In a statement read at the August 26, 2008 meeting of the Wichita City Council (see City Council Acts on Arena Area Redevelopment), Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer expressed his concern that “The naysayers have gotten too much media attention while those who are engaged and do the hard work are too often ignored and criticized.”
I think the mayor’s assessment is a little overblown. Can a tiny group of citizen volunteers — a ragtag group, some might say — manage to outmaneuver the vast resources of the City of Wichita and its allied quasi-governmental organizations such as Visioneering Wichita, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, and the Greater Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau?
It doesn’t seem likely.
The mayor has the editorial board of the Wichita Eagle, the state’s largest newspaper, squarely behind almost all of his initiatives. Except for the fiasco surrounding the hiring of would-be city manager Pat Salerno, I can’t recall criticism of the mayor on the Eagle’s editorial page, except from citizens who write letters.
I can’t imagine any news reporter in town who, upon receiving an invitation from the mayor to come to his office, would not hurry over to City Hall and report on whatever the mayor said. At length.
The city has a Community Relations Team, consisting of three people (and perhaps other staff) with experience in media. The city’s website fares well in Internet searches, with its pages placing high in the search results pages of Google and other search sites.
We must also remember that the people doing the “hard work” the mayor mentioned are often city staff working at a job just like anyone else. Or, they might work for quasi-governmental groups like those mentioned above.
Importantly, remember that many of these people working for passage of the mayor’s economic initiatives stand to profit handsomely from them. These people — Wichita’s class of political entrepreneurs — prefer to earn their profits mining the halls of government power and the pockets of taxpayers rather than by pleasing customers in free markets. It’s a lot easier to please the mayor and a majority of the city council rather than working hard in the marketplace. These people get their share of media attention. They richly deserve criticism.
I believe that the mayor and the city council thought that passage of the expansion of the TIF district surrounding the downtown arena would be business as usual. But thanks to council member Paul Gray and a few snippets of coverage here and there in the newspaper, things didn’t proceed as usual.