Year in review, 2013

happy-157428_640Happy new year, and a look back at some of the stories covered by Voice for Liberty in 2013.

January

Kansans’ views on role of government
Kansas Policy Institute has released the results of a public opinion poll asking Kansans for their views on some issues that are currently in the news.

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.

February

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?

March

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.

April

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.

May

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.

June

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.”

July

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.

Why is business welfare necessary in Wichita?

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.

August

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?

September

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.

October

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?

November

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.

December

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.


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