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Recent Kansas Editorials

November 5, 2019

Topeka Capital Journal, Oct. 31

This week, Kansas legislators on a bipartisan criminal justice reform committee heard the disturbing news that half of the 213,000 Kansans with suspended driver’s licenses are driving anyway. What’s disturbing is not that these people are driving but instead that they are part of a system that can end their legal ability to drive for relatively minor infractions — not paying a fine, for example.

A system that makes it all but impossible for more than 100,000 Kansas to earn a living and provide for their families is a system that needs to change. We hope that those considering the subjects take information in these hearings to heart, and consider more besides.

It is important that legislators understand the ways in which the criminal justice system intersects with the lives of everyday Kansans. For many of those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale, or those in communities of color, the system is not a source of comfort or relief but instead a set of barriers that prevents them from progressing forward in life and contributing to the state’s economy. And make no mistake, this system disproportionately affects those who are least able to handle its consequences.

Very few people, we would remind you, go into the world each day saying that they are going to be “bad” or break the law. No, most people have the very same goals. They want to earn a living. They want to support their children and spouses. They want to live in relative comfort. In other words, they want what everyone wants: a happy life.

The aim of public policy should not be making the lives of these people more difficult. The aim of public policy should be to make it easier to find family-supporting jobs. The aim of public policy should be making it easier to live in comfort and stability. It should not be criminalizing relatively minor infractions and the derailing of not only one person’s life but the lives of their children for generations to come.

This is why criminal justice reform matters. This is why both liberal and conservative groups have united behind the cause. But it isn’t a matter of just tweaking a few laws. It is the matter of rethinking our approach to justice itself. How do we keep our society safe while allowing our citizens the flexibility they need to make their lives better?

It will mean asking ourselves tough questions. Why does Kansas continue to prohibit any and all forms of marijuana? Why does Kansas make it so difficult to access the most basic public assistance programs? Why does Kansas continue to make it legal to discriminate against the LGBT community? Why does the Kansas foster care system still struggle?

Our current system criminalizes or demeans a wide array of people. Notably, it doesn’t criminalize or demean the vast majority of those who serve in our Legislature. Basic humanity — and religious teaching itself — would suggest it is time for them to open their perspectives.

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Kansas City Star, Nov. 4

This will be a much different editorial than it could’ve been. Or should’ve been.

That’s because we were ready to take up for the University of Kansas, if it turns out that a consultant it hired has, as the university claims, essentially exonerated its men’s basketball and football programs of the current charges of serious NCAA violations.

We can’t do that. First, because the university is inexplicably refusing to release the findings of the expert it hired. Second, because the university, through its public relations department, stiff-armed our offer to tell the story and, if the report were persuasive, to ballyhoo it.

“Thanks for reaching out,” KU Director for News and Media Relations Erinn Barcomb-Peterson wrote in reply to our request. “The university will continue to cooperate with the NCAA enforcement process and looks forward to submitting its Response to the Notice of Allegations. We will make that response public when it is submitted.”

That’s it? Isn’t there just a sniff of condescension there? How about in Chancellor Douglas Girod’s reported response to the Lawrence Journal-World when it asked him why the public should just accept KU’s word on the report? “It’s your job if you want to believe it or not.”

If the NCAA investigated violations of basic public relations precepts, it might just sanction KU for this one.

Even with the offer to do so, there’s utterly zero interest at KU in informing the public about alleged good news that reflects well on the institution.

The brush-off, and the decision not to release an allegedly positive report, is even more perplexing considering that KU has endured a slew of bad press in recent weeks since the NCAA announced its deadly serious notice of violations against the institution, the programs and basketball coach Bill Self: five against men’s basketball, and two against football.

It all makes you wonder: How secretive would KU be if the consultant’s report on the athletic department was less than flattering?

The Kansas Open Records Act may afford KU the opportunity to withhold such a report, since it involves an administrative review or lawsuit. But neither does the law compel the university to keep it under wraps.

You would think a favorable and authoritative picture of an athletic department under siege would be something the university would be eager for the public to see.

Yet, when they claim a consultant’s report essentially clears them and allegedly concludes they were following “the industry standard,” university officials couldn’t care less what the public knows or thinks about the situation and the school?

Don’t the concerns of loyal fans and a supportive public warrant a little more consideration?

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Wichita Eagle, Nov. 1

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

That’s how state Rep. Michael Capps answered questions from an Eagle reporter about links between his business and a despicable smear campaign against a Wichita mayoral candidate.

Capps says he has “no idea” why his business would be listed as the owner of a website — www.protectwichitagirls.com — that echoes the campaign.

He “couldn’t begin to tell you” why a Wyoming mail forwarding service he uses was the same one used to register the anonymous company behind a shady video, which raised false allegations against mayoral candidate Brandon Whipple and is the subject of a slander lawsuit.

Capps says he was “taken aback” by The Eagle’s questions about his potential connection to the video. And then he stopped returning our phone calls.

We’re taken aback, too, by these disturbing revelations in a mayoral campaign that’s become muddier than a Kansas creek bed.

But here’s an idea: If Capps had any part in this deplorable campaign, he needs to ’fess up, face the consequences and immediately resign his Kansas House seat. And if he’s working on behalf of anyone else, he needs to say that, too.

This isn’t the first time Capps’ integrity has been called into question.

Last year, an investigation by the Kansas Department for Children and Families found that he had emotionally abused boys during his time as a court-appointed special advocate volunteer.

He called the allegations untrue and appealed to the Office of Administrative Hearings, which reversed the findings because of a technical error. But DCF said the reversal didn’t address the underlying facts found.

Capps, who was first appointed to the 85th District legislative seat to fill a vacancy before being elected to it in November, has faced calls to resign. After his election victory, Kansas Republican Party chairman Kelly Arnold said: “He’s persona non grata to us.”

During that race, Capps was at the center of yet another controversy: Democrats tried to remove him from the ballot, contending that he didn’t live in his House district. But a Republican-controlled state board dismissed that challenge.

During his tenure, Capps decried what he called false allegations and a smear campaign against him. Now, numerous signs point to him as an architect of a shadowy attack ad against a local candidate.

If he truly has no clue about connections between his business and the anti-Whipple video, Capps needs a better handle on his business dealings.

Either way, Wichitans deserve better representation in the Kansas Legislature. It’s past time for Capps to call it quits.