With 2017 coming to a close, we take a look back at some of the stories that shaped the year, and hear from KMUW reporters on which stories were most meaningful to them.
Former Rep. Mike Pompeo’s departure to head the CIA under President Trump left the 4th Congressional District seat vacant, and sparked a special election with several candidates vying for the position.
More than 200 immigrants were arrested in February in states across the Midwest, including 32 in Kansas, as part of what federal officials called routine operations targeting “convicted criminal aliens.” The sweep set immigrant communities on edge, said one Wichita activist.
The Kansas African American Museum in Wichita featured an exhibition on former President Barack Obama and his ties to Kansas. The exhibit closed in May, but some items remain in the museum's permanent collection. KMUW's Carla Eckels spoke with TKAAM Executive Director Mark McCormick and says:
It’s an insightful history lesson that provides information about Obama’s life, including that his mother was born in Wichita and went to elementary school at Riverside. Mark McCormick took me on a tour and talked about the exhibit, which was completely community driven.
Former Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes was elected to the U.S. House in what was the first special election in the Trump era. Estes beat Democrat James Thompson by fewer than 10 percentage points.
Reporter Deborah Shaar covered the race and says:
The special election in April to fill the Kansas' 4th District seat garnered national attention this year. Voters in south-central Kansas were the first in the nation to decide a congressional race since President Trump took office. The close election results in Sedgwick County sets the stage for another face-off in 2018 between the top vote getters: Ron Estes and Democrat James Thompson.
Carla Eckels sat down with Mark Potter, head basketball coach at Newman University in Wichita, and his wife to discuss Mark’s ongoing struggle with depression, one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. Carla had this to say:
My story on overcoming depression seemed to resonate with a lot of listeners this year. The story is told from the perspective of a couple that lived through it. Coach Mark Potter and his wife Nanette shared a candid personal story about how you can be in an extremely dark place but with help can live through it and go on to lead a productive life.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—a vocal backer of Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud—was named vice-chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, headed by Vice President Mike Pence. The commission has met twice so far, and has come under scrutiny, including by one of its own members.
Leaders and patrons of the arts organizations that call the Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center home are watching closely as the city considers future options for the iconic round building with the blue roof.
KMUW’s Deborah Shaar continues to follow the story and says:
The future of Century II is still undecided, and there are ongoing discussions and upcoming community engagement. This story provides the background on the current situation with Century II, Wichita's iconic domed performing arts and convention center. Hearing from the people who use and work at Century II on a daily basis provides a unique perspective that needs to be considered.
Artist Marlene Irvin has been busy restoring all 36 of Joyland’s carousel horses in her backyard workshop in Wichita. Next year, the horses will be installed in their new home at Botanica.
Reporter Carla Eckels reflects:
I think this story stirred up a lot of nostalgia for longtime Wichitans! I talked with artist Marlene Irvin, who describes in detail what she has to do to restore each horse, stripping down all the years of old paint, and giving the carousel horses new life with her own creative design. What’s also interesting is that she’s only one of a handful in the U.S. who is skilled in this area.
After months of deliberation—which left Kansas school districts preparing for a possible shutdown--the Kansas Supreme Court in October struck down the state’s aid to schools as unconstitutionally low — and unfair to poor school districts in particular. Lawmakers fixed the equity portion of the finance formula during the 2016 session, but still had to tackle adequacy this year. What resulted was neither adequate nor equitable, the Supreme Court said, giving the Legislature until the end of April to fix the situation.
After months of public protests over a possible Tyson Foods chicken processing center coming to the area, the decision by county commissioners not to offer the company any incentives likely means a new chicken processing facility won’t be built in Sedgwick County after all—though other counties in Kansas are still interested.
Five long months after Trump formally nominated Sam Brownback to head the Office of International Religious Freedom in the U.S. State Department, the governor is still in office—and back to square one in terms of his nomination. The White House will have to re-nominate Brownback to the post, though it’s unclear how long the process will take (or if he’ll be re-nominated). The delay means the confusion over who is calling the shots at the Governor’s Office will continue.