Because of the forecast for inclement weather Thursday, The Star is delaying by one week a town hall focused on secrecy in Kansas government.
The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. next Thursday, Jan. 18, at Olathe City Hall, 100 E. Santa Fe St.
The National Weather Service says a strong cold front will sweep into the area Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The area could see minor accumulations of ice and sleet Thursday morning and then snow later in the day, possibly affecting morning and evening commutes.
The town hall follows The Star’s November series, “Why so secret, Kansas?” The investigation revealed that Kansas has one of the darkest state governments in the nation, and its secrecy permeates nearly every aspect of service.
The meeting is open to anyone, but we asked people interested in attending to register online. If you have already registered there is no need to do so again. If you haven’t signed up, but would like to attend next Thursday you can do so here.
The Star decided to hold the meeting after hearing from readers who wanted to know what they could do to help bring about change in Topeka. One resident, in signing up for the town hall, simply wrote: “My question is, How do we change this culture?”
Another wrote, “My question to the members of the panel would be: What, exactly, does transparency look like to YOU? I would argue that government in and of itself has somewhat of an invisibility cloak draped around it, and I suspect each member of the panel has a different idea of how transparent they should be to the constituents they serve.”
The Star’s series exposed countless examples of government secrecy, from records kept under wraps in police shootings to shredding notes within the Department for Children and Families to asking KanCare recipients to sign blank forms for plans of care.
The Star also revealed that in the past decade, the Legislature has often relied on tactics that obscure the authors of bills and hinder the public’s ability to track legislation. More than 90 percent of the laws passed during that time came from anonymous authors, and lawmakers’ votes in legislative committees are seldom recorded.
The goal of the town hall is to continue the dialogue and discuss changes that could bring openness to the Sunflower State.
Panel members are Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Louisburg Republican; Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican; Rep. Jarrod Ousley, a Merriam Democrat; former Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican; and attorney Bernie Rhodes, who represents The Star and other media outlets on open records issues.