Wichita elections a blow for economic freedom


Results from yesterday’s elections for Wichita mayor and city council members were in contrast to the message voters have sent in recent state and national races. There, voters expressed a preference for smaller government, less government spending, and less debt. For these Wichita city offices, however, voters — with one exception — voted for those who promised more government intervention and less economic freedom.

The winning candidates, of course, didn’t mention the loss of economic freedom in their campaign pitches. But their promise to grow government means just that. Yes, they promise to carefully scrutinize city spending and incentives on a case-by-case basis, insisting they are wise enough and knowledgeable enough to determine which projects are worthy of taxpayer support, and which aren’t. They all say that, always.

The winners in yesterday’s election — besides the officeholders — are those who will benefit from having a compliant and emboldened mayor and like-minded council members in office as they seek to earn their fortunes at city hall at taxpayer expense. We see these people and their names on the campaign donation reports of many of the successful candidates. Their interest is not good government, but personal enrichment. They generally contribute to all city council members regardless of political stance. It’s difficult to see how someone who has a consistent political ideology they believe in could contribute to all city council members. But they do.

The incumbents who won re-election — Mayor Carl Brewer and council member and Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell — have already proven themselves to be totally captured by these special interests. Now the new council members have a decision to make: Do they stand up for limited government and economic freedom in Wichita, or do they join the mayor and other council members on the side of the crony capitalists?

I’ll be surprised if any council member — excepting Michael O’Donnell — ever votes against any of the projects our city’s crony capitalists bring forward.

This is not a happy day for the future of Wichita. While today’s Wichita Eagle editorial wrote of the mayor’s “enthusiasm for Wichita and optimism about its future,” we need to question the assumptions underlying his sentiments. Is it “optimistic” when a city feels it must dish out corporate welfare to any company that hints of leaving town for purportedly greener pastures? Is it “enthusiasm” when a government that doesn’t trust its citizens to build, work, and live where they want — instead pushing through a heavy-handed, taxpayer-funded downtown plan?

The takeaway is that it’s easy for people to succumb to the mayor’s false promise of economic prosperity through government intervention. The message of economic freedom, of free people conducting their affairs with minimal interference, is more difficult to believe in for many people. Unfortunately, Wichita does not have a newspaper that believes in economic freedom and limited government, preferring instead the big-government approach to managing a city and its economy. Unlike in other recent elections, this time voters largely followed recommendations made by the Wichita Eagle editorial board.

Going forward, we can expect a proposal for a tax increase of some sort soon. Some desire a citywide sales tax for the purposes of economic development. These ideas, along with any others expanding the reach and power of city government, will probably not face much resistance from the new city council.


12 responses to “Wichita elections a blow for economic freedom”

  1. Michal

    Yesterday was a sad but predictable day for the future of Wichita. Days like yesterday, make it harder to stay committed to staying in Wichita for the rest of my life.

  2. Anonymous Mike

    Hi, wonder if simply moving to Harvey county would be far enough or if you’d need to have a buffer county between your money and Mayor Brewer?

    Wichita KS

  3. Anonymous

    If they pass the sales tax you will have to move far enough that you will not even shop in Wichita. Texas is looking better all the time.

  4. Ron

    Sad day for Wichita. Mayor Brewer was so engulfed with power and idolatry that he actually believes that he is important. He was so arrogant to believe that he has a mandate with less than 13% of the people voting to do what he wants and those who oppose him should rethink their views. Recall???

  5. greg

    Anonymous Mike—If you do move up here to Harvey Co., better stay in the country. Newton itself can’t seem to come up w/ enough scams to spend $$$$. (but we have to hand it to them, they sure do try hard)
    I wonder if Wichita won’t somehow try to eventually engulf Newton and Harvey county to get our tax money and then they can care for us country folk who aren’t as “cultured”

  6. Well said Bob!

    Many folks who I met going door-to-door, were not even aware that Wichita was carrying ANY debt-load.

    Had I won yesterday, I intended to make it a requirement that the City of Wichita post a “total debt” chart on the City of Wichita web-site, along with our monthly cost to service that debt. Right now, it seems almost intentional, that it is very hard to get accurate data on where Wichita’s money comes from, and where it is going.

    The low turn-out to me means that “everyone is pretty satisfied with how things are going.”

    The question is: “Would they be happy if they actually knew?”

  7. RobtWms

    +1 Texas!
    I’m very disappointed in this city. I was born and raised here and am just about fed up!!

  8. Anonymous Mike


    I’m a LONG time Cabela’s shopper, nearly 20 years. I shop almost entirely by catalog then online. I’ve been to the stores say 10 times in 20 years, and three of those were in the original stores in Nebraska on a scout trip. I STILL don’t love them enough to buy them a store. If you checked the paperwork on the TIF District, Wichita tax money is buying almost half of their store, not the roads, the store. Cabelas is paying 18 million and the TIF Tax is paying 17 million. So, is Wichita getting half the profit from that store? Why not?

    Later Y’all

  9. John Todd

    Bob’s article in correct. Our mayor and a majority of our current city council members routinely offer public financial incentives to a whole class of favored business developers in our city who have discovered that crony capitalism is easier than competing in the open market. I am not optimistic that a majority of the newly elected council members will end this practice unless informed citizens get involved in the political process by demanding economic opportunity for everyone not just the favored few. To learn more about the economics of freedom, I would invite everyone to attend a free seminar and discussion based on Henry Hazlitt’s book: “Economics in One Lesson” next Monday, April 11, 2011 at the Alford Branch Wichita Public Library, 3447 S. Meridian, Wichita, Kansas from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. For those unable to attend the seminar, a video series of the same program is available online.


  10. Michal

    Definitely Texas. With Kansas 33rd, I think, in economic growth, what is the incentive to move to a different part of the state?

  11. Ben

    Mayor Brewer gave his friend Sheldon Coleman and Big Dog Motorcycle several incentives just a few meetings ago and now Big Dog is bankrupt and the bank owns the assets? I thought the City of Wichita is supposed to own the assets as collateral on the taxpayer’s incentives.

  12. Anonymous


    I hear that Boing may move their operations here to Oklahoma City, how are they for taxes etc?

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