- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Kansas City Star, Jan. 27

Will Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts retire as a get-along guy - or a courageous leader?

Former Kansas Gov. John Carlin hasn’t served in elective office since 1987, but the one-time dairy farmer who’s now a visiting professor at Kansas State’s Staley School of Leadership Studies is still worth listening to.

And we hope fellow Kansan, Sen. Pat Roberts, is paying attention.

Carlin recently penned a “plea to Senator Roberts” following Roberts’ announcement that he won’t seek re-election in 2020. Carlin urged the Republican senator, 82, to do something he’s not known to do.

“Step up and provide some much-needed leadership on key issues not currently being addressed,” Carlin wrote, “and also speak out when the best interests of Kansans, or the values of our country, are not being served.”

Carlin, a Democrat, wasn’t done.

He said Roberts’ “lock-step loyalty” to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his “look-the-other-way approach to the words and actions of President Trump” had “set back the country and also hurt Kansans, even on the issue to which Senator Roberts has devoted the most time over the years - agriculture.”

Carlin noted that Roberts has stood up to the president on trade, but he noted that Roberts could make a significant statement if he challenged Trump on climate change, which is central to the farm economy. He explained that climate change could eventually undermine the wheat crop.

“Another 10 years and who knows what we might be facing,” Carlin wrote.

The Kansas tradition, Carlin reminded Roberts, is to “be a bellwether for common sense and decency … If not now, we’ll be left to conclude that blind party loyalty has won out, and it will put a lasting stain on a long and distinguished career in public service.”

We agree and were struck by Roberts’ vote on Jan. 16 to side with the president on relaxing sanctions on three Russian companies. Other Republicans, including Roberts’ Kansas colleague, Sen. Jerry Moran, and Missouri’s freshman senator, Josh Hawley, broke from their party in a common-sense effort to challenge presidential policy that caters to Russia and continues to perplex.

Said Moran in a statement: “I will not support the lifting of sanctions until President Putin and Russia changes its hostile behavior.”

Roberts, though, issued no statements, and his office declined comment. He’s spent too much of his four-decade career rolling with the political tide and rarely rocking the boat. That’s served him well in a career with 24 elections wins and precisely zero losses.

But legacies are about more than win-loss records and loyalty to same-party presidents. The fate of our grandchildren should matter. Roberts, it should be noted, has been with Trump 100 percent of the time since January. In the previous Congress, his Trumpian batting average topped 96 percent.

Once upon a time, Roberts privately chastised Gov. Sam Brownback. As the state shifted to become more conservative, Roberts emerged as a loyalist and made hardly a fuss over the governor’s epic tax cuts that nearly drove his state into the ground.

In his final years in Washington, Roberts could be the guy who speaks truth to power as Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum once did. He could draw from his decades of experience and stand on principle instead of just sticking with the Republican majority.

What Carlin fears, and we do, too, is that Roberts will simply aim to get along. We want more from our senator.


The Manhattan Mercury, Jan. 22

Expert sees benefits of regional network to draw commerce

How does the Manhattan area compare to other regions around the country when it comes to attracting new businesses?

Pretty well, but there are some problems worth talking about.

That’s the upshot from a presentation by an expert at the annual retreat put on by the chambers of commerce from Manhattan, Junction City and Wamego. The expert, Deane Foote, is in the business of helping companies select new locations, so this sort of comparison is what he does for a living.

He was impressed, he said, by the fact that regional leaders regularly get together to work on their common interests - as evidenced by the very existence of the retreat. “Coming together as a region is really exciting. That’s the way to sell your area. There’s no question about that.”

Other strengths include the region’s location - in the middle of the country, close to the interstate highway - and wage levels being relatively low. (That’s good for potential employers, since they know they won’t have to pay too much to hire people.) The K-State research park, with its proximity to the university, is also a real strength, he said.

Problems should not be surprising: The cost of housing for executive-type residences is quite a bit higher than competing cities like Columbia, Mo., or Des Moines, Iowa. The cost of living here is also higher than elsewhere, Mr. Foote said. And there’s a lack of large industrial sites available.

What to do about those things? That’s pretty simple: Build more housing to bring down the cost. Keep taxes under control and encourage competition, which should help bring down the cost of living. And use economic development programs to target and assemble industrial parcels, where it’s possible. These are not impossible problems.

Many of those solutions, though, have to be done on a regional basis. It’s gratifying that Mr. Foote and others see the value of regional cooperation. It’s also helpful that he points out the problems.

Lyle Butler, the retiring head of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, has helped lead the push toward regional cooperation. It’s important that his successor, who you can read more about on today’s front page, carry that on - and to leverage the strengths already here. It’s also important for the entire community to think clearly about the problems and how to best attack them.

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