The Hutchinson News, Oct. 7
Plans for more prison space highlight short-sightedness of prevention cuts
The Kansas Department of Corrections announced this week a plan for a two-stage expansion of the El Dorado prison as a way to deal with anticipated prison overcrowding.
The expansion, which is projected to cost upwards of $38 million, would house an additional 640 inmates. The Kansas Sentencing Commission recently offered new projections showing the state will run out of prison space by July 2017 and hold more than 5 percent above the department's capacity of 9,600 inmates.
At full capacity and at an estimated annual cost of $24,165 an inmate, the state could expect to spend roughly $231.9 million each year to house its growing prison population.
Crime is a massive expense that Kansans will pay for in one fashion or another, yet how Kansans choose to approach crime will determine how those tax dollars are spent.
In recent years, spending for programs designed to prevent incarceration have endured budget cuts while experiencing heavier caseloads. But those cuts don't equal real savings to Kansas taxpayers; the spending is simply delayed until the need for a prison expansion has reached a critical level. At that time, Kansans will be told it is in an emergency situation and that the community's safety is at risk unless money is allocated to build more prisons and house prisoners.
Adequate spending to programs such as community corrections or money to create new programs like the Reno County Drug Court - which works to keep drug offenders out of prison - are worthwhile investments that address the issue of crime before it ends with thousands of people in prison.
And much crime and drug use has its genesis, at least partly, in poverty. While taxpayers may feel that safety net programs, such as food stamps, are bloated and unnecessary, research suggests there is a correlation between poverty and crime. Whatever we may save on providing food and assistance to the poor likely will more than be consumed by the annual cost of incarceration and the growing need for additional prison space.
Kansans don't have much choice about whether they will continue to pay for crime, and even the best efforts to educate people and lift them out of poverty will yield a criminal population. But Kansans do have a choice about how to invest in addressing crime, and at a cost of $24,165 a year, per inmate, additional incarceration seems like a risky and costly way to go.
The Kansas City Star, Oct. 6
Stifle this challenge to evolution quickly
Cue the Kansas evolution wars again.
Or maybe not so much.
A group called Citizens for Objective Public Education has gone to court to challenge the science standards developed by Kansas, 25 other states and the National Research Council. The critics say that the standards promote evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts and that they advance atheistic explanations at the expense of Christian teachings.
"The state's job is simply to say to students, 'How life arises continues to be a scientific mystery, and there are competing ideas about it,'" John Calvert, a Lake Quivira lawyer, told The Associated Press.
Calvert, a key figure in past Kansas evolution fights, is wrong again. The state's job is most assuredly not to dumb down science education. Evolution and climate change are well-established, mainstream scientific views.
Fortunately, the state Board of Education is taking the right side this time. Members of the elected board say they will stand by the standards. In other phases of Kansas' long-running tug of war over science education, state school board members were the ones questioning evolution.
Some legal experts predict the latest lawsuit won't hold up in court. Let's hope not. Kansas students deserve an education in modern science. They don't need to revisit a controversy settled decades ago.
The Arkansas City Traveler, Oct. 4
Boehner could end shutdown
There is one simple way to end the federal government shutdown, but Speaker of the House John Boehner won't do it.
Propose a clean spending bill — one without amendments to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act — and it would pass the United States House of Representatives and Senate, and be signed by President Barack Obama.
Boehner won't introduce a clean spending bill because it would win with more Democrat than Republican votes.
That would make his party look bad.
So holding federal workers and the people they serve hostage is truly a partisan game, one being played by Republicans in the House of Representatives, including our own Mike Pompeo.
Instead, Boehner is bowing to pressure from his right and making a final stand against Obamacare.
It's the big moment for the Tea Party crowd, which seems to relish sticking its fringe ideology down the rest of America's throat.
It's not working. It won't work.
Americans might not like Obamacare right now, but they sure don't want the federal government to shut down because of it.
The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress, was upheld by the Supreme Court and now is in full swing, with people signing up for health insurance through online marketplaces.
Sure, the Democrat-led Senate and President Obama could bow to this pressure and unravel health care reform. But then what?
Do they submit to the next Tea Party crusade to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, privatize Social Security and abolish the income tax?
Soon, hopefully, Boehner and his cohorts will feel enough pressure from reasonable Americans, and stop acting like extortionists and more like responsible lawmakers.
The Topeka Capital-Journal, Oct. 3
Editorial: Lose the excess pounds
Gov. Sam Brownback is in no danger of ever being mistaken for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. If the two governors were to do a Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy skit, everyone knows who would be cast as the heavyset Hardy.
Although he doesn't carry a lot of extra weight on his frame, Brownback is well aware too many Kansans are packing around more fat than is good for them. To his credit, Brownback has taken a leading role in encouraging Kansans to get active and shed the extra pounds, which are, or will one day, lead to additional health problems.
The truth is, Kansans shouldn't need encouragement to do something that would be so personally rewarding and beneficial in terms of better health and longer, more active lives.
During the Kansas Governor's Council of Fitness' second annual Kansas Obesity Summit on Monday, the governor repeated the keys to fighting obesity — eating less, and better, and exercising more.
Finding the willpower to take those steps may be the most difficult aspect of starting a weight-loss program, but if the willpower is there the rest of the formula is relatively easy and something any overweight Kansan can do.
It doesn't cost more to eat well. If fact, it can cost less, much less for those who are purchasing their calories ready-to-eat instead of buying the right groceries and cooking at home.
As far as exercise, there is an abundance of opportunities just outside our front doors. Walking is one of the best ways to begin an exercise program. Walkers can begin with short distances at a moderate pace (if you're just loitering along you aren't exercising) and work up to longer distances at a faster pace. The combination of a proper diet and a regular walking regimen is certain to shed excess pounds.
For Topekans, multiple paved walking and bicycling trails are available if the neighborhood walk gets boring. For those who prefer longer distances without the pavement, there are miles on trails behind Cedar Crest, as the governor noted Monday. Most cities of any size across Kansas offer some type of hiking and biking trail.
At last report, about two-thirds of adult Kansans are overweight or obese. For health reasons, physical or mental, some people aren't going to be able to take off as much weight as they should to shed the obese label. Most Kansans who are overweight, however, are in that condition because they choose to be so through their eating habits or lack of exercise, or both.
They should take the advice of their physicians and their governor and determine to lose some weight.