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‘Strange and helpless’
Senator vows Corps answers on flooding

Jerry Moran has conducted extensive surveys of damage linked to Missouri River flooding in Kansas and in the whole region, and says he’s heard one consistent complaint.

“The Army Corps of Engineers has lots of pressure on it,” Moran said, “but we need to have better answers from the Corps about why they can’t do what makes sense, what’s common sense, to the rest of us in this part of the country.”

Moran, a Republican who has served in the U.S. Senate representing Kansas for more than eight years, said he will work with his Missouri GOP colleagues, Sen. Roy Blunt and Sen. Josh Hawley, to obtain those answers. Moran also pledged to advocate for longer-term ideas, such as flood-control improvements to U.S. Highway 59 between southern Buchanan County and the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge. The highway is forecast to remain closed for days as waters drain around the flooded Winthrop area, where a levee broke last Thursday.

For now, though, Moran said Congressional leaders have concluded that the current flood could have been mitigated. While he affirmed that the debate around Corps policy isn’t new, he emphasized his view that this time around, the Corps hasn’t done enough to protect the public.

“From the conversations that I’ve had today, and in previous floods ... the Corps of Engineers can do a better job managing river flow,” Moran said. “The general complaint has been that they ought to be releasing water upriver earlier in the year, and get it downriver before these kind of circumstances occur.”

Meanwhile, longer-term effects of the flooding are likely to continue troubling the Atchison area for some time, although the town itself avoided any significant property loss.

Of high concern to Mayor Shawn Rizza, who helped guide Moran through Atchison, are the people of southern Buchanan County who suffered the most from the levee breakage last week.

“It is a strange and helpless feeling to be standing on the high ground, impressed by nature’s power, while seeing homes and lives being forever affected just a stone’s throw away,” Rizza wrote in a column for Atchison Globe. “We all know people on the other side of the river and my heart breaks for those that are still waiting to see how extensive the damage is to their homes.”

In Atchison, the river crested at 31.2 feet, approaching the 1993 record of 31.6 feet.

“There’s a big concern going forward that we’re just getting started with this,” said state Rep. John Eplee, R-Atchison. “With spring rains and more snowmelt we could still have several difficult months ahead of us.”

The flood wall protecting the Bradken-Engineered Products campus just south of the Earhart bridge in Atchison held up well against the Mighty Mo despite a few leaks. Waters briefly shut down Union Pacific routing, which normally sends multiple trains through downtown Atchison every day.

Asked for his thoughts on the flooding in Northeast Kansas and the consequences of climate change, Moran said it is self evident that the climate has changed, and that at a minimum, the government must take steps to prepare for further changes.

“Well, there’s (been) calamitous change in my lifetime,” Moran said. “Growing up in Kansas, the snowfall was up to the rooftops. My kids, with the next generation, have never experienced that ... I think the issue that we face ... is what do we do to make things safer, better, more secure. That requires some common sense and using science.”

Veteran’s Memorial Park — where Moran began his tour on Thursday — became submerged. To prevent damage, City of Atchison workers removed the two bronze battlefield crosses dedicated to Spc. Don Clary and Sgt. Clint Wisdom, two Atchison County natives killed in action during the Iraq War while serving with the Kansas Army National Guard; the monuments remain offsite while the risk of flooding remains elevated.

Eplee said he worries about the typically rainy weeks to come of April and May, and whether or not the Corps has the capacity to keep the river under control if ever more precipitation and snowmelt flows into it.

“Our Doniphan County farmers are pretty badly hurt,” he said. “I don’t know if they’ll even be able to plant this year. And that’s provided we have no more flooding, and that’s a lot of “ifs.’”


State
Congress investigating vote irregularities

WICHITA — Congressional investigations over voter irregularities expanded Thursday with Democratic lawmakers requesting information from state officials in Kansas and Texas.

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent letters seeking communications related to the decision by Ford County, Kansas, to move the only Dodge City polling site outside of city limits for the 2018 midterm elections. It also is seeking communications about efforts in January by the Texas secretary of state’s office to purge voter rolls amid disputed claims that registered voters may not be U.S. citizens.

The four letters were signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

The spokeswoman for Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said in an email they have acknowledged receipt of the request and “will respond accordingly.”

Jeff Mateer, first assistant attorney general in Texas, said in an emailed statement that they are reviewing the letter and “look forward to providing the committee with information that demonstrates our compliance with the law while ensuring free and fair elections.”

Spokespeople for Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox in Kansas and Secretary of State David Whitley in Texas did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.

For about two decades, the only polling site for Dodge City’s 13,000 registered voters was the Civic Center in a mostly white part of town. Cox decided to move the site to the county Expo Center located outside of town and more than a mile from the nearest bus stop the month before the midterms. County officials have said the move was prompted by a planned construction project at the Civic Center, although work had not started by the time of the November election.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas sued Cox, arguing that moving the only polling site in Dodge City outside the city limits will make it more difficult for the city’s majority Hispanic population to vote because they tend to have less access to transportation and flexible work schedules. A federal judge refused to order the county to open a new polling location just days before the election, finding it was not in the public’s interest because it would likely create more voter confusion.

The letter to Cox from Democratic lawmakers acknowledges that Ford County recently settled a lawsuit and agreed to open additional polling sites in the city for future elections. However, it said they remained concerned that the decision to move the polling site last year may have impacted the voting ability of Dodge City residents. Their letter to Schwab seeks to determine the role of the Kansas secretary of state’s office in moving the polling site.

Texas’ bungled search for illegal voters began in January when state election officials released a deeply flawed list of 98,000 registered voters flagged as potential noncitizens. But it became almost immediately clear that the list wasn’t vetted and that the U.S. citizenship of tens of thousands of Texas voters had been wrongly questioned.

A federal judge in February called Texas’ scouring of voter rolls for noncitizens “a solution looking for a problem” and prohibited the state from removing any voters following lawsuits by civil rights groups.

Paxton had originally amplified the January announcement as a “VOTER FRAUD ALERT” in campaign fundraising emails before problems with the list emerged. President Donald Trump had also used the reports to renew his unsubstantiated claims of rampant voter fraud.

The fallout has put Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s hand-picked elections chief in jeopardy. Whitley was appointed in December but still needs confirmation in the Texas Senate, where Democrats signaled they have enough votes to reject him.

The letters from lawmakers ask that the requested communications be produced by April 11.


K-12
AES Aviators preparing to run

Youngsters attending Atchison Elementary School are seeking pledges to raise funds in support of the second annual AES Fun Run/Walk event coming in April.

Pupils will be gathering donations from family, friends and neighbors in effort to raise funds for the running and walking fun day. The all-school event is scheduled for Friday, April 26 at AES. All pupils will participate in the special fun-filled day of fitness and interaction.

Atchison Elementary School Community Club members are encouraging each pupil to raise a $20 minimum. Each pupil who successfully raises the minimum will receive an AES Fun Run/Walk shirt to wear the day of the fun run/walk event and to take home afterward for keeps. There will also be additional prize awards based on the fundraising amounts.

All pledge sheets and money collections are due for return by Tuesday, April 9. Pupils who miss the pledge sheet and money collected deadline will not receive a shirt. An announcement of the time schedule by grade will become known closer to the event date.

AES Community Club sponsors the event to provide money for classroom needs, student incentives for good behaviors, rewards and other activities to benefit AES pupils. The AES Community Club is a parent organization comprised of members who volunteer to help with school events and activities.

Contact AES Community Club at aescommunityclub@usd409.net for more information concerning the upcoming event.


News
Parolee flees, drives into prison time

Sheena M. Kley

Despite the defense’s motion to consider probation, a local woman was handed some time in prison for her autumn time attempt to outrun deputies this past fall.

Sheena M. Kley, 31, of Atchison, was sentenced Monday, March 25, in Atchison County District Court to 10 months in state prison for one count of fleeing and attempt to elude law enforcement, a felony offense. Kley was given credit for time served in the Atchison County Jail since her arrest Oct. 5, 2018, and was deemed eligible for 20 percent good time credit. Kley will serve an additional 12 months of post-release supervision.

J. David Farris, Kley’s court-appointed defense counsel, asked Judge Robert Bednar to consider probation for his client because there were no injuries as a result of Kley’s felony moving violation.

Atchison County Attorney Sherri Becker argued that during the crime Kley failed to stop at stop signs and red lights in her effort to flee from law enforcement.

Bednar applied the special rule because the crime was committed while Kley was on parole.

Kley pleaded guilty to the fleeing and eluding Feb. 1 in district court, just four days before her scheduled jury trial. In exchange for her plea, a few traffic infractions were dismissed.

At the time of the incident, Atchison County Sheriff’s Office deputies attempted to arrest Kley on an Nodaway County, Missouri warrant and two district court warrants, according to a Globe news report. An online Kansas Department of Corrections report indicates Kley was paroled May 30, 2018, after she served time for a 2016 Atchison County conviction for felony theft.