Yesterday Wichita city manager Robert Layton appeared as a guest on the Gene Countryman Show on KNSS Radio in Wichita and spoke on a number of topics brought up by the host and callers.
Several times host Gene Countryman referred to Wichita theater owner Bill Warren and his assessment of Layton as “best city manager the city’s ever had,” calling Warren’s assessment “high praise.” Warren has good reason to heap praise on Layton. He and his partners have benefited handsomely from actions the Wichita City Council has taken at Layton’s recommendation. Most recently Warren escaped paying property taxes on a new movie theater, and negotiated a deal in where the property tax on an existing property will increase at an agreed-upon rate that is likely lower than what would happen otherwise. Before Layton’s arrival in Wichita, the council heaped subsidy on Warren too, once bailing out the failing Warren Old Town Theater with an interest-free loan.
Layton also said criticism causes him to “bristle a little bit,” but dismissed his critics as a small minority, although he said he doesn’t discount it.
On the possible arrival of Southwest Airlines to Wichita, Layton said he feels “pretty good” about Wichita’s chances in receiving service from the popular discount airline. He said that we need to keep the Affordable Airfares Program to keep Southwest interested in Wichita. But later he said “The Southwest business model doesn’t require subsidies over a long period of time.”
But as I wrote in 2006, we’ve been told before that the airfare subsidies were meant to be temporary: “From the beginning, we in the Wichita area have been told each year that the AirTran subsidy was intended as a temporary measure, that soon AirTran would be able to stand on its own, and there will be no need to continue the subsidy.” History has shown, however, that the subsidy has grown to the point where the entire state funds the subsidy for Wichita. It appears to be a permanent part of the state’s economic program, with Governor Brownback expressing support for continued funding for the program.
On downtown, Layton said that the city doesn’t want to place businesses in downtown who will be on tax breaks or tax exempt for ten years. If the city is to achieve this goal, it will take a 180 degree change in the mindset in city hall where the mayor and vice-mayor Jeff Longwell complain that we don’t have enough “tools in the toolbox” to incentive businesses. In his State of the City address last week, one of the achievements Mayor Carl Brewer was proud of was the decision by Cargill to locate a facility in downtown Wichita. According to city documents, “The City has also offered a 100% five-plus-five year tax abatement on the new facility.” This is precisely the type of tax break Layton spoke against. Cargill, by the way, received many other forms of subsidy — let’s be clear — corporate welfare — for its decision.
On the plan for how to handle Wichita’s trash, Layton said his intent was to start a community dialog on the subject, and that has happened. Layton praised Iowa’s bottle bill, which adds five cents to the price of items sold in bottles. He said it makes it easier for people to recycle.
The trash project undertaken by the City is about making money for the City. What needs to happen is for the City, in partnership, with the County to look at new techniques in waste management that uses technologies that automatically separates and recycles waste. Look at Israel for their technologies.
Southwest has a business plan that looks at establishing service to communities with an MSA over 1 million inhabitants. SW also prefers waiver of landing fees; a marketing of their flights fund; and a fund for start up costs. They don’t necessarily want state subsidies, but in communities where they have taken subsidies they are usually between $15-40 million a year. Check what NW Florida Beaches International Airport is providing to SW since last summer.
Whoa!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel a delegation to Israel will solve the problem! Watch what you say MR. Mayans.
It was great to have Mr. Layton taking calls from the public.
I wonder where the city is getting all of their funds for all these new spending schemes since the city’s property tax revenue cannot be growing with a flat mill levy and soaring foreclosures.
Anytime Carlos pontificates about things, I shut down. Dude is quite proud of running Bass Pro from Water Walk. Look where that left us. Has cost us a lot more in the end.
When Cabela opens in East Wichita (without incentives) and Garden Mountain fails at WaterWalk is Mayor Brewer going to give his buddy Jack Deboer more taxpayers dollars or will GM close down???