Lavonta Williams

Wichita City Council Member Lavonta Williams

Wichita Bowllagio hearing produces only delay

Yesterday's meeting of the Wichita City Council featured a lengthy public hearing for a proposed west-side entertainment development known as Bowllagio. Bowllagio is planned to have a bowling and entertainment center, a boutique hotel, and a restaurant owned by a celebrity television chef. The developers of this project propose to make use of $13 million in STAR bond financing. STAR bonds are issued for the immediate benefit of the developers, with the sales tax collected in the district used to pay off the bonds. The project also proposes to be a Community Improvement District, which allows an additional two cents…
Read More

Wichita city hall silent on handling of ethics issue

A correction has been noted in this article. On Tuesday the Wichita city council will hold a public hearing regarding a request by Real Development for a $2.5 million increase in tax increment district financing. While this proposal should be opposed on its merits, there is reason to give extra scrutiny to this matter. That's because Real Development employs the services of Wichita public relations executive Beth King. What matters to public policy is that last year she and Wichita City Manager Robert Layton began a dating relationship which continues to the present. Documents released to me in response to…
Read More

David Burk, Wichita developer, overreaches

Today's Wichita Eagle contains a story about a well-known Wichita real estate developer that, while shocking, shouldn't really be all that unexpected. The opening sentence of the article (Developer won tax appeal on city site) tells us most of what we need to know: "Downtown Wichita's leading developer, David Burk, represented himself as an agent of the city -- without the city's knowledge or consent -- to cut his taxes on publicly owned property he leases in the Old Town Cinema Plaza, according to court records and the city attorney." Some might say it's not surprising that Burk represented himself…
Read More

Wichita city council signals possible change in economic development incentive policy

At today's meeting of the Wichita City Council, discussion by council members and their vote may signal a change in the city's stance toward economic development incentives. At issue was a request for extension of economic development incentives for a Wichita company. Five years ago the city council approved an economic development package for the company that included a tax abatement. As is the city's policy, the council revisits the issue in five years to see if the company has meet its goal commitments. In the case of this company, one commitment -- the building of a new facility --…
Read More

Waterwalk hotel issue receives public input

Tuesday's meeting of the Wichita city council featured a lengthy discussion of a proposal that in the past, might have been passed without much public discussion. Instead, some useful information emerged, and the meeting opened the possibility of more citizen input not only on this item, but also on future city initiatives. The issue is a proposal for a hotel in the city's WaterWalk district. My preview of the matter, which includes the city-supplied agenda report, is at Waterwalk hotel deal breaks new ground for Wichita subsidies. As an example of information that was revealed at this meeting, there was…
Read More

Jeff Fluhr updates status of downtown Wichita

Last Friday, Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, addressed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. His topic was the future of downtown Wichita and its revitalization. "It's very important that we have a downtown that is very clear and very concise on where it wants to go," he said. He likened the development of downtown to the planning of an automobile trip, so that we don't make major investments that we later regret. The potential of increased private investment is an important goal for downtown. Predictability will help the private sector invest, he said. As…
Read More

Lord’s Diner debate focused on wrong issues

At today's meeting of the Wichita City Council, an item no longer on the agenda still caused some controversy. The Lord's Diner, a charitable organization, had proposed buying a city-owned building at 21st and Grove and making a second site for their effort to feed Wichita's poor. Opposition from community groups, however, drove the Lord's Diner to withdraw its plans. In today's meeting, council members Sue Schlapp and Paul Gray spoke in favor of the Lord's Diner's plans on the basis of its charitable and humanitarian activity. Council member Lavonta Williams, who represents the district where the proposed site exists,…
Read More

City council members on downtown Wichita revitalization

At the meeting of the Wichita City Council last week, several city council members gave their reasons for supporting the planning for the revitalization of downtown Wichita. It's worthwhile to take a look at two members and their remarks. Council member Janet Miller spoke first. (Click on Wichita downtown planning proposal: Janet Miller for video.) "We've given the free market a chance in downtown," Miller said. There's a few things we can disagree with in this statement. First, the market downtown is not very "free." There are TIF districts overlaying much of downtown, for example. These TIF districts are an…
Read More

Wichita planning firm hopefuls make pitch

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, the four planning firms that were selected as finalists for the master plan for the revitalization of downtown Wichita made their public presentations. I was able to attend three of the presentations. In his opening remarks to the Tuesday session, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said that tonight is an important night for our community. He said that the revitalization effort is about more than just downtown, but about all of us. "Downtown is our front porch." We must come together as a community in this effort. Studies of other cities, he said, show that downtown…
Read More

Wichita city council: more travel on tap

At tomorrow's meeting of the Wichita City Council, approval of more travel is on the agenda. Tomorrow's agenda item is this: "Approval of travel expenses for Mayor Brewer, Council Member Schlapp, Council Member Gray, and Council Member Williams to attend the NLC Congress of Cities in San Antonio, Texas, November 10-15, 2009." This is all the information that is available. The reaction of citizens to council member Janet Miller's junketeering to France has been overwhelmingly against this type of wasteful travel. Now we have four members of the council traveling for five days to a National League of Cities event.…
Read More