Government transparency is a vital part of the League’s mission since our founding in 1920. The Observer Corps is one way that Leagues promote open government on a local level. Our efforts in government transparency reinforce our reputation of fairness, nonpartisanship and trust. League members attend government meetings to learn what their government is doing and to monitor whether those meetings are conducted in an open and transparent way. Experience has shown the importance of the League being present to watch, listen, and to take action when necessary.
The Observer Corps protects the citizens’ right to know by sending observers to watch our government in action. Our collective government affects every aspect of our lives and comprised of both elected officials and the groups they appoint for commissions and boards. The County Commissioners, the City Council, the Board of Education, and more all do work and make decisions which affect each of us.
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, February 2, 2021
Well run. Meeting took 48 minutes. Slides, when presented, were unreadable (fuzzy), but unnecessary as they were summaries of the detailed reports included in the agenda.
Two funding decisions affecting community support and one item that could affect citizen input to city council decisions.
Housing First – Funded a case manager to work with chronic homeless with physical disabilities. Existing funding covers mental disabilities and addiction counseling but not physical disabilities.
Community Services Block Grant – Aimed at alleviating causes and conditions of poverty in communities. Federal funded at 1% above 2020, or $1,012,800. City council approved the recommendation from the citizen committee for the funding level of four external projects: Health Care, Employment & Training, Summer Activity Camps, and The Way to Work.
Amendments to Section 2.04.190 of the Code of the City of Wichita Regarding the Removal of Petitions for Public Improvements from the Consent Agenda and Adding Petitions for Public Improvements to the Council Business Agenda.
Current process requires gaining petition approval by 100% of the affected property owners before placement on the consent agenda of the city council meetings. This process can take as much as five weeks and impacts development schedules.
The new process allows petitions with less than 100% property owner approval to be placed on the city council agenda as new business items rather than consent agenda items. Ideally, the new process shortens the approval time to 10 days, but means that the council could be asked to approve a petition without full affected property owner input.
Recommendation: Continue observation of the city council meetings to view how a petition is handled when it does not have 100% of the affected property owners’ approval.
City Council Meeting, February 8, 2021
Multiple requests from attendees to allow public to attend in-person. No separate action taken by the City Council, but the city staff are currently considering when to open the meetings.
Police Pursuits: Multiple citizens spoke about the safety of police pursuits within residential areas. Councilwoman Claycomb spoke to the police chief and the item has been referred to the Wichita Citizen’s Review Board.
Housing: Recognized the work done by Mennonite Housing, who are building homes in District 1 and bringing opportunities of home ownership to Wichita citizens.
2021 Playground Rehabilitation and Development: Wichita has 86 playgrounds. The funds for 2021 will focus on Friendship, Sherwood Glen and Pawnee Prairie playgrounds.
Reports 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, January 20, 2021
Agenda Item H: Consideration of A Grant From The Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (Wampo) In The Amount Of $178,252 For Funding Of A Comprehensive Operations And Technology Feasibility Study And Implementation.
WAMPO staff reached out to the Department on Aging regarding moving this project to 2021. The study will assess multiple service characteristics and, based on the results, adjust to “meet the needs of Sedgwick County residents in the most efficient way. Additionally, purchases of technology equipment or vehicles may be needed to carry out the changes.”
Agenda Item M: Consideration of A Federal Transit Administration (Fta) Grant Through The City Of Wichita In The Amount Of $114,275 For The Urban 5310 Enhanced Mobility Of Seniors And Individuals With Disabilities.
County Commission Meeting, February 3, 2021
A video clip from the TODAY Show about Wichita’s Dockum Drug 1958 sit in was shown.
Public Agenda: Commissioner Meitzner reported on the emails from the public that were sent to Commissioners and they heard during the meeting from two citizens who spoke for 5 minutes each about COVID19 restrictions. I mention this because it is a reminder that the Commissioners do hear and pay attention to people who take the time to contact them.
Off Agenda Item: After discussion and a vote on an amendment to revise COVID19 restrictions, Commissioner Lopez asked about the history of having the Sedgwick County Commission serve as the County Board of Health, instead of appointing health professionals to the Board as they did in the past. County staff will look into what factors would affect removing BOH responsibility from the Commission, for future discussion.
Reports submitted by Pat Reinhold
Wichita Board of Education
BOE Meeting, February 8, 2021
The meeting started promptly at 6pm and lasted for a little over two hours. They covered a lot of topics, such as recognizing children that were awarded the scholastic art award; a new nondiscrimination policy; recognizing board members who are resigning and other matters.
The following are the most important topics that concern LWV:
- Board member Mike Rodee announced his resignation for personal reasons. The Board unanimously voted to accept his resignation. The Board is now accepting applications for Mr. Rodee’s seat, District 5. The application can be found on their website. The deadline is February 24, 2021 at noon.
- Due to Mr. Rodee’s resignation and the application process for his seat, the Board unanimously voted to cancel the already scheduled February and March meetings. The next meeting is specially set on March 3, 2021. At that time, the Board will interview qualified applicants.
- The subcommittee that was tasked with making recommendations about North High School’s “Redskins” mascot announced their report and recommendations. It was a very thorough report that considered the history of the mascot, and why some citizens consider it offensive and others do not. They recommended that the mascot and its nickname be discontinued. They recommended a two year phaseout plan to remove the mascot from school and school apparel. (The only exception was the mascot does not have to be removed from existing trophies located in the school.). Lastly, they did not pick a new mascot. They deferred that decision to the Principal. According to Policy 1216, the principal is responsible for picking school songs, themes and mascots.
Report submitted by Monique Centeno
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.