Wichita water statistics update

The Wichita ASR water project produced little water in December. There were 31 days when river flow was adequate.

An important part of Wichita’s water supply infrastructure is the Aquifer Storage and Recovery program, or ASR. This is a program whereby water is taken from the Little Arkansas River, treated, and injected in the Equus Beds aquifer. That water is then available in the future as is other Equus Beds water.

With a cost so far of $247 million, the city believes that ASR is a proven technology that will provide water and drought protection for many years. In 2014 the city recommended that voters approve $250 million for its expansion, to be paid for by a sales tax. Voters rejected the tax in the November 2014 election.

December 2015 production

Flow of the Little Arkansas River at Valley Center. The ASR project is able to draw from the river when the flow is above 30 cfs at this measurement station.
Flow of the Little Arkansas River at Valley Center. The ASR project is able to draw from the river when the flow is above 30 cfs at this measurement station.
In December 2015, the ASR project recharged 19,138,651 gallons of water. The design capacity for ASR is 30,000,000 gallons per day, so production for the entire month of December is less than one day’s design capacity.

The ASR project is able to draw from the Little Arkansas River when the flow is above 30 cfs. As can be seen in the chart of the flow of the river, the flow was above this level every day. There were 31 days in December when there was adequate river flow for ASR to operate, counting only those days when the flow was above 30 cfs for the entire day.

ASR project background and production

According to city documents, the original capacity of the ASR phase II project to process water and pump it into the ground (the “recharge” process) was given as “Expected volume: 30 MGD for 120 days.” That translates to 3,600,000,000 (3.6 billion or 3,600 million) gallons per year. ASR phase II was completed in 2011.

Gallons of Water Recharged Through Recharge Basins and Wells during Wichita ASR Phase II, cumulative since July 2013.
Gallons of Water Recharged Through Recharge Basins and Wells during Wichita ASR Phase II, cumulative since July 2013.
At a city council workshop in April 2014, Director of Public Works and Utilities Alan King briefed the council on the history of ASR, mentioning the original belief that ASR would recharge 11,000 acre feet of water per year. But he gave a new estimate for production, telling the council that “What we’re finding is, we’re thinking we’re going to actually get 5,800 acre feet. Somewhere close to half of the original estimates.” The new estimate translates to 1,889,935,800 (1.9 billion) gallons per year.

Based on experience, the city has produced a revised estimate of ASR production capability. What has been the actual experience of ASR? The U.S. Geological Survey has ASR figures available here. I’ve gathered the data and performed an analysis. (Click charts for larger versions.)

Gallons of Water Recharged Through Recharge Basins and Wells during Wichita ASR phase II, monthly
Gallons of Water Recharged Through Recharge Basins and Wells during Wichita ASR phase II, monthly
I’ve produced a chart of the cumulative production of the Wichita ASR project compared with the original projections and the lower revised projections. The lines for projections rise smoothly, although it is expected that actual production is not smooth. The second phase of ASR was completed sometime in 2011, but no water was produced and recharged that year. Further, 2013 was a drought year, so to present ASR in the best possible light, I’ve prepared a chart starting in July 2013. That was when it started raining heavily, and data from USGS shows that the flow in the Little Arkansas River was much greater. Still, the ASR project is not keeping up with projections, even after goals were lowered.

On the chart of monthly production, the horizontal line represents the revised annual production projection expressed as a constant amount each month. This even rate of production is not likely, as river flow varies. In the three years that ASR phase II has been in production, that monthly target been exceeded in three months.

ASR days of flow and work through 2015-12
ASR operating efficiency through 2015-12Two nearby charts give an idea of the efficiency of operation of the ASR project. (Click charts for larger versions.) For each month, I counted how many days had a river flow above 30 cfs at every measurement for the day. (The flow is measured several dozen times a day.) If a day had all measurements above 30 cfs, I counted that as a day of adequate river flow. I then calculated the number of days of work actually accomplished using the water produced each month, the number of days of adequate river flow for the month, and the ASR design capacity.

As can be seen in the charts, the ASR project is operating far below its design goal. So far the city has not been able to provide an explanation as to why this project is not meeting its goals.

At one time the city was proud enough of the ASR project that it maintained an informative website at wichitawaterproject.org. That site no longer exists.
At one time the city was proud enough of the ASR project that it maintained an informative website at wichitawaterproject.org. That site no longer exists.

Kansas legislative resources, external

Besides the official Kansas Legislature resources, there are also these:

Twitter
When tweeting about the legislature, most writers will use the hashtag #ksleg. To see these tweets, search for that. You don’t need a twitter account; just browse to twitter.com and use the search feature. To get the most results, click “Live” from the menu that appears.

OpenStates.org
OpenStates.org, a project of the Sunlight Foundation, makes legislative data available in a variety of formats.

Advocacy groups and lobbyists
Advocacy groups often create and publish much material about the legislature and Kansas government. Often these groups have an ideological stance that may color or influence their material. Some of these groups may report on the daily activity at the Capitol that affects their area of interest. Some leading examples:

Kansas Policy Institute
Kansas National Education Association
Kansas Association of School Boards
Americans for Prosperity

Some lobbyists and organizations publish material that may be helpful. Examples include League of Kansas Municipalities and
the law firm Foulston Siefkin with its weekly newsletter Kansas Legislative Insights (available on this page).

Legislators
Many legislators maintain an active presence online. It may be through an active website, email newsletters, Facebook pages, or Twitter feeds. Probably the best way to find these outlets for legislators is to use Google or your favorite search engine. Examples include Amanda Grosserode (sample newsletter here) and Stephanie Clayton (Facebook page here, Twitter feed here).

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt spoke to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 22, 2106. He addressed cases before the Kansas and United States Supreme Courts, including the Wichita marijuana case and the Carr Brothers appeal. This is an audio presentation.

Property rights in Wichita: Your roof

The Wichita City Council will attempt to settle a dispute concerning whether a new roof should be allowed to have a vertical appearance rather than the horizontal appearance of the old.

1500 N. Park Place in Wichita, August 2015. From Google Maps. Click for larger version.
1500 N. Park Place in Wichita, August 2015. From Google Maps. Click for larger version.
Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will be asked to uphold a decision of the Historic Preservation Board (HPB) regarding the characteristics of a roof someone installed on their house. Here’s material from the agenda packet for the meeting:

Analysis: By a 4-0-1 vote, the HPB found the installation of the metal panel roof does encroach upon, damage and destroy the Park Place Fairview Historic District by installing a non-traditional roofing material and altering the horizontal pattern of the roof shingles which is a character-defining feature of the house. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards #2 and #3 specifically deal with the character of the building itself. There is no evidence in historic Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, historic aerial photographs of the property, or historic building permit records that 1500 North Park Place ever had a metal panel or standing seam metal roof. There is no evidence of the property’s roof structure that this house ever had anything other than cedar shingles or composite singles. The issue is not with the metal material, it is with the metal sheet which gives a vertical appearance given to a roof that had a horizontal appearance. The design guidelines adopted by City Council for this historic district do not mention metal panel roofing material as appropriate material for this district (Section 2.12.1021.1 of the Wichita Code of Ordinances). The applicant did not provide an option to use metal shingles that would have the same appearance as the existing shingle roof.

Since the property is a contributing structure in the WRHP, the RHKP and the NRHP, the metal panel roof cannot proceed without the City Council finding that there are not any “feasible and prudent alternatives” to the metal panel roofing material. (Emphasis added.)

Kansas highway conditions

Has continually “robbing the bank of KDOT” harmed Kansas highways?

The long-time practice of transferring money from the state’s highway fund to the general fund — known as “robbing the bank of KDOT” — is criticized as being harmful to the condition of the state’s highways.

Data from Kansas Department of Transportation shows that the condition of Kansas highways improved during the 1980s and 1990s. The highways have remained in a high level of condition since then.

This is not to argue in favor of transferring highway funds, but to show that Kansas highways are not deteriorating as some alledge.

Kansas percentage of pavement in good or very good condition 2015

Kansas, a rural state?

How does the population in Kansas compare to the nation and other states?

One of the most-often repeated themes in Kansas is that we are a rural state. Therefore, comparisons of Kansas to other states must be tempered and adjusted by this. It seems to be common knowledge.

Rural populations of the states. Click for larger version.
Rural populations of the states. Click for larger version.
There may be several ways to measure the “ruralness” of a state. One way is the percent of the state’s people that live in rural areas. The U.S. Census Bureau has these statistics. In the chart made from these statistics, Kansas is right in the middle of the states. 25.80 percent of Kansans live in rural areas.

That’s not too far from the country as a whole. For the entire United States, 80.7 percent of the population lives in an urban setting, according to the 2010 census. For Kansas, the figure is 74.2 percent.

Over time, Kansas is becoming more of an urban state, just as are most states and the country as a whole.

Do these numbers mean anything? It’s common for Kansas politicians to emphasize — even exaggerate — whatever connections they may have to a family farm. It’s part of a nostalgic and romanticized view of Kansas, the Kansas of Home on the Range. We are the “Wheat State” and “Breadbasket of the World,” and “One Kansas farmer feeds 128 people (plus you).”

So while Kansas is in the middle in the ranking of percent of population living in rural areas, our state’s politicians continue to play the “rural card.”

Voters and policymakers should keep this in mind, although politicians may not.

Click here to view and use an interactive visualization of states and urban population.

Percent urban population by state, with Kansas emphasized. Click for larger.
Percent urban population by state, with Kansas emphasized. Click for larger.

Pupil-teacher ratios in the states

Kansas ranks near the top of the states in having a low pupil-teacher ratio.

Pupil-Teacher Ratios in the States. Click for larger version.
Pupil-Teacher Ratios in the States. Click for larger version.
Data from National Center for Education Statistics, ELSI Elementary and Secondary Information System, shows that Kansas is near the top of the states in pupil-teacher ratio, meaning that Kansas has many teachers compared to the number of students.

A common complaint in Kansas is that class sizes have been rising. While pupil-teacher ratio is not the same measure as class size, the question is this: If Kansas has a low pupil-teacher ratio, but class sizes are large and rising, what are these teachers doing?

In the chart of pupil-teacher ratios over time, we see that while the ratio in Kansas rose during the 2014 school year, the trend over time is down, meaning that the number of teachers has increased faster than enrollment. Also, note the position of Kansas compared to other states. The pupil-teacher ratio in Kansas is lower than in most states.

Click here to access the visualization.

Pupil-teacher Ratios in the States, Kansas highlighted.
Pupil-teacher Ratios in the States, Kansas highlighted.

Kansas efficiency study released

An interim version of a report presents possibilities of saving the state $2 billion over five years.

This week the Kansas Legislature received an interim version of the efficiency report it commissioned last year. Said by its creators to involve a team of more than 40 professionals who devoted over 6,000 hours, it is described as an “in-depth analysis of the operations of [participating state] agencies.”

The bottom line is this: “This report includes 105 recommendations which cumulatively would provide $2.04 billion in benefits to the State over the next five years.”

Undoubtedly this report will be the subject of discussion and debate over the next few years. It is through that process we will discover which recommendations are feasible, and more importantly, which are within the realm of political possibilities.

It’s important to place this report in context. In 2012 the legislature reduced tax rates. While some, perhaps many, do not like the way the tax cuts were distributed, a central fact remains: The cuts were designed to leave more money in the private sector. Therefore, state government needed to shrink in order to match the lower revenue. But that did not happen. The governor and legislature were unwilling to make meaningful spending cuts. Instead, the state used its positive bank balance to support increased spending, and then in 2015 raised taxes.

The question is this: Why didn’t the legislature initiate this efficiency study in 2012? Why did it wait until 2015? The authors of the study claim there is much savings to be had, more than what was needed to reconcile spending with revenue the past few years. But the last three years are now lost to time. If it’s true that the efficiency study will yield real savings, then the governor and legislature were three years late starting the process. There is no excuse for that, and all parties deserve criticism. The savings could have been used to reduce the burden of the state’s high sales tax on groceries for low-income families. The savings could have been used to tackle the waiting lists for social services. But these opportunities have been squandered.

More context is that Kansas liberals and moderates almost universally condemn the study and its $2.6 million price tag. But if the study produces real savings, they can be used to fund items like the two mentioned in the previous paragraph, or for other spending programs liberals and moderates want.

Finding a copy of the report online is not straightforward. Click here to view.

Ranzau petition to Kansas Supreme Court

A filing by a group seeking to recall a county commissioner declares “facts” that can’t possibly be known at this time.

Those hoping to recall Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau have filed a petition with the Kansas Supreme Court seeking to overturn the finding of the Sedgwick County District Attorney. That finding was the petition did not meet the grounds and conditions proscribed in Kansas law.

(Many news headlines and reporting use phrases like “District Attorney blocks petition.” That’s not accurate. The DA simply ruled that the petition did not meet the legal requirements.)

In the filing, under a section title “Statement of Facts,” paragraph 2 starts with “It is the will of the electors of Sedgwick County’s District 4 to seek the removal of Richard Ranzau from office …”

I’d like to know how the petitioner knows the will of the electors (voters) of district 4, specifically that they want to remove Ranzau from office. Since August 2008, Ranzau has prevailed in all four elections regarding his current office. In each election the revealed preference — or “will” — of the voters is that they preferred Ranzau to the alternatives, both other Republicans in two primary elections, and Democrats in two general elections. Each election was contested by experienced politicians who had held offices including that of Sedgwick County Commissioner, Wichita City Council Member, Kansas State Representative, and Kansas State Senator.

The only fact we know so far is that there are 100 citizens of Sedgwick County (not just district 4 residents) who have signed up to become recall petition circulators. Should the recall petition be approved, these circulators would have to gather a large number of valid signatures in a short period of time. If that petitioning effort is successful, there will be an election. It is at that time — and only that time — that the electors (voters) of district 4 express their will regarding the recall of Richard Ranzau.

Kansas state and local tax revenue

Tax group definitions.
Tax group definitions.
In order to simplify this chart, I created four groups of taxes. As there are many taxes that are small in amount, I group them together as “Other.” For the group “Sales” I include the general sales and use tax, plus the cigarette and tobacco tax, plus liquor and beer tax, as these are of the same nature as the general sales tax.

Note this is both taxes collected by the state, and also by local governments.

Source of data is Kansas Tax Facts, various years. Values are nominal; not adjusted for inflation. To access the interactive visualization that is the basis of the example shown below, click here.

Kansas State and Local Tax Revenue. Click for larger.
Kansas State and Local Tax Revenue. Click for larger.

Kansas school employment

Kansas school employment declined for the current school year, and ratios of employees to pupils rose.

Figures released by the Kansas State Department of Education show the number of teachers and certified employees declined for the 2015-2016 school year.

The number of Pre K through grade 12 teachers fell to 30,413 from 30,868, a decline of 1.48 percent. Certified employees fell to 41,405 from 41,975, or by 1.36 percent.

Enrollment fell too, from 464,395 to 463,504, or 0.19 percent. As a result, the ratios of teachers to students and certified employees to students rose. The pupil-teacher ratio rose from 15.04 pupils per teacher to 15.24. For a school with 1,000 students, this change would be caused by the loss of one teacher.

The relative change in enrollment and employment is not the same in every district. The Kansas City school district saw its pupil-teacher ratio continue to decline, although the certified employee-pupil ratio rose slightly.

Of note, Kansas school fund balances rose slightly this year, both in absolute dollars and dollars per pupil.

I’ve gathered the numbers from KSDE and present them in an interactive visualization. to open it in a new window.

Kansas School Employment State Totals. Click for larger.
Kansas School Employment State Totals. Click for larger.

School choice in Kansas: The haves and have-nots

Kansas non-profit executives work to deny low-income families the school choice opportunities that executive salaries can afford.

Kansas Association of School BoardsKansas Association of School Boards
Executives and annual salaries 1
John Heim, Executive Director $158,809
Donna Whiteman, Assistant Executive Director $105,872

Can afford to send their children to any school.

Kansas National Education AssociationKansas National Education Association Political Action Committee
Executives and annual salaries 2
Karen Godfrey, President $98,234
Claudette Johns, Executive Director $125,052
Kevin Riemann, Associate Executive Director $123,143
David Schnauer, General Counsel $114,886
Marjorie Blaufuss, Staff Counsel $116,731
Mark Desetti, Director of Governmental Relations $115,106
Anthony White, Uniserv Director $112,605
Burle Neely, Uniserv Director $111,199

Can afford to send their children to any school.

All the above lobby vigorously against any form of school choice.

Zip code 67214 in Wichita from Google mapsZip code 67214, Northeast Wichita
Median family income $29,637 3

Can this family afford school choice?

School Choice in Kansas - The Haves and Have Nots b

Notes:

  1. Source: IRS Form 990 for 2013
  2. Source: IRS Form 990 for 2013
  3. Source: U.S. Census, 2014

Kansas legislative resources

Citizens who want to be informed of the happenings of the Kansas Legislature have these resources available.

Legislative documents
The Legislature’s site at kslegislature.org has rosters of members, lists of committees, lists of bills, journals (the daily record of proceedings in each chamber), calendars (the plan for the day, along with topics for upcoming committee meetings).

A useful feature is the “Current Happenings” link for both the House and Senate. This has a link to the bills that have seen movement in some way each day. The page for each bill is generally useful, too, with the steps in the bill’s history, along with links to the bill text, fiscal and supplemental notes, and other material. Fiscal notes — prepared by the Division of Budget — estimate the financial impact of a bill, while the supplemental notes — prepared by Kansas Legislative Research Department — contain background and explanatory information. When attempting to understand legislation, the fiscal and supplemental notes are very useful.

Audio and video
Both the House and Senate broadcast audio of their proceedings. But you must listen live, as the broadcasts are not made available to the public in any other way. It would be exceedingly simple to make these past broadcasts available to the public, as explained here. But the legislature does not retain audio recordings of sessions.

The Kansas Legislature does not make available video of its proceedings.

Documents
Kansas Legislative Research Department (KLRD) has many documents that are useful in understanding state government and the legislature. This agency’s home page is www.kslegresearch.org. Of particular interest:

Kansas Legislative Briefing Book. This book’s audience is legislators, but anyone can benefit. The book has a chapter for major areas of state policy and legislation, giving history, background, and explanations of law. In some years the entire collection of material has been made available as a single pdf file, but not so this year. Contact information for the legislative analysts is made available in each chapter. The most recent version can be found on the Reports and Publications page. The version for 2015 is available here. A version for the 2016 session should be available soon. Update: The 2016 version is now available here.

Of note, versions of the briefing book from years past are useful. KLRD doesn’t provide links to these old documents, but they are available. The search feature of the page (top right corner) will find these documents. It forms a Google site-specific search which looks like this: “site:www.kslegresearch.org summary of legislation.” The same works for old versions of other KLRD documents.

Kansas Fiscal Facts. This book, in 134 pages, provides “basic budgetary facts” to those without budgetary experience. It provides an overview of the budget, and then more information for each of the six branches of Kansas state government. There is a glossary and contact information for the fiscal analysts responsible for different areas of the budget. This document is updated each year. The most recent version can be found on the Reports and Publications page.

Legislative Procedure in Kansas. This book of 236 pages holds the rules and explanations of how the Kansas Legislature works. It was last revised in November 2006, but the subject that is the content of this book changes slowly over the years. The direct link is Legislative Procedure in Kansas, November 2006.

How a Bill Becomes Law. This is a one-page diagram of the legislative steps involved in passing laws. The direct link is How a Bill Becomes Law.

Summary of Legislation. This document is created each year, and is invaluable in remembering what laws were passed each year. From its introduction: “This publication includes summaries of the legislation enacted by the 2015 Legislature. Not summarized are bills of a limited, local, technical, clarifying, or repealing nature, and bills that were vetoed (sustained).” 200 pages for 2015. The most recent version can be found on the Reports and Publications page.

Legislative Highlights. This is a more compact version of the Summary of Legislation, providing the essentials of the legislative session in 12 pages for 2015. The most recent version can be found on the Reports and Publications page.

Kansas Tax Facts. This book provides information on state and local taxes in Kansas. The most recent version can be found on the Revenue and Tax page.

Kansas Statutes. The laws of our state. The current statutes can be found at the Revisor of Statutes page.

Kansas Register. From the Kansas Secretary of State: “The Kansas Register is the official state newspaper. This publication provides a wide range of information such as proposed and adopted administrative regulations, new state laws, bond sales and redemptions, notice of open meetings, state contracts offered for bid, attorney general opinions, and many other public notices.” The Register is published each week, and may be found at Kansas Register.

Year in review: 2015

Here are highlights from the Voice for Liberty for 2015. Also be sure to view the programs on WichitaLiberty.TV for guests like debate expert Rodney Wren, radio talk show Joseph Ashby, Congressman Mike Pompeo, Dave Trabert and James Franko of Kansas Policy Institute, author Shari Howard McMinn, Sedgwick County Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, Rodger Woods of Americans for Prosperity, Jeffrey Tucker of Foundation for Economic Education, Radio talk show host Andy Hooser, and Jonathan Williams of American Legislative Exchange Council.

January

A chance for Wichita to embrace transparency
Promises of transparency were made during the recent Wichita sales tax campaign. If the city cares about government transparency, the city should implement its campaign promises, even though the tax did not pass. Click here.

Wichita loan agreement subject to interpretation
In 2009 the City of Wichita entered into an ambiguous agreement to grant a forgivable loan, and then failed to follow its own agreement. Worse yet, there has been no improvement to similar contracts. Such agreements empower the city to grant favor at its discretion. Click here.

Wichita TIF projects: some background
Tax increment financing disrupts the usual flow of tax dollars, routing funds away from cash-strapped cities, counties, and schools back to the TIF-financed development. TIF creates distortions in the way cities develop, and researchers find that the use of TIF means lower economic growth. Click here.

Government intervention may produce unwanted incentives
A Kansas economic development incentive program has the potential to alter hiring practices for reasons not related to applicants’ job qualifications. Click here.

Wichita city hall falls short in taxpayer protection
An incentives agreement the Wichita city council passed on first reading is missing several items that city policy requires. How the council and city staff handle the second reading of this ordinance will let us know for whose interests city hall works: citizens, or cronies. Click here.

In Kansas, PEAK has a leak
A Kansas economic development incentive program is pitched as being self-funded, but is probably a drain on the state treasure nonetheless. Click here.

Kansas Democratic Party income tax reckoning
A story told to generate sympathy for working mothers at the expense of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is based on arithmetic that is not plausible. Click here.

A Kansas calamity, at $15,399 per pupil
If things are so bad in Kansas schools at this level of spending, will any amount of spending satisfy school districts? Click here.

Sin-tax or vice-tax?
As Kansas considers raising additional revenue by raising the tax on tobacco and alcohol, let’s declare the end to governmental labeling of vice as sin, and people as sinners. Click here.

Ray Merrick on the gotcha factor
The Kansas House of Representatives, led by its Speaker, decides to retain the ability to cast votes in secret. Click here.

February

Availability of testimony in the Kansas Legislature
Despite having a website with the capability, only about one-third of standing committees in the Kansas Legislature are providing written testimony online. Click here.

Kansas spring elections should be moved
Moving spring elections to fall of even-numbered years would produce more votes on local offices like city council and school board. Click here.

Making Wichita an inclusive and attractive community
There are things both easy and difficult Wichita could do to make the city inclusive and welcoming of all, especially the young and diverse. Click here.

How do school choice programs affect budgets and performance of school districts?
Opponents of school choice programs argue the programs harm school districts, both financially and in their ability to serve their remaining students. Evidence does not support this position. Click here.

What we can learn from the piano
The purchase of a piano by a Kansas school district teaches us a lesson. Instead of a system in which schools raise money voluntarily — a system in which customers are happy to buy, donors are happy to give, and schools are grateful to receive — we have strife. Click here.

Community improvement districts in Kansas
Community Improvement Districts are a relatively recent creation of the Kansas Legislature. In a CID, merchants charge additional sales tax, up to an extra two cents per dollar. Click here.

Industrial revenue bonds in Kansas
Industrial Revenue Bonds are a confusing economic development program. Click here.

STAR bonds in Kansas
The Kansas STAR bonds program provides a mechanism for spending by autopilot, without specific appropriation by the legislature. Click here.

Sam Williams, CPA?
Sam Williams, a candidate for Wichita mayor, is not entitled to use the title “CPA,” according to Kansas law. Click here.

Rally for school choice in Kansas
This month, parents and children from around Kansas rallied in the Kansas Capitol for school choice. Click here.

March

School choice and state spending on schools
States like Kansas that are struggling to balance budgets could use school choice programs as a way to save money. Click here.

Energy subsidies for electricity production, in proportion
To compare federal subsidies for the production of electricity, we must consider subsidy values in proportion to the amount of electricity generated, because the magnitude is vastly different.
Click here.

Block grants a chance for more school choice in Kansas
The block grant school funding bill under consideration in the Kansas Legislature would hold districts harmless for enrollment declines due to school choice. Click here.

Downtown Wichita deal shows some of the problems with the Wichita economy
A look at the Wichita city council’s action regarding a downtown Wichita development project and how it is harmful to Wichita taxpayers and the economy. Click here.

April

Study on state and local regulation released
Kansas Policy Institute released a study of regulation and its impact at the state and local level. This is different from most investigations of regulation, as most focus on federal regulations. Click here.

Wichita city council member Jeff Longwell should not have voted
A sequence of events involving Jeff Longwell should concern citizens as they select the next Wichita mayor. Based on Wichita law, Longwell should not have voted on a matter involving the Ambassador Hotel, either for or against it. Click here.

Rich States, Poor States, 2105 edition
In Rich States, Poor States, Kansas continues with middle-of-the-pack performance, and fell in the forward-looking forecast for the second year in a row. Click here.

Sedgwick County elections have an anomaly
A Wichita statistician is thwarted in efforts to obtain data that might explain a strange observation. Click here.

Wichita Eagle fails readers, again
In its coverage of the 2015 election, the Wichita Eagle prints several stories that ought to cause readers to question the reliability of its newsroom.
Click here.

Economic indicators for Kansas
During this century the Kansas economy has not kept up with the national economy and most neighboring states. Click here.

Did Jeff Longwell dodge a tough city council vote?
On election day, Wichita city council member and mayoral candidate Jeff Longwell appears to have ducked an inconvenient vote and would not say why. Click here.

Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2014 is $5 million
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. But no one wants to talk about this. Click here.

Wichita has examples of initiative and referendum
Citizens in Wichita have been busy exercising their rights of initiative and referendum at the municipal level. The Kansas Legislature should grant the same rights to citizens at the state level. Click here.

May

Wichita economic development, the need for reform
An incentives deal for a Wichita company illustrates a capacity problem and the need for reform. Click here.

Wichita property tax rates up again
The City of Wichita says that it hasn’t raised its mill levy in many years. Data shows the mill levy has risen, and its use has shifted from debt service to current consumption. Click here.

Brownback derangement syndrome on display
A newspaper op-ed illustrates some of the muddled thinking of Kansas newspaper editorialists, not to mention Brownback derangement syndrome. Click here.

In Wichita, bad governmental behavior excused
A Wichita newspaper op-ed is either ignorant of, or decides to forgive and excuse, bad behavior in Wichita government, particularly by then-mayoral candidate Jeff Longwell. Click here.

Soviet-style society seen as Wichita’s future
If local governments don’t fund arts, we risk a Soviet-style existence. This line of thought is precisely backwards. Click here.

Wichita water statistics update
Updated statistics show that the Wichita ASR water project has not been producing water at the projected rate, even after projections were halved. (This article was updated each month as new statistics became available.) Click here.

Kansas public school establishment ought to thank Sam Brownback
Kansas public schools ought to thank the governor and legislature for failing to give parents the power of school choice. Click here.

June

In Wichita, campaigning for a tax, then asking for exemption from paying
Having contributed $5,000 to persuade Wichita voters to raise the sales tax, a company now seeks exemption from paying any sales tax. Click here.

Taxation in the states
Examining tax collections by the states shows that Kansas collects more tax than many of our neighbors, and should put to rest some common myths. Click here.

With tax exemptions, what message does Wichita send to existing landlords?
As the City of Wichita prepares to grant special tax status to another new industrial building, existing landlords must be wondering why they struggle to stay in business when city hall sets up subsidized competitors with new buildings and a large cost advantage. Click here.

How to turn $399,000 into $65,000 in downtown Wichita
Once embraced by Wichita officials as heroes, real estate listings for two floors of a downtown Wichita office building illustrate the carnage left behind by two developers. Click here.

Kansas sales tax has disproportionate harmful effects
Kansas legislative and executive leaders must realize that a shift to consumption taxes must be accompanied by relief from its disproportionate harm to low-income households. Click here.

July

The candlemakers’ petition
The arguments presented in the following essay by Frederic Bastiat, written in 1845, are still in use in city halls, county courthouses, school district boardrooms, state capitals, and probably most prominently and with the greatest harm, Washington. Click here.

Wichita property taxes still high, but comparatively better
An ongoing study reveals that generally, property taxes on commercial and industrial property in Wichita are high. In particular, taxes on commercial property in Wichita are among the highest in the nation, although Wichita has improved comparatively. Click here.

In Wichita, wasting electricity a chronic problem
The chronic waste of electricity in downtown Wichita is a problem that probably won’t be solved soon, given the city’s attitude. Click here.

Kansas school standards evaluated
A new edition of an ongoing study shows that Kansas school standards are weak, compared to other states. This is a continuation of a trend. Click here.

Wichita schools could increase engagement at no cost
The Wichita public school district could boost its engagement with citizens with a simple step that would add no cost. Click here.

For Sedgwick County Zoo, a moratorium on its commitment
As the Sedgwick County Zoo and its supporters criticize commissioners for failing to honor commitments, the Zoo is enjoying a deferral of loan payments and a break from accumulating interest charges. Click here.

August

Sedgwick County spending beneficiaries overwhelm others
That so many speakers at a public hearing were in favor of government spending is not surprising. Click here.

In Wichita, benefitting from your sales taxes, but not paying their own
A Wichita real estate development benefits from the sales taxes you pay, but doesn’t want to pay themselves. Click here.

Federal rules serve as ‘worms’ buried in promises of ‘free money’
An often unappreciated mechanism throughout the Kansas budget severely limits the ability of legislators and governors to adapt to changing state priorities. A new paper from Kansas Policy Institute explains. Click here.

In Sedgwick County, expectation of government entitlements
In Sedgwick County, we see that once companies are accustomed to government entitlements, any reduction is met with resistance. Click here.

In Wichita, an incomplete economic development analysis
The Wichita City Council will consider an economic development incentive based on an analysis that is nowhere near complete. Click here.

In Sedgwick County, a moral crusade
In Sedgwick County the debate over the budget has the dimension of a moral crusade, except for one thing. Click here.

Cost of restoring quality of life spending cuts in Sedgwick County: 43 deaths
An analysis of public health spending in Sedgwick County illuminates the consequences of public spending decisions. In particular, those calling for more spending on zoos and arts must consider the lives that could be saved by diverting this spending to public health, according to analysis from Kansas Health Institute. Click here.

Wichita Chamber speaks on county spending and taxes
The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce urges spending over fiscally sound policies and tax restraint in Sedgwick County. Click here.

Wichita property tax delinquency problem not solved
Despite a government tax giveaway program, problems with delinquent special assessment taxes in Wichita have become worse. Click here.

Kansas school standards found lower than in most states
A second study finds that Kansas uses low standards for evaluating the performance of students in its public schools. Click here.

Wichita Business Journal reporting misses the point
Reporting by the Wichita Business Journal regarding economic development incentives in Wichita makes a big mistake in overlooking where the real money is. Click here.

The Kansas economy and agriculture
There’s no need for Kansas state government to exaggerate the value of agriculture to the Kansas economy. Click here.

Wichita CID illustrates pitfalls of government intervention
A proposed special tax district in Wichita holds the potential to harm consumers, the city’s reputation, and the business prospects of competitors. Besides, we shouldn’t let private parties use a government function for their exclusive benefit. Click here.

September

Another week in Wichita, more CID sprawl
Shoppers in west Wichita should prepare to pay higher taxes, if the city approves a Community Improvement District at Kellogg and West Streets. Click here.

Wichita’s demolition policy
Wichita homeowners must pay for demolition of their deteriorating homes, but the owners of a long-festering and highly visible commercial property get to use tax funds for their demolition expense. Click here.

Sales tax exemptions in Kansas
Can eliminating sales tax exemptions in Kansas generate a pot of gold? Click here.

Kansas Center for Economic Growth and the truth
Why can’t Kansas public school spending advocates — especially a former Kansas state budget director — tell the truth about schools and spending, wonders Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute. Click here.

Criminal justice reform: Why it matters
Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Koch Industries, Inc., speaks about criminal justice reform initiatives Koch is encouraging in and why they’re important from moral, constitutional and fiscal perspectives. Click here.

Where are our documents?
Government promotes and promises transparency, but finds it difficult to actually provide. Click here.

State taxes and charitable giving
States with higher rates of economic growth grow total charitable giving at a faster rate than states with low rates of economic growth, finds a new report by American Legislative Exchange Council. Click here.

October

Wichita perpetuates wasteful system of grants; feels good about it
While praising the U.S. Economic Development Administration for a grant to Wichita State university, Wichita city planners boost the growth of wasteful government spending. Click here.

Wichita cheers its planned economy
While success in growing a company is welcome in Wichita, there are broader issues that affect the rest of the metropolitan area. Click here.

Despite growth of sharing economy, Wichita relies on centralization
The sharing economy provides for the decentralization and privatization of regulation, but the City of Wichita clings to the old ways. Click here.

Kansas school fund balances
Kansas school fund balances rose slightly this year, both in absolute dollars and dollars per pupil. Click here.

Merit pay fairness is not about teachers
Opposing teacher merit pay based on fairness issues isn’t being fair to students. Instead, it’s cruel to students. Click here.

Wichita’s growth in gross domestic product
An interactive visualization of gross domestic product for metropolitan areas. Click here.

Wichita Chamber calls for more cronyism
By advocating for revival of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce continues its advocacy for more business welfare, more taxes, more wasteful government spending, and more cronyism. Click here.

Kansas school support
An interactive visualization of data provided to members of the Kansas 2015 Special Committee on K-12 Student Success. Click here.

Bombardier can be a learning experience
The unfortunate news of the cancellation of a new aircraft program can be a learning opportunity for Wichita. Click here.

Wichita officials, newspaper, just don’t get it on Ex-Im Bank
Wichita’s establishment prefers cronyism over capitalism. Click here.

November

Kansas NAEP scores for 2015
Reactions to the release of National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for Kansas and the nation. Also, an interactive visualization. Click here.

Wichita Eagle: Reporting, then research
Wichita Eagle reporting on a controversy involving religion might leave discerning readers wondering just what is the correct story. Click here.

Kansas fiscal experiment
Those evaluating the Kansas fiscal “experiment” should consider what is the relevant input variable. Click here.

Campaign contribution changes in Wichita
A change to Wichita city election law is likely to have little practical effect. Click here.

Wichita to consider three tax abatements
When considering whether to grant three property tax abatements, the Wichita city council is unlikely to ask this question: Why can’t these companies expand if they have to pay the same taxes everyone else pays? Click here.

For Wichita’s mayor, too many public hearings
Is the Wichita city council burdened with too many public hearings? Wichita’s mayor seems to think so. Click here.

Historic preservation tax credits, or developer welfare?
A Wichita developer seeks to have taxpayers fund a large portion of his development costs, using a wasteful government program of dubious value. Click here.

Kansas cities force tax breaks on others
When Kansas cities grant economic development incentives, they may also unilaterally take action that affects overlapping jurisdictions such as counties, school districts, and the state itself. The legislature should end this. Click here.

December

Wichita checkbook register
A records request to the City of Wichita results in data as well as insight into the city’s attitude towards empowering citizens with data. Click here.

Kansas school reform
A Wichita economist and attorney offers advice to a committee of the Kansas Legislature on reforming Kansas schools for student achievement. Click here.

Employment by metropolitan area
An interactive visualization of employment in metropolitan areas. Click here.

Survey finds Kansans with little knowledge of school spending
As in years past, a survey finds that when Kansans are asked questions about the level of school spending, few have the correct information. Click here.

A simple step for transparency in Kansas government
There exists a simple and inexpensive way for the Kansas Legislature to make its proceedings more readily available. Click here.

Wichita Pachyderm Club: 2015 speakers and programs
Here is a list of all the Wichita Pachyderm Club programs in 2015. For many of the programs a video or audio presentation is available. Click here.

Wichita Pachyderm Club: 2015 speakers and programs

Here is a list of all the Wichita Pachyderm Club programs in 2015. For many of the programs a video or audio presentation is available. For those programs, the link is clickable.

Thank you to club president John Stevens for compiling the list, and to vice-president John Todd for putting together these programs.

Click here to access this document.

WichitaLiberty.TV: What the Kansas Legislature should do, and eminent domain

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: There are things simple and noncontroversial that the Kansas Legislasture should do in its upcoming session, and some things that won’t be easy but are important. Also, a look at eminent domain. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 106, broadcast January 3, 2016.

Availability of testimony in the Kansas Legislature

Since statistics were gathered and this article was written in February, several committees have used the commercial file-sharing service Dropbox to make testimony and documents available to everyone. This is a reasonable way to accomplish an important goal.

Availability of testimony in the Kansas Legislature
Despite having a website with the capability, only about one-third of standing committees in the Kansas Legislature are providing written testimony online.

On the Kansas Legislature website, each committee has its own page. On these committee pages there are links for “Committee Agenda,” “Committee Minutes,” and “Testimony.” But in most cases there is no data behind these links.

In particular, the written testimony and informational presentations provided to committees would be of interest and value to citizens. Most committees — perhaps all — require conferees to supply a pdf or Microsoft Word version of their testimony in advance of the hearing. These electronic documents could be placed online before the committee hearing. Then, anyone with a computer, tablet, or smartphone could have these documents available to them.

Having committee testimony online would be extremely useful for those who attend hearings. Often there is only a limited number of printed copies of testimony available, so not everyone gets a copy.
This would not be difficult to accomplish. It would cost very little, perhaps nothing.

Plus, citizens could access these documents. Of note, many organizations that regularly testify before the legislature make their testimony available on their own websites. Examples include Kansas Association of School Boards and Kansas Policy Institute.

Publishing testimony online would be an easy matter to accomplish and would be a great help to those following the legislature. It would cost very little or nothing.

Following is a list of all standing committees of the legislature and whether they have any testimony online for the 2015 session. A notation of “Yes” does not imply that all testimony is available online. It means that I found some testimony. Some committees are not listed as they do not meet for the purpose of receiving testimony. (Calendar and Printing in the House is an example.)

Of the 40 standing committees that I examined, 26 do not provide any testimony online.

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Individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas