Editorial Roundup: Kansas – Miami Herald

Kansas City Star. July 21, 2021.

Editorial: Taking summer off? Former Kansas Senate leader Suellentrop’s reckless DUI case idles

Gene Suellentrop’s high-speed chase on Interstate 70 is sure getting slow-played in the courts.

After his arrest last March for DUI, high-speed wrong-way driving and attempting to elude law enforcement, Suellentrop’s Kansas Senate colleagues said the then-Senate majority leader deserved due process. But four months later, the process seems pretty darn overdue. The case can’t even get scheduled for a scheduling hearing, odd as that sounds.

Shawnee County District Court in Topeka tried to get the case on a Criminal Assignment Docket in June, then earlier this month, and will try again “by agreement of the parties” Aug. 5. Again, even that is just a hearing to get the case scheduled for real hearings.

What is taking so long? Do you think you’d get a summer by the pool if this were you?

Delays in court proceedings are routine, certainly. But this case isn’t exactly an Agatha Christie murder mystery to unravel. Either he drove drunk something close to 90 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone, and on the wrong side of I-70 in downtown Topeka in the wee hours, or he didn’t.

Among the five charges against him, none is for threatening a law enforcement officer, which the high-ranking legislator also is alleged to have done — calling the officer “doughnut boy” and boasting that he could take the officer in a fight.

At some point, you have to wonder if the Republican state senator from Wichita — still technically in good standing as a legislator, although March 16 he apparently could hardly stand at all — is filibustering the proceedings. To what end? And how can others get that kind of deal?

Suellentrop’s integrity was always going to be in question after this debacle, in which he was just stupid lucky not to have killed someone on the road. But now the criminal justice system’s integrity is the issue. Will a formerly powerful and well-connected legislative leader truly be held to account for his alleged reckless actions, which include the felony of attempting to elude law enforcement?

His hold on legislative power got the same peaceful, easy treatment: For a long time after his arrest, Suellentrop was allowed to keep his Senate majority leader position. And The Star Editorial Board discovered that he really didn’t back away from his leadership role and influence, despite a promise to do so.

Ultimately it took an unbridled mutiny of rank-and-file Kansas Senate Republicans to strip Suellentrop of his leadership position. There are claw marks where Suellentrop clung desperately to the mantle.

As for the remaining Republican legislative leaders, what don’t they understand about all this that the rest of us do? That these are serious, even outrageous charges — flying drunk down the wrong side of an interstate, which generally gets people killed, and not just bumping a median on the way home after one glass of wine too many? Do they not understand that the slow-motion, no-accountability path this case is on will only tar the Kansas Legislature and all public officials with Suellentrop’s own behavior?

The longer this case flop, flop, flops along like it’s had stop sticks deployed against it, the more the public will suspect that rank political influence is being brought to bear, whether that’s true or not.

Get on with it, for heaven’s sake. And for the sake of the criminal justice system.

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Manhattan Mercury. July 23, 2021.

Editorial: County fair has a long history

Want to go to a cultural event that’s steeped in tradition and the history of the region?

Check out the county fair.

Riley County’s continues through the weekend. It’s free. It’s fun. To those who are unfamiliar, county fairs might seem quaint or outdated. But historically, fairs served important purposes, especially in agricultural states like ours.

Fairs have their roots in Roman festivals, but American-style fairs really began to take their current form in the early 19th century, when rural people, often isolated in their daily lives, gathered in town for education, competition, entertainment and socialization.

People could watch a sheep-shearing demonstration and compete in livestock competitions, to see how the quality of their animals stacked up to that of their neighbors. Fairs grew to include competitions related to home skills, such as cooking and sewing.

These events were a place to showcase technology and modern science to people who might not have other access to that information. Vendors would bring samples and sell goods.

Carnival rides and performing acts also became an important component of fairs.

An 1872 poster on the Kansas State Historical Society website shows that the Riley County Fair that year featured mule races, a tug of war and an apple race, in addition to the “usual display of machinery, stock and farm products.” The flyer says it was the 10th-annual event, so we know that the county had fairs at least back to 1862, a year before the founding of what is now Kansas State University.

These days, it’s probably safe to say that a smaller portion of the population works in agriculture. But that portion still serves a crucial role in society. The fair is a place to learn about what farmers and ranchers do. It’s also a place for young people to show off life skills they’ve learned through 4-H: cooking, sewing, woodworking, caring for animals.

So check out the fair. See who grew the biggest tomato, the prettiest sunflower. Marvel at the Lego displays. Ride the Tilt-A-Whirl. Walk through rabbit exhibits.

These things are fun in and of themselves. But they’re also a part of a long tradition that tells us something about our past.

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Lawrence Journal-World. July 24, 2021.

Editorial: It is time to knock out the virus, and we can’t let the unvaccinated get in the way

The virus is not behind us. It is still in lots of us. That’s becoming clearer, more troubling and more frustrating by the day.

The troubling part, of course, is that the number of deaths attributable to the virus is continuing to increase. Many of those deaths are needless. The frustrating part is that the vast, vast majority of these deaths come from people who are eligible to get a vaccination but just wouldn’t.

Perhaps there are some among us who believe we shouldn’t get frustrated over people failing to protect themselves. If that’s all this were, that would be a fair enough — although callous — argument.

But a person’s decision to forgo vaccination doesn’t just impact that person. When they get sick and need a hospital bed, they’ll get one. No hospital denies care because a person refused to get vaccinated. When the hospital fills up, there will be people who did their part to get vaccinated that will need a hospital bed — probably for something other than COVID — who won’t be able to get one. A lack of care will cause some of them to suffer or die, even though they did what they were supposed to do during a public health emergency while others who did not suck up a limited supply of health care. That’s not fair.

The more worrisome part is that the longer we allow this virus to spread among the unvaccinated, the greater chance it has to mutate into a new version that evades our current vaccines. At that point, the country and the world would largely be back to square one. That would be devastating on both a physical and an emotional level.

Excuse the language, but we have the virus on the ropes. We need to knock its ass out.

That’s tough talk, and we could use more of it. It was encouraging to see the governor of Alabama — a Republican — deliver such a message to her state’s residents, who have generally have been awful at getting vaccinated.

“It is time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “It is the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

She also said people are “supposed to have common sense,” which should lead them to get vaccinated, and that the unvaccinated are “choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.”

It is good to hear that tough talk from a Republican leader, given that the vaccination issue clearly has a partisan lean. But, it is still just talk. For a few it may cause them to get off the fence and get a vaccine. But for the ones who have really made up their mind, talk is not likely to get the job — or the jab — done.

There are actions, though, that may cause some to get the shot, even if reluctantly. Once the vaccines move from emergency-use approval to full approval, that should be the trigger for the federal government and others to get more aggressive in requiring vaccines for certain activities. President Joe Biden has suggested such final approval could come this fall.

It would be nice to just have a nationwide vaccination requirement, but states’ rights and the political environment in many states probably would ensure that strategy results in more in-fighting than inoculations. But there is quite a bit the federal government could do without any assistance from the states. For example, require all federal employees to be vaccinated. Require anyone receiving a federal student loan to be vaccinated. Tie K-12 education grant money to vaccination requirements. Make proof of vaccination part of the TSA screening process at airports. The list could go on.

All of that will create a lot of angst among certain segments of the population. But remember two things. First, vaccination requirements are nothing new. School children and others live with them every year.

Second, delivering a knockout punch can be an uneasy act. It can make you queasy. It can make you uncomfortable. But sometimes, it is what has to be done to ensure that the good side wins.

Let’s knock this out.

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