The press release reads “The City of Wichita has committed $225,000 for a downtown comprehensive strategic plan. The private sector has contributed $275,000, including $175,000 from Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and $100,000 from businesses, organizations and individuals.” (emphasis added)
Here, the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation is classified as part of the private sector. It’s hard to see how this characterization makes any sense.
The WDDC is organized as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit corporation. But unlike most non-profits — which rely on voluntary contributions from those who support their causes — the WDDC is almost totally funded by a governmental body, the City of Wichita.
In fact, nearly all the WDDC’s revenue comes from taxation. According to its IRS form 990 for 2008, the WDDC received $610,214 from its public improvement district, in the form of property taxes paid by downtown property owners. According to the form, this represents 98.320% of the WDDC’s revenue.
So is the WDDC part of the “private sector?” Of course not. It is funded almost totally by government taxation. The City of Wichita calling WDDC “private sector” is like saying the Wichita public school district is private sector.
You can’t blame the city for trying this sleight of hand. One of the big buzzwords we’re going to hear as part of the coming centralized government plan for downtown is the “public-private partnership.” We can expect the city to do everything it can to pump up the appearance of private sector buy-in to the planning process. This misleading characterization of the WDDC, I suspect, is just the start.