Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lansing plays host to Kansas mayors conference

Leaders from around the state attend panel discussions, tour area attractions on Saturday

August 18, 2005

Prison doesn't have to be a bad memory. Just ask some of the Kansas mayors who visited the Lansing Correctional Facility on Saturday, as part of the tour organized for the third annual Kansas Mayors Association conference held in Lansing.

The conference began Friday night with reception Friday evening at the Holiday Inn Express, 120 Express Lane. It continued Saturday with panel discussions at City Hall and Lansing Community Center, 800 First Terrace, on legal economic development, current legal actions relating to cities, land use and strategic planning for communities, and media and community relations for mayors.

In all, 32 mayors from across Kansas attended the conference. Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard, president of the association, played host.

In addition to the prison, the mayors also had the opportunity to tour the Lansing Historical Society Museum and Fort Leavenworth.

The prison tour, led by Warden David McKune, drew praise from several mayors. The warden discussed, among other topics, the evolution of correctional philosophy in the 140 years since the prison was built and the myriad ways the facility has had to adapt to modern facts of life, such as cell phones and the two-year-old tobacco ban in the facility.

Beverly Kranz, mayor of Circleville, said McKune was a good speaker. "I'd never been on a prison tour. It was very interesting."

Ed Parker, mayor of Kechi, agreed that McKune was a good presenter, and "very intelligent." Of the prison cell that was open for mayors to inspect, Parker said, "I stepped inside that one, and it pressed in on me."

Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard, president of the Kansas Mayors Association, talks at a banquet during the group's annual conference in Lansing.

Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard, president of the Kansas Mayors Association, talks at a banquet during the group's annual conference in Lansing.

Parker's wife, Rita, who accompanied him on the tour, said with a laugh that she "wouldn't want to go back."

At the museum, Merriam Mayor Carl Wilkes studied the collection of guns - most of them handmade - found in inmates' cells over the years.

"You've got so much history here in Kansas; even though you've lived here for years, there's still so much to see," Wilkes said.

The last leg of the tour was a trolley tour of Fort Leavenworth, guided by John Reichley, who sits on the Fort Leavenworth Historical Society board of directors. The tour went by the fort's historical homes, including the allegedly haunted Syracuse Houses, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's onetime quarters during his assignment at the base in the early 1980s, and ended with a visit to the society's Frontier Army Museum.

As with the tour, the conference panels also were well received.

Lawrence Mayor Dennis "Boog" Highberger said he found the legal issues panel particularly useful, especially updates on recent judicial decisions on the eminent domain powers of local communities. Highberger said he'd not been aware that the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a Connecticut town's power to condemn property for the sake of commercial development actually restricted, rather than expanded, Kansas communities' eminent domain powers.

"It was a good presentation." Highberger said

Cherryvale Mayor John said he thought the discussion on the effects of Kansas Senate Bill 77, passed in April, which outlawed racial profiling by law enforcement agencies was informative, "Even though we have a primarily Caucasian population" in Cherryvalle, a town of about 2,300 in far southeast Kansas.

The conference ended with a dinner at Leavenworth Country Club, followed by a speech by Lt. Gen. William Wallace, commander of Fort Leavenworth, and the presentation of the Mayor of the Year award, which went to Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith.


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