Wichita city budget savings

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.

After we eliminate the Division of Arts & Cultural Services, we can look to the Office of Urban Development and our economic development efforts.

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.

7 Comments

  • Anonymous -

    Bob,

    Here are some questions:

    You’ve talked a lot about what the government should not do. What do you believe the government should do?

    You seem to believe strongly in outsourcing which, by the way, doesn’t always save money, ostensibly your prime motivation for touting this tactic. What city/county programs should not be outsourced?

    If we outsource everything, the government would not exist. Is this your goal? Zero government?

    If the city/county governments stop all economic development activity, who will take up the interests of such development in our community?

    Here is my belief:

    It is patriotic to pay taxes. My mother and father tell stories about rationing during WWII. Everyone did it because it was the patriotic thing to do: to sacrifice for the good of the country. I pay taxes because it is my patriotic duty to do so. Should they be used wisely? Of course. Are they always? No. I think billions of dollars on wars we can’t win in places where the people don’t like us is a monumental waste of tax dollars. For oil? Give me an electric car I can afford. I’ll buy it and proudly drive it.

    I think ensuring that all in our country are cared for is paramount. This hasn’t always happened. Many of the programs that you denounce came into existence because there was great need. Have they always been managed effectively? No. Does that mean that we should end the programs? Of course not. Will some people always abuse the system? Yes. Health care providers are the worst abusers and cost the most of our tax dollars in the form of fraudulent claims.

    Certain things – like arts and culture and economic development – are not going to happen as effectively if they are not shepherded by a government entity. If you let fifty sheep loose in a field and never tend to them, some will survive. Many will succumb to the forces of nature. None will flourish. If you tend to them, they grow strong and produce usable products for our society. The same is true of arts and culture and economic development.

    It was recently reported in the Wichita Eagle that aviation contributes about 150 billion annually to our national GDP and around 1.2 million jobs. An independent study of over 150 cities across America in 2006 for the fiscal year 2005 found that arts and culture organizations contributed approximately 166 billion to the national GDP and supported about 5.7 million jobs.

    Arts and culture contributes greatly to economic development, quality of life, education and many other things. In addition, it is big business. Yet we don’t threaten to leave town for greener pastures. We keep doing what we do to make our communities a better place overall. And if the government money that we receive, either in the form of a line item for some or by way of competitive grants for others, goes away, we will continue. Some would actually die; those that are more heavily subsidized would surely crumble if their entire funding went away as you suggest.

    So I have a few other questions Bob. What have you done for your community lately? Do you do anything besides make conjecture here in this forum about how things ought to be? Have you ever tried to run a city or county? Have you ever tried to run a nonprofit organization? What are you doing right now as a volunteer that will make our community safer, more livable, more attractive to business? It is easy to use the written word to propel inane ideology toward others. It is entirely another thing to roll up ones sleeves and get to work.

    Are our county and city commissioners and administrative officials perfect? Of course not Bob. No one is. Do they make mistakes sometimes? Certainly. But they are in there doing the best they can do with a very, very difficult situation at the moment and doing a pretty good job I might add.

    If you are so concerned about local government, why don’t you run for office and actually do something instead of just sitting back and being critical? Oh, wait, you probably couldn’t get elected because you are too ideological.

  • Who pays for the maintenance of this website? Is it paid totally out of pocket by Bob Weeks, or another entity?

  • Thank heavens there are some rational people still our there.

  • BUSINESSADVOCATE -

    T rex there are plenty of us out here that care.

    Anonymous The role of government as defined in the US Constitution is to provide those services that can not be provided by private individuals or groups. So to answer your questions. Bob Weeks works tirelessly to provide a sensible counterpoint to your buddy Carl Brewers, and his hero Barack Obama’s ideology that government must do everything, including create a nanny statre that teaches people to rely on welfare and other social programs instead of taking personal responsiblity for their own lives. He inspires many of us to take up the battle in our community to also share a conservative veiw.
    Not a day goes by that you don’t see some CEO on CNBC tell the commentators that if they were going to start their business tody it would fail because of the growth and weight of goverment, in both taxes and regulation. I own a 1/2 dozen small businesses with approx 40 employees and I will tell you with the anti business climate we have in Wichita now there is no way I would have ever have been able to get them started today.

  • BUSINESSADVOCATE -

    Anonymous I have heard you type of rant before and your attack on BOB is a common progressive tactic to silence the weak. Usually your type commentary comes from someone feeding from the “public teet” either a public employee or one of the privelidged few that receive their livelihood from the subsidies provided from your idea of “government”.

  • BusinessAdvocate: Can you give specific examples of what hindrances are in place in today’s “overly regulated” Wichita business environment and why those obstacles would prevent you from investing in Wichita today?

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