Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday January 11, 2011

Legislature website still down. Last week visitors to the Kansas Legislature website were greeted with a message indicating that an upgrade would be forthcoming. As of this moment, that message is replace with a generic error message and the site is not working. In a phone call yesterday, a clerk said the site would — hopefully — be available yesterday afternoon. The legislature’s site needed an update, as parts of it were frustrating to work with. But with it not working at all, Kansans are missing out on vital information. For example, it is not possible to remotely retrieve the Legislature’s calendars and journals.

Treasurer to ask for more information. In an effort to return more unclaimed property, new Kansas state treasurer Ron Estes will ask the legislature to allow him to obtain contact information from other state agencies. See Treasurer wants more data so office can return property.

Wichita CID proposals delayed. Proposals for two Community Improvement Districts in Wichita have been delayed from consideration at today’s Wichita City Council meeting. More information about these two proposals is at In Wichita, two large community improvement districts proposed. Today’s action would have simply accepted the petitions, setting a public hearing and approval — or not — for a future date. … In editorializing against these CIDs, the Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman wrote: “As it was, insufficient time had been allowed for staff vetting of the proposals and thorough consideration by the council and public.” Time and time again, city staff assures the public that they have thoroughly vetted developers and projects, but here is another example of why citizens need to be wary of city hall bureaucrats. … In summary, Holman writes: “The council needs to treat the CID designations as the hidden tax hikes that they are — and use them only where and when they are mission critical, such as to implementing the Goody Clancy downtown master plan.. … By that standard, these two proposals don’t even come close.”

Longwell on citizen knowledge. My reporting on Wichita City Council member Jeff Longwell and his attitude towards citizen knowledge reminded me of a similar incident from the past. Recently, Longwell spoke in favor of signs telling shoppers that they’re about to enter a store that relies on Community Improvement District financing. But the signs would not tell shoppers how much extra tax they would be paying. Longwell said “So having something on the front door that says we are financing this with a CID tax, where they’re made well aware that it’s collected there, I think to try and include a percentage might even add some confusion as we collect different CID taxes around the city.” In other words, giving citizens too much information will confuse them. … In 2008, when a matter was rushed through the council with little time to study the issue, Longwell was quoted in The Wichita Eagle as saying: “It’s unlikely many residents would read the full contract even if it had been made public earlier.” … It doesn’t take many residents to read it. Just a few will usually be enough. … Not surprisingly, the matter Longwell wanted to rush through concerned taxpayer-funded welfare for Wichita theater owner Bill Warren. This is another example of how Longwell has been captured by special interests.

State of the State tomorrow. On Wednesday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback will deliver the State of the State Address. It will be carried in Wichita on KPTS channel 8 at 6:30 pm.

This week at Sedgwick County Commission. Tomorrow’s meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission has a light agenda. It will be the first meeting for commissioners Richard Ranzau and Jim Skelton. At the end of the meeting, commissioners will elect a new chairman and chairman pro tem. Karl Peterjohn has been the chair for the last year. The chairman conducts the meetings and signs official documents. Speculation is that Dave Unruh, who is just starting his third term, has the inside track for election.

Changes to Kansas campaign law recommended. Washburn University’s Bob Beatty writes about two “common sense bills” bills that the Kansas Legislature will consider this year, and which he recommends be passed “in order to help clarify for voters what they’re seeing when the political ad season begins anew.’ … The first measure would ban state officeholders from appearing in public service advertisements for a 60-day period before elections. The second would require candidates to state their approval of an advertisement. More at Fine-tuning political ads.

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