Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer saves us from covered wagons

On August 12, 2008, at a meeting of the Wichita City Council, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered remarks that I found … well, I’m still trying to find the words that fully describe my astonishment. You can read my transcription of his remarks in this post: Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, August 12, 2008.

The context of these remarks is that John Todd and I had just testified against the city establishing a tax increment financing (TIF) district that benefits a local developer. Mayor Brewer believes it is the city’s firm duty to guide and subsidize economic development. His remarks on July 1, 2008 (Mayor Brewer Warren Theatre [sic] Statement) leave no doubt about this. So I wasn’t too surprised that the mayor ignored John’s and my advice and supported the formation of this TIF district.

What surprised me was when the mayor said that without the city’s “role in guiding and identifying how the city was going to grow … we would still be in covered wagons and horses.”

When I heard him say that, I thought he’s just using a rhetorical flourish to emphasize a point. But later on he said this: “… then tomorrow we’ll be saying we don’t want more technology, and then the following day we’ll be saying we don’t want public safety, and it won’t take us very long to get back to where we were at back when the city first settled.”

So I think it’s fair to say that the mayor believes that without the city’s role in economic development, we would soon return to the stone age (okay, there I exaggerate a bit).

Many people in Wichita, including the mayor and many on the city council and county commission, believe that the public-private partnership is the way to drive innovation and get things done. It’s really a shame that this attitude is taking hold in Wichita, a city which has such a proud tradition of entrepreneurship. The names that Wichitans are rightly proud of — Lloyd Stearman, Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, W.C. Coleman, Albert Alexander Hyde, Dan and Frank Carney, and Fred C. Koch — these people worked and built businesses without the benefit of public-private partnerships and government subsidy.

Today this rugged heritage is disappearing in favor of the public-private partnership and programs like Visioneering Wichita. We don’t have long before the entrepreneurial spirit in Wichita is totally extinguished. What can we do to return power to the people instead of surrendering it to government?


  • Thanks for all you do to try and take gov. out of our lives. Just last week I got a certified letter from the city saying i would be fined for having my Pickup truck parked in My parking lot of old office that is vacant. I told my grand-son he could have the money from the sale for his 529 Education fund. My old office has been vacant for over 3 years and this was the only vehicle on a lot that would hold 30 cars. Under the threat of a fine and towing, I removed it. Just another example of “Wichita at work! Bob, keep up the good work. I know it is a thankless job but you can be assured, I appreciate the work you do. If we can elect more people like Carl Peterjohn, maybe we can change things. Again, Thanks, Matt

  • Hi, Bob –

    Excellent article, as usual. I think that to say that the attitude is “taking hold” may be a bit optimistic. It seems to have taken hold long ago. Before his death, Willard Garvey repeatedly observed in my hearing that “Kansas is a hotbed of Socialism.”

    I wish you luck in your efforts to inject a little reason into the public debate.

    Thanks –
    – Chuck

  • I’m not exactly sure why this should come as a surprize to anyone. Wichita cares for the “Next new thing”. It doesn’t care about history, not it’s on nor the cities

  • The comments from Mayor Brewer are from a poorly educated and arrogant elected official. Bob, thank you for your efforts in shining a light on the corruption and mindless spending by City officials. When Mayor Brewer was elected in 2007 unemployment was under 4% and now is at almost 9% so all of the millions of dollars that he has committed to stimulate the city and employment has not worked.

  • It was in time past, between covered wagons jet engines that voters looked to politicians for leadership. Todays elected executive administrators have become nothing more than budget busters and citizen critics while offering nothing but self glorification and another deal for re-election.

  • What public assistance was given to Bradley Fair or New Market Square or to the Waterfront or to Town East and West or UpTown Dinner Theater or Verizon or T-Mobile or Koch Industries or Beechcraft or Cessna or Microsoft or Dell or Pizza Hut or Willard Garvey’s homes program outlined in “Every Man a Capitalist.” Who planned the first settlement of Wichita, its first streets and shops? How did it grow? I’m sure that if H. Craig Miner doesn’t have a book about it that he has some books with such books and resources named in the bibliography.

    Once we get a majority on the city council we must devise special taxes for all the businesses who are currently getting advantages from TIF’s and other incentives so that those advantages which cannot be taken away are reversed, and then create a system of incentives for ALL businesses to get them to invest their time, lives and treasure in Wichita and to make the community as vibrant and business friendly as possible. A fair playing field for all. To counteract minimum wage laws we can allow employees to either agree to do some volunteer work at their business as part of the employment agreement or allow them to pay a training fee to their employer which would allow them to be hired where otherwise they would not be. We just have to be as creative as the planners.

    To counteract regulation, we can tell businesses when certain inspections will be held and only require that certain things be shown to satisfy the law if the regulations are too onerous.

    The mayor must think the citizens are a bunch of idiots: if their taxes are lowered they are going to buy more technology, not less, become more educated, not less, invest in more capital, not less, because individuals know what is good for them and want to live in a successful community. Certainly civic leadership can be helpful but lets make it more of a holding up and honoring those who are building, hiring, organizing, volunteering, creating and investing not trying to be good at all those things themselves.

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