If Wichita truly seeks community input in downtown planning …


As Wichita begins to plan for the revitalization of downtown Wichita, city leaders say they want everyone to be involved. All ideas are welcome and appreciated, they say.

In a recent city council meeting, Mayor Brewer said “we need every person’s ideas, recommendations, and their opinion. … Being quiet and then complaining about it later isn’t going to be good for you or the community.”

Recently Wichita Downtown Development Corporation president Jeff Fluhr said “We want to make sure we do a holistic outreach with this project.”

I wonder if they — especially Mayor Brewer — really mean it. In the past Brewer said “The naysayers have gotten too much media attention while those who are engaged and do the hard work are too often ignored and criticized.” Just last week he was quoted in the Wichita Eagle as saying this: “We cannot be intimidated. … I know for a fact that the citizens of Wichita believe we should do what we need to do to accomplish this. …We need to take a bold stance. If they’re not right and they’re not telling the truth, then create an environment where we can get the message out.”

The mayor sends out conflicting messages.

Here’s what Mayor Brewer and the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation could do, if they’re really interested in public engagement and hearing from all citizens, no matter what their ideas might be: The city could sponsor a one-day forum where alternatives to the top-down, centralized method of government planning are presented. I think we could do this with a budget of maybe $10,000 or so. That’s just two percent of the amount we’re spending on the Goody Clancy plan. When you add the budget of the WDDC and what the staff in Wichita city hall are spending on this effort, it’s a mere pittance.

There are some very interesting speakers that are willing to come to Wichita and present their ideas. One is Cato Institute policy scholar Randal O’Toole, author of the book The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future.

Will those in charge of Wichita’s future consider sponsoring a forum where alternatives are expressed? The answer to this will let us know just how much they value alternative opinions, and if they’re willing to back up their words with action.


12 responses to “If Wichita truly seeks community input in downtown planning …”

  1. Kevin

    What seems to be driving revitalization is not want the public wants, but the city leaders see what other cities doing. Hutchinson has the space museum, they build Exploration place. Springfield has Bass Pro Shops, they get Gander Mountain. Other cities have a downtown arena, we must have one. San Antonio has their canal, they want Water Walk.

    What they must do, instead of copying other cities, is to promote what is unique about our location. Usually that means it’s natual setting (for example the river) and it’s history (for example cowtown).

    But first, the city must see to the quality of life of it’s citizens before promoting the city to tourists.

  2. Cybex

    There is no leadership within our City Council. We can blame politicians to some extent for their unaccountable actions and trampling of our liberty, but the bulk of the blame lies with us the voters, because politicians are often doing what we expect them to do. Mayor Brewer is borrowing a page from Obama. Say what you have to and do what you want. The public’s input is irrelevant.

  3. Solen Yanda, Wichita

    Is Cornejo & Sons Wichita’s prime contractor? If yes, it is certantly not because of price, quality, or on time completion!

  4. Ruben

    Mayor Brewer wants to hear from the citizens? “There are none so blind as those who will not see, and none so deaf as those who will not hear.”

  5. Wichitator

    I remember the DeBoer plan for revitalizing downtown Wichita from the 1980s. No one wants to talk about this plan since everything in it was implemented and downtown continues its mediocrity. The last major item to be completed will be the downtown arena that still needs another anchor tenant. The rest of this 1980s proposal has been implemented (plus a few items like east bank–which DeBoer just took over– and ice arena that weren’t part of this plan) with the arguable exception of the Keeper of the Plains statue that was recently raised on its pedestal. DeBoer’s original plan called for a 500 ft. tall “keeper” being built.

    If you do not remember the past, you are condemned to repeat it according to the philosopher George Santayana. This is particularly true in this case. How sad for downtown and how much sadder for Wichita taxpayers.

  6. Insider

    Kevin you hit the nail on the head, we get sold great plans like the Space Museum, and get Exploration place. Why because that’s how “crony capitalism” works. It’s all about making sure
    that certain that contracts go to the “right” companies. then they have the right architect design the project, with no competitive bid like the school bond design. Then the “right” general contractor gets the job you know the same one thats involved in the Warren theater, Water Walk, and a dozen other public money sponsored projects down town. Also we need the right developer you know the one that got $900,000 in facade funds for the old downtown high school, who was involved in water walk, and just got the Sports hall of fame building. Then we need to have the sub contractors you know the same ones involved in the Warren loan, and other projects, then the right heating and air company you know the one that has the guy that goes to every City Council meeting, and every County Commission meeting. The list is very long and very sickening
    and what you receive is 1/2 what you should have by the time all the good ole boys belly up to the public money hog trough.
    Thats why Gov. projects do not work.

  7. Craig

    Ruben At the City Council meeting we confronted Mr Fluhr about a person with an alternate view being on the steering committee, to date we have received no response. I offered to serve on the Mayors planning committee. It’s not that we can’t or won’t see or hear, we are denied a seat at the table, or a voice in the process. I attended the Mayor’s dream sessions, there were only about 50 seats and 90% were taken by City officials, or employees like Allen Bell, Jeff Knable, and DDC employees and members. One half of the 10 or 12 citizens who
    attended had to stand or left because there was no seat. The few of us that got to speak, our ideas were dismissed like errant children. We all want downtown to prosper and be revitalized, but if we use the same formula we have in the past
    like taking every bit of riverfront property for public buildings,
    and using the same developers as in the past we are doomed to fail. We need fresh ideas and fresh faces.

  8. Joe Williams

    I know how it can be somewhat frustrating. I’ve been working on the Peerless Tower Project for over four years. It’s completely bon-a-fide project and granted a 501(C)(3) tax-exempt status by the IRS.

    Yet, when I requested to the WDDC to have the Peerless Tower part of the master plan, they gave no response. When I contacted the City development department, they gave me no response. When I presented it to Wichita Visioning at one of the steering committees at the Chamber of Commerce (and the Peerless Tower is a Visioneering Partner), I get no response. I’ve contacted Tom Johnson from WaterWalk and I get no response. I have even contacted the City Councilwoman who’s district it will be in, then I saw her in person in a formal setting and I asked her about the project and she said she never heard of it, although she e-mailed me that she will look into it on several occasions before I saw her in person.

    I understand that I’m not considered a part of the mover & shaker crowd in this city and this city does run as a clique. I understand that they probably look at me as a nobody with a silly idea. But I’m dead set to make this project a reality. I’m trying to go through the right channels and I’m trying to present this as professionally as I can.

    I have received donations for this project. I have had professional architectural renderings done. I’ve received great interest from a major construction contractor here in the city (you can probably guess who it is) and from a local prominent architectural firm and engineering firm in town.

    I guess my only draw back is that I’m not requesting any taxpayer funds, only a donation of city land to build this monument project. I’m not complaining about the lack of interest. I just understand it and know it’s an obstacle to overcome. But I have every confidence that the Peerless Tower will be built and it can serve as a model that average citizens can accomplish an important public project with citizens donations.

  9. BJ

    I actually agree with you partially on this one. I think we should have a one-day meeting where every viewpoint is expressed. There should be speakers who support want the city council is doing and those who oppose it. I think you should be a speaker Bob. The one area where I would differ with you is only limiting it to other viewpoints. I think all viewpoints should be heard and given equal time. While I don’t agree with you much of the time Bob, I will say the mayor has been rude to you at council meetings on a couple of occasions.

  10. Dismal Scientist

    The first question we must ask is why did downtown Wichita become a wasteland in the first place? The second question we must ask is, after all of this malinvestment has taken place who will be stuck with the bill? Who benefits from all of this “if we build it they will come” claptrap? Just wondering…….

  11. Joe Williams

    I read something years ago about downtowns, and this wasn’t just Wichita. But basically back in the 70’s all downtowns were dying in all major and mid-city cities in the US. They were being replaced by shopping malls and strip malls. Mega shopping malls, like Towne East and West was replacing all the stores in downtown because they had several advantages: Indoor shopping, access to and free parking, security on site and janitorial staff to keep the facility clean.

    Downtowns were at a disadvantage because parking was sparse, bums and panhandlers were everywhere with no cops really walking the beat or any other security measures, making downtown to have the perception as being unsafe, sidewalks and streets were littered with trash with no emphasis on daily or even intra-daily cleanup.

    So for several decades, they were outbeat by shopping malls. Now they have to change it around and I think that is what they are trying to do.

  12. Mike

    Hi, Downtowns were built when the train came to town and you rode your horse downtown to get what you wanted to buy, then you rode your horse back home. The change in population in Wichita from 50K to 400K made downtown parking a problem (heard that anywhere before?). Malls were built with parking lots which made them very popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Thanks to the internet, you can shop without leaving your home, which has lead to the large Dillon’s/Walmart/etc. stores plastered all over town selling groceries and most disposable items. The only way downtown will come back is as a regular neighborhood where people actually live.

    I’ve lived here since 1983 and I remember that downtown was a booming place back then. Every Friday and Saturday night every high school kid in Wichita was “cruising Douglass”. The city got rid of that thanks to the EPA and now you can hardly get people downtown at gunpoint.

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