Friday, October 24, 2014

Breakfast speaker urges hunger for political information

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer | 3/6/2013

It was breakfast with a side of politics Wednesday morning in Ottawa.

“I translate politics into English for state and local officials,” Stephanie Sharp, a former Republican representative in the Kansas House, told a crowd of early bird diners Wednesday. “I work with local officials on helping communicate issues to constituents in a way that is salient and practical for them and helping to make access to government easier.”

It was breakfast with a side of politics Wednesday morning in Ottawa.

“I translate politics into English for state and local officials,” Stephanie Sharp, a former Republican representative in the Kansas House, told a crowd of early bird diners Wednesday. “I work with local officials on helping communicate issues to constituents in a way that is salient and practical for them and helping to make access to government easier.”

The Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce invited Sharp, owner of Sharp Connections LLC, to speak Wednesday during a legislative breakfast meeting at Ransom Memorial Hospital, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa. During the event, Sharp delved into a variety of political issues in hopes to provide participants some insight into the current legislative session.

 Among several strategies, Sharp shared with those in attendance a few tips to help constituents navigate the deluge of information pouring from the Topeka Capitol. In addition to reading newspapers, Sharp advocated residents stay informed on the happenings of the Kansas Legislature by keeping tabs on lawmakers as well as other groups.

“Follow your legislators,” Sharp said. “Look up [legislators] on their websites, get on those email newsletters from your representatives and senators, and maintain frequent contact with them. Also, follow an organization that’s either your industry trade association or a personal interest group of yours ... so you can get some good feedback on what’s going on in Topeka.”

Another outlet for up-to-date information on Kansas politics, Sharp added, can be found via social media. Hundreds of Twitter users, including lawmakers, journalists, political action committees, watchdog groups and lobbyists — use the medium to post information directly from the statehouse, she said. Using the “ksleg hashtag” — #ksleg — a Twitter user can track information and commentary regarding the current legislative proceedings, Sharp said.  

“It’s amazing. I can sit in my basement in Lenexa, watch the two House committees and the Senate floor because people are tweeting about what’s going on there,” Sharp said. “It’s a great resource.”

After issuing a few tips on how to obtain helpful legislative information, Sharp discussed the participants’ voting participation. All Kansans’ voter registration information is available to the public, Sharp said while passing out information about most of the local diners’ recent voting history.

In general, Sharp said, she was pleased by the group’s “decent” dedication to voting. But rather than call people out for voting habits, she said, Sharp shared the information to illustrate a point.

“Sixty-two percent of [participants] voted in the primary. That’s a huge number and that far exceeds the state average,” Sharp said of the 32 people’s voting history she obtained, adding that about 71 percent turned out to vote during the general election. “Why do I mention that? Because active, engaged groups — like the chamber of commerce — think that we all vote. We come to legislative breakfasts. We interact with our legislators, but not everyone votes. And I point that out simply to say that it’s up to each other. We have to get our friends and colleagues out to vote. We can’t assume.”

Sharp, Lenexa, was elected to serve three terms for House District 17, which includes Shawnee and Lenexa. Formerly the Kansas government relations director for the American Cancer Society, Sharp now serves on the Johnson County Community College board of trustees. Her company, Sharp Connections LLC, provides email newsletters and serves the communications needs of state and local elected officials, according to the company’s website.

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