Monday, December 31, 2007


Hey folks
i am in tennessee visiting family.
its about 60 degrees here on new years eve, but snow is predicted.
a good snow here is 2 inches.

ill try to check in now and then
lets get some ideas going

its up to us the people to make things happen....

you can make your own reality :)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Moving on

We have had over a week now of comments about the Big Box store. We have collectively complained, bitched and moaned ... called names and pointed a few fingers.
I believe this is therapeutic but it is time to move on.

More pointing fingers and name calling will get us nowhere. Both sides will continue to claim they are right and the other side is wrong. I believe we have heard most of the arguments on both sides.

I don't want to stifle debate, but I do want to try to direct our energy a bit.

There are real issues that we need to debate and directions we need to take.

• Should we use incentives to attract business and industry?

• Do we need industry or retail?

• What do we want the city to look like in 20 years?

These are items that I feel need to be debated.

At present we are divided and a divisive issue has shown that. What we do now really matters. If we stay divided we will get nowhere.

We need vision and purpose, and we all need to do our part to make those visions happen.

How can we all get together and decide on some goals for the city?


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day ... dreams

On the evening of Christmas Day, I thought about the big box flap and where we might go from here.
We can argue about who is at fault, who was right or wrong, until the cows come home and it wont matter much. Even if someone is proven wrong, they wont admit it anyways, so we might as well move on.

Now is the time to get something going. We have some energy going, it just needs to be channeled in a positive direction.

Sometimes i get off on some wild tangents on the internet, and sometimes it leads to ideas. Many ideas never see the light of day, but some do, like the music festival last fall.

I do have a dream for Arkansas City. It might be considered strange, but if you take into account our very early history, it isn't.

The first part of my dream started last fall with the music concert on the levee. The River of Life Music Festival was a great success thanks to help from a whole lot of people - nearly all Arkansas City people by the way, who just helped out as needed.
A lot of people also helped out with money.
We are already planning next year.
I would like to have a few more people on my inner committee to work from about the first of February on it.

I hope to build up the music festival, and perhaps to even add some other musical performances during the year. I hope to pull off something small in the Spring - just a basic indoor concert.
The festival itself will likely be the first weekend in October next year.
But thats not set. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with me.

The second part would be another type of entertainment - story telling.
I believe we could have a story telling festival here. This is a big trend that is growing nationwide.
There are festivals all around us - Oklahoma,Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa for goodness sakes, Colorado etc.,
But not many in Kansas.
Soooooo we have a chance to get in on the ground floor.

Some might laugh - some laughed at the music festival last fall., but consider ...

Branson, Missouri was a junky little town with nothing much going for it 20 years ago.
The Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield wasn't much 35 years ago.
The site of the International Story Telling Championship - Jonesboro, Tenn., was a town of 1,000 people with a bypass and nothing at all happening there 25 years ago.

So why can't we do that here ?
where will we be in 25 years ?

Thoughts anyone ?


Monday, December 24, 2007

poll question

Our latest poll question shows that 75 percent of the people believe the city did not fairly represent them by rejecting the big box TIF district proposal.
As people have voted the past few days, the percentage has not changed.
Right now its
238 - 78

Anyway, I got to wondering.
We did a poll late in November, about a month ago, on the TIF district.

The vote, published in the Traveler on Nov. 30, showed :

243, or 41 percent supported the TIF
320, of 54 percent did not support the TIF
32 were not sure.

The tide defintely has turned.
What do you make of this?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

my column, where do we go from here?

Here is my column that was in Saturday's paper.
I would appreciate any comments.

Now we have an opportunity.

Half the town is up in arms about the city's rejection of the TIF district that killed the Lowe's proposal before it got off the ground.

The response has been overwhelming on my blog. I've been doing the blog for six months. I have had more visitors, page views and comments, over the past three days than I have had the previous six months.

At first, the outrage against the "three amigos" was overwhelming, but lately the other side is starting to post.

"Three amigos" is a phrase that has been attached to the three who killed the proposal, Mayor Dotty Smith and commissioners Mell Kuhn and Scott Margolius.

Of course, proponents of the project are angry. And of course, the opponents are furiously defending the amigos.

The discussion has been good, though heated, and at times perhaps a bit beyond the boundaries of good taste.

But I still think it is a good procedure and a debate that needs to happen.

I do believe that all the commissioners were sincere. The "three amigos," as well as proponents Joel Hockenbury and Patrick McDonald, all did what they thought was right.

Only history will tell who is right, and I'll not be surprised if both sides are partly right and partly wrong.

But I have not seen this type of public outcry since I have been here. The annexation and foundation of Parkerfield, and the yard-parking fiasco don't even come close.

You can talk about who is at fault and who was right or wrong forever, but the big question is: Where do we go from here?

It's time to look beyond who is to blame and who knew what and when they knew it.

Now that we are all talking, it is time to get down to some serious debate - and find some solutions along the way.

Key to the debate is what kind of town we want. Another key is how to get there.

I'll be the first to admit I don't have any answers. I do think we need to be more creative and try new things. But beyond that and a music festival, I don't have any solid answers.

But that is OK.

But what I do have is a positive outlook and a belief that we as a city can solve most of our problems.

This latest controversy might just be the thing that could bring us together. It could also tear us apart and take us back 50 years.

That choice is up to us.

What we need now is to realize that there are good people on both sides, and assume that your worst enemy is at least sincere in his or her beliefs, however misguided.

Beyond that, we need to talk - and talk and talk.

That is where solutions are found. We also need to be willing to do whatever we need to do to make things happen.

The City Commission can do a lot, but they cannot make Arkansas City prosperous. That job is up to us, the citizens.

They have given us a spark. What will we do with it?

Friday, December 21, 2007

you can see it again

According to city officials, the meeting Tuesday night is going to be broadcast several more times over the next few days.
Sometime this afternoon they hope to air it again on the local access chanel, cable channel 7.
it will run continuously through Saturday, commissioner Patrick McDonald told me.

Also, I asked the mayor about televising the public comment section of the regular meetings. She would like to do so. They are not currently televised.
This is referring only to the time for general public comments before a meeting, not to public hearing events.

SOrry about any confusion. They are having some technical difficulties I understand.

Smoking guns and corridor studies

Here is the page everyone has been talking about
both sides have cited this page as proof that they are right. I talked with Warren Porter, city manager in Winfield, and asked him who he thought was right. He said both sides were right, "just depends on how you interpret the data."
See commentary below the pictures

To get the best look at these charts, click on them and they will open in another window, in a more readable size

It is true that the study says about Lowe's
A closer analysis indicates that the US-77 Corridor can only support lower additional square feet for such stores. It would be more appropriate to fill this retail gap with a smaller store, such as a Sutherlands. ...

On the other side, in the chart, note tha Lowes is listed as a "representative retailer" that could fit there, if it used its smaller store .. which is what was in the proposal way back when it was brought to the commission.

so the page seems to say on the one hand that while there is a need for such a store, a lowes is too big, but even in saying that, it says a smalelr lowes would work.
I did manage to get my hands on a copy of the report, it is interesting reading.
I may try to post more of it later.


Thursday, December 20, 2007


Someone asked about where to find that 77 corridor study. Ive looked around most of the afternoon and cant seem to put my fingers on it.
Ill keep looking.
Ill find it and let you know.

there are also other points raised id like to address, but that will have to wait a bit. Ill hopefully get to that later tonight or tomorrow.

One point I want to make is that opportunity we have here.
We have lots of energy going right now, and much of it negative. Its understandable. people are disappointed, enraged, upset ... lots of feelings going around.

But the good thing is everyone is talking. Now we need to keep talking.
We have good people on both sides who feel passionately that they are right and that the other side is wrong.
There's probably some truth to both sides here, and no one is totally wrong.

The thing is though, to take this energy and do something positive with it.
THe real debate is what we want the future to be.

We also need people of action.
I still believe differences can be made, and I think a lot of people on here posting could do a lot of good if they could get together and get some common goals going.

So keep talking people.
Lets also start showing up at meetings. Question everything, and think about everything, and then offer ideas. Of course, if you offer an idea, that - to me at least - implies some ownership and a willingness to work toward that idea.

You probably know about the concert I helped get started last year. I talked to a lot of people before I got started, including city people. The city did help, but only after I had a plan in mind and means to accomplish the goal at hand. The city gave me no money, but they did let me use things that are available to the public such as stages, tables, portapoties, and even the field where it was held.
I still had to do the work.

I just want to encourage everyone to keep talking and to try to make things happen.
If we can do this, then the big box flap will have a positive outcome.

Blaming and pointing fingers is ok for awhile, even theraputic, but maybe its time to move ahead and make something good happen.

What do you think ?

let's be civil

Hey folks.
This is an important debate that needs to happen.
I think this is a good format for it I believe.
It does seem that it is getting a bit personal though, and a bit too rough.
Go ahead and say what you want, but lets also try to be civil and respectful of others who have different views.
The internet does give anonymity, and that makes it easier to be hostile and perhaps more aggressive.
Just asking that you keep these things in mind as you post.

If anyone is seriously doing anything about a recall, please get in touch with me.


The morning after

Oh my goodness.
I have never seen such a public outcry. I have been doing this blog for nearly six months. Yesterday I had more visits, and more comments, than I have had in any previous MONTH.

Several observations here.

The nature of the Internet is that it is anonymous, and even if you sign your name, there is no way to know who is really posting.

When you feel you were not listened to, it can leave a bad taste politically, but there is plenty you can do if you are serious.
The work session meetings are open meetings, just as the regular meetings are.
Showing up and speaking out in the public comment time is still your best bet. That is televised and people see it and there is no question as to whether it is a real person.
I have seen huge change take place in other cities.
I remember, in South Carolina, this little old lady who was ticked about her property taxes doubling. She went to every meeting, questioned every penny, demanded copies of every scrap of paper that existed. In two years she started a movement and EVERY member of the commission was voted out of office. It can happen but it takes persistence and ummmmm intestinal fortitude. I do appreciate all the comments on here, but it takes more than typing comments while sipping coffee to make things happen.
I thought those people were crazy at the time. But then I moved to Kansas and saw my property taxes more than double. hmmmmmm, now I'm not so sure.

I am not taking sides in this fight. I do think it is a shame that the proposal was not at least listened to, but ... still I am not taking sides.
Two commissioners did accuse me at the meeting of being biased in our reporting - reporting too much for the pro side and not enough for the con side, in our regular news pages. You know Scott was one of them obviously.
I really don't think we were. Patrick even said we didn't report enough of the pro-side. (My general rule is, if you please both sides, or aggravate both sides, you were probably balanced in your reporting.)
I do think we could have reported more before the fact. I just ran out of time.

This debate needs to continue.
It is not really about the big box or about Lowe's. It is about the direction of the city and our future. So don't give up. Just put some action behind your rage. I'm not sure a recall is the answer. I still believe showing up, investigating thoroughly and speaking out, is the best bet.
An old preacher used to tell me, "half of the fight is just showing up."
I have asked before ... what do you want and what are you willing to do to make it happen.

They talked about the feasibility study that would have to be done. Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that this report already exists. Had the matter passed we would have had a copy by the end of the week.
I would like to get my hands on a copy, and Ill try. If i do ill share it of course.
I asked Doug Russell about it after the meeting.
He said I would have to go through the developer.

I will say that I believe Dotty thinks she voted the will of the people. Whether she was correct is another matter, but after talking with her yesterday, I am pretty sure she is sincere in her belief.
After attending earlier meetings, I was not surprised at the vote at all. Sides were drawn pretty early in this fight. The question is, were their votes based on public input or on their own agendas. Dotty was the "wild card." Going into the meeting, I thought there was a chance she might vote for it, but her vote was the only one I was not pretty certain about.

David Allen made an astute observation in his blog. Three commissioners who were sitting at this time last year, who are not now members, all spoke for the development. Had the vote been taken a year ago, the result would have been different.

Some have commented about Mel's "attack" on the developer and about his remarks about "hicks."
I do believe in fairness. The attorney and the developer were less than forthcoming with the truth, so Mel pressed them. We know now that the developer did indeed get rejected in Winfield before he came to Arkansas City.
Also, I really don't recall Mel saying the people of Arkansas City are hicks. Ive been to about all the meetings and I think I would remember that. He might have used the word, but ... context is everything.

Today is another day.
The story will continue I'm sure.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Winfield Connection

I just got this information, and not in time for the paper today, but wanted to get it out there.
Don't know if this will temper anyone's feelings, but it turns out that Winfield did reject a similar deal with the same developer - and with Lowes - three years ago.

Last night Mel Kuhn grilled the developer and his attorney on this question. The attorney and developer were very vague and never answered the questions.
Kuhn's questions were :
Did you go to Winfield first?
DId you propose this to Winfield first ?
he never got a straight answer last night, though the developer did imply that he did not. He said he "did not recall" whether they stopped in Winfield on their way to Arkansas City.

Here is what we found out from Winfield City Manager Warren Porter.

A Lowe’s home improvement store was the object of a Winfield City Commission meeting three years ago.
When business developers Kessinger-Hunter, out of Kansas City, informally proposed to commissioners that a Lowe’s be built at the intersection of Country Club Road and U.S. 77, Porter said the developers wanted an incentive in the form of tax increment financing (TIF) for that particular district. However, city commissioners didn’t oblige.
“They knew what was and was not on the table,” said Porter. “They knew the city wasn’t interested in doing a TIF for that particular development.”
“It was a tax equity issue,” said Porter. “It would’ve created an unfair competition balance.”

Whether Kessinger-Hunter will reattempt the development in Winfield is still in question.

As an aside, this is a huge reason to have openness in government. And a reason for city's to not have executive sessions.
This information was not available last night, and of course the lawyer and the developer were not going to give it out if they could help it.

Does this change anyone's feelings ?

the debate

There was a good debate and good public discussion at the city commission meeting Tuesday night. They voted down the establishment of a Tax Increment District, which was the first step in looking into bringing a Lowes to town.

There were about 200 people there and about 30 spoke. Most spoke in favor. according to my count, there were 20 for it, 12 against it ... and there were two that I really could not tell which side they were on.

The debate centers around the idea of protecting local merchants versus taking advantage of an opportunity.

It is hard to say what the effect of a Lowe's would be on the city. There were good arguments on both sides.


Late in the meeting Scott Margolius took another cheap shot at the Traveler. Don't know if you saw it, but he was jeered a bit for making a trite remark about us having taken a position on the issue.
We have not taken a position and neither have I. (But even if we did, that wouldn't be wrong.)
But I hope the commissioner realizes these things can go both ways.
He has done that a few times during public meetings for no apparent reason.

Pretty late about now. Ill try to blog more on this later.
This is a larger issue than a Tif district or a Lowes.
The real underlying issue is what do we want Arkansas City to be.
And what are we willing to do to make that happen.

During meetings commissioners have repeatedly said the local merchants have to "step up to the plate."
They are right about that.
We cannot expect the commission - or the city government - to do it for us.
Their job is to provide basic services and keep the peace so that we, the citizens, can make things happen.

more tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

big box crushed

City Commissioners voted down a tax increment district by a 3-2 vote at their meeting tuesday, that would have paved the way for negotiations to begin to bring a Lowes to Arkansas City.

After hearing over 20 people speak, commissioners voted at the end of a 3 and a half hour meeting.

Mayor Dotty Smith cast the tie-breaking vote. Scott Margolius and Mel Kuhn voted against the measure. Patrick McDonald and Joel Hockenbury voted in favor.

More coming soon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

season for giving

Our bell ringing for the Salvation Army went very well last Friday. People were very generous and we raised just over $4,000. KSOK raised more money than we did, but we had more change ... more coins, than they did.

We have not forgotten the pie. We will do our drawing today and probably stage an event before the week is out, possibly at country mart. The names will be drawn an those people will get to put a pie in the face of a Traveler staff member.

The Salvation Army is a great orgaization. They really do help a lot of people.
I know some wonder whether people really need help, and all the other excuses people have for not giving. You could also blame the person for being in need to start with.
But that is not the way of compassion or the way of real Chritians.

I have copied an article below. Im on the mailing list of the "Christan Newswire." I dont know how I got on the list, and as often as not it should be called the "republican newswire" but thats a blog for another day.
Anyways, it is a good article on giving, with some good tips.

As it is written in the good book "be innocent as doves and wise as a serpent."
We do need to keep our eyes open when giving. THere are lots of cons out there, so it is hard to know the real from the counterfeit.
This article has some tips, and some web sites, to help make wise choices.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Dec. 11 /Christian Newswire/ -- Billions of dollars will be given to charitable and religious organizations by December 31st. "With the recent inquiries by US Senator Grassley into questionable financial and lifestyle practices of six leading televangelists and many people's mail boxes flooded with donation requests, it is important to know how to make wise decisions in making year-end contributions," reports generosity expert, author, and speaker Brian Kluth.

Kluth's generosity website offers these TOP TEN reminders and recommendations concerning making year-end contributions:

To be deductible on your 2007 taxes, donations by check must be given or postmarked on or before Monday, December 31st. Avoid giving loose cash because it is not deductible and can more easily be stolen.

To give electronically by December 31st visit the organization's website OR go to: (this website allows you to give secure electronic donations to any organization on its list of over 1 million non-profit organizations and houses of worship).

If you are a person of faith, make it a priority to generously support your local house of worship.
Give your largest donations to organizations where you have visited their offices and/or you personally know and trust someone in the organization's leadership.

Find out how much your favorite charities pay their top executives and how they spend their donations by reviewing their on-line 990 forms found at

Determine through the organization's website,,, and/or Google searches if the group has a track record of effectively serving people with the donations they receive. Be cautious about supporting organizations that spend a large percentage of their income on fundraising activities.

Call the organization and request they email or mail you a list of special projects and programs needing year-end funding. Also ask for a copy of their audited financial statements.

Be extremely cautious about giving money to any organization where there are verifiable reports of extravagant luxury lifestyles by leaders or any indication funds have been misused.

When supporting evangelical religious organizations, check the organization's standing on the following websites:,

Make sure the purpose and values of the organizations you support match up with your personal beliefs and values.
Kluth said, "If you follow these guidelines in your year- end giving decisions and you will give with greater confidence and your donations will be wisely used to help others." Kluth recently authored the best selling book, 40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life that is being used by churches across the country and around the world.

Brian Kluth is the author of the bestseller, 40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life (200,000 copies in print and translations underway in 23 languages). His website is ranked as one of the world's leading websites on Christian giving. He has been interviewed by Kiplinger's magazine, NBC-TV, CBN-TV, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Brian is a guest commentator on "Money Matters" 1000 station radio program.

Brian Kluth is also the co-creator of the " Financial Funnies" Cartoon Series

For a free review copy of the "40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life" devotional, please email:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

ringing the bells

We didn't win the game, but it was still a lot of fun and the one we all wanted to win was the one who came out ahead in the end.
Friday night the Traveler and KSOK radio raised over $4,000 for the Salvation Army by ringing bells at Country Mart.
When we heard that the Salvation Army's annual red kettle drive was not going so well, and that they were having trouble getting bell ringers, we decided to get involved.
We "challenged" KSOK to a competition in the front of Country Mart and we all rang bells on Friday night. We realized we were in trouble when we saw they were all out in costumes and had the radio station's truck on hand playing music.
Going up against a radio station at fund raising in a public location was probably not the best strategic move. They are professionals and we were taking them on at their game on their own court so to speak.
But it wasn't about winning. It was about doing something positive for our community, and having a bit of fun along the way.
When the money was counted, KSOK had a lot more than we did, almost twice as much. The total between us was $3,975. That does not count the change that was donated, so the total would easily be over $4,000. It also does not count the donation Country Mart made, which was going to be based on its profits while bell ringing was taking place.
The Army still needs money, so don't stop putting money into the red kettles. We can only hope other bell-ringers have as much fun as we did.
Part of the fun was checking out each other's costumes. When we heard KSOK was going to be in costume, of course, we had to come up with some as well.
Costume shops in town were busy Friday.
By time time I got ready all the ringers from the Traveler were gone. Action! editor Sydney Bland had left behind a Santa costume, and so I decided to try to wear it.
I had never put one on before, and didn't realize at the time that I was putting it on backwards. Lots of people pointed out the problem.
The real problem was that my wife wasn't there to tell me how to dress.
This is what small town journalism is all about, and what community journalism is all about.
As the "media" our job is to report the news, to tell you what is going on in the community.
At times it is also to get involved an try to help out where we can.
The newspaper has promoted the Salvation Army a lot this year. It is a good organization that does a lot of good. They are the first ones there when there are disasters. They also help to make sure that those who could not afford it otherwise, are able to have something during the holidays.
We try to support other good causes during the year as well.
It's that time of year again, the time when people are decorating their houses with lights. One great tradition is to drive around and look at the lights.
As usual, we will try to let you know where the lights are.
I would like to ask our readers to let us know where the good lights are, so we can pass that along. Send me an email, (, or call us (442-4200) , to let us know.
We wi ll start running the list in a week or so.
Our friends over at the other radio station in town, KACY, also stopped by to visit us during the bell-ringing.
You can get a sneak-peek at what is going to be in the Traveler each day at 1 p.m. on their radio station. At that time each day either myself or another staff member, gives a brief synopsis of the day's news.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Competition and a pie

Greetings everyone.
Sometimes I'm too creative for my own good. As you may know, we are going to be competing with KSOK radio tomorrow - Friday, Dec. 7, - from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m., at Country Mart in Arkansas City, at bell ringing.

We will be ringing bells for the Salvation Army. The winner gets bragging rights, and of course we want to beat that radio station.

We will be at one door and the radio station will be at the other door. So come by and drop off some money, but be sure to do it in our buckets.

KSOK has said it will give away prizes, so we thought we had better up the ante as well.

Our very own Action editor, Sydney Bland, will be giving out kisses while she is there.

Also, everyone who donates $10 or more will get a chance to be in a drawing to put a pie in the face of a Traveler employee.
There will be two winners chosen and the winners get to choose from among certain Traveler employees, myself included.

The Salvation Army has had trouble getting enough bell ringers this year, and as a result, they are a bit behind in their fund raising. The "Red Kettle" campaign is their major fund raiser for the year.
They do a lot of good for people in need in our area. They also help with disasters such as tornadoes and floods.

Also, Country Mart will be donating some of its profits from the 4-hour period of bell ringing.

Monday, December 3, 2007

city stuff

Greetings all.
There's lots of information on the city's web site. A recent addition is a copy of the bills the city paid over the month. Want to know what they spent on light bulbs? snacks? electricity? ... It's all there.
Here is a link

You can also get there by going to their site - - click on City Government, then on document center, then click on city commission.
then click on Scheduled Payment List.

Their web site isn't the most user friendly. You do have to fish around a bit, but its no more difficult than anyone else's web site. (I went to a seminar on web sites last week, so I'm seeing how sites could be a lot more user friendly.)

Last month the city spent $232,279.20

Its Monday so it must be time for a city commission worksession meeting.

Another cool thing on the city's web site is the meeting agenda, along with an information packet. The packet has some background on every agenda item. It's located at the same place as the list of payments.

You can also look at previous agendas there.

Tonight is the work session, where items are discussed. Most of the time this is more interesting than the regular meeting, which is on tuesday.
Often they discuss things not on the agenda, and take no action. It gives an idea of where they are headed on various issues.

Tonight's agenda includes
Introducing the new director of building, planning and codes.
Awarding a big on a vacant lot on S. Summit.
Considering renewal of beer licenses for 2008.
Award construction bids for Radio Lane sewer line repair.
Public hearing and budget amendment for project Independence Fund.
Consider engineering assesment of Walnut River sewer line collapse.

Other itemes by city manager or commissioners.
(this gets interesting at times)