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PODCAST: Parkinson a bold, focused governor

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at http://www.wichita.edu/newslinepodcast. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU — the home of Thinkers, Doers, Movers and Shockers — on the web at wichita.edu.

Ed Flentje
Ed Flentje

Few Kansans could name the current lieutenant governor or any former lieutenant governor. Ed Flentje, a professor in the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University, said that former Lt. Gov. Shelby Smith of Wichita occasionally quipped that the job’s primary duty was to ascend to the Capitol dome, look north and sound an alarm for any approaching glaciers. However, Flentje says that Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson may break the mold in this regard.

Flentje: "The job of lieutenant governor is somewhat of an enigma. Some governor’s have effectively used the position; others have not. But in most cases, folks cannot identify the name of a lieutenant governor.”

Nevertheless, Flentje says Gov. Parkinson will be remembered for his bold leadership.

Flentje: "Mark Parkinson is the first Lieutenant Governor to serve as governor for more than a few weeks. And he has broken the mold in that regard, and will be remembered for his short, but very bold governorship.”

A budget crisis prevented Gov. Parkinson from any kind of honeymoon, as Flentje explains.

Flentje: "As governor, Parkinson immediately faced over $400 million drop in state revenues and took on the task of reducing state spending in line with available revenues. And then, faced another almost $200 million drop, and recommended a sales tax to stave off further cuts in state spending.”

If anything, Flentje says the manner in which Parkinson addressed the budget likely paved the way for the Legislature to approve a tax increase.

Flentje: "The budget cuts likely softened resistance to the proposed sales tax. And the fact that it was a simple, understandable three-year temporary one-cent sales tax, made it understandable, and other proposals fell by the wayside.”

But Flentje says Parkinson’s leadership goes far beyond his handling of the state’s budget.

Flentje: "Parkinson has also shown extraordinary leadership in renewable energy. He negotiated a settlement over the western Kansas coal plant almost immediately, and has also put into, under way, actions that are expanding generating capacity for wind energy, transmission lines and jobs.”

And announcing early on that he wouldn’t run for reelection didn’t seem to hinder Parkinson’s ability to lead.

Flentje: “Parkinson, immediately on assuming the governorship, said that he would not run for election as governor. And whether this contributed to his ability to take bold, focused action would be speculation, but it certainly freed him from political constraints and appears to have emboldened his leadership.”

Flentje says whatever the case, Parkinson drew upon a special mix of personal resources, skills, judgment and vision to demonstrate state leadership. While not all Kansans agree with his results, Flentje said Parkinson has given Kansas a short but bold and focused governorship, and will be leaving the state in better stead than he found it.

Parkinson recently announced that starting in January 2011, he will become president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

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Created on Tuesday, September 21, 2010; Last modified on Tuesday, September 21, 2010