Kansas City Star writer Steve Kraske blasted Gov. Sam Brownback in a an Oct. 12 column entitled, “Sam Brownback’s legacy: What’s the point of winning elections if you can’t govern?

David Kensinger, a former chief of staff for Gov. Brownback, answers:

What in Kansas is better now than it was when Sam Brownback became Governor? Steve Kraske wonders in his most recent column.

David Kensinger

Well, a good reporter might have asked.

Kraske didn’t. He just fired off his latest screed read by few and believed by even fewer. Had he bothered to ask, a simple answer could have followed.

Sam Brownback campaigned for Governor on the Road Map for Kansas—five specific measurable goals as part of a positive vision to make Kansas a better place.

They were the focus of all broadcast advertising, all campaign literature, even the famous bus tours across Kansas.

It was an act of unusual candor to say to voters, “Here is what we‘re aiming for; judge us on results.”

Seven years later, its fair to ask how Kansas has fared on those measurements. Let these facts be submitted to a candid world.

GOAL ONE: Increase Private Sector Employment

In the decade prior to Sam Brownback becoming Governor, Kansas actually lost private sector jobs—an extraordinary regression.

And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kansas has gained over 73,000 private sector jobs under the Brownback governorship, more than 10,000 a year.  Goal met. Promise kept.

GOAL TWO: Increase Personal Income

Its one thing to have more people working, but the real goal is to increase personal income so people have more money in their pockets.

As the Topeka Capital Journal reported, “Brownback’s quest for higher personal per-capita income in Kansas was realized.”

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Kansas earnings at $40,883 in 2011. The rising tide: $43,380 in 2012; $44,417 in 2013; $45,546 in 2014; $47,161 in 2015; and $48,537 in 2016.

Another goal met and promise kept.

GOAL THREE: Decrease Childhood Poverty

The supplemental poverty report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Census showed the average percentage of Kansas children in poverty from 2011 to 2013 was 15 percent. In the latest edition of the report the average for 2013 to 2015 was 10 percent.

Another goal met and promise kept.

GOAL FOURIncrease Fourth Grade Reading Scores

According to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, Kansas test scores are not statistically different from what they were near the start of the Brownback governorship or even from what they were 20 years ago. Here, Brownback receives an incomplete. Improving NAEP scores remains a work in progress.

GOAL FIVEIncrease Career Readiness among Kansas 18-Year-Olds

In 2012, the state offered financial incentives for high school students to earn industry-recognized technical training credentials they could use to show employers they had the requisite skills for technical jobs. The Kansas Board of Regents logged 598 certificate recipients in 2012. The numbers shot up to 711 in 2013; 1,414 in 2014; and 1,692 in 2015 before subsiding to 1,224 in 2016.

Another goal met and promise kept.

Five goals. Four clear successes and an incomplete grade. Thats how Kansas is better off than it was when Sam Brownback became Governor.

A good reporter might have asked the question fairly, but that might have led to answers that didn’t fit a pre-determined narrative.

The Star has been underestimating Sam Brownback for more than 20 years.  The Star’s pollster predicted in print the weekend before  the 1996 Senate election that Sam Brownback would lose. He won by double-digits,  a margin of more than 110,000 votes.

In 2004, Star editors endorsed his opponent at the same time Kansans were giving Sam Brownback more votes than any other candidate for any office in state history-­- a record he still holds.

They predicted the new legislative maps released in 2012 would destroy any hopes of conservative legislative victories.  They were precisely wrong.

The Star’s panel of experts unanimously predicted Brownback’s defeat for reelection in 2014. He won by a solid margin, carrying 98 of 105 counties.

Its all emblematic of the crisis affecting what was once called journalism in the US.

To see how far the Star has fallen there is one other metric we should look at: the stock price of the McClatchy Company (MNI) that owns the Kansas City Star.

On April 4, 2014 McClatchy was trading at $6.59 a share.  On April 1, 2016, it was trading at 99 cents. The company lost 85 percent of its value in less than two years.

Trading at less than a dollar a share, the company was threatened with the humiliation of being delisted from public exchanges. McClatchy responded with an accounting gimmick—a ‘ reverse stock split–­ which collapsed every 10 shares into one, magically increasing share prices tenfold overnight.  It prevented delisting but didnt change the  fundamentals of a declining company. Today using constant measurements, McClatchy trades at at less than 78 cents per share.

Reading Kraske’s latest it is easy to see what happened.

People don’t trust what they read in the paper anymore. Credibility is the true currency of any newspaper, and the Star has squandered it. The business consequences are as inevitable as they are deserved. Regularly misleading and insulting customers is a lousy business model.

 


 


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