Friday, May 27, 2016

Tax Returns Show Losses At St. Francis Health Center

St. Francis Health suffered a loss of $6.19 million in 2014, according to its Form 990 federal tax return.
The financial loss was worse than the $1.46 million loss incurred in 2013.
St. Francis is controlled by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, Inc., also known as SCL Health.
SCL Health announced Thursday it is soliciting proposals from health care providers interested in taking over St. Francis’ 378-bed hospital in Topeka.
To read more click on the link

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How to Survive An Oppressive Political Environment

Politics is a dangerous game in America. The presidential race is a battle of extremes on the right and left. The U.S. economy appears to be slowing down. US GDP Growth was a meager 0.5% growth in first quarter 2016 and was only 1.4% in fourth quarter 2015. Many people have lost jobs and never gained full employment after the economic crisis of 2008-2009. State governments are struggling to balance their budgets. In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback's tax breaks for businesses is creating higher budget deficits. One day I was so frustrated with state cuts to child care, I had to get on my bicycle and ride out my anger. While on that bike ride, I examined my philosophy toward politics. To better cope with the mess here, I put together a coping philosophy. Here it is:

World Citizen
I consider myself first and foremost a citizen of the world. I just happen to live in Kansas. When I’m not happy with Kansas, I protest, I call my legislator, I write letters and I post my thoughts on The Internet. But after doing all of that to fight for justice, I leave. I get out of Dodge. I go somewhere. Anywhere to connect with nature and the larger world around us. I have taken my family to Puerto Rico, France, Scotland, England, Colorado, Nebraska and  Minnesota. I once lived in on an island in Greece in my single days. I worked in Yellowstone National Park in 1984 and 1982. I am at heart a “vagabond soul” having met the beautiful stranger a time or two, connecting at train stations, bars and beaches around the world.

When I can't leave Kansas, I remain connected to friends and colleagues around the Globe through Facebook and Seeking Alpha. These ties are important because they provide a global culture to my living as opposed to a Kansas culture only.  I have friends in Greece, France, Israel, Canada, Puerto Rico, Chicago, New York and San Francisco and all over the United States.

I retreat to nature. This is a critical part of my coping system. I put my hands in the dirt and plant flowers. I clean the bird bath, and watch eagerly the bluejay that bathes in the fresh water. I get lost in the sound of a Carolina Wren with its lyrical song, so unique that it sounds mysteriously unlike anything ever produced by a human being. I ride my bicycle to the river, and watch it flow. I connect with like minded friends at the bar. I'll buy you a beer, tell me your story.

Politics of Trickle Down
Having lived in Kansas for 17 years, Nebraska 19 years and Iowa for 16 years, I have seen a variety of city and state political environments. In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback four years ago eliminated taxes on 330,000 businesses while cutting services to the poor and middle class. The idea was the business owners would re-invest their tax savings into their businesses and create more jobs and ultimately more state revenue. But this did not work. To make up for losses, Kansas raised the state sales tax from 6.15% to 6.5%, plus raised cigarette taxes.

Increasing sales tax is tougher on the poor than the rich or middle class. The poor pay sales tax on food and drugs in Kansas but don't have to in other states like Nebraska, where food and drugs are exempt from state sales tax. Topeka's total sales tax is now 9.15%, up nearly two percentage points since I moved to Kansas.

Brownback’s administration has taken hundreds of millions of dollars from the the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Brownback has delayed his promises for completion of a four-lane highway on  US-69 because of the budget crisis in Topeka. Brownback in April delayed payment of $93 million to the KPERs pension and has made multiple cuts to education. 

While the U.S. economy was modestly growing since 2009, many states have prospered with the help of strong state governments. Minnesota, Nebraska and Colorado are doing well. Nebraska ended its last fiscal year with a surplus of money and it has among the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 2.5% while Kansas unemployment rate is 4.3%.

If Kansas can't balance its budget during "good" times when U.S. Gross Domestic Product is growing and unemployment is going down, then it will do much worse when there is a recession. And a recession is not out of the question. I think we could see a recession in the United States this year. Pity the state governments that are broke. They will get worse. I want the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback to admit to making a mistake with their tax policy and reversing the exemption of tax on limited liability companies in Kansas. This would generate over $250 million in needed tax revenue. Several businesses who benefit from the exemption testified the exemption should be eliminated to help balance the Kansas budget. Yet the Legislature and Brownback do not have enough courage and wisdom to reverse their mistake. Brownback has too much pride to admit he made a mistake.

This brings me back to my original thesis. How do we cope with a political environment that is upsetting? We participate. We get involved. We vote. I will vote in the November general election. I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. I will not vote for Donald Trump. He is not fit to be president. I don't like Hillary much but she is certainly more skilled than Trump. My favorite is Bernie Sanders but it looks like Hillary may have him beat. I wonder if the two will join together if either one wins the White House?

I vote in every election. This gives me a right to bitch. I did not vote for Sam Brownback. At least my neighbor admits he made a mistake when he cast a vote for Brownback. It may take multiple years to reverse the damage done by Brownback. But my inner soul will carry on as a citizen of the world, a lover of nature, a man who cherishes connecting with family and friends around the world.

Jerry Wittmer Was A First Class Businessman

Gerald Jerry Wittmer Gerald Jerry Wittmer, 77, Topeka, passed away Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Jerry was born July 11, 1938, in Sabetha KS, the son of OJ Bud and Frances Barndt Wittmer. He graduated from Sabetha High School in 1956 and was planning to attend their 60th reunion Memorial Day weekend. He attended Washburn University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business. He served our country in the Army National Guard. Jerry married Sandra Bromich and they had two children. They later divorced. Jerry was a member, social chairman and past president of Phi Delta Theta, a Washburn University yell leader and a member of Topeka Jaycees, 20-30 Club, Toastmasters, the Shrine, Shawnee Country Club, Topeka Country Club and Alcoholics Anonymous. He was a member of Topeka Beautification Association and won first place one year in the yard beautification contest. Jerry attended Fellowship Bible Church. Jerry had many business interests, including having an office in Costa Rica. He began his business career with Aetna Insurance Company and Dave Neiswanger Real Estate before he started his own insurance agency. He was part of Wittmer Farm Realty before he started Wittmer and Associates and Midwest Management. Jerry was a wonderful dancer, serving several times as a dance host on cruise ships. He enjoyed participating in ballroom dance competitions, traveling and competing in over 25 marathons, including the Boston Marathon, multiple times. He purchased the Metrot Castle on Huntoon and enjoyed renovating it and the grounds for his office. Each October, for several years, he held Halloween Festivals and gave tours of the castle. Survivors include Jerry s son, Wade Wittmer, Topeka; his daughter, Wendy Cain (Rich), Cypress TX; grandchildren, Adam and Sara Cain; sisters, Janis VanderLaan (Dave Dutch ), Tempe AZ, and Peg Wittmer, Topeka; and sister-in-law, Barbara Wittmer, Topeka. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Doug Wittmer. Family will greet friends from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 11th, at Fellowship Bible Church, 6800 SW 10th Street, where Jerry's Celebration of Life will begin at 10:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to Valley Hope, for patient scholarships and Topeka Beautification Association sent in care of Kevin Brennan Family Funeral Home, 2801 SW Urish Road, Topeka KS 66614. Condolences may be sent online to

The following is an article that I wrote in 2007 about Jerry Wittmer for The Topeka Capital-Journal:

Retired real estate 

agent has vision for

land near Matrot Castle

Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Jerry Wittmer wants to develop a small town with a winery, castle and shops inside Topeka.
Mike Burley / The Capital-Journal
Mike Burley / The Capital-Journal
"We'd like to have a European, old world environment," said Wittmer, who lives in Miami Beach, Fla.,
and Topeka and owns the Matrot Castle & Vineyards at 6424 S.W. Huntoon.
Called The Vineyard, his development includes the existing Matrot Castle, Bear Lake Subdivision and
the proposed Kansas Heritage Park.
The Topeka City Council will vote today on whether to approve a planned unit development for
Kansas Heritage Park, which would include 18 buildings around a water feature.
The plan, approved 7-0 by the city planning commission, calls for building a road from S.W. Huntoon
north to vacant land that borders Interstate 470. The land would accommodate facilities associated
with the production of wine, plus buildings in a town square/Main Street environment similar to early
20th-century Kansas small towns. The structures would be three-story, with retail on the first floor,
office on the second floor and loft apartments on the third floor.
Wittmer, 68, retired 13 years ago and moved to Florida. About four years ago, he had the opportunity
to buy the Matrot Castle, which was established in 1883 by Seraphin Matrot, a French immigrant and
wine merchant who came to Kansas to escape political oppression. Wittmer, who has spent
thousands of dollars restoring the castle, has planted nearly 1,000 vines to grow grapes on the property.
"We're preparing to offer properties," Wittmer said. "We're looking for investors."
But is his idea a pipe dream influenced by too much wine? No, says longtime friend Ping Enriquez.
"Knowing Jerry Wittmer, anything he puts his mind on, it happens," Enriquez said. "He really believes
 if he can think it, he can do it."
Enriquez, owner of Adveritas Construction, said he first met Wittmer in 1975.
"Back then he was into marathon running and making real estate deals," Enriquez said.
Wittmer, a 1961 Washburn University graduate, started Wittmer Farm Realty in 1968,
specializing in farm and ranch properties. At one time he had offices in 15 counties and
a staff of 72 agents. In 1972, he started investing in farm properties, and in 1979, he started
building and investing in apartment complexes. He built apartment complexes in 100 cities
before he retired in 1994.
Today, Wittmer is enamored with the history of the Matrot Castle. He said Matrot built
a secret tunnel from the wine cellar to a point 500 feet from the property to be used for quick escape.
Wittmer said he doesn't drink alcohol, but he appreciates the wine industry. Using grapes from the
Matrot Castle, he said, the Davenport Orchards & Vineyards bottled a Matrot Merlot. He has used the
castle for fundraisers, wine tasting and Halloween parties. More than 600 people attended
the Halloween parties last fall.
He researched the Matrot name in France and found three vineyards there with the
Matrot name, including Domaine Joseph Matrot vineyard. He hopes to go to France
in the fall during grape harvest.
Asel Mukeyeva, a native of Central Asia and a former World Bank employee, works for Wittmer
and is president of Midwest Management Group Inc., which handles asset management and
real estate development.
Mukeyeva said The Vineyard will promote the heritage of the Matrot Castle and be a destination
place for Topeka.
"We're just waiting for final approval so we can proceed with the streets and infrastructure," Wittmer said.