The Topeka Capital-Journal, Oct. 13
Flu shot protects you and many more
As we dig deeper into the fall season, take a few minutes in the coming days to visit your doctor, pharmacy or other health care provider and get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone over 6 months of age be vaccinated before the end of the month.
Why are flu shots important? Why are we taking up this space today?
Quite simply, the flu is deadly. You shouldn’t confuse influenza — a serious, lengthy respiratory illness — with minor gastrointestinal bugs. Those aren’t the real flu. The actual illness can prove fatal for the young, the elderly or those whose immune systems are compromised in some way.
The numbers aren’t small, either. According to a story from the Associated Press last month, some 80,000 people died last winter from the flu and associated complications. While that was an unusually bad year, thousands upon thousands die even in “light” flu seasons.
And while the flu vaccine is seldom 100 percent effective, it’s important to understand why that is, and why the vaccine still benefits the public overall. Influenza viruses mutate every year, and scientists essentially have to guess what strains will dominate in an upcoming season. The lengthy time needed to produce the vaccine in mass quantities mean that researchers don’t have time to adjust if new varieties arise at the last possible moment.
Vaccination is also important because of the concept of herd immunity.
Yes, you might be healthy and robust and able to withstand the vicissitudes of infection. But what about the nice senior citizens you say hello to on your morning walk? What about the month-old baby resting in the carrier at the table next to yours in the restaurant?
You can be certain you’ll recover from the flu. But can you be certain that they will?
Vaccines don’t just work because an individual gets a shot. They work because a population gets the shot, making transmission of viruses exponentially more difficult. There will always be certain people who can’t be vaccinated because of age or health. If everyone around them is, these folks are protected.
A flu shot, in other words, isn’t just about keeping you safe. It’s about the responsibility you hold to the community around you. It’s about taking care of those who might not be as robust as you are. It’s about responsibility.
So get the shot. Your arm might sting for a day. But you can literally save lives.
The Iola Register, Oct. 15
Former Gov. Sam Brownback wanted his legacy to be as a champion of education. His favorite photo-op was him reading to toddlers, as he touted all-day kindergarten and summer and after-school literacy programs as well as career and tech programs.
But when he refused to fund those programs, and more, that picture quickly tarnished.
Of everything Sam Brownback will be remembered for is the colossal failure of his tax cut “experiment,” among the largest ever imposed on the state.
In their first year, Brownback’s tax cuts in 2013 caused state revenues to plummet by $700 million. In three years’ time, state aid to public schools was down 13 percent, forcing schools to lay off teachers and staff, eliminate valuable programs and, in essence, take our reputation as a state that values education down a notch.
It was only when legislators developed a spine in June 2017 and overturned Brownback’s tax cuts that Kansas has been able to start clawing its way back to a more solid financial footing, including putting money back into schools.
Even so, remnants of the cuts remain.
In a report last week by the Board of Education came the news that Kansas schools are short 612 teachers, up 19 percent from last year.
Years of cuts and below-average earnings have turned Kansas students away from the teaching profession. Schools of education are experiencing record-low enrollments.
KRIS KOBACH, no doubt, values education. After all, he’s got degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford, and we’re guessing those fancy diplomas didn’t come in the mail.
Like Brownback, Kobach wants to cut income taxes if elected governor, and, like Brownback, says it just takes “smart spending” for those cuts not to hurt.
So where did Brownback go wrong?
He discovered a penny is a penny, and no matter how much you value schools, highways, public health and safety, when there’s not enough resources, everything suffers.
Brownback proved that cutting taxes does not create economic prosperity for Kansas. Reduced taxes means reduced income. Every time. No matter who is governor.
Why some think Kobach could do it differently and are willing to put the state through this experiment all over again is a puzzle.
You get what you pay for
Our biggest tool in fighting poverty is to provide all children the best education we can afford. The longer a student stays in school, the better is his or her earning potential once out into the workforce.
This is why investing in public schools yields such a great return on the dollar.
In fact, according to a study posted by the Kansas Association of School Boards, the state’s improved education levels since 1990 have resulted in almost $7 billion in additional earnings, more than that spent on K-12 education, as well as a reduction in our overall poverty rates by 18.5 percent.
Staying in school and learning a marketable skill is the ticket out of poverty.
KOBACH contends he’s never said he wants to cut school funding. He doesn’t have to. But, like Brownback, if he enacts widespread tax cuts, the writing is on the wall.
Lawrence Journal-World, Oct. 11
Lower penalties for marijuana
Lawrence city commissioners are right to support reducing penalties for marijuana possession.
At a work session Tuesday, commissioners were unanimous in backing a change to the city ordinance regarding marijuana possession to lessen punishments, which are more severe than what state law requires.
State law requires no minimum fine for first-time offenders convicted of marijuana possession and no mandatory drug evaluation. Under the city’s ordinance, first-time offenders pay a minimum fine of $200, plus court costs, and must also pay for and undergo a drug evaluation. Both city ordinance and state law set a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or 180 days in jail.
First-time offenders in Lawrence typically pay the minimum $200 fine, $63 for court costs, $85 to $150 for a mandatory drug evaluation and additional costs if education or counseling is required. Defendants also receive a 90-day suspended jail sentence, meaning the sentence isn’t served unless a subsequent violation occurs, and a six-month probation requiring court appearances monthly or every two months until all obligations are met, according to a presentation to the commission.
To receive a diversion for marijuana possession, City Prosecutor Elizabeth Hafoka said, the city typically charges $100 more. Commissioner Jennifer Ananda, an attorney and social worker, rightly noted that practice was unfairly burdensome on poorer residents and made it easier for the wealthy to walk away with a clean record.
“I think it’s a broader issue than just this specific ordinance, but I do have concerns with that,” Ananda said. “Looking at criminal history and how it impacts one’s future, and when you have money then you’re able to have less of an impact.”
The marijuana topic was raised this summer by Lawrence resident Laura Green, who asked the commission to reduce the fine to $25 and to remove the drug-abuse evaluation requirement. Green said the penalties, in addition to being financially burdensome, were not in line with shifting public attitudes regarding marijuana.
Commissioners indicated a reduction in the minimum fine to perhaps $50 was warranted. They also indicated support for either eliminating the mandatory drug evaluation or leaving the evaluation to the discretion of a judge.
Both steps are appropriate. Use of marijuana, now legal for medicinal purposes in several states and for recreational use in a handful, is more broadly accepted than ever before. A recent Gallup poll showed 62 percent of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana. In such an environment, common sense dictates that the city of Lawrence would reduce marijuana penalties.