Testimony Opposing Tax Increment Financing for the Ken Mar Redevelopment Project

Testimony of John Todd, opposing the formation of a tax increment financing (TIF) district, delivered to the Wichita City Council on August 12, 2008.

Mr. Mayor and members of the Wichita City Council, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak before you today. My name is John Todd. I stand before you today as a citizen in opposition to the Establishment of a Redevelopment District, Tax Increment Financing for the Ken Mar Redevelopment Project. (District I)

There are dozens of neighborhood shopping centers across Wichita that have a greater need for redevelopment than the Ken Mar shopping center that you are considering for public taxpayer assistance today.

The question that needs to be answered today is, “What is the Proper Role of Government Relating to Economic Development Activity?” And the specific question the council needs to answer before granting public money for this project is: “Why is the Ken Mar shopping center being considered for public money, and not the dozens of similar shopping centers across our city, with particular emphasis on those dozens of centers possessing greater redevelopment needs than Ken Mar?”

It is my understanding that the proposed Ken Mar TIF is $2.5 million dollars. A commercial real estate broker friend of mine advised me that in his opinion, the Ken Mar center redevelopment project would not work without the $2.5 million public cash infusion. My reply to this observation: 1. If the potential owners/buyers for Ken Mar have not closed on their purchase transaction of the shopping center, perhaps as part of their contract “due diligence” clause, they need to negotiate $2.5 million dollars off the purchase price of the Ken Mar center, and in the event they fail to obtain the lower purchase price, they need to either scale back their plans for the redevelopment of the center or to simply walk away from the project since the project is not economically feasible for them. 2. Or, if on the other hand, the current owners of Ken Mar paid $2.5 million dollars more than the shopping center was worth, what makes them immune from taking responsibility for this $2.5 million dollar error in judgment? And 3. If this City Council were truly acting as stewards of the public treasury, why would you even consider using public money to correct this alleged $2.5 million developer-problem?

In a free-market economic system, private business enterprises should have the opportunity and the freedom to succeed and to enjoy the fruits of their success. By the same token, they should also have the freedom to fail and suffer whatever consequences that brings. Thousands of other businesses enterprises across our city play by these rules every day without the government parachute or the backing of the public treasury that is being considered for this private group. Why should the Ken Mar shopping center group be an exception to these rules?

Please vote against the proposed TIF.

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