As Wichita voters consider promises of transparency and reporting regarding job creation, the city fails to make even the most basic information available.
In November, Wichita voters will consider whether to authorize a sales tax of one cent per dollar. Part of that would be used for economic development with the aid of creating jobs. The city promises a transparency in decision making and reporting of results regarding this jobs fund.
Material produced by the city on July 22 contains: “Decisions about who receives funding, the number of jobs, and the impact on community would be made in public meetings and tracked through a website. Reports would be made on a regular basis to elected officials.”
On its website, the “Yes Wichita” group promises that “Results will be measured and reported publicly.” Also, “Decisions and results are made in public meetings and transparent with website tracking results, investments and return on investment to community.”
In other words, sales tax boosters are promoting transparency and presentation of results.
The thing is, the city and its affiliated groups could be doing this right now if they wanted to. They could have been doing it for many years, if they had wanted to.
A specific example
Premier Processing is a company located in Wichita that received forgivable loans from both Wichita and Sedgwick County five years ago. The loans included clawback provisions calling for repayment of the loans if jobs targets were not met.
Unfortunately, the job targets were not met. Premier has repaid the loans to both governments. (I’ve requested further details from the city, such as whether the company paid the interest that the contract specified in case of default.)
Are you aware of this news? It’s not likely that you are aware, as neither Sedgwick County or the city made this information public. But this is the type of information the city and “Yes Wichita” promise will be available in the future.
It’s true that the city doesn’t have a fancy website on which to report these results. But that isn’t needed right now. If the city is truly interested in reporting results to citizens, it could have written a simple press release. Two or three sentences is all that’s needed. The city could have dictated these sentences to a newspaper or television reporter. This is not difficult. It would cost next to nothing.
But the city didn’t do that. Instead, someone tipped me, and I asked. If not for that, we would not know. This is the culture at Wichita city hall.