Congressman Mike Pompeo, fourth district of Kansas, offered his perspective on recent happenings in Europe, the Middle East and Washington, D.C., at a luncheon gathering of the Wichita Pachyderm Club November 20, 2015. View below, or click here to view in high definition at YouTube. Videography by Paul Soutar.
John Sullivan, who is Supervisory Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Wichita, spoke to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on the topic “Counterterrorism.” This is an audio presentation recorded on October 23, 2015.
Mike O’Neal, President of Kansas Chamber of Commerce, spoke to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on October 9, 2015. His topic was “The Kansas Budget and Taxes: The 2015 Legislative Session and Looking Ahead to the 2016 Legislative Session.” This is an audio presentation.
Reporting from the Wichita Eagle on this event is here, but be sure to read the comment by Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute:
The Eagle’s analysis here is just wrong. The statute does not refer to current spending as the Eagle used, but total spending.
72-64c01. Sixty-five percent of moneys to be spent on instruction. (a) It is the public policy goal of the state of Kansas that at least 65% of the moneys appropriated, distributed or otherwise provided by the state to school districts shall be expended in the classroom or for instruction. http://www.kslegislature.org/…/072…/072_064c_0001_k/
Absent a qualification limiting the analysis to current spending or anything else, the statue applies to total spending.
Total spending according to KSDE in 2014 (2015 hasn’t been publised) was $5,975,517,681 and Instruction spending (downloaded and tabulated across all funds in the KSDE Comprehensive Fiscal and Performance System) was $3,293,217,088, which is 55.1% of spending. Mike O’Neal correctly said that Instruction accounted for 55% of total spending.
The difference between actual spent on Instruction and 65% is therefore $591,576,250. That is more than $500 million…and the Eagle is again wrong on the facts.
FYI, the definition of Instruction comes from KSDE and the US Dept of Education…and has not changed over the period.
Jeffrey A. Tucker, Director of Digital Development at the Foundation for Economic Education, talks about his new book, “Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.” The book is an explanation of how Bitcoin type cryptocurrencies work as a “peer to peer” innovative payment network and an alternative exchange system. Tucker gave the presentation October 2, 2015, at the Wichita Pachyderm Club. View below, or click here to view in high definition at YouTube. Videography by Paul Soutar.
Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Koch Industries, Inc., speaks about criminal justice reform initiatives Koch is encouraging in and why they’re important from moral, constitutional and fiscal perspectives. Holden spoke at a luncheon of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on September 18, 2015. View below, or click here to view in high definition at YouTube. Videography by Paul Soutar.
More information about this topic is at The Overcriminalization of America.
Cato Institute Senior Fellow Michael Tanner speaks about his new book, “Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt and the Entitlement Crisis,” at a luncheon of the Wichita Pachyderm Club, July 31, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Video production by Paul Soutar.
Tanner’s appearance on Wichitaliberty.TV is here.
Professor Jay Price of Wichita State University delivered a lecture on the changing nature of generations over the years. You’ve heard about the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and others. Here, Professor Price defines these terms and tells us about the characteristics of each generation. This is from the Wichita Pachyderm Club, June 5, 2015. Audio is below. The accompanying visual aids are available either as a Powerpoint presentation or pdf file.
Last week Robert E. Litan delivered a very interesting talk to the Wichita Pachyderm Club. The talk was based on his recent book Trillion Dollar Economists: How Economists and Their Ideas have Transformed Business. View video below, or click here to view at YouTube. Video production by Paul Soutar.
Here is a sampling of stories from Voice for Liberty in 2014.
A transparency agenda for Wichita
Kansas has a weak open records law, and Wichita doesn’t want to follow the law, as weak as it is. But with a simple change of attitude towards open government and citizens’ right to know, Wichita could live up to the goals its leaders have set.
New York Times on Kansas schools, again
The New York Times — again — intervenes in Kansas schools. As it did last October, the newspaper makes serious errors in its facts and recommendations.
Visit Wichita, and pay a tourism fee
The Wichita City Council will consider adding a 2.75 percent tax to hotel bills, calling it a “City Tourism Fee.” Welcome to Wichita!
Wichita’s growth in gross domestic product
Compared to peer areas, Wichita’s record of growth in gross domestic product is similar to that of job creation: Wichita performs poorly.
The death penalty in Kansas, a conservative view
What should the attitude of conservatives be regarding the death penalty? Ben Jones of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty spoke on the topic “Capital Punishment in Kansas from a conservative perspective: Is it a failed policy?”
Kansas school test scores, the subgroups
To understand Kansas school test scores, look at subgroups. Sometimes Kansas ranks very well among the states. In other instances, Kansas ranks much lower, even below the national average. It’s important for Kansans — be they citizens, schoolchildren, parents, education professionals, or (especially) politicians of any party — to understand these scores.
The state of Wichita, 2014
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered the annual State of the City address. He said a few things that deserve discussion.
In Wichita, why do some pay taxes, and others don’t?
A request by a luxury development in downtown Wichita raises issues, for example, why do we have to pay taxes?
Wichita considers policy to rein in council’s bad behavior
he Wichita City Council considers a policy designed to squelch the council’s ability to issue no-bid contracts for city projects. This policy is necessary to counter the past bad behavior of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and several council members, as well as their inability to police themselves regarding matters of ethical behavior by government officials.
Our Kansas grassroots teachers union
Letters to the editor in your hometown newspaper may have the air of being written by a concerned parent of Kansas schoolchildren, but they might not be what they seem.
Wichita’s legislative agenda favors government, not citizens
This week the Wichita City Council will consider its legislative agenda. This document contains many items that are contrary to economic freedom, capitalism, limited government, and individual liberty. Yet, Wichitans pay taxes to have someone in Topeka promote this agenda.
Wichita planning documents hold sobering numbers
The documents hold information that ought to make Wichitans think, and think hard. The amounts of money involved are large, and portions represent deferred maintenance. That is, the city has not been taking care of the assets that taxpayers have paid for.
In Wichita, citizens want more transparency in city government
In a videographed meeting that is part of a comprehensive planning process, Wichitans openly question the process, repeatedly asking for an end to cronyism and secrecy at city hall.
Special interests struggle to keep special tax treatment
When a legislature is willing to grant special tax treatment, it sets up a battle to keep — or obtain — that status. Once a special class acquires preferential treatment, others will seek it too.
In Wichita, West Bank apartments seem to violate ordinance
Last year the Wichita City Council selected a development team to build apartments on the West Bank of the Arkansas River, between Douglas Avenue and Second Street. But city leaders may have overlooked a Wichita City Charter Ordinance that sets aside this land to be “open space, committed to use for the purpose of public recreation and enjoyment.”
In Wichita, pushing back at union protests
A Wichita automobile dealer is pushing back at a labor union that’s accusing the dealer of unfair labor practices.
Wichita City Council to consider entrenching power of special interest groups
The Wichita City Council will consider a resolution in support of the status quo for city elections. Which is to say, the council will likely express its support for special interest groups whose goals are in conflict with the wellbeing of the public.
State employment visualizations
There’s been dueling claims and controversy over employment figures in Kansas and our state’s performance relative to others. I present the actual data in interactive visualizations that you can use to make up your own mind.
State and local government employment levels vary
The states vary widely in levels of state government and local government employees, calculated on a per-person basis. Only ten states have total government employee payroll costs greater than Kansas, on a per-person basis.
Wichita not good for small business
When it comes to having good conditions to support small businesses, well, Wichita isn’t exactly at the top of the list, according to a new ranking from The Business Journals.
Cronyism is welfare for rich and powerful, writes Charles G. Koch
“The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism,” writes Charles G. Koch in the Wall Street Journal.
Rich States, Poor States for 2014 released
In the 2014 edition of Rich States, Poor States, Utah continues its streak at the top of Economic Outlook Ranking, meaning that the state is poised for growth and prosperity. Kansas continues with middle-of-the-pack performance rankings, and fell in the forward-looking forecast.
Wichita develops plans to make up for past planning mistakes
On several issues, including street maintenance, water supply, and economic development, Wichita government and civic leaders have let our city fall behind. Now they ask for your support for future plans to correct these mistakes in past plans.
Poll: Wichitans don’t want sales tax increase
According to a newly released poll from Kansas Policy Institute, Wichitans may want more jobs and a secure water source but they certainly don’t support a sales tax increase as the means to get either. Reporting on this poll is available in these articles: In Wichita, opinion of city spending consistent across party and ideology, Few Wichitans support taxation for economic development subsidies, Wichitans willing to fund basics, and To fund government, Wichitans prefer alternatives to raising taxes.
Contrary to officials, Wichita has many incentive programs
Wichita government leaders complain that Wichita can’t compete in economic development with other cities and states because the budget for incentives is too small. But when making this argument, these officials don’t include all incentives that are available.
In Wichita, the streetside seating is illuminated very well
Wichita city leaders tell us that the budget and spending have been cut to the bone. Except for the waste, that is.
Wichita seeks to form entertainment district
A proposed entertainment district in Old Town Wichita benefits a concentrated area but spreads costs across everyone while creating potential for abuse.
In Wichita, capitalism doesn’t work, until it works
Attitudes of Wichita government leaders towards capitalism reveal a lack of understanding. Is only a government-owned hotel able to make capital improvements?
Wichita, again, fails at government transparency
At a time when Wichita city hall needs to cultivate the trust of citizens, another incident illustrates the entrenched attitude of the city towards its citizens. Despite the proclamations of the mayor and manager, the city needs a change of attitude towards government transparency and citizens’ right to know.
Wichita per capita income not moving in a good direction
Despite its problematic nature, per capita income in Wichita is used as a benchmark for the economy. It’s not moving in the right direction. As Wichita plans its future, leaders need to recognize and understand its recent history.
Uber, not for Wichita
A novel transportation service worked well for me on a recent trip to Washington, but Wichita doesn’t seem ready to embrace such innovation.
For Kansas’ Roberts, an election year conversion?
A group of like-minded Republican senators has apparently lost a member. Is the conservative voting streak by Pat Roberts an election year conversion, or just a passing fad?
Wichita property taxes compared
An ongoing study reveals that generally, property taxes on commercial and industrial property in Wichita are high. In particular, taxes on commercial property in Wichita are among the highest in the nation.
Government employee costs in the states
The states vary widely in levels of state government and local government employees and payroll costs, calculated on a per-person basis. Kansas ranks high in these costs, nationally and among nearby states.
With new tax exemptions, what is the message Wichita sends to existing landlords?
As the City of Wichita prepares to grant special tax status to another new industrial building, existing landlords must be wondering why they struggle to stay in business when city hall sets up subsidized competitors with new buildings and a large cost advantage.
Wichita city council schools citizens on civic involvement
Proceedings of a recent Wichita City Council meeting are instructive of the factors citizens should consider if they want to interact with the council and city government at a public hearing.
Forget the vampires. Let’s tackle the real monsters.
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.
Wichita property taxes rise again
The City of Wichita is fond of saying that it hasn’t raised its mill levy in many years. But the mill levy has risen in recent years.
For Wichita leaders, novel alternatives on water not welcome
A forum on water issues featured a presentation by Wichita city officials and was attended by other city officials, but the city missed a learning opportunity.
For Wichita’s new water supply, debt is suddenly bad
Wichita city leaders are telling us we need to spend a lot of money for a new water source. For some reason, debt has now become a dirty word.
Pat Roberts, senator for corporate welfare
Two years ago United States Senator Pat Roberts voted in committee with liberals like John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Stabenow to pass a bill loaded with wasteful corporate welfare.
Charles Koch: How to really turn the economy around
Writing in USA Today, Charles Koch offers insight into why our economy is sluggish, and how to make a positive change.
Wichita airport statistics updated
As the Wichita City Council prepares to authorize funding for Southwest Airlines, it’s worth taking a look at updated statistics regarding the airport.
Wichita sales tax hike would hit low income families hardest
Analysis of household expenditure data shows that a proposed sales tax in Wichita affects low income families in greatest proportion, confirming the regressive nature of sales taxes.
Welcome back, Gidget
Gidget stepped away for a few months, but happily she is back writing about Kansas politics at Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe).
Wichita planning results in delay, waste
Wichita plans an ambitious road project that turns out to be too expensive, resulting in continued delays for Wichita drivers and purchases of land that may not be needed.
‘Transforming Wichita’ a reminder of the value of government promises
When Wichita voters weigh the plausibility of the city’s plans for spending proposed new sales tax revenue, they should remember this is not the first time the city has promised results and accountability.
Fact-checking Yes Wichita: NetApp incentives
In making the case that economic development incentives are necessary and successful in creating jobs, a Wichita campaign overlooks the really big picture.
Arrival of Uber a pivotal moment for Wichita
Now that Uber has started service in Wichita, the city faces a decision. Will Wichita move into the future by embracing Uber, or remain stuck in the past?
Fact-checking Yes Wichita: Boeing incentives
The claim that the “city never gave Boeing incentives” will come as news to the Wichita city officials who dished out over $600 million in subsidies and incentives to the company.
Beechcraft incentives a teachable moment for Wichita
The case of Beechcraft and economic development incentives holds several lessons as Wichita considers a new tax with a portion devoted to incentives.
For Kansas budget, balance is attainable
A policy brief from a Kansas think tank illustrates that balancing the Kansas budget while maintaining services and lower tax rates is not only possible, but realistic.
To Wichita, a promise to wisely invest if sales tax passes
Claims of a reformed economic development process if Wichita voters approve a sales tax must be evaluated in light of past practice and the sameness of the people in charge. If these leaders are truly interested in reforming Wichita’s economic development machinery and processes, they could have started years ago using the generous incentives we already have.
For Wichita Chamber’s expert, no negatives to economic development incentives
An expert in economic development sponsored by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce tells Wichita there are no studies showing that incentives don’t work.
Water, economic development discussed in Wichita
Dr. Art Hall, Executive Director of the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas School of Business, presented his “Thoughts on Water and Economic Development” at the Wichita Pachyderm Club Friday, September 19, 2014
Stuck in the box in Wichita, part one
To pay for a new water supply, Wichita gives voters two choices and portrays one as bad. But the purportedly bad choice is the same choice the city made over the last decade to pay for the last big water project. We need out-of-the-box thinking here.
Kansas economy has been underperforming
Those who call for a return to the economic policies of past Kansas gubernatorial administrations may not be aware of the performance of the Kansas economy during those times.
Union Station TIF provides lessons for Wichita voters
A proposed downtown Wichita development deserves more scrutiny than it has received, as it provides a window into the city’s economic development practice that voters should peek through as they consider voting for the Wichita sales tax.
A simple step towards government transparency in Wichita
Kansas law requires publication of certain notices in newspapers, but cities like Wichita could also make them available in other ways that are easier to use.
While Wichita asks for new taxes, it continues to spend and borrow
The City of Wichita says it doesn’t have enough revenue for things like street maintenance and transit, but continues to borrow for spending on new projects.
Wichita debt levels seen to rise
As part of the campaign for a proposed Wichita sales tax, the city says that debt is bad. But actions the city has taken have caused debt levels to rise, and projections are for further increases.
For Wichita, another economic development plan
The Wichita City Council will consider a proposal from a consultant to “facilitate a community conversation for the creation of a new economic development diversification plan for the greater Wichita region.” Haven’t we been down this road before?
In Wichita, pro-sales tax campaign group uses sales tax-exempt building as headquarters
While “Yes Wichita” campaigns for higher sales taxes, it operates from a building that received a special exemption from paying sales tax.
For Wichita Chamber of Commerce chair, it’s sales tax for you, but not for me
A Wichita company CEO applied for a sales tax exemption. Now as chair of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, he wants you to pay more sales tax, even on the food you buy in grocery stores.
Should Wichita expand a water system that is still in commissioning stage?
Should we be concerned about rushing a decision to expand a water production system that has not yet proven itself?
Wichita sends educational mailer to non-Wichitans, using Wichita taxes
Why is the City of Wichita spending taxpayer money mailing to voters who don’t live in the city and can’t vote on the issue?
Wichita to consider tax exemptions
A Wichita company asks for property and sales tax exemptions on the same day Wichita voters decide whether to increase the sales tax, including the tax on groceries.
In election coverage, The Wichita Eagle has fallen short
Citizens want to trust their hometown newspaper as a reliable source of information. The Wichita Eagle has not only fallen short of this goal, it seems to have abandoned it.
Kansas school spending visualization updated
There’s new data available from Kansas State Department of Education on school spending. I’ve gathered the data, adjusted it for the consumer price index, and now present it in this interactive visualization.
In Kansas, school employment rises again
For the fourth consecutive year, the number of teachers in Kansas public schools has risen faster than enrollment, leading to declining pupil-teacher ratios.
Richard Ranzau, slayer of cronyism
In Sedgwick County, an unlikely hero emerges in the battle for capitalism over cronyism.
Kansans still uninformed on school spending
As in the past, a survey finds Kansans are uninformed or misinformed on the level of school spending, and also on the direction of its change.
In Kansas, voters want government to concentrate on efficiency and core services before asking for taxes
A survey of Kansas voters finds that Kansas believe government is not operating efficiently. They also believe government should pursue efficiency savings, focus on core functions, and spend unnecessary cash reserves before cutting services or raising taxes.
Kansas cities should not unilaterally grant tax breaks
When Kansas cities grant economic development incentives, they may also unilaterally take action that affects overlapping jurisdictions such as counties, school districts, and the state itself. The legislature should end this.
City of Wichita State Legislative Agenda: Cultural Arts Districts
Wichita government spending on economic development leads to imagined problems that require government intervention and more taxpayer contribution to resolve. The cycle of organic rebirth of cities is then replaced with bureaucratic management.
City of Wichita State Legislative Agenda: Airfares
The City of Wichita’s legislative agenda regarding the Affordable Airfares subsidy program seems to be based on data not supported by facts.
Options for funding Wichita’s future water supply
Now that the proposed Wichita sales tax has failed, how should Wichita pay for a future water supply?
KU records request seen as political attack
A request for correspondence belonging to a Kansas University faculty member is a blatant attempt to squelch academic freedom and free speech.
Why is this man smiling?
In Wichita, the chair of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce crafts a sweetheart deal for his company to the detriment of Wichita taxpayers.
Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce: What is the attitude towards taxes?
Does the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce support free markets, capitalism, and economic freedom, or something else?
Will the next Wichita mayor advocate enforcing our ethics laws?
Wichita has laws that seem clear. But the city attorney said they don’t mean what they seem to say. Will our next mayor stand up for ethics?
Campaign contribution stacking in Wichita
Those seeking favors from Wichita City Hall use campaign contribution stacking to bypass contribution limits. This has paid off handsomely for them, and has harmed everyone else.
Economic development in Wichita: Looking beyond the immediate
Decisions on economic development initiatives in Wichita are made based on “stage one” thinking, failing to look beyond what is immediate and obvious.
Economic development in Sedgwick County
The issue of awarding an economic development incentive reveals much as to why the Wichita-area economy has not grown.
Dave Trabert, President of the Kansas Policy Institute, spoke at the December 12, 2014 Wichita Pachyderm Club meeting. His program was titled “Debunking False Claims about Kansas Budget and Economy and Kansas Policy Institute Budget Plan for Kansas — How to balance the state budget without service reductions or tax increases.”
View video below, or click here to view at YouTube.
The policy brief Trabert mentioned may be downloaded from KPI at A Five-Year Budget Plan for the State of Kansas: How to balance the budget and have healthy ending balances without tax increases or service reductions or alternatively from Scribd here (may work better on mobile devices). A press release from KPI announcing the policy brief is at 5 Year Budget Plan Outlines Path To Protect Essential Services and Tax Reform.
Dr. Art Hall, Executive Director of the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas School of Business, presented his “Thoughts on Water and Economic Development” at the Wichita Pachyderm Club Friday, September 19, 2014. Wichita voters will determine whether the city enacts a one cent per dollar sales tax increase to be used for water infrastructure and economic development incentives. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
More from Dr. Hall on the subject of economic development in Kansas may be found in Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy.
Heritage Foundation Chief Economist Stephen Moore spoke to a luncheon gathering at the Wichita Pachyderm Club about his new book, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States.” September 5, 2014. Video production by Paul Soutar. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Nick Jordan is Secretary of Revenue for the State of Kansas. He spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on the topic “An Analysis of Governor Brownback’s Tax Policy” on August 22, 2014. In the shownotes for this episode you can find the link to the handout he distributed.
Here’s Kansas Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on August 22, 2014.
Former Wichita mayor Bob Knight explains that when he left office in 2003, we were assured we had water for 50 years. What has happened?
Knight also reminded the audience that there is a Sedgwick County sales tax, part of which is divided among cities like Wichita. He also took the Visioneering planning process to task. In the past ten years, he wondered why no one asked about a city without water.
From a forum at Wichita Pachyderm Club on July 22, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Dwight D. Keen is former chairman of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association. He spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on the topic “Hydraulic Fracturing: A Conjured-up Controversy” on August 8, 2014. In the shownotes for this episode you can find the link to the short video that was shown as part of his talk. Also, you will find links to the handouts he distributed.
Here’s Dwight Keen at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on August 8, 2014.
Link to video shown during the presentation: Hydraulic Fracturing
Handout: A fluid situation: Typical solution used in hydraulic facturing
Handout: Gasland debunked
Wichita Pachyderm Club
In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Candidates for Republican party nomination for Kansas Secretary of State spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on July 18, 2014. The candidates are incumbent Kris Kobach and challenger Scott Morgan. The issue of voting, particularly the requirement for proof of citizenship when registering to vote, is an issue that separates the two candidates.
The format of the meeting was an opening statement by each candidate followed by questions from the audience and a brief closing statement.
I asked a question about whether the state’s chief election officer should have a political action committee that engages in electioneering. Kobach replied that this practice is legal, which it is. As to its propriety, Kobach said that statewide officials frequently endorse candidates. Morgan said it is not ethical or appropriate for the secretary of state to have a political action committee. As to Kobach’s argument that since other statewide officials are able to endorse candidates, that means the secretary of state should also, there is a distinguishing factor: Those other officials aren’t in charge of administering Kansas elections.
Controversy over the timing and efficacy of an earmark divert attention from the fact that earmarks are bad government. Congress is better without the practice.
United States Congressional candidate Todd Tiahrt calls for a return to earmark spending in Congress, pointing to a million-dollar grant he obtained for Wichita to help defray costs of the Wichita Police Department in investigating and capturing serial killer Dennis Rader, or BTK. The Daily Caller has a report, as does the Wichita Eagle. Neither story is supportive of Tiahrt’s claim that earmarks were responsible for the capture of the BTK killer.
Speaking to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on May 16, Tiahrt defended the earmarking process, telling the audience “By the way, earmarks don’t raise spending. Earmarks never increase the budget. They simply redirect the funding.” (The complete broadcast of his talk is available at Voice for Liberty Radio: Todd Tiahrt.)
This is the standard argument: Earmarks simply direct the spending of money that is already authorized to be spent. Therefore, earmarking does not increase the amount spent. But this reasoning bypasses the fact that it is Congress that authorizes a certain amount to be spent. If Congress is concerned that too much is being spent, it could authorize less.
This notion that discretionary spending is on a trajectory that can’t be controlled; that all a hapless Congress can do is control where it is spent by earmarking: This is nonsense. Nonsense on stilts. Some of the problems with earmark spending are contained in For Tiahrt, earmarks are good government.
Logrolling, or the selling of earmarks
Many Members of Congress sell earmarks to the home district as a beneficial way to have the country as a whole to pay for our needs. It’s usually presented as though it is free money. Taxpayers across the country are paying for something in the home district, members say.
But as most people know in their hearts, there really is no free lunch. If Members of Congress expect other members to vote for their earmarks, they know they’re expected to vote for the earmarks of other members. This is precisely what happens.
The BTK earmark happened in 2005. In 2007 a group of House Members offered 50 amendments to remove earmarks from appropriations bills. Club for Growth compiled the following list, along with a scorecard of votes for each member. I’ve presented the list of amendments below, and you can view the project at The 2007 Club for Growth RePORK Card. It includes items like $150,000 for the Bremerton Public Library restoration in Washington, $129,000 for the Mitchell County Development Foundation for the home of the “perfect Christmas tree” project, and $100,000 for the Kansas Regional Prisons Museum in Lansing.
So two years after the BTK earmark for the Wichita Police Department, there were 50 opportunities for our representatives to make a simple up-or-down vote on wasteful pork barrel spending projects. Only one of these amendments passed.
Todd Tiahrt voted against all of these amendments. He, along with 81 Democrats and 23 other Republicans, could find no good reason to vote against any of these projects.
So while Wichita received help paying for a police investigation, we in the fourth congressional district had to pay for all these other projects. After all, how could Tiahrt ask his congressional colleagues to support his own earmarks if he did not support theirs?
Congress is better without earmarks
While there has been a ban on earmarks since 2010, some members and candidates call for a return to earmarking. But a recent Wall Street Journal editorial explains the benefit of the ending of earmarks and a return to accountability in legislative decision-making:
Congressional cries to restore earmarks are mounting, and a new favorite argument is that the spenders need the pork authority to properly exercise their Constitutional power of the purse. But if you look at what’s happening inside Congress, the opposite is true: The earmark ban is producing more spending accountability and oversight. … When Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin now pines for the days when earmarks were the “glue” holding bills together, what he’s really missing is leadership’s power to dole out home-state patronage. Pork-barrel Republicans who say the earmark ban has transferred spending power to the President are excusing their own unwillingness to set priorities. … This process put House Members in control of spending decisions, even as it required them to choose on the basis of fact and analysis — rather than logrolling.
(“Logrolling” is the practice of supporting others’ projects in order to gain support for yours. Vote trading, in other words.)
At the same May 2014 Pachyderm Club meeting, Tiahrt said that earmark spending is still happening, but now it’s directed through the executive branch. Congress has given President Obama a “blank check,” Tiahrt told the audience. The Wall Street Journal editorial board disagrees.
Following is the list of 50 amendments that would have canceled pork barrel spending projects in 2007.
House Vote 559 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the Clover Bend Historic Site in Arkansas. Amendment failed, 98-331.
House Vote 560 — Bars funding of $100,000 for the St. Joseph’s College Theatre Renovation in Indiana. Amendment failed, 97-328.
House Vote 561 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the Maverick Concert Hall preservation in New York. Amendment failed, 114-316.
House Vote 562 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the Bremerton Public Library restoration in Washington. Amendment failed, 98-333.
House Vote 565 — Bars funding of $140,000 for the Wetzel County Courthouse in West Virginia. Amendment failed, 104-323.
House Vote 566 — Bars funding of $150,000 for equipment for the Conte Anadromous Fish Laboratory. Amendment failed, 97-330.
House Vote 567 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the W.A. Young and Sons Foundry in Pennsylvania. Amendment failed, 104-328.
House Vote 568 — Bars funding of $100,000 for the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters to renovate a hall in Ohio. Amendment failed, 66-364.
House Vote 569 — Bars funding of $1,200,000 for projects related to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Route. Amendment failed, 86-343.
House Vote 590 — Bars funding of $231,000 for the Grace Johnstown Area Regional Industries Incubator and Workforce Development program in Pennsylvania. Amendment failed, 87-335.
House Vote 591 — Bars funding of $500,000 for a project in the Barracks Row area of Washington, D.C. Amendment failed, 60-361.
House Vote 592 — Bars funding of $231,000 for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association’s SPUR urban center. Amendment failed, 102-317.
House Vote 593 — Bars funding of $129,000 for the Mitchell County Development Foundation for the home of the “perfect Christmas tree” project. Amendment passed, 249-174.
House Vote 594 — Bars funding of $231,000 for the West Virginia University Research Corporation’s renovation of a small-business incubator. Amendment failed, 101-325.
House Vote 595 — Bars funding of $231,000 for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission. Amendment failed, 107-318.
House Vote 597 — To remove 148 requested earmarks from the bill. Amendment failed, 48-372.
House Vote 636 — Bars funding of $1,000,000 for the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure in Pennsylvania. Amendment failed, 98-326.
House Vote 637 — Bars funding of $1,500,000 for the South Carolina Historically Black Colleges and Universities Science and Technology Initiative. Amendment failed, 70-357.
House Vote 638 — Bars funding of $500,000 for the Emmanuel College Center for Science Partnership in Massachusetts. Amendment failed, 79-337.
House Vote 639 — Bars funding of $1,000,000 for nano-structured fuel cell membrane electrode assembly in California. Amendment failed, 81-348.
House Vote 640 — Strikes numerous earmarks from the bill. Amendment failed, 39-388.
House Vote 654 — Bars funding of $34,000,000 for the Alaska Native Education Equity program and other programs. Amendment failed, 74-352.
House Vote 663 — Strikes all earmarks in the bill. Amendment failed, 53-369.
House Vote 664 — Bars funding of $300,000 for its Bay Area Science Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Improvement Initiative. Amendment failed, 89-341.
House Vote 667 — Bars funding of $300,000 for the On Location Entertainment Industry Craft and Technician Training project at West Los Angeles College in Culver City, CA. Amendment failed, 114-316.
House Vote 668 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the American Ballet Theatre in New York City for educational activities. Amendment failed, 118-312.
House Vote 669 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, S.C. Amendment failed, 70-360.
House Vote 670 — Bars funding of $100,000 for the Kansas Regional Prisons Museum in Lansing, Kan. Amendment failed, 112-317.
House Vote 671 — Bars funding of $200,000 for the Corporation for Jefferson’s Popular Forest in Forest, VA. Amendment failed, 68-360.
House Vote 678 — Bars funding of $2,000,000 for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York in New York City. Amendment failed, 108-316.
House Vote 679 — Bars funding of $200,000 for the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO. Amendment failed, 96-327.
House Vote 698 — Bars funding of $300,000 for the Belmont Complex in Kittanning, PA. Amendment failed, 87-335.
House Vote 699 — Bars funding of $400,000 for the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in Wausau, WI. Amendment failed, 68-356.
House Vote 700 — Bars funding of $50,000 for the National Mule and Packers Museum in Woodlake, CA. Amendment failed, 69-352.
House Vote 701 — Bars funding of $300,000 for the Friends of Cheat Rails-to-Trails Program in West Virginia. Amendment failed, 81-342.
House Vote 702 — Bars funding of $300,000 for the Houston Zoo in Texas. Amendment failed, 77-347.
House Vote 705 — Bars funding of $150,000 for the Edmonds Center for the Arts in Edmonds, WA. Amendment failed, 97-327.
House Vote 706 — Bars funding for “parking facilities”. Amendment failed, 86-338.
House Vote 735 — Bars funding of $200,000 for the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. Amendment failed, 87-328.
House Vote 736 — Bars funding of $250,000 for the East Coast Shellfish Research Institute in Toms River, NJ. Amendment failed, 77-337.
House Vote 809 — Bars funding of $878,046 for the Catfish Pathogen Genomic Project in Auburn, AL. Amendment failed, 74-357.
House Vote 810 — Bars funding of $628,843 for grape genetics research in Geneva, NY. Amendment failed, 76-353.
House Vote 811 — Bars funding of $400,000 for the alternative uses of a tobacco grant in Maryland. Amendment failed, 94-337.
House Vote 812 — Bars funding of $489,000 for Ruminant Nutrition Consortium in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Amendment failed, 74-355.
House Vote 813 — Bars funding of $6,371,000 for the wood utilization grant in Mississippi, North Carolina, Minnesota, Maine, Michigan, Idaho, Tennessee, Arkansas and West Virginia. Amendment failed, 68-363.
House Vote 839 — Bars funding of $2,500,000 for the Presidio Trust national park in San Francisco, CA. Amendment failed, 94-311.
House Vote 842 — Bars funding of $2,000,000 for the “Paint Shield for Protecting People from Microbial Threats.” Amendment failed, 91-317.
House Vote 843 — Bars funding of $1,500,000 for the Doyle Center for Manufacturing Technology in Pittsburgh, PA. Amendment failed, 98-312.
House Vote 844 — Bars funding of $3,000,000 for the Lewis Center for Education Research in Apple Valley, CA. Amendment failed, 57-353.
House Vote 845 — Bars funding of $39,000,000 for the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, PA. Amendment failed, 109-301.
In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Candidates for Republican party nominations in two districts for Sedgwick County Commission spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on June 20, 2014.
In district 4, which is parts of northeast, north and northwest Wichita and the towns of Park City, Valley Center, and Maize, Kansas Senator Carolyn McGinn is challenging the incumbent Richard Ranzau. In district 5, which is parts of south and southeast Wichita and the town of Derby and surrounding area, Derby Mayor Dion Avello is facing Kansas Representative Jim Howell. The format of the meeting was an opening statement by each candidate followed by questions from the audience and a brief closing statement.
Here are candidates for Republican party nominations for Sedgwick County Commission at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on June 20, 2014.
Candidates in district 5:
State Representative Jim Howell for Sedgwick County Commissioner
In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Candidate for United States Senate Dr. Milton Wolf spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday June 13. He spoke about the issues he feels are important today in America and took questions from the audience. Dr. Wolf was introduced to the Pachyderm Club members and guests by myself.
In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: United States Senator Pat Roberts spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday May 30. He addressed a number of current topics in Washington such as the problems at the Veterans Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and regulations regarding the lesser prairie chicken. He also spoke about his current campaign for re-election and took questions from the audience. Roberts was introduced to the Pachyderm Club members and guests by Sedgwick County Republican Party Chairman Bob Dool.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Former United States Representative Todd Tiahrt spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday May 16. Tiahrt is the current Republican National Committeeman for Kansas. He is said to be considering running for the position in Congress that he previously held, and which is presently held by Mike Pompeo. Tiahrt was introduced to the Pachyderm Club members and guests by Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.
Zoltan Kesz, founder of the Free Market Foundation in Hungary, speaks to a luncheon gathering at the Wichita, Kansas Pachyderm Club on February 21, 2014. For more about this topic, see In Hungary, the rise of nationalism and racism. View the video below, or click here to view at YouTube. Paul Soutar is the videographer.
Zoltán Kész will speak at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday February 21. The public is welcome to attend. For more information on this event, see Hungarian activist to address Pachyderms and guests.
In Hungary, nationalism and racism are rising problems. The Free Market Foundation of Hungary, co-founded by Zoltán Kész fights against these problems. Last November Kesz was in Wichita and I visited with him and a small group.
I asked about economic freedom in Hungary, noting that according to the economic freedom of the world report, Hungary was about in the middle of the European countries, although it is moving in the wrong direction. Kesz said that is right. Hungary had a very good economy in the 1990s, but in the past 13 or 14 years the country has been going in the wrong direction. The government in Hungary has a two-thirds majority he said, which means it can pass any law. The government passed a flat tax, but there are so many other taxes added on that he said it’s not really a flat tax. The flat, or value-added, tax is 27 percent.
Kesz said that while the government in Hungary says it is a conservative government, there have been recent developments that are contrary to free-market principles. For example, private pensions were nationalized in 2010. The government heavily regulates utility prices, and soon all utility companies will be nonprofit.
A serious and growing problem in Hungary is racism. In 2006, the Jobbik party, a group that is openly anti-Jew and anti-Roma (Gypsy) became popular. In 2010 it had 15 percent of the vote in the Hungarian parliament and is the third largest party. The country is very homogeneous, Kesz said, surrounded by Hungarians in other countries. An estimate is that about eight percent are Roma. There are about 100,000 Jews in Hungary, which has a total population of ten million.
The Jobbik party in Hungary — which Kesz described as far-right — is nationalistic and criticizes the loss of territory after World War I. It stirs up emotions for a larger Hungary and for getting the old empire back. Economically, Jobbik rejects globalism and foreign investment, and supports more government redistribution of income and wealth.
Very troubling is the radical, neo-Nazi aspect of Jobbik. The party blames Jews and Gypsies for the problems in Hungary. Kesz told of demands by one Jobbik member of parliament who demanded a list of Jews in the legislature. Leaders of Jobbik have said that Jews should be put in cattle wagons and shipped away to labor camps.
Recent surveys have reported that Jobbik attracts 33 percent of university students, and 52 percent of those say that in some cases they would prefer dictatorship rather than democracy.
It’s hard to overstate how serious is the problem of the rise of racism and nationalism in Hungary. In his recommendation of the free market foundation of Hungary, Tom G. Palmer said “The backsliding towards authoritarian statism and even primitive collectivism in the heart of Europe is extremely disturbing and so it is truly inspiring to see the work that the Free Market Foundation is doing. I was very active in the region as communism was crumbling and remember vividly the struggle of Hungarians to free themselves from the horrors of Communism.”
In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Last fall Bud Norman spoke to a meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Norman’s blog is The Central Standard Times. His novel is “The Things That Are Caesars: A Comic Tale of Politics, Religion, and Other Impolite Topics.” His topic was “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party,” and it’s very entertaining. I provided the introduction.
This is podcast episode number 10, released on February 7, 2014. There is much other material at Voice for Liberty on the internet at wichitaliberty.org. Here’s Bud Norman at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, October 4, 2013.
Norman’s blog is The Central Standard Times.
His novel is The Things That Are Caesars: A Comic Tale of Politics, Religion, and Other Impolite Topics.
His prepared remarks are available to read here.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: A Kansas college professor claims that college costs are rising only a tad faster than inflation. We’ll take a look at the actual numbers. Then, this week Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered the annual State of the City address. A few things deserve comment. Episode 30, broadcast February 2, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
This week Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered his annual State of the City address. We expect a certain amount of bragging and over-the-top community pride, things like “Wichita is the BEST place to work and raise a family!” That’s good, to a point. Because if we take these boasts seriously, and if they are not based on factual information, then we have a problem. We may believe that everything is fine in Wichita. But if the actual state of the city is otherwise, we may take unwise action that ultimately is harmful.
(While the city took prominent measures to promote the mayor’s speech, so far the text has not been made available on the city’s website. But you may click here to read it.)
Here’s an example, and perhaps the most important. The mayor said “Our community partnerships have helped us overcome the challenges of the great recession — which brought layoffs to many sectors of our economy.” But the problem is that we haven’t overcome the recession.
If we take a look at job growth in Wichita over the last two decades, we see Wichita performing very poorly. That’s not only on an absolute basis, but relative to our self-chosen peer cities. The relative part is important, because the recession was nation-wide. All cities suffered. Note that there are a few cities over which Wichita ranked higher: Springfield, Illinois, and Wichita Falls, Texas. These cities are relevant because we recently hired people from these cities to lead our economic development efforts.
I’ve shown data like this to the city council. I don’t think they believed me. I can understand their reluctance, as it’s not easy to admit things like this. Few like to admit failure. But that doesn’t excuse a reluctance to face facts. I also believe that some council members think that city hall critics take joy in presenting these figures. At least for me, that’s not true. I realize that these statistics tell a story of human hardship. So for those who don’t believe or trust my research, here’s a chart prepared by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce for a presentation to its leadership committee. It uses a different time frame and a slightly different set of peers for comparison, but the results are the same: Wichita lags behind in terms of job growth.
Despite this evidence, the mayor thinks we’re doing well, and he is proud of our economic development efforts. In his address, he told the audience this: “For the past five years — the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition has helped generate nearly 10,000 jobs and more than 400 million in capital investment.”
That sounds like a lot of jobs. But we have to temper that number. We know that we don’t update our job statistics to reflect jobs that didn’t last for very long. We also must realize that some of these jobs would have been created without the involvement of our economic development agencies. We also must realize that these economic development efforts have a cost, and that cost is harmful to our economy and job creation.
But even if we give our economic development agencies sole credit for these 10,000 jobs, let’s apply a little arithmetic to provide some context. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the labor force in the Wichita Metropolitan area is about 302,000 people. that number, by the way, has been declining since 2009. If we take the 10,000 jobs — recognizing that was for five years — that averages to 2,000 jobs per year. That’s in the neighborhood of six percent of the labor force.
Does that represent a significant factor in the Wichita area economy? Remember, that calculation gives government more credit that it deserves. When we combine this with Wichita’s lackluster performance in creating jobs compared to our peers, I really don’t think we should be proud of our government’s economic development efforts.
In his State of the City Address, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer also said we need to “continue to diversify our economy.” But we’re not doing that. Our economic development programs heavily favor the aviation industry, which makes it more difficult for aspiring companies in other diverse industries to start and thrive.
The mayor told the audience that “We will also continue to support our successful affordable airfares program.” This is the program whereby Wichita and the state of Kansas pay a discount airline to provide service in Wichita. It was AirTran, but is now Southwest. It is thought that if one airline has low fares, others will reduce their fares to match. That’s probably the case. But I’ve done the 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.
The mayor also asked for cooperation in using Southwest Airlines, advising the audience: “So when you make your corporate travel plans, please remember our community’s commitment to supporting low-cost carriers.” Well. How would you feel if you worked for one of our air carriers that don’t receive a subsidy, such as American, United, and Delta? How would you feel if you owned stock in one of these airlines, as does nearly everyone who holds broad-based index funds in their retirement or investment accounts?
In the past, the subsidized discount carrier has carried around ten percent of Wichita’s passengers. So we are vitally dependent on the legacy, or major, airlines, and we don’t need to insult them, as I believe the mayor did.
(To help you explore Wichita airport data, I’ve created an interactive visualization. Click here to open the visualization in a new window. You may add or remove any number of airports. Or, if you’d like to watch a video, click on Wichita Airport statistics: The video.)
Water was another topic that the mayor touched on. He told the audience: “The city has also invested in the second phase of the aquifer storage and recovery project known as ASR. New construction was completed in time to help with the drought. More than 100 million gallons were diverted from the little Arkansas River directly to customers.” 100 million gallons sounds like a lot of water. But what is the context? Well, 100 million gallons is about how much water we use on a single hot summer day.
And what about the ASR, or aquifer storage and recovery program? Its cost, so far for Phases I and II, is $247 million. Two more phases are contemplated. Despite this investment, and despite the plan’s boasts, Wichitans were threatened with huge fines for excessive water usage. The Wichita City Council also started a rebate program so that citizens were forced to pay for other people to buy low-water usage appliances. Expensive city decorative fountains were dry for a time.
Why were these measures necessary? A document created in March 2013 — that’s just as Wichita realized the city was running out of water — is titled “Wichita Area Future Water Supply: A Model Program for Other Municipalities.” It states: “In 1993 the Wichita City Council adopted an Integrated Local Water Supply Plan that identified cost effective water resources that would be adequate to meet Wichita’s water supply needs through the year 2050.” This squares with what former mayor Bob Knight recently told the Wichita Pachyderm Club, that when he was in office, Wichita had sufficient water for the next 50 years. He was told that about 10 years ago.
Just to give you an idea of how seriously we should take the claims made in speeches like this, here’s what the mayor told us in his 2009 State of the City Address: “We will continue work on the state-of-the art water supply system, known as the ASR project. It will provide the Wichita area with sufficient water for the next 50 years. Economic Development is not possible without an adequate water supply.” The mayor’s right. We need an adequate water supply. But it appears that despite huge expense and the boasts of city officials — including the mayor — we don’t have a secure water supply.
The mayor also addressed transit. He asked the community to answer a few questions, such as:
Should we have more stops to drop off and pick up riders?
Should we run later hours during the week and on the weekends?
Should we find new partners to extend our service area and help with costs?
The problem with questions like these are that citizens don’t have all the information needed to make an informed answer. Would we like to have more bus service? Who could answer no to such a question?
But if the mayor had told us that the cost per passenger mile for Wichita transit buses is 95 cents, or that only 30 percent of the operating costs are paid by fares, people might answer these questions differently. (That 30 percent would be lower if we included the cost of capital, that is, the cost of the buses.) And when the mayor asked citizens to weigh in at the Activate Wichita website: I looked, and there’s no topic for transit.
But even if citizens were informed of these costs, their answers are still not fully reliable. That’s because of the disconnect between the payment for the service and the actual bus service. Because so much of the cost of providing bus service is paid for someone else, we don’t really see the total cost of a bus trip. That’s often a problem with services provided by the government. Since someone else is paying, there’s not the same concern for receiving value as there is when people spend their own money.
The Activate Wichita website, by the way. When citizens are asked to rate ideas, to express their approval or — well, that’s the problem. Your choices for voting on an idea are: “I Love It!” … “I Like It!” … “It’s OK.” … “Neutral.” That’s it. There’s no voting option for expressing disagreement or disapproval with an idea. “Neutral” is as much dissent as Wichitans are allowed to express in this system. On this system that city leaders say they rely on for gathering citizen input, there needs to be a voting selection that expresses disagreement or disapproval with an idea. Otherwise when votes are tallied, the worst that any idea can be is “neutral.” City planners may get a false impression that all these ideas a fine and dandy.
On the topic of citizen involvement: The mayor also told us this: “A few weeks ago – the city launched the Office of Community Engagement.” That’s something that the city needs, based on data the city has gathered. The Wichita Performance Measures Report holds some data from a survey called the National Research Center National Citizen Survey. Survey respondents were asked to rate “the job Wichita does at welcoming citizen involvement.” The results are shown in the nearby chart I 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 values for the last three administrations of the survey are between 35 percent and 39 percent. The report says this performance is “much below” a benchmark set by the National Research Center. The report 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. Maybe an Office of Community Engagement will help.
Last year the city conducted an extensive survey of residents. Of this survey, the mayor said: “We learned that more than 70% of our residents are willing to rise above their personal interests to do what’s best for the community.”
The problem with this is that it relies on the false concept of a conflict between personal interests and what is good for the community. In the marketplace, which is the opposite of government, people advance their self-interest in one legitimate way: By finding out the goods and services that others want, and then providing them. If you can do this well and efficiently, you can earn profits. It’s the quest for profits — that’s self interest — that drives people to figure out what others want, and then to work hard to provide that. Everyone benefits.
This quest for profits could, and should, apply to areas that are under the control of government. But people are so afraid that someone will earn a profit by serving their fellow man. Recently John Stossel spotlighted a park in New York City that is run by a private corporation with the aim of earning a profit. People are happy with the new park. They feel safe, even though the park doesn’t discriminate and still lets homeless people stay there. There’s commerce going on, selling food, for example. People like that, and evidence of that is the profit being earned. But Stossel’s guest was critical and unhappy because someone was earning a profit, even though park patrons were happy with the park and most were unaware of its private sector operation.
So when the park was operated by the city — for the common good, that is — not many people used it. It was dirty and trashy, and people didn’t feel safe. Under the profit motive, people like the park and they use it. So where is the conflict between personal interest and what is good for the community?
Now, not everything government does is bad. But when government dabbles in areas that the private sector can do very well, we see problems. As an example, the city wants to help real estate developers, but the city handled a recent situation so badly that the mayor apologized in his address, saying “We are also taking steps to ensure we have integrity and openness when we solicit proposals for development in the core area.”
Citizens that pay attention at city hall also note there are several small groups that contribute heavily to campaigns. Then the mayor and council members vote to give financial benefits to these people. These are not isolated incidents. This behavior is repeated over and over. Some cities have laws against this type of behavior. But in Wichita, while we’re being encouraged to put “what is good for the community” above our personal self-interest, we see city hall run over by cronyism. That is, by people using city government for their own interests. In the name of the “common good,” of course.
At the end of his speech, the mayor asked citizens to “get into the game,” saying: “We need you to be a player — not a spectator — to win a better and brighter tomorrow.”
But we’ve seen what happens when people want to be involved, but not in the way the mayor and council want. Do you remember the chart of airport data? Last year I presented that information to the city council. It so happened that Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn had appointed me to the Airport Advisory Board, and later in that same meeting the city council voted on my appointment. I was rejected. Only one council member voted in my favor. The Wichita Eagle reported: “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.” A positive voice is more valued than a critical voice, it seems.
You may also remember how Susan Estes of Americans for Prosperity testified at a meeting of the Wichita City Council. She cited a section of the Wichita City Code that says council members shall refrain from making decisions involving, among other things, friends and business associates. She asked the mayor to observe that part of the city code. But the mayor lashed out at Estes and others and threatened a lawsuit.
At least this year the mayor didn’t mention the importance of open and transparent government, as he usually does. Because based on Activate Wichita — where there is no disagreement allowed, to rejecting board appointments simply because someone might be critical of the city’s programs, to threatening those who ask the mayor and council members to follow the laws that they passed, to the city’s hostile attitude towards the citizen’s right to know: The message we get is this: The city welcomes your involvement, but only up to a point. Question the authority, and you’re not welcome.
That’s the state of Wichita government, that government to be distinguished from the many wonderful people who live here. We can be thankful for the difference.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: United States Representative Tim Huelskamp recently spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
Congressman Huelskamp was born near and raised on the family farm in Fowler, Kansas. He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science with a specialization in agriculture policy from The American University in Washington, D.C. He was first elected to the Kansas Senate in 1996, and then re-elected three times. In 2010 when Jerry Moran stepped down to run for the United States Senate, Huelskamp ran for the United States House of Representatives for the first district. That’s commonly called the “Big First” district, not because of its population, but because of its large land area. Some of the principle cities in the first district are Liberal, Garden City, Dodge City, Hays, Salina, Hutchinson, Emporia, and Manhattan. Congressman Huelskamp appears frequently on national news media as an advocate for conservative causes, and he recently appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV, which you can find here. He and his wife Angela are the parents of four children.
This is podcast episode number 7, released on January 26, 2014. Here is a portion of United States Representative Tim Huelskamp at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 24, 2014.
What should the attitude of conservatives be regarding the death penalty? Ben Jones of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty spoke on the topic “Capital Punishment in Kansas from a conservative perspective: Is it a failed policy?” This was recorded at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on December 6, 2013. Jennifer Baysinger provided the introduction. Click here to listen.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty Podcasts: Mike O’Neal, who is president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, spoke yesterday to the Wichita Pachyderm Club. A large part of his talk was on the topic of Kansas school finance and other education topics. This podcast contains that portion of his speech.
O’Neal graduated from Kansas University and also its law school. He served in the Kansas House of Representatives for 28 years, with his final four years as Speaker of the House. He joined the Kansas Chamber as President and CEO in 2012 as he retired from the legislature.
This is podcast episode number 4, released on January 18, 2014.
Kansas Chamber of Commerce
Mike O’Neal at Wikipedia
Mike O’Neal at LinkedIn
Mike O’Neal biography at Kansas Chamber
The Gannon opinion
Kansas school topics from Voice for Liberty
Kansas State Department of Education
Kansas Policy Institute
Today writer Bud Norman delivered a fascinating address to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Norman’s blog is The Central Standard Times. His novel is The Things That Are Caesars: A Comic Tale of Politics, Religion, and Other Impolite Topics. I (Bob Weeks) introduced Bud.
His prepared remarks are available to read here, or below.
An audio recording of this event is available at Bud Norman, Wichita Pachyderm Club, October 4, 3012. Or, listen below.
Last Friday former Kansas budget director Steve Anderson spoke to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Two videos are available, a highlights version and full version. View below, or to view on YouTube, click here for highlights or here for full version.
Also, it was announced on Friday that Anderson would be joining Kansas Policy Institute in the role of senior adjunct fiscal policy fellow. For more on this from KPI, see Former state budget director Steve Anderson joins Kansas Policy Institute.
A document created in March 2013 — at the time the city warned that its major water source might soon go dry — touts an expensive investment that is part of a “plan to ensure that Wichita has the water it needs through the year 2050 and beyond.”
The project boasted of is the City of Wichita Aquifer Storage and Recovery Program. Its cost, so far for Phases I and II, is $247 million. Two more phases are contemplated.
Despite this investment, and despite the plan’s boasts, Wichitans have been threatened with huge fines for excessive water usage. The Wichita City Council is forcing citizens to spend up to $1 million so that other people may install low-water usage appliances, and city decorative fountains were dry until this week in an effort to save water.
Overall, the city’s strategy is to force austerity and huge expense on those who live here.
We can’t plan rainfall and drought year-by-year. We do know, however, that over long periods of time there will be both dry and wet years, and we need to have plans in place for both. Reading the document Wichita Area Future Water Supply: A Model Program for Other Municipalities, published this spring, one might be led to believe that everything is fine, water-wise: “In 1993 the Wichita City Council adopted an Integrated Local Water Supply Plan that identified cost effective water resources that would be adequate to meet Wichita’s water supply needs through the year 2050.”
This squares with what former mayor Bob Knight recently told the Wichita Pachyderm Club, that when he was in office, Wichita had sufficient water for the next 50 years.
What went wrong with this plan? Let’s try to get an answer to this question.
Here is the current lineup of speakers for the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
Wichita is blessed with an active and dynamic Pachyderm Club that presents, nearly every Friday, an educational program than enriches civic life. I am thankful for John Stevens, the club president; John Todd, club vice-president in charge of programs; Clifford Koehn, treasurer; and Shirley Koehn, membership chair.
Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. Meetings are held almost every Friday in the Wichita Petroleum Club on the top floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway. The program starts at noon, and it is suggested that guests arrive by 11:45 am in order to get their lunch before the program starts. The meeting costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch and beverage. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.
June 7, 2013
Chris Addington, Senior Commodity Manager, Supply Management, Cessna Aircraft Company
(Mr. Addington spent 3 years in China in technical and business support for the start up of China’s Shenyang Aircraft Corporation as Manufacturing Partner for the Cessna Model 162 SkyCather.)
“Life and Work in China — An Observation of the Cultural Differences and Ways of Doing Business in China as Compared to the United States.”
June 14, 2013
The Honorable Phil Journey, 18th Judicial District State Court Judge
“A Report from the National Rifle and Kansas State Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings; plus Political Prognostications”
June 21, 2013
Martin Hawver, Publisher, Hawver’s Capitol Report
“A political assessment of the 2013 Kansas legislative session”
June 28, 2013
David Barfield, P.E. Chief Engineer, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources
“Adapting Kansas Water Law to Meet Current & Future Needs”
July 5, 2013
No meeting, as the Petroleum Club closed for the Independence Day holiday.
July 12, 2013
Russell S. Sobel, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar in Entrepreneurship, School of Business Administration, The Citadel
“Topic to be determined”
July 19, 2013
Ray Roberts, Secretary of Corrections, Kansas Department of Corrections
“An Overview of the Kansas Department of Corrections”
July 26, 2013
Marc Bennett, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District of Kansas (Sedgwick County)
“There is a new DA in town”
August 2, 2013
Col. Robert “Bob” Hester, Director JROTC Program, Wichita Public Schools
“An Overview of the JROTC Program”
August 9, 2013
Carrie Rengers, Business Reporter, The Wichita Eagle
“Have you heard?”
August 16, 2013
Tim Brown, host of “This Week in Kansas” on KAKE TV
Topic to be determined.
August 23, 2013
Pat George, Secretary, Kansas Department of Commerce
“Growing the Kansas Economy”
August 30, 2013
Jeff Easter, Sedgwick County Sheriff
Topic to be determined.
When Wichita ABC affiliate KAKE Television ran a news story critical of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, reporter Jared Cerullo wasn’t able to interview Brewer to get his reaction to his critics. The mayor refused to talk to Cerullo.
Speaking last week at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, KAKE news anchor Jeff Herndon said that KAKE has “repeatedly” tried to get an on-camera interview with Brewer. But the mayor is always busy, Herndon said: “They’ve got him on lockdown. He’s not going to answer that.”
Herndon was speaking for himself, and not for his employer. In his talk to the Pachyderms, he was critical of Wichita news media — both television and print — for not covering city government rigorously, telling the audience: “We need more reporters on that city government beat, and not just on decisions they make. We need to hold them accountable for the decision. We don’t do that.”
Brewer is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for higher office, perhaps challenging Kansas Governor Sam Brownback next year. Brewer’s term as mayor ends in April 2015. He is not eligible for election to another term as mayor because of Wichita’s term limits law.
- The KAKE news story referred to is Wichita Mayor Scrutinized For Controversial Vote. Both text and video are available.
- On his radio program, Joseph Ashby had an interesting take on Herndon’s remarks and Wichita new media.
- Video of the city council meeting that was the subject of the KAKE news story is here.
- Explanation of the public policy angle that drove citizens to testify at the April 16 city council meeting is here.
- The original article that identified the problem and to solutions is Pay-to-play laws are needed in Wichita and Kansas. In that article I wrote: “When one looks at the candidates these people contribute to, you notice that often there’s no commonality to the political goals and ideals of the candidates. Some people contribute equally to liberal and conservative council members. Then, when these people appear in the news after having received money from the Wichita City Council, it snaps into place: These campaign donors are not donating to those whose ideals they agree with. They’re donating so they can line their own pockets.”
Last week KAKE Television news anchor Jeff Herndon addressed the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Today, on the Joseph Ashby Show, the host commented on Herndon’s views on Wichita news media, and drew some conclusions about anti-conservative bias in Wichita news media.
The KAKE Television news story referred to is Wichita mayor comes under scrutiny for controversial vote.