Wichita city government

Let free markets determine downtown Wichita’s viability

"Wichita's been an east/west town for as long as I can remember. Obviously, we're trying to change that," says Tom Johnson, president of the upcoming downtown project, WaterWalk. (Wichita Business Journal, March 4, 2005) A healthy community needs a healthy downtown. ... In Downtown, public investment has a proven track record of generating new, private investment. Since 1990, the government's investment of $165 million has stimulated $248 million in private investment. (Voteyea.com website.) "Anything downtown seems to be off-limits for criticism or analysis. I don't know why it is," Lambke said. (Council member Phil Lambke, Wichita Eagle, November 14, 2004)…
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Open letter to Wichita City Council regarding AirTran subsidy

January 24, 2005 Dear Councilmember: I am writing to express my concern about the upcoming renewal of the subsidy being paid to AirTran Airways. You may recall that I appeared before the Council last May and spoke in opposition to the subsidy. Since then I have learned more about the Fair Fares program. As an example, Mr. Troy Carlson, then Chairman of Fair Fares, wrote a letter that was published on September 16, 2004 in the Wichita Eagle. In that letter he claimed $2.4 billion economic benefit from the Fair Fares program ($4.8 billion for the entire state). I was…
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The motivations of politicians

Presently Mr. Bob Knight of Wichita, a private citizen, is promoting the building of a casino in Park City, Kansas. These articles from The Wichita Eagle have reported Mr. Knight's position on casino gambling in Kansas when he was the mayor of Wichita: GOP governor hopefuls stake their positions (July 3, 2002) "Knight and Kerr said they oppose gambling but would consider voter approval." Trump has no plans for local casino (May 9, 2003) "Last year, Ruffin said, he approached former Mayor Bob Knight about the possibility of relocating the track to downtown and adding a casino if lawmakers approved.…
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Stretching figures strains credibility

I recently read that the Wichita Airport's economic impact was estimated at $1.6 billion per year. I thought this seemed high, so I investigated further. I became aware of this study prepared by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, available here: Wichita Mid-Continent Airport Economic Impact. By reading this study I learned that the employees of Cessna and Bombardier -- 12,134 in total -- are counted in determining the economic impact of the airport. Why? To quote the study: "While it might appear that manufacturing businesses could be based anywhere in the area, both…
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The Real Scandal at City Hall

In 2003, local Wichita news media devoted extensive news coverage to two officials in the City of Wichita's finance department. They were accused of improperly spending between $52,000 and $73,800 on travel. While I don't condone this waste and I'm glad that our local news media uncovered it, the amount involved is relatively small. Furthermore, the people who wasted this money are no longer in a position to repeat. The real scandal, however, is the ongoing lack of care exercised when spending our money. Time and time again we read in the newspaper how the mayor or city council members…
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Remarks to City Council, May 11, 2004, Regarding AirTran Airways Subsidy

I delivered these remarks to the Wichita City Council as they were preparing to vote on extending AirTran Airway's subsidy for another two years. The extension passed with only one dissenting vote. Mr. Mayor, Members of the Council: I speak today in opposition to the continuation of the subsidy the City is paying to AirTran Airways. There are several reasons why I believe this subsidy should not be continued. The primary reason is that the subsidy, since it is paid to one company and one company only, is not fair to the other companies. Yes, it is true that fares…
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The leadership of our local government officials regarding the downtown Wichita arena

It is clear that our local government leaders want a downtown arena in Wichita. Just read their remarks in the Wichita Eaglenewspaper. Since the Sedgwick County Commission has promised that they will proceed with renovation of the Kansas Coliseum if the downtown arena vote fails, it is in their interest to make the Coliseum renovation option look as bad as possible. In my opinion, they've done a pretty good job of this. If you do the math on what it costs to borrow $55 million, paying it back at $6.1 million a year for 20 years, the interest rate is…
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Local government officials as downtown Wichita arena advocates

Kansas Attorney General Opinion 93-125 deals with "the use of public funds to promote or advocate a governing body's position on a matter which is before the electorate." In its summary, it states "However, public funds may be expended to educate and inform regarding issues to be voted on by the electorate." Our local government leaders, especially the Sedgwick County Commission and the Mayor of Wichita, are leading what they term the "educational effort" to get out the facts about the proposed downtown arena. I would suggest, however, that their effort is hardly educational, as they readily admit their preference,…
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A public or private arena in downtown Wichita, which is desirable?

Image what our town could be like if the downtown arena in Wichita vote fails and the county commissioners put aside for a moment their plans for the renovation of the Kansas Coliseum. Suppose, instead, that arena supporters, along with those who would vote yes for the sales tax and anyone else who wants to, formed a corporation to build and own an arena. Instead of having paid taxes to government, arena supporters would be investors. They would own something: their shares in the arena. They would have the pride and responsibility that comes with ownership. They would have a…
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