Topeka | KCUR

Topeka

Segment 1: Who gets to tell what stories? 

Controversy over a novel called “American Dirt” led to a canceled book tour—a week before author Jeanine Cummins was set to come to Kansas City. Critics have a problem with the fact that Cummins is white, yet wrote a book about a Mexican family trying to make it across the US-Mexico border.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas City, Missouri — Time was, a fledgling tech company called CivicPlus had to explain to prospective customers why it was based in Kansas — and not some tech-heavy coastal city.

“We said, ‘Hey, you get Midwest values, but with Silicon Valley quality,’” recalled Ward Morgan, owner of the government software maker based in the college town of Manhattan. “It did throw people off to think that there was a tech company in Kansas.”

Today CivicPlus, founded in the 1990s, serves 3,500 cities and counties on two continents.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — This state capital made national headlines in December when it announced it would pay anyone up to $15,000 to move here and work for local companies in Shawnee County.

With a pilot program called “Choose Topeka,” the city joins a long line of places like Vermont and Tulsa, Oklahoma, that offer cash to new arrivals.

Megan Phelps-Roper

The cover of Megan Phelps-Roper's book "Unfollow" gives away the ending. We know the hero leaps far beyond her old confines and goes on to live a healthy, happy life reaching out to others in need.

But in this case, the ending isn't as captivating as the middle of the story.

"A lot of people had these very personal experiences with Westboro and there's a lot of confusion, I think, people don't understand why we were doing what we were doing," Phelps-Roper says of Topeka's infamous  Westboro Baptist Church.

Courtesy Stacey Kelly

A Kansas woman who was sex trafficked as a minor and later convicted of felony sex crimes should not receive a pardon from Gov. Laura Kelly, a panel says.

Evert Nelson / The Topeka Capital-Journal

The foster kid is a 17-year-old boy who was kicked out of his home when he was 10, started using drugs by 13, and in five years is expected to be in prison or dead.

Kansas Department of Children and Families social workers check on him every day and there’s been some progress: He’s now in an independent living facility and he’s not using drugs anymore. But he still has many needs, including a coming heart transplant.

How can he be helped?

Evert Nelson / Topeka Capital-Journal

Parents of kids who are in the Kansas foster care system described it Saturday as chaotic, deceptive and traumatizing to children.

About two dozen people rallied on the steps of the statehouse in Topeka, calling on lawmakers to bring more accountability to the Kansas Department for Children and Families, an agency long under fire for losing kids and housing them in offices.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas The road to democracy is paved in donuts.

At least that’s the case if you dropped by Washburn University’s Memorial Union for lunch on a recent afternoon, followed the “free donuts” sign and blaring rock music down to the lower level, where there were not just boxes of glazed temptation, but smiling faces holding out electronic tablets.

Libby Hanssen / KCUR 89.3

This article originally appeared in KCUR's Arts Adventure newsletter. You can see the archive here. Or, you can subscribe here to receive it every Tuesday.

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, for a tour of nostalgia, charm, craftwork and childlike joy. The merry-go-rounds of Missouri and carousels of Kansas are the cheapest rides on some of the finest examples of Americana folk art.

2017 file photo / Topeka Capital-Journal

Hope Joy Zeferjohn was missing from the Kansas Capitol on the day her family was posing for pictures with the governor.

It was May 22, 2015, and then-Gov. Sam Brownback was signing a proclamation for Family Reunification Month.

Zeferjohn’s parents and siblings stood behind him, literal poster children for Brownback’s efforts to return children to their homes from foster care.

He brings us local news highlights with his primetime public affairs TV program each weekand his journalistic experience spans from the BBC to Kansas Public Radio. Nick Haines is rarely the one answering the questions, but today he shares an exclusive look at what makes KCPT's Kansas City Week in Review happen every Friday.

Huascar Medina

Sometimes Kansas' new poet laureate feels isolated and in transition. Huascar Medina's mother is Panamanian and his father is Puerto Rican, but Medina was born at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Texas, and is an American.

"I'm no longer from Puerto Rico or Panama, but sometimes I don't feel I'm American enough either, you know? My Spanish isn't the best, and sometimes I struggle with my English, so I live in the in between," says Medina, who has lived in Topeka for almost two decades.

Cities in Kansas have been adopting a new approach for dealing with feral cats: neutering and vaccinating them, and then allowing the felines to roam free.

That has birdwatchers worried.

Erica Hunzinger / Harvest Public Media / KCUR 89.3

Whether it's corn, wheat or soybean, Kansas grows it. And given the importance of those crops to the United States economy, people who live in cities might be forgiven for thinking the Sunflower State's farmers have it made.

Paul Johnson, an organic farmer in Jefferson County, just northeast of Topeka, and a policy analyst for the Kansas Rural Center, says the situation in farmland is much more dire than most people know.

Chris Haxel / KCUR 89.3

Topeka-based Payless ShoeSource is closing all 2,300 of its domestic retail stores, a company spokesperson confirmed to KCUR on Monday. About 1,200 retail stores outside the U.S. are not affected.

The news was first reported by Reuters on Friday. Sources told the news service the company plans to file for bankruptcy, less than two years after emerging from bankruptcy in 2017.

The company began liquidation sales at its American stores on Sunday. Online sales are also being eliminated.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The Topeka Symphony Orchestra has offered furloughed federal government employees two free tickets to a concert. Regardless of whether the partial government shutdown ends any time soon, the offer's good for any of the orchestra's three performances between now and May.

NOMIN UJIYEDIIN / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

Kansas swore a new governor into office on Monday and saw the end of eight years of Republicans in the office.

New Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly told supporters, and the Republican lawmakers she’s sure to clash with, that the state had lost its sense of community. That seemingly was a dig at predecessors Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.

Segment 1: Four nearby counties are "the most typical in the U.S." according to recent study.

A recent study by Echelon Insights, a research and polling firm based in Washington D.C., ranked the top 25 most typical counties in America. Two on the list include Jackson and Clay county in Missouri, as well as Shawnee and Sedgwick in Kansas, respectively. So what makes us so typical? And what does 'typical' even mean?

An older white haired man in a black suit and blue shirt sits in front of a microphone.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Former Kansas Senate President Dick Bond on his time in office and Kansas politics today.

StoryCorps

StoryCorps' MobileBooth came to Kansas City to collect the stories and memories of residents. This is one in a series of stories KCUR has chosen to highlight.

John Mendoza graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, in 1967, excited to take on a job at NASA as an aerospace engineer. 

"I always wanted to be a figher pilot because of movies and space programs, outer space movies," John told his daughter, Valerie M. Mendoza.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: New Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly is making the transition with the help of Gov. Jeff Colyer and others.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Fresh off a victory that cemented his latest, controversial, pick for the nation’s high court, President Donald Trump came to Kansas Saturday night hoping to transfer his popularity in the state to two fellow Republicans.

Trump arrived just hours after Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court — the most controversial appointment to the court in generations. He was in regular rally form, playing to an adoring crowd of some 10,000 thrilled supporters at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Updated 10:35 p.m. Aug., 9, 2018: In a cable news interview Thursday night, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he will recuse himself from the vote-counting process in the closely contested Republican gubernatorial primary. 

"There really is no point to it, but I've said if my opponent wishes me to, I'd be happy to. It's purely symbolic. I don't think he understands the process," Kobach told CNN's Chris Cuomo. 

He went on to say he would make a "formal response" to Gov. Jeff Colyer's recusal request Friday. 

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Former four-term state representative and agriculture secretary Josh Svaty wants the state's top job.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated with comments from the children's attorney.)

Immigrant children taken to Kansas after being separated from their families are on their way to being reunited with loved ones.

A federal judge in San Diego on Tuesday night ordered that kids separated from their families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy must be reunited with those adults within 30 days. That’s already happened for more than half of the separated kids staying at a shelter in Topeka.

Leola Montgomery is the widow of the Rev. Oliver Brown, the lead plaintiff in the 1954 landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

Montgomery, who is scheduled to be in Wichita on Saturday to receive a special award, doesn’t look one bit of 97. Nor does she act like it.

Segment 1: How a tattoo interacts with technology.

A tattoo artist in Topeka inks soundwave tattoos, which play a recorded sound with the help of your phone. Hear more about it.

Segment 2, beginning at 14:12: The story behind Loose Park's rose garden.

It's a beloved KC landmark that's been the setting for weddings, prom photos and picnics. More on this fragrant oasis in the city.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen
Celia Llopis-Jepsen / KCUR/Kansas News Service

Five-year-old Ridley Fitzmorris sits at a picnic table in his backyard in Lawrence, one leg dangling and the other tucked beneath him. His eyes are focused on a row of Hot Wheels that his therapist asked him to count.

“One, two, three,” he says in a whisper, his finger hovering over each toy car until he reaches the last one. Turning to an iPad that he uses to communicate, he clicks an icon. “Eight,” the computerized voice announces.

“Good job!” cooes therapist Ashley Estrada, a specialist in treatment for children with autism. “You did it by yourself."

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Updated Thursday, 7 a.m.

The Wyandotte County District Attorney's office says only rides at Schlitterbahn which are found to be in compliance with state regulations will be operated. 

The county DA's statement says it will help ensure rides will come into compliance with state laws before they open for the public. The Kansas Department of Labor will perform inspections and rides will be put into operation as they are cleared.  

The original post continues below. 

An audit from the Kansas Department of Labor alleges dozens of safety violations at Schlitterbahn waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas. 

Auditors, who toured the park earlier this month, cite 147 items they say need immediate action on 11 of Schlitterbahn's water rides. The violations include incomplete training and operating manuals, unavailable records and inadequate safety signage.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

If districts suing the state get their way, the Kansas Legislature could be back in Topeka within weeks to add another half a billion dollars to school budgets in time for the coming academic year.

The districts hope the Kansas Supreme Court will also tell the state to phase in hundreds of millions beyond that in the years to come.

Pages