Wichita has delayed maintaining Century II’s roof, and it needs repair. (more…)
A bill designed to protect two buildings in downtown Wichita has a legislative hearing this week.
Last year a citizen group gathered signatures on a petition that would prevent the City of Wichita from disposing of two downtown buildings without an approving vote of a majority of citizens. Based on having the required number of valid signatures, the petition was certified as valid. But the city sued to have the petition thrown out, contending the petition went beyond what Kansas law allows as the subject of municipal petitions. A judge agreed with the city.
Now the group has a bill in the legislature with a hearing this week. The bill is HB 2233, titled “Enacting the municipal historic building act.”
The key provision of the bill is this: “No city shall be permitted to sell, destroy, demolish, dispose of or otherwise alienate any public building that is more than 80,000 square feet in size and has been placed on the national register of historic places without first obtaining the approval [of voters.]”
At present, there are only two buildings that meet the criteria: Century II and the former Central Wichita Library.
In a release, John Todd writes:
House Bill No. 2233 is a bill initiated in the Kansas Legislature by the Wichita Save Century II citizens committee that is written to require a mandatory majority vote of Wichita qualified electors before municipally-owned buildings exceeding 80,000 square feet and on the National Register of Historic Places can be demolished or destroyed. We believe only two buildings in the state of Kansas meet this narrow definition: Century II and the former Wichita public library.
A public hearing is being held on Wednesday, February 24, on House Bill No. 2233 titled the Municipal Historic Buildings Act at 9:00 a.m. in the House Local Government Committee at the statehouse in Topeka.
Celeste Racette, Save Century II Committee Chair, Karl Peterjohn, Save Century II Committee Member, and I (also a Save Century II Committee Member) will be testifying in person at the committee hearing in Topeka.
A group opposing any future plan to raze Century II or the former central library building has filed an appeal of the decision in their lawsuit.
A group called Committee to Save Century II organized and filed a petition aimed at requiring a popular vote before demolishing Century II or the former central library building. The City of Wichita challenged the legal basis of the petition and a judge ruled in favor of the city. Now, that decision is being appealed.
Following, a press release announcing the appeal. For more information on Century II and its future, see my Century II resource center.
WICHITA — Sept. 25, 2020 — The Committee to Save Century II has filed an Appeal of the 18th Judicial District Court decision.
The City of Wichita’s lawsuit to invalidate the Save Century II municipal initiative petition signed by 17,265 Wichita citizens is being appealed. The Save Century II Committee has retained legal counsel of Austin K. Parker, Parker & Parker LLC, Wichita, Kansas, for this appeal.
On Wednesday, September 23, Mr. Austin Parker electronically filed the Entry of Appearance and Notice of Appeal for the City’s lawsuit.
Save Century II is a non-partisan effort by Wichita folks who are tired of back office deals for millionaire developers using our taxes. The appeal is an effort to preserve citizen’s ability to petition City Hall while also trying to preserve our historic and iconic city buildings. The City of Wichita credit rating has been downgraded by Moody’s recently, and it could happen again. Our economy is in a precarious state, and we cannot afford development that will cost future generations for years to come. Quality of life is more important than a 400,000 square foot new convention center.
John Todd said, “We are delighted to announce that the appeal of the District Court decision will now proceed into Appellant review.” Save Century II Committee continues to battle to stop the insanity of City Hall. We believe in the right to vote, and the right to decide future debt this City undertakes. The Save Century II office at 435 N. Broadway, Suite 102, will be open from Monday to Friday with hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tax deductible donations can be mailed to the Historic Preservation Alliance, Inc., P.O. Box 75037, Wichita, KS 67275.
“We are fighting back! The battle to Save Century II and the former public library continues!” said Celeste Racette.
On Century II, Wichita City Hall won the first round, but the public issue remains, writes John Todd.
A special to the Wichita Eagle by John Todd.
The Wichita City Council’s lawsuit against the Save Century II committee and the 17,265 Wichitans who had signed our petition won a first-round legal victory in state district court Aug. 28. The effort to have a binding vote by Wichita voters at an upcoming election was rejected by the court. This is a setback for Wichitans seeking to resolve this issue at the ballot box in November.
This courtroom defeat demonstrates that the provision in the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which says, “all political power in this state is inherent in the people,” has disappeared when it comes to this petition in district court. However, a district court decision is not the final word — not in the court of public opinion, or in Kansas appellate courtrooms. City Hall won the first round, but the public issue remains.
The Wichita city council will consider spending $250,000 on maintenance for Century II. There are questions regarding the source of funding.
This week the Wichita City Council will consider spending $250,000 on maintenance items for Century II and the attached expo hall. The items are mostly ventilation, air conditioning, and plumbing. 1 There is some uncertainty as to how the city plans to fund these projects.
In a Facebook conversation, an unknown city official was quoted: “We are using Transient Guest Tax funds for these repairs. The bonding resolution provides us with the flexibility to cash fund or debt fund the improvements. But in either case it will be paid from the TGT.” 2
This seems at odds with material from the agenda packet for the meeting, which states: “Financial Considerations: The 2019-2028 Adopted CIP includes $250,000 in General Obligation bond funding for Century II Repairs in 2020. Staff recommends initiating $250,000 at this time”
The city’s 2019-2028 Adopted Capital Improvement Program shows these amounts as either actual or adopted for the category “Cash Transfer to CIP Projects” from the Tourism and Convention Fund”
The same document notes for this fund: “Revenues are received primarily from the Transient Guest Tax, currently set at 6% of gross receipts.” From other city documents, the fund receives no dollars other than the transient guest tax in some years, 2019 and 2020 specifically. In 2021, the city budget projects the fund will receive $350,000 in other revenue and $7,635,348 from the transient guest tax.
As is common with these expenditures, even as small as this, the city plans to borrow the funds: A related ordinance states: “Section 2. Project Financing. All or a portion of the costs of the Project, interest on financing and administrative and financing costs shall be financed with the proceeds of general obligation bonds of the City.”
As you can see, there is some confusion. One source says the funding is the transient guest fund, while other sources state funding is general obligation bonds, which could, of course, be paid with transient guest funds revenue. Hopefully, city staff will clarify this at the July 14, 2020 meeting.
I’ve gathered relevant pages from city documents and present them here.
Painting courtesy Goffrier Studio.
- The bonding resolution, number 20-192, states: “Facility repairs and improvements to Century II (District I). Including, but not be limited to, prioritized critical building system improvements, renovation and repairs as well as replacement of Expo Hall HVAC Roof-Top Unit systems and Century II circulation pumps throughout the facility and mechanical, electrical and plumbing and fire/life safety and structural concerns where hazardous conditions may develop.” ↩
- Facebook. Available at https://www.facebook.com/groups/CenturyII/permalink/1439270942947133/. ↩
Updated and refreshed: A resource of information about the Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center in Wichita. Click here: wichitaliberty.org/century-ii-resource-center-wichita
The Wichita Eagle editorial board notices problems with a survey gathering feedback on Century II.
What will we learn from a survey gathering public opinion on the future of Century II in downtown Wichita? Not much, according to a Wichita Eagle editorial. 1
The editorial presents evidence from an expert indicating the survey will produce results that “will be neither scientifically valid nor representative of the city as a whole.” The problems lie with the nature of the questions and self-selected participants unlikely to be representative of the city.
I commend the editorial board for bringing this issue to our collective attention. It’s important, and not unprecedented in Wichita. If we look beyond this survey, we’ll find other examples of the same:
- The Project Wichita survey suffers from the same faults, as I show in Project Wichita survey.
In 2014 the city was quite proud of its engagement and positive response regarding the proposed city sales tax. But on election day, 62 percent of voters said no to the tax.
In 2013 the city established a website and program called “Activate Wichita.” It was a virtual town hall where citizens and officials could propose ideas and collect feedback. But as I showed, when using the voting system there was no option for expressing disagreement or disapproval with an idea. “Neutral” was as much dissent as Wichitans could express in this system.
- Wichita Eagle Editorial Board. Will Century II survey tell city leaders what Wichitans really think? No. February 15, 2019. Available at https://www.kansas.com/opinion/editorials/article226286910.html. ↩
Wichita decides to have someone else conduct public engagement.
At the November 7, 2017 meeting of the Wichita City Council, the council will be asked to approve a request for proposal (RFP) document relating to Century II.
The RFP is a document that spells out what the city wants done relating to public engagement regarding the future of Century II. Specifically, interested parties are invited to “design and implement a transparent public engagement process that involves a broad cross-section of Wichita residents in a discussion of interests related to the future of Century II as a performing arts center.”
A “Screening and Selection Panel” selected by the Wichita city manager will evaluate the proposals based on several criteria and select a winner.
The introduction to the RFP states: “The primary purpose of this engagement is to identify the community’s interests and recommendations related to Century II as a performing arts center, to include the option of its removal and replacement, as well as its relationship to the convention center, both in function and spatial proximity.” No cost ceiling is given by the city.
Of note, the schedule in the RFP gives November 3 as the due date for proposals. But it is four days after that, on November 7, that the city council will be asked to, according to city documents, “approve the scope of services and amendment for the Request for Proposals.”
While some may criticize the city for relying on an outside consultant to conduct public engagement, the reason given is a recommendation by the city manager that the process be “be led by an independent third party to ensure neutral framing of the issues.”
That makes a lot of sense, as Wichita doesn’t have a good track record in this regard. For example, in even-numbered years the city has surveyed residents asking them to rate “the job Wichita does at welcoming citizen involvement.” The results are shown in the nearby chart created from data found in versions of the Wichita Performance Measure Report. The numbers are the percent of respondents giving “excellent” or “good” as their response to the question.
The report says this performance is “much below” a benchmark set by the National Research Center National Citizen Survey, the group that conducted the survey for the city.
There’s also the 2014 city sales tax election, where the city was proud of its engagement with citizens, convincing them of the need for the tax. On election day, 62 percent voted against the tax.
Before that there was Activate Wichita, a system for gathering citizen feedback. But when rating ideas, there was no voting option for expressing disagreement or disapproval with an idea. “Neutral” is as much dissent as Wichitans were allowed to express in this system. This system fell into disuse and became an embarrassment for the city.
A letter writer tells Wichitans that “We have an opportunity to show the country the future of Wichita is youthful and bright, and its growing from the core out.”
In support of replacing Century II with something “no less than absolutely spectacular in ambition,” a letter in the Wichita Eagle states, “We have an opportunity to show the country the future of Wichita is youthful and bright, and its growing from the core out.” 1
Sadly, these observations are not true. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the median age of Wichitans is rising, the proportion of the population in the millennial category is static or shrinking slightly, and the proportion that are senior citizens is rising. Wichita is growing older, not younger.
As far as “growing from the core out,” the downtown population is up. Although: The increase from 2010 to 2015, proportional to the entire city, was only slightly greater. In 2010, 0.36 percent of Wichitans lived in downtown, rising only slightly to 0.37 percent in 2015. (These are Census figures for zip code 67202, which is downtown Wichita.)
If we gauge growth by the number of jobs, business establishments, and payroll in downtown, we find that downtown Wichita is shrinking. There is some controversy regarding how to measure the number of jobs in downtown Wichita, but by any measure, the number of jobs is declining. 2 3
- Think big on Century II. Wichita Eagle. Letters, September 14, 2017. Available at http://www.kansas.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article174129391.html. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Growth in Downtown Wichita Jobs. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/growth-downtown-wichita-jobs/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. The claim of 26,000 workers in downtown Wichita is based on misuse of data so blatant it can be described only as malpractice. Downtown Wichita jobs, sort of. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/downtown-wichita-jobs/. ↩