This week the Wichita City Council — again — mishandled a public hearing, forcing postponement of planned action.
In this case, a citizen inquired about the accuracy of the notice for a public hearing, as the council had just modified a policy that affected the subject of the hearing. Inquiry by city staff found that the notice for the hearing had not been published. Therefore, the council could not conduct the hearing as planned.
Without the citizen inquiry, this mistake might have gone unnoticed.
This is the latest example of a series of mistakes made by city staff. I find myself conflicted, wondering whether I should hope for the competent administration of unsound policies, particularly those related to economic development. Most Wichita city officeholders and bureaucrats believe in these programs, but somehow mistakes are frequently made.
This is not the only recent example of the city making such a mistake. Earlier this year the city had to re-hold the public hearing on the K-96 Greenwich STAR Bond District Plan. The council held a public hearing on this matter in February, but there was a mistake in the ordinance accompanying the original public hearing. Therefore, the need for the second public hearing.
Last October the city had to re-hold a public hearing regarding a tax abatement. The reason was a mistake in the dates published regarding the holding of the hearing.
In March, there was the mistake notifying the Kansas Department of Revenue regarding the Community Improvement District (CID) tax on the Cabela’s store, and so the store was not authorized to collect the extra tax, even through it did for about two weeks before the mistake was realized. See Wichita Eagle, City error will delay funds from Cabela’s special sales tax.
The details of other mistakes are not available to the public. Earlier this year the council approved a settlement of $80,000 to a person injured by the allegedly negligent action of a Wichita street maintenance employee. In response to my inquiry, the city responded that the employee was disciplined, but would not provide additional details. Accidents will happen, but when they cost this much, citizens have the right to know how the city responds. In this case, we don’t know this.