To help citizens become government watchdogs, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity is providing a new resource. It’s the Watchdog Quiz, and it will help you discover what type of role you will want to fill as a government watchdog.
The quiz takes just a few moments to complete, and answering the questions will help you discover all the things that citizens can do to be involved in government, especially at the local level. My Watchdog type is “Content Creator.” What is yours?
Click here to take the quiz.
Following is some material from Watchful Citizens Follow Founders’ Vision For America.
“The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.”
This quote inscribed on the state capitol building in Lincoln, Nebraska, has become our North Star here at Watchdog Wire. We believe that citizens can contribute to better and more efficient local government by staying involved in their communities and speaking up when something doesn’t add up.
But what does it mean to be “watchful?”
The answer is different for everyone, and has changed throughout American history. For Thomas Paine and Ben Franklin, staying watchful came in the form of pamphlets and newspaper columns. Later, being watchful was entrusted to elected representatives in Congress. Now, technology has made it easier than ever for citizens to stay informed and hold government accountable.
The medium used is ever-changing but the sentiment of keeping watch remains the same — to ensure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
So where do you fit into the American story? How do you keep watch on government and its expanding role in our lives? Take the Watchdog Quiz to find out.
Continue reading at Watchful Citizens Follow Founders’ Vision For America.
The following is excerpted from the second part of an essay by David Theroux, who is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Independent Institute. The full part II of the essay is here. Part I is here. Theroux recently appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV; see WichitaLiberty.TV December 1, 2013.
Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy, Part II
By David J. Theroux
(An excerpt from the conclusion.)
In short, postmodern, cultural elites disdain almost everything upon which civilization has rested and work toward silencing all contrary views. Litmus tests that trigger such campaigns have included (but are not limited to) global warming, Obamacare, gender and race identity, Judeo-Christian beliefs, and birth- and gun- control.
In response, Duck Dynasty has remarkably broken through this Nanny-State malaise, connecting with many millions of people fed up with the absurdities and bullying of “liberal” elites. And whether viewers consider homosexuality a sin or not, the show has further raised a crucial tenet of the natural law, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” C. S. Lewis showed in his brilliant book The Abolition of Man and other writings that the natural law is central to individual liberty, personal responsibility, civic virtue, and the rule of law, and has been universal to all civilizations and essential for their very existence, even as rulers have repeatedly and hypocritically exempted themselves from it.
Continue reading at Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy, Part II.
The following excellent essay is from David Theroux, who is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Independent Institute. I thought this passage that Theroux quotes is telling: “‘We’re just sick of all this redneck Jesusy stuff,’ A&E representative Moe Ronic told reporters. ‘And besides, making truckloads of money is really overrated.’” Part II of this essay will be available Thursday. Theroux recently appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV; see WichitaLiberty.TV December 1, 2013.
Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy
By David J. Theroux
With A&E Network facing an avalanche of public protest and in just over one week of its decision to place family-patriarch Phil Robertson on “indefinite hiatus” from its megahit reality series Duck Dynasty, the network caved.
When the PC outrage industry went into high gear with an angry Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) demanding Robertson’s head regarding his comments on homosexuality in an article by Drew Magery in the January 2014 issue of GQ (the magazine commonly viewed as having branded the concept of “metrosexual”), A&E executives promptly suspended Robertson from the enormously popular, cable-TV program, and support for his suspension echoed throughout the conventional media with cries of his being “homophobic” and “antigay.”
In the article, when asked about his religious faith, Robertson noted that his own youthful debauchery was self-destructive and put his marriage on the rocks, and that these were reversed only by his conversion to Christianity. He added that he now considers sexual relations other than those between a man and woman in wedlock to be sinful. In so doing, Robertson did not support bans on homosexual advocacy or relations but instead paraphrased Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Continue reading at Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy at patheos.
Another newspaper editorialist ignores the facts about Kansas schools. This is starting to be routine.
In a collection of toasts and roasts, Kansas City Star columnist Steve Rose criticizes Kansas Governor Sam Brownback on a variety of fronts, especially on school funding:
A ROAST to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who led the charge for the most radical and irresponsible tax cuts in the history of Kansas and, perhaps, the entire country. One of the unfortunate victims of these cuts is education, both K-12 and higher education. The damage will be gradual, but it will be felt to be sure. Brownback says he is investing in more jobs. But he is dis-investing in education. What could be more vital to the Kansas economy and attracting businesses than a high quality educational system? (Roasts and toasts suitable for the new year, January 11, 2014)
Dis-investing in education.: Nearby is a chart of Kansas school spending. It’s adjusted for inflation. Spending is not as high as it was at its peak, but claims of “slashing” or “dis-investing” don’t apply, either.
Those who claim school spending is inadequate usually cite only base state aid per pupil, which has fallen. But it’s only the starting point for all the other spending. In totality, spending on schools in Kansas is over three times the level of base state aid. Also, comparisons are often made to what the Kansas Supreme Court said base state aid should be to its actual value. But the court doesn’t know how much should be spent on schools.
Those who make claims of cutting schools should note this: Considering the entire state, two trends have emerged. For the past two years, the number of teachers employed in Kansas public schools has risen. Correspondingly, the student-teacher ratio has fallen. The trend for certified employees is a year behind that of teachers, but for the last year, the number of certified employees has risen, and the ratio to pupils has fallen.
I’ve created interactive visualizations that let you examine the employment levels and ratios in Kansas school districts.
What could be more vital to the Kansas economy and attracting businesses than a high quality educational system? Rose is right. Good schools are vital to our future. If only Kansas had them.
The focus on school spending — that’s all writers like Rose write about — keeps attention away from some unfortunate and unpleasant facts about Kansas schools. Kansas needs to confront these facts for the sake of Kansas schoolchildren. Editorials like this are very harmful to Kansas schoolchildren, because if spending is increased, not much is likely to improve, but the public school establishment and editorialists like Steve Rose will say that everything that’s wrong has been fixed.
Here’s what Kansas needs to confront. Regarding Kansas school performance, we have to confront two unpleasant realities. First, Kansas has set low standards for its schools, compared to other states. Then, when the Kansas Supreme Court ordered more spending in 2005, the state responded by lowering school standards further. Kansas school superintendents defend these standards.
When referring to “strong public school system,” here’s what Kansans need to know. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” Kansas ranks pretty high among the states on this test. It’s important, however, to examine the results from a few different angles to make sure we understand the entire situation. An illustrative video is available here.
If we compare Kansas NAEP scores to those of Texas, we have what seems to be four contradictory statements, but each is true.
- When considering all students: Kansas scores higher than Texas.
- Hispanic students only: Kansas is roughly equal to Texas.
- Black students only: Kansas scores below Texas.
- White students only: Kansas scores below Texas in most cases.
What explains this paradox is that the two states differ greatly in the proportion of students in ethnic groups. In Kansas, 69 percent of students are white. In Texas it’s 33 percent. This large difference in the composition of students is what makes it look like Kansas students perform better on the NAEP than Texas students.
But looking at the scores for ethnic subgroups, which state would you say has the most desirable set of NAEP scores? It’s important to know that aggregated data can mask or hide underlying trends.
Here’s a question for you: Have you heard Kansas school leaders talk about this? Do Steve Rose and the Kansas City Star editorial board know this?
2013 year in review: Top 10 stories from the Sunflower State
By Travis Perry, Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — It’s over, done, finalized, finito. With the final days and hours of 2013 ticking to a close, we figured it’s a good time for reflection on what the last 12 months have brought the Sunflower State.
So, without further delay, Kansas Watchdog presents its Top 10 stories of 2013.
1. Wayward welfare dollars
An in-depth investigation into howKansans spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in government welfare money came to a shocking conclusion: a striking number of transactions appear to be going toward anything but the basic necessities. From casinos and liquor stores to smoke shops and even strip clubs, Kansas Watchdog uncovered more than $43,000 in transactions at shady ATM locations around the state. To make matters worse, all this only took place over a three-month period.
2. Camera-shy state lawmakers
Fun fact: Did you know the Kansas Capitol is capable of broadcasting live video online of some of the Legislature’s most important committee meetings? Don’t beat yourself up over it. A striking number of lawmakers don’t know, either. It’s the end result of years of apathy that has led the state to be one of only 11 nationwide that do not stream some form of live video. If some kid in the middle of nowhere can attract global eyeballs with nothing more than a camera phone, what’s keeping the Kansas Legislature off the air?
3. Judicial selection gymnastics
Here’s a shocking revelation: politics sway candidate commentaries, and Kansas is no exception. Gov. Sam Brownback’s pick for the Kansas Court of Appeals is a prime example of this, after the situation prompted his Democratic gubernatorial challenger to switch sides on his stance to oppose the new nominee. And how could we forget that, in their rush to criticize the conservative governor, Kansas Democrats conveniently forgot thatKathleen Sebelius did almost the exact same thing only a few years earlier.
4. Follow the money
And as long as we’re on the topic of judicial nominees, how about we turn the spotlight on a few other critics of Brownback’s decision? Namely theLeague of Women Voters and Justice At Stake, both of which claim to be nonpartisan organizations while simultaneously accepting large sums of cash from George Soros’ liberal nonprofits, the Tides Foundation and Open Society Institute.
5. Fiscal follies
Ever wonder just how much work goes into calculating the cost of a legislative proposal? Not that much, apparently. While state agencies claim they don’t pad their figures, government critics charge them with doing just that, and a close inspection of a few cost estimates only bolsters the case. Should it cost $17,000 for the state to put online a spreadsheet of data it already has? What about $20,000 for a program agency officials say could have been absorbed in-house? Yea, we thought so too.
6. Your money, behind bars
How much should Kansas spend to lock up individuals whose only crime is drug related? While lawmakers are struggling to figure out what that figure should be, the reality is that Kansas drops about $42 million annually to keep these men and women in prison. To make matters worse, state law enforcement statistics suggest it’s overwhelmingly because of Kansas continues to wage war against marijuana.
7. Raking-in the dough
Remember the media flurry surrounding the implosion of Hostess, one of America’s most iconic snack food manufacturers? Well here’s something you probably missed. According to the government, former employees were knocked out due to foreign trade pressure, and for that deserve extra benefits above and beyond standard unemployment insurance. But everything uncovered by Kansas Watchdog seems to point to the contrary. Curious? So were we.
8. Couch crackdown
If you’re looking for the nuttiest story of the year, look no further. The City ofLawrence, Kansas’ liberal bastion, only months ago brought us the headache-inducing mandate that city residents are not, in fact, capable of policing their own safety. Rather, officials passed a ban on front porch couches, despite the fact that local and nationwide statistics suggest it’s less of an issue than advocates would have folks believe.
9. Islamic fervor
A Wichita-area school came under fire earlier this year after students and parents were greeted on the first day of school with a large display outlining the five pillars of the Islamic faith. The matter prompted emotions of all scope and size, and landed the school squarely in the national spotlight.
10. Counting for attendance
The legislative session is a busy time for any elected official, but some are less (or more) busy than others, it seems. After Kansas lawmakers headed for home in June, Kansas Watchdog took an in-depth peek at how they faired in the preceding months, and what we found was jaw-dropping. In all, seven members of the House of Representatives had missed more votes than all other members of the House combined.
Contact Travis Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at@muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!
Happy new year, and a look back at some of the stories covered by Voice for Liberty in 2013.
Hawker job numbers a lesson in economic development
Economic development officials took credit for saving 4,000 jobs. Now that Hawker employment has fallen to 3,372, will we update our economic development scorecard?
Carl Brewer: The state of Wichita, 2013
Much like President Barack Obama in his recent inaugural address, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer displayed his collectivist instincts in his “State of the City” address for 2013. Opening, the mayor said “Wichita has overcome great challenges in the past and will overcome these as well, but we’ll need to work together.” Near the close, the mayor said “THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW! We have reached a point where we MUST come together as a community, and create a plan that defines our priorities and the City we are to become.”
Kansas teachers union: No competition for us
Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), our state’s teachers union, is an effective force that denies Kansas parents the choice as to where to send their children to school. The union also works hard to deny teachers choice in representation.
Privatization study released
Kansas Policy Institute has released a study looking at privatization of government services. “With Kansas’ general fund spending having increased by 48 percent in the past decade there are absolutely opportunities for efficiency and savings. In many cases, this could certainly be accomplished by utilizing private sector expertise while at the same time delivering better service to Kansans.”
State and local tax burden visualized
For two decades the Tax Foundation has estimated the combined state and local tax burden for all the states. I’ve created an interactive visualization that lets you compare states and see trends in rank over time.
Teacher quality report issued; Kansas needs improvement
National Council on Teacher Quality has released its new edition of its State Teacher Policy Yearbook. Kansas doesn’t do well. Kansas earned a grade of D+, the same as the previous year. That’s also the average state grade.
Economic development in Wichita, the next step
Critics of the economic development policies in use by the City of Wichita are often portrayed as not being able to see and appreciate the good things these policies are producing, even though they are unfolding right before our very eyes. The difference is that some look beyond the immediate — what is seen — and ask “And then what will happen?” — looking for the unseen.
Wichita movie theater expands product line, now selling groceries
A Wichita movie theater has started carrying a limited line of grocery items.
In Sedgwick County, misplaced concern for an industry
Expressing concern about a large industry that he said is important to Sedgwick County and Kansas, Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton spoke in favor of the need for comprehensive government planning. He cited the commonly-held belief that humans, with their desire for large suburban home lots, are depleting the stock of available farmland.
Wichita economic development: We can’t be satisfied with this
Wichita officials, including Mayor Carl Brewer, seem proud of the city’s efforts in economic development. They should look at the statistics.
Wichita STAR bonds project not good for capitalism
A proposed STAR bonds project in Wichita is the latest example of Wichita and Kansas relying on cronyism and business welfare instead of capitalism.
Campaign contributions show need for reform in Wichita
Wichita City Council members Lavonta Williams and James Clendenin have filed campaign finance reports that reinforce the need for campaign finance reform in Wichita and Kansas.
Wichita economic development solution, postponed
Wichita leaders have identified what they believe is a solution to economic development, but have not implemented that solution effectively, in their own words.
In Wichita, Jeff Longwell has the solution to cronyism
If cronyism is a problem, the solution preferred by Wichita’s political class is to follow Jeff Longwell’s advice: Just don’t talk about it.
Lavonta Williams: ‘You don’t have to go there’
Wichita city council member Lavonta Williams advised taxpayers on what to do if they disagree with action taken by the council: Just don’t go there.
Open records in Kansas
Kansas has a weak open records law. Wichita doesn’t want to follow the law, as weak as it is.
Kansas and Texas schools and low-income students
If you were the parent of a low-income student, or a student who is a member of an ethnic minority group, in which state would you rather have your child attend school: Kansas or Texas?
Downtown Wichita economic development numbers questioned
Wichita needs to be concerned why the city’s political and bureaucratic leadership is not “forthcoming and honest” with citizens regarding economic development results.
Renewables portfolio standard: Good or bad for the Kansas economy?
A report submitted to the Kansas Legislature claims the Kansas economy benefits from the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard, but an economist presented testimony rebutting the key points in the report.
Wichita Eagle editorial board on the truth
The Wichita Eagle editorial board holds the governor to a standard that itself is not willing or able to meet.
State and local government employees, a visualization
How does your state compare to others in the number of state and local government employees, and the payroll costs of these employees?
Kansas school spending, for real
A new organization with the motto “Responsible Policy. Real Prosperity” is producing reports that are true on the surface, but fail to present the total picture.
Kansas school supporters should look more closely
Those such as Kansas House of Representatives Minority Leader Paul Davis who uncritically tout Kansas schools as among the best in the nation are harming both students and taxpayers when they fail to recognize why Kansas performs well compared to other states.
Wichita economic growth, compared
How does economic growth in Wichita compare to the state and nation?
In Kansas, don’t mention the level of school spending
At a meeting of the South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation today, it was apparent that facts are either not known — or not important — to public school spending advocates.
Wichita has school choice, they say
Wichita school superintendent John Allison told Wichitans something they probably didn’t know: Parents of Wichita schoolchildren benefit from the district’s school choice program.
Kansas spring elections should be moved
I urge this committee to support moving the spring elections to be held in conjunction with the fall state and national elections. This will help reduce the electoral power and influence of special interest groups.
Kansas Open Records Act needs improvement
Thank you for this opportunity to present testimony on problems with the Kansas Open Records Act regarding high fees for the production of records.
Personal income growth in the states
As Kansas debates whether to move forward with a new vision, especially in tax policy, we should examine how we have fared under the policies of recent decades. But in the visualization below, where does Kansas rank in relation to some of our surrounding states? The answer is: Not well.
Bonding KPERS debt is not the solution
Borrowing money to shore up the Kansas state employee pension plan is about the worst idea that could come out of Topeka. Legislatures across the country, and counties and cities of all sizes, have shown that government is fundamentally unable to manage the responsibilities of a defined benefit pension plan.
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer on public trust in government
If you ask Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer to live up to the policies he himself promotes, you might be threatened with a lawsuit.
Wichita: No such document
When asked to provide documents that establish the city’s proclaimed policy, Wichita city hall is not able to do so, leaving us to wonder just how policy is made.
Wichita survey questions based on false premises
Some questions on the Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investment Plan survey have such severe problems that the survey may not be a reliable measure of citizen opinion.
Recycling debate short on reason
Responses to a news story on recycling indicate that the issue is driven more by emotion and misinformation than reason.
As Southwest arrives in Wichita, something else happens
Wichita officials are proud that Southwest Airlines is starting service in Wichita soon. Great economic benefit is anticipated. But at the same time Southwest arrives, AirTran Airways leaves.
Intrust Bank Arena depreciation expense is important, even today
Proper attention given to the depreciation expense of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita recognizes and accounts for the sacrifices of the people of Sedgwick County and its visitors to pay for the arena.
Low education standards limit Kansas childrens’ dreams
A new video from Kansas Policy Institute highlights the fact that Kansas schools have low standards. Additionally, the standards have been changed so that it appears students are doing better.
Government planning, itself, is dangerous
The very existence of a government plan is dangerous, as its construction creates powerful constituencies that have shaped it to fit their needs and are highly motivated to see it implemented.
Wichita sees results of new economic development policy
The first action under a new Wichita economic development policy doesn’t produce economic growth, and in fact, harms the Wichita economy.
Language makes a difference
No longer is it “Sustainable Communities.” Now it’s “South Central Kansas Prosperity Plan.” Either way, the program is still centralized government planning, with great potential to harm our economy and liberties.
Kansas freedom scorecard released
To help Kansans understand how legislators vote, Kansas Policy Institute has produced the Kansas Freedom Index for 2013.
Starwood calls on Wichita
The usual problems with cronyism and corporate welfare come with economic development incentives offered to Starwood, but there are specific problems, too.
Wichita mayor said to be ‘under lockdown’
When Wichita ABC affiliate KAKE Television ran a news story critical of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, reporter Jared Cerullo wasn’t able to interview Brewer to get his reaction to his critics. The mayor refused to talk to Cerullo.
Kansas looks better in Rich States, Poor States report
A new edition of Rich States, Poor States signals a brighter future for Kansas.
Spending and taxing in the states
In the current policy debate in Kansas, we often compare our state with Texas. The prevailing themes sounded by Democrats and other spenders include that because Texas has no income tax, its other taxes (sales and property) are higher. We also hear that Texas is “atop a sea of oil” from which the state collects a gusher of tax revenue.
Wichitans taxed into a lower standard of living
To the extent that rebates fund the replacement of fully-functional toilets, civilization takes a step backwards, thanks to the Wichita City Council.
REAP: We’ll plan for you, like it or not
We’ve learned that the government planners will plan for you, whether or not you want it. Despite having voted against participation, two Kansas counties are still included in a regional planning consortium.
Wichita and peer GDP growth
Compared to its peers, the government sector in Wichita is growing fairly quickly, but the private sector is growing slowly
Kansas has lowered its school standards
At a time when Kansas was spending more on schools due to an order from the Kansas Supreme Court, the state lowered its standards for schools.
Part of Kansas tax law has something for everyone
The just-signed Kansas tax bill contains a future provision that, based on recent research, may satisfy everyone.
Wichita needs more, and willing, taxpayers
Is the goal of Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investments Plan to create more willing taxpayers? A paper from the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public affairs gives us a clue — and a warning.
For our own good: No rain, please
There are those who are so sure of the righteousness of their prescriptions for others’ behavior, they will torment themselves when good things happen.
Wichita water supply good through 2050, they said
A document created in March 2013 — at the time the city warned that its major water source might soon go dry — touts an expensive investment that is part of a “plan to ensure that Wichita has the water it needs through the year 2050 and beyond.”
The speck and the logs
What can we say about a mayor who is concerned about the appearance of impropriety when shopping for his personal automobile, but is not able to understand the problems with his own behavior in office?
Wichita city code seemingly ignored
A Wichita city statute seems to be clear in its meaning, but the city decides not to apply it.
Kansas school fund balances on the rise
Kansas schools don’t spend all the money they’ve been given, and the pile of unspent cash continues to grow, although it leveled off in the most recent year for which there is data.
Kansas school employment trends are not what you’d expect
Kansas school employment statistics don’t reflect the doom-and-gloom stories you may have heard from Kansas political leaders and newspaper editorialists.
How to grow the Kansas economy
In this 14 minute video from April, Art Hall, who is Director of Center for Applied Economics at Kansas University, talks about how to grow the Kansas economy.
More evidence of low Kansas school standards
A study of school testing standards has found that Kansas has low standards compared to other states.
Wichita Transit finances
A financial snapshot of the Wichita Transit System.
In Wichita, there’s no option for dissent
A citizen outreach system implemented by Wichita doesn’t let participants express disapproval of ideas when voting.
For Kansas progressives, it’s all about school spending, not performance
Kansas progressives keep the focus on school spending and away from inconvenient facts that harm schoolchildren.
Sedgwick is a red county in a pink state
Sedgwick County is bleeding income.
Business tax credits more desired than zero tax rates
A Kansas business welfare program is more attractive and valuable than elimination of the Kansas corporate income tax, at least for some influential corporations in Kansas.
Research on economic development incentives
Here’s a summary of the peer-reviewed academic research that examines the local impact of targeted tax incentives from an empirical point of view. “Peer-reviewed” means these studies were stripped of identification of authorship and then subjected to critique by other economists, and were able to pass that review.
Wichita airport statistics: the visualization
While the program to reduce airfares in Wichita has probably met that goal, there have been consequences. In particular, the availability of air travel in Wichita is lower than it has been, and the trend is in the wrong direction. In some aspects the Wichita trend mirrors that of the nation and other airports, and in others Wichita is falling farther behind.
Fish, sauce, and the law: You make the call
Should Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer vote on an upcoming issue? The City of Wichita code seems to say he should not vote, but the Wichita City Attorney says the law doesn’t apply.
Wichita’s evaluation of development team should be reconsidered
The evaluation matrix released for a project to be considered next week by the Wichita City Council ought to be recalculated.
Wichita job growth under the Visioneering/Brewer regime
Wichita has set ambitious goals in job growth, but it doesn’t seem that the Visioneering program has produced results. But apparently Wichita government officials are satisfied.
Do you know this about Kansas school test scores?
Public school leaders in Kansas are proud of Kansas schools, often citing our state’s high ranking compared to other states. This video takes a look at Kansas test scores.
Wichita income is not keeping up
Visioneering Wichita uses per capita income growth as one benchmark of economic progress. What do the numbers say about the city’s progress?
Sedgwick County delinquent taxes, the useful version
The Wichita Eagle has devoted newsprint to deliver the data, and you can obtain it as pdf on your computer, too. Neither of these options for delivering the Sedgwick County delinquent tax list for 2012 is very useful.
Incentive program ignores ‘One Lesson’
A document released by the City of Wichita casts strong doubt on the wisdom of a new home property tax rebate program. The document also lets us know that city staff are not being entirely honest with the citizens of Wichita.
Wichita school district checkbook
USD 259, the Wichita public school district, makes its monthly checkbook register available. I’ve gathered the monthly spreadsheets for the last three fiscal years and made it available for analysis through Tableau Public.
Be wary of expanding Wichita transit spending
Before deciding to expand Wichita’s transit system, and especially before deciding on a new taxing scheme to fund it, we need to make sure we understand more about transit.
Wichita City Council makes an economic decision
Last year the Wichita City Council was faced with a decision regarding a program designed to stimulate the sales of new homes. Analysis revealed that even though the city had an opportunity to make an investment with a purportedly high return on investment, it would be better off, dollar-wise, if it did not make the investment. What did the city council do?
Anderson, former Kansas budget director, speaks
Former Kansas budget director Steve Anderson spoke to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Two videos are available, a highlights version and full version.
For Wichita, more districts, more taxes, more bureaucracy
The Wichita City Council will consider formation of a committee to consider a new district, new taxes, and new bureaucracy in the form of a Tourism Business Improvement District.
Touring a Wichita-owned downtown retail development
Touring a Wichita city-owned retail strip in a prime downtown location raises a few issues.
Wichita performs a reference check, sort of
Citizens of Wichita are rightly concerned about whether our elected officials and bureaucrats are looking out for their interests, or only for the interests and welfare of a small group of city hall insiders.
Exchange Place still not good for Wichita, others
Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will consider a redevelopment plan for the Exchange Place project in downtown Wichita. Despite having shed the problems with the former owners, the project has become an even worse deal for the taxpayers of Wichita, Kansas, and the nation. Those looking for jobs and for investment capital to meet consumer demands are worse off, too.
Wichita does it again
Action by the Wichita City Council today provides opportunity for two city council members and the city manager to exercise leadership, protecting citizens instead of cronies.
Bud Norman: “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party”
Bud Norman addressed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on October 4, 2013. The title of his presentation is “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party.”
Wichita contracts, their meaning (or not)
Is the City of Wichita concerned that its contracts contain language that seems to be violated even before the contract is signed?
Commissioner’s questions halt county’s plan to remove trees on private land
Questioning by County Commissioner Richard Ranzau put the kibosh on the project, and the Minneha Township now will have to pay the tab if it wants the trees gone.
Cronyism and other problems in Wichita
Someone asked for a collection of articles about cronyism and other problems with Wichita city government. Here are a few.
John J. Ingalls Spirit of Freedom Award
Last night I was recognized by the Kansas Policy Institute with the John J. Ingalls Spirit of Freedom Award. Following are my remarks I delivered to the audience.
Wichita economic development not being managed
It is evident that The City of Wichita does not manage the results of its economic development efforts.
WichitaLiberty.TV October 27, 2013
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, visits the WichitaLiberty.TV studios and explains the ideas behind libertarianism and its approach to government and society.
Shortchanging Kansas schoolchildren, indeed
This month the New York Times published an editorial that advocates for more spending on Kansas public schools. While getting some facts wrong, the piece also overlooks the ways that Kansas schoolchildren are truly being shortchanged.
Should Wichita expand its convention facilities?
On its face, pursuit of convention business seems like a noble effort by city leaders. Vast streams of economic development will follow if they are successful, they say. But is this pursuit of convention business wise?
Spirit Aerosystems applies for tax relief
The Wichita City Council will consider excepting a large company from property and sales taxation. Is this action wise for the city’s economy?
Kansas test scores unchanged
In the four areas measured and released (math at grade four and eight; reading at grade four and eight), the scores for Kansas have no significant change.
Curious Wichita ethics enigmas
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer’s decisions regarding government ethics are inconsistent.
Kansas school spending, by district
For each school district (and state totals) you can see the trend in each of the three sources of school funding (state, federal, and local) along with the total.
In Wichita, the case for business welfare
A Wichita company headed by a high-profile executive seeks relief from taxation.
Spinning for fundraising, Kansas-style
Kansas liberals accuse Republicans of “spinning” statistics on school funding. Can we look at some actual numbers?
Wichita city government ethics workshop
As far as I can tell, the Wichita city ethics code is crafted so poorly that it is without meaning.
WichitaLiberty.TV December 1, 2013
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: What is libertarianism? Is it dangerous, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently warned? David J. Theroux, who is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Independent Institute and Publisher of The Independent Review stopped by the WichitaLiberty.TV studios to answer these questions and give the liberty-based perspective on current events.
Cessna, another Wichita company asking for tax relief
As Wichita considers granting tax relief to a major employer, it becomes more difficult for entrepreneurs and young companies to survive.
Your local chamber of commerce: Working for you?
Is your local chamber of commerce supporting pro-growth policies that allow free enterprise and genuine capitalism to flourish, or is it supporting crony capitalism?
Wichita city council advances economic development
Yesterday’s action taken by the Wichita City Council regarding economic development incentives granted to Cessna Aircraft Company through the Industrial Revenue Bond program may be confusing to some people.
Sedgwick County illustrates inefficiency of tax credit mechanism
Tax credits can be an inefficient way for government to distribute benefits, as illustrated by action the Sedgwick County Commission will consider today.
Employment visualization updated; Wichita still in last place
Wichita continues to lag behind its peer cities in job growth, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In Wichita, ‘free markets’ used to justify business welfare
Incredibly, a prominent Wichita business uses the free market to justify its request for economic development incentives. A gullible city council buys the argument.
In Kansas, dueling job claims
Candidates for Kansas governor last week released statements on recent job figures in Kansas. The releases from Sam Brownback and Paul Davis appear to contain conflicting views of Kansas employment.
Kansas jobs: Who do we believe?
Let’s be fair. The next time Paul Davis and Democrats praise good job creation figures at the national level as evidence of the goodness of Barack Obama, let’s ask them to give the same credit to Sam Brownback.
Earlier this week we saw that candidates for Kansas governor have released statements on recent job figures in Kansas. The news releases from Sam Brownback and Paul Davis appear to contain conflicting views of Kansas employment.
But we saw that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has two monthly surveys that measure employment levels and trends. There’s the Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey, and there is also the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, also known as the payroll or establishment survey. BLS explains: “These estimates differ because the surveys have distinct definitions of employment and distinct survey and estimation methods.”
Both the Davis and Brownback campaign appear to cite the data correctly. So which is the better measure to use? Which gives the best indication of the performance of the Kansas economy in creating jobs?
Here’s something to consider. On the national level, a widely-watched number each month is the count of new jobs created. This number, which is universally considered to be important, comes from the CES survey. That’s the number that shows quite a bit of job growth in Kansas. But in order to belittle the Brownback effort, the Davis campaign cites the other data series.
So let’s be fair. The next time Davis and Democrats praise good job creation figures at the national level as evidence of the goodness of Barack Obama, let’s ask them to give the same credit to Sam Brownback.
For more about this issue, see Kansas school employment trends.
From Kansas Policy Institute.
KNEA: supporting institutions at children’s expense
By Dave Trabert
The Kansas National Education Association’s slogan is “Making public schools great for every child.” It may be a coincidence that their slogan seems to emphasize institutions over students, but many of their actions quite deliberately put institutional interests first. My belief has nothing to do with individual teachers. Kansas is blessed with thousands of dedicated teachers who get up every morning thinking of ways to help students and they deserve citizens’ gratitude and support for everything they do. My comments are not directed at teachers, but at the institution of the KNEA.
The most recent example of this teacher union (the organization) putting institutional interests ahead of student needs was in an email blast they sent last week about hearings held by the Special Committee on Education. It began with their usual vitriolic put-downs of people with whom they disagree and concluded by saying, “…that everything we know from student assessment – … Kansas continues to improve and that Kansas continues to perform in the top tier of states….”
KNEA knows that that is a deliberately misleading statement. In fact, they wrote it following a detailed presentation for the Committee showing that, while many Kansas students do quite well and likely are very competitive internationally, roughly half of Kansas students (those who qualify for Free & Reduced Lunch) are two to three years’ worth of learning behind. Even more disheartening is the fact that those achievement gaps are getting wider.
The National Center for Education Statistics says that 10 points on NAEP is the equivalent of a year’s worth of learning. The gap was 24 points (roughly 2.4 years) in 1998 when Kansas first participated in NAEP. It was 22 points in 2005 before funding was dramatically increased. But now, after nearly $3 billion in targeted At Risk spending, the gap is wider than ever at 28 points. The gap for 8thgrade students in Reading is 24 points…three points wider than it was in 2005. The gaps for 4th grade and 8th grade Math are 18 points and 24 points, respectively. FYI, the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) is on record saying that NAEP is the “gold standard.”
Similar patterns exist on the state assessment. the gaps between 2006 and 2012 for Reading and Math both grew slightly. Unfortunately, performance for low income students declined in 2013. (We’ve submitted a request for the 2013 data on students who are not eligible for Free & Reduced Lunch.)
These performance statistics reflect students who are at Exceeds Standard and above. You see, KSDE doesn’t require students to be able to read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension (as defined by KSDE) to Meet the Kansas Reading standard. Students are not required to usually be accurate on all grade-level Math tasks to be Proficient and Meet the Kansas Math standard. KSDE and the State Board of Education reduced performance standards to the point where the U.S. Department of Education says Kansas has some of the lowest performance standards in the nation.
By the way, if you’re disturbed by the alarmingly low achievement levels of All Students who are low income, you’ll be appalled by the results for 11th grade students. One year away from entering the workforce or going on the post-secondary work, only 37 percent of low income 11th grade students can read grade appropriate material with full comprehension. Math drops off to 29 percent.
As is often the case with institutional interests, it’s all about the money. This little gem was included in the KNEA email.
“Spalding’s [Friedman Foundation] conclusion to his presentation comparing school finance formulas from our regional states is that there is no way to compare effectiveness of the various formulas except by looking at their results. So that begs the question, since Kansas’ results are among the highest in the nation, doesn’t that mean we have an effective school finance formula? What would happen if we actually funded our system?!”
Yep…it’s all about the money with this teacher union.
As for the claim that “…Kansas’ results are among the highest in the nation,” KNEA also knows that to be falsely driven by demographics. Simply put, there are two-to-three-year achievement gaps between White students and those of color…and Kansas is Whiter than many states. Here are the actual 2013 national rankings and scores showing that Kansas is actually just slightly above average overall (although White and Black students are slightly below average).
Pretending to have high achievement based on low performance standards and demographic skews is harmful to students, and ignoring that tens of thousands of students are falling farther behind is downright shameful. But that’s what happens when institutional interests prevail over student needs.
P.S. I shared this information and our school staffing data with KNEA leadership and offered to get together in a public or private setting to discuss the facts. I thought they would at least be interested to explore the fact that regular classroom teachers have only increased 7 percent over the last twenty years, while students increased 6 percent and non-teachers increased 40 percent. So far…crickets.
A finding in a study on the relationship between science literacy and political ideology surprised the Yale professor behind it: Tea party members know more science than non-tea partiers.
Yale law professor Dan Kahan posted on his blog this week that he analyzed the responses of more than 2,000 American adults recruited for another study and found that, on average, people who leaned liberal were more science literate than those who leaned conservative.
However, those who identified as part of the tea party movement were actually better versed in science than those who didn’t, Kahan found. The findings met the conventional threshold of statistical significance, the professor said.
Kahan wrote that not only did the findings surprise him, they embarrassed him.
“I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension,” Kahan wrote.
Continue reading at Eureka! Tea partiers know science at Politico.
It’s been rumored that he’s been thinking about it, and it now looks like Dr. Milton Wolf will join the race for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate. The other declared candidate is the incumbent, Pat Roberts. At least I don’t think Wolf would have an event like you’re invited to (see below) just to say no, he’s not running.
Today writer Bud Norman delivered a fascinating address to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Norman’s blog is The Central Standard Times. His novel is The Things That Are Caesars: A Comic Tale of Politics, Religion, and Other Impolite Topics. I (Bob Weeks) introduced Bud.
His prepared remarks are available to read here, or below.
An audio recording of this event is available at Bud Norman, Wichita Pachyderm Club, October 4, 3012. Or, listen below.
Once again, Kansans are subjected to a rant by Kansas House of Representatives Democratic Leader Paul Davis. On Facebook, he continually complains about the lack of funding for Kansas schools, recently writing “What do you think is more important: tax cuts for millionaires or funding for your local school?”
Here are some concepts I wish Davis would explain to his Facebook fans. This might be good practice as he considers a run for the Kansas governorship.
Second, Kansas schools don’t spend all the money they’ve been given, and the pile of unspent cash continues to grow far beyond what is needed for cash flow management.
Third, everyone’s taxes have been cut in Kansas.
But here’s the worst thing Kansas has done. It’s a fact that Paul Davis won’t tell you, and it’s something that is very harmful for Kansas schoolchildren: At a time when Kansas was spending more on schools due to an order from the Kansas Supreme Court, the state lowered its standards for schools.
This is the conclusion of the National Center for Education Statistics, based on the most recent version of Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales.
This project establishes a relationship between the tests each state gives to assess its students and the National Assessment of Education Progress, a test that is the same in all states. As explained in Kansas school standards and other states, Kansas standards are relatively low, compared to other states.
For Kansas, here are some key findings. First, NCES asks this question: “How do Kansas’s NAEP scale equivalent scores of reading standards for proficient performance at grades 4 and 8 in 2009 compare with those estimated for 2005 and 2007?”
For Kansas, the two answers are this (emphasis added):
“Although no substantive changes in the reading assessments from 2007 to 2009 were indicated by the state, the NAEP scale equivalent of both its grade 4 and grade 8 standards decreased.”
Also: “Kansas made substantive changes to its reading grade 8 assessment between 2005 and 2009, and the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 8 standards decreased.”
In other words, NCES judged that Kansas weakened its standards for reading performance.
A similar question was considered for math: “How do Kansas’s NAEP scale equivalent scores of mathematics standards for proficient performance at grades 4 and 8 in 2009 compare with those estimated for 2005 and 2007?”
For Kansas, the two answers are this (emphasis added):
“Although no substantive changes in the mathematics assessments from 2007 to 2009 were indicated by the state, the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 8 standards decreased (the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 4 standards did not change).”
Also: “Kansas made substantive changes to its mathematics grade 4 assessment between 2005 and 2009, but the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 4 standards did not change.”
For mathematics, NCES judges that some standards were weakened, and some did not change.
In its summary of Kansas reading standards, NCES concluded: “In both grades, Kansas state assessment results showed more positive changes in achievement than NAEP results.” For mathematics, the summary reads: “In grade 4, Kansas state assessment results showed a change in achievement that is not different from that based on NAEP results. In grade 8, state assessment results showed a more positive change.”
In other words: In three of four instances, Kansas is claiming positive student achievement that isn’t apparent on national tests.
Kansas is not alone in weakening its standards during this period. It’s also not alone in showing better performance on state tests than on national tests. States were under pressure to show increased scores, and some — Kansas included — weakened their state assessment standards in response.
What’s important to know is that Kansas school leaders are not being honest with Kansans as a whole, and with parents specifically. In the face of these findings from NCES, Kansas Commissioner of Education Diane M. DeBacker wrote this in the pages of The Wichita Eagle: “One of the remarkable stories in Kansas education is student achievement. For 10 years straight, Kansas public school students have shown improvement on state reading and math assessments.” (Thank teachers for hard work, dedication, May 27, 2011.)
A look at the scores, however, show that national test results don’t match the state-controlled tests that DeBacker touts. She controls these states tests, by the way. See Kansas needs truth about schools.
A year later a number of school district superintendents made a plea for increased funding in Kansas schools, referring to “multiple funding cuts.” (Reverse funding cuts, May 3, 2012 Wichita Eagle.) In this article, the school leaders claimed “Historically, our state has had high-performing schools, which make Kansas a great place to live, raise a family and run a business.”
These claims made by Kansas school leaders are refuted by the statistics that aren’t under the control of these same leaders.
I wonder why Paul Davis doesn’t write about these topics on Facebook.
Listening to Kansas school officials and legislators, you’d think that Kansas schools had very few teachers left, and that students were struggling in huge classes. But statistics from the state show that school employment has rebounded, both in terms of absolute numbers of teachers and certified employees, and the ratios of pupils to these employees.
The story is not the same in every district. But considering the entire state, two trends emerge. For the past two years, the number of teachers employed in Kansas public schools has risen. Correspondingly, the pupil-teacher ratio has fallen.
The trend for certified employees is a year behind that of teachers, but for the last year, the number of certified employees has risen, and the ratio to pupils has fallen.
By the way, the declines in school employment occurred during the administrations of Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, Democrats both.
Facts like these may not have yet reached those like Kansas House of Representatives Democratic Leader Paul Davis. On Facebook, he continually complains about the lack of funding for Kansas schools.
It’s little wonder that Davis and others focus exclusively on Kansas school funding. If they were to talk about Kansas school performance, they’d have to confront two unpleasant realities. First, Kansas has set low standards for its schools, compared to other states. Then, when the Kansas Supreme Court ordered more spending in 2005, the state responded by lowering school standards further. Kansas school superintendents defend these standards.
I’ve created interactive visualizations that let you examine the employment levels and ratios in Kansas school districts. Click here for the visualization of employment levels. Click here for the visualization of ratios (pupil-teacher and pupil-certified employee).
Five years ago, Media Matters was founded with a few staffers dedicated to a singular, and daunting, goal: restoring accountability and integrity to American journalism after both had been systematically eroded by decades of conservative attacks. Until then, no progressive organization had been solely dedicated to this crucial task, allowing the right-wing media machine to run roughshod over one of our democracy’s most vital institutions. The consequences were obvious, as lies, smears, and misinformation proved instrumental in electing George W. Bush not once but twice, and in building public support for his radically conservative agenda.
What’s astonishing is that there are those who believe that American journalism has been controlled or influenced to any significant degree by conservatives, or ruined by conservatives. I would encourage readers to look at a list of “slant quotients” of news media outlets.
Further, it was realized fairly on in the presidency of George W. Bush that he was a big spender.
Nonetheless, Media Matters is committed to its efforts. Here’s the Daily Caller reporting in Inside Media Matters: David Brock’s enemies list:
An internal Media Matters For America memo obtained by The Daily Caller reveals that the left-wing media watchdog group employs an “opposition research team” to target its political enemies. Included in the list of targets are right-leaning websites, conservative think tanks, prominent financiers and donors, and more than a dozen specific Fox News Channel and News Corporation employees.
“We will conduct extensive public records searches and compile opposition books on individuals,” declares the memo, likely written in late 2009. Investigations, it says, “will focus on the backgrounds, connections, operations and political and financial activities of the individuals.” (RELATED: Media Matters sources, memos reveal erratic behavior, close coordination with White House and news organizations)
What is the goal of Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investments Plan?
Here’s an excerpt from “Citizen Attachment: Building Sustainable Communities,” which appeared in Government Finance Review. Authors are Mark A. Glaser, Misty R. Bruckner, and Corinne Bannon, all associated with the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University. HWS is facilitating the planning process for the city and county.
(Nearby is the illustration used for the cover of this paper (click on it for a larger version). Does anyone else think this looks like citizens rallying to send money to the shining government headquarters high on the hill?)
Increasingly, citizens are retreating from their responsibilities to community and demanding more from government than they are willing to pay for. But changes in local government behavior can be instrumental in reversing this trend, by strengthening citizens’ commitment to the well-being of their communities. Citizens who are committed to community are more willing to accept responsibility for the well-being of their fellow citizens and are also more likely to join with government and other parties to improve their communities. Citizens who are committed to community are also more willing taxpayers — that is, when government demonstrates that it can be trusted to invest public resources in ways that strengthen the community. The central thrust of this model is getting citizens and governments to work together, but realistically, many communities will require new revenue — including additional tax dollars — if they are to assemble the critical mass of resources necessary for meaningful change. Accordingly, citizens who are willing to pay increased taxes are an important component of building sustainable communities.
More willing taxpayers.
Citizens who are willing to pay increased taxes.
I recommend you read this paper. Click on Citizen Attachment: Building Sustainable Communities.
In the summer of 2010 President Barack Obama and his allies warned of conservative groups with “harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.” At the time, supporters of AFP like myself were concerned, but AFP saw the president’s attacks as evidence of the group’s influence.
This week Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal looks back at the summer three years ago in light of what we’re just starting to learn about the Internal Revenue Service under the Obama Administration. Strassel writes: “We know that it was August 2010 when the IRS issued its first ‘Be On the Lookout’ list, flagging applications containing key conservative words and issues.”
Strassel presents a timeline of events from that time. Here’s an entry that should concern everyone:
Aug. 27: White House economist Austan Goolsbee, in a background briefing with reporters, accuses Koch industries of being a pass-through entity that does “not pay corporate income tax.” The Treasury inspector general investigates how it is that Mr. Goolsbee might have confidential tax information. The report has never been released.
This same week, the Democratic Party files a complaint with the IRS claiming the Americans for Prosperity Foundation is violating its tax-exempt status.
Somehow, I’m not surprised that the Obama-controlled Treasury Department is slow in investigating allegations of misdeeds by an Obama economic adviser, even though Goolsbee hasn’t worked for Obama for some time.
In conclusion, Strassel ties it all together and links the current IRS scandal to Washington:
These were not off-the-cuff remarks. They were repeated by the White House and echoed by its allies in campaign events, emails, social media and TV ads. The president of the United States spent months warning the country that “shadowy,” conservative “front” groups — “posing” as tax-exempt entities and illegally controlled by “foreign” players — were engaged in “unsupervised” spending that posed a “threat” to democracy. Yet we are to believe that a few rogue IRS employees just happened during that time to begin systematically targeting conservative groups? A mere coincidence that among the things the IRS demanded of these groups were “copies of any contracts with and training materials provided by Americans for Prosperity”?
This newspaper reported Thursday that Cincinnati IRS employees are now telling investigators that they took their orders from Washington. For anyone with a memory of 2010 politics, that was obvious from the start.
It’s evident that we’re just starting to uncover what’s been happening to freedom and liberty under the Obama Administration (and past presidents, too). We don’t know where this will lead, but we need to be thankful for organizations like Americans for Prosperity and others that haven’t backed down.
An IRS Political Timeline
President Obama spent months in 2010 warning Americans about the ‘threat’ to democracy posed by conservative groups, right at the time the IRS began targeting these groups.
By Kimberly A. Strassel
Perhaps the only useful part of the inspector general’s audit of the IRS was its timeline. We know that it was August 2010 when the IRS issued its first “Be On the Lookout” list, flagging applications containing key conservative words and issues. The criteria would expand in the months to come.
What else was happening in the summer and fall of 2010? The Obama administration and its allies continue to suggest the IRS was working in some political vacuum. What they’d rather everyone forget is that the IRS’s first BOLO list coincided with their own attack against “shadowy” or “front” conservative groups that they claimed were rigging the electoral system.
Below is a more relevant timeline, a political one, which seeks to remind readers of the context in which the IRS targeting happened.
Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal (subscription not required).
Here is the current lineup of speakers for the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
Wichita is blessed with an active and dynamic Pachyderm Club that presents, nearly every Friday, an educational program than enriches civic life. I am thankful for John Stevens, the club president; John Todd, club vice-president in charge of programs; Clifford Koehn, treasurer; and Shirley Koehn, membership chair.
Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. Meetings are held almost every Friday in the Wichita Petroleum Club on the top floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway. The program starts at noon, and it is suggested that guests arrive by 11:45 am in order to get their lunch before the program starts. The meeting costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch and beverage. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.
June 7, 2013
Chris Addington, Senior Commodity Manager, Supply Management, Cessna Aircraft Company
(Mr. Addington spent 3 years in China in technical and business support for the start up of China’s Shenyang Aircraft Corporation as Manufacturing Partner for the Cessna Model 162 SkyCather.)
“Life and Work in China — An Observation of the Cultural Differences and Ways of Doing Business in China as Compared to the United States.”
June 14, 2013
The Honorable Phil Journey, 18th Judicial District State Court Judge
“A Report from the National Rifle and Kansas State Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings; plus Political Prognostications”
June 21, 2013
Martin Hawver, Publisher, Hawver’s Capitol Report
“A political assessment of the 2013 Kansas legislative session”
June 28, 2013
David Barfield, P.E. Chief Engineer, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources
“Adapting Kansas Water Law to Meet Current & Future Needs”
July 5, 2013
No meeting, as the Petroleum Club closed for the Independence Day holiday.
July 12, 2013
Russell S. Sobel, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar in Entrepreneurship, School of Business Administration, The Citadel
“Topic to be determined”
July 19, 2013
Ray Roberts, Secretary of Corrections, Kansas Department of Corrections
“An Overview of the Kansas Department of Corrections”
July 26, 2013
Marc Bennett, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District of Kansas (Sedgwick County)
“There is a new DA in town”
August 2, 2013
Col. Robert “Bob” Hester, Director JROTC Program, Wichita Public Schools
“An Overview of the JROTC Program”
August 9, 2013
Carrie Rengers, Business Reporter, The Wichita Eagle
“Have you heard?”
August 16, 2013
Tim Brown, host of “This Week in Kansas” on KAKE TV
Topic to be determined.
August 23, 2013
Pat George, Secretary, Kansas Department of Commerce
“Growing the Kansas Economy”
August 30, 2013
Jeff Easter, Sedgwick County Sheriff
Topic to be determined.
Does anyone remember all the talk about the Brownback “rubber-stamp” legislature? One that would be totally compliant to Governor Sam Brownback?
By Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute.
Merriam-Webster defines extortion as the “… exaction of money or property through intimidation or undue exercise of authority.” It’s illegal for individuals or corporations to engage in extortion, but some governments are increasingly using forms of extortion to exact higher taxes, make citizens more dependent upon government and ultimately, strip away economic and political freedom.
Government intimidation may not come with Soprano-like threats of violence. Some government officials may not even realize they are extorting the populous — the practice of presenting the government solution as the only option has become that commonplace. But no matter how politely or subtly phrased, the message is “give us what we want or else …” The “or else” comes in many forms.
The federal government punishes citizens with flight delays and service cuts to senior citizens while continuing to lavish taxpayer money on favored political friends and countless other examples of waste and duplication. The federal government will either get to borrow and spend as much as it wants or innocent citizens will pay the price.
Some state officials in Kansas want to extend a temporary sales tax and/or take away deductions for home mortgage interest and property taxes. They say it’s necessary to avoid massive budget deficits that would de-fund schools and services. The message is that higher taxes are the only alternative, when in fact they could choose to bring down the cost of government services and stop giving out corporate welfare in the name of economic development.
University officials in Kansas say they will raise tuition, eliminate professors, and restrict student admissions if state aid is even slightly reduced. They say nothing of reducing administrative costs that rose three times faster than inflation or using large cash reserves that accumulated from a 137 percent increase in tuition and fees over the last ten years. Give them what they want or students, parents, and staff will suffer.
Local governments routinely tell citizens that taxes must be increased to avoid police and fire layoffs, pool closings and other direct service reductions. Why not consolidate overlapping government programs and bureaucracy instead of raising taxes? Or maybe stop giving taxpayer money away to friendly developers who support the growth of government and help underwrite campaigns for public office?
Our state and nation were founded on the principles of freedom and limited government. Yet those who stand in defense of freedom are often met with ridicule. Carl Brewer, the Mayor of Wichita, recently issued a thinly veiled threat to sue a woman for asking him to recuse himself from a vote to give a $700,000 sales tax exemption to a campaign contributor (and fishing buddy). A columnist for the Hutchinson News falsely blamed those who want less government intrusion in our lives for poverty, high property taxes and other woes as opposed to following his prescription for progressive, big government solutions.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors.” Some in our state seems to have forgotten that and are working to prove another of his maxims, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
Citizens must be persistent and vocal in reminding elected officials of the former or we shall continue to suffer the loss of liberty.
Kansas Policy Institute offers commentary on the Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investment Plan.
In The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Differ on Politics and Religion, renowned psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes how the human mind is dual in nature: “We live most of our lives in the ordinary world, but we achieve our greatest joys in those brief moments of transit to the sacred world, in which we become ‘simply a part of a whole.’”
A recent survey by the City of Wichita capitalized on this innate human tendency by equating community with government. Our natural desire to become “simply a part of a whole” manifests itself in our jobs, churches, softball leagues, clubs, dinner parties and recently pride in WSU’s success in the NCAA tournament. Our citizenship in Wichita is one of many communities that define us as individuals, one of many communities we make sacrifices for, one of many communities we call upon to solve problems.
The survey respondents provide a list of wishes, all with the goal of improving our lives, many of which can and should be provided by city and county governments. Allowing businesses to openly compete to build water and street infrastructure, with competitive bidding for contracts, would strengthen the community by precluding any unfairness that weakens trust in the city.
Survey respondents showed a plea for business formation and young talent. The city could promote a sense of community by creating a welcoming culture for all businesses, one that does not pick favorites. 71.8 percent of respondents do not have faith that most people are willing to put community interests above personal interest — perhaps because so often city hall is called upon to hand out special tax treatment.
The survey also tries to identify challenges to the community; respondents were asked one question about Boeing and two questions about political divisions. Overwhelmingly respondents believe political divisions are negatively impacting our community’s ability to respond to global challenges.
We live in the biggest city in the state which brings with it many challenges; solutions to those challenges come in many forms, giving rise to the vast diversity of opinion borne out in the survey. That diversity may be trying but we should not allow the aspiration for political unity to squelch debate. Ultimately it is our ability to engage and debate these issues that unites us as a community.
The City of Wichita should not approve a measure that is not needed, that does not conform to the city’s policy (based on relevant information not disclosed to citizens), and which is steeped in cronyism.
In most cases, the major benefit of IRBs is exemption from paying property taxes. Since the Ambassador Hotel is located within a tax increment financing (TIF) district, it’s not eligible for property tax abatement. (Because of the TIF, the developers have already achieved the diversion of the majority of their property tax payments away from the public treasury for their own benefit.)
Instead, in this case the benefit of the IRBs, according to city documents, is an estimated $703,017 in sales tax that the hotel won’t have to pay.
The Ambassador Hotel has benefited from many millions of taxpayer subsidy, both direct and indirect. So it’s a good question as to whether the hotel deserves another $703,017 from taxpayers.
But if we follow the city’s economic development policy, the city should not authorize the IRBs. Here’s why.
The Sedgwick County/City of Wichita Economic Development Policy states: “The ratio of public benefits to public costs, each on a present value basis, should not be less than 1.3 to one for both the general and debt service funds for the City of Wichita; for Sedgwick County should not be less than 1.3 overall.”
The policy also states that if the 1.3 to one threshold is not met, the incentive could nonetheless be granted if two of three mitigating factors are found to apply. But there is a limit, according to the policy: “Regardless of mitigating factors, the ratio cannot be less than 1.0:1.”
In September 2011 the city council passed a multi-layer incentive package for Douglas Place, now better known as the Ambassador Hotel and Block One. Here’s what the material accompanying the letter of intent that the council passed on August 9, 2011 held: “As part of the evaluation team process, the WSU Center for Economic Development and Business Research studied the fiscal impact of the Douglas Place project on the City’s General Fund, taking into account the requested incentives and the direct, indirect and induced generation of new tax revenue. The study shows a ratio of benefits to costs for the City’s General Fund of 2.62 to one.”
The same 2.62 to one ratio is cited as a positive factor in the material prepared by the city for Tuesday’s meeting.
So far, so good. 2.62 is greater than the 1.3 that city policy requires. But the policy applies to both the general fund and the debt service fund. So what is the impact to the debt service fund? Here’s the complete story from the WSU CEDBR report (the report may be viewed at Wichita State University Center for Economic Development and Business Research Study of Ambassador Hotel):
Cost-benefit ratio City Fiscal Impacts General Fund 2.63 City Fiscal Impacts Debt Service Fund 0.83 City Fiscal Impacts 0.90
We can see that the impact on the debt service fund is negative, and the impact in total is negative. (A cost-benefit ratio of less than one is “negative.”)
Furthermore, the cost of the Ambassador Hotel subsidy program to the general fund is $290,895, while the cost to the debt service fund is $7,077,831 — a cost factor 23 times as large. That’s why even though the general fund impact is positive, the negative impact of the much larger debt service fund cost causes the overall impact to be unfavorable.
The city didn’t make this negative information available to the public in 2011, and it isn’t making it available now. It was made public only after I requested the report from WSU CEDBR. It is not known whether council members were aware of this information when they voted in 2011.
So the matter before the council this week doesn’t meet the city’s economic development policy standards. It’s not even close.
There are, however, other factors that may allow the city to grant an incentive: “In addition to the above provisions, the City Council and/or County Commission may consider the following information when deciding whether to approve an incentive.” A list of 12 factors follows, some so open-ended that the city can find a way to approve almost any incentive it wants.
A note: The policy cited above was passed in August 2012, after the Ambassador Hotel incentives package passed. But the 1.3 to one threshold was de facto policy before then, and whether a proposed incentive package met that standard was often a concern for council members, according to meeting minutes.
Timing and campaign contributions
Citizens might wonder why industrial revenue bonds are being issued for a hotel that’s complete and has been operating for over three months. The truly cynical might wonder why this matter is being handled just two weeks after the city’s general election on April 2, in which four city council positions were on the ballot. Would citizens disagree with giving a hotel $703,017 in sales tax forgiveness? Would that have an effect on the election?
Combine this timing with the practice of part of the hotel’s ownership team of engaging in cronyism at the highest level. Dave Burk and the principals and executives of Key Construction have a history of making campaign contributions to almost all city council candidates. Then the council rewards them with overpriced no-bid contracts, sweetheart lease deals, tax abatements, rebates of taxes their customers pay, and other benefits. The largesse dished out for the Ambassador Hotel is detailed here. This hotel, however, was not the first — or the last time — these parties have benefited from council action.
Campaign finance reports filed by two incumbent candidates illustrate the lengths to which Key Construction seeks to influence council members. Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin (district 3, southeast and south Wichita) and Wichita City Council Member Lavonta Williams (district 1, northeast Wichita) received a total of $7,000 from Key Construction affiliates in 2012. Williams received $4,000, and $3,000 went to Clendenin. For Williams, these were the only contributions she received in 2012.
A table of campaign contributions received by city council members and the mayor from those associated with the Ambassador Hotel is available here.
There was a time when newspapers crusaded against this type of governance. Unfortunately for Wichitans, the Wichita Eagle doesn’t report very often on this issue, and the editorial board is almost totally silent. Television and radio news outlets don’t cover this type of issue. It’s left to someone else to speak out.
Kirsten Powers writing in her USA Today column Philadelphia abortion clinic horror:
Infant beheadings. Severed baby feet in jars. A child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure. Haven’t heard about these sickening accusations?
It’s not your fault. Since the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell began March 18, there has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page. The revolting revelations of Gosnell’s former staff, who have been testifying to what they witnessed and did during late-term abortions, should shock anyone with a heart.
Media Research Center has more on this, including a petition you can sign. Dan Gainor’s column reports “ABC, CBS and NBC have spent 41 minutes and 26 seconds telling viewers about the Rutgers basketball scandal. And not a second about baby murder in Philadelphia.” He concludes “The oddest thing about the media blackout is how it defies everything news folks ordinarily do. Journalists aren’t just predictable, they are stunningly so. Give them a Casey Anthony, Amanda Knox, Scott Peterson and more, and they will be reporting it, desperate for the attention and ratings. That is, unless it makes the Merchants of Death at Planned Parenthood look bad. Then that story will be ignored, no matter how many babies die in the process.”
If you’ve wondered why government is as it is, the school of public choice economics offers insight and explanation. The Institute of Economic Affairs, a London think tank, has published Public Choice — A Primer. This short book explains this concept, and by understanding it, we can learn more about how government and its actors operate.
Here’s a description of public choice from the book’s web page:
“Market failure” is a term widely used by politicians, journalists and university and A-level economics students and teachers. However, those who use the term often lack any sense of proportion about the ability of government to correct market failures. This arises from the lack of general knowledge — and the lack of coverage in economics syllabuses — of Public Choice economics.
Public Choice economics applies realistic insights about human behaviour to the process of government, and is extremely helpful for all those who have an interest in — or work in — public policy to understand this discipline. If we assumes that at least some of those involved in the political process — whether elected representatives, bureaucrats, regulators, public sector workers or electors — will act in their own self-interest rather than in the general public interest, it should give us much less confidence that the government can “correct” market failure.”
Here is the executive summary of the book:
- Public Choice applies the methods of economics to the theory and practice of politics and government. This approach has given us important insights into the nature of democratic decision-making.
- Just as self-interest motivates people’s private commercial choices, it also affects their communal decisions. People also “economise” as voters, lobby groups, politicians and officials, aiming to maximise the outcome they personally desire, for minimum effort. Consequently the well-developed tools of economics — such as profit and loss, price and efficiency — can be used to analyse politics too.
- Collective decision-making is necessary in some areas. However, the fact that the market may fail to provide adequately in such areas does not necessarily mean that government can do things better. There is “government failure” too. Political decision-making is not a dispassionate pursuit of the “public interest,” but can involve a struggle between different personal and group interests.
- There is no single “public interest” anyway. We live in a world of value-pluralism: different people have different values and different interests. Competition between competing interests is inevitable. This makes it vital to study how such competing interests and demands are resolved by the political process.
- The self-interest of political parties lies in getting the votes they need to win power and position. They may pursue the “median voter” — the position at the centre, where voters bunch. Government officials will also have their own interests, which may include maximising their budgets.
- In this struggle between interests, small groups with sharply focused interests have more influence in decision-making than much larger groups with more diffused concerns, such as consumers and taxpayers. The influence of interest groups may be further increased because electors are “rationally ignorant” of the political debate, knowing that their single vote is unlikely to make a difference, and that the future effects of any policy are unpredictable.
- Because of the enormous benefits that can be won from the political process, it is rational for interest groups to spend large sums on lobbying for special privileges — an activity known as “rent seeking.”
- Interest groups can increase their effect still further by “logrolling” — agreeing to trade votes and support each other’s favoured initiatives. These factors make interest group minorities particularly powerful in systems of representative democracy, such as legislatures.
- In direct democracy, using mechanisms such as referenda, the majority voting rule that is commonly adopted allows just 51 per cent of the population to exploit the other 49 per cent — as in the old joke that “democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding who shall eat whom for dinner.” In representative democracies, much smaller proportions of the electorate can have undue influence.
- Because of the problem of minorities being exploited — or minorities exploiting majorities — many Public Choice theorists argue that political decision-making needs to be constrained by constitutional rules.
The book may be purchased, or downloaded at no cost in several formats.
Thursday I was guest host on the Joseph Ashby Show. If you haven’t been aware of this, Joseph’s son Titus — just two years old — has the amazing ability to shoot a basketball. Recently Joseph put together a video of Titus and his accomplishments and posted it to YouTube. As of this writing the video has been viewed 4,914,950 times, and that’s just since it was premiered on Sunday. (Click here to view the video.)
As a result, Titus has been receiving quite a bit of media attention. Thursday the entire Ashby family appeared on the NBC Today Show (video here). On Friday Joseph and Titus appeared on Fox and Friends (video here). There have been countless other media mentions.
So I was quite happy to substitute as a guest host on the Joseph Ashby Show Thursday. Callers included Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, Jennifer Baysinger speaking about the death penalty and Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, John Todd speaking about the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Terence Grado of Generation Opportunity talking about youth unemployment, and Drew, a frequent caller to the show who is very perceptive. You can listen to the show below.
Much like President Barack Obama in his recent inaugural address, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer displayed his collectivist instincts in his “State of the City” address for 2013. His speech, as prepared, may be read here.
Opening, the mayor said “Wichita has overcome great challenges in the past and will overcome these as well, but we’ll need to work together.”
Near the close, the mayor said “THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW! We have reached a point where we MUST come together as a community, and create a plan that defines our priorities and the City we are to become.” And then: “For all of our differences, I have never doubted this community’s ability to come together and protect what matters most.” (The capitalization is in the mayor’s prepared text.)
But what’s really important to Wichita is economic development. Regarding that, Brewer said this:
As we struggle to compete for new businesses and new jobs, especially in light of job losses in aviation, we must face the reality that we are competing with other cities that offer economic incentives for business development and expansion. If we want to be IN the game, we need to PLAY the game, but we have no dedicated funding source for economic development. If we’re serious about finding new jobs for our people — and I am — we must change this scenario as soon as possible. Where will those incentive dollars come from? (Capitalization, again, is from the original.)
The idea of a dedicated funding source for economic development is something that many in Wichita would support. Many would oppose it, too. But instead of just lobbing rhetorical questions (Where will those incentive dollars come from?), the mayor should give us some answers. Or, at least make a specific proposal. Does the mayor recommend a sales tax increase? Or allocating specific levels of property tax to economic development? (The city is doing this on a temporary basis.) Or asking the state legislature to fund Wichita’s economic development, as we insist the legislature fund our airline subsidy program?
Whatever it is, Mayor Brewer, give us some specific ideas as to how you want to raise this money, and how you would spend it.
It’s that spending, I think, that people in Wichita have concern over. The cumulative record of Brewer, the city council, and city bureaucratic staff hasn’t inspired trust and confidence. Giving the city additional dollars to spend on economic development is not a wise investment.
For example, the mayor says that subsidizing downtown development is good economic development strategy. But we see the mayor and nearly all council members voting to give an overpriced no-bid contract to their significant campaign contributors. This happened despite the company’s large cost overruns on previous no-bid contracts awarded by the city. Is that good economic development practice?
We see the city council sitting in a quasi-judicial role, adjudicating the award of an airport construction contract when one of the parties is a significant campaign contributor. In fact, Key Construction — the company that prevailed in that decision — through its principals and executives, was the sole source of campaign funds raised by Lavonta Williams (district 1, northeast Wichita) in 2012 as she prepared to run for reelection this spring.
Key’s executives also contributed heavily to James Clendenin (district 3, southeast and south Wichita) last year. He’s running this spring, too.
At the time this airport contract was being handled, Council Member Jeff Longwell (district 5, west and northwest Wichita) was campaigning for the Sedgwick County Commission. Campaign finance reports revealed contributions from parties associated with Walbridge, a Michigan construction company. Why would those in Michigan have an interest in helping a Wichita City Council member fund his campaign for a county office? Would the fact that Walbridge is a partner with Key Construction on the new airport terminal, and that Longwell would be voting on that contract, provide a clue?
Or: A movie theater owner and business partners contribute to the mayor’s (and other) campaigns. Mayor and council vote to give a no-interest and low-interest loan and tax breaks to theater owner and his partners. Mayor goes into barbeque sauce business. Mayor’s barbeque sauce is now sold at movie theater.
Doesn’t Carl Brewer see anything wrong with this? Don’t his advisors tell him that this creates the appearance of impropriety? Does the mayor consider whether these actions make a positive impression on those who might want to invest in Wichita?
We see the city awarding economic development incentives that were not necessary for the project to proceed. It took a special election to teach the mayor and council that lesson. By the way, that unneeded and rejected incentive was awarded to the significant campaign contributors of Mayor Brewer and most council members.
We see the city taking credit for building up the tax base, yet giving away tax revenue in the form of property tax abatements, IRBs, tax increment financing, and STAR bonds.
The bureaucratic missteps: The Southfork TIF district is just the latest example.
The lack of respect for citizens’ right to know how taxpayer funds are spent is another troubling aspect of Brewer’s tenure as mayor. None of the words “accountability,” “transparency,” or “open government” were mentioned in the mayor’s address this year, as they have been in the past. No sense in calling attention to an area where the city has failed, I suppose.
All this is done in the name of economic development and jobs. But Wichita is underperforming Kansas and the nation in these areas. Under Brewer’s leadership, however, we are overachieving in the advancement of cronyism and its ills.
The record indicates that our officeholders, and those who advise them, are not worthy of our trust, and certainly not more taxes for economic development.
After last year’s State of the City speech, I noted “Wichita’s mayor is openly dismissive of economic freedom, free markets, and limited government, calling these principles of freedom and liberty ‘simplistic.’ Instead, his government prefers crony capitalism and corporate welfare.”
I also wrote: “Relying on economic freedom, free markets, and limited government for jobs and prosperity means trusting in free people, the energy of decentralized innovation, and spontaneous order. A government plan for economic development is the opposite of these principles.”
This year, the outlook for economic freedom and limited government in Wichita is gloomier than ever before. The door for those who wish to profit through cronyism is wide open. We’ll have to hope that, somehow, Wichita can learn to thrive under this regime.
One of the small news items emerging from the Kansas Republican Party Convention last weekend is that Pat Roberts will run for reelection to the U.S. Senate next year.
Look, I like Sen. Roberts. He’s a nice enough guy, but he will not make any waves. He will not rock any boats. I do not understand it. Most 76 year olds are willing to wear purple suits and red hats in public as some sort of matter of pride. It’s their way of saying, I’ve lived long enough I’ll do as I damn well please.
But not Sen. Roberts.
Where every member of the Kansas delegation in the House voted against the plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff — there was Roberts being a “statesman” by raising your taxes without the agreement of any cuts.
This is a regularly repeated occurrence for those in the U.S. Senate. They are absolutely willing to sell the people down the river in return for being called “statesman” and getting re-elected.
The truly disgusting part is that we’re all going to vote for Sen. Roberts again.
If he draws a primary opponent, it will be a miracle. And even if he does draw a primary opponent, everyone will tip toe around for fear of upsetting Roberts and the many people who owe him their careers.
The Wall Street Journal noticed a vote made by Senator Roberts in committee that lead to the fiscal cliff bill. The newspaper explained the harm of this bill in its editorial:
The great joke here is that Washington pretends to want to pass “comprehensive tax reform,” even as each year it adds more tax giveaways that distort the tax code and keep tax rates higher than they have to be. Even as he praised the bill full of this stuff, Mr. Obama called Tuesday night for “further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans.”
One of Mr. Obama’s political gifts is that he can sound so plausible describing the opposite of his real intentions.
The costs of all this are far greater than the estimates conjured by the Joint Tax Committee. They include slower economic growth from misallocated capital, lower revenues for the Treasury and thus more pressure to raise rates on everyone, and greater public cynicism that government mainly serves the powerful.
Republicans who are looking for a new populist message have one waiting here, and they could start by repudiating the corporate welfare in this New Year disgrace.
The Journal took the rare measure of calling out the senators who voted for this bill in committee, as shown in its nearby graphic. There it is: Pat Roberts voting in concert with the likes of John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Stabenow.
If Tom Coburn of Oklahoma could vote against this bill in committee, then so could have Pat Roberts. But he didn’t.
In 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama was critical of raising the debt ceiling in order to allow the U.S. to borrow additional funds, a contentious issue that we are facing again. I present his full remarks here, and they are often excerpted thusly:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
So where can we go to view the future president’s speech on this topic?
The answer is: Nowhere.
Senator Obama never spoke these words on the floor of the United States Senate. Instead, he just mailed it in, submitting his text to be inserted in the Congressional Record.
But you’d never know that by reading the Congressional Record alone. If you’d like to follow along, here’s a link to page of the Congressional Record where Obama’s remarks appear. Note where Senator McConnell says “Congratulations, Senator Sarbanes.”
In the printed Congressional Record, the next item is Obama starting his “speech” with “Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem.”
But in the video from the C-SPAN video library (see below), Obama doesn’t appear. That’s because he never spoke these words on the Senate floor.
The Senate’s explanation of the Congressional Record states: “The Congressional Record is a substantially verbatim account of the remarks made by senators and representatives while they are on the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
While members may insert written material in the record — that’s what Obama did — it would be nice if there was a way to distinguish between actual floor proceedings and written material submitted for inclusion.
By the way, Snopes gets this wrong. It explains: “In 2006, then a freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama made the remarks attributed to him above during discussion in the U.S. Senate prior to the call for votes on raising the debt limit. … The shortened quote now attributed to him is a verbatim capture of the opening and closing paragraphs of his remarks of 16 March 2006.”
Snopes bills itself as “The definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.”
The Washington Post Fact Checker thought it was a speech too, in its article Annotating Obama’s 2006 speech against boosting the debt limit.
Mother Jones approvingly reports on a secretive meeting of progressive activists.
When conservatives do this, it’s branded as evil. Mother Jones told us so. But it’s a good thing for liberals and progressives to meet, raise funds, and conspire, according to the magazine.
The progressive groups that attended the meeting (mentioned below) support policies (with a few exceptions) that reduce economic freedom and liberty. They’re obviously emboldened by a second Obama term. We’ll have to watch closely to protect ourselves.
A month after President Barack Obama won reelection, top brass from three dozen of the most powerful groups in liberal politics met at the headquarters of the National Education Association (NEA), a few blocks north of the White House. Brought together by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Communication Workers of America (CWA), and the NAACP, the meeting was invite-only and off-the-record. Despite all the Democratic wins in November, a sense of outrage filled the room as labor officials, environmentalists, civil rights activists, immigration reformers, and a panoply of other progressive leaders discussed the challenges facing the left and what to do to beat back the deep-pocketed conservative movement.
At the end of the day, many of the attendees closed with a pledge of money and staff resources to build a national, coordinated campaign around three goals: getting big money out of politics, expanding the voting rolls while fighting voter ID laws, and rewriting Senate rules to curb the use of the filibuster to block legislation. The groups in attendance pledged a total of millions of dollars and dozens of organizers to form a united front on these issues — potentially, a coalition of a kind rarely seen in liberal politics, where squabbling is common and a stay-in-your-lane attitude often prevails. “It was so exciting,” says Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director. “We weren’t just wringing our hands about the Koch brothers. We were saying, ‘I’ll put in this amount of dollars and this many organizers.’”
Following is a selection of stories that appeared on Voice for Liberty in 2012. Was it a good or bad year for the causes of economic freedom, individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and civil society?
Boeing departure presents challenge for Wichita and Kansas. The announcement of the departure from Wichita of Boeing presents challenges for the Wichita area and the state of Kansas. The response of government officials over the next few years will need to depart from past and present practice if Wichita wants to build a dynamic and sustainable economy. With a few exceptions, our current elected officials will likely proceed with targeted economic development, and Wichita and Kansas will miss an opportunity to implement meaningful and lasting change.
Wichita TIF: Taxpayer-funded benefits to political players. It is now confirmed: In Wichita, tax increment financing (TIF) leads to taxpayer-funded waste that benefits those with political connections at city hall. … The flow of tax dollars Wichita city leaders had planned for Douglas Place called for taxpayer funds to be routed to a politically-connected construction firm. And unlike the real world, where developers have an incentive to build economically, the city created incentives for Douglas Place developers to spend lavishly in a parking garage, at no cost to themselves. In fact, the wasteful spending would result in profit for them.
Kansas senators seen as unfriendly to business. This was the start of the effort that resulted in a switch in control of the Kansas Senate.
Kansas Speaker: Schools don’t spend all they have. Based on choices that many school districts have made in response to legislation giving them flexibility to spend fund balances, Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal questions whether a school funding crisis actually exists.
Kansas Bioscience Authority. The release of a forensics audit of the Kansas Bioscience Authority coupled with two days of joint committee hearings revealed an independent government agency out of control, an audit that draws conclusions described as sanitized of important details, and an agency and legislative supporters who believe that now, all is well at the KBA.
Fact checking the Wichita Ambassador Hotel campaign. Claims made by a group supporting taxpayer subsidy for the Ambassador Hotel in Wichita are put to the test.
Carl Brewer: State of the City for Wichita, 2012. Last night Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered his annual State of the City Address. We learned, again, that Wichita’s mayor is openly dismissive of economic freedom, free markets, and limited government, calling these principles of freedom and liberty “simplistic.” Instead, his government prefers crony capitalism and corporate welfare. This is the troubling message that emerges from Brewer’s State of the City address.
Market solutions best for Wichita. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer wants to double down on economic development strategies that have produced very little good.
Kansas needs pay-to-play laws. In Wichita, campaign contributions made to city council candidates often are not about supporting political ideologies — liberal, moderate, or conservative. It’s about opportunists seeking money from government. Pay-to-play laws can help control this harmful practice.
No-bid contracts a problem in Wichita. Wichita Eagle reporting uncovers a problem with no-bid contracts for construction projects in Wichita. This revelation illustrates these things: a Wichita City Council almost totally captured by special interests, crony capitalism on steroids, and another example of why Wichita and Kansas need pay-to-play laws.
Why vote no in the Wichita Ambassador Hotel election. In the Wichita Ambassador Hotel special election, there are many reasons to vote no for the good of Wichita.
Wichita economic development isn’t working. Economic development in Wichita isn’t working very well. The Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition along with long-serving politicians and bureaucrats need to be held accountable, and our strategy must change.
In Wichita, pushing back against political cronyism. Tonight the people of Wichita witnessed a victory for common sense over political cronyism.
Wichita school board meeting: Not for the public. Wichita school board president Betty Arnold admonished the audience: “This board meeting is held in public, but it is not for the public, or of the public.” Video here.
Wichita, Kansas voters reject corporate welfare and cronyism. Tuesday, Kansas voters made a bold statement, rejecting a plan favoring cronyism and big government, instead choosing to take a stand for fiscal responsibility.
Kansas and Wichita lag the nation in tax costs. If we in Kansas and Wichita wonder why our economic growth is slow and our economic development programs don’t seem to be producing results, there is now data to answer the question why: Our tax rates are high — way too high.
A Wichita shocker. The Wall Street Journal comments on last week’s election in Wichita, noting “Local politicians like to get in bed with local business, and taxpayers are usually the losers.”
Wind energy split in Kansas. Kansas politicians are split over the the government’s subsidy programs for wind energy.
Brownback, Moran wrong on wind tax credits. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas are mistaken regarding the economic effect of tax credits that benefit the wind power industry.
In Kansas, public school establishment attacks high standards. When a Kansas public policy think tank placed ads in Kansas newspapers calling attention to the performance of Kansas schools, the public school establishment didn’t like it. The defense of the Kansas school status quo, especially that coming from Kansas Commissioner of Education Diane DeBacker, ought to cause Kansans to examine the motives of the school spending establishment and their ability to be truthful about Kansas schools.
Wichita new home tax rebate program: The analysis. A document released by the City of Wichita casts strong doubt on the wisdom of a new home property tax rebate program. The document also lets us know that city staff are not being entirely honest with the citizens of Wichita.
In Kansas, no E-verify, please. The hope that if we can somehow stop illegal immigrants from obtaining jobs, then unemployed Americans can go back to work, is a false hope. For that and other reasons, I can’t join with Kansas conservatives who support E-verify and other harsh anti-immigrant measures.
Kansas may again resort to government art. Kansas may be ready to restore some state funding for the arts. But for reasons economic, human, and artistic, we ought to keep Kansas government out of art. Kansas should allow people themselves to decide how to spend their own money on what they think is important to them. To implement government funding of art is to override the freedom of individual choice with political and bureaucratic decisions.
For Koch critics, facts aren’t part of the equation. A newspaper editorial begins with “What is it, or why is it, that the name Koch, particularly here in Lawrence and Kansas, seems to trigger such angry, passionate and negative responses from a certain segment of the community, particularly among some at Kansas University?” It’s a good question.
In Kansas, planning will be captured by special interests. The government planning process started in south-central Kansas will likely be captured by special interest groups that see ways to benefit from the plan. The public choice school of economics and political science has taught us how special interest groups seek favors from government at enormous costs to society, and we will see this at play again over the next few years.
Federal grants increase future local spending. Not only are we taxed to pay for the cost of funding federal and state grants, the units of government that receive grants are very likely to raise their own levels of taxation in response to the receipt of the grants. This creates a cycle of ever-expanding government.
Thinking beyond stage one in economic development for Wichita. It’s hard to think beyond stage one. It requires considering not only the seen, but also the unseen, as Frederic Bastiat taught us in his famous parable of the broken window. But over and over we see how politicians at all levels of government stop thinking at stage one. This is one of the many reasons why we need to return as much decision-making as possible to the private sector, and drastically limit the powers of politicians and governments.
Wichita pension plan report. First, the good news: The condition of Wichita Employees’ Retirement System is nowhere near as dire as Kansas Public Employee Retirement System, or KPERS.. But the city is having to make much higher contributions to keep the plan funded. These contribution rates are likely to increase, as the plan relies on unrealistic assumptions.
Wichita decides to join sustainable communities planning. The City of Wichita has decided to embrace centralized government planning.
In Kansas, STAR bonds vote uplifted cronyism over capitalism. In Kansas, many purportedly fiscally conservative members of the House and Senate voted to uplift cronyism over capitalism by extending the STAR bonds program.
Intrust Bank Arena finances: The worst news is hidden. The true state of the finances of the Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita are not often a subject of public discussion. Arena boosters promote a revenue-sharing arrangement between the county and the arena operator, referring to this as profit or loss. But this arrangement is not an accurate and complete accounting, and hides the true economics of the arena.
Kansas state spending is not, itself, a good. In the debate over reducing and eventually eliminating the income tax in Kansas, those who oppose income tax reduction say it will simply shift the burden of taxation to others, in the form of sales and property taxes. This is true only if we decide to keep spending at the same rate. We could cut spending in response to reduced revenue, but it is argued that state spending is a good thing, a source of wealth that Kansas should continue to rely on.
Kansas school test scores. Kansas scores on the nationwide NAEP tests are unchanged or falling at the same time scores on Kansas tests are rising — “jumping,” in the recent words of Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker.
Kansans uninformed on school spending. As the Kansas Legislature debates spending on schools, we have to hope that legislators are more knowledgeable about school spending than the average Kansan. Surveys have found that few Kansans have accurate information regarding school spending. Surprisingly, those with children in the public school system are even more likely to be uninformed regarding accurate figures. But when presented with accurate information about changes in school spending, few Kansans are willing to pay increased taxes to support more school spending.
Despite superintendents’ claim, Kansas schools have low standards. Kansas school district superintendents write “Historically, our state has had high-performing schools, which make Kansas a great place to live, raise a family and run a business.” The truth is that when compared to other states, Kansas has low standards.
Kansas could grow with lower taxes. Two research papers illustrate the need to reduce taxes in Kansas, finding that high taxes are associated with reduced income and low economic growth. Research such as this rebuts the presumption of government spending advocates that reducing taxes will kill jobs in Kansas.
Wichita school spending: The grain of truth. The Wichita school district, like most of the Kansas school spending establishment, uses spending figures containing a grain of truth to make a larger and misleading argument about school spending.
School funding suitability in Kansas. As a Kansas court considers intervening in Kansas school finance, the importance of accurate and meaningful evidence on school funding should be the court’s top priority. Supporters of increased school funding rely on two studies that they claim supports more funding for schools. An analysis by Kansas Policy Institute is helpful in understanding why the studies relied on in the past should be discarded.
In Kansas, redistricting went well, after all. The Kansas political class is upset because a federal court drew new districts they way they should be drawn.
Kansas legislative summary documents available. Kansas Legislative Research Department has completed its summaries of the 2012 session of the Kansas Legislature.
Kansas Economic Freedom Index, 2012 Edition. The Kansas Economic Freedom Index identifies Kansas legislators who vote in favor of economic freedom — and those who don’t.
Coalition Grades Kansas Legislators’ Support of Economic Freedom. A new scorecard released today takes a broad look at voting records and establishes how supportive Kansas state legislators were of economic freedom, limited government and individual liberty in the 2012 legislative session.
Wichita increases its debt. Wichita has increased its long-term debt load and shifted tax money from debt repayment to current consumption.
Wichita fails ethics test. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and most members of the city council failed a test concerning government ethics.
Kansas auto dealers benefit from anti-competitive law. Kansas automobile dealers benefit from a law that limits the ability of competitors to form new dealerships. Consumers are harmed.
Kansas schools receive NCLB waiver. Kansas schools have received a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Wichita school spending. A statement by Wichita school superintendent John Allison is part of an ongoing campaign of misinformation spread by school spending advocates in Wichita and across Kansas.
Wichita-area economic development policy changes proposed. Wichita and Sedgwick County are considering revising the economic development policies.
Michigan company involved in disputed Wichita airport contract contributes to Jeff Longwell. A campaign finance report filed by Wichita City Council Member Jeff Longwell contains contributions from executives associated with Walbridge, a Michigan construction company partnering with Key Construction to build the new Wichita airport terminal.
Kansas traditional Republicans: The record. As Kansas Republicans decide who to vote for in next week’s primary election, moderate senate incumbents and many newspapers urge voting for those Republicans who promote a “reasonable,” “balanced,” and “responsible” approach to Kansas government. When we examine the record of the coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats that governed Kansas for the first decade of this century, we see legislative accomplishment that not many Kansans may be aware of.
Wichita property tax mill levy has increased and shifted in use. The City of Wichita says that the property tax mill levy has not increased in many years. But it has. In addition, property tax revenue has been shifted from debt repayment to current consumption.
In Kansas, rejecting left-wing Republicans. Kansas voters have realized that the governance of Kansas by a coalition of Democrats and left-wing Republicans has not been in the state’s best interest.
Wichita voters reject cronyism — again. Voters in Wichita and the surrounding area have rejected, for the second time this year, the culture of political cronyism that passes for economic development in Wichita.
Wichita revises economic development policy. The City of Wichita has passed a revision to its economic development policies. Instead of promoting economic freedom and a free-market approach, the new policy gives greater power to city bureaucrats and politicians, and is unlikely to produce the economic development that Wichita needs.
Charles Koch: The importance of economic freedom. Charles Koch explains the importance of economic freedom for everyone.
Andover, a Kansas city overtaken by blight. In order to implement a tax giveaway to buyers of new homes, a city essentially declares total blight infestation.
Proposed Wichita sign ordinance problematic. The Wichita City Council will consider implementing a sign ordinance that has a major problem.
Wichita fluoridation debate reveals attitudes of government. Is community water fluoridation like iodized salt? According to Wichita City Council Member and Vice Mayor Janet Miller, we didn’t vote on whether to put iodine in table salt, so Wichitans don’t need to vote on whether to add fluoride to drinking water.
Wichita speculative industrial buildings. A tax forgiveness policy for speculative industrial buildings in Wichita may not produce the intended results.
Renewable Portfolio Standard costly for Kansas. A policy promoted by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback will result in higher electricity costs, fewer jobs, and less investment in Kansas.
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer on role of government. It’s worse than “You didn’t build that.” Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer tells us you can’t build that — not without government guidance and intervention, anyway.
Charles G. Koch: Corporate cronyism harms America. When businesses feed at the federal trough, they threaten public support for business and free markets, explains Charles G. Koch.
NetApp economic development incentives: all of them. The Wichita City Council will consider economic development incentives designed to secure new jobs in Wichita at NetApp. Few Kansans, however, are probably aware of the entire scope of the incentive package and the harm it causes.
Open records again an issue in Kansas. Responses to records requests made by Kansas Policy Institute are bringing attention to shortcomings in the Kansas Open Records Act.
Kansas lawmakers, including judges, should be selected democratically. While many believe that judges should not “legislate from the bench,” the reality is that lawmaking is a judicial function. In a democracy, lawmakers should be elected under the principle of “one person, one vote.” But Kansas, which uses the Missouri Plan for judicial selection to its two highest courts, violates this principle.
Surveillance state arrives in Wichita. In an effort to control crime in Old Town, Wichita is importing the police surveillance state. Once camera use has started, it is likely to spread.
Wichita economic development, two stories. Two items on the agenda for the Wichita City Council give an insight into the nature and efficacy of economic development efforts in Wichita.
Wichita government’s attitude towards citizens’ right to know is an issue. The City of Wichita relies on a narrow and unreasonable interpretation of the Kansas Open Records Act to avoid letting citizens know how taxpayer money is spent.
Regarding Kansas schools, power is not with parents. Information and options allow parents to make the best decisions for their children regarding schools. But in Kansas, parents have little power to make good decisions for their children, relative to the other states.
Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investment Plan survey. A survey created for the Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investment Plan has numerous problems and seems designed to satisfy the goals of government officials and planners instead of citizens.
Wichita waltzing waters dedication a chance to reflect. While the dedication ceremonies for Wichita’s Waltzing Waters fountain are promoted as celebrations, we might use this opportunity to review the history and impact of WaterWalk, which has absorbed many millions of taxpayer subsidy with few results.
Charges of slashing Kansas school spending. In their campaigns, Kansas Democrats are charging that school spending has been slashed.
Introducing Quick Takes. Quick Takes is a new feature of Voice for Liberty in Wichita.
Citizens generally misinformed on Kansas school spending. When asked about the level of spending on public schools in Kansas, citizens are generally uninformed or misinformed. They also incorrectly thought that spending has declined in recent years.
In Sedgwick County, a judicial candidate takes the low road. Voters are accustomed to political campaigns that sink low with distorted facts, missing facts, innuendo, and outright lies. Judges, however, ought to be held to a higher standard, and in Kansas, the Supreme Court has rules for judges to follow in their campaigns. But the campaign for incumbent Richard T. Ballinger in Sedgwick County, Kansas, doesn’t seem to be interested in following these rules.
From the United Nations to Sedgwick County. It took from 1987 to 2012, but Sedgwick County has adopted the language of the United Nations regarding sustainability.
You should be able to photograph your ballot. “Every election is a sort of advance auction of stolen goods.” Whether the sale is implicit or explicit, it doesn’t change what’s happening. There’s no need to create new laws or enforcement powers.
In Wichita, creating more willing taxpayers. Is the goal of Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investments Plan to create more willing taxpayers? A paper from the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public affairs gives us a clue — and a warning.
I, Pencil: The Movie. Now in movie form, the story of the humble pencil illustrates the wonder and power of “the spontaneous configuration of creative human energies.”
Wichita licenses the striping of parking lots. Next week the Wichita City Council will consider licensing and regulating the painting of stripes in parking lots. How, may I ask, has civilization advanced without the benefit of such regulation?
In Wichita, confusion over air traffic statistics. The Kansas Affordable Airfares program is promoted by Wichita and Sedgwick County government despite problems with the data and statistics used to evaluate the program.
Flight options from Wichita decline, compared to nation. A program designed to bring low air fares to Wichita appears to meet that goal, but the unintended and inevitable consequences of the program are not being recognized.
In Wichita, a quest for campaign finance reform. Actions of the Wichita City Council have shown that campaign finance reform is needed. Citizen groups are investigating how to accomplish this needed reform, since the council has not shown interest in reforming itself.
Economic development incentives questioned. When the New York Times is concerned about the cost of government spending programs, it’s a safe bet that things are really out of control. Its recent feature reports on economic development incentive programs that are costly and produce questionable benefits.
Wichita economic growth, in comparison. How does economic growth in Wichita compare to the state and nation?
Bowllagio property purchases seem overpriced. As part of a planned real estate development, taxpayers may be asked to pay property owners much more than the appraised values for the parcels.
O’Donnell critics should look inward first. Wichita’s mayor and city council need to examine their own errors of cronyism before lashing out at a member who made an inconsequential mistake.
Wichita could do better regarding open government, if it wants. Wichita, if it wanted to, could provide greater transparency and access to open government.
Wichita, again, fails at open government. The Wichita City Council, when presented with an opportunity to increase the ability of citizens to observe the workings of the government they pay for, decided against the cause of open government, preferring to keep the spending of taxpayer money a secret.
Kansas budget solution overlooked. As Kansas prepares for a legislative session that must find ways to balance a budget in the face of declining revenues, not all solutions are being considered.
In Wichita, failure to value open records and open government. On the KAKE Television public affairs program “This Week in Kansas” the failure of the Wichita City Council, especially council member Pete Meitzner, to recognize the value of open records and open government is discussed.
The live broadcast of the meeting is over, but you can still see it below. The topic was campaign finance reform in Wichita and Kansas.
Visit the Wichita Campaign for Liberty Facebook page, too.
At a time that conservatives are concerned with the direction Speaker John Boehner is taking in negotiations over the fiscal cliff, he gives conservatives another reason to worry.
Heritage Foundation writes that Boehner’s counteroffer to President Obama is “little more than categorical, pre-emptive capitulation.”
The Washington Times reports: “Republican leaders struggled Tuesday to contain the backlash from conservatives over the GOP’s offer of $800 billion in tax increases to head off the ‘fiscal cliff’ — a move that didn’t impress the White House, even as it spawned a rebellion on the right. Conservative lawmakers and interest groups said House Speaker John A. Boehner’s offer abandoned core Republican principles and earned no credit from a White House that has insisted on even bigger tax increases and balked at major spending cuts.”
So perhaps it’s not surprising that Boehner has taken steps to discipline a handful of members, including Tim Huelskamp, who was just re-elected to a second term representing the Kansas first district. Three of the four are notable for their votes on fiscal issues, voting for limited government rather than expansion.
In a press release, the watchdog group Club for Growth reported: “The Club for Growth today praised the conservative voting records of Congressmen David Schweikert (R-AZ), Justin Amash (R-MI) and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS). All three members of Congress were removed from their committee assignments as a consequence of their principled stands on behalf of pro-growth policies, often bringing them in conflict with the leadership of their own party. … Congressmen Schweikert, Huelskamp, and Amash are now free of the last remnants of establishment leverage against them. We expect that these three defenders of economic freedom will become even bolder in their efforts to defend the taxpayers against the big spenders in both parties. The dirty little secret in Congress is that while refusing to kowtow to the wishes of party leaders can sometimes cost you some perks in Washington, the taxpayers back home are grateful.”
Huelskamp said “No good deed goes unpunished. We were not notified about what might occur but it confirms in my mind the deepest suspicions that most Americans have about Washington D.C: it’s petty, it’s vindictive, and if you have conservative principles you will be punished.”
In a statement on his Congressional website, Huelskamp explained “It is little wonder why Congress has a 16 percent approval rating: Americans send principled representatives to change Washington and get punished in return. The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP Establishment cannot handle disagreement. I am not at all ashamed of any of the principled, conservative stances I took in the past two years.”
Updates of election returns for Sedgwick County races through a Google Docs spreadsheet. It will automatically update as I add data.
Click here or watch below.
It’s sort of a quiet election in Kansas this year. We’re not a presidential battleground state. We are solidly Republican at the presidential level, and we have just six electoral votes.
We’re not electing a U.S. Senator this year. Our four U.S. Representatives are Republican and secure, as the Democrats fielded no challengers with realistic changes of winning.
We have no statewide races like governor or attorney general. We do have a constitutional amendment to consider. All it does is allow the legislature to assess boats differently from other property. It’s thought that Kansas boat taxes are very high compared to surrounding states.
There are some legislative races to watch, but the real action was in 2010 and in the August primary this year. Until recently, political power in Kansas was wielded by a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans, with either a Democratic or moderate Republican governor.
In 2010 conservative Republicans gained a majority in the House, and are expected to retain that, although Democrats may take back a few seats.
In 2012, all 40 senators ran for four-year terms. In the August primary eight moderate senators were defeated by conservatives, including the senate president. There are about five senate races hotly contested today, but the Kansas senate will have a conservative majority.
Democrats across the state have been running on a few themes: That conservative Republican legislators are only rubberstamps for Governor Sam Brownback, that the income tax cuts passed this year will wreck the budget and require increases in property taxes, and that the cuts will also decimate school funding. Republicans often tie Democrats to Obamacare, whether that makes sense or not.
No matter what happens today, Kansas will have a large turnover and many new faces in its legislature. Kansas failed to pass a redistricting bill this year, and a panel of federal judges drew new boundaries. The court created districts with no deference to the political considerations that legislatures consider. As a result, many incumbents were placed in districts with other incumbents, and many had their districts changed or redrawn considerably. The political class hated the court’s new maps, but I thought it did a good job.
In Sedgwick County there are 28 district court judges are up for re-election, but only one spot that is contested. There were more judicial contests in the primary.
An interesting contest is the decision as to whether Wichita will add fluoride to its water supply. With a population of 380,000 Wichita is the largest city in America that doesn’t fluoridate. A recent SurveyUSA poll had the No vote ahead 44 to 43 percent, with 13 percent undecided. Campaigns on both sides have been very active, and the pro-fluoride side has been advertising extensively.
Voters are accustomed to political campaigns that sink low with distorted facts, missing facts, innuendo, and outright lies. Judges, however, ought to be held to a higher standard, and in Kansas, the Supreme Court has rules for judges to follow in their campaigns. But the campaign for incumbent Richard T. Ballinger in Sedgwick County, Kansas, doesn’t seem to be interested in following these rules.
In the Rules related to Judicial Conduct adopted by the Kansas Supreme Court, the title of canon four, covering political activity, starts with this admonition: “A judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.”
Specifically, the rules state:
Rule 4.1: Political and Campaign Activities of Judges and Judicial Candidates in General
(A) A judge or a judicial candidate shall not: …
(4) knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, make any false or misleading statement.
The comment associated with paragraph 4 illuminates:
 Judicial candidates must be scrupulously fair and accurate in all statements made by them and by their campaign committees. Paragraph (A)(4) obligates candidates and their committees to refrain from making statements that are false or misleading, or that omit facts necessary to make the communication considered as a whole not materially misleading.
Here’s one example of the ways the Ballinger campaign has acted in contrary to these rules in his campaign against challenger Zoe Newton: On November 2, Ballinger ran radio advertisements stating this about Newton: “more than 60 percent of her campaign contributions have come from her boss Wink Hartman, or Hartman’s companies, or a handful of Hartman’s business associates.” The ad goes on to claim that Newton, if elected, “owes a debt of gratitude to a select few.”
The actual facts, however, are that based on my analysis of campaign finance reports through October 29, Newton herself has contributed 60.2 percent of her total campaign funds. We can see, therefore, that Ballinger’s claim violates the rule that requires judges to “knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, make any false or misleading statement.”
As far as owing a “debt of gratitude,” if a case involving Hartman or his business interests were to come before a Judge Newton, she would have to recuse herself. She wouldn’t be able to preside over the case.
But that’s not the situation with the large number of Sedgwick County attorneys who have contributed to Ballinger’s campaign. Ballinger knows who his contributors are, and the contributors know who they are. But evidently, the rules in Kansas don’t require recusal or even notification to the parties to a case that there are political campaign contributions involved.
Another example: A Georgia political action committee ran radio advertisements critical of Ballinger. He ran advertisements criticizing “secret Georgia money,” and for a time, the source of that money was unknown. But the Wichita Eagle published an article where Wink Hartman acknowledged that he was source of the funding for the ads, a fact which Ballinger signaled awareness of by posting so on his campaign’s Facebook page. But the ads claiming “secret Georgia money” continued to run, making claims that were known to be false.
Hartman’s response might not have been necessary if not for Ballinger’s claim made in a radio advertisement. Citing Ballinger’s long tenure as judge, the commercial — in a disparaging tone and manner — said that Newton “works for Wink Hartman.” Hartman is a well-known businessman and entrepreneur who ran for U.S. Congress in 2010. He adds value to our community through his successful business ventures. And since when is working in the private sector a bad thing? I’d argue that diversity of experience, including private sector business experience, is important to our stable of judges.
Another example: On November 1, a radio ad in Ballinger’s own voice mentioned his cease and desist order issued by the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications. That document may be read here. Ballinger says that happened seven years ago, when as you can see, the order was issued in 2006, which is six years ago.
It might be that the events for which Ballinger was cited (“inappropriately fraternizing with subordinate employees”) happened in 2005, which would be seven years ago. The cease and desist order doesn’t say. But Ballinger certainly knows when he committed these violations of judicial conduct, and if he wants to criticize an advertisement for getting dates wrong, he should reveal the record of his conduct. Either that, or we have to argue over the meaning of the word “this.” We’ve been through that (“it,” actually) with a former president.
Ballinger also claims, in the same advertisement: “… the Kansas Supreme Court reappointed me as chief judge with complete knowledge of the facts.” This, to me, is misleading. The same advertisement attempts a clarification a little later, when Ballinger states “I was appointed chief presiding judge of probate court.” Even this clarification does little to give voters accurate information, as the probate division, at least presently, appears to consist of only one judge — Ballinger himself.
Further, I believe that according to Kansas statute, it is the chief judge of a judicial district who appoints presiding judges, not the Kansas Supreme Court as Ballinger claimed.
Another example: A Ballinger advertisement mentions that he was overwhelmingly re-elected by voters in 2008. Upon hearing that, most people would assume there was a challenger that Ballinger defeated. But there was no opponent for Ballinger that year, which is not uncommon in judicial elections. Consider Ballinger’s statement in light of a comment to the rules: “Paragraph (A)(4) obligates candidates and their committees to refrain from making statements that are false or misleading, or that omit facts necessary to make the communication considered as a whole not materially misleading.” (emphasis added)
I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether boasting of an overwhelming victory in an election with no opponent is materially misleading.
Similarly, when voters make a decision about electing judges, they should remember that the Kansas Supreme Court holds judges to a high standard of conduct in their campaigns.
In elections, campaigns may divert from useful discussions of the issues to engage in mudslinging and innuendo. Both parties do it, but an example from the Kansas Republican Party crosses a line and may actually hurt the candidate it was intended to help.
The mail piece targets Keith Humphrey, a Democrat challenging incumbent Republican Mike Petersen for a spot in the Kansas Senate. As described in Wichita Eagle reporting, “Democratic Senate candidate Keith Humphrey … said the Kansas Republican Party should apologize for an ad it sent to voters that questions why he changed his name and raised questions about his businesses. Citing the Internet Movie Database and online public records, the ad says ‘Keith Humphrey doesn’t want you to know about his background … or that his name hasn’t always been Humphrey.’ … Humphrey said he was born as Keith Desoto and that his name changed when he was adopted at age 11.”
The mail piece also asks voters to wonder about this: “Owns four different companies, some with no websites or phone numbers.”
These issues, if we can even dignify them with that term, have nothing to do with someone’s fitness to serve in public office. Campaigning in this way causes people to turn away from politics and civic life, bringing out the worst in our political system. Democrats do this too, with notable examples targeting Michael O’Donnell in the campaign for the August primary. These, like the anti-Humphrey piece, were not sent by the candidates themselves.
Kansas Republicans — Democrats too, for that matter — would do better to stick to actual issues related to policy when campaigning. There’s much, for example, to highlight about Humphrey that relates to policy. His campaign website’s issues page reads, in part, “The tax plan passed by Sam Brownback and our incumbent state senator increases taxes on working families while slashing funding for education and increasing taxes on working class families throughout the 28th Senate District.”
Then later: “Unfortunately, cuts to public education over the last three years have gone too far.”
Actual facts don’t support these claims, as shown in Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending.
At a campaign forum in Derby, when asked about education funding and school vouchers, Humphrey cited only the base state aid per pupil figures, the same mistaken and unfactual tactics used by the education spending lobby.
Then after explaining the importance of skilled labor, he said “As far as a voucher program or something of that nature, to me it goes beyond the family right into the community, if, again if we don’t support that skilled labor base, eventually we’re going to lose one of the greatest resources we have here in south-central Kansas.” I would judge that to be non-responsive, or perhaps not understanding the topic of the question.
Finally, Humphrey was featured in a Derby Informer news story as a business owner skeptical of the Brownback tax reform’s ability to create conditions favorable for more job creation. He said that the tax reduction he expects to receive is not enough to allow him to hire another employee.
That amount is also not enough to hire, for example, a new schoolteacher, something that Humprey seems to be concerned about. The point of tax reduction is to leave more money in the productive private sector, instead of sending to an inefficient and wasteful government. As a private sector businessman, I’d think Humphrey should understand that, but evidently he doesn’t.