Results from yesterday’s elections for Wichita mayor and city council members were in contrast to the message voters have sent in recent state and national races. There, voters expressed a preference for smaller government, less government spending, and less debt. For these Wichita city offices, however, voters — with one exception — voted for those who promised more government intervention and less economic freedom.
The winning candidates, of course, didn’t mention the loss of economic freedom in their campaign pitches. But their promise to grow government means just that. Yes, they promise to carefully scrutinize city spending and incentives on a case-by-case basis, insisting they are wise enough and knowledgeable enough to determine which projects are worthy of taxpayer support, and which aren’t. They all say that, always.
The winners in yesterday’s election — besides the officeholders — are those who will benefit from having a compliant and emboldened mayor and like-minded council members in office as they seek to earn their fortunes at city hall at taxpayer expense. We see these people and their names on the campaign donation reports of many of the successful candidates. Their interest is not good government, but personal enrichment. They generally contribute to all city council members regardless of political stance. It’s difficult to see how someone who has a consistent political ideology they believe in could contribute to all city council members. But they do.
The incumbents who won re-election — Mayor Carl Brewer and council member and Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell — have already proven themselves to be totally captured by these special interests. Now the new council members have a decision to make: Do they stand up for limited government and economic freedom in Wichita, or do they join the mayor and other council members on the side of the crony capitalists?
I’ll be surprised if any council member — excepting Michael O’Donnell — ever votes against any of the projects our city’s crony capitalists bring forward.
This is not a happy day for the future of Wichita. While today’s Wichita Eagle editorial wrote of the mayor’s “enthusiasm for Wichita and optimism about its future,” we need to question the assumptions underlying his sentiments. Is it “optimistic” when a city feels it must dish out corporate welfare to any company that hints of leaving town for purportedly greener pastures? Is it “enthusiasm” when a government that doesn’t trust its citizens to build, work, and live where they want — instead pushing through a heavy-handed, taxpayer-funded downtown plan?
The takeaway is that it’s easy for people to succumb to the mayor’s false promise of economic prosperity through government intervention. The message of economic freedom, of free people conducting their affairs with minimal interference, is more difficult to believe in for many people. Unfortunately, Wichita does not have a newspaper that believes in economic freedom and limited government, preferring instead the big-government approach to managing a city and its economy. Unlike in other recent elections, this time voters largely followed recommendations made by the Wichita Eagle editorial board.
Going forward, we can expect a proposal for a tax increase of some sort soon. Some desire a citywide sales tax for the purposes of economic development. These ideas, along with any others expanding the reach and power of city government, will probably not face much resistance from the new city council.