by Melissa Brunner
Talk about feeling like home! Even my mom in Wisconsin was impressed with how quickly the snow piled up around northeast Kansas last week. Follow it up with another round of winter weather this week, and it felt a bit like a return to my former residence!
Of course, what I like best about Kansas winters is that we see the snow and then it usually melts away pretty quickly and we warm up - and it appears we'll do just that this week! But before we return to bare fields and idle sleds, let's reflect on the winter blast we just experienced.
I have to saw I was impressed with how both the local and state crews around Topeka did in clearing the streets and highways. A huge help to them was how many people stayed off the roads Thursday. Schools, businesses and organizations canceled and closed plenty far in advance, keeping people at home and giving the plows an unobstructed path to clear. By Friday, it wasn't too tough to navigate the city and get where you need to go.
I will admit that I didn't do much driving around the residential areas, so your experience might have been a bit different. However, we usually receive a bunch of complaints to the newsroom about street clearing and I only know of one or two this time around. To me, that's indicative of how most people seemed to take these twin storms in stride, keeping their patience and senses of humor intact.
One lesson we learned - Kansas law apparantly does not make a provision to delay an election due to weather. It does allow for changes in polling locations, which is why the Shawnee Co. Elections Commissioner moved all voting to a single spot Tuesday. The issue turned out not to be so much about streets being so bad people couldn't travel, but about convenience. Let's face it - are you more likely to vote if your polling location is a two-minute drive down the street or a 15-minute drive? I suppose it could be argued that this is why we have advanced voting and mail-in balloting and you should take advantage of those opportunities if you're concerned about weather becoming an issue, but I'm among those who still finds tradition in casting a ballot on election day. I know there are pros and cons in making provisions for postponing an election for weather purposes - the obvious plus side is removing any potential barriers to participation, while, on the downside, it could create a lot of logistical nightmares to secure locations, staff and volunteers for an entirely different day, to extend campaigns further and to address the trickle down effect on future ballots and other legal issues. Any such action must not be taken lightly and, granted, the need for it is rare, but do you think it might be an issue worth examining? I'd love to hear your thoughts.