A note to readers: I served as co-manager of Peterjohn’s campaign in 2008.
On the commemorative plaque outside the Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita, there’s a missing name.
The names of eight Sedgwick County commissioners appear, including all who were members of the Commission when the arena sales tax passed in November 2004, all who have served since then, and all present commissioners.
Except for one: current third district commissioner Karl Peterjohn.
In 2004 Peterjohn led opposition to the sales tax ballot measure that funded the arena. When he decided early in 2008 that he would run for the commission against long-time Republican incumbent Tom Winters, Peterjohn told Winters that the next commissioner would have their name on a plaque on the arena. On primary election night, when Peterjohn defeated Winters, Peterjohn told me “I told him [Winters] he could have that spot, and I’m keeping my word.”
It was a gracious gesture.
There’s been a small controversy surrounding Peterjohn in his new role as arena supporter. He participated in the arena’s recent ribbon-cutting ceremony. More importantly, he voted last February for a $1.7 million seating upgrade. That upgrade would reduce the cost of transition between events, and also improve seating and viewing.
That vote, along with participation in the ribbon-cutting, is central to Peterjohn’s goal of seeing that the arena is a success and doesn’t become a fiscal burden on taxpayers. Although the contract with SMG, the arena’s management firm, shields Sedgwick County from losses, that contract comes to an end someday. It’s also full of loopholes that, in my opinion, would allow SMG to make an early exit if arena finances are not favorable.
Working for the success of the arena, therefore, is a logical continuation of Peterjohn’s concern for the taxpayer, the same concern as when he opposed the arena in 2004, he said.
There’s also been grumbling that county commissioners and bureaucrats will receive perks such as tickets and premium parking passes to arena events. Peterjohn said he’s received no tickets or parking perks.
A Wichita Eagle blog post by Deb Gruver on this topic is Karl Peterjohn’s name not on Intrust Bank Arena sign.