Kansas City Star. April 9, 2021.
Editorial: Who does this and keeps his job? Kansas Senate leader Suellentrop, leave or be ousted
God forbid you ever would. But let’s say you drive drunk, at twice the legal blood alcohol limit, and on the wrong side of an interstate, eluding officers and nearly hitting other motorists. As officers escort your falling-down-drunk self away, you insult and threaten them.
How long do you think you’d keep your job?
If Gene Suellentrop were a working person who makes his living stocking grocery shelves or frying up fast food, he’d likely have been tossed out on his stump right away. But he’s the potent and pugilistic Kansas Senate majority leader. So he’s riding out his above alleged behavior to the official end of the legislative session in early May.
How can his colleagues have brooked such a thing? He’s already left a stain on the Kansas Senate these past few inglorious weeks.
State Senate President Ty Masterson Friday finally acknowledged to statehouse reporters that his good friend, business partner and colleague must at least resign his leadership post. The Senate Republican caucus later Friday voted to remove Suellentrop from leadership. Reality thus finally dawned on the Senate president and his GOP caucus, only three weeks late.
Suellentrop, in contrast, has yet to see the light. If he doesn’t all together resign after last week’s release of the disgusting details in the affidavit against him, the Senate should move to oust him from his seat completely. Even if it means his leaving scratch marks on the chamber’s door jambs on the way out.
We now know, for instance, the specific DUI allegations that his blood alcohol was 0.17, just over twice the 0.08 legal limit; that he was hardly able to stand after being removed from his vehicle; that he called an officer “donut boy,” an over-worn slur against law enforcement; and told one officer that as a former high school jock, he could “take” him in a fight.
Who does that? More importantly, who does that and keeps a position of privilege at the highest echelons of state government?
Gene Suellentrop. That’s who.
His Republican leadership colleagues shamefully went along with Suellentrop’s attempt to stall his way through what’s already become a national embarrassment. Ironically, that made the situation even worse. If he’d done the right thing and resigned instantly after his arrest in the wee hours of March 16 in Topeka, no one beyond Suellentrop would have been tarred by the scandal. Instead, the refusal of his GOP colleagues to do anything now defines Kansas Senate leadership in 2021 — and delineates the thick, fluorescent line between the powerful and the peasant.
Nothing that the Kansas Legislature has done in recent memory has so eroded Kansans’ trust and esteem in their state’s leaders as their decision to let Suellentrop slide so long.
Even in the face of the affidavit’s damning allegations, Senate President Masterson and Vice President Rick Wilborn Thursday issued this duck-billed platitude: “While we continue to respect due process, there are many aspects of the alleged behavior that are deeply disappointing, and severe consequences will be unavoidable.”
You think? The truth is, since the moment Suellentrop allegedly tried to dodge officers’ tire-deflating stop sticks to end a 10-minute high-speed pursuit — he allegedly drove at 90 mph — the Senate majority leader has done everything in his considerable power to avoid any consequences, much less severe ones.
And the rest of the Senate leadership has aided and abetted him.
The Senate’s rank and file ultimately had enough of it, with the release of the indelicate details of the incident — leading to what was essentially a mutiny.
Still not good enough. Nothing less than Suellentrop’s resignation or ouster will do. The rest of our jobs would never survive such antisocial acts.
Republicans in the Kansas Senate are now being called on to decide whether they’re truly above us, as the past few weeks have indicated.
Lawrence Journal-World. April 10, 2021.
Editorial: The reasons to believe Travis Goff is the right leader for KU athletics
Jayhawk fans and Lawrence residents ought to be excited to work with new University of Kansas Athletic Director Travis Goff.
There is a lot to like about Goff’s basic story. The fact that he is a KU graduate is a plus, and his roots in Dodge City also are an attribute. Lawrence can seem a long ways away from many parts of Kansas. It is good to have people in leadership positions locally who understand the rest of the state doesn’t always act, feel and look like Lawrence.
His time at Northwestern also looks appealing. He worked closely with the Northwestern football program, which for a long time was nothing to brag about. But KU fans today would gladly take anything even resembling the success of Northwestern. Prior to current Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald taking the helm in 2006, Northwestern had seven coaches dating back to 1964, and each had a career losing record at the school. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, is 106-81 during his tenure.
Fitzgerald was an extremely young, first-time head coach when Northwestern hired him in 2006. But he bled purple as a former star linebacker for Northwestern, and he has rewarded his alma mater with true loyalty. He’s stayed at Northwestern despite undoubtedly having many chances to leave for bigger, higher-paying jobs with flashier facilities. While no two situations ever will be exactly the same, it seems like there are some good lessons for KU to learn from the model Northwestern has used to build its program.
One key takeaway is that Northwestern didn’t spend itself to success through lavish construction projects for the football program. Yes, Goff had good fundraising success at Northwestern, and new facilities have been built there. But the school seemed to recognize that Step No. 1 is finding a coach that creates the right culture and produces a taste of success. Facility upgrades then can become a supplement to help keep that coach and boost his efforts.
At one point, KU appeared close to getting that formula dangerously out of order. One of the successes of former athletic director Jeff Long was that he slowed down the plan of building hundreds of millions of dollars of stadium improvements that received a lot of focus from former AD Sheahon Zenger. Long instead focused on finding the right coach for the football program. Long didn’t succeed in his coaching search, but that’s a crowded boat at Kansas. Nonetheless, we should be thankful that he didn’t leave KU saddled with huge amounts of football stadium debt and a donor base that is angry and tapped out after having spent money to have a shiny football stadium but still having no shiny trophies.
Athletic directors can get led astray by people who care more about construction and too little about having a student-centric athletic department. Let’s all hope Goff steers clear of that trap.
To be frank, another thing to like about Goff is his price. His $700,000 annual base salary is the lowest in the Big 12. We’ll likely never hear Goff complain a day about that. He seems truly thrilled to be here. While $700,000 is still a lot of money compared with many of the unmet needs KU has, it is a low salary for an industry that is terribly out of whack. Goff’s salary is less than half of his predecessor’s. Chancellor Douglas Girod deserves credit for recognizing that high-priced athletic directors really haven’t produced much more success than “low-priced” ones at Kansas. Girod recognized the tensions of today’s environment and made a sensible hire in an industry that often loses its senses.
Goff will have many challenges to overcome at KU. The first one may be clearing that closet of all that Northwestern purple, which looks a little too close to another type of purple just to the west of here.
That should be a pretty easy task. The tougher one will be what Goff finds in the athletic department’s closet. There will be some skeletons in there, which is the case in most organizations. The looming NCAA situation is serious for the basketball program. It will take skilled management but also humility. KU is not blameless for the situation it finds itself in. Whether it ever utters that publicly is one thing. But the message must be sent within the athletic department.
That will be Goff’s job. For the time being, our job is to give him our support and best wishes. Mr. Goff, welcome back to Lawrence, welcome back to KU and welcome to what we all hope is the next great era in Kansas athletics.
Topeka Capital-Journal. April 9, 2021.
Editorial: State of Kansas stepping up in administering COVID-19 vaccine rollout. This isn’t the time for Kansans to let up.
What a difference a month makes.
In March, we took Gov. Laura Kelly and her administration to task for the pace of vaccinations against COVID-19 in Kansas. We said that more people should be able to access the shots, and that the pace should be picked up.
Thankfully, the situation seems to be getting markedly better.
“Right now, the state ranks 33th in doses administered per capita, at 50,135 doses administered per 100,000 people.” The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “It’s an improvement over the earlier days of the vaccine rollout, when Kansas was nearly last, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“In another sign of progress, Kansas is 10th in the percentage of vaccinated seniors, at about 80%. Only 12 other states have at least 80% of seniors vaccinated.”
First, we want to acknowledge and applaud this progress. The coronavirus pandemic has been defined by rapidly changing circumstances, and what seems like the best practice only a few months ago can become hopelessly outdated. State officials have adjusted on the fly and improved the situation.
Second, this underscores the wisdom of prioritizing seniors in the vaccine rollout. They have been the most at risk of serious complications from the virus, so we should be justifiably proud of that 80% rate.
But our work is so far from done.
If you qualify for a shot right now — and right now, that should be everyone over the age of 16 in Kansas — you should get one. Shots are available in many counties, through public health departments and pharmacies.
The current crop of COVID-19 vaccines are near-miracles. Not only are they stunningly effective against the virus that circulated last year, but the latest evidence shows they also protect against the recent variants. They are our one sure way out of this mess, and you should do your civic duty by receiving one.
Finally, keep at the basic public safety measures we’ve all become familiar with. Wear a mask in public. Keep a responsible distance from others and avoid crowded indoor spaces. These preventative steps work against all varieties of the virus, and they’re crucial to slowing spread as vaccines roll out across the state and country.
This isn’t forever, as the saying goes. But it is for right now.
We must stay clear eyed and focused on public and personal health. The state of Kansas has stepped up and done better. So must the rest of us.