Something to Think About
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Steve Sauder is president of Emporia's Radio Stations, Inc. the owners of KVOE-AM 1400, Country 101.7 and Mix 104.9. Steve has been in a leadership position with ERS, Inc., since 1987.
After I made my decision to retire from the legislature I got involved in the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas which is a broad based statewide coalition of individuals and organizations that have come together to improve the health of Kansans.
The first policy goal of the Alliance is to improve access to care by expanding KanCare, the Kansas Medicaid program. Alliance members include business leaders, doctors and hospitals, social service and safety net organizations, faith communities, chambers of commerce, advocates for health care consumers, and others.
Over the last eight months the Alliance has held 36 community meetings across Kansas, including one in Emporia last September that directly engaged thousands of Kansans. The work of the Alliance has confirmed that expanding KanCare impacts and will benefit all Kansans.
Last week the House Health Committee held hearings on expanding KanCare. Doctors and leaders of community health centers and mental health centers testified that expanding KanCare will make Kansans healthier. In addition to improved health and lower death rates, Kansans who are eligible for coverage under expansion will see reduced medical debt, better credit scores, and an improved chance of finding and keeping employment. While there is a lot of talk about expanding KanCare providing a disincentive to work, the opposite is true. A study of Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population found that the policy improved the expansion population’s employment status and prospects. Area patients of Flint Hills Community Health Center and Crosswinds will benefit significantly from the expansion of KanCare.
Newman Hospital is enjoying improving stability after being designated as a critical access hospital. Unfortunately thirty-one Kansas hospitals are considered financially vulnerable, in part because they provide millions of dollars’ of uncompensated care.
Larger hospitals in Kansas including Via Christi in Wichita and others have been forced to lay off hundreds of employees because of the failure to expand KanCare. The League of Municipalities, has described how dozens of communities and their taxpayers must pay higher local taxes to support their hospitals because the state has not expanded KanCare.
Expanding KanCare will provide resources to hospitals and reduce uncompensated care costs. In turn, this will lessen the need for local taxpayers to pay higher sales, property, and district taxes to support their hospitals. Research has shown that expansion often times means the difference between profit or loss for rural hospitals. We cannot allow another closure like that experienced by Mercy Hospital in Independence – especially when there is a solution.
The closure Independence hospital caused the loss of more than 190 good paying jobs. Kansas lost 9,400 private sector jobs last year. We cannot afford to lose any more. Leaders of dozens of Chambers of Commerce including Emporia’s have described how expanding KanCare creates jobs, stimulates the economy, and helps businesses.
The issue of whether or not to expand KanCare impacts every Kansas taxpayer. To date, the state has forfeited over $1.6 billion of Kansas taxpayers’ money because we have chosen not to expand KanCare. That money could have been brought back to Kansas to create jobs, protect hospitals and local taxpayers, and most importantly to improve the health of Kansans. Instead our tax dollars have gone to other states that have expanded. Expanding Medicaid does not contribute to the deficit or debt because it is part of a budget neutral bill at the federal level. At the state level, expanding KanCare would help the Legislature address our budget problems. Other states have experienced positive budget impacts as a result of expansion. It is projected that expanding KanCare would result in a $69.2 million net gain to the state budget in 2017.
It is past time the Kansas Legislature votes to expand Medicaid. I trust that will happen. A recent American Cancer Society poll found that 82% of Kansas voters support expansion. When the legislature passes expansion What will Governor Brownback do. Well that is the subject for another day.
That is something to think about. I am Don Hill
In Emporia, we have had the same city commission for the last 4 years. In that time, our commission has focused on maintaining the city’s financial strength, long range planning, and on development. I think we have made significant progress towards our goals, but I think the most visible area has been in development. Development can take many forms, but I thought I would focus on Housing, Infrastructure, Industrial, Commercial, and Higher Ed.
Updated housing has long been a need in Emporia, and has been on the city’s goals since 2013. Housing can take many forms, but I wanted to focus on both single family, and multifamily. We had 20 new houses started last year, with a total cost of $3.3 million, and 247 remodeling permits with a total of $1.8 million. Last year, the commission approved the first RHID project in Emporia, opening 26 lots for construction in the new Hidden Vistas development. Of those 26 lots, 10 have commitments. The commission also supported 3 Housing Tax Credit applications that could lead to a new low to moderate income housing complex. Finally, 2016 saw the opening of the Chelsea Lofts downtown.
Maintaining and updating the city’s infrastructure has also seen significant development. Last year, roads that were resurfaced included Hwy 50, and over 2 miles of other city road improvements. Over $750,000 was invested in our roads. We also relined over 3 miles of sanitary sewers to maintain their life expectancy, and completely rebuilt Sewer Life Station 6 in Jones Park. The city’s award winning water also saw significant investment in a new Ozone treatment cycle, and a new main water intake line from the Neosho River, complete with zebra mussel prevention.
Industrial development and jobs are one of the backbones of our local economy. Last year, we saw higher employment at many of our major employers. The RDA is continuously in talks with our local companies, and will look to partner in their future growth. Finally, the city used a KDOT grant to finish Warren Way in Industrial Park 3 to open the last big lot to development.
Commercial development saw 2 major projects announced, and the construction started. The Flint Hills Mall is using a 1 cent CID to rehab and modernize their facility. This is the first project of its kind in Emporia. The Emporia Pavilions project was approved and construction began in October 2016. This was a combination TIF/ CID project, again the first time that method has been used in Emporia.
The final type of development I wanted to discuss is in Higher Education. Last year, the city announced a major plan to help improve Welch Stadium at ESU through a 5 year commitment. The city also partnered with Lyon County to provide scholarship dollars to help recruit students to ESU. The city also completed a storm water project along Merchant Street that improved the ESU landscape off of I35.
The current city commission has focused on all types of development the last 4 years. Progress can be seen around town. However, if you feel that there are other priorities the city should focus on, or just think things should be done differently, please remember that the next election for the city commission will be in November. If you would like to file for the election, please see the Lyon County clerk by June 1. I’m Jon Geitz, and that is something to think about.
This week seems to have barely begun and yet – does it seem to anyone other than me that we have had enough headlines for weeks.
President Trump has been busy in his first dozen days after taking the oath of office. I believe he has taken some meaningful positive action and made other moves which cause me great concern. Kind of reminds me of the playground game we played way back in the day – he has taken 4 scissor steps forward and several baby steps backward.
I am especially concerned about the Presidents immigration ban and the way it was implemented. What was he thinking about? Who did he consult? Were the consequences of this action, both intended and unintended, carefully considered?
In the aftermath of this action I am grateful for the wisdom and guidance from the faith community as well as counsel from leaders in business (especially the tech industry), education, homeland security and defense.
Elected officials in both parties have raised voices of concern including all of our Kansas congressional delegation. Senator Jerry Moran and Representative Kevin Yoder responded quickly.
Senator Moran said “ While I support thorough vetting, I do not support restricting the rights of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents Furthermore, far-reaching national security policy should always be devised in consultation with Congress and relevant government agencies.”
Representative Kevin Yoder said his office will work with constituents who, as lawful permanent residents of the United States, are unfairly detained under the executive order. Yoder said he supports pausing refugee resettlement in the U.S. but opposes more expansive restrictions.
Yoder stated further that “President Trump and the White House must work with the State Department and (Department of Homeland Security) to ensure that green card holders and valid visa recipients who have already gone through vetting don’t get swept up by this order because it is interpreted too broadly.”
The higher education community in Kansas has also expressed concern.
K-States president Richard Myers, who was also chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Republican President George W. Bush, said in a statement that Kansas State has reached out to all international students and scholars with travel advice while the ban is in place.
“K-State deeply values the contributions of our international family members and regrets the disruption this situation is causing in their lives. As a public research university with global connections, we are concerned about the detrimental effects of this policy on those pursuing academic studies and research.” said Myers.
A spokesman for prominent Kansas businessman Charles Koch said he opposed President Trump’s controversial ban on immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries.
In a statement he said "We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families. The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive,"
I understand there is disagreement regarding this issue but I believe the President has stubbed his toe on this one. Donald J. Trump is our President. He is my President and I wish for his success. There is not a President in history who has not acknowledged they made mistakes while serving in the most powerful office in the world.
I believe we must all be willing to find ways to work together and I hope President Trump will be caring and careful. We will all be best served when he finds the capacity to learn from his, and others, success as well as missteps.
That is something to think about!
At an economic development conference a few years back, a speaker was highlighting the need for communities and business people to fuse the concepts of “dreaming” and “implementation”. A quote flashed on big screen behind the presenter, declaring- “Entrepreneur- A French word meaning, has ideas and actually does them.” The crowd laughed, but the discussion among attendees after the presentation highlighted the need for entrepreneurial mind sets in more than just business.
Entrepreneurs spot opportunities and convert those opportunities into businesses, events, developments and solutions to problems. They move quickly to implement new ideas and create unique community elements. Because businesses, events or solutions to issues implemented by entrepreneurs are “one of a kind”, they draw people into an area and create community pride.
So, why the resistance to entrepreneurship?
Smaller, rural communities seem to crave the known commodity of branded business types. Citizens tend to look at other communities within driving distance to say “why can’t we be more like them”, and bureaucratic entities encourage people to look backwards in time to nostalgically embrace how things used to be instead of intersecting with emerging trends and demographic shifts. Training programs struggle to teach local citizens skill sets associated with creating things that don’t currently exist.
But, because of our smaller relative size, do rural communities have a choice beyond embracing an entrepreneurial focus? Recent economic reports indicate that large chain retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to compete against on-line competition. Some economists indicate that increases in automation and other influences will result in roughly half of all jobs residing in entrepreneurial businesses by 2040. Policy decisions in Kansas have resulted in population loss, and new ideas are needed. Entrepreneurial businesses tend to donate a higher percentage of sales to local charities, and are more likely to use local professional services, like attorneys, banks, accountants and media.
To use a sports analogy, communities are like basketball players. Big communities can lumber down the court and throw their weight around because of their relative size. Smaller communities must be fast, opportunistic and willing to take some outside shots. Entrepreneurs can spot opportunities, move quickly to capitalize and create valuable changes that result in big community gains.
So, what can we do as rural communities to emphasize entrepreneurship? It starts with recognizing that entrepreneurs aren’t found only in business. They are found throughout various segments of our community. Supporting these local entrepreneurs with our time, talent and treasure is a way to advance Emporia towards an entrepreneurial mind set. We vote for entrepreneurs with the dollars we spend, our advocacy and our focus. We need to support the development of places that encourage entrepreneurs to exist in close proximity to other entrepreneurs so they can support each other. We need to encourage entrepreneurial educational practices that emphasize team building, resource attainment and realistic opportunism. In short, we need to build an entrepreneurial culture.
Over the past several years, we’ve seen Emporia pull in more outside dollars. We’ve grown jobs in some pretty unique business types and we have established some internationally acclaimed events due to entrepreneurship. Because we are surrounded by much larger communities that already have established chains and homogenous activities, our best chance to compete is through the unique opportunities that entrepreneurs provide.
So, let’s go beyond celebrating entrepreneurs and their can do attitudes this year. Lets recognize the critical role they play in creating a successful Emporia, and dedicate the resources, support and advocacy our locally owned businesses need to grow a better community all year long.
I’m Casey Woods, and that’s something to think about…