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OPINION

LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD !"LJWorld.com !"Monday, February 20, 2012

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Iowa caucus woes raise anxiety

EDITORIALS

Sidewalk stand The city’s sidewalk ordinance is a weak tool to combat panhandling in downtown Lawrence.

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awrence City Hall leaders are heading off to court to try to prove the constitutionality of a city ordinance that regulates the manner in which people can walk, lie, stand or sit on a public sidewalk. It is a lawsuit the city may win, but city leaders should recognize it will not produce a victory in their efforts to control panhandling in downtown Lawrence. City commissioners approved this sidewalk ordinance, which makes it illegal to obstruct traffic on a sidewalk, in 2005. It was approved largely as a way to give the city more leverage over panhandlers who had created significant concerns among downtown merchants and visitors. Last week, a municipal court judge ruled the ordinance unconstitutional after it was challenged by Robert Gilmore, who goes by the name Simon. He isn’t really a panhandler, but he frequently sits on city sidewalks with socks on his hands. His family has said he suffers from mental illness. The city is entitled to appeal the ruling to Douglas County District Court, and city attorneys have said they’ll do that. If the city believes the constitution is on its side, there is no harm in appealing the ruling. In the grand scheme of things, however, this sidewalk ordinance isn’t much of a weapon in the panhandling battle. It may occasionally come in handy, but it would be naive to think it will have much impact on the city’s ability to reduce panhandling. City leaders have said as much over the years. There seems to be two major actions the city can take to make panhandling less of an issue in downtown. One is to increase police foot patrols in the area. Many panhandlers simply don’t like the police and likely don’t want to share space with them. A greater police presence will make it more likely the police can respond in a timely manner when a panhandler begins acting aggressively or being otherwise inappropriate. A greater police presence will require more city money, but maintaining our downtown is important. The second action is more complicated but ultimately may be more effective. The city must work to educate residents that every time they give to a panhandler, they are encouraging more panhandling. The city is in a position to create and manage an education campaign about the negative consequences of supporting panhandlers. Such an effort may require some signs, some advertising and other forms of public outreach. If panhandling is no longer profitable, it slowly will fade away. Ultimately, victory in the panhandling battle will come when kindhearted visitors to downtown Lawrence understand that a quarter here or a dollar there doesn’t do much to help an individual in need. There are many social service agencies, churches or other organizations that can put that money to much better use in helping the poor, homeless and mentally ill. The city should spend twice as much time spreading that message as it does trying to create and defend little-used laws.

DES MOINES, IOWA — Iowa seems like scorched earth today, and not only because there has been an unusual drought of snow this winter. The caucuses are over; the candidates are gone. But a sense of anxiety, even embarrassment, lingers. Part of the extensive unease here comes from the bungled election count. Iowans and people across the country went to bed that Tuesday night last month thinking that former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts had prevailed, winning a vital political contest that had eluded him four years earlier. Then it emerged that the actual winner was former Sen. Rick Santorum

David Shribman dshribman@post-gazette.com

… almost everybody, including candidates past and present, has been critical of the incivility of the Republican race thus far.”

of Pennsylvania, whose great strength so far has been in states contiguous to this one. Part of the anxiety comes from the shrillness of the campaign rhetoric, which was discordant in this state of unusually high literacy and unusually good manners. The combative language that began here has continued, maybe even grown more coarse, as the contest has moved east, then south and then west. Party leaders across the nation worry that the sticks and stones of winter could end up hurting the Republicans in autumn.

GOP debate out of control And part of it is the sense of helplessness some Republicans feel as the debate veers out of control. The party seems to lack ballast, if not balance; one of the principal challengers seems more set on personal revenge and personal redemption than to have the party prevail in November; and the front-runner’s campaign seems rooted more in its sense of political inevitability than in its ideological irresistibility. Indeed, 70 percent of those who voted for Romney in the Nevada caucuses said their top priority was his electability. And so, if the country — with a president with vulnerable poll ratings and an

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The political parade Beyond providing early political tests in unusually homogeneous settings, Iowa and New Hampshire share many qualities. They both are jealous of their positions at the front of the political parade and exceedingly vigilant about preserving their prerogatives. Iowans, both Republicans and Democrats, are worried that the fumbled January vote count, the lengthy recount, tardy announcement of the

new results and the tawdry nature of the campaign could endanger the pre-eminent role the caucuses have played for more than a third of a century. Any re-evaluation of the place of Iowa inevitably would raise the question of the pre-eminence of New Hampshire. Nobody is ready to touch that issue right now — but almost everybody, including candidates past and present, has been critical of the incivility of the Republican race thus far. “This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people and not worthy of this critical time in our nation’s history. This is the most important election of our lifetime,” former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah said in his endorsement of Romney just before the South Carolina primary. “The current toxic forum of our political discourse does not help our cause.” While a candidate, however, Huntsman also used strong negative characterizations of his opponents. Nationally, Republicans have been unusually forthright about the deficiencies of their nominating process, shining a light on the great vulnerability of the American political system: how we choose the finalists in presidential elections. The Democrats bow to no party in their ability to tinker with, and then comprehensively overhaul their nomination process, almost always making it more inscrutable, more unresponsive to the times and more unlikely to produce a plausible president at the end. Of course, in other political years, the primaries were fewer and later. In 1960, the Dem-

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opposition party with no rudder or gyroscope — seems to have a case of political influenza, the seasonal flu seems particularly virulent here. “Apparently the confusion that occurred with the caucus count happens all the time and it doesn’t matter because the caucus results aren’t close,” says Barbara Trish, a Grinnell College political scientist. “But this year it was close, and it mattered. We know that this, after all, is a party event, not an election, and there aren’t the kind of formalized proceedings you see when a state runs a primary, but it still was embarrassing. At the same time, some of the campaigning turned people off. Activists weren’t impressed with the field and were alienated by the fighting and the language.” Sociologists might describe The Winter’s Tale here in Iowa and the GOP conundrum across the country as anomie — a social instability or personal unrest growing out of a breakdown of standards or the absence of purpose. It is particularly pervasive here, where Matt Strawn, the Republican Party leader, has stepped down amid criticism, particularly strong among conservatives, that the party was reluctant, and then late, to announce Santorum’s triumph.

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With the Kansas University and Kansas State basketball teams scheduled to YEARS meet on the floor AGO of Allen Fieldhouse, IN 1987 Lawrence Mayor Sandy Praeger and Rick Mann, the mayor of Manhattan, Kan., were to be watching the game together. Mann had lost a “friendly wager” with Praeger back in November during a membership drive for the cities’ respective Chambers of Commerce. To hold up his end of the bet, Mann was required to sit with Praeger during the game, wear a KU T-shirt, and cheer for the Jayhawks.

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The Kansas State Board of Health recently had outlawed the sale or promoYEARS tional offering of AGO turtles and other repIN 1972 tiles in the state of Kansas. Recent surveys had indicated that from 9 to 30 percent of salmonella cases in the U.S. were related to pet turtles, with 100,000 to 300,000 cases of turtle-associated salmonellosis occurring annually. In November, the Kansas State Health Department’s Division of Epidemiology and Disease Control had conducted laboratory tests of turtles and/or their water tanks in several Kansas locations. Tests had confirmed that 92 percent of the turtles were infected.

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From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Feb. 20, 1912: YEARS “A course in domesAGO tic science for houseIN 1912 keepers of Lawrence is now being offered by the Lawrence Manual Training High School with Miss Anna Johns in charge of domestic science work as instructor. This course in cookery is offered in response to requests from housekeepers. Each lesson will cover two hours.... A fee of $6 will be charged for 12 lessons or 75 cents for a single lesson.” “By noon today five wolves had been killed in the big wolf drive that was held by the Grant township C.P.A.” — Compiled by Sarah St. John

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ocratic calendar didn’t start until March 8 and included primaries in only 15 states and the District of Columbia. As late as 1976, the Republicans held fewer than 30 primaries, beginning in New Hampshire on Feb 24. The nomination processes used in 1960, when Sen. John F. Kennedy and Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey engaged in a spirited Democratic fight, and in 1976, when President Gerald R. Ford and Gov. Ronald Reagan battled for the Republican nomination, didn’t choke off what we now know were important debates about the parties and their futures.

Back rooms have appeal Today’s parties shy away from the smoked-filled rooms — like the one at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago where GOP leaders selected Warren G. Harding as their nominee — but party leaders privately pine for the days when a few professionals could bring order to the chaos of a modern nomination process. You can hear some Republicans yearning for those days, though perhaps not for Harding, at a time when their party members are marching through their political calendar with the nagging notion that their most gifted field generals are on the sidelines — in Indianapolis, Trenton and perhaps even in the antechambers of the Senate in Washington. Then again, that is the nature of political contests. Even in years when incumbents are campaigning for a second term, we hold elections to satisfy our desires for what we don’t have and think we want. Then more elections follow. — David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh PostGazette.

Lawrence Journal-World 02-20-12  

Daily Newspaper

Lawrence Journal-World 02-20-12  

Daily Newspaper

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