In Wichita, pushing back against political cronyism

A message from Bob Weeks, campaign chair of Tax Fairness for All Wichitans, upon the campaign’s victory of 62 percent to 38 percent in an election regarding a tax rebate to the Ambassador Hotel:

First, I’d like to thank my campaign leadership team and all the volunteers. Many started working in October by carrying the petition and gathering signatures, sometimes in cold and windy winter weather. My job as campaign chair was made much easier through the efforts of dedicated people like Susan Estes, John Todd, Derrick Sontag, and the many others who helped.

Usually, winning an election is a happy time. In most elections the winning side is happy because they elected a candidate to office who they feel has the better ideas.

I’m glad we won. But my happiness is tempered by the realization that we simply prevented something bad from happening in Wichita.

I’m proud that the electorate responded positively to our accurate and truthful campaign. When citizens have the facts, they make the right decision.

Going forward, I’d like to remind Wichitans that the Ambassador Hotel is receiving assistance from eight taxpayer-funded government programs with costs of $15.4 million up-front and several hundred thousand annually. None of these were affected by the election. Wichita city hall and its allies are ready, willing, and able to use these incentive programs in the future for other hotels and businesses.

So to the extent that these economic development programs actually help Wichita, they are still available, and will likely be used.

But we feel these programs are not wise. Often, we’ve found that they’re not needed. And when used, they direct public investment to where politicians and bureaucrats want it, not where people want it.

The best way to create jobs is to get government out of the way. Instead of entrepreneurs spending resources applying for grants, finding government programs and taking handouts, we would be much better off if they could directly invest those resources in job creation. That is what the voters said tonight.

We need to reform our economic development efforts. Our present methods, which are just about the same as most other cities, are not working. We need to realize that there are several long-serving politicians and bureaucrats that have presided over this failure.

These people have presided over the system of political cronyism that passes for economic development in Wichita. Politicians like Mayor Carl Brewer and most members of the Wichita City Council pocket thousands in campaign contributions from opportunists like David Burk and David Wells, who are partners in the Ambassador Hotel project. These people make contributions to those they know are in a position to vote to give them money.

This is such a foul system that we need pay-to-play laws to reform it. I’m suggesting that Kansas pass such a law, and name it “Davids’ Law.”

I hope that Wichita City Hall, the economic development machinery in our city, and the Wichita Eagle editorial board will be more receptive to the message of economic freedom, free markets, and limited government that was expressed in the results of this election.


13 thoughts on “In Wichita, pushing back against political cronyism”

  1. It’s too bad we can’t call it what it is when a developer gives campaign money to a mayor, or elected official for a vote: Bribery.

  2. Its so ironic you give advice on creating jobs. Have you ever created one? I hope you feel good about all the lies. You people are whacked.

  3. Hi

    I thought that this comment was interesting: ‘”Before, we didn’t know how the community felt about this particular incentive. Now, we do,” said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. “Future developers can proceed accordingly.”

    From my perspective, the vote wasn’t about that particular incentive, it was about all incentives. We (Sedgwick County) need to create an environment that is friendly to all businesses, not just the ones owned by Mayor Brewer’s friends (for example). I think that the city should stay out of anything except the police, firemen, ambulance, and city parks. Development and development money is the responsibility of the developers.

    Mike?

  4. The developers spent $29,682 per YES vote. They could have sent those people that voted for them the money spent in the election and really created economic development and trickled down economics.

  5. At their next election time, let’s remember the name of all the City Council members who tried to push all of these incentives down our throats and who continue to arrogantly call for their continuation. We look forward to defeating Mr. Longwell at his primary run for the Sedgwick County Commission. All the banner and signs contracts that his business is getting from the old town developers won’t be enough to help him.

  6. Let’s get real for just a moment. You all are special interests too (see partisan comments, personal attacks, and getting the facts wrong). You just have a different agenda (interest) than the ones you rail against. You might have won this election but you lost a LOT of credibility with me by overreaching in your comments and messaging. I have seen this before in this and other communities. Until you become part of a solution to something, you’ll be just like the Occupy protesters – annoying and irrelevant, or worse, a force for dragging Wichita back into the hick days of our past.

  7. Bob,

    Who pays your salary? Are you now directly funded by AFP? Is your unemployment check still helping you get by?

  8. The YES folks spent $300,000 to get more money. The NO folks spent $30,000 to prevent you from doing so. How does the NO folks benefit financially from saying No to a misdirection of taxpayers dollars? Both sides are special interest groups but one represent the taxpayers and the other side represents the greedy, self-centered, egotistical developers and the Council members that are “greased” financially in more ways than campaign contributions.

  9. Hi

    I don’t understand how the COW can pick and choose which businesses benefit from our tax dollars (yes, even though the hotel tax would have been paid largely by out of towner’s, its still WICHITA’s tax money). The City Council should instead begin attempting to keep our current businesses, and invite new ones by changing the laws to make it easier and less expensive to do so. The same rules must apply to ALL businesses inside the city limits.
    Later
    Mike?

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