Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Drought, state budget on minds of newspaper publishers gathered at KU

February 7, 2013


William Allen White Foundation celebration at KU

Sportswriter Frank Deford will receive the William Allen White Foundation's National Citation and give a talk at 10:30 a.m. Friday in Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union.

The ongoing drought is weighing on the minds of Kansans, though perhaps more in some places than others. And questions about the state's budget linger in the air as well.

That's the word from newspaper editors and publishers who were gathered at Kansas University's Adams Alumni Center on Thursday night. They mingled with KU School of Journalism faculty and other trustees of the William Allen White Foundation at a reception and dinner in honor of Frank Deford, the foundation's national citation honoree.

Publishers said the Midwestern drought that has persisted through winter is on many readers' minds — nowhere more than in rural towns where livelihoods tend to hinge on crop yields and prices.

Steve Haynes

Steve Haynes

"People are not really hurting yet, but they're starting to worry a lot," said Steve Haynes, who as president of Nor'West Newspapers oversees six different publications in northwest Kansas, including papers in Colby, Oberlin and Goodland.

Around there, the drought is easily issue No. 1 on folks' minds, Haynes said. The area's economy has been solid for the past year or so, he said, but people are concerned what will happen if the dry spell stretches much longer.

They're left to hope that reports from weather watchers that a pattern shift from La Niña to El Niño could portend more moisture.

"Everybody hopes that means something," Haynes said.

Jeanny Sharp

Jeanny Sharp

Over in more populous Ottawa, things are a bit different, said Jeanny Sharp, the editor and publisher of the Ottawa Herald.

People are aware that it's dry, Sharp said, but city residents may not be as concerned as those out in the country.

"In our area, it gets kind of taken for granted, because there's still water coming out of the faucet," Sharp said.

In the city, she said, more people are concerned about the state Legislature and what will be the fate of the state budget in the wake of last year's tax cuts.

That's a matter that's getting attention not just in Kansas but across the country.

Jerry Seib

Jerry Seib

Jerry Seib, a KU alumnus who leads the Wall Street Journal's Washington, D.C., bureau, noted that the Journal had just reported on how Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies in the state Legislature are aiming to serve as a model for cutting taxes and spending in an effort to spark economic growth.

"Whatever you think of it, it's getting a lot of national attention," Seib said.

Brownback finds himself in a different situation than he experienced as a U.S. senator, where he needed 59 colleagues in agreement to get much done. With conservative Republicans controlling both legislative houses, he has the ability to push through policy with efficiency and force.

Other states, and Washington, will be watching as Brownback aims to make Kansas a red-state beacon, Seib said.

"I think there'll be a lot of political reporters traipsing through Topeka the next few years to see how it goes," Seib said.

Dave Seaton

Dave Seaton

They're also watching down in Winfield, in southern Kansas, said Dave Seaton, who oversees newspapers there and in Arkansas City as chairman of the Winfield Publishing Co.

In Winfield, Seaton said, people wonder if the local economy will benefit from Brownback's tax cuts as much as those in the northeast part of the state. And the people employed by the state prison and Kansas Veterans Home there wonder what the effect of the cuts might be on state agencies' resources.

"Quite a few of them are concerned that the whole thing is not going to work, especially for us," Seaton said.

The town's plentiful public employees also have concerns about the union-related legislation moving through in Topeka, he said.

And, of course, folks there worry about the drought. But at least there were showers on Thursday.

"This rain, light as it is, will ease our anxiety," Seaton said.


Ken Lewis 5 years, 4 months ago

Great. Glad to hear some folks with sense are in Topeka. These are important matters and we need to get legislator's minds off strippers and prostitutes in order to focus on the real issues instead of trying to regulate our private lives.

Two years ago, I proposed a wind-powered pumping system to pump water from the MO river to reseviors in Western KS to be used in the summer for irrigation. Water could pump all year whenever the wind blows....which is just about every day. Legislators were too busy worrying about the strippers to do anything about real solutions to real problems.

People are going to snarf "it can be done", but there is already a 500 mile water pipeline going in from Wyoming to Colorado for water. It is being done....the whole world is building this type of infrastructure while US leadership is fretting over moral issues that isn't even within thier authority. Think about the western 2/3 of KS being as agriculturally productive as Iowa. Think of the revenue from grain sold overseas and state income taxes from farmers reliably raising something every year. And then think of the reduction of federal subsidies to farmers who dont even want them. Farmers want to raise and sell crops. Give them the means to do it.

LogicMan 5 years, 4 months ago

Think of how we likely don't have rights to that water in quantity, and couldn't get them.

Ken Lewis 5 years, 4 months ago

Does it occur to you that this would come with a pump only excess water? Did you know the lakes in the state were all formed from excess water. The natural average flow is released continuously from local lakes. The whole idea behind a reservior is to hold excess water from running away.

straightforward 5 years, 4 months ago

I've thought about a similar concept before. It was very difficult that summer to see so much destruction on one side of the state while the other half was parched.

Most farmers irrigate directly from ground water, not reservoirs. I wonder if it would be possible to just pump water directly into the aquifers? I don't know how difficult something like that would be.

If this was all feasible it would be much more effective on a national scale.

Ken Lewis 5 years, 4 months ago

One at a time:

You dont know that you cant get the water rights. I do know, in 2011, the MO river flooded all summer closing I-29 to Omaha for six months doing billions in damages. How do you propose to deal with that? And given that crisis, do you think the CoE would really fight for that flood water. It was a flood all summer while western KS parched. A classic example of too much water in one place and not enough in another.

Jayhawk, how the saving water a waste?? Good Lord, don't you realize, that unless you hold the water inland, it all runs down to the Gulf of Mexico. You call it a precious resource, but make no justification for saving/using it, while allowing it to run away to the Gulf. You make no sense.

deec 5 years, 4 months ago

Last year's floods were an anomaly. This year the Corps has curtailed flow due to the lack of upstream water.

Ken Lewis 5 years, 4 months ago

Or you could argue with everything, do nothing, and continue being the a loser.

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