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Archive for Friday, July 8, 2011

Statehouse Live: Brownback says he is willing to consider options to closure of Lawrence SRS office

July 8, 2011, 11:36 a.m. Updated July 8, 2011, 4:48 p.m.

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Brownback says he will consider alternatives to closing SRS offices

Gov. Sam Brownback says he will consider alternatives to closing Social and Rehabilitation Services offices as long as the department is still able to meet its budget. The department announced Friday, July 1, 2011, that it would close nine offices, including the Lawrence office, which has 87 employees. Enlarge video

— In the face of increasing opposition, Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday said he would be willing to consider options to his administration’s decision last week to close nine state welfare agency offices, including the one in Lawrence.

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. announced last week that he intended to shut down the offices as a cost-cutting move. The Lawrence office, with 87 employees, was by far the largest one.

Brownback has defended the move as necessary to comply with a budget he signed into law that cut SRS by $42 million, including $1 million in administrative expenses.

He has said SRS clients — low-income families, people with disabilities and children — could travel for assistance to nearby cities, such as Topeka, Overland Park and Ottawa. Opponents of the closure say that isn’t reasonable.

But when asked Friday if the closure decisions could be appealed, he said, “We'll work with the SRS office and Secretary Siedlecki on that. But if people are willing to come up with alternate options so that we can save money that we need to save that was put forward in the budget and set by the Legislature, I'm sure willing to look at options and I know Secretary Siedlecki will too.”

The Brownback administration’s decision in Lawrence has caused a huge public outcry, especially from law enforcement and social service advocates.

The Douglas County Democratic Party has invited former SRS Secretary Robert Harder to speak to a meeting at 10 a.m. today at the Lawrence Public Library, and legislative leaders are hosting a public meeting on the issue at 7 p.m. Monday at Plymouth Congregational Church.

Statewide, communities where offices have been slated for closure are trying to get more information about the decision. Many legislators, Republicans and Democrats, have said they were caught off-guard when SRS made the announcement late Friday before the July 4th three-day weekend.

State Rep. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, was quoted in the Fort Scott Tribune as urging residents to contact the governor’s office to express their opinion about the planned closure of the Fort Scott SRS office. “I’m not sure (SRS did) ... it’s due diligence,” she said. Other offices being closed are in Coffeyville, Garnett, Lyndon, Marysville, McPherson, Pratt and Wellington.

One month prior to the announcement, Siedlecki toured the Lawrence office with local legislators. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said Siedlecki made no mention that the office would be closed. And Davis called it a “cowardly move by this administration” to make the announcement before a holiday weekend.

Comments

lunacydetector 3 years, 2 months ago

sounds like a free city or county owned building (like a closed school) for SRS is in order.

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lunacydetector 3 years, 2 months ago

didn't the school district give the boys-girls club a school on haskell for $1.00?

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notanota 3 years, 2 months ago

Translation: Anything bad is Siedlecki's fault, and "I'll consider" means I've already decided, and I just don't want you to hate on me for it.

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wowiekt08 3 years, 2 months ago

This better not be a bunch of false hope for the people of Lawrence.

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deec 3 years, 2 months ago

Maybe Dougie can donate a building as payback for all the freebies he's gotten from local, state and federal governments over the years. Isn't there office space in that new project at 9th and N.H.?

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RiverCityConservative 3 years, 2 months ago

Don't cancel the town meetings. Don't cut him any slack right now. Don't assume anything will change without a real tussle of wills over this one.

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Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 2 months ago

I will definitely still be there. This announcement means NOTHING!

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RiverCityConservative 3 years, 2 months ago

Is this the state priest or the governor? Got away with a lot the first six months. Separation of church and state. It's worked for nearly 250 years. Must be a reason...

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RiverCityConservative 3 years, 2 months ago

He's going to have to get his hands dirty on this one.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 2 months ago

This is nothing but a sleight of hand. Make idiotic cuts that few can agree with, then backtrack while still making big cuts in the SRS budget, and call it a "compromise."

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LHS56 3 years, 2 months ago

What did we expect him to say???? The decision is final?? Brownie is simply giving us lip service hoping the problem will go away with time. WE NEED TO KEEP THE HEAT ON!!!! He will continue to bob and weave but perhaps the voting public will see more of the true person that was elected to the highest office in our State. And...another three years. Father Brownbeck....sounds about right. He believes he is right and we need to learn the way.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

Brownback is trying get all concerned to shut up about it.

Obviously he does not know what he is doing.

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overthemoon 3 years, 2 months ago

Ever single one of his 'Friday Bombs" has had glaring oversights and legal problems. He does not do his homework.

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JohnSickels 3 years, 2 months ago

Keep the pressure up, folks.

So far I've contacted Tom Sloan, Marci Francisco, and Barbara Ballard. I haven't heard from Ballard, but both Sloan and Francisco told me that they oppose the closing of the SRS office and are working to convince the administration to change its mind. I doubt they will listen to Marci, but Sloan (who wrote me a very detailed and helpful reply to my message) might have a bit more clout since he's a Republican.

I also called Brownback's office and raised hell, emphasizing that while I am a Democrat, I HAVE voted for Republicans before, but there's no chance I would ever do so again if those goes through. I pointed out all the detrimental effects this would have on many innocent people, and pointed out that people in Lawrence (even Republicans I know) believe this move was politically motivated to punish the city.

The young man I spoke with told me they are hearing a lot about this topic, almost all of it negative, and that people are very angry.

Keep making phone calls and writing letters, folks. There is a chance this can be reversed. Maybe a small chance, maybe this is just lip service. But he wouldn't feel the need for lip service if they weren't feeling some legitimate pressure.

We know they won't listen to Democrats, but if Republicans and independents speak out, they might listen. Keep pushing.

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Alceste 3 years, 2 months ago

Sloan is the biggest political HACK of those listed, with Ballard right behind him.....

Sloan signed up for the mackdaddy payout he's going to get when he "retires" from the legislature. Well, if nothing else Sloan is certainly taking care of business for himself in this thing called the "Kansas Legislature" in that he has embraced the retirement plan to the max. Here's the formula:

Legislators have given themselves one heck of a sweetheart deal in how their own KPERS benefits are calculated. 372 days in a year! Leave it to a political hack like Tom Sloan to figure that one out!

For the legislator listing all income - the daily rate, subsistence and allowance - this is how annualization is calculated:

•$88.66 (daily rate) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $32,981.52

•$123 (subsistence) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $45,756

•$7,083 non-session allowance.

Altogether, that equals $85,820.52, and that's the pay figure that would be used for that legislator retiring now.

The Senate president and House speaker are at the top of the pay scale, and annualized pay for those posts could be as high as $99,859.74, depending on their enrollment choices.

Greed? 372 day year? Right....uh huh......good one..... One has to wonder if Tom Sloan has a 372 calendar for his business, as well?

When Tom Sloan was first elected he had a choice to make with respect to how he wanted his legislature work figured for retirement purposes. He could have chosen the method that counts only the actual days worked and the actual money received.....not this funny bunny "I work 372 days per year. Build my KPERS benefit around that option please". I wonder if Tom Sloan runs his business with in such a shoddy fashion? I'll bet not.....and I'll also BET he's been counting on that kpers payout the entire time he's been "serving" (now there's a total misuse of the word....)......shrug

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gudpoynt 3 years, 2 months ago

Don't be so quick to dismiss BB's public acknowledgement of opposition as lip service.

We live in a world where one of the most powerful media moguls in the world is willing to cut off an extremely profitable limb after a mere week or two of bad press.

This isn't your grandfather's political activism. Today, we possess greater access to information and ability to coordinate efforts than ever before in the history of the world.

Go to the meeting on Monday, and come prepared with sound alternatives to closing the Lawrence SRS office, and a realistic, effective way to communicate those to the Governor's office.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 2 months ago

"We live in a world where one of the most powerful media moguls in the world is willing to cut off an extremely profitable limb after a mere week or two of bad press."

It wasn't merely "bad press." It was about as idiotic an abuse of the right to privacy as anyone can get. But that's what Murdoch's tabloids do, and he's not going to change anything. He'll merely crank out a "Sunday" Sun to replace News of the World.

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, I agree bozo. He's getting ready to buy this hugely profitable TV network in Britain and he was bleeding advertisers in NotW like a cow at slaughter. Shutting it down was actually a pretty smart business move. They can all have "plausible deniability" in the scandal and still walk away safe and financially sound. He still can't get FOX into Canada, though. Heeheehee!

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gudpoynt 3 years, 2 months ago

$300K isn't that much really. It's 10 FTE positions at a salary of $30K.

Surely there's a way to eliminate 10 FTE positions within the SRS system of the whole state of KS. Perhaps 10 could be eliminated in the Lawrence office alone.

While it doesn't seem likely that the same level of benefit can be achieved by clients commuting to neighboring offices or simply using the Internet, perhaps there ARE some SRS services that are extraneous given other community resources. Maybe we could find out what those are and see if we could eliminate positions that way.

I'd be interested to see what there communication infrastructure is like. Oftentimes, offices find themselves paying somebody a salary to do the job of what a handful of smartphones could do. I'd look to see if modest investments in newer technologies could trim personnel needs.

The building donation idea is interesting too, although, in the case of the school district, I don't see them readily giving up an asset like an entire building for nothing when they themselves are so strapped for cash.

Check out the SRS budget (http://bit.ly/nTUwT4 -- page 105) and see where you think you could find some money. Let us know if you have any ideas, either here, or in the meeting on Monday.

btw - the ironic thing that gets me, is that of the 87 employees that will be forced to other offices, how many will simply quit SRS and find a job where they don't have to move or commute? If it's about 10 or greater at $30K FTE, then there's your $300K right there.

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scott3460 3 years, 2 months ago

And it is really even less when you consider that the $300K salary ia a one time savings. Cutting employees is a multi year savings. Also, you can double the employee saving to account for fringe benefits.

All in all, they could have gone to the landlord and gotten most of this in concessions for extending or renegotiating the lease.

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gudpoynt 3 years, 2 months ago

Another option would be to look for non-critical expenses being paid by the state general fund (i.e. capital building improvements). Any way that non-critical SGF expenses could be put on hold?'

But the bottom line, imho, is that a Lawrence office with fewer employees, that may serve fewer clients, is better than no office at all.

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

  1. It won't serve fewer clients.. It will simply up the case loads on the workers that remain; workers that, frankly, already have back breaking caseloads.
  2. It's difficult to come up with alternatives when Brownback, his office or Sidelecki refuses to tell us how they arrived at that decision in the first place. Obviously, case loads have nothing to do with it. You simply won't convince me that Ottawa has a higher case load than Lawrence.
  3. There is no "realistic, effective way to communicate" with to the Governor's office. Not when even the LJ World is being snubbed by that entity and the Governor won't even speak to our own representatives. I'm not trying to be a wet blanket, sir. But the truth is, we are being met with real obstructionism. If Governor Brownback truly wishes to "consider options" to this closure then he HAS to start by communicating with this community.
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billbodiggens 3 years, 2 months ago

They shut down a huge number of offices in the western two thirds of the state maybe ten years ago. No squawk from the rest of the state about that. The old, lame, halt, disabled and down and out were told to travel, use the internet or telephone. Sound familiar? Did not make any sense then and does not make any sense now. In other words the current and apparently long lasting theory of social services in Kansas is to quite moaning and just tough it out - “we’re sorry you hurt or are in trouble, but you certainly should not expect the state to lift a finger for help. Maybe you could just move out of state.” Yes-sirree-Bob, compassion is running rampant in Kansas.

On the other hand the SRS model of services could possible be adopted for other areas of concern. Cities could band together and have a joint life saving service operate out of a central area for the various municipal pools. Replace each lifeguard stand with a telephone booth. Heck, the legislature itself could save thousands upon thousands by simply going to one phone. Everybody could contact their legislature through the one phone and leave a message. Or, we could even share a governor with Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma and/or Colorado. I am certain we would all be taken care of in fine style.

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

How much of those offices being shut down had to do with the fact that this state has been bleeding it's population for years? When you're in a county with all of two clients, how does keeping an office make sense? (I also highly doubt they were told to "use the internet". Not ten years ago.) More likely they were replaced with a "traveling office" out of the county courthouse that was there one or two days a week for the handful of clients they served. (I actually saw this sort of thing in rural MO and I doubt KS is/was different.)

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billbodiggens 3 years, 2 months ago

They were told to use the computers in county libraries if necessary. But, go ahead and doubt it if you need to for your own little personal reality.

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

Oh, you mean start withdrawing tax breaks from those in the wealthiest top 10% and make them start paying their fair share?

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overthemoon 3 years, 2 months ago

don't know that anyone supports abuses. there will always be some, but effective and efficient service might help reduce that.

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Pastor_Bedtime 3 years, 2 months ago

The first entitlement abusers to stop are the developers with their hand in your pockets. Compton, for example. And those "poor farmers" who milk us dry with their farm subsidies.

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lawslady 3 years, 2 months ago

Here's an a couple of ideas for cuts, Mr. Governor -

  1. Stop the Legislature from adopting resolutions in bill form. A resolution has NO legal impact. It's simply an expression of official opinion by the majority who approve its passage. And it is estimated (By your own Legislative Post Audit and Research staff) that each such "bill" costs about $5,000 (adding in staff time, printing costs, distribution of the 100's of copies etc.). If you add up that $5,000 for each house/senate resolution passed each session, it easily exceeds $300,000. If the Legislature wants to express itself, do so in a LETTER that everyone can sign or vote on. One letter. Done.

  2. Stop holding meetings (especially secret meetings) on so many things, when taxes pays for them. Is there really a crying need for $13,000 tax dollars to be spent on the state of marriage in the state when programs that promote economic gains or prevent future costs must be sacrificed so you can have one more "talking head" moment where policy is secretly decided? If you want to hold such gatherings, do so in your own homes and with your own money. Isn't that the Republican conservative mantra?

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

Notice he didn't say he would work with the community.

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Alceste 3 years, 2 months ago

Harder is in reality nothing more than a demagogue. Yeah, he was there when Kansas converted from a County Welfare System to a State System....and that was a GOOD THING.

However, Harder also head bobbed and bootlicked the dismantling of the very change over he oversaw......Kansas went from a "pro people" concept of Public Welfare to a "...do what is easy and swift according to the politicians" modality it was amusing. He did so in order to keep his, then, fat pay check coming in.....him and his hand picked crony Curtis Hartenberger.

Robt. Harder had a place in SRS.....but who cares what he thinks now? And that's all you'll hear....what he thinks....and maybe some old "war stories" about "...the way I did when I was.....".

Robt. Harder is about as relevant to current Public Welfare policy in Kansas as stray dogs are to the homeless shelter. Where was Harder when Kansas privitized foster care? Where was Harder when Kansas was confronted with having one of the highest removal and children in foster care rates in the USA? Where was harder when the Feds slapped a suit against Kansas due to all the child welfare cases in the early '90's? He was counting his money, that's for sure.

Pulling out Bob Harder at this time is like pulling out a bow and arrow when Quantrill rode through town (I just had to throw in that ever so omniprescent HISTORICAL metaphor....). He ain't nobody to nodbody; his perspectives are old, antiquated, and...well....useless.......and what he IS good for is all the "warm fuzzies" people will get as they wax sentinmental. Big deal.

As for moving staff, oneeye_wilbur....don't leave out that fancy DCCCA office....it gets lots of free money from SRS and don't pay dime one in taxes to the County....in spite of the fact it's in a DELUXXXXEVILLE office space. Too, no reason good Ole Gene Meyer and his $600k annual salary....of which Gene don't pay nothing to us locals given he don't live in these here parts......can't find some space or two for a "social worker". However, you must bear in mind, oneeye_wilbur, that these Lawrence social workers are special and require certain specifics about where they are housed: They've grown accustomed to a sedate, quite, comfortable environment and pleasing them is what all of this is all about.....it ain't about pleasing the "customer".....the people who use the SRS office (and "customer" is the term/word SRS uses......NOT me....)........ hahahahahahhahahaha

shrug

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why_me 3 years, 2 months ago

There is a running joke at SRS about 5:00 Friday press releases.....today it was a 4:45 email.

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

So don't leave a turkey in suspense. What did it say?

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hpp422 3 years, 2 months ago

By the way did anyone notice the price of gas in Lawrence went up 24 cents a gallon today. That'll be good news for all those folks that have to drive to Topeka or Ottawa or Overland Park for services.........not!

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Katara 3 years, 2 months ago

Both Topeka & KC went up about the same.

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Alceste 3 years, 2 months ago

Perhaps the "chosen"....who were of the "right persuasion" and given access to The Temple (the Lawrence SRS office) will now learn just how good they HAD it and find out what it is like to get to spend 20% of their net income on commuting expenses. Why, they can even make their pertrol purchases local and use ZARCO. Poetic justice has a degree of satisfaction, eh?!

The people most impacted on the decision to close this office, aside from the clients (they're mandated "term of use" within SRS is "consumer) are the clerks and support staff who work for marginal wages and will, in all likelihood, NOT be able to afford the gasoline costs; not to mention that most of them don't even own a car that'll handle a daily commute before it breaks down.

To heck with the "social workers"! What do they do anyway? Most of that work has been farmed out to the private sector (Kaw Valley; The Farm; Kansas Children's Service League, et. all...)....and the "social workers" spend most of their time figuring out which state car is the best state car to use.......

Kansas law and SRS have it set up such that "social workers" aren't necessary for the removal of children in "harms' way": The local Police do that and with no "social worker" present. Kansas is Nationally known for circumventing Federal law by hiding the number of children the state takes into custody by structuring state law such that ONLY the POLICE can remove children. It shall just be business as usual.

The "social worker" will simply drive on in and do their bush league "investigation"....rubber stamp what the Police (and the DA's office) have already determined....and go back on the road. What a wonderful deal.....why are they crying? That on the road time is all being paid.

Well, I guess they won't be able to roll into the office 30 minutes late and not be subjected to scrutiny. Now that's a real bummer.....anyway....for the person who has been used to doing just that for a couple of decades. Don't get me wrong.....they do it in the Topeka office too....and the Manhattan office?! Get out of here: Being in the know, it is safe to report that there are actual sections of the Manhattan SRS office that do not turn on the lights so the "social workers" can be in more sedate and relaxed atmosphere. Phones are shut off (they have VERY comfy "protected telephone times" where they don't gotta answer the phone and all calls are rolled over to voice mail); "walk-ins" get to sit for hours; and well....Manhattan SRS ain't no better than here in Lawrence. I type the Gospel. No jive.

So, let the "social workers" learn about commuting....and let the support staff drown because they're not paid enuff by Kansas "civil service" to commute on a daily basis. Ain't it grand to be in Kansas....AND have a little man from Florida calling the shots?!

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

Will they be virtual customers?

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overthemoon 3 years, 2 months ago

SRS is a state agency WE pay for. They shouldn't need to be seeking cheap digs with non-profits. But I"m a dreamer.

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Electrical8Eel 3 years, 2 months ago

As the cliche goes "Talk is cheap." The same for Gov. Brownback. For the past several months someone I know has had to go to UPS and pay $3, three times to send information to a vocational rehabilitation counselor located in Overland Park. And, no, she was never reimbursed. SRS refused to send it for her. So Brownback's been working on this plan a lot longer than we know. Brownback confuses the statehouse with his own version of religious beliefs. (I am also Catholic). I am not impressed with his need to visit other states to congregate with other politicians in prayer. The fact remains that an unborn child is just as sacred as a newborn infant, toddler, pre-schooler, elementary school-aged child and teenager, young adult, middle-aged adults, and elderly folks. This fact has become confused in the minds of voters. Since there are so many roads leading to Lawrence, KS, then Lawrence should be more of a central hub, as it has been. Brownback needs to wake up. I noticed his web site is down. Can't take the heat? Aw....

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

Question is, did his IT take it down or is he under a DDOS attack from an enraged hacker? As for Brownback's "flavor" of Catholicism, I think you can thank Opus Dei. It's either that or he's been too influenced by The Family (a theory I actually like, if you read my latest blog post).

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Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 2 months ago

..."blah blah blah blah blah blah blah....."

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Electrical8Eel 3 years, 2 months ago

Brownback used to attend St. Anne's in Prairie Village, a well-known Catholic church deep in Opus Dei.

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overthemoon 3 years, 2 months ago

so not just christian dominionism but catholic dominionism?

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

LOL! I can tell you aren't familiar with that type of "thing", Bozo. if you had watched CSI and Grissom's fascination with Lady Heather you would know that "dominatrix" is the feminine form of the word :)

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 2 months ago

I was just imagining Sammy in Drag, whipping the state back to its proper moral and fiscal bearing.

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deec 3 years, 2 months ago

They're fellow travelers. The fundamentalist branch of catholicism has its turf wars just like everybody else, only its competition for who is the most traditionalist, the "real" true defenders of the faith, etc. I was married to one of these zealots for 20 years. They are willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to their vision of reestablishing the one true holy faith as the moral and political ruler of the world. They abhor the modernization of the church and the secularization of the church's status, yet long for a world where the church is the ultimate authority (think middle ages level of power). They lack the capacity to understand or care about how their version of a completely catholic world would impact actual people. They view themselves as warriors for god, and as in all wars, there will be collateral damage. Their world view is essentially sociopathic, and is no different than al queda or the taliban, except they serve their warped version of the christian god.

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Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 2 months ago

I'm on my way to the meeting at the library this morning. I sure hope that those that really care about the people in need in our community will be there also... and Monday night too!

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Jimo 3 years, 2 months ago

I wonder if one of those options is a surtax on the Koch Bros. wealth?

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bertwilkey 3 years, 2 months ago

Hold on to your hats....this is just the beginning of things to come with SRS, officials of which say we "can't let compassion get in the way of doing the right thing" and that they can't help that people will be hurt....that is just the times. Expect more changes.....vouchers for all social services, even for services provided by non-licensed providers; selling state mental health hospitals to private, for profit companies ( keep your eyes on Geo, Inc which privatized state hospitals in Florida, privatizing sex offender treatment facility at Larned, shutting down admissions to state hospitals, etc, etc.
You ain't seen nothin' yet!

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Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 2 months ago

I attended today's meeting and was glad to see all the people that came to stand up against this travesty of so called "leadership" for our state. It was informative, and at times heart wrenching. I can only hope and PRAY (I am a Christian) that many more will attend Monday night's meeting, and that, at the very least, many more will also send letters and e-mails to the Governor's (it's so hard not to say "tyrant's office) to express concerns, and disdain about the way this whole mess has been handled by Brownback and his cronies, as well as to offer up suggestions for a feasible resolution. In addition, I urge people to DEMAND that there be transparency about records and data, as this has been impossible to obtain willingly from the Brownback administration. Power to the people of Kansas! and God bless those who are suffering and in need.


I just went to Brownback's web site.. brownback.com .. and found that the site is down for "updates". Well, Mr. Governor, isn't that so very convenient of you to close down your web site in the wake of all that is happening against your policies currently!!! You are a COWARD.. and this is just another shining example of that, in addition to the chicken @@@@ way you have handled all your decision making thus far. This man really should be impeached!!!

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Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 2 months ago

It seems pretty ironic that Brownback's website is down, at a time when he is trying to "push paperwork onto the internet"!

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Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 2 months ago

I guess that sending letters of discontent to HIM through the internet doesn't count!!!!

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Lacy Mohler 3 years, 2 months ago

Is this going to be related to appointment of judges again?

Brownback will restore the Arts Commission if he is allowed more control of judicial appointments.

Brownback won't close KNI if he is allowed more control of judicial appointments.

Brownback will reopen the SRS offices if he is allowed more control fo judicial appointments.

Of course we know what will happen. As soon as Fuehrer Brownback receives more control over judicial appointments the Arts Commision, KNI and SRS offices will be the first to go.

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William Weissbeck 3 years, 2 months ago

I hope the press has caught on to Brownback's tactics. If it's a Friday - expect layoffs, firings and agency closings. No public input.

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