Education reform, downtown Wichita arena, Kansas smoking ban, downtown developers
Education’s Ground Zero (Nicholas D. Kristof in The New York Times) Describes the efforts of Washington D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee to reform the system. She’s fired one-third of the principals. Kristof reminds us of the importance of teachers: “The reform camp is driven partly by research suggesting that great teachers are far more important to student learning than class size, school resources or anything else. One study suggests that if black kids could get teachers from the profession’s most effective quartile for four years in a row, the achievement gap would disappear.” In Wichita, however, USD 259 is taking the opposite approach.
Intrust Bank Arena management contract unusual, but not necessarily bad (Bill Wilson in the Wichita Eagle) Explores the nature of the arrangement between Sedgwick County and SMG as compared to other arenas. “The bottom line for these officials: Sedgwick County has a good deal with SMG, but has a responsibility to closely monitor the arena’s performance for taxpayers who paid for the building with a sales tax increase.” More coverage of related issues is Wichita downtown arena contract seems to require Sedgwick County approval.
Details of Intrust Bank Arena contract with Thunder are a secret (Bill Wilson in the Wichita Eagle) This is an earlier story, interesting for the confusion it raises or exposes, I’m not sure which. Reported in the story: “The arena’s financial performance would be monitored by the county through what [Sedgwick County assistant manager Ron] Holt characterized as limited records access. But [Sedgwick County Commissioner Gwen] Welshimer said she didn’t know how the county would track the arena’s financial performance. ‘We don’t have any access to their books that I know of,’ she said.” Read the county’s contract with SMG, however, and you learn that SMG will maintain accounting records, have them audited, and give Sedgwick County access to them “upon reasonable advance notice.” Also, the county has the right to audit the records at any time.
Why state smoking ban seems inevitable Rhonda Holman in the Wichita Eagle Editorial Blog) In this post, Wichita Eagle editorialist Rhonda Holman makes explicit the connection between state-paid health care and the state’s interest in controlling behavior: “That’s [passing the statewide smoking ban] the only responsible action the Legislature can take, given the increasing cost burden of smoking-related illnesses on the state …” If the state (that includes the U.S. Federal government) starts taking responsibility for more health care, smoking bans are just the start of state meddling in behavior.
Minnesota Guys ready to start face-lifts of downtown Wichita buildings (Bill Wilson in Wichita Eagle) Real Development starts work on the improvement of facades of some of its buildings. In the article developer Michael Elzufon manages to use the word “iconic” twice. This article doesn’t tell how these improvements are paid for: a confusing arrangement where the city loans money and recoups it in special assessment taxes. A hefty development fee is being paid to the developers, which allows them to profit for fixing up their own buildings. But they’ll pay that back in the form of the special taxes — or will they? It’s hard to tell where the money is going in these agreements. This benefits developers like Elzufon and politicians on the Wichita city council, as if citizens knew what was really going on, they wouldn’t be happy.