By Aaron Strain / Web Master
Representative Paul Waggoner hosted a Town Hall sponsored by Hutchinson Community College’s Student Publications Tuesday night at the Justice Theatre. Waggoner represents Kansas’ 104th House District, which includes northern Hutchinson, the HutchCC campus, and northeastern rural Reno County, including Buhler.
He spoke on a wide range of issues facing the state in front of about a dozen people.
Being a Hutchinson native, Waggoner said the two 4.0-plus-magnitude earthquakes residents felt in August were “the last thing to expect,” but not “anything to freak out over at this point.”
Waggoner listened to local forums, led by geoscientists with the Kansas and United States Geological Surveys.
He said the loud booms and shaking during the quakes were “pretty freaky” but only caused “superficial damage,” according to a local engineer at one forum.
The scientists pointed to the increase of oil and gas wastewater injection in southern Kansas as a potential cause of increased seismic activity. As the increased fluid pressure expanded northward, faults outside of Hutchinson became more susceptible to quakes.
KGS observes the state’s seismic activity with two permanent and several temporary monitoring wells. Rep. Jason Probst, D-Hutchinson, proposed a bill to drill 10 additional permanent wells. Waggoner said the plan “could be overkill,” considering the KGS called for only six to eight in a 2015 master plan.
“But,” Waggoner said, “if you get repeat 4.0 earthquakes, then you got something different,” prompting further action.
Waggoner was asked about his relationship with the National Rifle Association. He said he has “a good relationship with the Second Amendment,” and that viewing the NRA as “a political boogeyman is bizarre. The only power of any politically active group is in their membership and whether people care about the issue.”
The Kansas NRA endorsed Waggoner during his 2018 campaign.
Waggoner spoke about his educational experience. He gained a bachelor’s in business and a master’s in history without much parental assistance, but with a strong work ethic and work-study jobs.
He said that cultural, parental, and educational focus should shift towards gaining a marketable technical degree over a four-year degree that may not pay as well. When deciding on a degree, students should research the costs and benefits of gaining one. Students need to be aware that when they choose, they accept the debt that may come with it.
HutchCC faculty in attendance questioned his positions.
Cindy Hoss, Vice President of Academic Affairs, agreed with his sentiment.
“Kansas has always wanted their children to do better than they did. We wanted everybody to get a four-year degree, and that’s not necessarily the best path,” she said.
Hoss also said that, “students don’t come with parents with money behind them … so they’re on Pell Grants and work study, and they’re working hard – but they’re still ending up with debt.”
Jason Knapp, political science instructor, said, “trade schools were demonized for a long time, now we’re getting to the point (of) demonizing four-year education. Nurses and people in those fields do make more, but teachers here have a master’s degree or higher, and we’re not making that kind of money, but I think we contribute too and love our jobs.
And (we don’t) pick a job just based on ‘I can make 55,000 instead of 40,000.'”
Hoss added, “We can hardly hire a teacher. I recruit all summer to hire teachers who are qualified.”
Waggoner said that a balance between four-year and two-year institutions is needed.
Government and Media Relations
Waggoner’s involvement in local politics started with his time as a community columnist for The Hutchinson News. He said writing allowed him to explore his curiosities and have his ideas challenged by the community.
“Kansas media is in a bad state,” Waggoner said. The ownership of local newspapers by large corporations caused “a real tragedy” and a drop in quality.
“When you’re up in Topeka, you basically have six people … framing issues to your average person in Kansas who’s reading the newspaper. Of those six, I don’t think anybody voted for Kris Kobach for governor. I think they all voted for Laura Kelly.”