On today’s public agenda of the Wichita City Council, I have two things to discuss with the council. One is the city’s refusal to make public proposals submitted by planning firms wishing to be awarded a contract by the city. Background is here: Downtown Wichita proposals not available to citizens.
Then, there’s Janet Miller’s junket to France, with background here: Janet Miller’s junket should be canceled.
Mr. Mayor, members of the council:
I’ve asked that the proposals from the four finalist firms for the downtown revitalization master plan be made available to the public. My request was denied.
The part of the Kansas Open Records Act that the city cited does not prohibit release of the proposals. Instead, it states that the city is not “required to disclose” the proposals.
So the city can share these with citizens if it wants to. And I think it should.
According to the communication I received from the city, these proposals will not be made public until the city council accepts a proposal (or rejects them all).
Since citizens won’t be able to read these proposals, they won’t be able to give any reasoned input on this matter. We don’t even know what questions to ask. I think this is intolerable. It’s offensive.
There are a few citizens who can read these proposals: a select group of downtown boosters. The interests of these people — and of the various bureaucrats who also have these proposals — I would submit, are not representative of the city as a whole.
Mr. Mayor, you can release these proposals if you want to. The citizens of Wichita would be better served if you do.
Now, to the matter of Council Member Janet Miller’s travel to France. This trip can only be described as a junket, with all the negative connotations that go along with that word. To make it worse, the city is paying for a private citizen to make the trip, too.
We’re in a tough budget time. Even in good times these trips should be avoided, but when budgets are stressed, travel should be the first thing to be cut.
I realize the cost of this trip is small when compared to the total spending of the city. It’s less than $4,000, according to the estimates I’ve been given. But that’s still money that could be saved.
Furthermore, these actions are symbolic. The city council asks citizens and employees to sacrifice, but in this case is not willing to set an example.
There’s more travel to be approved on the agenda today, along with an item that hints of more to come later on. These items should not be approved.
For Council Member Miller’s trip, I have these questions:
What is the benefit of traveling to the International Cities Conference and the Sister Cities Festival?
Why is the city paying for a private citizen, even though she is the Wichita Area Sister Cities President, to attend these events?