Cronyism

Campaign contributions show need for reform in Wichita

Candidates for Wichita City Council have filed campaign finance reports, and the filings illustrate the need for campaign finance reform in Wichita and Kansas. Two incumbents, both who have indicated their intent to run in the spring elections, received campaign contributions in 2012 from two sources: A group of principals and executives of Key Construction, and another group associated with theater owner Bill Warren. The incumbent candidates receiving these contributions are Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin (district 3, southeast and south Wichita) and Wichita City Council Member Lavonta Williams (district 1, northeast Wichita). Except for $1.57 in unitemized contributions…
Read More

Wichita’s Lux applies for more business welfare

Tomorrow the Wichita City Council considers yet another layer of business welfare for The Lux, a luxury real estate development in downtown Wichita. This project, despite having already received millions in assistance from taxpayers, is not economically viable, according to city documents. The Lux has already received the benefit of Industrial Revenue Bonds, the purpose of which, despite their name, is to relieve the Lux from paying sales taxes. If approved for historic preservation tax credits, the Lux could receive several millions in tax credits, which are equivalent to a cash grant. It's likely to be approved. These programs and…
Read More

O’Donnell critics should look inward first

Wichita City Council Member Michael O'Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita) made a mistake when he recently offered his opinion to the Sedgwick County Commission. The mistake was noted and corrected before the commissioners voted, so it had no influence on how the commissioners voted. Yet, all members of the Wichita City Council have "expressed varying degrees of anger" over O'Donnell's statement, according to Wichita Eagle reporting. (O’Donnell won’t be censured for remarks to County Commission) Before these council members and the mayor express much more angst, they should take a look at their own actions, and how O'Donnell…
Read More

Bowllagio property purchases seem overpriced

As part of a planned real estate development, taxpayers may be asked to pay property owners much more than the appraised values for the parcels. According to documents obtained from the Wichita city manager's office, developers of Bowllagio have budgeted to pay a collective $1,110,300 over the property's appraised values. This is 63 percent over the appraised values for the 14 parcels. The source of funds for these purchases is a proposed tax increment financing (TIF) district created for the benefit of Maize 54, LLC, the developer of Bowllagio. The Wichita City Council approved the formation of the district on…
Read More

Economic development incentives questioned

When the New York Times is concerned about the cost of government spending programs, it's a safe bet that things are really out of control. Its recent feature As Companies Seek Tax Deals, Governments Pay High Price reports on economic development incentive programs that are costly and produce questionable benefits. Do we know the cost of economic development incentives? No, reports the Times: "A full accounting, The Times discovered, is not possible because the incentives are granted by thousands of government agencies and officials, and many do not know the value of all their awards. Nor do they know if…
Read More

Charles Koch profiled in Forbes

The new issue of Forbes features a cover story on Charles and David Koch. It is very interesting and seems a balanced and fair article, but there are a few things that stand out. (Inside The Koch Empire: How The Brothers Plan To Reshape America.) An example: "Both Kochs innately understand that -- unlike the populist appeal of their fellow midwestern billionaire Warren Buffett and his tax-the-rich advocacy -- their message of pure, raw capitalism is a much tougher sell, even among capitalists." I think the author should have written "even among business executives" rather than capitalists. That's because Charles…
Read More

In Wichita, a quest for campaign finance reform

Actions of the Wichita City Council have shown that campaign finance reform is needed. Citizen groups are investigating how to accomplish this needed reform, since the council has not shown interest in reforming itself. Consider recent actions by the council and its members: The council voted to give a movie theater operator a no-interest and low-interest loan, after having already received the benefit of tax increment financing. A minister dabbling in real estate development made a large contribution to his council representative just before he asked the city council for tax increment financing. The council voted to give a construction…
Read More

Tax increment financing district (TIF) resources

Resources on tax increment financing (TIF) districts. An updated version of this article is here. Wichita should reject Bowllagio TIF district. Wichita should reject the formation of a harmful tax increment financing (TIF) district. Wichita TIF: Taxpayer-funded benefits to political players. It is now confirmed: In Wichita, tax increment financing (TIF) leads to taxpayer-funded waste that benefits those with political connections at city hall. Tax increment financing (TIF) and economic growth. There is clear and consistent evidence that municipalities that adopt tax increment financing, or TIF, grow more slowly after adoption than those that do not. Does tax increment financing…
Read More

Wichita should reject Bowllagio TIF district

Update: Video of some testimony from the meeting is here. This week the Wichita City Council will consider more economic development through the creation of a tax increment financing (TIF) district. For the good of the city, the council should reject this proposal. Supporters of TIF -- besides the obvious motivations of the developers who are directly enriched by them -- point to the jobs and development that they say TIF creates. But there's plenty of evidence to the contrary, on both jobs and development. Supporters also say TIF has no cost, which, if true, calls into question the entire…
Read More

Nation can no longer afford wind tax credit

From The Hill: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday said the nation’s fiscal situation has become so dire that the government can no longer afford to maintain a wind power production credit that has been in place since in 1992. “I think there is certainly the largest realization that we’ve ever had that it’s time for it to end,” Alexander said at a Wednesday event hosted by The Hill and sponsored by the American Energy Alliance. In a longer story, The Hill reports on the efforts of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican representing the Kansas fourth district (Wichita metropolitan…
Read More