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Government transparency is a vital part of the League’s mission. The Observer Corps is one way that Leagues promote open government on a local level.

Previous reports:

Wichita City Council Meetings

Regular City Council meetings are broadcast live on Channel 7 at 9:00 AM on Tuesdays, or you can watch live or archived video via the internet. Links, agendas, and past minutes are at wichita.gov/council.

City Council Meeting, March 16, 2021

Key items from the Wichita City Council meeting, arranged by LWV position topic.

Environment

Four individuals, including two high school students, presented their concerns regarding climate change and the city’s need to develop and release a sustainability plan for public review. Per the city manager, they are currently working with WSU’s Environmental Finance center to create a strategic plan with a release to the public later this year.

Election – Filling District 3 Seat

Following established procedures, the council heard from five candidates and voted to add Jared Cerullo as the new city council member for District 3.

Watch Items: None.

Video of meetings can be viewed on City of Wichita’s YouTube channel.

Report submitted by Margaret Kline

Sedgwick County Commission Meetings

Regular commission meetings are live on KPTS Channel 8 at 9 a.m. each Wednesday, except for the last Wednesday of the month, and can also be viewed on YouTube and Facebook. Links, past videos, and agendas are at Sedgwick County.org.

Reports in the VOTER will focus on items that relate to LWV positions and priorities.

County Commission Meeting, March 24, 2021

In addition to the regular business of appointments to Advisory Boards and County Committees, reviews of bids and contracts, and items on the Consent Agent, the County Commissioners had an extended discussion about COVID-19 public health orders and the impact of two bills in the Kansas Legislature.

SB 40 is a complex bill that, among other things, restricts the powers of the Governor and certain local government entities related to COVID-19, and requires that a hearing be held within 72 hours if a citizen files a grievance.  It was passed and signed into law on 3/24/21. The commissioners voted to rescind the current county COVID-19 mandate.

SB 286 provides “ for income tax credits for impacted businesses … and for the reimbursement to certain property owners of property taxes resulting from a forced shutdown or capacity limitation” and would potentially have a devasting impact on the County budget and services.  This bill is still in committee as of 4/6/21. The commissioners sent a letter to the state detailing their opposition to this bill.

Video of meetings can be viewed on Sedgwick County’s YouTube channel

Report submitted by Pat Reinhold

Wichita Board of Education

The BOE meets monthly on a Monday at 6 pm and can be watched live Cox Cable 20 and online at WPS-TV. For more information, meeting dates and links to past meetings, go to usd259.org/BOE.

BOE Meeting, March 8, 2021

The BOE meeting started promptly at 6pm and lasted for a little over three hours.  The Board recognized a significant number of award recipients. Superintendent Dr. Thompson received the 2020 Improving Race Relations in Kansas Government Award.  Many students and teachers received awards and grants, including five high school teachers who received $3,000 grants from Koch Industries for their work in STEM.

The following are the most important topics that concern LWV:

Several members of the community, including parents, teachers and a representative from the United Teachers of Wichita, appeared and gave passionate speeches.  The hot topic was whether children should return to the classroom on a fulltime basis.  At the end of the lively speeches, Superintendent Dr. Thompson recommended a gradual plan to return children to the classroom.

  • All the children that chose onsite learners will adhere to a phased in schedule so that by March 29, all onsite learners will return to the classroom, five days a week.
  • All the children who chose remote/ MySchool Remote learning will continue remote learning till the end of the year. Next year, remote/ MySchool Remote learning will not be allowed.  If children who chose remote learning want to return to school, they may do so.
  • All schools will continue to follow the Sedgwick County Health Department’s recommendations of mask wearing, handwashing, ventilation, facility cleaning enhancements and will continue food distribution for remote learning families, testing/ COVID surveillance, and limit visitor access.

The Board adopted Superintendent Dr. Thompson’s recommended plan.

Superintendent Thompson also put together an extensive team to address remote learning students who didn’t do well.  (Students who didn’t engage or have failing grades.)  The team will locate children, have meetings with parents, provide tutors, put together an extensive summer school program and provide other accommodation.

Several Board Members stated that the majority of the remote learning students are doing well and that it’s a myth that remote learners are doing badly.

Information and minutes of Wichita BOE Meetings are online at USD259.org

Report submitted by Monique Centeno

Metropolitan Area Planning Commission

MAPC Meeting

Observer Corp member attended a MAPC meeting online. The Commission held a full hearing on a zoning change from start to finish and voted in favor of the change from residential to limited commercial property, to the great disappointment of the residents of the area. Arguments on both sides were fairly compelling and the process seemed fair. It might be interesting to see if there are patterns about this – such as residents never overriding the commercial interests. The MAPC agendas are very thorough, with plenty of detail to determine ahead of time what issues may be of interest.

Information and agendas are on the MAPC website. See calendar.

Report submitted by Leah Kasten


Join the Observer Corps!

League members who are interested in attending governmental meetings are welcome and encouraged to join the Observer Corps. Reach out to us at wichitametrolwv@gmail.com or 316-573-5583 and we’ll connect you with Pat Reinhold, our program coordinator, who will provide guidance and training when needed and a helping hand to anyone interested in learning about local government on this level. Read Observing Your Government in Action Guide: Protecting Your Right to Know for more information about how an Observer Corps works.

The list of public meetings is long and there is something of interest for everyone who wants to learn. Being a member of the Observer Corps can be fun and rewarding. Watching our government in action can make one a well-informed voter. Sharing the information gleaned at a public meeting can also help others become well-informed voters.