Certain issues and events drove debate on The Eagle’s Opinion pages this year. In crafting this list, we focused on political and policy issues that generated the most public passion, not just big news stories.
1. Election. For the first time since 1964, Republicans swept all congressional and statewide races in Kansas. Among that group were Gov.-elect Sam Brownback and three new congressmen, who will be part of a new GOP majority in the U.S. House. The highest-profile and ugliest race occurred in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, in which Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, defeated Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard.
2. Role of government. Tea party activists protested health care reform, stimulus spending and federal bailouts, while the Wichita City Council and the Sedgwick County Commission wrestled with special sales-tax and tax-increment-financing districts. The role of government also was a key issue in several elections, including the 4th Congressional District race between Republican Mike Pompeo and Democrat Raj Goyle.
3. Hawker. Whether Hawker Beechcraft would be lured away by Louisiana created much anxiety. After a union rejection of pay cuts and more layoffs, Gov. Mark Parkinson brokered a deal to keep Hawker in Wichita for at least 10 more years.
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4. Economy. Though the overall economy stabilized and the stock market rebounded, job growth remained slow and local layoffs continued, creating increased demand for help from local charities and for extended unemployment benefits.
5. Sales-tax increase. Parkinson and a bipartisan majority of lawmakers decided that temporarily increasing the statewide sales tax by 1 percentage point was the least bad budget option. After criticizing the tax increase when he was campaigning for governor, Brownback now says that the extra revenue is needed to help fill next year’s budget hole.
6. Smoking ban. After years of trying, a statewide public smoking ban cleared the Legislature and became law, though it includes a hypocritical exemption for state-owned casinos. Despite a new surgeon general’s report emphasizing the severe danger of secondhand smoke, some lawmakers plan to try to repeal the law next year.
7. Trash. Wichita City Manager Robert Layton’s proposal to create a trash cooperative of private haulers generated criticism from some who call it a government takeover and by others who don’t think the plan goes far enough.
8. Downtown. After months of research, meetings and public forums, the consulting firm Goody Clancy developed a master plan for downtown Wichita, which the City Council unanimously adopted earlier this month.
9. Illegal immigration. Kansas Secretary of State-elect Kris Kobach helped craft Arizona’s controversial immigration law and wants to create new ID requirements to prevent illegal immigrants from voting in Kansas elections — even though there is no evidence this is happening. Meanwhile, Brownback helped defeat the federal DREAM Act, which he once co-sponsored.
10. Arena. Intrust Bank Arena opened and was one of the top performing arenas in the country in 2010, proving that if you build it and bring in top acts, people will come. Fears about parking and traffic largely proved to be nonissues.
Honorable mentions: city building codes, Gulf oil spill, coal-fired power plant, tax-cut extension, cleavage, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, school funding, Sumner County casino, Phelps protests, Scott Roeder’s conviction.