Remarks to be delivered at tonight’s meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district.
Regarding the decision two weeks ago to award a bond construction project to an out-of-state company, even though a local company submitted a less expensive bid:
It wasn’t a promise, but several op-ed pieces by the interim superintendent and school board president last year reminded Wichitans of all the jobs created by the bond issue that voters approved in 2000.
The implication was clear: these good things would happen again to local companies and the local economy if the 2008 bond issue was passed.
Last year this board enthusiastically received a presentation by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. Part of this presentation documented the economic impact of the 2000 bond issue on local construction companies.
This report was featured on the USD 259 website in support of the bond issue. It wasn’t a promise. But it was dangling a huge incentive to persuade Wichitans to vote for the bond issue.
So when it comes time to award the first major contract of the bond issue, people are wondering why it was awarded to an out-of-state company.
They’re not just wondering. Many people — including those who supported the bond issue — are outraged that the board would take the action it did on April 13, especially when a local company submitted a less-expensive proposal.
It wasn’t a promise that the board made — although two weeks ago board members Betty Arnold and Kevass Harding referred to the promises made to voters to keep business local.
But it was certainly one of the messages the voters took with them to the polls.
Did the selection criteria include the location of the company? If not, I suggest that the selection process was flawed, as it left out an important factor that many people relied on when they made the decision to vote “yes” for the bond issue last year.
I understand that this decision is being appealed later on in this meeting. It’s not too late, then, to do the right thing for our local economy.