Monday, 1Feb10, I skipped out on fencing and kendo up at the University of Kansas to attend another monthly townhall meeting of the Leavenworth County Republicans. Chairman Bradford opened up the meeting, as usual, with the Pledge of Allegiance, and I passed the time up until that point speaking with Kirk Sours, the gentleman who gave the lecture on Islam, and who now is keeping his own WordPress blog, Defining the Narrative. After that there was the usual introduction of first time attendees, which was more or less the speakers lined up for the evening plus the “petition lady” (more on her later). For this meeting I opted to try out my new iPhone’s camera for the pictures for this blog entry. I think next time I will take my regular camera, as the photos came out small and not that great. The iPhone camera doesn’t seem to do that well beyond about ten feet when you’re photographing people.
Jana Goodman, who is running for the Kansas State Representative for District 41 against Marti Crow, was the first speaker of the evening. I didn’t think she was all that great of a speaker, but she clearly knew her audience and played to them. Her talk was focused on the difference between Republicans and Democrats, and was mostly tongue-in-cheek. Her characterization of Democratic policy was a crowd pleaser, though I didn’t find it all that compelling, it being a sort of a rehashing of Glenn Beck anti-progressive rhetoric without Beck’s charismatic and practiced delivery, with her least interesting moment where she emphasised her disdain for liberal acceptance of any kind of ” gays, transgenders and species” . Her best moment came when she was describing a local young man who is a Republican. This man apparently got on a plane to Haiti as soon as he could, and was still down there helping out with the aftermath of the earthquake as of the date of the meeting. That was a compelling story, and probably one she should develop for the campaign trail. She asserted that the current crop of Democrats were the heirs of pre-Revolutionary Tories, something I haven’t looked into yet, but it sounds interesting.
I have this woman’s name written down as “Sandra Voney (?)” in my notes, but I’m pretty sure that’s not right. My notes also say she is running for a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives. She started with a personal story about her mother, whom she described as a “Yellow Dog Democrat”. The gist of the story and the talk that it lead into was “everyone should work for what they have”. She is against government bail outs of any kind, advocates that the government as well as the people should live within their means and that success should not or even cannot be built on debt. So far so good. I believe she was also advocating that the order in which we should be concerned and act is: family, city, state and then nation. She put family first, which is proper. A lot of her talk was dedicated to her ideas of welfare reform. In a nutshell her the policy she states she would like to see implemented in Kansas is as follows: you get welfare only once in your life, that welfare period is no longer than two years, the first year you receive job training, the second year you search for a job. After that, if you are an able bodied person you may never receive government assistance again, an idea she delivered with a “those who don’t work, don’t eat” attitude, which is ironic in a way. She assured us that she is “not heartless”, and that “widows, orphans and the disabled” would be excluded from this hardline. She ended her talk with a quick and passionate summary of her beliefs being “anti-abortion, anti gay marriage, everybody works”.
The next speaker was Dan Gilliat (?) from Wyandotte, who is running for the 3rd Congressional District. He spoke passionately of his 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and his two tours in Irag. The defining moment of his life seems to have been an anti-tank mine blowing off one of his legs. In the hospital he saw others like himself in need, and dedicated his life from there on out to helping them. Upon returning home after leaving the Service and seeing how the political landscape had changed into what he deemed “an absolute disgrace” that made him feel like he was “in the Twilight Zone”. He talked about how the country was united after the 9/11 attack, but soon the media and corrupt political opportunists divided America again. He spoke of seeing first hand things the media says did not exist or deliberately ignored, such as stockpiles of chemical weapons in Iraq, and large underground storage facilities for bombs and jets. Money is the driving factor behind the misinformation campaign that denies the existance of these things he saw with his own eyes, is what he was getting at. But back to positive things, he talked about how god, I’m assuming Yahweh though he didn’t specifically say, gave him the opportunity to help people through his crippling experience, and how he does more with his artificial leg than most people do with two healthy legs. He feels it is important to help veterans, a duty we need to reassert after the “black eye on America” that our treatment of Vietnam veterans was. There was also something about how ABC had him on a home renovation show where they built him a new house, and we were invited to come look at it anytime we wanted. He told us that the entire world is struggling. He told us that one of the ways he helps out is by working with a group that builds homes for war veterans. He told us “we need god fearing Christians in Washington”. He then talked about the “death panel” issue of President Obama’s proposed health care system, and the need for us as a nation to honor our elderly. I don’t know anything about “death panels” but I wholeheartedly agree with our obligation to honor the elderly. Another key issue for him is immigration. He not only opposes any sort of amnesty scheme, but wants to build a wall along our southern border, and joked about building a unirail train running from Mexico to Canada that hand out seekers could get on and bypass our country altogether. Or he might have actually been serious, I’m not really sure on that one. He spoke forcefully about the 2cnd Amendment, and how diluting that right diluted every other. He ended his talk with a couple of things about the suicide problem with our returning war vets, and urged us to call him if we knew anyone who was struggling, and a final line that reminded us that “if we blink we’ll lose everything” and that we need to leave our freedoms for our children and grandchildren. He was definitely a passionate speaker and hit upon some important issues, but his speech was rambling and unfocused, something that’s easy to do when you’re on about the sort of he things he was that hit so close to home.
Leavenworth County Commissioner James Tellefson gave the longest presentation. His was really the key presentation of the evening, and was basically a “state of the county” address with some questions afterward. And by “some questions afterward” I mean a stream of disgruntled tirades against the idea of a new airport for the county. He focused primarily on budget issues, and illustrated his cost cutting programs. Apparently LvCo has a very high credit rating on account of our three county commissioners being fiscal conservatives, and that’s the sort of thing I like to hear. I’m riding the Republican train for three reasons: the economy, national defense and maintaining the Bill of Rights in its entire spirit. The “culture wars” bullshit I can do without, but that’s what’s popular so that’s what gets played, and it was refreshing to hear a report that was all business. Tellefson gave a detailed account of spending and highlighted the accomplishments of the county government, and also explained the direction the county government wanted to take us. I won’t get into the specifics, because I’m frankly bored of writing this entry and want to get it done, but I mostly agree with it. During the Q&A, the “petition lady” kicked off the long series of anti-airport grousing and I didn’t get to ask the question I really wanted to. What I wanted to ask was if all his talk of developing the county in an effort to shift the tax burden from homes to businesses would lead to an imminent domain land grab and resale to private developers the way it played out in WyCo with the Kansas Speedway and the shopping district. A man behind me was grumbling about there not being any particular need to urbanize our perfectly beautiful rural county, and I can’t say that I don’t agree with him on some level. I thought he handled the airport discussion with calm reason, but people are just plain upset over the whole thing. I can’t say I understand exactly what the whole issue is about, but the gist of it to me seemed to be that the government wanted to spend $7,000 on a feasibility study and $300 to put a question on the ballot this November concerning whether to move ahead or not based on the results of that study, whereas the anti-airport people want to kill it so badly that they are trying to force a special election at a cost of $33,000 before the feasibility study is done. Guess which side I’m on based on that? If there’s more to it I’d like to know.
Leavenworth County Sheriff Dave Zelner gave a presentation on the status and recent activities of his office next. The Sheriff is aparently a Democrat, and there was some good-natured ribbing when he took the podium. I wonder what he was thinking about when the earlier speakers were giving their take on Democrats as a whole? At any rate, after the opening joking he gave a straightforward account of his office. The big deal recently is the county’s new “P-95 complaint” digital communications system. It’s part of a federally mandated program that arose out of some problems with the old style system that were brought to light during the 9/11 terrorist attacks involving crucial inter-agency cooperation in large scale emergencies. Of more immediate interest was the elimination of radio “dead spots” in the county. They are apparently still driving around trying to find holes in the coverage, going so far as to go down into commercial storage caves with hand held devices. That seems like a good thing, that they no longer lose comms with the base. Another good things is that they found a way to do this that saved the county a lot of money, using agreements with other state agencies and local business. Crime rates were discussed, as well as new School Resource Officer positions in the county, and that we are getting a new K-9 unit in the future.
I don’t have a picture of Todd Thompson, the Leavenworth County Attorney, the meetings final speaker. I was busy listening to him and forgot to take one, and I couldn’t find one readily available in the three seconds I spent on Yahoo! trying to look him up. Todd is interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is that we grew up in the same neighborhood and went to school together. We had a few friends in common and occasionally did things together up before high school. It’s kind of weird seeing someone I grew up with in a position of respect and authority, and the first time I saw him doing his lawyering I thought, “shit, what have I been doing with my time? I should have done that instead…” In some ways he’s an inspiration to me, and it probably has something to do with why I’m working toward getting into law school myself right now. The other reason he’s interesting is the way he took office and the things he’s done since then. He was working for the former County Attorney when he announced his intention to challenge him in the election. He was then promptly fired, and at the time I remember thinking that he was a bit naive to have not seen that coming. The better side of that story is that he roundly won the election, and then gained a reputation for being aggressive and effective. Part of his presentation focused on his campaign against repeat violent offenders and crimes involving children. In a previous town hall meeting an attendee had called for justice in a case involving a particular child molester and legal technicalities, and much to my surprise Todd addressed this issue and explained how it had been brought to the justice sought after. Some statistics and facts were also disseminated by him, but none of the specifics are as interesting as what I’ve already gone over, so we’ll call his presentation over with that.
Once again I journeyed into responsible citizen involvement, and for the emotional ups and downs and occasional outright aggravations it gives me, I feel it is important to be doing.