O’Donnell critics should look inward first


Wichita City Council Member Michael O’Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita) made a mistake when he recently offered his opinion to the Sedgwick County Commission. The mistake was noted and corrected before the commissioners voted, so it had no influence on how the commissioners voted.

Yet, all members of the Wichita City Council have “expressed varying degrees of anger” over O’Donnell’s statement, according to Wichita Eagle reporting. (O’Donnell won’t be censured for remarks to County Commission)

Before these council members and the mayor express much more angst, they should take a look at their own actions, and how O’Donnell successfully opposed their assault on Wichita taxpayers.

In September 2011, all council members except O’Donnell voted to award a no-bid contract to a construction company for a parking garage and retail space as part of the Ambassador Hotel project, then known as Douglas Place and now known as Block One. (Mayor Carl Brewer was absent that day, but earlier he voted for the letter of intent to do the same.)

Then, thanks to O’Donnell and Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita), the city put the contract out for competitive bid. The result was a price about 20 percent less, saving taxpayers over $1.2 million. (Wichita city manager proposes eliminating no-bid construction projects, February 5, 2012 Wichita Eagle.)

Ironically, the company that submitted the winning bid was the same company that received the no-bid contract: Key Construction, a company well-known for its owners’ and executives’ campaign contributions to Mayor Brewer and nearly all council members, regardless of political ideology. Also involved in the project was Dave Burk, who along with his wife also make large and regular contributions to a broad range of council members.

Wichitans need to know that all except O’Donnell — and belatedly, Meitzner — thought it was proper to award their significant campaign contributors with a padded contract that awarded excess profits to Key at the expense of taxpayers.

Wastefully squandering taxpayer money in order to reward significant campaign contributors is not productive economic development. Instead, it’s cronyism of the worst kind, and illegal in some places. In Wichita, however, this is standard operating practice for some council members.

Such blatant cronyism reduces the prosperity of our community. It causes citizens to lose confidence in government. It stirs citizens to petition their government for redress. That literally happened in Wichita, motivated in part by behavior like this.

The bad behavior of the Wichita City Council has received national attention. In its commentary on the successful referendum in Wichita this year, the Wall Street Journal remarked: “Local politicians like to get in bed with local business, and taxpayers are usually the losers. So three cheers for a voter revolt in Wichita, Kansas last week that shows such sweetheart deals can be defeated.”

Now citizens are investigating campaign finance reform laws that would, hopefully, reduce the incentive for the shameful practice of awarding no-bid contracts to significant campaign contributors. As the Wichita City Council, except for O’Donnell, has shown no interest in reforming itself, citizens must do it themselves.

Instead of being angry with the departing O’Donnell, the council and mayor should look at themselves first and reform their proven harmful practices.


7 responses to “O’Donnell critics should look inward first”

  1. Jennifer

    It’s interesting that the correction of O’Donnell’s incorrect statement was made BEFORE the vote. I think the Eagle “forgot” to mention that.

  2. sue c.


  3. johnnybbad

    Bob,Very good article. It is amazing how the eagle can leave out an important fact if it is going to help a conservative, but when it comes to liberals they only leave out facts that could hurt their position.
    Anyone who wants to know the entire story needs to read “The Voice for Liberty in Wichita”.

  4. Wildhorse

    Excellent reporting, Bob Weeks. You sir, are a true journalist. Thank your for being so elegant and brutally honest about this present council as well as the “crones syndrome” participants as those scoundrels, Key Construction. They are the epitome of union dealings in non-union “wolves’ clothing”. They should join the rest of the pigs and run off of the cliff. Perhaps they will, if enough influential people inform them that there is free money at the bottom of the canyon. Fare thee well.

  5. Red Queen

    Who will vet the new Dallas developer coming in to save the day??????
    INteresting that the only people wiling to step forward on some of these downtown projects are out of state developers that love mentally challenged local politicians who give away their constituents’ money. Wichita has its fair share of successful developers and yet, none have stepped forward to invest down town. THe few that have are willing to use taxpayer dollars. THey are also willing to leave their own investors holding the bag, so to speak, when times are tough!

  6. Wildhorse

    Yes, RQ, per “mentally challenged politicians”: they only exist for the consistency of Wichita’s own portfolio of the so-called “47%”……re-hiring the “mcp” crowd. Interestingly, when an mcp wearies of the city scene, they merely transition to sedgwick county commissioner status.

  7. Ruby Slippers

    It’s amazing that anyone can defend someone of obviously poor character such as Michael O’Donnell. The means do not justify the end. Regardless of O’Donnell’s position on public funding of development projects, he has proven that he is a habitual liar. His dishonesty and deceit is out there for all the world to see; yet, he is enabled because his supporters choose to look the other way and as such, are no better than those they choose to criticize. Hypocrisy at its finest!

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