the President must work together to address our country’s greatest threat: our government’s habit of reckless spending. The failure to do so will jeopardize the future of our country and the American dream for the next generation.
Boeing Announcement Regarding Performance Study on Wichita Facility
This week, Boeing announced the company is studying the future of its Wichita facility, and among the options being reviewed is the potential closure of the Wichita site. I was very disappointed to learn this news because of the negative impact the closure would have on hundreds of Kansans at both Boeing and the many companies in Wichita who support their work.
Earlier this year, Boeing was awarded the contract in the U.S. Air Force tanker competition. This was a big win for Kansans because the contract would help bring thousands of jobs to our state. In fact, Boeing has promised publicly and repeatedly in writing that the success in winning the tanker contract would mean ‘7,500 jobs’ in Kansas, including several hundred jobs at Boeing-Wichita for the Tanker Finishing Center. I, along with Governor Brownback and members of the Congressional delegation expect the company to honor that commitment.
Kansans are the right team with the right tools to make Boeing’s continued operations a success for many years to come. Moving forward, we will continue to work with Boeing’s leadership and employees, as well as state and local officials, to get more information and to develop a plan so it will be easier for Boeing to remain in Kansas. Click here to watch my comments to KSN shortly after the Boeing announcement.
Hearing from Wichita Business and Civic Leaders
Over the past few months, I have hosted several roundtable conversations with business and community leaders in various cities across our state to get an update on their community and to hear how decisions being made in Washington are affecting them. On Tuesday, I hosted a meeting with business and civic leaders in Wichita. The message I heard in Wichita was very similar to what I’ve heard over the last few months: economic uncertainty, such as an unpredictable tax code, has made it very difficult for businesses to plan for future growth. The private sector needs certainty – both in the tax code and with government regulations - so that business owners can make decisions and not have to worry about the rules of the game changing on them.
Also, the city of Wichita, like many parts of Kansas, heavily relies on export markets to sell their products. So we should be aggressively searching for new and expanded markets to sell American products. Thanks to all the business and civic leaders for joining me for this conversation. I learn something from every conversation I have with Kansans, which I take back to Washington with me. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Visiting Walton Rural Life Center
On Monday, I was in Harvey County to visit with students and faculty at Walton Rural Life Center – a charter school in the Newton school district. This school engages students in active learning through innovative, project-based lessons, and incorporates agriculture into the classroom. Students learn math, reading, science, entrepreneurship and other life skills by raising pigs, sheep and calves, operating a working henhouse and selling eggs, and tending both a garden and greenhouse. Walton was recently named a finalist in the 2011 Intel Schools of Distinction Awards – and as one of only 18 finalists for this award nationwide, this outstanding recognition demonstrates the educational achievements taking place at Walton.
The Kansas Department of Education has also recognized Walton with 2011 State Standard of Excellence awards in reading, math and science at the building-wide level. In 2010, 97 percent of Walton students tested at or above grade level in math, and 94 percent in reading. The success of Walton’s hands-on curriculum serves as a model for other schools in our state and across the country. Thank you to Principal Natise Vogt and the Walton faculty for giving me a tour of the school and giving me the opportunity to see the success firsthand. Thanks also to Newton USD 373 Board of Education member Barbara Bunting for joining us, as well as Myron Voth and Jeff Naysmith with Mid-Kansas Cooperative. I know Walton Rural Life Center will keep up the great work. Click here to see a photo from my visit.
Electric Blue Auto Conversions in Walton
After my visit to Walton Rural Life Center, I traveled up the road a few blocks to visit Wayne Alexander at his business, Electric Blue Auto Conversions. Wayne converts gas-powered vehicles to total electric power. In 2010, he was named the Technology Leader of the Year by the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University for his innovation, initiative and commitment to rural Kansas. Wayne started Electric Blue Auto Conversions in 2005 and has completed more than 130 gas-to-electric auto conversions for customers across the country and overseas. I really appreciated Wayne showing me around his shop and telling me about his innovative business.
Rainbows United Kids’ Point
On Monday, I visited Rainbows United Inc. Kids’ Point in northeast Wichita. Rainbows provides many vital services for children with special needs and their families, and will serve more than 3,400 children this year who are at risk or have special needs throughout Sedgwick and Butler Counties. At Kids’ Point, which opened in 2009, children receive the latest, most effective therapies for developmental delays. The services include on-site educational child care, preschool, and early childhood development services both on-site and at family homes.
Thank you to Board of Directors Chair Hale Ritchie, Vice President of Development Stephanie Harder, and Vice President of Marketing and Communications Michelle Eastman for inviting me to visit Kids’ Point. Seeing their work in action, it was clear to me that Rainbows is dedicated to truly enhancing the lives of children with special needs and their families.
Visiting Kansas Heart Hospital
While in Wichita, I had the opportunity to visit the Kansas Heart Hospital (KHH), which is celebrating 10 years of providing cardiac care to Kansans. KHH is a 54-bed hospital dedicated to cardiovascular and thoracic care. Its cardiologists and surgeons perform procedures including open-heart surgeries, stent deployments and defibrillator and pacemaker implantations. I was very interested to learn how specialized health care services are being delivered in this setting. Thank you to CEO Thomas Ashcom, CFO Stephen Smith, COO Joyce Heismeyer, and retiring COO Lynn Jeane for their hospitality during my visit.
Kicking off the Christmas Season in Russell
To mark the beginning of the Christmas season, I joined residents of Russell in participating in the community’s annual Christmas Parade. The theme of this year’s parade was “140 Christmases,” as this year marks the 140th anniversary since the city’s founding. The evening parade featured lighted floats and classic cars. I enjoyed seeing many longtime friends and appreciated the opportunity to visit with many local residents. Thanks to Police Chief Jon Quinday and Janae Talbott for their arranging the details of my participation.
Visiting with Members of Wellington Rotary Club
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of visiting with members of the Wellington Rotary Club. I appreciated the chance to engage in a discussion about a variety of issues, including: small business growth, failure of the Super Committee, developments at Boeing, our skyrocketing federal debt and health care concerns. Thanks to Club President Terry Nunemaker and the Sumner Regional Medical Center for their gracious hospitality. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
Listening Tour Continues
On Friday, I continued my Statewide Listening tour with stops in Kearny, Hamilton, Greeley and Wichita Counties. I have now visited with Kansans in 104 of 105 counties during my statewide listening tour. The folks I met with asked good questions and proposed many ideas to solve the tough challenges our country faces.
On Friday, I started my day in Lakin at the Kearny County Hospital. Residents voiced their concerns on a variety of topics – many of which were related to issues facing residents living in rural Kansas. Thanks to Hospital Administrator John Loebl for allowing us to use the hospital for the meeting. My next stop was in Syracuse where residents voiced their thoughts about our country’s slow economic recovery, access to medical care and the importance of job creation. Thanks to the Hamilton County Farm Bureau for hosting my listening tour stop. In the afternoon, I was in Tribune at the Greeley County Extension Office, where residents shared their concerns on the general direction our country is headed. Thanks to Todd Schmidt for hosting me. Finally, I ended the day visiting with folks at the Business Care Center in Leoti, where we discussed a range of topics – including the super committee’s announcement that they were unable to find common ground. Thank you to Center Director Simone Cahoj for being so welcoming. If you would like to view photos from this week’s stops click here.
Attending the Newman University v. Fort Hays State University Basketball Game in Hays
On Tuesday, I returned home to Hays and was able to attend the FHSU Tigers basketball game against the visiting Newman University Jets. Robba and I sat with family friends Jeff and Marla Copper in Gross Memorial Coliseum. This matchup was highly contested and enjoyable to watch. Congratulations to the Tigers who won by a final margin of 75-65. Thanks to the coaches, players, and fans of both Kansas teams for making this such an enjoyable evening. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
In the Office
This week several Kansans took a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including: Michael and Elizabeth Kroeker of Wichita and their children, Jennifer and Matthew; Kerry and Cheryl Goertzen of Inman and their children, Kendra and Travis; and Velma Goertzen of Inman.
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,
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