Research produced for the City of Wichita by a taxpayer-supported university won’t be made available to the public until a later date.
The report, produced by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, may provide analysis of the feasibility and economic impact of Southwest Airlines entering the Wichita market.
An informal request made by myself for this document, which the city escalated to a formal request under the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA), was denied. The reasoning that city legal staff provided is as follows:
“The request is denied pursuant to KSA 45-221(a)(20). The reports have not been distributed to a majority of the quorum of any body, have not been cited in a public meeting. These memoranda contain research data in the process of analysis and contain recommendations in which opinions are expressed or actions proposed.”
The portion of the statute referred to, which is one of many exceptions to the Kansas Open Records Act, reads: “Notes, preliminary drafts, research data in the process of analysis, unfunded grant proposals, memoranda, recommendations or other records in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are proposed, except that this exemption shall not apply when such records are publicly cited or identified in an open meeting or in an agenda of an open meeting.”
It is important to recognize that the Kansas Open Records Act does not prohibit the City of Wichita from releasing this document. The law simply does not require the city to release the records.
But the city can release the document, if it wanted to. It is within the discretion of the city to do so.
Looking forward, I believe there will be a time when the document will become a public record and the city will have to supply it. I don’t know what the city accomplishes by delaying the release of it until that time. It is true that I am skeptical of the conclusions of the document as reported in the Wichita Eagle, which has obtained a copy of the report through a source other than the city.
Specifically, I would like to see the reasoning or evidence for the reported claim that the entry of Southwest will result in 7,000 additional jobs — direct and indirect — being added to the Wichita area. As I noted in previous articles, our area’s second-largest employer has just 6,000 employees. These grandiose economic development claims are difficult to believe.
Other articles on this topic:
In Wichita, will Southwest save our city?
Wichita economic development claims deserve scrutiny