The Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman concedes that opponents of subsidy for Wichita hotel developers may prevail in a petition drive and possible special election, and remarks: “If so, they will have made an ideological point most people already agree with — that it would be best if developers paid for downtown development.” (Press ahead downtown, September 18, 2011 Wichita Eagle)
Holman is referring to a refund of 75 percent of the transient guest tax that the hotel is seeking. This subsidy is estimated to be worth $134,000 per year for 15 years, or $2,010,000 in total.
Despite her recognition of the will of the people, editorialist Holman encourages the Wichita City Council to proceed in a direction opposite. Settling for something other than the best, by her own admission.
It’s the “reality,” Holman says. She trusts the arguments of developers who have a $15 million motive to gain various forms of taxpayer subsidy. She says there is presently “tight financing,” her contention being that developers can’t get loans for their projects.
She may not be reading the reporting in her own newspaper. Recently the Eagle reported on the local lending situation: “Bankers said they want to make loans and would gladly do so, if companies wanted them. … Borrowers still have to have a business plan and creditworthiness. Demand has been way down.”
Bankers will loan to creditworthy borrowers, says the Eagle. The reasonable conclusion is that the Douglas Place developers are not creditworthy. So, Holman wants the Wichita taxpayer to provide financing, and most of the city council is willing to buy these flimsy arguments.
On Sunday evening, Council Member Michael O’Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita) called into the Gene Countryman radio program. He said: “With the editorial that was in the paper today from Rhonda Holman, I was just shocked that she thinks that it would prevail, that Americans for Prosperity — their argument would prevail on the ballot. To me, that seems counter-intuitive, that means that the elected officials aren’t following what the will of the people is. And that’s why we’re sent to city council.”
O’Donnell said that the Eagle “should be picking up on that part of this equation: that we are electing people that aren’t going with the mood of the voters.”
He further explained that the Douglas Place developers now have a problem. If they proceed with the hotel project without receiving one of the subsidies they insisted they need — what does that say about their honesty and integrity? Were they asking for the subsidy simply because they thought the city would grant it?
And if they can proceed without this subsidy, what about the other subsides? Are they truly necessary?
If the city grants subsidies that turn out not to be necessary — as if any subsidy is really ever necessary — what does that say about our city bureaucratic staff, our mayor, and our city council?
I think we know what it says. The campaign contributions given by these developers are a stain upon the reputation of Wichita.
By the way, when someone says their opponents are “ideological,” immediately you know their arguments are weak. Merriam-Webster defines “ideology” as “1: visionary theorizing; 2a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program.”
The use of the term “ideological” is almost always used in a negative way, as Holman has done when referring to Americans for Prosperity. None of these things, however, are negative — unless they describe your political opponents. When Holman and most city council members believe that downtown development can happen only when propped up by taxpayer spending and subsidy, and believe that this is a good thing and a proper use of government: isn’t that an ideology?