Open records

Wichita needs transparency from its agencies

Wichita needs transparency from its agencies

When the Wichita city council delegates spending to outside agencies such as Visit Wichita, it should insist on the same transparency requirements the city itself faces. The Kansas Open Records Act is designed to give citizens access to data concerning their government. In the words of the Kansas Attorney General, "An open and transparent government is essential to the democratic process." The preamble to the Kansas act states, "It is declared to be the public policy of the state that public records shall be open for inspection by any person unless otherwise provided by this act, and this act shall…
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Wichita should post fulfilled records requests

Wichita should post fulfilled records requests

When the City of Wichita fulfills records requests, it should make those records available to everyone. When governmental agencies like the City of Wichita fulfill records requests, they could also publish the records on their websites. When records are supplied electronically to requestors, this is an additional simple (and low cost) step that would leverage the city’s effort and increase its value. Some federal agencies do this. For example at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, there is a page titled FOIA Library. An example entry on this page is titled "Executive Orders on Travel Records." The explanation for…
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Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency

Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency

Kansas law requires publication of certain notices in newspapers, but cities like Wichita could also make them available in other ways that are easier to use. As Wichita's new mayor takes office, there are a few things the city could do to increase the availability and distribution of government information. An easy project to accomplish would be placing legal notices on the city's web page. Kansas law requires that many legal notices must be printed in a newspaper. That law needs to be changed. Newspapers resist this reform, as it might mean a loss of revenue for them. (That's right.…
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Business improvement district on tap in Wichita

Business improvement district on tap in Wichita

The Douglas Design District seeks to transform from a voluntary business organization to a tax-funded branch of government. Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will consider forming a business improvement district (BID) in east-central Wichita. Previously, city documents offered some explanation regarding the district: [1. City of Wichita. Agenda for August 21, 2018, Item IV-1. Available at http://www.wichita.gov/Council/Agendas/08-21-2018%20City%20Council%20Agenda%20Packet.pdf.] First, there already exists a voluntary organization: "The Douglas Design District (DDD) is a voluntary organization of over 300 local businesses located near Douglas Avenue between Washington Avenue and Oliver Avenue. In 2017, the DDD established a five-year strategic plan to become a…
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In Wichita, respecting the people’s right to know

In Wichita, respecting the people’s right to know

The City of Wichita says it values open and transparent government. But the city's record in providing information and records to citizens is poor, and there hasn't been much improvement. The City of Wichita is proud to be an open and transparent governmental agency, its officials say. Former Mayor Carl Brewer often spoke in favor of government transparency. [1. For example, in his State of the City address for 2011, Brewer listed as an important goal for the city this: "And we must provide transparency in all that we do." See https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xgx96BEXALDEgLBRcQdz2Kg0_W5x3e2J.] When the city received an award for transparency…
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Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency

Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency

Kansas law requires publication of certain notices in newspapers, but cities like Wichita could also make them available in other ways that are easier to use. As Wichita's new mayor takes office, there are a few things the city could do to increase the availability and distribution of government information. An easy project to accomplish would be placing legal notices on the city's web page. Kansas law requires that many legal notices must be printed in a newspaper. That law needs to be changed. Newspapers resist this reform, as it might mean a loss of revenue for them. (That's right.…
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Business improvement district proposed in Wichita

Business improvement district proposed in Wichita

The Douglas Design District proposes to transform from a voluntary business organization to a tax-funded branch of government (but doesn't say so). Update: On August 21, the council approved the formation of the planning committee. This week the Wichita City Council will consider taking the first step in forming a business improvement district (BID) in east-central Wichita. Some explanation from the agenda packet for the meeting: [1. City of Wichita. Agenda for August 21, 2018, Item IV-1. Available at http://www.wichita.gov/Council/Agendas/08-21-2018%20City%20Council%20Agenda%20Packet.pdf.] First, there already exists a voluntary organization: "The Douglas Design District (DDD) is a voluntary organization of over 300 local…
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Lawrence has it. Wichita doesn’t.

Lawrence has it. Wichita doesn’t.

Despite promises, Wichita fails to inform citizens on important activities of its government. For several years, the Kansas city of Lawrence has published an economic development report letting citizens know about the activities of the city in this area. The most recent edition may be viewed here. The Lawrence report contains enough detail and length that an executive summary is provided. This report is the type of information that cities should be providing, but the City of Wichita does not do this. It's not like the City of Wichita does not realize the desirability of providing citizens with information. In…
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Kansas government data may not be available

Kansas government data may not be available

There is a movement to increase the transparency of government in Kansas, but there's much to be done, starting with attitudes. One of the major economic development programs in Kansas is PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas. [1. Weeks, Bob. PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas. Available at https://bobw7.sg-host.com/kansas-government/peak-promoting-employment-across-kansas/.] It provides benefits to companies when they expand their operations in Kansas, or sometimes when they merely threaten to leave. The recent expansion by Spirit AeroSystems is reported to benefit from $23.5 million in PEAK cash. [1. Jerry Siebenmark. New facility part of Spirit’s new jobs, expansion plan. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/business/aviation/article201082884.html.]…
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Wichita check register

Wichita check register

Wichita spending data presented as a summary, and as a list. As part of an ongoing transparency project, I asked the City of Wichita for check register data. I’ve made the data available in a visualization using Tableau Public. Click here to access the visualization. Analyzing this data requires a bit of local knowledge. For example, there is a vendor named “Visit Wichita” that started to receive monthly payments in March 2015. What about payments for January and February? Those were made to a vendor named “Go Wichita,” which changed its name to “Visit Wichita.” Similarly, there are payments made…
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