The Kansas City Star, Sept. 14
Keep renewable energy mandate and benefits of wind power:
Despite Gov. Sam Brownback's sudden lack of support for it, the renewable energy mandate in Kansas deserves to be kept in place.
The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires the state to get at least 20 percent of its electric power from sources such as the sun and wind by 2020. It has created thousands of jobs in the wind industry, provided new income to farmers and kept electricity prices in check for utility customers since bipartisan approval by the Kansas Legislature in 2009.
Unfortunately, its few enemies are rich and influential in the strong-arm kind of way when it comes to lavishing campaign contributions on lawmakers.
Opponents include special interest groups that financially benefit from the dominance of coal and other polluting fossil fuels (hello, Koch Industries) as well as conservative lobbying groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity (a Koch-funded group) and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
The newest threat to the clean-energy RPS comes from someone with plenty of political clout.
In recent weeks, Brownback has indicated he has thrown in his lot with enemies of the rules, and will work to repeal them if he's re-elected this fall.
The fact that Brownback would take this position on an issue that has benefited so many Kansans undermines his credibility as someone looking out for consumers, not special interests.
Democrat Paul Davis, Brownback's opponent, has the right answer. "I will veto a bill that repeals our RPS," he said during his State Fair debate with the governor in Hutchinson last weekend.
At the time, Brownback ducked the issue, saying, "Let's see if a bill gets to my desk."
That's not leadership. In fact, just days earlier, Brownback had conceded he was open to the idea of the repeal, talking about how interested parties could come together to hasten the demise of the RPS.
But why would the wind industry, in particular, want to do that? Remember, this is a state law that is working exactly as intended.
It has brought jobs to Kansas, something Brownback and other GOP lawmakers purport to be interested in.
It has helped farmers who receive lease payments when wind turbines are placed on their properties, part of the reason several rural GOP lawmakers defend the RPS.
And the rules have not led to an explosion in electricity rates, despite reckless statements to the contrary by some state lawmakers.
Instead, as the Kansas Corporation Commission has found, the cost of the renewable mandate actually accounted for only about 2 percent of the cost of electricity in the state.
Want to see a true driving force behind higher utility expenses? Consider the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to install modern equipment at coal-fired power plants to slash the harmful pollution they belch into the air.
Repeated attempts in the Legislature to repeal the standard have not succeeded. Most recently that was because of some brave opposition by Republican lawmakers in the 2014 session. For that stance, at least six House members were targeted for defeat in August primaries. All won.
Brownback should retreat from his current stance and go back to playing a more familiar and positive role for Kansans, the one where he's been a champion of wind power, especially in a state known as the Saudi Arabia of wind.
The energy standard needs to be retained, and even strengthened with requirements for using more renewable power in the future.
The Salina Journal, Sept. 10
Harry Reid Harry Reid Harry Reid:
One of Kansas U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman's chief campaign points is that Washington has become more about partisan politics and not at all about solving the nation's problems.
So it was more than odd — embarrassing, actually — when Sen. Pat Roberts, the man Orman hopes to defeat in November's election, went way out of his way during their debate at the Kansas State Fair to validate Orman's point.
No matter the topic or question, Roberts repeated his mantra ad nauseam: Harry Reid, Harry Reid, Harry Reid — with an ample supply of "Obamas" and "Hillary Clintons" thrown in. That and accusing Orman, an independent, of being a liberal, were about all Roberts had to offer.
It got so bad that whenever Roberts was asked a question, some in the crowd started mocking the senator by yelling the name of Reid, D-Utah, the Senate Majority leader.
Roberts has been in Washington as long as Orman has been alive. He has to be more knowledgeable than Orman, and he could have used that superior knowledge to his advantage to appear more statesmanlike, above the fray and in charge. Instead, he went for the low blow and ended up hurting himself.
Harry, Hillary and Obama are the red meat of the hardcore conservatives, whom Roberts already has locked up. What he needs is the people who are more likely to vote for Orman, independents and moderate Republicans.
But instead of courting those voters, he went out of his way to offend them. His tactic showed a lack of respect for Kansas voters, as if we can be persuaded with just a few code words. Give us more credit than that.
There are important issues in this campaign, and some of those were mentioned Saturday, including water, immigration, military cuts and the solvency of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
But no matter what the topic, Roberts insisted on invoking the name of Harry Reid and accusing Orman of being a liberal. It not only wasn't necessary, it should have been beneath Roberts.
The benefit for voters is that Roberts exposed an ugly, shallow side of himself they weren't used to seeing. That will give them something else to consider in the voting booth.
It also proves Orman's point about what's wrong with Washington.
The Hutchinson News, Sept. 12
A $12.4 million federal grant will shore up ailing train tracks in Kansas that carry Amtrak's passenger train, the Southwest Chief.
The tracks actually are owed by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which hauls freight, but used by Amtrak for its passenger service from Chicago to Los Angeles. The $12.4 million strictly is for track repairs in Kansas. BNSF agreed to maintain the tracks once the repairs are made.
The grant is the first step that potentially will save the Southwest Chief, whose future has been cloudy for two years. Additional money is needed to repair some of the tracks between Chicago and LA.
But for now, the grant extends Amtrak's commitment to Kansas — all of Kansas. The passenger line had threatened to detour the route to Oklahoma once it hit Newton because of the deteriorating tracks from Hutch through Garden City. Though the tracks are good enough for slower moving BNSF freight, Amtrak service was slowed by the worn-out tracks.
So the multimillion-dollar grant is good news all around. It keeps the Amtrak route for now and ensures passenger service in Kansas.
Other monies are involved in track repairs, including state and local funds. But a key component in the federal grant application centered on BNSF's commitment to maintain the route once track repairs are made.
There was praise aplenty being tossed around this week for communities and elected officials who've dedicated themselves to this project. But the overriding fact remains that rail travel in Kansas is as important as air travel and has been for decades.
Parents easily can board an Amtrak train with their children and spend the day in Dodge City or Garden City or Hutch. It gives the child a different view of travel and allows them to explore the amenities of Kansas towns, such as Boot Hill in Dodge and the gigantic swimming pool and unbelievable zoo in Garden.
Those might not seem important to Amtrak officials but the ease of boarding a train without hassle opposed to body scans and searches at airports is like night and day. Trains are comfortable and offer their own set of amenities. Admittedly, though, trains are for those who have the luxury of time.
Kansans who long have depended on passenger trains can be grateful for the $12.4 million grant, which extends rail service. That's worth hopping the nearest train and celebrating in the dining car.
The Topeka Capital-Journal, Sept. 15
Statehouse grounds a beautiful scene:
As Topekans and visitors to our city go out and about to enjoy the seasonal beauty that fall brings with it, there is one spot they should make an effort to see.
The Statehouse grounds, after years as a construction site, have become an especially pleasing sight, and the advent of fall and cooler weather offer the perfect opportunity to take it all in at a leisurely pace.
Granted, there still are a few visible scars from the years of hosting construction material and equipment — tracks through the grass are noticeable at one point and there are a few bald patches — but the overall appearance is one of beauty. The people who care for the Capitol lawn and its environment have done an outstanding job deserve credit for their efforts.
The spruced-up entrances to the grounds, courtesy of the recently completed construction project, (given the duration of the Statehouse restoration, we think it's still fair to use "recently completed") set the tone for what Topekans will find as they stroll across the grounds.
Flowers and other plantings are abundant and colorful, the trees offer shade and benches provide places to rest and take in the scenery. The green grass in all directions offers the perfect setting for everything that meets the eye. Even the grandeur of the building in the center of the property appears enhanced by the beauty just outside its many doors.
This page has been used on multiple occasions to encourage Topekans and other Kansans to visit the restored Capitol and see what they purchased with the $300 million they are paying for the project. We continue to think a trip to the building is a good investment of time, but also encourage those who visit before winter has its way with the landscape to spend some time walking the grounds and enjoying the scenery to be found there.
To be sure, there are other public places across Topeka and Shawnee County that in the fall show off spectacular and colorful scenery. Lake Shawnee and Gage Park quickly come to mind, and anyone walking along some of the trails in the city or just outside of it will come across a lot of seasonal sights.
Just remember to include the Statehouse grounds on the itinerary this year.