My Fellow Kansans

New Episodes each Friday: October 18 - November 22, 2019

In the first season of My Fellow Kansans, we examined the forces and consequences of Kansas politics, the history behind it, and the likelihood of another course-changing election last November.

This season we’re turning to rural Kansas, because it too has a storied past. But as once-thriving towns continue to shrink, does it have a future?

That, fellow Kansans, depends on whom you ask.

The future of rural Kansas is our topic in season two of My Fellow Kansans, a podcast from the Kansas News Service. Our conversation begins October 18. 

 Discover new episodes or subscribe here.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

DODGE CITY, Kansas — The history of this small city built on the cattle trade sets it apart from most towns in rural Kansas. The mere name of the place evokes recollections of the Wild West and the subsequent romancing of that age.

Yet Dodge City also stands apart from the region that surrounds it. This place is growing.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

GREENSBURG, Kansas — The massive tornado that leveled this town in 2007 pretty much defines disaster.

Eleven people dead. The place in ruins.

Yet without the tragedy, Greensburg wouldn’t have had the chance to transform itself into “the greenest community in America.”

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

ANTHONY, Kansas — Few things signal a rural community’s decline more powerfully than the closure of its hospital.

Like shuttered schools and empty Main Streets, an abandoned hospital serves as a tangible reminder of the erosive power of decades of population loss and unrelenting economic trends.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

PHILLIPSBURG, Kansas — The opening of a child care center attracts little notice in a city or suburb.

In rural Kansas, it’s cause for celebration.

The focus on young families, and the hope that represents, is remarkably rare in small towns fighting for survival against forces largely beyond their control.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

DIGHTON, Kansas — A billboard along Interstate 70 boasting about the productivity of Kansas farmers may say more about what’s happening in agriculture than those who put it there realize.

The message seems simple and straightforward: “1 Kansas Farmer Feeds 155 People + You!”

A closer look reveals it’s been crudely updated — an indication that the tally changes with some frequency.

Go here to subscribe to My Fellow Kansans. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

COURTLAND, Kansas — Rural Kansas has a storied past, but decades of population decline stand poised to turn many once-vibrant places into ghost towns. 

The struggle for survival reveals itself in emptied Main Streets, shuttered factories and tired-looking neighborhoods dominated by houses built before World War II.

An exodus that started more than 100 years ago and gained momentum during the Great Depression has now thinned the population of most of the state’s 105 counties to fewer than 10 people per square mile.

Rural Kansas has a storied past. But as once-thriving towns continue to shrink — does it have a future? That depends on who you ask. In season two of My Fellow Kansans, host Jim McLean explores rural Kansas to discover what the future holds for rural communities across the state. 

Our conversation begins October 18. Subscribe now.

Kansas voters elected a new governor, Democrat Laura Kelly, who wants to promptly expand Medicaid eligibility, resolve a long-running lawsuit with more school funding, and address a crisis in the state's foster care system. But her ability to fulfill that agenda will depend on how willing a more conservative Legislature is to work with her.

Following an on-stage conversation with the governor-elect, My Fellow Kansans host Jim McLean was joined by Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty and Kansas News Service reporters Stephen Koranda and Celia Llopis-Jepsen for a live panel discussion of the dynamics heading into the 2019 legislative session. 

Beatty, armed with insights from a Fox News exit poll, said voters are looking for their elected officials to chart a center path. 

 

With the election of Democrat Laura Kelly as governor, it appears Kansas is trending back to the center. But voters sent a mixed message as conservatives regained control of the Legislature. 

To cap off this season My Fellow Kansans, the incoming governor sat down with Jim McLean of the Kansas News Service and took questions from a live audience at Washburn University in Topeka. 

As Kelly prepares to take over the reins of state government, she said she's found the problems to be worse than she thought. But the governor-elect, a veteran of the state senate, is confident she'll have a "moderate majority" of Democratic and Republican lawmakers working with her on solutions. 

Well, fellow Kansans, it’s over.

Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, running as the “fix-it” candidate on the premise that Kansas had gone off the rails, beat “full-throttle conservative” Kris Kobach in the race for governor.

Her win signaled Kansans’ desire to, if not reverse the state’s turn to the right, at least turn down the political rhetoric and focus on the basics.

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