KCK student named to dean’s list at Drake

Sondra Radcliff, Kansas City, Kansas, was named to the dean’s list at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Students on the dean’s list have a GPA of 3.5 or higher for the fall 2016 semester.

Drake is a private university in Des Moines, Iowa, with more than 3,300 undergraduate and 1,700 graduate students.

KanCare expansion supporters target key lawmakers in campaign to override Brownback veto

by Jim McLean, Kansas News Service

Supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility in Kansas are preparing to mount an intense lobbying campaign over the weekend to get the votes they need to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of an expansion bill.

The governor vetoed the bill on Thursday, citing concerns about the cost of expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to cover an estimated 180,000 additional low-income Kansans. He also objected to extending coverage to “able-bodied” adults as long as thousands of Kansans with disabilities remained on waiting lists for support services.

“Any attempt to expand this entitlement program should include a plan to eliminate the inherited waiting list for services to our disabled community … and have a neutral impact on the state budget,” Brownback said in his veto message. “This bill does not meet those requirements.”

Reacting to the message, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said the governor is unfairly pitting two groups of needy Kansans against one another.

“I’ve never heard a more dishonest statement than we just heard,” Ward said, fighting back his emotions during debate Thursday morning on the House floor after Brownback announced his veto. “The governor pits working poor against the disabled. He talks about cost without talking about benefits.”

Expansion supporters were able to delay a vote to override the governor’s veto by tabling the expansion bill Thursday. The vote is now expected to occur sometime next week.

That means groups belonging to the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a pro-expansion coalition, will be active over the weekend, lobbying a handful of legislators to switch their votes.

“At the end of the day, this is about the governor,” said David Jordan, director of the coalition. “Are the legislators going to do the right thing and expand KanCare, or are they going to side with the governor and deny access to health care and deny their hospitals and other providers the payments they need to stay financially whole?”

The Sumner Regional Medical Center in Wellington is one of several Kansas hospitals struggling financially in part because of the state’s refusal to expand KanCare, which the Kansas Hospital Association estimates has cost providers nearly $1.8 billion in additional federal funding.

“We are one of, I think, 31 (Kansas) hospitals that were listed at risk for closure at the beginning of the year,” said Terry Deschaine, a member of the medical center’s board.

Recently, Deschaine said the hospital’s foundation and the city of Wellington helped administrators secure a $300,000 line of credit from a local bank so that they could cover operating expenses and meet the payroll.

“The financial challenges we’re facing are very significant,” Deschaine said, noting that expansion would generate an additional $750,000 a year in revenue for the medical center.

Deschaine is one of several community leaders planning to meet Friday in Wellington with Sen. Larry Alley, a first-term Republican from Winfield. They hope to persuade Alley, who voted against the expansion bill, to change his mind and vote to override the governor’s veto.

“At least we’ll be able to meet with him face-to-face and tell him our story and how critical it is that he sees the light,” Deschaine said.

Alley is open to the discussion but said the hospital’s continuing struggles aren’t reason enough to change his position on expansion.

“They’ve been in trouble for some time,” Alley said of the hospital. “And I don’t believe that this, right now, is the time to expand Medicaid because of the financial problems the state is having.”

Alley, like Brownback, doesn’t believe estimates compiled by the Kansas Hospital Association that show revenue and savings generated by expansion would more than cover the state’s share of the cost, 90 percent of which would be shouldered by the federal government. But he said he’s willing to be persuaded.

“I’m still open, but they’re going to have to do a good job providing that data,” he said.

Alley is one of 17 legislators that expansion advocates are targeting in this weekend’s lobbying effort, Jordan said.

“We’re hopeful that some of those legislators will change their minds,” he said. “I think we’re close, we’re three votes away in the House and two votes in the Senate.”

The House passed the expansion bill 81-44 in late February. It would take 84 votes to override the governor’s veto. In the Senate, where the bill passed 25-14 earlier this week, supporters will need 27 votes to override the veto.

Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics in Kansas. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

See more at http://kcur.org/post/kancare-expansion-supporters-target-key-lawmakers-campaign-override-brownback-veto.

Duplex zoning denied for old Strawberry Hill home

After strong neighborhood opposition, the zoning for a Strawberry Hill home was not allowed to be changed to a duplex on Thursday night.

The Strawberry Neighborhood Association and several residents of the area turned out at the Unified Government Commission meeting to oppose the zoning change of the rental property.

The applicant argued that the house at 410 Sandusky Ave. in Kansas City, Kansas, had served most of its years as a duplex, and so should continue as a duplex despite not being on a list of existing duplexes in that neighborhood, and not being used as a duplex for the last 18 or so years. He said the house was licensed as a duplex before the neighborhood was rezoned to single-family in 2000.

According to UG officials, the Strawberry Hill area changed to a single-family district in that neighborhood about year 2000. Census data from 1920 showed two heads of household at the address on Sandusky, according to the applicants’ research.

A protest petition had been signed by about 78 percent of the surrounding property owners.

Justine Underwood Jones, president of the Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Association, said she had not heard anyone in the Strawberry Hill community in favor of this proposed zoning change. She said the association wanted good quality residences in its neighborhood.

A resident who lives across the street from the proposed duplex said she was afraid it would set a precedent in the area. She said some of the old houses in that area were built to accommodate multi-generational families.

Commissioner Brian McKiernan said he favored keeping the zoning at single-family, adding that the residents of the neighborhood got together, wanted to promote single-family occupancy in 2000, and changed the zoning to single-family. The owners of duplexes were allowed exemptions at the time, but the owner of this building did not put it on the exemption list.

“We need to respect the efforts of the neighborhood group at that time,” McKiernan said. “I don’t want to set a precedent that could lead to a domino effect.”

The commission voted 9-0 to deny the zoning change.

In another issue related to the house, the planning staff stated that the use of the house as a duplex was legally established prior to the zoning change in 2000. The planning department staff said the staff had decided the house was a legal nonconforming use. The neighborhood association may appeal that decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals, according to UG officials.

In a separate agenda item, a special use permit for entertainment at a bar and grill in the West Bottoms area was sent back to the Planning Commission for more work on an 8-1 vote. The Planning Commission earlier had recommended denial of the special use permit for a drinking establishment and live entertainment at 16 N. James St.

While several people appeared at the public hearing in favor of the bar’s permit, no one appeared against it during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

The Wave Lounge and Grill, from Silvur Dolla Enterprise, was applying for renewal of its permit. There was a shooting at the parking lot of the bar and grill about a year ago.

Police Chief Terry Zeigler told the UG Commission about an incident in February of this year at the nightclub. In the latest incident, police responded when someone was injured in a shooting.

While officers were responding inside the club, an unknown male tried to take an officer’s baton, swung at the officer and ran into the crowd, according to Zeigler. Someone then took a microphone and yelled an obscenity at the police, and bottles and chairs were thrown at the police, he said. It took all the police units available to bring the situation under control, according to the chief. He described it as a “near riot.” The police department was in favor of denying the permit.

The owner of the bar and grill, however, told a slightly different story. A well-known rapper from out of town went to the club, but had not been booked there in advance, on the night of the incident, according to the owner. He told the UG Commission that he had worked with the police and sheriff’s department to improve security at the location, and had done everything he could. He said several raids had taken place on the bar, where nothing was discovered. He also said the bar operated for 11 months without an incident. The nightclub holds more than 1,000 people, and the bar and grill also is in use during lunch and for special events.

Commissioner Gayle Townsend asked about changing the hours of the nightclub or changing the types of events. The owner said he was open to shortening the hours to midnight, instead of 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., and to doing without the “hardcore” artists.

In answer to questions from Commissioner Melissa Bynum, the owner said since the February incident he has installed 16 more video cameras for security, put a person in a camera room to watch the cameras and hired more security for the parking lots. They also added an identification scanner, plus added more signs telling patrons about the cameras and the exits. Also, the nightclub has a security person at the door with an electronic wand to prevent weapons from being brought in, he said.

Commissioner McKiernan said although he advocated for the entrepreneur the last time he appeared before the UG Commission, McKiernan is torn about it now. He doesn’t want something in his district that would be a danger to residents, he said. He also did not like any situation where patrons were openly hostile to the police department, he said.

Commissioner Townsend said she noticed that all the incidents seemed to happen around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., and that maybe the bar should screen the artists, reduce the number of live events, and watch the demographics of who is coming into the bar.

Commissioner Hal Walker noted that he was a former part owner of a bar, and said bar owners have to be responsible about the persons they let into the bar. “It was pretty easy to tell who would be a problem because they had been drinking all evening,” he said.

The commissioners said they were sending it back to the Planning Commission to work on a structured solution that the bar owner, the police and everyone involved could live with. It is tentatively scheduled for April 10 at the Planning Commission meeting.

Mayor Mark Holland added that “making disparaging comments about our staff and the police are not the path to a special use permit.”

Commissioners voted 8-1 to send the item back to the Planning Commission, with Commissioner Ann Brandau Murguia voting no.

To see a video with more details from the meeting, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me24F_RVQRQ.