Claycomb connection to real estate developer criticized

A Wichita developer makes generous campaign contributions to a city council candidate, raising questions about both parties.

In a recent Wichita Eagle column, Dale Goter exposes irregularities surrounding the award of $700,000 in tax increment financing to real estate developer David Burk and partners related to residential development in the Riverside neighborhood. He is harsh in his criticism of Wichita City Council Member Cindy Claycomb (district 6, north central Wichita):(1)Goter, Dale. “$700,000 Tax Handout To Developer Violated City/County Policy | Commentary”. kansas.com, 2021, https://www.kansas.com/opinion/guest-commentary/article255357576.html#storylink=hpdigest_opinion.

According to her campaign supporters, Claycomb “negotiated” the deal for 40 single-family patio homes instead.

The developer, along with other major Wichita real estate interests, has been a most generous campaign finance supporter of sitting council members, notably, Claycomb.

Just exactly who brought the $700,000 handout to the table is unclear, but Claycomb certainly had to endorse it during the “negotiation” process.

It wasn’t “negotiation.” It was nothing more than a $700,000 gift of tax money to a rich developer, facilitated by the Council Member who received thousands of campaign dollars from the development and real estate industries.

The $700,000 refers to tax increment financing, or TIF. That isn’t exactly a cash handout or “gift of tax money” to Burk. Instead, TIF uses future property taxes to pay for things he would otherwise have to pay for. In turn, local governments lose the tax revenue they would have received if not for TIF, which goes against the official mantra that these things build up the tax base. (They may, but not for many years.)

As for cash handouts, a city spokesperson recently told the Eagle that “the city doesn’t give cash subsidies.”(2)Rengers, Carrie. “Dollar Tree to Open at Former Save a Lot Building.” kansas.com, Wichita Eagle, https://www.kansas.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/carrie-rengers/article255094837.html. In the most strict (and naive) interpretation, this statement is true. But financially, when the city reroutes your tax dollars for your personal benefit, that’s as good as a cash handout. Politically, it’s much better than a cash handout, as the convoluted mechanism of TIF conceals what is happening.

Campaign contributions to Cindy Claycomb. Click for larger.
The “most generous campaign finance supporter” refers to these campaign contributions to Claycomb, all from companies owned by, controlled by, or associated with Burk.

While this current issue is troubling enough, there’s something else that is more bothersome. Burk, in the past, misrepresented himself as an agent of the city in order to reduce his taxes. This action spurred the city manager to introduce policies to protect the city from what Burk did. I’d really like to know if Council Member Claycomb is aware of, and approves of, Burk’s past actions.

Here’s what happened: In 2010, an Eagle story started with this:(3)Brent D. Wistrom, Dion Lefler. “Developer won tax appeal on city site.” Wichita Eagle, The (KS), MAIN ed., sec. MAIN NEWS, 14 Feb. 2010, p. 1A. NewsBank: Access World News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/12DF8EA8EEBFDD70. Accessed 30 Oct. 2021.

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.

An Eagle article from the following year described changes the city manager implemented to protect taxpayers from what Burk did the year before.(4)“A Wiser City Is Ready To Move Ahead With Wichita Hotel | The Wichita Eagle”. Web.Archive.Org, 2021, https://web.archive.org/web/20170412164330/https://www.kansas.com/news/business/article1073763.html. Accessed 30 Oct 2021.

It would be good to know why Burk feels the need to support Claycomb so vigorously, and if she’s comfortable with his past.

References

References
1Goter, Dale. “$700,000 Tax Handout To Developer Violated City/County Policy | Commentary”. kansas.com, 2021, https://www.kansas.com/opinion/guest-commentary/article255357576.html#storylink=hpdigest_opinion.
2Rengers, Carrie. “Dollar Tree to Open at Former Save a Lot Building.” kansas.com, Wichita Eagle, https://www.kansas.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/carrie-rengers/article255094837.html.
3Brent D. Wistrom, Dion Lefler. “Developer won tax appeal on city site.” Wichita Eagle, The (KS), MAIN ed., sec. MAIN NEWS, 14 Feb. 2010, p. 1A. NewsBank: Access World News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/12DF8EA8EEBFDD70. Accessed 30 Oct. 2021.
4“A Wiser City Is Ready To Move Ahead With Wichita Hotel | The Wichita Eagle”. Web.Archive.Org, 2021, https://web.archive.org/web/20170412164330/https://www.kansas.com/news/business/article1073763.html. Accessed 30 Oct 2021.

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