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.
Metropolitan Area Planning Commission
WAMPO Transportation Policy Board (TPB) Meeting, April 13, 2021
Relevant issues & actions taken:
- $3,789,097 is available for use by WAMPO through the CRRSAA funds – Funds not obligated by September 30, 2024 will expire. Must be tied to highway infrastructure. Exact guidance on how funds can be used is changing.
- There is an ongoing discussion to extend Wichita Transit to surrounding communities.
- Looking into connecting surrounding communities to the Wichita bike path – currently Derby and Mulvane are connected.
- The TPB is in ongoing discussions on the legality of including a citizen board member. Currently no citizen position exists.
Recommended follow up:
- Possible extension of Wichita transit to surrounding communities
- Plans to extend bike paths to connect Wichita to surrounding communities
- The legality of TPB including a citizen board member
Information and agendas are on the MAPC website. Observed online and reported by Michelle Vishnefske.
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 focus on items that relate to LWV positions and priorities.
County Commission Meeting, May 5, 2021
Relevant issues & actions taken:
- Approval of agreement with Valley Center, Park City, and KDOT to fund road improvements planned for access to new Amazon site.
- Adoption of the Sedgwick County Solid Waste Management Plan June 2021. This complex plan was approved, after lengthy discussion that included:
- Recycling – The amount of material recycled by the public has been decreasing for 5 years;one cause is people not correctly sorting. It has also become more difficult to find markets to take plastics that are not #1 and #2.
- Concerns about the drop-off fee for mattresses resulting in people dumping them.
- Discussion of the Sedgwick County 2021 Federal Legislative Agenda. Sedgwick County is hoping for federal support for extension of Amtrack through Wichita, funding for the NW Wichita 54 to 96 bypass, and help with flood control for Dry Creek.
- State Legislative Issues. Continuing concern with proposed legislation that will give an unelected 3 member board the authority to when counties must refund tax money to any business that claims they were impacted by COVID 19 restrictions. (NOTE: This was passed as a business relief bill by the Senate during the veto session on May 15)
LWV Watch Items: Transparency issues related to the state business relief bill. Sustainability concerns about decreased recycling, and disposal of solid waste.
County Commission Meeting, April 7, 2021
- Relevant issues & actions taken: The Commission voted to increase the pay for Detention Deputies, following a report on how the current low salary contributes to high turnover and staffing shortages.
County Commission Meetings, April 14 & 21, 2021
Observed, but no relevant issues to report on.
Agendas, minutes, and videos of meetings are online at SedgwickCounty.org. Observed live on YouTube and reported by Pat Reinhold
Wichita Board of Education
BOE Meeting, April 19, 2021
The Board welcomed a new Board Member, Mia Turner. The following teachers won the Distinguished Classroom Teacher Award: Alexandra Stamps (new teacher category), Kelsey Potter (new teacher secondary category), Kelly Phimsiprasom (primary category), Courtney Maddux (intermediate category), Jonathan Belsan(middle school category), and many others. The United Teachers of Wichita have a new president, Brent Lewis*. His official start date is June 15, 2021.
The following topics or issues may be important to the LWV:
- Gretchen Eick*, a professor of history at Friends University, commended the Board for including Native American history in the 11th grade. She also asked the Board to implement a pilot program for teachers to teach Mexican American history, African American history and Asian American history. She also urged the Board not to rely on one textbook.
- The Wallace Foundation has aided the Board in establishing a Leadership Pipeline. For instance, staff members that show leadership skills are identified, and measures are taken to retain them as leaders. Paras that aspire to be teachers and teachers that aspire to be principals are aided with leadership workshops. The idea is to build leaders from within the school system.
- The Board spent a lot of time listening to teachers/ leaders in virtual learning/ virtual schooling.
- Education Image Academy has been chosen as a “showcase school”. Originally, its goal was to collaborate with other schools and determine the best practices for virtual learning. However, COVID-19 forced the academy to quickly become functional. It focuses on: (1) Blended Learning (where students learn remotely half the time and in-person half the time), (2) STEM integration, and (3) Personalized Learning.
- Ed-Venture allowed students to go on virtual field trips. For instance, thousands of students met an Olympic gold medalist bobsledder.
- Graduations will be held at Koch arena and Century II.
- The retirement celebration will be held at Botanica..
*Note: Brent Lewis and Gretchen Eick are LWV members!
Information and minutes of Wichita BOE Meetings are online at USD259.org.
Observed on TV; report submitted by Monique Centeno
District Advisory Board (DAB) for Sedgwick County District III
The District 3 Citizens Advisory Board meets monthly. For meeting dates, agendas and minutes, go to sedgwickcounty.org.
The League presence is felt in many meetings around our city and county. I serve on the District Advisory Board (DAB) for Sedgwick County District III, which is represented by David Dennis. Each month, a department head is asked to speak to us about what that department does for Sedgwick County. It is really quite informative and helps us to understand decisions, as they are made. The DAB meets the first Monday, of the month, at 7:00 pm. We have been doing Zoom meetings, rather than meeting in person. Sheriff Easter spoke to us, in May, and was quite candid about problems of staffing, salaries and overcrowding in the Sedgwick County Jail and within the Sheriff’s department, itself. He discussed “defunding” the police and what that might look like—pros and cons. The issue of mental health, and the impact it has on crime and law enforcement is a big concern to the Sheriff’s department, along with the war on drugs—which is being lost!! The next issue, before the DAB, was a request for a zoning change. We get these rather frequently and can involve input from concern neighbors. Our decision is not binding, but it can give Commissioner Dennis input by an unbiased source.
The final part of the meeting involves a report from Commissioner Dennis on what he has been involved and also offers the DAB members a chance to bring up question and concerns about County business. This month a question was raised about the news report that EMS employees were unhappy with the current leadership and is leaving Sedgwick County EMS. Commissioner Dennis responded that the Chief of EMS is new and making some changes. When this happens there are often some complaints, but he has complete faith in the current leadership.
Report submitted by Sharon Ailslieger
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.