Kansas Open Records Act

Art Hall: My decision to fight for academic freedom

Art Hall: My decision to fight for academic freedom

My decision to fight for academic freedom By Art Hall For more than 25 years, I have dedicated myself to teaching economics and generating original economic research focused on public policy issues. Like all scholars nationwide, I have operated under the bedrock principle of academic freedom. Academic freedom is the unfettered ability to research and teach, and a natural extension of rights protected under the First Amendment -- without the fear of interference or persecution. Since 2004, I have had the esteemed privilege of directing the Center for Applied Economics at the KU School of Business. (I also teach economics…
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In Wichita, promises of accountability and transparency

In Wichita, promises of accountability and transparency

Boosters of the proposed Wichita sales tax promise transparency. But Wichita has not delivered on that in the past, and still rebuffs the public's right to know. When a city council member apologizes to bureaucrats because they have to defend why their agencies won't disclose how taxpayer money is spent, we have a problem. When the mayor and most other council members agree, the problem is compounded. Carl Brewer won't be mayor past April, but the city council member that apologized to bureaucrats -- Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita) -- may continue serving in city government beyond next year's…
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Claims of future transparency of Wichita tax money spending

Claims of future transparency of Wichita tax money spending

Claims by boosters of a proposed Wichita sales tax that the city will be transparent in how money is spent must be examined in light of the city's attitude towards citizens' right to know. When a city council member apologizes to bureaucrats because they have to defend why their agencies won't disclose how taxpayer money is spent, we have a problem. When the mayor and most other council members agree, the problem is compounded. Carl Brewer won't be mayor past April, but the city council member that apologized to bureaucrats -- Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita) -- may continue…
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Assistance needed in obtaining records from a government agency

September 12, 2014 Mr. Marc Bennett Office of the District Attorney Sedgwick County Courthouse Dear Mr. Bennett, I am writing to ask your assistance in obtaining records from a government agency. Specifically, I asked Go Wichita Convention and Tourism Bureau for a copy of a contract the organization recently formed with an external entity. My request was declined. The Kansas Open Records Act says this in defining which agencies are subject to the open records law: “‘Public agency’ means the state or any political or taxing subdivision of the state or any office, officer, agency or instrumentality thereof, or any…
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For proposed Wichita sales tax, claims of transparency

For proposed Wichita sales tax, claims of transparency

Claims of valuing and promoting government transparency by the City of Wichita are contradicted by its taxpayer-funded surrogates. As boosters of a proposed Wichita sales tax promise accountability and transparency in how money will be spent, especially the portion designated for jobs and economic development, voters may want to consider the city's past and present attitude towards government transparency and open records. The city has three surrogate quasi-governmental agencies that are almost totally taxpayer-funded, specifically Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, and Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. Each agency contends it is not a "public agency"…
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What the Wichita city council could do

What the Wichita city council could do

While the proposed Wichita city sales tax is a bad idea, the city could do a few things that would not only improve its chance of passage, but also improve local government. This week the Wichita City Council passed an ordinance that starts the process of placing a sales tax measure on the November ballot. The one cent per dollar tax will be used for several initiatives, including an economic development jobs fund. The city will need to gain the trust of citizens if the measure is to have any chance of passage. While I am personally opposed to the…
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Wichita city council schools citizens on civic involvement

Wichita city council schools citizens on civic involvement

Proceedings of a recent Wichita City Council meeting are instructive of the factors citizens should consider if they want to interact with the council and city government at a public hearing. At the June 17, 2014 meeting of the Wichita City Council, one agenda item was a public hearing to consider adding a property to the city's facade improvement program. Susan Estes of Americans for Prosperity-Kansas appeared before the council during the hearing to express concern that a member of AFP (me) had made a request for information on the item, but had not received the information by the time…
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Wichita, again, fails at government transparency

Wichita, again, fails at government transparency

At a time when Wichita city hall needs to cultivate the trust of citizens, another incident illustrates the entrenched attitude of the city towards its citizens. Despite the proclamations of the mayor and manager, the city needs a change of attitude towards government transparency and citizens' right to know. At its May 20, 2014 meeting the Wichita City Council considered approval of a sublease by Shannon No. 2, LLC. The subject property had received subsidy from the city under an economic development program, which is why council approval of the sublease was required. I'll cover the economics of the lease…
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Questions for the next Wichita city attorney: Number 2

Wichita's city attorney is retiring, and the city will select a replacement. There are a few questions that we ought to ask of candidates. Will the next city attorney continue to obstruct government transparency or be an advocate for citizens' right to know? Since 2009 I have advocated for greater transparency regarding spending data for three quasi-governmental agencies. Others have since joined the quest. The agencies are Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, and Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. (See Open Government in Kansas for more information.) Each agency contends it is not a "public agency"…
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