I am writing to express my opposition to the legislature granting Sedgwick County the authority to raise its county-wide sales tax in order to fund the proposed downtown Wichita arena.
Posts published by “Bob Weeks”
I am writing to express my concern about the upcoming renewal of the subsidy being paid to AirTran Airways. You may recall that I appeared before the Council last May and spoke in opposition to the subsidy. Since then I have learned more about the Fair Fares program.
Other people in Wichita's news business appeared to lack basic factual information about the arena vote. As part of its election night coverage, one prominent Wichita television news anchor interviewed Mr. Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network. Mr. Peterjohn mentioned something about how now the story moves to the Kansas Legislature. The news anchor expressed surprise to learn that the ballot issue was merely an advisory referendum instead of a binding resolution, and that the legislature would have to pass a law allowing Sedgwick County to raise its sales tax. A Wichita television news personality being so poorly informed about such a basic factual matter tells us that we shouldn't expect important news reporting from our television stations.
Presently Mr. Bob Knight of Wichita, a private citizen, is promoting the building of a casino in Park City, Kansas. These articles from The Wichita Eagle have reported Mr. Knight's position on casino gambling in Kansas when he was the mayor of Wichita:
I recently read that the Wichita Airport's economic impact was estimated at $1.6 billion per year. I thought this seemed high, so I investigated further.
Taxes in Kansas are high, and may increase this year. The recent school finance ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court and the passage of the downtown arena sales tax referendum in Sedgwick County are just two reasons why.
"While corporate welfare has attracted critics from both the left and the right, there is no uniform definition. By TIME's definition, it is this: any action by local, state or federal government that gives a corporation or an entire industry a benefit not offered to others. It can be an outright subsidy, a grant, real estate, a low-interest loan or a government service. It can also be a tax break -- a credit, exemption, deferral or deduction, or a tax rate lower than the one others pay." (Time Magazine, Nov. 9, 1998)
States and localities aggressively compete with each other to see which can put together the grandest package of benefits to induce companies to locate there. Or, as becoming increasingly common, a company threatens to move away from a city or state unless it receives incentives. Often these incentives are given in the form of industrial revenue bonds. IRB supporters are quick to remind citizens that the local government is merely helping the company to borrow the money -- it is not giving the bond money to the company. Therefore, it doesn't really cost the taxpayers to offer these IRBs.
(It has been suggested that the following message, which I have sent as email to all Kansas State Senators and Representatives, may be of interest to you.
The article, as written and sent, does contain some minor inaccuracies, both in fact and in interpretation; but this merely shows that those of us who relied on the Wichita Eagle, my primary news source, for information prior to the arena tax vote were denied needed information and were, probably deliberately, given false, incomplete, and/or misleading information. I have made no effort to update it since a week or two after the election.
John A. Robinson
The Kansas Legislature will be asked soon to approve a special sales tax for construction of a Downtown Arena in Wichita.
The recent "Arena Vote" in Wichita is a classic example of an election rigged by special interests, and does not represent an informed consent of the people of Wichita and Sedgwick County.
A vote was taken approximately a year prior to this vote in which the people of Wichita voted NOT to build a "downtown arena." A main reason for the failure to support such a construction in that vote was the almost total inability of those favoring the arena to provide verifiable information in support of their claims that an arena would "do great things for Wichita," a complete lack of any assessment of adverse related effects, denial, without examination, of any and all obvious problems, and a total lack of any coherent PLAN for the proposed arena. Those advocating this project were essentially unable to demonstrate that they had the best interests of the people of the community in mind, and made it clear that their real objective was their own personal profit and interest.
The people of Wichita voted NO to a downtown arena.
Today, in the town of Hutchinson, Kansas, an indoor smoking ban takes effect. I hope Wichita does not pass the same law. I believe the evidence that shows smoking is tremendously harmful to the health of the smoker, and also dangerous to those around the smoker. Personally, I don't care to be around smokers and I take measures to avoid places where I will be exposed to cigarette smoke. So shouldn't I favor a smoking ban in Wichita?
"The government will allow you to risk your life for the sake of recreation by sky-diving, mountain climbing or any number of other dangerous activities. But it will not allow you to risk your life for the sake of avoiding arthritis pain by taking Vioxx."
Collecting the sales tax to pay for the downtown Wichita arena may produce unintended consequences.
(Reprinted with the permission of the author, Karl Peterjohn, of Kansas Taxpayers Network.)
Enclosed is a December 13, 2004 Wall Street Journal opinion piece by John Fund (How Daschle Got Blogged) demonstrating how the bloggers went past the media filters in South Dakota to help knock off Tom Daschle last month.
This is relevant to Kansas for several reasons: This state has a similar one party news media like South Dakota's that provides unbalanced information -- as was well demonstrated by the critical letter to the editor that appeared in the Wichita Eagle December 13 criticizing an Americans For Prosperity report that the Kansas press -- with one exception in the Lawrence Journal World -- had not bothered to mention in print.
The Eagle editorial page found it worthwhile to publish a letter from Wisconsin blasting AFP-KS' position on TABOR without bothering to report on the basic study or mention it in their editorial page. In fact, the Eagle has an unpublished editorial piece from Alan Cobb on TABOR.
Ironically, despite this recent flaw in their coverage, I consider the Eagle to have the least bad level of imbalance in both its editorial and news coverage when compared with the major newspapers in this state.
There are even worse examples coming out of the Kansas City area as well as the Topeka newspaper. The smaller dailies, lead by the Harris chain as well as Dave Seaton's two Cowley County papers are usually even worse.
Second, these media filters allow distortions, like the 2002 Sebelius campaign, to get away with remarkable prevarication on their position concerning key issues, like taxes. Another example of flawed Kansas media coverage is the non reporting of the Missouri money flowing into Kansas campaigns at many levels. See the last minute, third-party hit pieces that occur at the end of the campaign and get no negative coverage if the Left blasts Phill Kline in the last week of his campaign but is major news if the conservatives find a 527 vehicle that runs paid media ads in this state.
In the 2002 campaign Sebelius kept claiming that she was not supportive of raising taxes. No one in the mainstream press bothered to ask her about her repeated legislative votes for raising taxes while serving in the Kansas house in the 1980's and early 1990's. Now that she has spent the last year proposing numerous, large tax hikes it would seem worthwhile for someone in this state's news media to bother to mention her flip-flop. I've complained about it in my editorials that I post on KTN's web site and I send out on-line but I believe that the statehouse press corps is concerned about losing access inside her office if they press her on this as well as other key issues.
Third, there are already a few good bloggers at work in this state. "The Kansas Meadowlark" is regularly providing excellent public document information that is regularly ignored in the "mainstream" Kansas press. We need more Meadowlarks and we need ways to disseminate his work more widely to Kansas netizens. There was another blogger, I believe it was "Kansas Citizen" operating out of Johnson County too.
Fourth, I'm tired of the rotating door between the media and its sources and the political Left in this state. Jim MacLean leaves the Topeka Capital-Journal for the Sebelius administration. This occurred only a year or so after the head of the KS Associated Press statehouse office "retires" and is then appointed to the Kansas Board of Regents as well as serving on other boards appointed by the governor.
More recently the most commonly quoted-by-the-press academic in this state, Burdett Loomis, takes a position with the Sebelius administration without fully leaving his position at KU! I was recently surprised to find out from the Kansas Meadowlark that his son had been active in the 2002 Sebelius campaign as well as joining her staff after Sebelius became governor. I wonder who the media will find to become the next Burdett Loomis to quote in "news" stories or if they will continue to quote him since he still is part time at KU's Dole center.
Fifth, this is a national as well as statewide problem. Tom Daschle's wife is a Washington lobbyist. Could a Dennis Hastert or Bill Frist spouse do this? Of course not, the media would howl. Newt Gingrich was forced by the news media to surrender book royalties after he became speaker while HIllary Clinton had no problem taking her book royalties to her bank. Fortunately there are several groups like the Media Resource Center and Accuracy in Media as well as numerous bloggers operating in Washington. Unfortunately, the only methodical effort to hold the media accountable in this state that I know of is through bloggers like the Kansas Meadowlark.
Many of you receiving this email distribute your own material and others to your own lists. This effort needs to expand and grow. If you have a web site, I strongly urge you to link up with the Kansas Meadowlark's. If you find other web sites, please spread the word. I'm sending this to you not in the belief that I have all of the answers, but only because I think I know some of the questions and you need to read Fund's editorial.
I believe there is little doubt that it is foolhardy to be in an automobile without wearing seatbelts, or to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Someone inevitably claims that it is better to be thrown clear of the wreckage than to be trapped inside. But ask any race car driver -- they who witness crashes all the time and may have even been in several -- if they would dare take to the track without making use of their extensive belting systems.
I believe it would be nice if we had the right to drive automobiles without wearing seatbelts, and to ride motorcycles without wearing helmets. These acts, while dangerous to the actor, don't pose any real threat to others. If the person who crashes into my car isn't wearing their seatbelt, it doesn't change my likelihood of injury to my body. It does, however, greatly increase the danger to my wallet, and that's where I draw the line.
In 2003, local Wichita news media devoted extensive news coverage to two officials in the City of Wichita's finance department. They were accused of improperly spending between $52,000 and $73,800 on travel. While I don't condone this waste and I'm glad that our local news media uncovered it, the amount involved is relatively small. Furthermore, the people who wasted this money are no longer in a position to repeat.
The real scandal, however, is the ongoing lack of care exercised when spending our money. Time and time again we read in the newspaper how the mayor or city council members are surprised by facts and circumstances arising after a decision has been made.
There have been periods when I listened to Rush Limbaugh, but it has been many years since I listened regularly. Now I hear his show only when I happen to be driving while it is on the air. When I do hear it, I realize that I don't miss it.
I delivered these remarks to the Wichita City Council as they were preparing to vote on extending AirTran Airway's subsidy for another two years. The extension passed with only one dissenting vote.
Mr. Mayor, Members of the Council:
I speak today in opposition to the continuation of the subsidy the City is paying to AirTran Airways.
There are several reasons why I believe this subsidy should not be continued. The primary reason is that the subsidy, since it is paid to one company and one company only, is not fair to the other companies. Yes, it is true that fares are lower. But is that a legitimate reason to enrich one company at the expense of others?
A recent column by economist Walter E. Williams (Why we're a divided nation) strongly makes the case for more decision-making by free markets rather than by the government through the political process.
In the November 7, 2004 Wichita Eagle, columnist Mark McCormick again confuses the proper role of government and individual.
He starts by talking about the spirit of the people in Wichita, how they will help you push your car, how they will hold open the door for you, etc. He refers to this as "neighborliness." He labels Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, as not belonging to this group, because of his opposition to tax increases.
Because Peterjohn opposed the arena and a school bond issue a few years ago, McCormick thinks he also opposed the wheel and fire. This type of ridicule does not advance Mr. McCormick's argument.
Writing in the November 3, 2004 Wichita Eagle, columnist Mark McCormick labels the vote in favor of a taxpayer-funded, government-owned arena a "rebirth of city's pioneering spirit." In this column, Mr. McCormick mentions our famous entrepreneurs and aerospace industry pioneers. Although he explicitly denies comparing the building of a downtown arena to the genius of Beech and Cessna, this article claims that the downtown arena will somehow lead to a rebirth of Wichita.
What I think Mr. McCormick has overlooked is that the people who in the past made Wichita great were people working as individuals, not as governments. Now, when we look to get something done, we look first to the government, and we seem to think that's a good thing. The entrepreneurs and risk-takers of the past were investing their own money, their own sweat and toil. Our government leaders invest none of this.
The streets and highways, and certainly the public parks, are examples of public goods. Public goods are characterized by two things: nonexcludability, meaning that non-payers can't be excluded from enjoying and using the good, and nonrivalrous consumption, meaning that consumption of the good by one person doesn't reduce the availability of the good to others. Neither applies to an arena.