Wichita facade improvement program bad for Wichitans

Remarks to be delivered to the Wichita City Council on June 16, 2009. For background on this issue, see Wichita to consider grant to business and Wichita facade improvement plan updated.

As this city council decides whether to give a grant of $20,000 to a private business, we need to consider the effect of programs like this on all the people of Wichita. And people are telling me that they don’t like it. They wonder why, at a time when the city is struggling with its budget, and when many are struggling with their personal budgets, there’s money available for programs like this.

They also wonder why can’t everyone be eligible for grants like this. Many people throughout the city — not only in politically favored areas — would like help in repairing their buildings.

Programs like the facade improvement program represent centralized government planning. It’s the polar opposite of free people trading voluntarily in markets. These programs represent politicians and bureaucrats deciding where money should be spent, rather than people deciding themselves.

Strip away all the lofty talk and wishful thinking about downtown and revitalization areas, and what we have is this city council deciding that people don’t know how to spend and invest their own money.

That’s a slap in the face to citizens. People don’t like that.

Besides the personal insult, programs like this harm the wealth of our community. Free and competitive markets are the best way to decide where to make investments. Government simply doesn’t have all the knowledge necessary to make these decisions. Government doesn’t have the right incentives, either.

These programs have a way of expanding and growing. Now we have the city manager and his staff deciding whether or not to pay certain bills as developers work on facade improvement. This seems to be an additional layer of city bureaucracy that we can’t afford.

Mr. Mayor and members of the council, please respect the citizens of Wichita by voting against this grant of taxpayer funds to a private business.

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