David Burk, Wichita developer, overreaches

Today’s Wichita Eagle contains a story about a well-known Wichita real estate developer that, while shocking, shouldn’t really be all that unexpected.

The opening sentence of the article (Developer appealed taxes on city-owned property) tells us most of what we need to know: “Downtown Wichita’s leading developer, David Burk, represented himself as an agent of the city — without the city’s knowledge or consent — to cut his taxes on publicly owned property he leases in the Old Town Cinema Plaza, according to court records and the city attorney.”

Some might say it’s not surprising that Burk represented himself in the way the Eagle article reports. When a person’s been on the receiving end of so much city hall largess, it’s an occupational hazard.

And when you’ve been the beneficiary of so much Wichita taxpayer money, you might even begin to think that you shouldn’t have to pay so much tax anymore.

At the state level, you might seek over a million dollars of taxpayer money to help you renovate an apartment building.

Burk has certainly laid the groundwork, at least locally. A registered Republican voter, Burk regularly stocks the campaign coffers of Wichita city council members with contributions. These contributions — at least for city council candidates — are apparently made without regard to the political leanings of the candidates. How else can we explain recent contributions made to two city council members who are decidedly left of center: Lavonta Williams and Janet Miller? Burk and his wife made contributions to their campaigns in the maximum amount allowed by law.

This is especially puzzling in light of Burk’s contributions to campaigns at the federal level. There, a search at the Federal Election Commission shows a single contribution of $250 to Todd Tiahrt in 2005.

It’s quite incongruous that someone would contribute to Tiahrt, Williams, and Miller. Except Williams and Miller can — and have — cast votes that directly enrich Burk. Politicians at the federal level don’t have the same ability to do that as do Wichita city council members. Well, at least not considering Wichita city business.

So which is it: is Burk a believer in Republican principles, a believer in good government, or someone who knows where his next taxpayer handout will come from?

Burk’s enablers — these include Wichita’s lobbyist Dale Goter, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation president Jeff Fluhr and chairman Larry Weber, Wichita City Manager Robert Layton, Wichita economic development chief Allen Bell, and most importantly Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and various city council members — now have to decide if they want to continue in their efforts to enrich Burk. Continuing to do so will harm their reputations. The elected officials, should they run for office again, will have to explain their actions to voters.

At the state level, the bill that will enrich Burk will likely be voted on in the Kansas Senate this week. Then, similar action may take place in the Kansas House of Representatives. Let’s hope they read the Wichita Eagle in Topeka.


13 thoughts on “David Burk, Wichita developer, overreaches”

  1. It was very disappointing to read of Burk’s fraud and that is exactly what it is. What was he thinking…that the city is so inept it would never notice?
    It is unfortunate that all the comments by council members evade the real issue here which is fraud. It’s not about property tax increases. It’s not about having more checks and balances. It is about Burk’s arrogance in thinking he could get away with it and no one would be the wiser.
    It was intereseting to read the Mayor’s comments.Talk about back pedaling and trying to divert attention from the crime that has been committed……..let’s hope that the City Attorney
    will uphold the integrity of the Council and proceed with charges.
    It will be interesting to find out if Bill Warren, Dave Wells, Steve Barret and other partners were aware of the action made on their behalf as well. An action that was certainly dishonest.

  2. I largely agree with Stan, however, the property tax portion and “Republican values” seems to be attacked in this piece, so let me shine some light on this.

    First off, my valuation in the old town area went up 27% during the time frame described here. There was no justification of that. My property sold for 9% less than it’s 2006 valuation, not 27% more. When people began rumblings of protest the county quickly backed down and my valuation went up less than a percent without taking any action. Burk didn’t “cut his taxes,” he got them brought back to a normal level where they belong. Saying that he got a “tax cut” when he fought for a reasonable valuation sounds like something a liberal rag would say.

    Again, I agree with Stan and the writer to an extent and don’t defend Burk’s method, but to say he isn’t “Republican” enough because he attacked an unsubstantiated government money-grab is ridiculous. In fact, it’s extra-Republican to fight such a government abuse of the valuation process; a process he was quickly vindicated in when a) he won the tax appeal, and b) the county reverted back to a reasonable valuation without appeal for most properties in the area. I know mine went down quickly and I never sent in an appeal form.

    Also, if Burk is the de facto taxpayer, he should have some rights within the system, otherwise it is open to abuse, such as, say hiking someone’s valuation by 34% and not allowing an appeal process. I also think that’s a very Republican way of placing a check on abuse of this system.

    Again, not defending fraud, but this case does expose some interesting over-reaching of the government.

  3. Anonymous : I wholeheartedly agree with the right to protest one’s valuation. It needs to be done however following proper procedure. Burk certainly had the right to protest but he did not have the right to misrepresent who he was. Did Burk and partners cash the check?
    I do agree with Stan that fraud was committed.
    On another note it is interesting to note how heavily these Old Town Developers contribute to the coffers of individual council members regardless of political philosophy.
    When these developers come forth and ask for something from the City they should have to verbally disclose “oh, by the way, over the last 4 years I have given the mayor and 3 council members, the maximum contribution allowed by law.”

  4. Folks, in this case party affiliation has no meaning. It is not about political ideology, but about greedy opportunism. The enablers (both staff and elected) will continue to do business as usual as long as people just complain and hope that someone else will do something about it……it is just not going to happen!
    Does anyone believe that both the staff and elected officials knew nothing about these problems with Mr. Burk? How can these officials be so competent and experienced and know so little about what is going on in our City? Fingers will be pointed and nothing will be done.

  5. If Dave Burk can represent the City of Wichita than I guess that anyone else can too! Why should it be limited to one of Wichita’s premier downtown developers? Should we contact the city attorney’s office first, or just be like Mr. Burk and grab the ball and run with it!

    I must note that Burk was an owner of waterwalk that was recently taken over by Jack DeBoer. Is there more to this story that will come out soon? I for one, will be watching.

  6. would love to be able to share this article on facebook, linked in and twitter and see what comments are made. as part of the a/e/c industry, dave’s work to help revitalise downtown has been hailed as a project many deemed impossible. this article brings another side of how that project was accomplished to light…please add the “share” buttons!

  7. If you’re an individual who owns residential property in Sedgwick County, you can give permission to ANYONE to represent you on your tax appeal. All that’s needed is a signature on the form you send in to start the appeal. (I know this because I’ve done it before.) Do we know if it’s the same for commercial property? Or property owned by a gov’t entity?

  8. Carlos,
    I too am serious,what can we the voters do about this other than to remember come the next election?
    How do we get the paper and TV stations to cover it so more know of this?

  9. Elected officials have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and all of us as taxpayers have the right to express our opinions on matters that impact our families and our community. We must write letters and send emails to the newspaper and TV stations expressing our concerns. Talk to your friends and co-workers and express your feelings. Use the internet and the social media outlets; do blogging on the issues; set up a web site for commentary. Be respectful, stay focused, and hold the public officials accountable. Do not allow them to say one thing and do another and remember that when it comes to right or wrong there is no compromise.
    Mayor Brewer and Jeff Longwell (West Wichita) will be up for re-election in the Spring of 2011. In East Wichita and SW Wichita there will be open seats with no incumbent. Be a candidate; recruit one, or support one. “He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils.”

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