Last month, I posted to my congressional Web site a list of my 2008 federal appropriations requests, making me one of only a handful of the 435 members of Congress to publicly disclose this information. Frankly, my colleagues in the House of Representatives told me this was a dangerous move. They said releasing my requests would leave me vulnerable to political potshots.
Keeping quiet would have been the political safe ground, but I felt it would be a violation of the public interest. So I posted the list to my Web site, hoping to promote a public discussion of the earmarking process. On that point, I seem to have succeeded.
A group called Americans for Prosperity has called attention to my request to help fund a proposed Kansas Regional Prisons Museum. After reviewing the group's claims, I continue to believe that the Regional Prisons Museum is in the best interest of Kansas. Prison guards work a dangerous, difficult law-enforcement job, and they deserve recognition. The prison industry is vital to the economy and culture of northeast Kansas, and it, too, deserves recognition. And the museum would generate good-paying jobs in Lansing.
Though I disagree with Americans for Prosperity's opposition to the Regional Prisons Museum, I appreciate their joining the conversation on earmark accountability. That's exactly the dialogue I hoped to start by releasing my appropriations requests, and I urge the members of the Kansas congressional delegation who have not disclosed their requests — Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Rep. Jerry Moran, Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Sam Brownback — to join me in opening their work to public comment.
Nancy Boyda, U.S. Rep., Kansas 2nd District, Topeka
The prisons of Leavenworth County have distinguished the area for generations, providing a source of jobs and shaping the history of the region. To visitors, they are fascinating yet frustratingly inaccessible because they are not open to the general public. Local residents see it as their responsibility to preserve the history of the prisons and to share it with others. And unlike the romanticized portrayals in movies, real-life corrections work is sometimes dangerous, involving injury and loss of life. This also merits remembrance.
In Lansing, a group has proposed construction of the Kansas Regional Prisons Museum, with the support of the corrections community, local governments and state and federal officials. Of the $3 million project, $2 million in construction costs would be financed by private donations. Congresswoman Nancy Boyda has stepped forward to seek federal funding to help with the $1 million required interior work and preservation costs.
Recently, Americans for Prosperity came to Lansing to criticize both the museum and any federal assistance for it. Hardly a "highway to nowhere," as claimed by the AFP, the prisons museum would be a visible and accessible testament to the unique culture of northeast Kansas. It would also serve as a tourist destination for the area, bringing travel dollars into local and state economies. We believe that is why it is an appropriate candidate for federal aid.
Michael W. Smith, City Administrator, Lansing
Thank you for your piece on the wasteful practice of leaving store doors wide-open while the AC is running. Some of us do notice and care.
I've often said that businesses could lower their prices if they would just close the door and/or raise the temperature a degree or two, as most of them keep their places way too cold in the summer. It's no longer a financial issue; it is a serious environmental issue.
Karen Heath, Prairie Village
Turn Up the Heat
I read "Cold Facts" with whiplash-inducing nods of agreement. Thank you!
I recently wrote a shorter commentary on the topic for the Kansas City Star Neighborhood News. It ran on June 30 in the Blue Valley edition. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one getting depressed when I find myself shivering on retail sidewalks in July. Some additional points to ponder: Urban Outfitters, one of the perpetrators, sells "Global Warming Is Not Cool" T-shirts; Town Center Plaza in Leawood might be as bad as, or naughtier than, the Country Club Plaza; and Bath & Body Works at both Town Center and the Plaza have the same wood-block door wedges. Highly suspicious. Looks like "store fixture" hardware from corporate headquarters.
So what's next? Janovy wrote about it. I wrote about it. The doors are still wide open. I think, as caring citizens, we should start a new Cold War, and maybe appoint Janovy's mom as general. Leaving the door open when the AC's running "takes a willful obliviousness" — that says it all!
Denise Snodell, Leawood
Janovy, July 5
As a proud Latina, I do not participate in rallies in support of amnesty.
Does this mean I am against Latinos migrating to the United States? No! I just don't think that I am responsible for the burden of all immigrants. I am a U.S.-born Mexican-American and fortunately, all my immediate family is blessed with being U.S. citizens (some born, some naturalized). Why aren't there more Asians, Middle Eastern Americans, Italians, Australians, Europeans and Africans at the rallies?
Because we are used to someone else fighting for our rights.
In 2006, my stepbrother supported the rallies. He defended the rights of those who took a day off work to appear at these rallies. He went to hearings and was successful at helping them regain their employment, even though their legal status may be questionable. So tell me: Why did he lose his job? Why didn't any of these people whom he helped stand up for his rights? Why did they claim to be afraid of losing their jobs again if they fought for him to regain his employment?
I know nobody was fighting for my mother to enter this country legally, yet she managed to obtain a permit to enter this country legally. Today it is much more difficult to obtain your residency, but it is not impossible. Where there is a will there is a way. I know immigration is a very serious issue. However, it is not only a Hispanic issue. I believe that if more nationalities supported their own cause, maybe Washington and others like myself would support their cause as well.
Name withheld by request
Did Phill Kline take a page out of President Bush's guide on how to run an administration without regard to the constitution of America? The similarities are unmistakable.
First, get job by stealing the position. Second, fire everyone who has experience and replace him or her with less-competent employees (so you feel smarter than everyone in the room) who share your religious beliefs (separation of church and state, what's that?).
The next step is to violate civil liberties by making false statements and arrests and spying on your enemies.
Finally, don't worry about losing a case or two or three; I'm sure these folks are harmless. Shoot, it's no big deal; Osama is still out there, and nothing bad has happened to us in a long, long time.
What makes Mr. Kline think he can get away with it? He paid particular attention to the last chapter in Bush's book, titled Ain't No Need to Explain! Yee-Haw, Cowboy.
Kelli Gorgen, Lenexa
Ballot Between the Eyes
I can't help but wonder — what is wrong with Johnson County voters? I think we got what we deserve; we voted him into office. Bad day for JoCo citizens.
Don Lennard, Mission