Business improvement district proposed in Wichita

The Douglas Design District proposes to transform from a voluntary business organization to a tax-funded branch of government (but doesn’t say so).

This week the Wichita City Council will consider taking the first step in forming a business improvement district (BID) in east-central Wichita. Some explanation from the agenda packet for the meeting: 1

First, there already exists a voluntary organization: “The Douglas Design District (DDD) is a voluntary organization of over 300 local businesses located near Douglas Avenue between Washington Avenue and Oliver Avenue. In 2017, the DDD established a five-year strategic plan to become a financially self-sustaining organization that is not reliant on elective membership.”

The purpose of a business improvement district: “A BID provides for the administration and financing of additional and extended services to businesses within the district and is funded by the City levying a mandatory service fee on the businesses within the district.”

Who will collect, and who will spend? “While the City levies the service fee, it can contract with a third-party organization such as the DDD to operate the BID. The approach is similar to that used by the City to contract with the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation in downtown.”

The action on the agenda this week is to establish a planning committee to develop things like district boundaries, services to be provided, and a budget. Although city documents aren’t specific, it’s likely this “service fee” will be levied as a property tax.

Are BIDs a good idea? Most information about them is provided by their boosters, that is, those who directly benefit from the service fee, which is really a tax. But there are some doubters. The New Republic, by no means a conservative publication, printed a piece arguing against BIDs, stating: “But too often BIDs have turned against the businesses they were meant to serve, making the cost of entry into a new area even higher for local merchants, or lacking the transparency needed to instill trust from the community.” 2

A larger and more balanced look at BIDs comes from Washington Monthly this summer:

The privatized structure of BIDs may raise liberals’ hackles, but it’s clear that BIDs can be a useful tool to remake neighborhoods into places where people actually want to spend their time. Many big-city mayors — who are overwhelmingly Democratic — have thrown their weight behind them. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently doled out grants totaling $300,000 to five neighborhoods thinking about forming their own BIDs. (One of the grantees, Dupont Circle, with the decaying park, will start collecting taxes from business owners in the fall.)

Still, there are real downsides to BIDs for renters and small business owners, who will not benefit from rising property values and may ultimately be pushed out of the area. Luckily, this isn’t a hugely difficult problem to remedy. The best, and easiest, way to revamp how BIDs are run is through city halls; they’re the ones who legislate what BIDs can and can’t do, while holding them accountable to the public. But too often, they renege on that responsibility. 3

From Canada, harsh criticism:

In this paper, we propose and develop the concept of “socio-economic hygiene” to denote the ways in which neoliberal Western urban space is spatially regulated and re-oriented towards consumption in a way that reinforces social exclusion. … We conclude by tracking how sociological strategies of “hygiene” have moved from racial and biological features to features of place and socioeconomic status, and how BIDs, resembling genocidal states in certain ways, use these strategies to continually justify their own existence. 4

Civil society, or government?

What should trouble everyone is the replacement of civil society with political society. Edward H. Crane explains: “There are basically only two ways to organize society: Coercively, through government mandates, or voluntarily, through the private interaction of individuals and associations. … In a civil society, you make the choices about your life. In a political society, someone else makes those choices.”

Right now DDD is a voluntary organization. Civil society, in other words. But now it is proposed to replace it with political society.

Why trade voluntary cooperation for the force of government? The annual report of the DDD (included in the city council agenda packet) explains: “Approximately 1/3 of businesses in DDD’s project area are DDD members yet ALL businesses benefit from DDD’s efforts. A BID eliminates this ‘free rider’ problem and, if implemented, would allow DDD to have a singular focus on implementing the BID business plan rather than always chasing membership.” For emphasis, the report notes: “THE PAYMENT OF THE BID ASSESSMENT WILL REPLACE MEMBERSHIP DUES.”

Another term for chasing membership is selling your product by showing how it creates value. If the formation of the BID is successful, the Douglas Design District will be relieved of this necessity. Will having a guaranteed source of revenue make DDD more or less responsive to its members?

Also, the DDD annual report states: “A BID assessment is not a tax.” I wonder what will happen to anyone who decides to skip paying this tax. After a few years, they will experience the blunt power of government tax collection.

Taxation without transparency

The agenda packet states this about the relationship between the city and the district: “While the City levies the service fee, it can contract with a third-party organization such as the DDD to operate the BID.”

Wichita has similar organizations. One is the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, now known as Downtown Wichita. This organization is funded nearly entirely by tax revenue from an improvement district. Yet, it refuses to make its spending records public, and the city supports that decision. 5

Another similar taxpayer-funded organization is the city’s convention and tourism bureau, which has gone by several names over the years. Regarding it, in 2012 I wrote:

We’ve learned that city council members rely on — as Randy Brown told the council last year — facile legal reasoning to avoid oversight: “It may not be the obligation of the City of Wichita to enforce the Kansas Open Records Act legally, but certainly morally you guys have that obligation. To keep something cloudy when it should be transparent I think is foolishness on the part of any public body, and a slap in the face of the citizens of Kansas. By every definition that we’ve discovered, organizations such as Go Wichita are subject to the Kansas Open Records Act.” 6

Of interest is a segment from the KAKE Television public affairs program “This Week in Kansas” where the failure of the Wichita City Council, especially council member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita), to recognize the value of open records and open government is discussed. Video is here.

Since this time, the city has formed a business improvement district known as a TBID. It covers all hotels in the city and imposes an additional 2.75 percent tax to hotel bills, although the city and hotels call it a “City Tourism Fee.” 7 I’ve not asked for records of this spending, but I am sure the request would be rejected.

Will the Douglas Design District follow the standard set by Wichita’s other improvement districts and evade accountability and transparency?

Results from current improvement districts

The Washington Monthly piece mentions that city halls can hold BIDs accountable. But lack of transparency works against oversight and accountability.

Then, if anyone wonders what about the results of Wichita’s improvement districts, here are a few findings:

  • For the past decade business activity in downtown Wichita has been on a downhill trend. The data for 2016 (the most recent year for data) is a bit of good news, with the decline stopping and business activity remaining mostly unchanged. It isn’t the vibrant growth we’ve been told is happening in downtown Wichita, but at least things are not getting worse. 8
  • Truthfulness is in short supply. The Downtown Wichita organization has been caught in either a huge lie or gross incompetence regarding its claim of the number of people working in downtown Wichita. After brought to its attention, the number is no longer used. 9
  • Wichita economic development officials use a circuitous method of estimating the population of downtown Wichita, producing a number much higher than Census Bureau estimates. 10
  • Looking at hotel guest tax receipts, which are a surrogate for total hotel room revenue, we observe that of the largest markets in Kansas, Wichita has experienced the least growth in hotel guest tax collections since 2010. 11

Despite this record, Wichita City Hall seems satisfied with these results.


Notes

  1. City of Wichita. Agenda for August 21, 2018, Item IV-1. Available at http://www.wichita.gov/Council/Agendas/08-21-2018%20City%20Council%20Agenda%20Packet.pdf.
  2. Max Rivlin-Nadler. Business Improvement Districts Ruin Neighborhoods. The New Republic, February 19, 2016. Available at https://newrepublic.com/article/130188/business-improvement-districts-ruin-neighborhoods.
  3. Saahil Desai. One Landlord, One Vote. Available at https://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/july-august-2018/one-landlord-one-vote/.
  4. Sanscartier, Matthew D.; Gacek, James. Out, Damned Spot: Socio-economic Hygienic Practices of Business Improvement Districts. Canadian Journal of Urban Research. Winter 2016, Vol. 25 Issue 2, p73-85.
  5. Weeks, Bob. Wichita’s open records policy is contrary to the interests of citizens. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-open-records-policy-contrary-interests-citizens/.
  6. Weeks, Bob. Wichita, again, fails at open government. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/open-records/wichita-again-fails-at-open-government/.
  7. Weeks, Bob. Wichita seeks to add more tax to hotel bills. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-seeks-add-tax-hotel-bills/.
  8. Weeks, Bob. Downtown Wichita business trends. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/downtown-wichita-business-trends-2016/.
  9. Weeks, Bob. Downtown Wichita jobs, sort of. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/downtown-wichita-jobs/.
  10. Weeks, Bob. Living in downtown Wichita. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/downtown-wichita-business-trends-2016/.
  11. Weeks, Bob. Kansas hotel tax collections. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/kansas-hotel-tax-collections/.

Wichita Eagle argues for higher taxes

The Wichita Eagle editorial board wants higher taxes. Relying on its data and arguments will lead citizens to misinformed and uninformed opinions.

In a recent op-ed, the Wichita Eagle editorial board writes: “From the moment the budget was first proposed in July, city leaders made a point of emphasizing the city’s mill levy — the rate by which property is taxed — hasn’t been increased in 25 years. The 25-year figure wasn’t followed by exclamation points of pride or emojis of sadness. It’s just a fact: For one reason or another, the city’s mill levy hasn’t been increased.” 1

I guess we shouldn’t be too harsh on the Eagle editorial board. They believed city leaders. And, I suppose the language is correct in one sense: “the city’s mill levy hasn’t been increased.”

But a quick look at readily available data shows that the City of Wichita mill levy has increased, and by quite a bit.

I don’t have data going back 25 years, but I have gathered and prepared data from 1993 to 2017. And during that time, the City of Wichita mill levy rose from 31.290 to 32.667. That is an increase of 4.40 percent.

It is true that the Wichita City Council did not pass an ordinance to cause this mill levy rate to rise. This is where “hasn’t been increased” holds a grain of truth.

Instead, the mill levy rate is set by the county based on the city’s budgeted spending and the assessed value of taxable property subject to City of Wichita taxation. Someone estimates the assessed value of property the city can tax, and that is subject to error.

The city acknowledges this when pressed. It’s on video. 2

But city leaders and elected officials act as though the mill levy is subject to the whims of forces beyond their control.

While the city doesn’t have control over the assessed value of property, it does have control over the amount it decides to spend. As can be seen in the chart of changes in the mill levy, the council’s decisions result in a generally rising mill levy. From 1993 to 2017, there were seventeen years in which the mill levy rose from the previous year, and six years in which it declined.

We have an estimating process that ought to be random — too high in half the years, too low in the other half — overwhelmingly producing higher tax rates. This nearly three-to-one ratio is beyond mere chance or coincidence.

Also, while some may argue that an increase of 4.40 percent over two decades is not very much, this is an increase in a rate of taxation, not tax revenue collected. As property values rise, and as the mill levy rises, property tax bills can rise rapidly.

But it doesn’t seem that the Eagle editorial board understands this, as it wrote: “A 2019 budget can’t be expected to function properly under 1994 tax rates. Nearly everything a city does costs more a quarter-century later.”

True, I suppose. But the data tells us that property tax revenue rises, and rises faster than the rate of inflation, if inflation is what the editorial board means when it writes that things cost more.

In the nearby table, I use a hypothetical $100,000 home and track the taxes paid to the City of Wichita. I use a home price index to track increases in residential home values. I use the Consumer Price Index to adjust dollars for inflation.

In the table, a $100,000 house paid $360 in taxes to the City of Wichita in 1994. In 2017, the same house paid $665. The increase is due to rising property values and the rising mill levy.

Adjusting for inflation to 2017 dollars, the tax paid in 1994 was worth $595. In 2017, the tax was $665, in 2017 dollars, of course.

So from 1994 to 2017, the property tax paid to the City of Wichita by this hypothetical house rose by 11.7 percent, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

When the Eagle editorial board writes “Nearly everything a city does costs more a quarter-century later,” the response ought to be “Yes, but property taxes paid by citizens on their homes are rising faster than inflation.”

This needs to be considered in the light of cuts the city has made and threatens in the future.

Click for larger.


Notes

  1. Wichita Eagle editorial board. Wichita, it’s time to consider a tax increase. It’s past time, actually. August 17, 2018. Available at https://www.kansas.com/opinion/editorials/article216790960.html.
  2. Weeks, Bob. Wichita property taxes rise again. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-property-taxes-rise/.

Wichita school spending, according to the Wichita Eagle

A recent editorial by the largest newspaper in Kansas misinforms its readers.

“For too many years, the [Wichita public school] district was constrained by reduced state spending on public-school children. School systems across Kansas tightened belts to the point of being unable to breathe.” 1

So says a recent editorial in the Wichita Eagle, the largest newspaper in Kansas. What does the data tell us?

Click for larger.
Data from the Kansas State Department of Education for the school year ending in 2017 (the most recent data available) show that state and local total spending, per pupil, adjusted for inflation, has been remarkably level since 2011. 2

Wichita school revenue. Click for larger.
The situation in each school district may vary, so the nearby chart shows data from the Wichita public school district comprehensive annual financial report along with my calculations. I took two data series (total revenue and the sum of state and local revenue) divided by FTE enrollment, and adjusted for inflation. I plot the sum of state and local revenue because in 2015 there was a change in the way some taxes were allocated, and using the sum of the two removes the effect of the change. 3

As can be seen in the chart, the trend for both series is generally rising, with a few dips along the way.

Is the Wichita Eagle editorial board aware of this data? We have to hope so. But that leaves the question as to why it claims the district is “constrained by reduced state spending.” Another excerpt from the editorial provides a clue: “State funding, amazingly, still isn’t to the levels of 10 years ago and reinforces the damage that the late 2000s recession and Brownback-era tax cuts of 2013 and 2014 had on public education. In 2008, base state funding for Wichita was $4,492 per student, or $327 more than this year. Multiplied by 50,000 students, that’s still a $16.4 million shortfall.”

The numbers that the Eagle cites are base state aid per pupil. This number does not accurately characterize school spending in Kansas. Base state aid is an inaccurate indicator of total spending on schools by the state. It’s deceptive, in that after adjusting for inflation, base state aid has declined. But at the same time, total state aid to school districts has increased.

For a newspaper to uncritically present base state aid as the only indicator of school spending is a big problem.

Kansas school spending, showing base state aid and total state aid. See article for notes about 2015. Click for larger.
Base state aid per pupil is an important number. 4 It’s the starting point for the Kansas school finance formula used before the 2015-2016 (fiscal 2016) school year. 5

Base state aid, however, is not the only important number. To calculate the funding a school district receives, weightings are added. If students fall into certain categories, weightings for that category are added to determine a weighted enrollment. That is multiplied by base state aid to determine total state aid to the district. 6

While this may seem like a technical discussion that doesn’t make a difference, it’s very important, because some of the weightings are large. The at-risk weighting, intended to cover the additional costs of teaching students from low-income families, started at five percent in 1993. In other words, for every student in this category, a school district received an extra five percent of base state aid. The value of this weighting has risen by a factor of nine, reaching 45.6 percent starting with the 2008-2009 school year.

There’s also the high-density at-risk weighting. Starting with the 2006-2007 school year districts with a high concentration of at-risk students could receive an extra weighting of four percent or eight percent. Two years later the weightings were raised to six percent and ten percent. (This formula was revised again in 2012 in a way that may have slightly increased the weightings.)

Kansas school spending, showing ratio of total state aid to base state aid. See article for notes about 2015. Click for larger.
Kansas school spending. See article for notes about 2015. Click for larger.
The weightings have a large effect on school funding. For example: During the 2004-2005 school year, base state aid was $3,863 and the at-risk weighting was ten percent. An at-risk student, therefore, generated $4,249 in state funding. (Other weightings might also apply.)

Ten years later base state aid was $3,852 — almost exactly the same — and the at-risk weighting was up to 45.6 percent. This generates funding of $5,609. For a district that qualified for the maximum high-density at-risk weighting, an additional $404 in funding was generated. (These numbers are not adjusted for inflation.)

So even though base state aid remained (almost) unchanged, funding targeted at certain students rose, and by a large amount.

Over time, values for the various weightings grew until by 2014 they added 85 percent to base state aid. A nearby chart shows the growth of total state aid as compared to base state aid. (Starting in fiscal 2015 the state changed the way local tax dollars are counted. That accounts for the large rise for the last year of data in the chart. For school years 2016 and 2017, block grants replaced the funding formula, so base aid and weightings do not apply in the same way.)

So yes, the Eagle editorial board is correct that base state aid per pupil is down. But total spending by the state is up.

Opinions may vary on spending more or less on schools. But our state’s largest newspaper isn’t giving its readers the information they need to form an informed opinion.


Notes

  1. Wichita Eagle Editorial Board. *A well-funded Wichita school district. A sight this city’s children deserve.” August 10, 2018. Available at https://www.kansas.com/opinion/editorials/article216418710.html.
  2. Weeks, Bob. Kansas school spending. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/kansas-school-spending-2017/.
  3. Weeks, Bob. Wichita school revenue. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/wichita-school-revenue-2017/.
  4. Weeks, Bob. Kansas school weightings and effects on state aid. In making the case for more Kansas school spending, the focus on base state aid per pupil leaves out important considerations. https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/kansas-school-weightings-and-effects-on-state-aid/.
  5. For the fiscal 2016 and 2017 school years, the formula was replaced by block grants.
  6. Amendments to the 1992 School District Finance and Quality Performance Act and the 1992 School District Capital Improvements State Aid Program (Finance Formula Components), Kansas Legislative Research Department, May 20, 2014
    http://ksde.org/Portals/0/School%20Finance/amends_to_sdfandqpa_2015.pdf

WichitaLiberty.TV: Primary election results, part two

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Hosts Karl Peterjohn and Bob Weeks continue reporting on some of the results of the August 7, 2018 primary election in Kansas. View below, or click here to view on YouTube. Episode 206, broadcast August 19, 2018.

Since this episode was recorded, the Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican primary manual recount was completed. There were no discrepancies between the results reported after the canvass and the results from the recount. The result is Hugh Nicks 3,438 votes, and Richard Ranzau 3,513 votes.

Kansas and Wichita jobs, July 2018

For July 2018, more jobs in Kansas, and a nearly unchanged labor force. Wichita jobs also rose.

Data released today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows an improving jobs picture for Kansas in July 2018.

Over the year (July 2017 to July 2018), the Kansas labor force is down slightly, while up slightly over the past three months. These changes are small, all being in the range of 0.1 percent.

The number of unemployed persons continues to fall. The unemployment rate remains at 3.4 percent, down from 3.6 percent from one year ago.

Click for larger.

The number of Kansas nonfarm jobs for July 2018 rose by 1.7 percent over last July, adding 23,400 jobs. This is using seasonally adjusted data, and the non-adjusted figure is larger at 24,900.

Click for larger.

This release also provided some data for metropolitan areas. For the Wichita MSA, here are employees on nonfarm payrolls, not seasonally adjusted:

July 2017: 290,600
June 2018: 297,700
July 2018: 295,200 (up 4,500 jobs, or 1.6 percent over the year)

Comparing June 2018 to July 2018 isn’t meaningful using this data, as it is not adjusted for seasonality.

Of note, the same data series for the nation rose from 146,486,000 to 148,901,000 over the year, an increase of 1.6 percent.

Ranked-choice voting in Kansas

A look at ranked-choice voting and how it might have worked in the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary election in August 2018.

Most elections in America utilize plurality voting. Wikipedia explains: “Plurality voting is an electoral system in which each voter is allowed to vote for only one candidate, and the candidate who polls the most among their counterparts (a plurality) is elected. In a system based on single-member districts, it may be called first-past-the-post (FPTP), single-choice voting, simple plurality or relative/simple majority.” 1

Consider the recent primary election for the Republican party nomination for Kansas governor. It was close, with Governor Colyer at 40.513% of the vote and Secretary of State Kris Kobach at 40.622%. With 316,437 votes having been cast, the difference is like one vote out of every 372 votes cast.

In a close election like this, there is intense campaigning, not only among the candidates, but also among their supporters. If there are more than two candidates — there were seven in this contest — campaigning may consist of persuading voters that if you don’t vote for my candidate, you’re just throwing your vote away. Other strategic voting arguments may be made. There is, however, a way to let everyone vote for who they really like.

Simplify just a bit. Suppose there were three candidates: Jim Barnett, Jeff Colyer, and Kris Kobach. On the political landscape. Barnett is a (self-described, I believe) moderate. Kobach is far to the conservative spectrum. Colyer is somewhere between the two, at least according to Kobach supporters, as they regularly slam Colyer for not being conservative enough (whatever that means).

In the pre-election polls Barnett showed much less support than Colyer or Kobach. Also, conventional wisdom was that Barnett and Colyer are more like each other than either is like Kobach.

So, in a regular election, called a plurality election, how do voters decide? No doubt some voters prefer a specific candidate and would not consider voting for anyone else. Other voters may not be as committed, or are willing to express multiple preferences.

As an example, suppose the preferences of voters — the true preference in their heart of hearts, without any thought of strategic voting, just who they really want to be governor — looks like this:

Kobach: 40%
Colyer: 35%
Barnett: 25%
Total: 100%

Who wins this election, if every voter votes their true preference? Kobach.

But remember, Barnett and Colyer are more like each other than they are similar to Kobach. So Colyer supporters are likely to be thinking “Look, our candidate is so different from Kobach, what if just a few Barnett voters had voted for Colyer?” The answer to that question is if 20% (plus one) of the Barnett voters had voted for Colyer, Kobach would lose to Colyer.

This type of strategic voting is what the Colyer campaign recommended. A Colyer television ad advised ““A vote for [Jim Barnett or Ken Selzer] is essentially a vote for Kris Kobach, increasing his chance of victory” 2 Evidently, the Colyer campaign believed that the anti-Kobach vote is larger than the pro-Kobach vote, but is split between two candidates, with neither of them individually having more support than Kobach. (Ignore Ken Selzer for a moment, please.)

So what if you prefer Barnett and really dislike Kobach? Do you vote your true preference, or do you vote strategically to deny Kobach the victory? Will that strategy really work? Why can’t I vote for someone rather than against someone?

Your ballot instructions state “Select one candidate only.” But suppose the instructions were “Rank these candidates in order of preference, with 1 meaning most-preferred.” You might mark your ballot like this:

Barnett: 1
Colyer: 2
Kobach: 3

This voter is saying something like this: “I really like Jim Barnett, but if he doesn’t get a majority of votes, I prefer Jeff Colyer over Kris Kobach.”

This is ranked-choice voting. In the example above, if everyone votes their true preferences without strategic voting, 40% of voters would have marked Kobach as their first preference. But 40% is not a majority, so using ranked-choice voting, here’s what happens:

First, because Barnett has the lowest number of first preferences, he is eliminated from the contest.

Then, the counters look at Barnett voters’ second preferences, either Colyer or Kobach, and assign votes accordingly. In the example ballot above, the voter selected Colyer as his second preference. Therefore, that vote is transferred from Barnett to Colyer. If the voter had ranked Kobach second, the vote would be transferred to Kobach.

In this example, since there are just three candidates, after the Barnett votes are transferred to Colyer or Kobach, the vote-counting is over and there is a winner, or a tie. (If a contest has just two candidates, there is no need for ranked-choice voting, unless there is an alternative to vote for “none of the above.”)

Who would win in this example? If it true that Barnett is more like Colyer than Kobach, it is likely that Barnett voters mostly ranked Colyer as their second preference. So Colyer would have a majority, and wins.

The actual situation in the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary was more complex, with seven candidates. But ranked-choice voting works the same, although it may take several rounds of counting to determine the winner.

The results of the Republican party primary are nearby. As you can see, the top four candidates received 97.8% of the vote. Were votes for candidates other than Colyer or Kobach wasted votes? What if those who voted for Barnett, Selzer, Kucera, Ruzich, or Tutera had been able to indicate their second preference?

In the Kansas primary there were other major contests with multiple candidates: House of Representatives District 2 for Republicans, House of Representatives District 3 for Democrats, and governor for Republicans and Democrats. Looking forward to the general election, there will be five candidates for governor, one each from the Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican parties, and two independents.


Notes

  1. Wikipedia. Plurality voting. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plurality_voting.
  2. Stephen Koranda. Colyer Ad Says Some Candidates Could Spoil Race for Kansas Governor. Available at http://kansaspublicradio.org/kpr-news/colyer-ad-says-some-candidates-could-spoil-race-kansas-governor.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Primary election results

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Hosts Karl Peterjohn and Bob Weeks report on some of the results of the August 7, 2018 primary election in Kansas. View here, or click below to view on YouTube. Episode 205, broadcast August 11, 2018.

Taxers prefer Hugh Nicks for Sedgwick County Commission

Those who supported higher sales taxes in Wichita also support one Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican candidate exclusively.

In 2014 the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, now known as the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, managed a campaign to persuade voters to institute a sales tax in the City of Wichita. The sales tax was to be one cent per dollar for five years, estimated to raise about $400 million in total. Of that, $250 million was to pay for enhancing the ASR water supply project, $80 million for job creation, and lesser amounts for bus transit and street repair.

The sales tax failed to pass, with 62 percent of voters saying no. Since then, the wisdom of voters in rejecting the tax has become evident. For example, the city has developed a plan to provide the same benefits for water supply for over $100 million less.

During the 2014 campaign the sales tax boosters raised campaign money through an organization named Yes Wichita Inc. Over one hundred people and companies contributed $321,527 in cash, and the Chamber of Commerce added $50,818 as an in-kind contribution.

These people and companies contributed money to persuade voters to raise taxes in Wichita. In some cases, a lot of money: $100,818 from the Wichita Chamber of Commerce, $40,000 from Intrust Bank, and $25,000 from Westar Energy.

Some of these people and companies have also contributed to a candidate for the Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican primary election. I examined campaign finance reports for matches. It isn’t an exact science. The data is not filed in a way that can be readily analyzed by a computer in a spreadsheet or database. Sometimes donations are made in a company name, and sometimes by owners or executives of the same company. There are spelling errors and variations in how company names are reported. So I may have failed to notice matches, and there is a small chance that I made erroneous matches.

Based on my research, I found that all the pro-tax people and companies who also contributed to Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican candidates had one thing in common: They contributed to Hugh Nicks exclusively. His opponent, Richard Ranzau, received no contributions from the pro-tax people and companies, based on my analysis.

Separately, the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC has spent $45,148 on political candidates through August 1 of this year. Of that, $36,665 was spent in favor of one candidate, Hugh Nicks. That’s 81.2 percent spent on one candidate from an organization that contributed $100,818 towards higher taxes. (See Wichita Chamber PAC spends heavily for Hugh Nicks.)

What does this mean: Those who want higher sales taxes in Wichita contribute to Hugh Nicks for Sedgwick County Commission, and he alone? It is a coincidence, mere serendipity?

In his campaign literature, Hugh Nicks says “Taxes Are High Enough.”

But the evidence is clear: Those who want higher taxes prefer Hugh Nicks.

Following, a table showing the commonality between contributors to the Yes Wichita sales tax campaign in 2014 and Hugh Nicks. Click for a larger version.

Wichita Chamber PAC spends heavily for Hugh Nicks

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC dedicates a large portion of its spending on placing its crony in office.

In the contest for Sedgwick County Commission District 4, the Wichita Chamber of Commerce is spending heavily on one candidate.

Through its political action committee, the Chamber has spent $45,148 on political candidates through August 1 of this year. (There could be more spending before the August 7 primary. We don’t know.)

Of that, $36,665 was spent in favor of one candidate, Hugh Nicks. (The Chamber PAC’s finance report designates these expenditures as in favor of Nicks.)

That’s 81.2 percent spent on one candidate.

Click for larger.

Besides the spending on Nicks, the Chamber PAC sent money to legislative and statewide candidates. Most contributions were for $500, with the most notable exception being Governor Jeff Colyer at $2,000.

Really, the Chamber’s spending hasn’t been so much in favor of Hugh Nicks as it has been against his opponent Richard Ranzau.

And this campaigning by the chamber has been largely based on outright lies and absurd leaps of logic regarding Ranzau’s record. Their record is documented on the pages of Voice for Liberty. (Click here to read the articles.)

Instead of denouncing the lies and distortions told on his behalf by the Wichita Chamber PAC, candidate Hugh Nicks embraces the PAC’s endorsement.

We’d like to be able to trust the Wichita Chamber of Commerce. We want to trust our business and civic leaders. We want the Chamber and its surrogates and affiliates like Greater Wichita Partnership to succeed in building the Wichita economy.

But the Chamber is shaming itself in this campaign, and spending a lot of money to do that.

It would be one thing if the Chamber and its surrogates were successful in economic development efforts in the region. But if you’ve been following analyst James Chung — and it seems like everyone has — he’s delivered a sobering message: The Wichita economy has not been growing. “[Wichita has been] stuck in neutral for about three decades, with basically no growth, amidst the landscape of a growing U.S. economy,” he said. (In fact, in 2016 the Wichita economy shrank from the previous year, and numbers for 2017 don’t look much better.)

Chung says we need to change our ways. In his June visit he said, and the Chung Report wrote, “Every market signal points to the same conclusion: The manner in which Wichita is operating during this critical point in our history is just not working.”

When James Chung (and others) says our manner of operation is not working, it’s the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and its ecosystem that must assume a large portion of blame.

Having failed the people of Wichita, now we know just how much the Chamber wants to put Hugh Nicks on the Sedgwick County Commission.

From Pachyderm: Candidates for Kansas House of Representatives

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Candidates for Kansas House of Representatives districts 74, 75, and 80. This was recorded on August 3, 2018.

Candidates invited included:

  • Kansas House District 74: Stephen Owens and incumbent Don Schroeder (Did not attend)
  • Kansas House District 75: Will Carpenter and incumbent Mary Martha Good (Did not attend)
  • Kansas House District 80: Incumbent Anita Judd-Jenkins (Did not attend) and Bill Rhiley

Here are maps of the districts:

WichitaLiberty.TV: Joseph Ashby on Kansas elections

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita talk radio pioneer Joseph Ashby shares his thoughts on the upcoming Kansas primary election. We cover the Secretary of State, Governor, and Sedgwick County Commission. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 204, broadcast August 4, 2018.

Shownotes

Wichita employment, June 2018

For the Wichita metropolitan area in June 2018, jobs are up, the unemployment rate is down, and the labor force is smaller, compared to the same month one year ago.

Data released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows an improving employment situation for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Click for larger.

The best numbers for Wichita are the total nonfarm employment series, which rose from 294,900 last June to 297,900 this June. That’s an increase of 3,000 jobs, or 1.0 percent. (This data is not seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are not valid.)

Of note, the same series of data for the nation rose from 147,578,000 to 150,057,000 over the same time, an increase of 1.7 percent.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.0 percent from a year ago. Part of the improvement in the unemployment rate is due to a slightly smaller labor force.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force rose slightly from May 2018, and employment was unchanged. This is a slowdown of a positive trend in the previous three months.

Click charts for larger versions.

Wichita Chamber PAC spending on Hugh Nicks

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC dedicates a large portion of its spending on placing its crony in office.

There is an updated version of this containing data from new reports. Click here.

In the contest for Sedgwick County Commission District 4, the Wichita Chamber of Commerce is spending heavily on one candidate.

Through its political action committee, the Chamber has spent $39,925 on political candidates through July 26 of this year. (There could be more spending before the August 7 primary. We don’t know.)

Of that, $31,442 was spent in favor of one candidate, Hugh Nicks. (The Chamber PAC’s finance report designates these expenditures as in favor of Nicks.)

That’s 78.8 percent spent on one candidate.

Besides the spending on Nicks, the Chamber PAC sent money to legislative and statewide candidates. Most contributions were for $500, with the most notable exception being Governor Jeff Colyer at $2,000.

Really, the Chamber’s spending hasn’t been so much in favor of Hugh Nicks as it has been against his opponent Richard Ranzau.

And this campaigning by the chamber has been largely based on outright lies and farcical leaps of logic regarding Ranzau’s record. Their record is documented on the pages of Voice for Liberty.

We’d like to be able to trust the Wichita Chamber of Commerce. We want to trust our business and civic leaders. We want the Chamber and its surrogates and affiliates like Greater Wichita Partnership to succeed in building the Wichita economy.

But the Chamber is shaming itself in this campaign, and spending a lot of money to do that.

It would be one thing if the Chamber and its surrogates were successful in economic development efforts in the region. But if you’ve been following analyst James Chung — and it seems like everyone has — he’s delivered a sobering message: The Wichita economy has not been growing. “[Wichita has been] stuck in neutral for about three decades, with basically no growth, amidst the landscape of a growing U.S. economy,” he said. (In fact, in 2016 the Wichita economy shrank from the previous year, and numbers for 2017 don’t look much better.)

Chung says we need to change our ways. In his June visit he said, and the Chung Report wrote, “Every market signal points to the same conclusion: The manner in which Wichita is operating during this critical point in our history is just not working.”

When James Chung (and others) says our manner of operation is not working, it’s the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and its ecosystem that must assume a large portion of blame.

Having failed the people of Wichita, now we know just how much the Chamber wants to put Hugh Nicks on the Sedgwick County Commission.

Joseph Ashby endorses Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau

Conservative grassroots activist and pioneering radio host Joseph Ashby explains why Richard Ranzau is the best choice for Sedgwick County Commission District 4. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Hugh Nicks on character and respect in Sedgwick County

In the campaign for a Sedgwick County Commission position, character is an issue.

On his Facebook campaign page for Sedgwick County Commission, candidate Hugh Nicks wrote: “This election is about numerous issues, with jobs being #1. But quality of character is a strong second.” 1

A value that Hugh Nicks promotes on his campaign website and in printed material is “Debate respectfully.” 2

It’s richly ironic that Nicks makes character an issue, because his campaigning is rife with outright lies and logic-twisting distortions about his opponent Richard Ranzau.

And if Hugh Nicks values respectful debate, he could elevate the discourse by stopping the lies.

This campaign has gone beyond the usual character-bashing and self-promotion we expect.

It’s not only Nicks himself that is campaigning dishonestly. The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC is also lying and distorting.

It’s true that the Chamber PAC is campaigning for Nicks (and against Ranzau) independently. The PAC speaks for itself.

But if Hugh Nicks is aware of the dishonest campaigning by the Chamber PAC, there’s nothing to stop him from publicly denouncing and disavowing the Chamber. That would be a positive display of character, showing he values truth more than holding political office.

(If Nicks is not aware, or if he doesn’t realize the Chamber PAC’s campaigning is dishonest, that itself is a problem.)

Instead, Nicks embraces and promotes the Chamber PAC’s endorsement.

Hugh Nicks, should he lose the election next week, will fade from public attention. But the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and its PAC won’t. The Chamber will still be involved in civic life and political campaigns.

That’s too bad. The people of Wichita want to trust their business and civic leaders. We want the Chamber and its surrogates and affiliates like Greater Wichita Partnership to succeed in shepherding the Wichita economy.

But the Chamber is shaming itself in this campaign.

The record of the Hugh Nicks campaign

Allegation: On July 23, 2018, Hugh Nicks wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page: “Richard Ranzau has spent the last 8 YEARS saying ‘NO’ to our safety. Voting against support for law enforcement.” An article from the Wichita Business Journal is then linked to. The subject of the article was the proposed WSU Law Enforcement Training Center.

Truth: The article reports that Richard Ranzau and all commissioners voted to defer a decision on the training center for one week. Then, Ranzau and all commissioners voted in favor of building the center. For more on this, see Hugh Nicks and the law enforcement training center.

Allegation: Hugh Nicks wrote this on his campaign’s Facebook page, referring to Richard Ranzau: “And even questioned the need for handicapped-accessible recreational options.”

Truth: Richard Ranzau asked questions about a proposed ADA-compliant fishing dock with a cost of $53,500. The next week commissioners were told that the dock cost was just $26,162, with other things like site prep, a sidewalk, and an access road adding up to $53,500. With this additional information, Ranzau and all commissioners approved the project. For more on this, see Hugh Nicks and the Sedgwick County fishing dock.

Allegation: In a campaign mailing paid for by the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, Richard Ranzau is criticized: “Ranzau also suggested that Wichita annex a large local job-creating aerospace employer to generate more tax revenue.”

Truth: This claim is based on a farcical interpretation of what the commissioner actually said. Richard Ranzau did not suggest that Wichita annex Spirit Aerosystems. He merely illustrated that property taxes within the City of Wichita are higher than those outside the city. For more on this, see Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC mailing.

Allegation. On his Facebook page, Hugh Nicks accuses Richard Ranzau of “Voting against our community’s children and babies.”

Truth: Regarding the WIC program, no needy women or children went without the ability to use this program. The commission voted to reduce spending on administrative costs. The commission does not have the authority to set qualifications for participating in the program, nor does the commission set the level of benefits, that is, the amount of money and services participants receive. The county merely administers the program according to federal and state guidelines. For more on this, see Hugh Nicks: Misinformed, or lying?

Allegation: On Facebook, Hugh Nicks wrote: “He was the ONLY ‘NO’ vote for funding the Greater Wichita Partnership.”

Truth: The article Nicks uses as evidence states: “Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau took on the Greater Wichita Partnership on Wednesday, questioning why the public-private economic development coalition needs more county money to focus its strategy.” This extra funding was to pay for a consultant to focus on a strategic plan and regional strategy. It wasn’t for funding the basic operations of GWP.

Allegation: On Facebook, Hugh Nicks wrote: “He was the ONLY ‘NO’ vote for the county’s investment at Spirit AeroSystems to create 1,000 new high-paying jobs.”

Truth: In a television interview, Ranzau said that no economic development official could tell him that the incentives were necessary for the Spirit project to proceed in Wichita. One fellow commissioner said the incentive was needed to “show Spirit we care.”


Notes

  1. Nicks For County Commission Facebook page, July 27, 2018. Available at https://www.facebook.com/NicksForCountyCommission/posts/2027095350699179.
  2. http://www.nicks4commissioner.com/, viewed August 1, 2018.

Hugh Nicks: Misinformed, or lying?

Analysis of criticism by Hugh Nicks, a candidate for Sedgwick County Commission, demonstrates that the candidate is either misinformed or lying.

On his Facebook page, Sedgwick County Commission candidate Hugh Nicks accuses Richard Ranzau of “Voting against our community’s children and babies.” As evidence, Nicks supplies a link to an article in the Wichita Eagle. 1

What’s notable about this claim is this paragraph from the article Nicks uses as evidence:

In 2015, Ranzau and other commissioners voted to cut the federal Women, Infants and Children program grant by $320,000 to $1.9 million. He said at the time that WIC could be more efficient because it was serving fewer clients. The county health department used only $1.83 million of the $2.15 million it was awarded the year before. 2

Note that the amount Ranzau (and others) voted to spend on WIC was slightly more than what was spent the year before, at a time when WIC demand was declining, as there were fewer clients. At the time, KMUW Radio reported: “Citing a recent decline in WIC participants that coincides with an increase in employees with the program, the commission’s majority voted to accept only a portion of the grant, saying the full amount wasn’t needed.” 3

So no needy women or children went without the ability to use this program. The commission voted to reduce spending on administrative costs. The commission does not have the authority to set qualifications for participating in the program, nor does the commission set the level of benefits, that is, the amount of money and services participants receive. The county merely administers the program according to federal and state guidelines.

What does Hugh Nicks think of this? In the Eagle article he uses in his Facebook post, the reporter wrote this about Nicks:

He also called the WIC program “one of the saddest things I’ve seen recently.”

“When it comes to infants and children, I’m not too worried about politics, but I am concerned about children’s health and safety,” Nicks said. “The commission has a duty to protect the most vulnerable among us, particularly when they have nowhere else to turn.”

Since no women and children lost their benefits or had them cut, it’s difficult to see why Nicks is sad.

Is he concerned that the county trimmed administrative costs? Consider some of the values listed in Nicks’ campaign literature: “Ask tough questions” and “Be conservative with finances.”

That is what the commission did, under Richard Ranzau’s chairmanship. Trimming administrative costs — no matter who is paying them — is financially conservative.

Those savings came from “asking tough questions,” a value Nicks upholds. Yet for doing that, Nicks blasts the commission, including Ranzau, as “sad” and “political.”

Voters ought to ask: Is Hugh Nicks merely uninformed, or is he lying? It might be tempting to dismiss these remarks as having been made by an uninformed candidate. But Nicks says he has been running since October 2017 so that he can learn about the issues. 4

If we eliminate “uninformed,” we’re left with “lying.”

Nearby, see Richard Ranzau speak on this issue. (Hugh Nicks and his campaign surrogates were also invited, but would not appear.) Or, click here to view at YouTube.

Following, some excerpts from the commission meeting where this matter was discussed: 5

Ms. Adrienne Byrne-Lutz, Director of the Health Department: “The Health Department has provided WIC services for well over 40 years, and the program is funded entirely through the United States Department of Agriculture that passes through KDHE.”

Later:

Chairman Ranzau said, “Our assigned caseload is going down 9.88 percent, expenditures going up 5.51 percent, and we’re actually combining two, last year there were two separate, the WIC and then the breastfeeding.”

Ms. Adrienne Byrne-Lutz said, “That’s correct.”

Later:

Chairman Ranzau said, “Historically, the past, we tend to spend less than what we’re actually given. Like the last two years, we spent about $320,000 less than what we were given to begin with?”

Ms. Adrienne Byrne-Lutz said, “Well, we don’t get a lump sum from WIC. We just get what we spend.”

Chairman Ranzau said, “But we spent $320,000 less than what we were authorized to spend?”

Ms. Adrienne Byrne-Lutz said, “Yes.”


Notes

  1. Nicks For County Commission Facebook page, July 20, 2018. Available at https://www.facebook.com/NicksForCountyCommission/photos/a.1633354576739927.1073741832.1591968844211834/2011959645546083/.
  2. Tidd, Jason. Ranzau, County Commission challengers spar over grant funding in health forum.” *Wichita Eagle, July 17, 2018. Available at https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article215075195.html.
  3. Sandefur, Sean. Sedgwick Co. Commissioners Approve Reduced WIC Grant. Available at http://www.kmuw.org/post/sedgwick-co-commissioners-approve-reduced-wic-grant.
  4. “You may wonder why I’m announcing so early, since the Republican Primary for the County Commission seat isn’t until August 2018. The reason is simple. I like to do my homework. I want to learn about the way Sedgwick County governs, and the rationale behind the decisions that have been made. I want to learn about the issues that are most important to the people in the 4th District. I think serving as County Commissioner is too important to take an on-the-job-training approach, and I don’t want to be on a learning curve at the taxpayers’ expense.” Nicks4commissioner.com. News. October 19, 2017. Available at http://www.nicks4commissioner.com/news.html. .
  5. Sedgwick County Commission. Meeting Minutes, October 7, 2015. Available at https://sedgwickcounty.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=436793&GUID=B8AC30D4-8245-4631-A804-0690C15BC9CC.

From Pachyderm: Kansas Secretary of State Candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Kansas Secretary of State Candidates. While the Secretary of State might be considered merely a bureaucratic record-keeping position, current Secretary Kris Kobach has elevated its prominence. It has also been a breeding ground for gubernatorial candidates, including Kobach, Ron Thornburgh, and Bill Graves. This was recorded July 27, 2018.

Candidates appearing in this forum are:

WichitaLiberty.TV: Sedgwick County Commission District 4

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Candidates and parties involved in the Republican party primary for Sedgwick County Commission District 4. Efforts were made to reach both candidates plus representatives of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC, as it is advertising in this contest. Only candidate Richard Ranzau agreed to appear. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 203, broadcast July 28, 2018.

The Wichita Mayor on employment

On a televised call-in show, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell is proud of the performance of the city in growing jobs.

On the inaugural episode of Call the Mayor on KPTS, Wichita’s public television station, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said this:

Three years ago the biggest concern in this community is we need jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. And today, we need people. And so keeping Cargill in Wichita and seeing Spirit grow and seeing companies invest is far different than what we had just three years ago when people were so concerned about the opportunity to find meaningful employment in our city.

What the mayor said sounds good. Now. here are statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics, civilian labor force and nonfarm employment by metropolitan area, seasonally adjusted, for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area:

May 2015
Civilian labor force: 311,294
Employment: 296,249
Unemployment rate: 4.8 percent

May 2018
Civilian labor force: 306,574 (down by 1.5 percent)
Employment: 295,012 (down by 0.42 percent)
Unemployment rate: 3.8 percent (down by 1.0 percentage point, or 20.8 percent)

These are statistics from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data set, also known as the household survey.

Here are some other statistics, again from Bureau of Labor Statistics, state and area employment, seasonally adjusted, for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area:

May 2015
Employment: 295,500

May 2018
Employment: 298,600 (up by 1.0 percent)

These are statistics from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) data set, sometimes called payroll data.

These are two different sets of data. One shows employment rising, and one shows it declining. The difference comes from the fact that one set of data comes from households, and the other from employers. For a full explanation of the data and how there can be these differences, see Visualization: Metro area employment and unemployment.

The important thing is that Mayor Longwell said, in a roundabout way, that there are plenty of jobs in Wichita, and there are not enough workers to fill them.

If there are not enough workers in Wichita, it’s because the labor force (the number of people working plus those looking for work) shrank over the time period the mayor mentioned. That’s why there are not enough people to meet Wichita’s job growth (such as it is).

And while the number of jobs in Wichita rose in the employer survey, it rose by 1.0 percent over three years. The same statistic for the entire United States rose by 5.1 percent over the same period. This doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment, Wichita growing jobs at a rate one-fifth of the nation.

But Mayor Longwell is proud. Good for him.

An endorsement from the Wichita Chamber of Commerce

When the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee endorses a candidate, consider what that means.

If you’ve been following analyst James Chung — and it seems like everyone has — he’s delivered a sobering message: The Wichita economy has not been growing. “[Wichita has been] stuck in neutral for about three decades, with basically no growth, amidst the landscape of a growing U.S. economy,” he said. (In fact, in 2016 the Wichita economy shrank from the previous year, and numbers for 2017 don’t look much better.)

Chung says we need to change our ways. In his June visit he said, and the Chung Report wrote, “Every market signal points to the same conclusion: The manner in which Wichita is operating during this critical point in our history is just not working.”

So what needs to change? Chung won’t say, but here are two things:

First, there are some elected officials and bureaucrats who have presided over the stagnation of Wichita. These people need to go.

Second, there are also institutions that are problems, with one glaring example. In one way or another, the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce has taken the lead in economic development for many years. In recent years the Chamber ran Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. Now the effort has been split off to a non-profit corporation, the Greater Wichita Partnership.

That sounds good, but under the hood it’s the same leadership and the same methods, although with a few new hired hands.

So when James Chung (and others) says our manner of operation is not working, it’s the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and its ecosystem that must assume a large portion of blame.

Not only has the Wichita Chamber manner of operation not been working, its leadership hasn’t been working, either. In 2014 the Chamber showed charts of Wichita job growth as compared to the nation and other cities, and Wichita was near the bottom. The Chamber’s response was to advocate for a Wichita city sales tax, some to be used for economic development, but also for water supply enhancement, street repair, and bus transit improvement.

The Chamber managed the political campaign for the sales tax, and in November 2014, 62 percent of Wichita voters said no.

After this, what did the Chamber do? It had told Wichitans that an economic development fund fed by sales tax revenue was essential. Then, the sales tax vote failed. But that isn’t the only way to fund what the Chamber said we needed. The Chamber could have asked the Wichita city council to raise property taxes, and the council could have done that with a simple majority vote of its members. (Since then it has become more difficult, but still possible, to raise local property taxes.)

Or, the city could have raised franchise fees. These are like a sales tax added to utility bills. This could also have been accomplished with a simple majority vote of the council. The council could do it today, if its members wanted to.

None of these possibilities were pursued, at least to my knowledge. The Wichita Chamber of Commerce, after advocating for a sales tax it said was essential, gave up after defeat. It recommended that Wichitans vote to impose a sales tax themselves, but when it came to something it could have accomplished — new taxes through city council votes — the Chamber backed away.

The Chamber then formed the Greater Wichita Partnership. But many of the people who supported the Chamber’s sales tax are directing the operations of GWP, serving its strategic advisory team and the more-exclusive executive board.

This includes the president and CEO of the Wichita Chamber, who was also president during the sales tax campaign.

The Chamber endorsements

So when the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC supports candidates, spends money on their behalf, and issues endorsements, what should voters think?

Voters should remember that the Wichita Chamber has presided over the wreckage of the Wichita economy, its leaders still call the shots, and still wants to raise taxes, I believe.

Plus, these people will not accept responsibility for the harm they have caused.

This is a shame, because we want to be proud of our civic leadership. We want to have faith in our elected officials and bureaucrats.

But that isn’t the case in Wichita. Keep this in mind when considering candidates endorsed by the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC.

Individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas

%d bloggers like this: