“Petty” is an adjective defined as “small-minded,” “small in nature,” “mean or ungenerous,” “jealous” and/or “inferior.”
This is about the best word to describe the actions of a handful of Johnson County individuals who want to change the name of a street in Olathe.
Clay Blair is a successful and generous Johnson County businessman and a former chair of the Kansas Board of Regents. He is a Kansas University graduate and gave the land that now is the site for KU’s Edwards campus in Overland Park. He has played a positive and effective role in numerous legislative actions that have benefited higher education.
When the Kansas Bioscience Authority was established, Blair was elected chairman of the innovative organization. From the outset, he made numerous contacts with companies located outside of Kansas, encouraging them to make investments and create new jobs in the state. He was instrumental in using the KBA to fund projects that resulted in added employment and added tax revenues.
He was extremely successful.
One of his projects was to work with Olathe’s mayor, Mike Copeland, in conceiving and putting together a 100-acre site to attract new science-related businesses that would offer good, well-paying employment opportunities for, but not limited to, the residents and young people of Johnson County.
It was a great idea. The infrastructure is being built, and it will be a tremendous asset not only for the Olathe area but for the entire state and specifically for Kansas State University, which will oversee part of the development.
Blair was so successful in his efforts that some, such as former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, one or two members of the KBA board, several political hacks and one or two individuals with no backbone decided to dump Blair from the chairmanship although he had done nothing wrong. It was, and continues to be, a sad chapter in the state’s effort to become a national player in the bioscience business. Blair had ideas and enthusiasm; he was innovative; he did not take a salary; he watched expenses; he was smart; and he knew how to sell Kansas as an ideal place in which to build high-tech facilities, and, in so doing, hold onto Kansas’ brightest people and attract others from throughout the country.
But politics and egos entered the scene, and Blair resigned. His record of achievement was such that his fellow board members had elected and re-elected him three different times as chairman of the KBA.
Olathe leaders realized the vital role Blair had played in getting the almost 100-acre site set aside for future development. They also realized and appreciated the role Blair played in giving the KBA such a successful startup.
To show the city’s appreciation, Mayor Copeland initiated an action to name a street bordering the site as “Clay Blair Boulevard.” This action had the unanimous approval of the Olathe City Council.
This is where the word “petty” enters the story.
The egos of several KBA officials obviously are so inflated they do not think Blair should be recognized in any way for his leadership and successful efforts on behalf of Olathe and Kansas. Apparently they are determined to do anything they can to bury the name of Clay Blair, even though he is the only KBA leader to date who has displayed true leadership, vision and results. For example, many claim they were responsible or helpful for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, but it was Blair who started and organized the initiatives that resulted in Kansas landing this research plum.
Now, those jealous of Blair’s success have initiated legal action to have the name of Clay Blair Boulevard changed to “Kansas Bioscience Drive.” Although Clay Blair Boulevard was created by an Olathe ordinance, KBA officials want it changed. This action also is a slap in the face of Copeland, Olathe’s effective and visionary mayor, and those serving as city council members. Olathe is a city on the move.
Whether or not the legal action is successful, this is just another sign of the smallness, jealousy and pettiness of several KBA officials. The fact is, the Olathe “Innovative Campus” would not exist without Blair’s vision and efforts and Copeland’s desire to help stimulate the economic development of Olathe and create job opportunities for area residents.
This attitude of who gets credit offers an ideal example of what so often holds back Kansas and various communities within the state from developing and reaching their potentials.
Two former Kansas state legislators, Rep. Kenny Wilk of Lansing and Sen. Nick Jordan of Shawnee, were the authors of the legislation that created the Kansas Bioscience Authority, and Blair provided strong and effective behind-the-scenes help.
Salaries and expenses of the KBA have skyrocketed, KBA leaders are building themselves a large, fancy office at the Olathe park site, and the number of KBA employees has increased since Blair was forced to resign. Unfortunately, raw politics now is playing a bigger role in the selection of KBA trustees.
However, it is interesting that in the years since Blair was pushed aside, very few new taxpaying jobs have been created by the KBA. Several of the industries that have come to Kansas were initially contacted by Blair, not anyone on the current KBA staff.
Not many people are aware of the infighting, egos, political initiatives and self-serving tactics in the KBA scene. Nor, do they realize the damage this has done to Kansas.
The effort to change the name of an Olathe street offers timely and accurate evidence of just how small and envious some people can be.