All posts by Bob Weeks

From Pachyderm: Professor Mel Kahn on 2018 Election Results

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Wichita State University Political Science Professor Mel Kahn speaking on the results of the 2018 General Election. This informative and entertaining presentation was recorded on November 9, 2018. Introduction was by Dalton Glasscock.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Bob and Karl look at election results

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Bob and Karl look at election results nationally, in Kansas, and in Sedgwick County. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 217, broadcast November 11, 2018.

Shownotes

Wichita employment, September 2018

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

Data released today 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 294,400 last September to 299,600 this September. That’s an increase of 5,200 jobs, or 1.8 percent. (This data is not seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are not valid.)

The unemployment rate fell to 3.3 percent, down from 3.9 percent one year ago.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force rose by 1,315 persons (0.4 percent) in September 2018 from August 2018, the number of unemployed persons fell by 398 (3.6 percent), and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent from 3.6 percent. The number of employed persons not working on farms rose to 298,510 in September from 296,797 the prior month, an increase of 1,713 persons, or 0.6 percent.

Click for larger.

Click charts for larger versions.

Newsletter for November 5, 2018

Click here to view the freshest edition of the newsletter from Voice For Liberty. This edition is dated November 5, 2018.

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From Pachyderm: Robert L. Bradley, Jr.

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Robert L. Bradley, Jr. He is CEO and Founder of Institute for Energy Research, visiting fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, and an adjunct scholar at both the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. His topic at the Pachyderm Club was “The Contra-Capitalist Corporation (In Search of Heroic Capitalism).” This audio recording was made on November 2, 2018. The accompanying visual presentation may be viewed here.

Shownotes

The Pete Meitzner era in Wichita

Wichita City Council Member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita) is running for a position on the Sedgwick County Commission.

He’s running on his record of economic development. His website says: “Pete’s seven years on the City Council has proven to be a large part of the positive momentum we have recently experienced.”

Let’s take a look at the record. Click here to view a presentation of the numbers.

Example from the presentation. Click the chart to view the presentation.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Election 2018 preview

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Karl Peterjohn and Bob Weeks provide a preview of the congressional and gubernatorial election for the Wichita area in November 2018. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 216, broadcast November 4, 2018.

Shownotes

Pete Meitzner for Sedgwick County?

In normal times, Republicans may be reluctant to vote for a Democrat for the Sedgwick County Commission. But these are not normal times, and a vote for Pete Meitzner sends a message that we just don’t care about our economy.

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 2017 the Wichita economy shrank from the previous year.)

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 doesn’t say, but here are two things:

First, there are some elected officials and bureaucrats who have presided over the stagnation of the Wichita-area economy. 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.

That Chamber ecosystem is pumped up and funded by the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County. Bureaucrats and elected officials on those bodies who have supported these economic development efforts must be dismissed.

At the top of this list is Wichita City Council Member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita). He’s running as a Republican for an open position on the Sedgwick County Commission in east Wichita.

Why should voters reject Pete Meitzner? That’s a good question, because on his campaign web page he promotes his experience: “Pete’s seven years on the City Council has proven to be a large part of the positive momentum we have recently experienced.”

He’s endorsed by the retiring county commissioner he seeks to replace. Again, from his campaign page, there’s this from Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh: “Pete displays leadership that produces results. We need to only look to the City of Wichita’s recent successes to see the type of leadership Meitzner is capable of. His enthusiasm and business-minded approach to challenges has greatly helped create the positive momentum that Wichita experiences today. Sedgwick County needs Meitzner’s leadership.”

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Let’s compare these claims to the record. Nearby is a chart of nonfarm jobs in the Wichita metropolitan area. I’ve identified when Unruh and Meitzner took office. As you can see, when Unruh took office there had been a downturn. But the Wichita economy improved, although slower than the national economy.

When Meitzner took his position on the city council, there had also been a downtown. The national economy recovered. But the Wichita-area economy has not recovered. As time passes, the gap between the Wichita and national economy grows.

Wichita and national GDP. Click for larger.

There are other indicators besides jobs that illustrate the performance of the Wichita-area economy. Gross Domestic Product, the total value of everything produced, has fallen.

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Real personal income fell in 2016, the last year for which there is data. Over the years, its growth in Wichita has been slower than most other areas.

To see how others evaluate the Wichita-area economy, consider the Brookings Institution Metro Monitor. From Brookings you can also learn that Wichita exports are falling.

Is the record of Dave Unruh relevant when considering whether to vote for Pete Meitzner? Yes. Meitzner praises Unruh’s record: “His (Unruh’s) legacy of 16 years of professionalism … has been many successes and often the calm in the storm that’s been of recent,” Meitzner said. “There’s a strong feeling in the community that what we’re doing in the city and in the region is really moving in the right direction. I can help the county have our oars in the water going the same way as the whole region.” (“Wichita City Council member hopes to become calming force on County Commission” Wichita Eagle, February 13, 2018.)

Except: the legacy of Unruh in economic development is stagnation and falling behind, as is Meitzner’s record on the city council. As for “professionalism” and “calm in the storm,” we must take notice that the FBI is investigating Unruh for “potential obstruction of justice based on possible whistleblower retaliation.” (“FBI investigating possible obstruction of justice in Sedgwick County Commission” Wichita Eagle, October 23, 2018.)

Despite all the evidence, Meitzner is running on his record. His campaign literature says he is committed to “Maintaining his track record of successful ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.” He praises the Wichita city manager, the city bureaucracy, and our economic development machinery for doing a good job. He believes these are doing the right thing.

This demonstrates another problem. Besides presiding over our region’s poor economic performance, Meitzner (and Unruh) do not acknowledge the problem. To them, there is “momentum.” We’re “really moving in the right direction,” Meitzner says.

For someone to say these things, they must be either blissfully ignorant, a blatant liar, or someone who wants to be in office so badly that they’ll say anything to be elected.

Republicans may be reluctant to vote for a Democrat for the Sedgwick County Commission. In normal times, I am too. But these are not normal times, and a vote for Pete Meitzner sends a message that we just don’t care about our economy.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Richard Ranzau and Renee Duxler

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau explains the current problems with corruption in the county. Then, Renee Duxler tells us why she’s running for Sedgwick County Commission. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 215, broadcast October 28, 2018.

Shownotes

Kansas jobs, September 2018

For September 2018, more jobs in Kansas than last September, but fewer than in August.

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

Over the year (September 2017 to September 2018), the Kansas labor force is up slightly, and also rising slightly over the past three months. These changes are small, all being in the range of 0.1 percent or less.

The number of unemployed persons continues to fall, declining by 1.3 percent from July to August. The unemployment rate was 3.3 percent in September, down from 3.6 percent from one year ago, and unchanged from August.

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The number of Kansas nonfarm jobs for September 2018 rose by 1.4 percent over last September, adding 19,600 jobs. This is using seasonally adjusted data, and the non-adjusted figure is slightly larger at 20,600.

From August 2018 to September 2018, nonfarm employment in Kansas fell by 6,900, which is 0.5 percent.

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From Pachyderm: Kansas House candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Republican candidates for the Kansas House of Representatives. Appearing, in initial speaking order, were:

  • Steven Kelly, 72nd District (map of district)
  • Cheryl Helmer, 79th District (map)
  • J.C. Moore, 93rd District (map)
  • Susan Humphries, 99th District (map)

This was recorded on October 19, 2018.

From left, J.C. Moore, Cheryl Helmer, Steven Kelly, and Susan Humphries. Click for larger.

Kansas highway pavement conditions

What is the condition of Kansas highways?

Each year the Kansas Department of Transportation surveys the condition of highway pavement and issues a report called the Network Optimization System (NOS) Survey. 1

Of the condition of highways, the report notes: “Since the data was first collected in 1983, the percentage of pavement surface in good condition has appreciably increased while the percentage of poor pavement has significantly decreased.”

Kansas Highway Conditions, through 2017. Click for larger.
Here’s a chart of the conditions of Kansas roads and highways. 2 It shows that, for interstate highways, the percent of the system in good condition has been pretty level since 2001, although there is a slight decline recently that is within the range of normal year-to-year variation. For non-interstate highways, the percent in good condition fell starting in 2004, but has rebounded, with a small decline in the most recent year.

Based on these charts, there’s no factual basis to claim that Kansas roads and highways are deteriorating or crumbling.

KDOT notes that the condition report “…also shows that while the last few years have been challenging due to very tight budgets, KDOT and its partners continue to find means to maintain the pavement surface condition.” The most recent financial report from KDOT shows that spending on preservation has fallen significantly the past three years, while spending on maintenance has been level. 3


Notes

  1. Kansas Department of Transportation. Pavement Management Information System (PMIS). Available at https://www.ksdot.org/bureaus/matreslab/pmis/reports.asp.
  2. Kansas Department of Transportation. 2017 Kansas NOS Condition Survey Report. Available at https://www.ksdot.org/Assets/wwwksdotorg/bureaus/matResLab/pmis/2017/CSR2017_SW.pdf.
  3. Weeks, Bob. Kansas highway spending. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/kansas-highway-spending-2018/.

WichitaLiberty.TV: United States Representative Ron Estes

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Republican candidate for Congress Representative Ron Estes explains why he should continue to be our representative in the United States House of Representatives. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 214, broadcast October 21, 2018.

Shownotes

Kansas highway spending

A look at actual spending on Kansas highways, apart from transfers.

KDOT spending, major road programs. Click for larger.
KDOT spending, total road programs. Click for larger.
KDOT transfers. Click for larger.
KDOT funding sources, partial. Click for larger.
When we look at actual spending on Kansas roads and highways, we see something different from what is commonly portrayed. Kansas Department of Transportation publishes a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report that details spending in four categories. These figures represent actual spending on roads and highways, independent of transfers to or from the highway fund.

For fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30, 2018, spending on two categories (Maintenance and Modernization) rose slightly from the year before, while spending on the categories Preservation and Expansion and Enhancement fell.

For these four categories — which represent the major share of KDOT spending on roads — spending in fiscal 2018 totaled $528.234 million. That’s down 28 percent from $736.781 million the year before, and up from a low of $698.770 million in fiscal 2010.

Again, these are dollars actually spent on highway programs. A common characterization of the way Kansas government is funded is called “robbing the bank of KDOT.” To the extent that characterization is accurate, there is a separate line item titled “Distributions to other state funds” that holds these values. It appears in the nearby table. A chart shows sales tax distributions from the general fund to KDOT, and transfers from KDOT. The two values tack closely over history, and in 2018 were nearly identical values.

Many also criticize Kansas government for slashing highway spending, letting our roads crumble. While total spending on these four programs has been falling (after adjusting for inflation), the decline, until recent years, is minor compared to the hysterical claims of those with vested interests in more government, and especially highway, spending.

Kansas law specifies how much sales tax revenue is transferred to the highway fund. Here are recent rates of transfer and dates they became effective: 1

July 1, 2010: 11.427%
July 1, 2011: 11.26%
July 1, 2012: 11.233%
July 1, 2013: 17.073%
July 1, 2015: 16.226%
July 1, 2016 and thereafter: 16.154%

A nearby chart shows the dollar amounts transferred to the highway fund from sales tax revenue. In 2006 the transfer was $98.914 million, and by 2018 it had grown to $530.765 million.

KDOT spending, major road programs. Click for larger.


Notes

  1. Kansas Statutes Annotated 79-3620.

Kansas school spending, through 2018

Charts of Kansas school spending presented in different forms.

Recently Kansas State Department of Education released spending figures for the 2018 school year, that is, the school year starting in 2017 and ending in 2018.

One of the most important charts shows state spending per-pupil, adjusted for inflation. It shows the total of state and local spending, which is useful because in 2015 the state made a change in the way revenue is allocated between state and local sources. It also shows base state aid per pupil, which is an important number as it is the starting point for the school funding formula.

Why is total state and local spending higher than base state aid? The answer is weightings. These are amounts that are added to the base to pay for things like at-risk children, English language learners, and other items. The value of weightings has grown over time, so as base state aid has generally fallen, total spending has generally risen.

A second chart shows the ratio of total state and local spending to base state aid.

This is not simply a technical matter. In discussions of school policy, sometimes only the base aid figure is used. As it has fallen, some formulate an argument that school spending has been cut. That is easily refuted by looking at total state and local spending.

Of note, base state aid was not used in school years 2016 and 2017, which explains the gap in some of the series.

I’ve gathered these charts and others and present them in a presentation. Use arrow keys to move through the charts. Click here to access.

Kansas school spending, showing state and local aid compared to base state aid. Click for larger.
Kansas school spending, showing ratio of state and local aid to base state aid. Click for larger.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Candidate for Congress James Thompson

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Democratic Party candidate for Congress James Thompson explains why he should be our next representative in the United States House of Representatives. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 213, broadcast October 14, 2018.

Shownotes

From Pachyderm: Economic development incentives

A look at some of the large economic development programs in Wichita and Kansas.

Here’s video of a presentation I gave at the Wichita Pachyderm Club this week on economic development incentives. The video was produced by Paul Soutar of Graphic Lens. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Following, articles that address some of the topics I presented:

  • Industrial revenue bonds in Kansas: Industrial Revenue Bonds are a mechanism that Kansas cities and counties use to allow companies to avoid paying property and sales taxes.
  • Wichita TIF projects: some background: Tax increment financing disrupts the usual flow of tax dollars, routing funds away from cash-strapped cities, counties, and schools back to the TIF-financed development. TIF creates distortions in the way cities develop, and researchers find that the use of TIF means lower economic growth.
  • Community improvement districts in Kansas: In Kansas Community Improvement Districts, merchants charge additional sales tax for the benefit of the property owners, instead of the general public.
  • STAR bonds in Kansas: The Kansas STAR bonds program provides a mechanism for spending by autopilot, without specific appropriation by the legislature.
  • PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas: PEAK, a Kansas economic development incentive program, redirects employee income taxes back to the employing company.
  • Historic preservation tax credits, or developer welfare: A Wichita developer seeks to have taxpayers fund a large portion of his development costs, using a wasteful government program of dubious value.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Author Lenore Skenazy, “America’s Worst Mom”

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Author Lenore Skenazy talks about today’s children and the free-range kids movement. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 212, broadcast October 7, 2018.

Shownotes

Wichita employment, August 2018

For the Wichita metropolitan area in August 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 today 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 291,300 last August to 296,000 this July. That’s an increase of 4,700 jobs, or 1.6 percent. (This data is not seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are not valid.)

The unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, down from 4.6 percent from a year ago.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force rose by five persons from July 2018, and the number of unemployed persons fell by 511 (4.7 percent), and the unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent from 3.8 percent. The number of employed persons not on farms rose to 296,366 in August from 295,810 the prior month, an increase of 556 persons, or 0.2 percent.

Click for larger.

Click charts for larger versions.

Education gap on Wichita City Council

Currently there is discussion in Wichita on whether higher education is valued by residents. Following, from April 2011, a look at the educational achievement of the Wichita City Council. The members of the council cited below were Lavonta Williams, Sue Schlapp, Jim Skelton, Paul Gray, Jeff Longwell, and Janet Miller. Carl Brewer was mayor.

Before Jim Skelton left the council in January, none of the four men serving on the Wichita City Council had completed a college degree. The three women serving on the council set a better example, with all three holding college degrees.

Of the candidates running in next week’s election for four council seats and the office of mayor, less than half hold college degrees.

Is it necessary to complete college in order to serve in an office like mayor or city council? Apparently, none of the four men who held these offices without a degree thought so. The two running to retain their present positions — Mayor Carl Brewer and council member Jeff Longwell (district 5, west and northwest Wichita) — evidently don’t think so, or they would not be running again.

But we tell young people that college holds the key to success. We encourage schoolchildren to consider college and to take a rigorous high school curriculum in order to prepare for it. We encourage families to save for college. Our region’s economic development agency promotes the number of people with college or advanced degrees. We promote our colleges and universities as a factor that distinguishes Wichita. We hope that our elected officials will set an example we want young people to follow.

Once in office, we ask our city elected officials to attempt to grasp and understand complex sets of financial data, working with a budget of about half a billion dollars for the City of Wichita. We hope that they will be able to consider large and weighty issues such as the role of government in a free society. Members of the professional management staff — bureaucrats — that manage the city, county, and state are generally required to hold college degrees.

The irony is that elected officials often are highly reliant on the bureaucratic staff for information, data, and advice, and this professional bureaucracy is often highly educated. Does this imbalance create problems?

Elected officials compared to regular people

Amazingly, it turns out that elected officials, as a group, are less knowledgeable about civics than the general population. That’s the finding of Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which surveyed Americans and their knowledge of civics in 2008. After analyzing the data, ISI concluded: “Simply put, the more you know about American government, history, and economics the less likely you are to pursue and win elective office.”