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Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 8:30 am

For one reason or another since I moved to the Palace the end of November last year, I haven’t cooked anything other than oatmeal in the microwave.  I’ve dreaded setting off the smoke alarms.  You can’t imagine what that’s like.

Usually, the new residents are initiated to the rest of the group when the alarms go off and it’s announced loud and clear that the FIRE ALARM HAS BEEN ACTIVATED IN APARTMENT 402….or whatever.  It goes on forever and you can’t miss its intensity and offensiveness.

Once the announcement is made, everyone runs to get their list of residents and see who lived in the apartment that set off the alarm.  Burned the toast again.  Grin.

I was forewarned by friends that cooking could be an embarrassing event and under all situations, keep the hood fan going during the cooking process.  I knew my day was coming.

Last night I was determined to take the plunge and fry a couple of  pork chops.   It was like anticipating impending doom.  I opened my window in the living room, propped open my door, turned the oven fan on high and waited until I thought there was sufficient air circulating that it might be safe before  I popped the chops into a hot skillet.  Then I hovered over the stove and waited until the chops were barely done.  They looked so good.  I  pulled the skillet off the burner but kept it under the fan so the fumes wouldn’t escape in to the room and creep toward the smoke detector, which is only inches away from my stove.

Finally, I thought I was home free and sat down to eat my chops.  Then the fire alarm went off….

HOLY CRAP.  NOW I’VE DONE IT.  How embarrassing.


I waited for the response team….it didn’t come…They have to run up four flights of stairs carrying fire extinguishers as the elevators are inactivated.  They are exhausted by the time they reach the 4th floor…but to get to the 6th floor is far worse.  They come from health care and some of the workers are a little chubby.  They don’t have the strength to activate the fire extinguishers once they reach the top floor.

Then I heard the announcement again….THE FIRE ALARM IN APARMENT 404 HAS BEEN ACTIVATED. What??  Not me??  My neighbor Miki who lives at the end of the hall from me must have been cooking.  I didn’t do it!!!  There are only a few of us on this floor who actually “cook”…the others graze off left overs from the noon meal.

I made it through my first attempt and will try again.  Sometime.  But  I have green chili that Ally made planned for my dinner.  When I run out of things in my freezer, I’ll have to start some serious cooking.

I know that no matter how careful I am, it will be my turn one of these days when all the health care workers from the 1st floor arrive at my door, in their hazmat gear and carrying their  fire equipment.  I hope they are careful with their fire axes and remember I do good deeds now and then……

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 2:19 pm

Sometimes you just can’t help but yield to temptation.  Among other strange behavioral traits, one among us continues to ask everyone their name and where they are from. It’s continuous. Daily. Endless.  I try not to sit at the same table with her as she’s asked me as many as six times during the course of soup and sandwich (and I’m a fast eater) —or anytime there is a lull in the conversation— what my name is, and where I’m from.

Once you respond to the first part of the question, while everyone else at the table expresses looks of shared embarrassment…. you wait for the other shoe to drop when she asks…”and where are you from”.   You try to be patient.  She can’t help it.

One of my friends who is 102 and is sharp as a tack and has been here “forever” and been asked this same question a bazillion times, finally got fed up with it.  Last night when the persistent inquisitor asked one too many times where she was from she said, “Africa”.  It just cracked me up. Maybe if we all said “AFRICA”….

Yesterday we had a funny incident at Trivia.   We had to change the location for our game.  This was confusing to no one except one on the other team who “just didn’t get it”.  One team sits at one end of a long table while the other team sits at the opposite end of the long table, an imaginary line separating the two.  We sit with our team…the position at the table being unimportant, as long is we are at the right end.

As we were sitting down, one of the players on the other team insisted that one of our players was on the wrong “side” of the table, which had nothing to do with anything.  She told our player…”you always sit on my left and you are on my right.  You need to sit on the other side of the table.”  The agitator insisted our member move so she’s be on this opponent’s left.  Our member was perplexed and had this confused look on her face trying to figure out what was going on.  Meantime, I’m sitting beside her laughing my socks off.  Had she sat on the other side of the table she still would have been on that person’s right.  You can’t make headway with some headstrong individuals who “just don’t get it”.  Density is a hard thing to deal with.

There are residents…although few in number…who get the idea they are in charge of something, or everything.  Sometimes it takes a resident meeting to get it all ironed out.  Even when the vote is 14 to 1, that one person continues to try to rule the other 13.  There are issues about recycling, exercising, laundry, the front door, food, whether the shades in the dining room are open or closed, and as many other things as there are numbers of residents living here.  None is really important or worth talking about, but they are FUNNY.  It’s what makes life here interesting and humorous.  There are no secrets.

Thanks for tuning in …



Filed under: prairie musings, Ally Britton, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 12:51 pm

I have only been to sittercise twice.  Today during our class, I sat next to Ivis who is an amazing woman.  She ran circles around me while doing each of the 29 exercises far better than I could manage to do.  Afterwards, with my shoulders aching,  I told her how much I had to improve to catch up with her.   She said…”you have to realize I’ve been doing these a lot longer than you have.”  Yes, that’s true, but she’s 102.  She’s much sharper and more agile than some 70 year old women I know.  Certainly far more so than I. She plays the piano flawlessly; the music just flows through her fingers.  The only problem she has is that she’s lost much of her eye sight.

Now if I can make it through my yoga class this afternoon.

Today we are having a tornado drill and I’m ready as I’ve fudged a little.  My windows are closed, blinds drawn and closed, doors shut and my big walker and pillow are in place by the front door.  If they had to wait for me to do all those things after they sound the alarm, I’d be like Dorothy wondering where I was.

The annual potluck supper is tonight.  The Palace is grilling hamburgers then everyone else takes a side dish. Hazel made potato salad for the two of us while I supplied potatoes, eggs and Ally’s mustard sauce. We’ll be eating potato salad and baked beans for a month.  Ivy said she has her sights on a piece of gooseberry pie.  That sounds like a good option to me. Life is full of uncertainties: eat dessert first.

I find it interesting that people seem to need to shop around for a place like this to live.  They think there is another “Palace” in central Kansas that offers the same amenities, but there isn’t another such place.  If you want a retirement home where you never have to move again for any kind of care you might need such as a memory unit, rehab unit, or long-term care, this is the place to be.  I didn’t look at any of the other senior independent living complexes because none offered those things and from any one of them, I most likely would have had to move eventually.

Ally came to join me for lunch today.  Neither of us eat enough to make the trip to the dining room worthwhile.  I pined when she left, but I also didn’t want her to get trapped inside with the tornado drill.

Thanks for tuning in …


Filed under: prairie musings, print news, Sam Brownback — Peg Britton @ 10:03 am

Analysts, from left and right, call Kansas tax plan worst in nation

By Dion Lefler
The Wichita Eagle

Kansas’ tax reform plan was named the worst in the nation by analysts from both the left and the right in a feature by a national magazine.

Governing magazine asked two tax policy experts from nonprofit think tanks on opposite sides of the political spectrum to name the best and worst tax reform efforts in the country – and both cited Kansas as the worst.

It was a rare point of agreement on tax policy between Joe Henchman of the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation and Nick Johnson of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Henchman, a lawyer, and Johnson, an economist, both said the tax plan, passed last year by the Kansas Legislature at Gov. Sam Brownback’s urging, encourages tax avoidance and probably won’t do much for the economy.

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag disagreed saying, “the facts speak overwhelmingly to the success” of the tax plan.

“The Governor’s tax policy is the reason why GTM chose to add 600 jobs to its location in Manhattan rather than in Texas,” she said in an e-mail response to The Eagle. “Almost every one of our neighbors is trying to move in this direction.”

GTM makes sportswear.

The analysts were especially critical of the unique centerpiece of Brownback’s tax plan – eliminating the state income tax on owners of sole proprietorships, limited liability companies and corporations organized under Subchapter S of the federal tax code.

Those businesses are what are called “pass-through” entities, because the business income is not taxed and passes through to the owners, who then pay the taxes on it as individual income.

Since Brownback’s plan passed, the owners of pass-through businesses don’t have to pay any state income tax on the business income, either at the business or personal level.

“That’s an incentive to game the tax system without doing anything productive for the economy,” Henchman said in the Governing interview. “They think things like the pass-through exemption will encourage small business, and to be fair, it might. But they are doing it in a way that violates the tax principle of neutrality.”

Neutrality is a widely accepted principle that tax systems should be structured so that business decisions are made on economic merits rather than for tax reasons. Henchman laid most of the blame on the Legislature for not broadening the tax base while cutting rates, which Brownback originally proposed.

Jones-Sontag said the tax plan is working the way it’s supposed to.

“Even though it’s just a little more than three months since the new policies took effect, we are hearing from small-business owners about how they now have the money to invest back into their businesses and to hire more workers,” she said. “It’s important to remember that 98 percent of businesses in Kansas have 100 employees or less. Why wouldn’t we want to create a pro-growth environment that lessens their tax burden so they can invest more in their companies, hire more employees and spend more in their communities?”

However, Johnson told Governing that the tax plan “fails almost every test of good tax policy,” including sustainability and fairness.

“Vertically, it’s beneficial to high-income taxpayers and harmful to low,” Johnson was quoted as saying on the magazine’s website. “It doesn’t do much for the middle either. Horizontally, its exemption of pass-through entities creates inequities and tax avoidance, which of course then goes back to sustainability because it balloons cost.”

Neither of the analysts thought it would do much to meet its stated goals, to jump-start economic growth and job creation.

“Evidence suggests that there’s no goose to the economy from this or, if there is one, it will be small,” Johnson was quoted as saying. “The real big problem here is that because it costs so much money, it will make it harder for Kansas to make other kinds of investments that are important to a strong economy like education and infrastructure.”

The pair of analysts interviewed by Governing split on the states with the best tax reform plans.

Henchman cited Rhode Island, which cut tax rates, eliminated itemized deductions and reduced tax credits, while increasing the standard deduction for most taxpayers.

Johnson said he favored Massachusetts, where the governor has proposed increasing income tax rates and lowering sales taxes, which Johnson said would make the state tax code more progressive.

Read more here…



Filed under: prairie musings, Tyler Britton USAF, Afghanistan — Peg Britton @ 1:34 pm

Here is a letter from my Grandson, Tyler Britton, who participates in an annual mission to New Orleans to help build houses for the needy.  This year he has been selected to lead a group.  He pays his own way except for donations that are made by friends and uses his leave time from the Air Force.  If you care to contribute, you can reach him at  tbritton89 at gmail dot com/

Well howdy there! Another year has buzzed by yet again without even saying goodbye. I just wanted to write a quick note and let you know about some of the really exciting things that are happening in my life.

Work tends to rule my life. In fact, between research, teaching, clinicals, and ramping up for a deployment overseas this fall, it’s no wonder last year buzzed right on by. But, amid all of the chaos, I’m firmly grounded in Crossroads Church and I’m looking forward to my annual mission trip to New Orleans.

Now you may be asking questions like, “Why New Orleans? Hurricane Katrina happened in 2005… what is there left to do?” among numerous others. However, despite living in the abundance we have in America there is still an abundance of work that needs to be done there. While I am there, I will be participating in Habitat for Humanity and help to build houses for the needy whilst bringing them a sense of stability with a roof over their head. Local groups will also be partnering with us to help further the restoration and healing effort in their city.

This trip allows me to help a community that is desperately in need to meet their physical and spiritual demands. More than anything, we need your prayers for our team and the people that we’ll be reaching out to on our trip. I ask you to pray for our safety, flexibility, the ability to do God’s work, and financial support.

If though, however, you do want to financially support me or the general fund, I’d be very grateful. My personal contribution to be able to go on this trip is $850 plus incidentals. I have attached a page that explains the process for giving if you feel inclined to do so. This is a journey that I experienced an unbelievable amount of growth on last year and God has called me to do it again - and this year I’m even leading a group.

I really appreciate your consideration in supporting my mission trip. Any level of support (emotional, spiritual, financial) is greatly appreciated. If you have any questions feel free to contact me via email or at 785.531.2652.

Best wishes,
Tyler J. Britton


Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 1:13 pm

I started my “sittercise” classes this morning…every Monday through Friday morning at 10 for half an hour. Yoga classes, also done from the sitting position, are Tuesday and Thursday at 4:15 for half an hour.  I’m so out of shape I am relieved when the half hour passes.  It’s not going to be easy but I’m going to try to attend these two classes on a regular basis and see if it doesn’t “help” my mobility. I’ve got to get stronger or be glued to my walker forever.  It’s the Lupus.

The “regular” exercise classes are everyday at 9:00.  That class is for those who no longer benefit from mild exercising and need something more strenuous.  You can pick out those people from the others…they skip up and down the stairs rather than taking the elevator.  And some have personal trainers.  You have to remember that many of the people in that category are in their 90s.

We have a new cook and the lunch menu showed the difference.  The pot roast looked really good and the veggies around it were actually roasted, with good color and flavor.  The broccoli was green and cooked just right.  I ordered baked ham, for a change, and it was good. The fried chicken they served for dinner yesterday was as good as it gets.  Now if they’d do something with the turkey pot pie, for starters.

Tomorrow is tornado drill day and everyone is gearing up for it.  Old people don’t react spontaneously to sirens.  Most of us don’t really give a hoot if we’re swept away like Dorothy so they give us all kinds of notices and warnings about tornado drills.  We’re supposed to close our windows and shut the blinds, shut the doors and take a chair and go sit in the hall.  I figure by the time I do all the stuff with the windows, I’ll be blown away. I’m slow as molasses. I had both the bedroom doors removed so they aren’t a problem. And, I don’t have a chair I can carry to the hall,but I can use my big walker and sit on it. I’m ready to go. I need to find my earplugs.

Tomorrow they are having a pot luck supper.  Hazel said she would make potato salad for us as I have potatoes, Ally’s mustard sauce, eggs, onions, pickles and other ingredients to contribute. Her cupboard was bare.  So, I’ll be going to the pot luck supper tomorrow evening with Hazel.  The Palace is fixing hamburgers for everyone.  It will be a good event.

I was experiencing trouble with a couple of my bathroom fixtures.  They make it so easy for you around here.  I called the office, they wrote a work order and Andy just arrived to do his magic.  And, I don’t get a monstrous bill for it. No bill, in fact.  Life can be very easy … just what I was looking for.

Thanks for tuning in…


Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 11:43 am

Architecture student’s team wins $50,000 urban design competition
Sun, 04/14/2013

LAWRENCE — A team of five students that included KU Department of Architecture student Lauren Leigh Brown has won the Urban Land Institute’s Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. Brown is a fifth-year student in architecture from Hermitage, Mo. She will split the $50,000 prize with her teammates.

The competition required teams of five students made up of at least three areas of study to create urban design plans for the Minneapolis Down East neighborhood. They had two weeks to show how the land could be made into an active urban neighborhood and regional destination.

In February Brown’s team, which included three Kansas State University landscape architecture students, and an MBA student from the University of Missouri-Kansas City learned it had beaten 145 teams to become one of four finalists in the contest.

Over the past two months the team spent hundreds of hours developing their designs and rehearsing their presentations. On April 11, the team presented their work in Minneapolis, as did rival teams from Ball State-Purdue, Harvard and Yale Universities.

Each team made a 25-minute presentation followed by 20 minutes of questions. After deliberating for several hours, and discussing for the strengths and flaws of each of the plans, the judges announced that Brown’s team had taken the prize.

“We are of course elated and very proud of our accomplishment,” Brown said. “I owe a tremendous thanks to my adviser, architecture professor Genevieve Baudoin, and all of our schools and classmates.”

The Urban Land Institute/Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition is now in its 11th year. It is named for the founder of Hines, one of the world’s largest real estate firms, which is headquartered in Houston.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. The university’s mission is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world. The KU News Service is the central public relations office for the Lawrence campus.



Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth, Sam Brownback, Kansas — Peg Britton @ 12:59 pm

When someone as enthusiastic about living in rural Kansas is happy about selling her home and moving on, you know something is amiss.  I knew it was coming as I watched the election of Sam Brownback as one to push through, with dogmatic vision, his stringent new property tax reform on Kansans.


When I looked at my long range projections of costs for remaining in my own home in Ellsworth,  I knew I couldn’t maintain the status quo and neither of my children had income sufficient to bear the burden of maintenance, insurance and the sharp increase in property taxes even if I gave them my home.  Fortunately, my decision to sell was an easy one as both realized this.

Things have changed in Kansas, and not to the benefit of Kansans.  Kansans got what they wanted and voted for in a Governor who was in the national limelight  for years expounding his quirky ideas as he ran for President of the United States.  Heaven forbid it!  He made it known during his campaign for  Governor what he was going to do if elected: eliminate personal income taxes and put the burden on property owners and middle income families.

At the time Brownback signed his new tax act, it was proclaimed a historic event and one that would shape the lives of Kansans for many years to come.  It is all coming to fruition. Things can only get worse.  I’ve learned of people in the City of Ellsworth who recently invested in large, stately old homes only to see the inevitability of property tax increases a deterrent to keeping and maintaining those homes for their growing families.

I posted this on my blog on Sept. 22, 2012:


I posted the following the end of May.  Do you remember reading it?  Are you starting to notice what it means?  I thought a reminder was in order.  Wait until the lid comes off property taxes…


If you don’t think your ox has been gored, you haven’t been paying attention.  That is if you are an average person, average income and not among the wealthy.  The poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer.   I fear to think what this will do to our schools and small communities.  The whole state will be impacted.  Martin Dickinson boils this down so it’s easy to understand. It’s from the Lawrence Journal World:

Gov. Sam Brownback’s signing of the new Kansas Tax Act on Tuesday was a historic event. The act will shape the lives of Kansans for many years to come.

The nonpartisan Legislative Research Department has estimated that the act will reduce Kansas government revenues by $4.5 billion over the next six years. Inevitably, there will be major reductions in the government services Kansans have come to expect — especially education.

Equally important, the act dramatically changes the Kansas tax system, shifting the income tax burden from the wealthy and prosperous to working people. The act provides that all income of business owners is tax-free (except in the unusual case where a regular corporation is used). Although the act was promoted as a boost to small business, there is no limit on the size of business that can be exempt from tax.

Income of professionals — such as doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants — practicing in partnerships will be tax-free. In a law firm, for example, the partners will pay no tax, while the clerical staff will continue on the tax rolls.

Income received from partnerships and trusts will be tax-free. Wealthy Kansans who own real estate, stocks, bonds and other investments will simply transfer those assets to a partnership or trust, thereby freeing all their investment income from tax.

All income of farmers will be exempt from tax.

Who will still be paying Kansas income tax? Only three groups: 1) employees, 2) some retirees and 3) individuals whose investments are so modest that they cannot afford to create a trust or partnership to shelter their investment income.

Kansas government relies on three taxes: property, sales and income. Property and sales taxes are regressive in the sense that a lower-income person pays more of these taxes as a percent of income than does a higher-income person. The new income tax will be dramatically regressive. Low- and moderate-income workers will remain on the tax rolls. Meanwhile, wealthy Kansans will readily escape the tax, and many prosperous (but not wealthy) Kansans will be able to evade the tax as well. Beginning in 2013, the Kansas tax system will be among the most regressive in the nation.

Can a just society tax the poor while not taxing the rich?

Martin B. Dickinson is a nationally recognized expert in tax law and the Schroeder Distinguished Professor of Law at Kansas University.


I can only hope that Kansans come to their senses by the time Brownback is up for reelection and that a suitable candidate who would be good for Kansas is elected to try to unravel the harm that is now being done.

Thanks for tuning in…


Filed under: prairie musings, Ally Britton, Todd Britton, Karen Britton — Peg Britton @ 11:54 am

Yesterday Ally came to have lunch before heading out to Abilene on bid’ness.  We went to Bogey’s for a hamburger and shake and ran into friends from Ellsworth. It’s always good to see friends from home.  Jokingly, Blog reader Marilyn asked  me why I wasn’t in my yoga class.  I got a kick out of that but my class wasn’t until 4:15. It’s hard to keep track of where I’m supposed to be every day so I’m happy for the reminders.

Ally got me some much needed new sheets and made my bed with them.  Karen had laundered them and I really think they are the nicest sheets I’ve ever had….600 count Egyptian cotton, heavy, soft and very generous in size.  The top sheet is exceptionally long which I really like.  I have trouble making my bed and can’t manage changing the sheets, tucking in and squaring corners.  Karen and Ally do that for me so it’s really done right.  I slept like a box of rocks on them last night.

There is a van load (14) ladies from here going to Ellsworth on Sunday the 28th for the dinner theater at the correctional facility.  They are all looking forward to it.  I think they could have filled two vans if they had been available.  The Palace is really good about providing transportation to events that people want to attend and they don’t charge for it.  Todd has made arrangements for those who might find walking to  the spiritual life center from the van a little arduous.  They are also arranging for those residents who have dietary restrictions.  The ECF really does an outstanding job accommodating guests for their dinner theater.

This is really a great place to live.  They try their best to accommodate residents in every way.  I hope our next trip to Ellsworth is to Pretty Boy Floyd’s although I’m not sure I can navigate the steps….yet.  Some of the women here exercise 2 1/2 hours a day and are spry as kittens and walk the stairs all the time.  They can run circles around some of those much younger individuals. Some even go to the Y where they have their own personal trainers for workouts.  Amazing and inspiring.

After Trivia, Ginny and I are going to the Art Cinema to see the Emperor.  Maybe, after that, we’ll go to IHOP for senior special 2×2x2…two pancakes, 2 eggs and 2 strips of bacon or sausage for dinner.  It’s a beautiful day to be going somewhere and  I always welcome the opportunity to see a good movie.

Thanks for tuning in …



Filed under: prairie musings, print news, Sam Brownback — Peg Britton @ 5:23 pm

April 9, 201311:16 a.m.

by Phillip Brownlee
Gov. Sam Brownback’s Republican weekly address on Saturday painted an unrecognizable picture of the state after two years of his leadership. He bragged about how Kansas had turned around its finances without tax increases or cuts to education or other programs. But as our Tuesday editorial notes, he left out how the state budget benefited from the 1 percent sales-tax increase passed in 2010 – or how he now wants to make that temporary tax increase permanent. Or how districts, including Wichita, have been forced to close schools and cut programs because of state reductions in base per-pupil funding and capital outlay equalization dollars. Or how his 2012 tax cuts have created large budget shortfalls. It’s hard for those who know the whole story not to hear such an address and wonder which Kansas Brownback is talking about – the one he’s actually governing or one made of political spin and presidential ambitions.


Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 5:21 pm

This afternoon I went to a sitting Yoga class that they have downstairs. There were 5 of us, the rest long-time regulars.  I liked it and will attend it on a regular basis on Tuesday and Thursday. I have a feeling I’m going to be sore tomorrow.

I had clearance from my cardiologist last week who said an exercise regimen three days a week would be a good thing.

Then, Monday through Friday they have “sittercize” classes.  I have yet to attend one, but hope to get my sleep schedule lined up so that I can do that three days a week.  They have standing exercises at 9:00 every morning but I can neither stand nor function at 9:00 am.  Some of these ladies are die-hard exercise fans and go to the YWCA for personal training.  You can tell who is who by the way they walk and take the stairs instead of the elevator.  I can only try…

Ally came today to have lunch with me.  I had the reliable blt and Ally had a scoop of tuna salad. I always enjoy having her here.  She couldn’t stay long as she had a critter problem on the farm, but she did some chores before leaving.

Salina is full of flowering trees…an abundance of Bradford pear trees prevail. They are full of blooms and beautiful. I particularly enjoy a couple that are right outside my windows.

Quiet tonight.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: prairie musings, print news, Sam Brownback, Kansas — Peg Britton @ 10:23 am

Bill Roy: Kansas slipping away from its people
Posted: April 7, 2013 - 6:18pm

Kansas newspaper editors and political scientists are beginning to boil, or at least simmer, when they look at our state and its leadership. They are frightened for our state’s future, as are a majority of Kansans.

It is unusual for such criticism to be stated so unequivocally, and come from such respected voices. It is unfortunate that it will be a long time before an accounting at the polls, and that we are heading into the political slumber of summer, when about the only things likely to happen are implementation of the most unfair laws to come out of nearly any Kansas Legislature.

We have one other handicap. We have a Kansas Democratic Party that is just hanging on. As reflected below, respected moderates in each party are susceptible to joining together, but that’s a big job, subject to many unknowns.

But maybe we can interfere with Gov. Sam Brownback’s use of his home state and a radical political philosophy to catapult himself to the presidency. Beyond personal ambition, no one seems to know what Brownback wants.

But there is rising alarm as indicated by Brownback’s approval ratings in the 30s, and the pieces reviewed below.

A March 30 call came from Jason Probst, news editor of the Hutchinson News, a paper long known for its integrity. Probst published an obituary for our state: “The Great State of Kansas passed away on March 31, 2013, after a long and difficult battle with extremism that became markedly more aggressive in 2010. The struggle left the state so weakened it could no longer fight against the relentless attacks by the fatal disease.”

Probst looked at what we have lost. “The state is preceded in death by family farms, a good public parks and wild life system, open government, neighborliness and belief in helping each other out, freely elected public officials, and political moderation.”

“Kansas is survived by widespread poverty, low paid jobs, high property taxes, pollution, poorly educated children, outmigration and rural depopulation, foreign land and farm ownership, lobbyist-funded legislators, chronically maltreatment of the disabled, maniacal hatred of government, and children who dream of living anywhere else.”

I don’t know Probst’s politics, but highly respected Republicans have sounded similar alarms.

H. Edward Flentje, Wichita State political scientist, and secretary of administration for former Gov. Bill Graves, and “of the Republican persuasion,” wrote the following closing paragraph in a March 26 opinion piece urging the governor to accept available federal expansion of Medicaid.

“Brownback has been hoisted on the horns of a political dilemma, much of his own making. His tax policies favor the rich and shift the state tax burden onto lower-income Kansans. His social welfare policies have eliminated assistance for thousands of the neediest Kansans and threaten to unravel the safety net for thousands of other vulnerable Kansans. Choosing to align himself with his libertarian fringe on Medicaid expansion would reinforce once again his alliance with the rich against the poor and drive his low approval ratings, now standing in the mid-30s, even further downward.”

Dave Seaton, formerly administrative aide for Kansas Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Pearson, and president of the Winfield Publishing Company, proposed a possible path for getting us back to good government. Because of Seaton’s stature, the op-ed piece was published widely.

Seaton first asks we call Kansas state government what it is. “This is extremism.” And argues, “There has to be an alternative to this extremism.

“With the lock that single-issue groups have on Republican primaries and the trove of corporate contributions they benefit from, the only alternative lies with the people.

“Neither the Senate nor the courts are any longer a bulwark against extremism in Topeka. The Senate has become a palace guard for the governor and the courts are fighting for their independence. …”

We Kansans know we are in trouble. Can we win back our state from a radical few who totally control state government? It is more than just a matter of staying tuned in.


Filed under: prairie musings, friends, Ally Britton — Peg Britton @ 10:14 am

Annie Meyer is a friend of Ally’s.  Her disappearance has stunned all of us.  I trust something will break this case open one day soon, in the meantime, don’t rely on texting as your only contact with family and friends.

Texting: a technology accessory to murder?
By Jennifer Kabbany5 a.m.April 8, 2013

It could happen to you.

That’s the message longtime Temecula resident Mark Meyer, 55, wants to share with neighbors and friends as he grapples with the disappearance of his sister. Her recent vanishing has become a huge story in Denver, a metropolis gripped by the bizarre circumstances surrounding the case.

Meyer, who has worked at the downtown Murrieta post office for the last 16 years, has traveled to Colorado several times over the last month to serve as a spokesman for his large family.

Interviewed two dozen times by ABC, CBS, the Denver Post and many other news outlets, Meyer said his parents and eight brothers and sisters are pleading for information on where their ninth sibling — 52-year-old Leann “Annie” Meyer — has gone.

Or more specifically, what’s been done to her.

Mark Meyer said nobody thought anything was wrong in early February when Annie, an IT employee at a downtown Denver bank, stopped showing up for work or calling people. They weren’t concerned because she texted friends and co-workers, saying she was feeling sick and would work from home.

But after a month of all texts and no talk, alarm bells finally started to go off, he said.

Fast forward to today, and Annie remains missing. Her two trucks have been found abandoned. Police cadaver dogs searched her property, which she shared with a female roommate, to no avail. A $20,000 reward has been posted. Investigators continue the probe. The family is devastated.

Mark Meyer described his sister as friendly and outgoing, a golfer and outdoorswoman who had served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years. He added that he’s all but given up hope that his sister is alive; now all he can do is warn others.

There is a new tool criminals can use today — it’s called technology, he said.

“It could happen to you,” he said. “Your mom, your sister, your child could be texting you, and you think everything is OK, but it’s not.”

He said he doesn’t blame his sisters’ co-workers for not suspecting things sooner, because as an IT employee she often worked from home. But he said he wants Southwest County residents to be more aware of this emerging and troubling trend.

“People need to rely on other things besides just texting,” Meyer said. “I don’t want this to happen to them. … I don’t know how often it happens, but it sure is disgusting it did.”

Meanwhile, the Meyer siblings participate in nightly family conferences on the phone. A vigil for Annie was held in late March. No arrests have been made.

“We just want some closure,” Meyer said. “I can face the fact that she is probably gone. It’s not a fun time.”

Jennifer Kabbany can be emailed at



Filed under: prairie musings, friends, Janet Souder Newkirk, Greg Nece — Peg Britton @ 1:06 pm

Yesterday was a splendid day with one exception…I backed out of going to “Follies” at the Salina Community Theater.  I was very much looking forward to it and spending the evening with Miki and Ginny, but my better judgment kicked in and told me not to go.

I’m still using a walker and can’t navigate steps without the fear of falling.   I learned there were too many steps at the theater for me and the pre-party would require that I stand longer than I am able.  It’s the Lupus, it’s not going away, and it is a nightmare.  My fear is it will never get better.

My disappointment at having to turn down such a generous invitation from Miki was soon met serendipitously with a phone call from the daughter of a close friend from the past.  I haven’t seen Janet since she was very young…probably over 50 years ago. She is the daughter of Peg Wheeler who was working for Edward Tanner and Associate Architects when I joined the firm following graduation. We became good friends. Janet and Dane were born the same year, in 1952.

I married Brit and moved to Ellsworth, she married Norvin Souder and remained in KC.  We both had children and family commitments that took over so we didn’t have much time to visit each other.  But, I always remembered her and her two children, Janet and Jimmy.  I wondered where they were.  They were both smart as whips so I was very curious about them.  I  had no way to contact either.

Then, well over a year ago, Janet Souder Newkirk hit my blog and Voila!  Bells rang.  I wrote to the email address that she left, but didn’t hear anything back for about a year.  It was worth the wait.  When she wrote, she said she was planning on visiting me in Ellsworth this spring.  I could only hope, but in the meantime, I sold my house and moved to Salina.

Yesterday she called from Wichita and said she was on a mission to find me, and that she did.  She, her daughter and sister-in-law arrived in time to have lunch here at the Palace and they remained long enough for us to catch up a bit on the past intervening years since we last saw one another.  I think we could have talked for days.

Kit, the sister-in-law, is an English/Journalism teacher with two long teaching tours in China.  We didn’t even get to touch on her life and because of that, I hope she returns.  She was a delight. Our conversation was too abbreviated.

Janet was married, she and her husband had graduated from Carlton College, then he went to Oxford on a Marshall Fellowship and she went to Wharton for an MBA. Meantime, they have lived in Columbus IN, Cleveland, Hong Kong, London and now Charlottesville VA. She worked in big corporations for ten years and became a vice president of Merrill Lynch.  She has most of an MSc in computer science, psychotherapy training, and shaman training, among other things.

Their daughter, whom I was privileged to meet, was born in England.  She’s graduates from high school in VA in June and is heading to Harvard this fall with more math in her future.  Their son was born in NYC, went to Williams and is now pursuing a PhD in math at Brown.  Peggy’s father was a math professor at KU.  He would be so thrilled to learn of the accomplishments of his grand-children and great-grandchildren.Seeing Janet and having a chance to learn about her family and more about her mother was a real highlight in my life.  It was something that I felt was entirely out of my reach that just popped up in front of me very unexpectedly.  And…I forgot to tell her about the candy bars her mother and I used to eat.  I’ll save that for another time…

And, this morning, my friend Greg came to take me to IHOP for breakfast.  It’s sort of becoming a habit, and one I very much enjoy.

And, Margie and Ivy stopped by my apartment Friday after trivia for a glass of wine.  While they were here a large fruit basket and a lovely plant arrived from Jess.  I have cheese and crackers. Life is good.

Thanks for tuning in..



Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth, print news — Peg Britton @ 8:54 am


Salina Journal

Wary of a slash-happy state government, some public school leaders put upgrades, add-ons and renovations on a fast track to voters in Tuesday’s election.

Four school districts in north-central and northwest Kansas asked patrons whether they would absorb increases in property taxes for improved schools. For at least three of them, the risk of losing state aid was among the reasons.

Ellsworth Superintendent Eric Reid is concerned about state aid being axed.

“I would say concern over the Legislature would definitely be part of it, but the driving factor is we’ve got some things we need to fix,” he said

The district’s effort for $4.8 million to fund improvements to Ellsworth Junior-Senior High School, Kanopolis Middle School and Ellsworth Elementary School failed Tuesday night in a close vote; 411 in favor to 464 against.

“I’m very frustrated and disappointed in my communities,” Reid said Tuesday night.

The district will be looking for a way to deal with aging facilities.

Improving heating and air conditioning and security are important issues, he said. The December killings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school “put it right on the front burner of concerns. Things like that spur you forward,” Reid said.

Other factors, such as favorable interest rates — 3.5 percent on a 20-year bond — and the risk of losing state assistance also drove the decision to put the measure on the ballot. If state help remains the same, 26 percent, or roughly $1.24 million of the cost, would not have been part of the property tax increase.

– Reporter Tim Unruh can be reached at 822-1419 or by email at



Filed under: prairie musings, print news, Kansas — Peg Britton @ 7:22 am

Kansas 1861-2013
By Jason Probst

TOPEKA - The Great State of Kansas passed away on March 31, 2013, after a long and difficult battle with extremism that became markedly more aggressive in 2010. The struggle left the state so weakened it could no longer fight against the relentless attacks by the fatal disease.

Kansas was born on Jan. 29, 1861.

The state is preceded in death by fair taxation, good highways, strong education, family farms, a good public parks and wildlife system, open government, neighborliness and belief in helping each other out, freely elected public servants, and political moderation.

Kansas is survived by widespread poverty, low-wage jobs, high property taxes, pollution, poorly educated children, outmigration and rural depopulation, foreign land and farm ownership, lobbyist-funded legislators, chronic mistreatment of the disabled, a maniacal hatred of government and children who dream of living anywhere else.

During its early years, Kansas played a pivotal role in the Civil War by staking out a strong progressive stand against slavery. Despite repeated raids from border ruffians, Kansas held firm to the belief of free men and free soil.

Throughout its life, Kansas often aligned with leading progressive causes. William Allen White, one of the state’s most notable residents, once wrote that “if it’s going to happen, it happens first in Kansas.” That once was true. Kansas was the first state to ban the Ku Klux Klan, and the first to elect women to public office - one as mayor and another as sheriff.

It was the birthplace of the populist movement, rising as farmers and ordinary people grew weary of the Gilded Age politics of the late 1800s and early 1900s that favored investment interests over those of landowners and laborers.

Kansas was a leader in public education, with one-room school houses dotting the plains. A full 12 years before it was a national concern, Kansas established child labor laws that restricted employment of children in potentially dangerous industries.

In the 1950s, Kansas laid the path to civil rights for African-Americans with the historic Brown vs. Board of Education case - the first in the country to rule against a policy of segregation in public schools.

Despite its compassionate nature, Kansas proved to be a state teeming with inventiveness, ingenuity, determination and a savvy sense of business.

Cessna, Beech and Stearman helped establish Kansas as a center of the aviation industry. Coleman launched an international company from Wichita that became a household name. Pizza Hut and White Castle - two iconic eateries - both got their start in Kansas, and the man who helped establish the American automobile industry called Kansas home.

Kansas’ history is filled with vibrant, dynamic people. Settlers who claimed land once described as a desert and turned it into the world’s garden; immigrants who came by the train-load and brought with them the hard winter wheat that germinated the state’s prosperity. Throughout the years, Kansans endured drought, grasshopper plagues, depression and fierce weather, yet its people worked to hold tight to their land and the belief that there was goodness in Kansas. In spite of those hardships, the state produced world-renowned artists, writers, inventors, business leaders, astronauts, even a president.

Kansas was a strong-willed state whose hands were calloused enough to turn up the hardest sod and tender enough to calm a crying child.

Despite its strength and vitality, Kansas couldn’t survive the influences of outside political machines that sought to use this fertile ground and its people as a test plot for an ambitious political experiment.

The elections of 2010 and 2012 brought the poisoned pill that would bring about Kansas’ untimely end. The first election seated a governor who tossed aside Kansas’ storied history and replaced it with a vision of his own design. In 2012, record setting campaign contributions from out-of-state donors financed the defeat of those moderate Republicans who had spent the last of their political careers keeping Kansas alive.

One by one, the things Kansas had spent a lifetime building were dismantled, until the state was rendered as empty and uninviting as it had been in those early days when the first settlers eyed its endless expanse.

Along the way, the state’s defenders - the farmer, the laborer, the property owner and the shop keeper - stood mute and passive, hoping for a day when the state would spark back to life, as it had always done before.

They remained silent too long.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Policy Institute, or Americans for Prosperity all in care of Gov. Sam Brownback, Office of the Governor, Capital 300 SW 10th Ave. Ste 241S, Topeka, KS 66612-1590.

Jason Probst is news editor at The Hutchinson News. Email:


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