Wichita Old Town Warren Theater Public Hearing Remarks

From John Todd.

Testimony I presented before the Wichita City Council on July 1, 2008 in opposition to the proposed Old Town Warren Theater LLC loan.

The question before the council today relates to the proper role of government.

I believe the role of government is that of acting as a non-partial judge from the sidelines, protecting the rights and property of all citizens, through the rule of law, and not acting as a participant in any activity, particularly economic, that places it in a partnership role with one group of citizens to the exclusion of all others. When government becomes an active participant in economic activity or acts as an agent for one party to the exclusion of other citizens, it abdicates its proper role of providing the legal framework and physical security needed for private economic activity.

The dilemma our city faces today is a result of its participation in an economic activity that it should never have been involved in, in the first place. For starters, our city government needs to divorce itself from further involvement with the Old Town Warren Theater project for a number of reasons.

Our city is not a bank, and the proposed loan being discussed today is an inappropriate role for city government.

If the Old Town Theater group is facing financial problems, they need solve those problems without help from the public treasury. Based on what I have read about the principals in this group, I believe they possess the management talent and skills to succeed without public assistance.

The beautiful thing about the free-market is the freedom for a business enterprise to succeed and enjoy the fruits of that success. By the same token, a business should be allowed the freedom to fail, and suffer whatever consequences that brings. Thousands of other businesses across our city play by those same rules every day without the government parachute or the backing of the public treasury that is being proposed for this private group. The Old Town Theater project owners should be no exception to these rules.

I talk daily to other people in our city and have found no public support for the Old Town Theater loan, and, in fact, I have been surprised at the high level of outrage people are expressing towards this proposal.

I request that you vote NO for this project. I believe, by voting NO, you will be exercising the will of your constituents and the public, and will be exercising the stewardship they expect from you as their elected officials.

P.S. After a strong lecture from Mayor Carl Brewer about the economic advantages of public/private partnerships like Old Town, the council voted 6-0 to grant the Old Town Warren Theater loan with Council Member Jim Skelton abstaining from the vote.

NOTE: I had the following material ready for presentation, but decided not to be too philosophical with the council so I did not present either.

I believe a quote by 18th Century French economist Frederic Bastiat, is appropriate for today’s discussion when he was describing the socialism that permeated his native France when he said, and I quote: “The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.” I believe Bastiat would describe the work of today’s city council as legal plunder or the use of political power to redistribute wealth from others what they are unwilling to obtain through the voluntary exchange in the marketplace.

To paraphrase a statement made by President Cleveland prior to 1900 when he was called upon to save a struggling orphanage in New York City during a severe economic crises. He said something to the effect, that “I cannot be a party to taking money (from the public treasury) from one group of citizens and give it to another group of citizens, no matter how worthy the cause, it is the responsibility of citizens to support their government, it is not governments responsibility to support its citizens.”


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