As Wichita begins to plan for the revitalization of downtown Wichita, city leaders say they want everyone to be involved. All ideas are welcome and appreciated, they say.
In a recent city council meeting, Mayor Brewer said “we need every person’s ideas, recommendations, and their opinion. … Being quiet and then complaining about it later isn’t going to be good for you or the community.”
Recently Wichita Downtown Development Corporation president Jeff Fluhr said “We want to make sure we do a holistic outreach with this project.”
I wonder if they — especially Mayor Brewer — really mean it. In the past Brewer said “The naysayers have gotten too much media attention while those who are engaged and do the hard work are too often ignored and criticized.” Just last week he was quoted in the Wichita Eagle as saying this: “We cannot be intimidated. … I know for a fact that the citizens of Wichita believe we should do what we need to do to accomplish this. …We need to take a bold stance. If they’re not right and they’re not telling the truth, then create an environment where we can get the message out.”
The mayor sends out conflicting messages.
Here’s what Mayor Brewer and the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation could do, if they’re really interested in public engagement and hearing from all citizens, no matter what their ideas might be: The city could sponsor a one-day forum where alternatives to the top-down, centralized method of government planning are presented. I think we could do this with a budget of maybe $10,000 or so. That’s just two percent of the amount we’re spending on the Goody Clancy plan. When you add the budget of the WDDC and what the staff in Wichita city hall are spending on this effort, it’s a mere pittance.
There are some very interesting speakers that are willing to come to Wichita and present their ideas. One is Cato Institute policy scholar Randal O’Toole, author of the book The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future.
Will those in charge of Wichita’s future consider sponsoring a forum where alternatives are expressed? The answer to this will let us know just how much they value alternative opinions, and if they’re willing to back up their words with action.