This is especially problematic given these two Fridays — with street lights switched on near noon — were Riverfest Fridays. Many visitors, both natives and tourists, may have been downtown to see the waste on display. It doesn’t promote a good image for our city and its leaders.
The wasteful spending on illuminating street lights in the middle of the day is an indication of the attitude of the city as explained in Forget the vampires. Let’s tackle the real monsters. Through public service announcements on television and Facebook, Wichita city officials have urged citizens to do things like unplugging microwave ovens when not in use. This saves a very small — vanishingly small — amount of electricity at a huge cost of inconvenience.
So while the city advises you to unplug alarm clocks and cell phone chargers when not using them, note that the city cares nothing about running the street lights in the middle of the day.
This is not to say that waste like this does not occur in the private sector. Of course it does. But businesses and individuals have a powerful incentive to avoid waste that isn’t present in government: Businesses and people are spending their own money. And even if they waste money, it’s their money, not ours.
On election day, Wichita city council member and mayoral candidate Jeff Longwell appears to have ducked an inconvenient vote and would not say why.
At his Wichita mayoral campaign announcement last November, then-council member Jeff Longwell called for a moratorium on the use of forgivable loans until a new policy is implemented. 1
At other times he called for the end to traditional cash incentives, telling the Wichita Eagle “I think that we have to get away from the traditional cash incentives that we’ve been using and look for better ways to grow jobs in this community.” 2
In the Wichita Eagle voter guide, for the question “What is your philosophy or practice regarding public incentives for companies and developers?” Longwell started his response with this: “I believe there is a better way to promote economic growth.” 3
Wichita voters can be excused for believing Jeff Longwell wants to pursue economic development in a different way. It was a good strategy for the candidate to employ, as the rejection of the sales tax last year by Wichita voters is widely thought to be grounded in voter distrust of the economic development package.
On election day this April, an economic development incentive package was under consideration by the Wichita city council. The deal contained a common mix of incentives from city, county and state. Details on the amounts of the incentives were sketchy, so I estimated the benefit to the company at $2,315,000 up front cash and credits equivalent to cash, and $605,000 in ongoing annual benefits for at least five years. 4
This was an example of the traditional way Wichita and other cities do economic development, that is, targeted incentives for specific companies. It’s something that Longwell said we need to get away from, especially the forgivable loans part, having called for a moratorium on their use.
This matter provided a perfect opportunity for Longwell to cast a vote aligned with his new perspectives on economic development. So when this matter came before the city council, how did Longwell vote?
The answer is: We don’t know. Longwell didn’t vote. At about 10:27 am, shortly before the council took up this economic development incentives agenda item, Longwell left the council chambers. He did not return before the meeting ended. When asked why he left the meeting, Longwell would not provide an answer. He provided several contradictory explanations. He said he would explain at his campaign watch party on election night the reason for leaving, but would not say that afternoon why he left the meeting. (See Twitter and Facebook dialogs following.)
In a profile during the campaign, Longwell told the Wichita Eagle “I certainly can appreciate and understand the need to not vote on items, but sometimes you just simply, as tough as it is, you have to take a position,” he said. “I don’t know any better way to explain it. It’s part of the responsibility of being elected to do a job. 5
Here was a tough vote for Longwell. It was an opportunity for citizens to see him cast a vote in alignment with his campaign rhetoric. But he didn’t vote. He didn’t take a position, and he wouldn’t say why.
This isn’t the first time Longwell has dodged questions he doesn’t want to answer. He canceled an appearance on The Joseph Ashby Show and would not reschedule. Ashby, for those who haven’t listened, asks tough questions.
Twitter and Facebook transcripts, April 7, 2015
Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
Does anyone know why Jeff Longwell left the city council meeting early? @jefflongwellict #ictcouncil @CityofWichita
Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks I had a prior appointment. I had to see a man about a horse. I know you miss me when I’m not there. @CityofWichita
Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita May I ask why you made an appointment during city council hours?
Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks Bob, I’m touched. Thank you for being concerned that my voice is being heard on the council and I’m there to help guide our city.
Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks Also, this was unplanned and was of a personal nature. But thank you for your concern. It means a lot, Bob.
Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita Would you please answer why you made an appointment during city council hours?
Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita Which was it? A prior appointment or unplanned?
Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks An appointment I had to schedule this morning. Priorly unplanned to making it. Don’t worry, I’m fine. @CityofWichita
Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita Could you please tell us some details? Why did it have to be done during a city council meeting?
Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita When a council member and mayoral candidate misses an important vote, the public has a right to know why.
Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks City council members leave meetings periodically. It’s a personal matter, not a conspiracy, Bob. @CityofWichita
Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks if you’d like to stop by my watch party tonight we can chat about it all you want. @CityofWichita
Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita You will not tell voters why you scheduled this appointment, is that your response?
Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita It’s not me who deserves to know. It’s the people of Wichita who need to know why a council member left.
Jeff Longwell @jefflongwellict Apr 7
@bob_weeks Nothing would have changed with my vote today, Bob. Council members miss on occasion. @CityofWichita
Bob Weeks @bob_weeks Apr 7
@jefflongwellict @CityofWichita If you had a legitimate reason for missing a vote, I would think you’d be willing to tell voters details.
Later, on Facebook:
Mayor Jeff Longwell: As I said, while I appreciate your concern and the fact that you feel my presence is crucial to city council meetings, I had to leave for a personal matter. Council members leave meetings on occasion, and nothing would have changed with the addition of my vote. But it really means a lot to me that you feel I’m a vital part of the council and miss me when I’m gone, Bob.
April 7 at 3:02pm
Bob Weeks: Dodging the question again. You said that you would tell me tonight why you left the meeting, so why won’t you say now?
April 7 at 3:05pm
Kansas, 2015. ‘Economic Development Among Mayoral Candidate Jeff Longwell’s Priorities For Wichita’. Accessed April 16 2015. http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article393829 ↩
Kansas, 2015. ‘Jeff Longwell, Sam Williams Advance In Race For Wichita Mayor’. Accessed April 16 2015. http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article12332810.html ↩
C3.thevoterguide.org, 2015. ‘Wichita Mayor — The Wichita Eagle Voter Guide.’ Accessed April 16 2015. http://c3.thevoterguide.org/v/wichita15/race-detail.do?id=14013125 ↩
Weeks, Bob. 2015. ‘Figeac Aero Economic Development Incentives’. Voice For Liberty In Wichita. Accessed April 16 2015. http://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/figeac-aero-economic-development-incentives/ ↩
Kansas, 2015. ‘Council Member Jeff Longwell Touts Experience In Mayoral Race’. Accessed April 16 2015. http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article15627836.html ↩
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and the city council are proud of their citizen engagement efforts. Should they be proud?
The day after the November 2014 election in which Wichita voters rejected a proposed city sales tax, Mayor Carl Brewer and most members of the Wichita City Council held a press conference to discuss the election. A theme of the mayor is that the city reached out to citizens, gathered feedback, and responded. Here are a few of his remarks:
As elected officials, it’s our duty and responsibility to listen to citizens each and every day. And certainly any and every thing that they have to say, whether we agree or disagree, is important to each and every one of us. Anytime they are able to provide us that, we should continue to try to reach out and try to find ways to be able to talk to them. …
We appreciate the engagement process of talking to citizens, finding out what’s important to them. Last night was part of that process. …
We will certainly be engaging them, the individuals in opposition. As you heard me say, the city of Wichita — the city council members — we represent everyone in the entire city. From that standpoint, everyone’s opinion is important to us. As you heard me say earlier, whether we agree or disagree, or just have a neutral position on whatever issue that may be, it is important to us, and we’re certainly willing to listen, and we certainly want their input.
So just how does Wichita city government rate in citizen involvement and engagement? As it turns out, there is a survey on this topic. Survey respondents were asked to rate “the job Wichita does at welcoming citizen involvement.” The results are shown in the nearby chart created from data in the most recent version of the Wichita Performance Measure Report. The numbers are the percent of respondents giving “excellent” or “good” as their response to the question.
The report says this performance is “much below” a benchmark set by the National Research Center National Citizen Survey. It also tells us that the city expects to re-survey citizens in 2014. For that year, the city has given itself the lofty target of 40 percent of citizens rating the job Wichita does at welcoming citizen involvement as excellent or good.
In the press conference Mayor Brewer also said “We did the Facebook and we did the Twitter.” Except, the city ignored many questions about the sales tax that were posted on its Facebook wall.
Here’s another example of how the mayor and council welcome citizen involvement. Wichita participates in a program designed to produce lower air fares at the Wichita airport. It probably works. But I’ve done research, and there is another effect. As can be seen in the nearby chart, the number of flights and the number of available seats is declining in Wichita. These measures are also declining on a national level, but they are declining faster in Wichita than for the nation. See also Wichita airport statistics: the visualization and Kansas Affordable Airfares program: Benefits and consequences.
About this time Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn had appointed me to serve on the Wichita Airport Advisory Board. That required city council approval. Only one council member vote to approve my appointment. In its reporting, the Wichita Eagle said: “Mayor Carl Brewer was clear after the meeting: The city wants a positive voice on the airport advisory board, which provides advice to the council on airport-related issues. ‘We want someone who will participate, someone who will contribute,’ Brewer said. ‘We want someone who will make Affordable Airfares better, who will make the airport better. You’ve seen what he does here,’ Brewer went on, referencing Weeks’ frequent appearances before the council to question its ethics and spending habits. ‘So the question becomes, ‘Why?'”
As far as I know, I am the only person who has done this research on the rapidly declining availability of flights and seats available in Wichita. You might think the city would be interested in information like this, and would welcome someone with the ability to produce such research on a citizen board. But that doesn’t matter. From this incident, we learn that the city does not welcome those who bring inconvenient facts to the table.
“I don’t normally spend this much time having a conversation with you because I know it doesn’t do any good.”
— Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer to conservative blogger Bob Weeks as the two argued over cronyism during Tuesday’s City Council meeting
“I really wasn’t offended today … because the mayor’s been ruder to better people than me.”
— Weeks’ response when asked about the exchange after the meeting
At least Mayor Brewer didn’t threaten to sue me. As we’ve seen, if you ask the mayor to to live up to the policies he himself promotes, he may launch a rant that ends with you being threatened with a lawsuit.
Campaign methods used in the recent election may spark debate on the information government makes available about voters and their voting behavior.
This election day, after voting, someone posted on their Facebook page: “I’m not comfortable with the GOP observer writing down the names of those who appear to vote.”
Elsewhere on Facebook and other online sites stories like this were common: “I received a palm card that had names and addresses of my neighbors, and whether they voted in the last four elections. This was supposed to motivate me, a woman voter, to vote. It actually freaked me out that someone is distributing that information without my consent.”
The practice referred to in the first comment — poll watching — is common and has been used for decades. The practice objected to by the second writer is new. By sending mail or email informing people of the voting practices of their neighbors, campaigns attempt to shame people into voting. Research suggests shaming is effective in motivating people to vote.
Both major parties and independent groups from all sides of the political spectrum used this technique this year.
From social media and news stories, it seems that people are surprised to learn that their voter information is a public record. It’s important to know that the contents of your ballot — that is, which candidates you voted for — is secret. Here’s what anyone can acquire in Kansas about voters (other states may be different, but I think most are similar):
Voter registration ID number, name, address, mailing address, gender, date of registration, date of birth, telephone number (if the voter supplies it; it is not required) whether the voter is on the permanent advance list, party registration, precinct number, and all the different jurisdictions the voter lives in such as city council district, county commission district, school district, Kansas House and Senate districts, and others.
Then, for each election you can learn whether the voter voted, and by which method (mail, advance in person, polling place). For primary elections, you can learn whether the voter selected a Republican or Democratic ballot.
(I should mention that in Kansas this information is supplied in a clumsy format that is difficult to use. I’ve developed procedures whereby I restructure this data to a relational data model that allows for proper analysis.)
Other organizations may enhance these records with data of their own. For example, in the government-supplied voter file, many telephone numbers are missing. Others are out-of-date, especially as households abandon traditional telephone service for cell phones. So candidates may use services that provide telephone numbers given names and addresses. Or, organizations may add other data purchased from marketing research services, such as magazines subscribed to, etc.
It would be useful to have a debate over whether the fact of being a registered voter and the act of voting should be a public record. This is the first election where people have become widely aware of the nature of the voting information that is available, and how campaigns and advocacy groups use it. I wonder if the new awareness of the availability of this information will deter people from registering and voting?
As far as government transparency and open records is concerned, we can distinguish voting data from other government data. When we ask for records of spending, contracts, correspondence, and the like, we asking for information about government and the actions government has taken.
But voter data is information about action taken by people, not by government. There’s a difference.
By Eileen Umbehr, wife of Libertarian Candidate for Kansas Governor Keen Umbehr
November 1, 2014
As this campaign draws to a close, my heart is heavy. Not so much because Keen was treated as a second-class candidate who didn’t deserve a seat at the table with his Democrat and Republican opponents, but because of the way I’ve seen God used as a selling point in politics.
For example, Keen is solidly pro-life. He believes in freedom as long as you do not cause harm to another human being, and a baby is a human being. But because he also acknowledges the reality that unless and until Roe v. Wade is overturned women maintain their right to choose, he is not considered pro-life enough.
The issue of same-sex marriage has also been deeply divisive and been used to garner votes. How a candidate may feel about two members of the same sex uniting in marriage is separate from his or her duty as a government official to ensure that all laws apply equally to all citizens. Could the government decide not to issue gay people a license to teach, cut hair, practice law, or engage in business?
What each of us believe and the tenets we choose to follow in our private lives is a personal matter. While Keen and I are both Christians who try to live according to the principles set forth in the Bible, where we differ from many of our fellow Christians is that we don’t believe it is our right — or the government’s right — to impose any particular religious belief on anyone. Even God doesn’t do that. If He did, wouldn’t He simply force everyone to believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins so they would all go to Heaven?
Keen is a strict constitutionalist. He believes in the First Amendment right of free speech even when it means that the Phelps’ family can spew messages of hate, causing immeasurable harm to families burying their loved ones. And he believes in the Sixth Amendment right to counsel even when the accused may be guilty of a heinous crime.
When it comes to the Fourteenth Amendment, there are many who feel it should not apply to gays wanting to marry because homosexuality is classified as a sin in the Bible. But isn’t fornication and sex before marriage also classified as a sin in the Bible? And yet no one is suggesting that folks who have engaged in these acts should be denied a marriage license.
Someone posted the following statement about Keen on a liberty-based Facebook page: “Don’t be deceived, this guy is pumping for same sex marriage.” Keen posted the following reply: “I am not ‘pumping’ for same sex marriage, I am ‘pumping’ for adhering to the Constitution which requires equal protection under the law. As long as the State of Kansas is in the business of issuing licenses — whether they be drivers’ licenses, marriage licenses or business licenses — they cannot discriminate against individuals on the basis of religion, gender, or race. How each individual chooses to live their lives is their business, not the government’s.”
In conclusion, if we really want to protect religious freedom in our country, then we should elect candidates who will defend the rights of all citizens to practice whichever religion they choose. That is true religious liberty.
But then, a candidate like that wouldn’t be considered Christian enough.
Examining claims made by “Yes Wichita” provides an opportunity to learn about the finances of the Wichita bus transit system.
In November Wichita voters will vote yes or no on a one cent per dollar sales tax. Part of that tax, ten percent, would go to the Wichita Transit system to pay back loans, cover operating deficits, and allow for some service expansion.
Coalition for a Better Wichita, a group that opposes the sales tax, has mentioned that instead of expanding the existing Wichita Transit system, we ought to take a look at private sector alternatives for providing transportation options for Wichitans. An example is the Uber service, which started operations in Wichita last month. (Uber’s arrival is not without controversy. It appears that Uber is not compatible with Wichita’s regulations. I expect that soon the city will clamp down on Uber, which would be a mistake for the city. See Arrival of Uber a pivotal moment for Wichita.)
Regarding Uber, a Facebook user named Michael Ramsey wrote this on his Facebook profile:
Commuting to work every day from the College Hill area costs $1.90 each way and instead of using ONE PENNY from every ten dollars that we spend jumpstarting our transit system the Coalition for Better Wichita has suggested that we use Über instead. HOW DOES THAT SIMPLE MATH WORK??? VoteYes Wichita.
The “Yes Wichita” group that supports the sales tax shared Ramsey’s remarks and added this comment:
Michael Ramsey makes a great point. The simple math shows for Micahel to use public tansit to get to and from work it would cost $998.40 a year, to ride Uber it would cost $3,640 (using the low range estimate). The would cost riders an additional $2,641.60 a year. Simple reasoning shows a one-cent sales tax would be more economical for those in need. #voteyeswichita #yeswichita
Since Wichita voters are urged to consider and use “simple math” and “simple reasoning,” let’s do just that. It will help voters understand some of the finances of public transit.
First, far from “jumpstarting” our transit system, one use of sales tax funds would be to repay $1.2 million in loans the transit system owes to the city. But let’s not quibble about the enthusiasm of those who want to spend more of other people’s money.
The important consideration that needs examination is the idea that a bus ride costs $1.90. (The actual adult fare, according to the Wichita Transit website, is $1.75 or $2.00 with transfer, so I’m not sure where the $1.90 figure comes from.)
Statistics from the Wichita Transit System reveal that the fare that passengers pay is nowhere near the cost of providing the bus ride. I happen to have handy financial figures from 2011 for the Wichita transit system. For that year, total operating funds spent were $13,914,580. Revenue from fares was $1,876,991. This means that considering operating expenses only, 13.5 percent of the cost of a bus trip was paid by the passenger’s fare.
If we include capital expenses of $1,570,175, the portion of the cost of a bus trip that was paid by the passenger’s fare is 12.1 percent. Figures in this neighborhood are common for transit systems in other cities.
So far from costing $1.90 (assuming the author’s data), a bus trip actually costs much more. It’s not bus passengers that pay these costs. It’s taxpayers who pay, most of whom do not use transit.
There are a number of ways to look at the costs of providing bus service. For Wichita in 2011, and considering only the regular bus service and not the more expensive on-demand service, here are cost figures:
Operating expense per passenger mile: $0.97
Operating expense per unlinked passenger trip: $4.79
The 97 cents per mile is not the cost of moving a bus one mile down the road. It’s the cost of moving one passenger one mile. These costs are for operating expenses only and do not include the capital costs of purchasing buses.
Bus transit is very expensive. For the “Yes Wichita” campaign to imply that one-tenth of one cent per dollar sales tax will fix the system ignores the system’s tremendous costs and disrespects the taxpayer subsidy the system already receives.
There’s something else. The Facebook posts seem to imply that someone proposes replacing Wichita bus transit service with Uber. I don’t think that anyone has made that claim. Services like Uber could be a complement to traditional transit. There could be other market-based complementary services.
It’s important to remember that services like Uber generate revenue from people who willingly use and pay for its service. This is very different from Wichita Transit. As shown above, the Wichita bus system receives its revenue primarily from taxes. Money collected in the farebox is a small portion of the system’s revenues. Meeting the needs of customers is not an important factor in determining the revenue the system receives.
Your smartphone is a valuable tool for activism. Here are two ways to get involved.
Many people wonder how they can be involved in helping to improve government as a citizen activist. It may be that you have a valuable tool that’s in your pocket, and that you take everywhere you go: Your smartphone.
You may have seen me showing photographs of street lights burning in downtown Wichita during the middle of sunny afternoons. Have you ever spotted government waste like that? I’m sure that you have. I think people forget they have a fairly high-quality camera with them at all times in their smartphones. So here’s something that you can do: Take a photograph or shoot some video. Send it to me or to your local government watchdog. People like me need information. I need tips. Put your smartphone to work for something beside selfies.
Another thing you can do with your smartphone that is very helpful is to capture documents. Here’s an example. At election time, campaigns and political groups send a lot of mail pieces to voters. Some of these will contain falsehoods or distortions that need to be exposed so that the guilty parties can be held accountable. But much of the time, these political mailings go unnoticed. That’s because a Kansas House of Representatives campaign, for example, covers a relatively small population. Then, campaigns may send mail to only the people they consider active voters, and may narrow down the list using other criteria like political party. Or campaigns may send certain mail pieces to small subsets of voters. So any single campaign mail piece may go to a relatively small number of households.
What can you do to help? Use your smartphone or regular camera to capture documents like campaign mailers. You can do this by simply take a regular photograph with the built-in camera app. That usually works well enough if you follow a few guidelines, and with a little practice you can create documents are are very usable.
Probably the three most important things to remember are to avoid glare, maintain perspective, and crop. If your light source or flash creates glare on the document, the document may not be usable. By perspective, I mean having your camera square and perpendicular relative to the document so that its dimensions are not distorted. (I find that placing the document on the floor and then getting right over it helps.) Finally, cropping removes unneeded parts of the image. Remember, what we’re trying to do here is to create usable documents that can be read. We don’t have to worry about creating archival-quality documents like you would be if you’re digitizing and preserving family photographs.
As I said, you can do this with the regular camera app in your smartphone. But there are specialized document scanning apps. I’ve used several, and one I can recommend is called Scanbot. Another is CamScanner.
Scanbot is free for both Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, although there is a paid version with extra features like optical character recognition. What I like about Scanbot is that as you’re taking a photo, the app coaches you on the screen with tips like “too dark,” “get closer,” or “perspective.” Finally, it will command “don’t move” and it will snap the photo. You can then add more pages.
When finished, it creates a pdf from the scan. That’s really handy, as you then have one pdf document that holds all pages of the campaign mailer or other document. Then, you can have the app send the pdf by email or upload it to cloud-based storage systems like DropBox or Google Drive. (I recommend both of these systems.)
I should warn you: If you plan on sending something that you received in the mail that has your address or any other personal information on it, be aware and be careful. You could erase it using an editing app on your smartphone or computer, but in many cases the easiest thing to do is to obliterate your address with a marker pen before you capture the document. Or, you might cover it with paper, or excise it with scissors.
This type of intelligence-gathering is extremely valuable. Now, you may be thinking “Wait a minute. Don’t political campaigns post their mailers on their websites or Facebook?” The answer is some do, and some don’t. For the negative mail pieces — the ones that often contain the type of distortions that need to be exposed — it’s rare for a political campaign to make these mailers available to the public.
So this is a way you can be involved in gathering information. It could be campaign mailers, political campaign handouts, meeting agendas, material distributed at meetings, things you see on your computer screen, anything. It could be material distributed
I can’t tell you how many times people have complained to me about something they received in the mail or at a meeting. I ask “can you scan it and send it to me?” Well, not many people have scanners in their home. But now many people have smartphones. With a little practice, you can capture these documents in electronic form.
Then, what do you do with these documents? The campaigns of candidates that you support need intelligence like this. News reporters need documents for tips and substantiation of stories. You can share documents on social media like Facebook and Twitter. You can send them to me or your local government watchdog person or organization. There’s a lot you can do.
Government officials at all levels count on the average citizen not being interested or informed about government. We can hold government more closely accountable if we have information, and this a way that anyone can help.
Kansas school spending advocates make claims of exploding class sizes that aren’t reflected in enrollment and employment data.
On Facebook, an activist makes a claim that, if accurate, is alarming:
I walked with Paul Davis yesterday. I introduced him to Mrs. Scrutin. She teaches 4th grade at Mill Creek Elementary, here in Lenexa. She has seen class sizes explode from 16, to 23, now for the 2014-2015 school year 30.
I gathered data from the Kansas State Department of Education and created an interactive visualization. (I’m not making the visualization available just yet, as there are some data consistency issues I need to address, and I hope to receive data for additional years.)
Looking at data for Mill Creek Elementary in the Shawnee Mission School District, the number of certified employees and K-12 teachers at the school has been falling. In 2014 there were 21 K-12 teachers, down from 27 in 2009.
Enrollment, too, has been on the decline, from 443 students in 2009 to 368 in 2014. The pupil-teacher ratio in 2009 was 16.2. It reached 17.1 two years later, and in another two years it fell to 16.4, and rose to 17.9 for 2014.
Pupil-teacher ratio is not equivalent to class size. It is simply the number of pupils divided by the number of teachers. Class sizes could be larger or smaller, and may vary from room to room. Although the pupil-teacher ratio rose for Mill Creek Elementary, let’s place it in context. For a hypothetical school of 1,000 students, the change that Mill Creek experienced from 2009 to 2014 means going from 62 teachers to 56 teachers.
With Mill Creek’s pupil-teacher ratio remaining almost unchanged, how do class sizes “explode from 16, to 23, now for the 2014-2015 school year 30?”
I don’t have data for the 2014-2015 school year. But if class sizes are “exploding” at the same time the pupil-teacher ratio rose only slightly, what is the explanation?
Remember, K-12 teachers are not the only employees at this school. In 2009 there were also 31 certified employees in addition to K-12 teachers. That number is down to 24 for 2014. In terms of pupil-employee ratios, the change over this time has been from 14.3 pupils per certified employee to 15.3.
Gidget stepped away for a few months, but happily she is back writing about Kansas politics at Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe).
One of the great things about the internet is it gives people an outlet for their writing and opinions that they probably would not have otherwise. I’d like to introduce you to someone whose writing I think you’d like to read. Well, I can’t really introduce you to her, because I don’t know who she is. On her blog she (?) goes by the name Gidget. It’s titled Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe) at insideksgop.blogspot.com.
Gidget writes anonymously, although I’m pretty sure she’s female and lives in or near Johnson County, as many of her articles concern local politics there. Being anonymous has its good and bad aspects. For one thing, most people who try to be anonymous on the internet and achieve any level of notoriety are usually exposed, eventually.
Being anonymous means there is less accountability for what you write, so people may not give your writing as much weight as they should. But anonymity gives the freedom for some people to write things that need to be said, and that’s what Gidget does very well. For example, last year she reminded readers that Bob Dole is known as the “Tax Collector for the Welfare State.” Not so much in Kansas, where he has stature just shy of sainthood. And that’s the point. If you criticize Bob Dole for the things he did that deserve criticism, you’re likely to be ostracized from the Kansas Republican Party. I can tell you, there are attack dogs.
The sometimes nasty nature of politics lead Gidget to write this earlier this year: “I have taken a much needed break from all things political during this campaign season. I know it’s bad timing, but my tender soul can only deal with so much back-biting and garbage slinging, and the 2012 primaries sent me to a dark place.” (Guess who’s back from Outer Space?)
I was sad to see that Gidget didn’t post anything for some months. But as the August primary approached, she rejoined the conversation. Here’s what she wrote about the United States Senate primary between Republicans Pat Roberts and Milton Wolf:
Sigh. This race is the most disgusting and vile thing I’ve witnessed since, well, Moran-Tiahrt. From the outside, it appears that everyone involved in the Roberts/Wolf fiasco has lost all of their senses. (Gidget’s predictions — Roberts vs. Wolf)
Later in the same article she wrote:
Finally, I am appalled, truly, sincerely appalled, that Wolf is now being investigated by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts for photos and comments he made on Facebook years ago.
Had he not run for office, his career would not be threatened. It’s that simple. Whatever you think of Wolf (and I really don’t think much of him), he doesn’t deserve to have his professional career ruined due to a Facebook post. He just doesn’t.
And it smacks of Roberts calling in a political favor. There is exactly one member of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts who is not a doctor or medical professional. That person is a political activist, appointed by Brownback, and a vocal Roberts supporter. Did she have anything to do with the Wolf investigation? She says no, and I’m inclined to take people at their word.
However, often in politics, as in real life, perception is reality. And the timely investigation of Wolf stinks. Badly. This is why good people don’t run for office.
Gidget is absolutely correct. When people consider whether they want to subject themselves to the type of attacks that the Roberts campaign launched, many people will decide not to run.
Here’s another example from the same article of Gidget writing the things that need to be said, and which party insiders don’t say:
I sincerely wish Roberts would have done the right thing a year ago — and that is decide against running for a fourth Senate term. We would have better candidates to choose from had he done so, and it’s been obvious for quite some time the direction in which the political winds were blowing. Kansans (and many around the country) had had enough of long-term federal legislators in Washington.
I contend that had Roberts really, truly cared about Kansas, the state GOP and the country, he would’ve bowed out this year. He’s a nice man, but his ego may be out-of-hand if he truly believes he’s one of only two people in the state of Kansas who can fairly, accurately and reasonably represent the Sunflower State in the U.S. Senate.
As Kansans know, the senate primary was particularly nasty. It shouldn’t be that way, and it doesn’t have to be. But there are many people who put party and personality above principle, and the results are usually not pretty. These attacks can have lasting impact. Here’s what Gidget wrote shortly after the August primary (Leaving the GOP):
I am leaving the Kansas Republican Party. While I will continue to work for candidates I like, and continue to be a registered Republican — you don’t get a choice in most of the elections otherwise — I’m out.
My disillusion with the party can not be overstated, and I simply see no reason to stay.
This fall, I will be volunteering for the Libertarian candidate, Keen Umbehr. Do I agree whole-heartedly with Keen? No. In word only, my values more closely align with what Gov. Brownback says his values are. (His actions suggest otherwise.)
I can no longer spend my time or money for a party that actively works against the people — specifically the grassroots people.
I am fairly certain I’m not the only person who has had enough of it. There’s an extraordinarily unusual lack of decorum among what I would call the Establishment of the Kansas Republican Party.
Take, for example, Gavin Ellzey, vice chair of the Third District Republican Party. A few days ago, he locked down his Twitter account, but prior to that he made numerous posts about “offending Muslims with a .45,” “only attractive women need equality,” and posts essentially calling Milton Wolf a piece of sh!t.
This is what passes for respectful discourse in Kansas politics these days. I was disgusted by his tweets, but that’s just the most public tip of the iceberg.
There were widespread rumors of many candidates making threats to individuals if they didn’t get onboard and offer their full support.
While not a huge Wolf fan, I continue to be disturbed by the way he was treated by what I would call the Kansas Establishment. He was ostracized, called names and I heard that he was uninvited to county and state GOP events.
Every Republican candidate in Johnson County attended an election night party at the Marriott Hotel in Overland Park. Wolf’s party was across the street at a different hotel. Was he not invited to participate in the county party?
I am not for one minute saying that everyone in the Republican Party has to be in lock step. But party members should welcome new faces, new candidates and fresh ideas — even if they don’t personally support some of the new people or their ideas.
That’s acceptable. It is not acceptable to act like the Republican Party is a locked boys club, where only certain people need apply.
I’m sure the Kansas Republican Party is simply a microcosm of what goes on in other states, but I don’t have the heart for it anymore.
The things I heard people say last night at the Marriott, the things I saw and heard people say in social media over the course of this campaign, I am out.
I blame our current crop of Republican politicians for this discourse. A gentle word here and there from them about Reagan’s 11th Commandment would go a long way. But those words are left unsaid, and I have to assume it’s because our most of our Republican politicians think winning is more important than anything. It baffles me that these self-professed Christians appear to believe that the ends justify the means.
Public service announcements on Facebook and Wichita City Channel 7 urge Wichitans to take steps to stop “vampire” power waste. But before hectoring people to introduce inconvenience to their lives in order to save small amounts of electricity, the city should tackle the real monsters of its own creation.
People are probably vaguely aware that many modern electrical and electronic devices consume electricity even when switched off. One source estimates that a cell phone charger consumes 0.26 watts of electrical power even when a phone is not plugged in. While in sleep mode, a flat panel computer display consumes 1.39 watts. A clock radio uses 2.01 watts. A microwave oven while not in use and with its door closed uses 3.08 watts. (These are average values.) A large Samsung smart television on standby uses 0.3 watts.
While appearing to be wasteful, this “vampire” power consumption often has a benefit. If you unplug your clock radio when you leave for work in the morning, you save a few dozen watts of power. But, you have to reset the clock when you want to use it again. If I unplug my Samsung smart television, I’ll probably have to reprogram it to my preferences. If I want save the power my microwave oven wastes, I’ll have to wrench my back lifting it out of the way so I can reach the outlet it plugs in to. That action, naturally, unleashes a cloud of dust bunnies to dirty my counters and floor.
Nonetheless, the City of Wichita uses its Facebook page and cable television network to urge its citizens take steps like these in order to save small amounts of electricity.
How much electricity do you suppose a city street light consumes? It depends on the type of light, but common street lights use from 100 to 200 watts. During the hours when the sun does not shine, we’re generally willing to pay for that in order to obtain the benefits of lighted streets and sidewalks.
But when street lights are burning in the middle of a day, they provide absolutely no value. Street lights turned on during the day provide none of the convenience of “vampire” power usage, such as not needing to reset your clocks and move your microwave oven every day.
So while the City of Wichita uses its television channel to hector citizens into adding inconvenience to their lives in order to save vanishingly small amounts of electricity, the city apparently has no misgivings about using large amounts of electricity to needlessly illuminate the noonday sky, week after week.
As I’ve shown, the city often has street lights turned on at noon on days with no clouds in the sky. (See here for examples.) Yesterday dozens of city street lights were turned on at 2:30 in the afternoon on a sunny day for many blocks in downtown Wichita. This is not an isolated mistake. It is a pattern. (Even if it is cloudy and raining, the street lights add no discernible illumination during daylight.)
There’s something else. Each of us can choose the balance between “vampire” power waste and inconvenience based on our own values. If we choose to use “vampire” power in order to add convenience to our lives, we have to pay for it.
But the Wichita city hall bureaucrats who burn street lights in the noonday sun week after week are spending your money, not theirs.
(Yes, city hall bureaucrats pay taxes to the city just like you and I, so their tax money is also wasted. But because the cost of this waste is spread over the entire city, the motivation for any one person to take steps to eliminate the waste is small. Especially if, like a city hall bureaucrat would, you’d have to actually work in order to achieve savings. But these same bureaucrats and politicians urge you to work harder in your home in order to save small amounts of “vampire” electricity.)
The wasteful expenditures on street lights I’ve been illustrating for several weeks are located in districts of the city represented by Janet Miller and Lavonta Williams. Both express concern for the environment and criticize the purported harm man has caused the earth by emitting greenhouse gases. Here’s an opportunity for them to act on their beliefs.
Kansas Representative Paul Davis, a Democrat who has said he will run for governor next year, linked to the article on his Facebook page and made a statement based on the job loss claim, writing “Kansas has lost nearly 9,000 jobs in 2013.”
I don’t know what data the Star reporter relied on, or what computations he made. I gathered statistics from the Kansas Department of Labor. I’ve made them available here, and a chart is below.
Job levels can be seasonally adjusted, or not. Using the seasonal data, total non farm employment in Kansas rose from 1,366,900 in January to 1,372,000 in August, the last month for which data is available.
Using the not seasonally adjusted data, jobs rose from 1,347,800 in January to 1,361,900 in August.
Maybe the reporter used a different range of dates. I don’t know. If we use the not seasonally adjusted job count from December 2012, which is 1,376,300, the job count in August is less, but by a number not close to the number in the story. Using the seasonally adjusted number for December 2012 produces a gain of jobs since then.
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?”
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.
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.
Once again we see the Kansas public school establishment dodging the facts about Kansas school spending. An example from yesterday was provided by Kansas House of Representatives Minority Leader Paul Davis on his Facebook page. Here’s what he posted:
Rep. Davis, it’s not the governor that makes claims regarding the level of school spending in Kansas. The Kansas State Department of Education compiles and reports spending numbers. For those who can’t navigate the KSDE website to find spending numbers, I’ve provided them here, and also at the end of this article.
From this table we can see that after peaking in fiscal year 2009, state aid to schools fell in 2010. Since then it has risen each year, in both total dollars spent and dollars spent per pupil. (By the way, who was governor when state aid to schools fell?)
Rep. Davis may be referring to base state aid per pupil when making his argument. That number has fallen. But as you can see, total State of Kansas spending on schools has been rising after falling under a previous governor’s administration. Readers should also note that as Kansas state aid to schools fell, federal aid rose, almost making up the difference.
I would also remind the minority leader that tax cuts do not have a cost that needs to be paid for. It is government that has a cost. Reducing taxes lets people keep more of what is rightfully theirs, and that is always good.
Then: A reader left a comment wondering whether the school spending figures included mandatory KPERS payments. These are payments to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. These payments are part of the cost of having employees, as long as schools want to provide a retirement plan to their employees. Rep. Davis’ response is correct. The state sends funds to school districts, which the districts then send to KPERS. These funds, then, are included in total school spending figures.
Which is how it should be. How should the comment “it definitely doesn’t all go to classrooms” and Davis’ response be interpreted? The education spending establishment would like us to ignore that spending. But it’s money that’s spent. It’s part of the expense of having teachers. So does it go to the classroom? You be the judge.
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.
Davis recently posted on his Facebook page a quote from Geary County schools superintendent Ronald Walker: “Kansas has always performed academically in the top 10 of all states. As bills are introduced in the current Legislature without the input of educators, the state is in jeopardy of losing ground.”
Kansas does perform well compared to other states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” Nearby is a table showing scale scores for Kansas and National Public schools for math and reading in grades four and eight. Looking at the top row, which reports scores for all students, it is the case that Kansas does better than the national average in all cases.
But if we look at the data separated by racial/ethnic subgroups, something different becomes apparent: Kansas lags behind the national average in some of these areas.
Why is there this apparent discrepancy? In general, white students perform better than black and Hispanic students. Kansas has a much higher proportion of white students than the nation. In Kansas, about 69 percent of students are white, compared to 53 percent for the entire nation.
This difference in demographic composition hides the fact that, for example, fourth grade black students in Kansas underperform the national average for black students in reading.
Some may say that it’s racist to talk about student achievement in this way. But I would ask this: Is it better to gloss over these facts, or to recognize and confront them? These details are not mere numbers on a spreadsheet. They are children.
Let’s ask Rep. Davis if he’s aware of these statistics.
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.
Further discussion brought out the fact that companies often “test the waters,” asking for incentives from cities like Wichita as a location they might consider moving to, only to us that as leverage for getting more incentives back home. (Wichita has suffered at the hands of this ruse, most recently granting a large forgivable loan to a company when the city used as leverage says they did not have discussions with the company.)
Council Member Michael O’Donnell asked if there was another form of economic development that The Golf Warehouse could have received. Bell said that in this case there wasn’t, that IRB financing with accompanying tax abatements wasn’t available for this project. As he has in the past, Bell pointed to the lack of tools in the toolbox, or “arrows in our quiver” he said today.
When the CEO of the applicant company spoke to the council, it was easy to get the impression that this company — like the many other companies that plead for incentives and subsidy — feel that because of their past and pending investment in Wichita, they are entitled some form of incentive. When the company’s outside site selection consultant spoke, this sense of entitlement became explicit. She told how the company has made “significant investment and has employed a lot of people and kept a lot of families employed.” She said that instead of forgivable loan, this should be called an “act of goodwill.” She said the company has made a huge investment, never asking for incentives, and that the loan allows the company to continue making investment into the community.
She also said that the offer made by Indiana amounted to twice Wichita’s offer, on a per-job basis.
Citizens spoke against the forgivable loan. John Todd asked if this is the economic formula that has blessed our city and county with the wealth and prosperity we enjoy today.
Clinton Coen told the council that these incentives are a bargaining tool, allowing cities to blackmail each other.
Susan Estes asked a question that built on O’Donnell’s earlier remarks: Why would we see this forgivable loan as egregious? On the surface, we see jobs, which is good, she said. But the money to pay for this loan comes from other taxpayers, she said, and there are many companies that need help, citing the number of companies filing for bankruptcy and having tax liens filed against them. “Why I find it egregious is that we’re doing something that helps one company at a time. We really need to take an overall look at our tax policy and address the tax issue. We have one of the highest tax rates on the Plains, and that’s why we get in these situations where we have to compete. If we had a better competitive tax rate we could spare all of this.”
Of interest for the political theater was the vote of three new council members, based on statements they made regarding forgivable loans on the campaign trail (see Forgivable loan a test for new Wichita City Council members). In making the motion to accept staff recommendation of the forgivable loan, council member Pete Meitzner said of the loan: “It is an investment, incentive, whatever you want to call it. It is not a give-away.”
Meitzner and James Clendenin voted with all the veteran council members to approve the forgivable loan. Only O’Donnell voted consistent with how he campaigned.
This item before the Wichita City Council today requires analysis from two levels.
First, the economics and public policy aspects of granting the forgivable loan are this: It is impossible to tell whether The Golf Warehouse would not expand in Wichita if the forgivable loan was not granted. The companies that apply for these subsidies and that cite competitive offers from other states and cities have, in some cases, multi-million dollar motives to make Wichita think they will move away, or not invest any more in Wichita. Most politicians are scared to death of being labeled “anti-job,” and therefore will vote for any measure that has the appearance of creating or saving jobs.
Particularly inappropriate is the attitude of many of these companies in that they deserve some sort of reward for investing in Wichita and creating jobs. First, companies that make investments do, in fact, deserve a reward. That reward is called profit, but it has to be earned in the marketplace, not granted by government fiat. When a company earns profits in free markets, we have convincing evidence that wealth is being created and capital has been wisely invested. Everyone — the investors certainly but also the customers and employees — is better off when companies profit through competition in free markets.
But when government steps in with free capital, as was the case today, markets are no longer free. The benefits of capitalism are no longer available and working for us. The distortion that government introduces interferes with market processes, and we can’t be sure if the profit and loss system that is so important is working. Companies, as we saw today, increasingly revert to what economists call rent seeking — profiting through government rather than by pleasing customers in market competition.
Entrepreneurship, of which Wichita has a proud tradition, is replaced by a check from city hall.
Wichita’s own Charles Koch explained the harm of government interventionism in his recent recent Wall Street Journal op-ed: “Government spending on business only aggravates the problem. Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay. Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.”
A forgivable loan — despite Council Member Meitzner’s claim to the contrary — is a cash payment to business, which Mr. Koch warns against.
The focus on job creation is also a confounding factor that obscures the path to true wealth and prosperity for Wichita. When companies ask the city, county, and state for subsidy and incentive, they tout the number of jobs and the payroll that will be created. But jobs are a cost, not a benefit, to business and most firms do all they can to minimize their labor costs just as they seek to minimize all costs. For Wichita to prosper, we need to focus on productivity and wealth creation, not merely employment.
The actions of the city council today keep Wichita on its path of piecemeal economic development and growth. Movement to a system that embraces economic dynamism, as advocated by Dr. Art Hall and as part of Governor Sam Brownback’s economic development plan for Kansas, is delayed. Economic development in Wichita keeps its present status as a sort of public utility, subject to policy review from time to time, as was mentioned today by the city manager.
Politically, Wichitans learned today the value of promises or statements made by most candidates while campaigning. Most candidates’ promises along with $3.75 will get you a small cappuccino at Starbucks — if you don’t ask for whipped cream.
Particularly interesting is the inability of politicians to admit they were wrong, or that they made a mistake, or that they were simply uninformed or misinformed when they made a campaign promise or statement. It was refreshing to hear Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, when he was in Wichita a few weeks ago, forthrightly admit that he was wrong about his initial position on cap-and-trade energy policies. City council members Clendenin and Meitzner could not bring themselves to admit that their votes today were at odds with their statements made while campaigning. This lack of honesty is one of the reasons that citizens tune out politics, why they have such a cynical attitude towards politicians, and perhaps why voter turnout in city elections is so low.
As one young Wichitan said on her Facebook page after sharing video of the three new council members today, obviously referring to city council district 2’s Pete Meitzner: “How to use your mouth: 1. Campaign under the guise that you are a fiscal conservative. 2. Insert foot.”
Surprise endorsement from Wichita Eagle. Today the Wichita Eagle endorsed Republican Mike Pompeo over Democrat Raj Goyle in the race for the Kansas fourth Congressional district. Surprising. Still, the Eagle editorial board can’t help reveal its preference for big, expansive government by taking a few digs at Pompeo, describing his free-market, limited government views as “overly idealistic at times.” Continuing, the Eagle wrote “For example, he believes that there wouldn’t be a need for farm subsidies or economic development incentives if there were lower tax rates and a friendlier and more stable regulatory environment. That’s not the real world.” The Eagle editorial board said that Pompeo is “too ideological and wouldn’t seek practical political solutions.” Well, are the “practical” solutions imposed on us by the current federal regime working? I would say not. Other evidence of the Eagle’s unbelief in the power of freedom, free people, and free markets was noticed in its failure to endorse Richard Ranzau for Sedgwick county commission, in which the Eagle mentioned his “inflexible anti-tax, free-market views.” The Eagle prefers “nuanced” politicians.
Who is Raj Goyle? On today’s episode of KAKE Television’s This Week in Kansas hosted by Tim Brown, guests Randy Brown and Ed Flentje discussed the fourth district Congressional race race, and Goyle in particular. The reliably liberal [Randy] Brown said that Goyle made a mistake in not voting for the statewide sales tax increase, which Brown characterized as a “responsible thing to do.” This, he said, caused people — including Democrats — to view Goyle as a political opportunist, and Goyle lost a chance to distinguish himself from his opponent. Flentje said “he does appear to be quite flexible,” which elicited hearty laughter from the panel. He continued: “It’s hard to figure out exactly where he is … he’s trying to address overwhelming Republican advantage in registration. He’s been for the most part a good legislator, campaigns aggressively, but he’s going uphill … I kind of feel for him.”
Who is Sam Brownback? “Most agree that Sam Brownback will be elected governor on November 2, but what kind of governor he will be is less than clear. Even after nearly a quarter century in Kansas politics and government, his divergent political lives prompt voters to ask: Will the real Sam Brownback please stand up?” H. Edward Flentje, political science professor at Wichita State University, through State of the State Kansas. Flentje appeared on today’s episode of KAKE Television’s This Week in Kansas to discuss this column. Fellow guest Randy Brown said “In terms of being a political opportunist, he strikes me as the classic person who tells whatever group of people he’s in front of what they want to hear.” Flentje disagreed with this. The column traces Brownback’s evolution in both the personal and political spheres, and does ask the question “So, will the real Sam Brownback as Kansas governor please stand up?”
Kansas candidates score free TV. “Democratic incumbents Chris Biggs and Dennis McKinney are riding a $100,000-plus wave of television advertising their Republican opponents denounce as thinly veiled self-promotion and an abuse of office that should be stamped out by the Legislature.” More by Tim Carpenter at Topeka Capital-Journal. We shouldn’t be surprised at this, as a look at the Kansas agency websites headed by elected officials shows them using these sites as campaign billboards year round.
Politicians advertise on Facebook. Here’s an example of a politician running for office that uses Facebook for advertising. With Facebook ads, you can target who your advertisement is displayed to in great detail.
Putting a price on professors. The Wall Street Journal covers an effort in Texas to evaluate the worth of state university faculty members from a financial viewpoint: “A 265-page spreadsheet, released last month by the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, amounted to a profit-and-loss statement for each faculty member, weighing annual salary against students taught, tuition generated, and research grants obtained. … The balance sheet sparked an immediate uproar from faculty, who called it misleading, simplistic and crass — not to mention, riddled with errors. But the move here comes amid a national drive, backed by some on both the left and the right, to assess more rigorously what, exactly, public universities are doing with their students — and their tax dollars.” The article notes some dismal statistics of the type we’re used to hearing about K through 12 education: “Just over half of all freshmen entering four-year public colleges will earn a degree from that institution within six years, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And among those with diplomas, just 31% could pass the most recent national prose literacy test, given in 2003; that’s down from 40% a decade earlier, the department says.” Credit goes to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a state-based think tank that is often at the forefront of the fight for fiscal responsibility.
Pretending the union money doesn’t exist. From RedState: “Desperate Democrats have been hyperventilating for the past month over money being spent by corporate and other groups, notably the Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, to run campaign commercials. To conservatives, running commercials to attempt to persuade voters in advance of an election is known as ‘free speech,’ and turnabout is fair play after corporate money went heavily for Obama in 2008, but let’s play along here; how much of an advantage does the GOP have here? … That’s right, three of the five largest campaign spenders this year are not business or pro-business groups but unions affiliated with the Democrats and dominated by public employees.”
We forget the blessings of technology. As I write this I am plugged into my iPhone. I carry it with me wherever I go. I would rather leave home forgetting my wallet than my iPhone. As it is more than just a telephone, it also holds my music, as seen in the accompanying depiction of its screen. The ability to carry with me — wherever I travel — examples of the great works of music, in this case Beethoven violin and piano sonatas, is something that is truly remarkable. More than that, it’s a miracle. Now when I check in to a hotel, it’s not uncommon to find a clock radio where I can dock or plug in my iPhone and listen to my music as I unpack and prepare for the day’s events. The back of my iPhone reads “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” If not for this international cooperation, would the miracle of the iPhone — and other similar technology — be affordable, or even possible?
Honest journalist too much for NPR.Juan Williams has been fired by National Public Radio. His offense: He spoke in a not-politically-correct way about Muslims. On Monday’s O’Reilly Factor Williams said: “But when I get on a plane — I got to tell you — if I see people who are in Muslim garb, and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” According to Williams, NPR said this is a bigoted remark that “crossed the line.” Across all forms of media, this is sure to be a big issue. Williams is an accomplished journalist and reporter who has written many books on civil rights in America. He has been critical of established black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Williams will appear on The O’Reilly Factor tonight, with the Fox News promotion teasing “Is he the first victim of George Soros’s new war on Fox News?”
You — not me — should sacrifice. Another global warming alarmist revealed as a hypocrite. “A Youtube film, released by Irish documentary film makers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, has revealed the shocking hypocrisy of James Cameron, the director of Avatar. The film shows that Cameron, who has publicly stated that ‘we are all going to have to live with less,’ has continued a lifestyle of extravagant consumption. Cameron, yesterday, announced he was donating $1m to oppose California’s Prop 23. Prop 23 will suspend Global Warming legislation and is being bitterly opposed by environmentalists. Supporters of Prop 23 say that if it is defeated California will lose jobs because of an increase in energy prices.” The video is just over two minutes long and may be viewed by clicking on James Cameron — Hypocrite.
Most expect local tax increases. Rasmussen: “A sizable majority of Americans say their states are now having major budget problems, and they think spending cuts, not higher taxes, are the solution. But most expect their taxes to be raised in the next year anyway.” More at Most Expect State or Local Tax Hikes In the Next Year.
Texas vs. California. “In Texas, the payroll count is back to prerecession levels. California is nearly 1.5 million jobs in the hole. Why such a difference? Chalk it up to taxes, regulation and attitude, says Investor’s Business Daily (IBD).” Summary at NCPA: A Trenchant Tale of Two States .
Email spam spreads to Facebook. I’m sure I’m not the first person to receive something like this, but the well-known Nigerian fraudulent schemes that for many years have used regular email have now spread to Facebook messages. Today I was notified by “barrister James Mawulom a solicitor at law” that a man with my same surname had died in Africa, and I am due to receive a lot of money.
Recently Sedgwick County implemented a new system for making its commission agendas and accompanying background material available online.
Previously, only the agenda itself was available online. Agendas contain just a brief description of each item to be handled at meetings. If citizens wanted more information about an item, they had to travel to the courthouse to obtain a printed copy of the agenda report. This document, which might be several hundred pages in length, contains detailed information about each item. It’s the type of information that citizens need if they are to be informed about the matters the commission will consider at each meeting.
The new system makes this information available online. It also handles the minutes and video of past meetings. You can access the system through the Sedgwick County website. Navigate to the County Commission page (the drop-down box at the top right is easy and always available.) Then in the stack of links at the right of the screen, click on Commission Meetings.
Now if you click on any meeting on or after August 25, 2010, you’ll be in the new agenda system.
Using the new system, I found that it took a few moments to become familiar with the way the system organizes the agenda information. Once you get used to it, you can move around the agenda and examine supporting documents easily. Background material is usually presented in small chunks as pdf documents, and it’s easy to print just the few pages that you might be interested in.
The system also allows the public to enter comments, presumably to be read by commissioners or staff before meetings. In a nod to social media and other networks, you can share agenda items on Facebook, Twitter, and other systems. (Sample tweet: PURCHASE OF REAL PROPERTY LOCATED AT SECOND STREET AND ST. FRANCIS IN WICHITA, KANSAS. Presented by: Ron Holt, bff. http://t.co/gl22l3U)
Besides the public face of the system, it will also be used internally by county staff and commissioners to handle agenda paperwork more efficiently.
A fact sheet on the new agenda information system promotes its cost savings, estimated to be $15 per week in reduced usage of paper. The benefit to citizens, however, is access to agenda background information without making a trip to the courthouse. These trips were necessary, as my several recent requests to have background information emailed to me were always declined.
While this system may save $15 per week in paper, it was undoubtedly an expensive system to purchase and implement. According to a county budget document, the five-year cost of this project is $142,594. That doesn’t include internal resources devoted to this project and its ongoing support.
Its goals are more ambitions than what was required to provide citizens with the agenda background information, which was the one area where Sedgwick County was deficient. Many governments, such as the city of Wichita, have made this information available by simply posting the entire agenda report. That’s a simple solution that has worked, although not with all the functionality that the new Sedgwick county system provides.
Global warming alarmist James Hansen, inflation, Facebook, paygo deception.
The Man Who Cried Doom
NASA’s James Hansen is the least-muzzled climate alarmist in America
NASA’s James Hansen was one of the first to warn of the “impending doom” of global warming. How has his message fared over the last 20 years? Here’s what other scientists have said about Hansen: “Hansen’s testimony in 1988 was ‘a huge embarrassment’ to NASA, and he remains skeptical of Hansen’s predictions. … describes Hansen’s belief in a man-made global-warming catastrophe as ‘almost religious’ and says he ‘never understood how [Hansen] got such a strong voice’ in the debate. … puts Hansen ‘at the extreme end of global warming alarmism.’ … Hansen got caught with his hand in the cookie jar in 2007, when Stephen McIntyre, the man who debunked the infamous “hockey stick” graph showing stable Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures for most of the last millennia before a sharp upturn, found a flaw in Hansen’s numbers.”
Get Ready for Inflation and Higher Interest Rates
The unprecedented expansion of the money supply could make the ’70s look benign.
Arthur Laffer, writing in the Wall Street Journal, warns of inflation and other trouble ahead. The chart of the growth of the money supply looks a lot like Al Gore’s “hockey stick” chart of global temperatures. That chart, we know now, was in error. The chart of the rapid growth of the money supply, unfortunately, is true. Here’s some of what Laffer wrote:
But as bad as the fiscal picture is, panic-driven monetary policies portend to have even more dire consequences. We can expect rapidly rising prices and much, much higher interest rates over the next four or five years, and a concomitant deleterious impact on output and employment not unlike the late 1970s.
About eight months ago, starting in early September 2008, the Bernanke Fed did an abrupt about-face and radically increased the monetary base … The percentage increase in the monetary base is the largest increase in the past 50 years by a factor of 10. It is so far outside the realm of our prior experiential base that historical comparisons are rendered difficult if not meaningless.
Now the Fed can, and I believe should, do what it must to mitigate the inevitable consequences of its unwarranted increase in the monetary base. It should contract the monetary base back to where it otherwise would have been, plus a slight increase geared toward economic expansion. … Alas, I doubt very much that the Fed will do what is necessary to guard against future inflation and higher interest rates. If the Fed were to reduce the monetary base by $1 trillion, it would need to sell a net $1 trillion in bonds. This would put the Fed in direct competition with Treasury’s planned issuance of about $2 trillion worth of bonds over the coming 12 months. Failed auctions would become the norm and bond prices would tumble, reflecting a massive oversupply of government bonds.
Get your Facebook vanity name tonight
“Soon you will be able to have a username. Starting on Friday, June 12th, at 11:01pm in your time zone, you’ll be able to choose a username for your Facebook account to easily direct friends, family, and coworkers to your profile.” Facebook’s blog post Coming Soon: Facebook Usernames explains more.
So the cyberspace land rush is on, at least at 11:01 pm tonight for the Central time zone in America. With some 200 million Facebook users, it probably won’t be easy for most people to be successful in grabbing their own name for their Facebook profile.
The ‘Paygo’ Coverup
The Obama pattern: Spend, repent, spend again, repent.
Paygo is “very simple,” the President claimed. “Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere.”
That’s what Democrats also promised in 2006, with Nancy Pelosi vowing that “the first thing” House Democrats would do if they took Congress was reimpose paygo rules that “Republicans had let lapse.” By 2008, Speaker Pelosi had let those rules lapse no fewer than 12 times, to make way for $400 billion in deficit spending. Mr. Obama repeated the paygo pledge during his 2008 campaign, and instead we have witnessed the greatest peacetime spending binge in U.S. history. As a share of GDP, spending will hit an astonishing 28.5% in fiscal 2009, with the deficit hitting 13% and projected to stay at 4% to 5% for years to come.
The truth is that paygo is the kind of budget gimmick that gives gimmickry a bad name. As Mr. Obama knows but won’t tell voters, paygo only applies to new or expanded entitlement programs, not to existing programs such as Medicare … Mr. Obama’s new proposal includes even more loopholes …
The real game here is that the President is trying to give Democrats in Congress political cover for the health-care blowout and tax-increase votes that he knows are coming. The polls are showing that Mr. Obama’s spending plans are far less popular than the President himself, and Democrats in swing districts are getting nervous. The paygo ruse gives Blue Dog Democrats cover to say they voted for “fiscal discipline,” even as they vote to pass the greatest entitlement expansion in modern history. The Blue Dogs always play this double game.
The main political question now is when Americans will start to figure out Mr. Obama’s pattern of spend, repent and repeat. The President is still sailing along on his charm and the fact that Americans are cheering for an economic recovery. But eventually they’ll see that he isn’t telling them the truth, and when they do, the very Blue Dogs he’s trying to protect will pay the price. And they’ll deserve what they get.
‘Green Hell’ Coming Soon to a Life Like Yours (Human Events) A review of a new book that merits reading. “Be prepared the next time your child comes home from school with some nice ‘green’ project or attempts to lecture you about how you ‘should’ be doing more ‘sustainable’ activities to ‘save’ the Earth. You will be ready to confront teachers, political leaders, neighbors, and annoying aunts with the astounding new book by Steve Milloy titled Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them.”
Is Facebook Growing Up Too Fast? (New York Times) Facebook will soon have 200 million members. All are not happy, evidence being the recent controversy over a redesign of some of its most important aspects. There’s also the “coolness” factor: can kids like a social network that their parents are now using?
When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking (New York Times) “In many cases, celebrities and their handlers have turned to outside writers — ghost Twitterers, if you will — who keep fans updated on the latest twists and turns, often in the star’s own voice. Because Twitter is seen as an intimate link between celebrities and their fans, many performers are not willing to divulge the help they use to put their thoughts into cyberspace. … It is not only celebrities who are forced to look to a team to produce real-time commentary on daily activities; politicians like Ron Paul have assigned staff members to create Twitter posts and Facebook personas. Candidate Barack Obama, as well as President Obama, has a social-networking team to keep his Twitter feed tweeting.”
Randy Roebuck, in a presentation at the Wichita city council workshop, promoted the idea of a “digital oasis” in Wichita. It would be a place where people can go to get free help with technologies such as cell phones and computers.
He told of how an Apple Genius Bar does things like this. Council member Jim Skelton asked who runs an Apple Genius Bar? Apple Computer Corporation, of course.
Later council member Paul Gray continued with questions based on Skelton’s. Why not an Apple Genius Bar in Wichita? Why is the city competing with private business? City officials insist they are not trying to compete with private business. Instead, it’s a resource for training and education.
Council member Jeff Longwell said this idea is “on the right path,” as long as it doesn’t cost a lot.
Lavonta Williams said this will attract a different group of people to downtown Wichita. She said it’s something we need.
Mayor Carl Brewer mentioned that not everyone who would want to use a facility like this might not be able to afford its cost. He didn’t mention that someone else should pay for them, but that’s what this program will do.
“It’s part of creating an environment where we have everything that anybody could possibly want. … If the private sector’s really wanting to get out there and they’re willing to invest their dollars and they want to start their business, we should let them.”
This illustrates the mayor’s — and several other council members’ — vision of an expansive city government, providing for citizen needs all the way through arts, entertainment, and now computer tech support.
Then there’s the mayor’s language that we (Wichita city government) should let the private sector do something. I really hope the mayor misspoke here.
This is a bad idea. It seems to me that there may be people in Wichita city hall with too much time on their hands if they have time to come up with ideas like this.
The training covered traditional topics and factors in political activism such as coalitions, holding events, the structure of government in Kansas, and holding elected officials accountable. Then the focus shifted to recent developments in activism such as blogs, wikis, and social media like Facebook.
Shari Weber, executive director of American Majority, introduced her organization and set the tone for the day. American Majority is a training institute for liberty-minded individuals, she explained. American Majority chose Kansas and Oklahoma as states to be involved in first (Minnesota and Louisiana are the other states) because they’re the heartland. Colorado was “flipped” in just a few years, and it’s important to resist this in Kansas.
She went on to explain that American Majority believes in freedom for the individual and freedom in the marketplace. She referenced and explained Lawrence Reed’s Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy, which are:
Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.
What belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair.
Sound policy requires that we consider long-run effects and all people, not simply short-run effects and a few people.
If you encourage something, you get more of it; if you discourage something, you get less of it.
Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.
Government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes from somebody, and a government that’s big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you’ve got.
Thank you to Senator Brownback and Kansas Republicans for opposing bailouts and pork-filled stimulus bills!
“In a new American Tea Party, citizens across the USA are beginning to protest giant government programs that reach deep into their pockets. These programs create huge economic burdens on American families and threaten their livelihood now and into the future.”
We’re having a tea party in Wichita this Friday. Come show your appreciation … and your frustration!
Friday February 27, from 11:30 to 12:30
Office of Senator Sam Brownback
Farm Credit Bank Building, 245 N. Waco, Wichita, KS
Helen Cochran, who was the spokesperson for a group that opposed the recent Wichita school bond, received a few email and telephone messages as part of the campaign that were a little over the top.
In one set of messages, a Wichita High School East English teacher (we’ll call him “Kurt”) carried on the legacy of former superintendent Winston Brooks, who called an opponent a racist just because he didn’t support the bond issue. That was in the 2000 campaign. Here’s “Kurt” writing to Helen in October:
People need to know that your organization is against the bond, not because you think it will put an “undue” burden on property owners and utility companies, but because your bigoted minds don’t want to give your money to students of Wichita who aren’t “like you,” i.e. urban students.
George Wallace would be very proud of you.
I looked at this person’s profile page in Facebook. He is, believe it or not, a youth director at a Christian church. He describes his duties as: “Organize church youth functions, teach Sunday school, and provide Christian guidance to the high school and middle school age students in the youth group.”
Then, after the election Helen received this:
Hmm, all that money, effort, hate, and bigotry for nothing.
Now, you’ll be paying for a new track at my high school, new classrooms, storm shelters; oh yeah… and tennis courts and swimming pools.
The people have spoken. And they’ve spoken louder than you.
When your motives are based in bigotry and hatred, your guise of being “gracious in defeat” is merely a front for the truth of your flawed motivations. And that “one day” of which you speak when I stood for something culminated yesterday when PRESIDENT Obama was elected.
So thanks in-advance for your mandated contributions to the betterment of the facilities of USD 259.
I hope he doesn’t gloat like this in front of the Sunday school class or when providing Christian guidance.
Besides these messages, Helen also received one from him that parroted the USD 259 official line about smaller class sizes, etc. This is ironic in light of this sentence from his Facebook page: “I encourage everyone to be a free-thinker, to ‘think outside the box,’ and continually broaden their capacity for conceptual abstract thought.”
Nothing about this bond issue could be described as resembling “out of the box.” Everything about it is more of the same.
This predetermined goal, difficult as it will be to achieve, means nothing to the earth’s climate. What Kansas could do, even if we took the most drastic measure possible, is canceled by the action of others.
As reported in Science Daily, “The growth in China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is far outpacing previous estimates … Auffhammer [one of the study’s authors] said this paper should serve as an alarm challenging the widely held belief that actions taken by the wealthy, industrialized nations alone represent a viable strategy towards the goal of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.”
The increase in China’s emissions is staggering and swamps any attempt at reductions by other countries, much less a small state like Kansas. From 2000 to 2010, it is estimated that China’s growth in emissions will be about five times larger than the reductions pledged in the Kyoto Protocol.
Then, according the source in Science Daily, China’s average annual growth in emissions in the current decade is about 60 million tons. So even if Kansas stopped producing all carbon emissions, the effect would be overcome in about 16 months of just the growth in China’s emissions. This doesn’t take into account the huge emissions China already produces, or the rapid growth in other countries.
The reality is that any reduction or even slowing of the growth of carbon emissions in Kansas is meaningless in the context of global emissions. We in Kansas need to ask why our governor and radical environmentalists like Nancy Jackson are willing to sacrifice the economy of Kansas for this ineffectual goal.
We had some great speakers. Robert Novak is a favorite person of mine. I devoured his autobiography The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington last year. He told us that he believes the Republicans will lose seats in both houses of Congress, but the presidency can be won. Also: “I like Ron Paul (cheers)…but not for President” (Thanks, Nic Hall, for reminding me of this.)
I always like listening to Tim Phillips, president of Americans For Prosperity. He told us it’s important to let the few “good guys” in government know that we stand behind them, and conferences like this are one way to do that.
Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal told us, and it is reported today in the opinion piece Their Fair Share that Americans with income above the median paid 97.1% of all income taxes. Barack Obama doesn’t think that’s enough. This reminded me that we have two classes of people in America: tax payers, and tax consumers. Regarding the death tax: “No taxation without respiration.”
Steve Lonegan of AFP in New Jersey has an inspiring life story about overcoming blindness as a young adult. The state wanted him to become a client and go to vocational training (to be a basket weaver, he said), but instead he earned an MBA degree.
Grover Norquist: “The left are not friends. The are a band of competing parasites.” Also: “Republicans who raise taxes are rat heads in Coke bottles.”
Michelle Malkin is an inspiration to me. Did you know, I believe she said, that Gen. Wesley Clark whines about the “right wing freak machine”?
Bob Barr, the Libertarian party candidate for president, spoke at a reception. One of his topics? How he introduced the articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton. This is inspiring? Although he did say “Libertarianism lies in the heart of every American.”
It’s always interesting to me to see how these speakers are different in person from when they’re on television. My friend Maggie Thurber at Thurber’s Thoughts has some more good remarks on the speakers.
A few things that I learned:
It takes a long time to drive from Wichita to Austin! And, at a time when some are urging a return to the 55 mph speed limit, I saw little observation of the current 70 mph speed limit. Even when I drove for a while at 75 mph, people passed me like I was standing still.
Why is the term changing from “global warming” to “climate change”?
Ask readers to take action on your blog. Then, after taking action — maybe making a telephone call or writing an email — have readers write a comment about it so others can learn what happened.
I learned more about media bias and how to spot it.
One speaker said that the combined circulation of small newspapers is equal to the circulation of large newspapers.
Personally, I reconnected with some blogger friends that I first met at Samsphere in Chicago earlier this year, a friend I had met at Mises University last year, plus some Facebook “friends” who I had never met in person.
I also got a glimpse at the power of Twitter combined with a mobile device like a Blackberry. I may have to get one.
I had thought I would be able to produce an abbreviated Kansas Blog Roundup on Friday, but with all the activity, I didn’t have time.