Today the Wichita City Council accepted public input on the 2012 budget. I appeared before the council and provided a few ideas, as follows. The final opportunity for public input is at the council meeting on August 9th.
In Wichita, we’ve outsourced the mowing of parks. But that’s not all we can do. The city of Sandy Springs, Georgia, outsources nearly everything the city does. It would take me a while to read the list of functions that the city outsources. This is not a small town; its population is over 90,000. We in Wichita can do more with outsourcing as a way to improve service delivery at lower cost.
Speaking of outsourcing and the proper role of government, I can see no reason why the city should be owning and operating golf courses. We should sell them as soon as we can.
If we could make that leap — and that’s not a very long leap to make — we could then easily realize that no government, including the city of Wichita, should be in the business of providing art and culture to its citizens. Our governor is leading the way in this regard with the elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission. Besides saving money, when decisions about how much to spend on what types of art are made through the political process, we use the worst possible way of making decisions to decide about something that should be deeply personal.
Earlier this summer, Mayor Brewer, you said these decisions about allocating arts funds are stressful. You said that no matter what we do, there will be some who feel it’s not right or not fair. “We’d have to wade through all the political aspects of it — who’s associated with who, who’s friends with who.”
That was very perceptive. Now we need to go one step farther and realize there is an easy solution to this problem: Remove these decisions from the political system and place them in the private sector. When people make their own decisions voluntarily in free markets, no one loses. When we see people spend in ways we don’t agree with, we don’t get mad, because we have no right to be mad at other people for spending their own money in ways they want. There is no stress.
During the Wichita State of the City Address this year, we were told that the city’s efforts saved 745 jobs and created 435 jobs, for a total impact of 1,180 jobs. To place those numbers in context, we note that the labor force in Wichita is 191,760 persons. This means that the economic development efforts of the City of Wichita affected a number of jobs equivalent to 0.6 percent of the city workforce. This small number of jobs impacted by the city’s economic development initiatives is dwarfed by other economic events.
Further, we now find examples of how these incentives are often not needed. We’ve recently seen two examples of people pleading to this council for taxpayer assistance, saying that they must have their developer welfare in order for the projects to be viable. When they didn’t get it, somehow the projects were able to proceed.