Category Archives: Uncategorized

Daily Signal launched today

Daily Signal logo
Today The Heritage Foundation launches The Daily Signal. It’s a news, analysis, and commentary outlet. Since today is its first day, I’ll let The Daily Signal describe itself:

We know you’re busy. And we’re quite certain you care deeply about the future of our country.

We care, too. We care about your communities, your families, and how Washington’s decisions are going to impact you.

Daily Signal screen exampleMore and more people are grabbing bites of news from mobile devices on the go — and they need a place where they can find digestible, trusted news on the most important policy debate of the day.

That’s why the Heritage Foundation team created a digital-first, multimedia news platform called The Daily Signal.

The Daily Signal provides policy and political news as well as conservative commentary and policy analysis — in a fresh, visually rich, readable format for your desktop, tablet or phone.

We are committed to news coverage that is accurate, fair and trustworthy. As we surveyed the media landscape, it became clear to us that the need for honest, thorough, responsible reporting has never been more critical. That’s a challenge in today’s fast-moving world. And it’s a challenge we’re willing to accept.

We are dedicated to developing a news outlet that cuts straight to the heart of key political and policy arguments — not spin reported as news.

The Daily Signal is supported by the resources and intellectual firepower of The Heritage Foundation — a dedicated team of experienced journalists to cover the news and more than 100 policy experts who can quickly help put issues in perspective. We believe this combination of news, commentary and policy analysis will establish The Daily Signal as a trusted source on America’s most important issues.

We believe that high-quality, credible news reporting on political and policy issues is of paramount importance to an informed and free society. This is a reflection of that Jeffersonian notion that the greatest defense of liberty is an informed citizenry.

Gosnell, the movie

Seeking to tell the story of the most prolific serial killer in American history, filmmakers Ann McElhinney, Phelim McAleer, and Magdalena Segieda ask for your help.

gosnell-movieThe subject of the proposed movie is Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia physician convicted of murder in 2013. Of his crimes, the grand jury reported: “This case is about a doctor who killed babies … What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy — and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors … Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.”

If you’re not heard of Gosnell and his crimes, you’re not alone. Many feel that his trial did not receive the news coverage it merited. Writing about the lack of news coverage, Kirsten Powers — not a conservative — concluded in her USA Today column:

Let me state the obvious. This should be front page news. When Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke, there was non-stop media hysteria. The venerable NBC Nightly News’ Brian Williams intoned, “A firestorm of outrage from women after a crude tirade from Rush Limbaugh,” as he teased a segment on the brouhaha. Yet, accusations of babies having their heads severed — a major human rights story if there ever was one — doesn’t make the cut.

You don’t have to oppose abortion rights to find late-term abortion abhorrent or to find the Gosnell trial eminently newsworthy. This is not about being “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” It’s about basic human rights.

The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace.

The Gosnell filmmakers note that Jodi Arias was on trial at the same time as Gosnell, She was accused of killing one person, but her trial received wide coverage, and a movie has already been made and shown.

Through their company Ann & Phelim Media Ann McElhinney, Phelim McAleer, and Magdalena Segieda have made successful and compelling independent films such as Fracknation and Not Evil Just Wrong. Now, by using the crowdfunding method, they hope to raise enough to produce a movie to tell the Gosnell story.

I’ve made a contribution, and I hope you do too. You can make a contribution of any size at There you can hear the filmmakers tell what they will accomplish.


Kansas traditional Republicans: The record

As Kansas Republicans decide who to vote for in next week’s primary election, moderate senate incumbents and many newspapers urge voting for those Republicans who promote a “reasonable,” “balanced,” and “responsible” approach to Kansas government. When we examine the record of the coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats that governed Kansas for the first decade of this century, we see legislative accomplishment that not many Kansans may be aware of. Almost all have been harmful to our state.

Most of the moderate Republicans run campaigns promoting themselves as fiscal conservatives. But their voting records often tell a different story. That’s why in 2010 I produced the Kansas Economic Freedom Index to shine light on the actual votes cast by legislators. This year I joined with Kansas Policy Institute and Americans for Prosperity–Kansas to produce a larger and more structured index. Kansans might be surprised to learn that the senator who ranks lowest in voting for economic freedom is a Republican.

Perhaps the most important issue for most Kansans is jobs. In this regard, Kansas — under leadership of moderates — has performed poorly. A chart of the number of private sector jobs in Kansas as compared to a few surrounding states over the past eleven years shows Kansas at or near the bottom. (Kansas is the thick black line. Data is indexed so that all states start at the same relative position.)

Kansas private sector job growth compared to other statesKansas private sector job growth compared to other states. Data is indexed, with January 2001 equal to 1. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Incredibly, not long ago Kansas was the only state to have a loss in private sector jobs over a year-long period. This is the culmination of governance by the coalition of moderate, traditional Kansas Republicans and Democrats.

Analysis in the current edition of Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index confirms that the Kansas economy has not performed well. The “Economic Outlook Ranking” is a forecast looking forward, based on factors that are under control of the states. The “Economic Performance Ranking” is a backward-looking rating that measures state performance, again using variables under control of each state.

For Economic Performance Ranking, Kansas is ranked 39 among the states, near the bottom in terms of positive performance. In the 2010 edition, Kansas was ranked 40th, and in 2010, 34th. Kansas is not making progress in this ranking of state performance. In the forward-looking Economic Outlook Ranking, Kansas ranks 26th. Again, Kansas is not making progress, compared to other states. In annual rankings since 2008 Kansas has been ranked 29, 24, 25, 27, and now 26.

Further evidence of the harm of moderate Republican/Democratic governance was revealed earlier this year when the Tax Foundation released a report examining tax costs on business in the states and in selected cities in each state. The news for Kansas is worse than merely bad, as our state couldn’t have performed much worse: Kansas ranks 47th among the states for tax costs for mature business firms, and 48th for new firms. See Kansas reasonable: We’re number 47 (and 48).

On government reform, moderate Republicans have blocked efforts to improve the operations and reduce the cost of Kansas state government. In 2011 the Kansas Legislature lost three opportunities to do just this. Three bills, each with this goal, were passed by the House of Representatives, but each failed to pass through the moderate-controlled Senate, or had its contents stripped and replaced with different legislation. See Kansas reasonable: Government reform.

Moderates are proud of keeping politics out of judicial selection. In reality, Kansas judicial selection is highly politicized and undemocratic, with out-sized power concentrated in a special interest group: lawyers. Among the fifty states, Kansas is at the undemocratic extreme in the way we select judges, and moderates defend this system. See Kansas reasonable: Judicial selection.

Moderates usually claim that they are the “education” candidate, and are proud of their support for spending on Kansas schools. They “march in lockstep” with those who constantly call for more school spending, even to the point of suing the state’s taxpayers for more money. They join with the special interests who fight against accountability measures. They also fight against an honest assessment of the condition of public schools in Kansas, and when you look under the covers, it’s not the pretty picture that education bureaucrats paint.

As an example, compare Kansas with Texas, a state that Kansas school spending boosters and moderate Republicans like to deride as a state with low-performing schools. In Kansas 69 percent of students are white, while in Texas that number is 33 percent. So it’s not surprising that overall, Kansas outperforms Texas (with one tie) when considering all students in four important areas: fourth and eighth grade reading, and fourth and eighth grade math. But looking at Hispanic students only, Texas beats or ties Kansas in these four areas. For black students, Texas bests Kansas in all four. Texas does this with much less spending per pupil than Kansas. See Kansas reasonable: The education candidates.

A recent column described traditional, moderate Kansas Republicans as those who “believe government has a more affirmative role in assuring a high quality of life for Kansans.” The record, however, is one that has placed Kansas at disadvantage to other states, and it will be difficult to recover. Kansas traditional: the platform.

The Wichita Eagle on naysayers: a disservice to Wichita

Yesterday’s op-ed by Rhonda Holman in The Wichita Eagle reveals a crucial need for a newspaper with at least one conservative voice on its editorial board (Say ‘no’ to naysayers, October 9, 2011). Here are a few ways in which Holman and her newspaper’s editorial section are wrong about downtown Wichita development and a few other issues, and how the op-ed is a disservice to the people of Wichita:

The real world, according to Holman

While Holman cites the “real world” as the need to pour massive subsidy into downtown Wichita, I might ask this question: Why is downtown Wichita such an unattractive investment that lavish subsidy must be heaped upon those who invest there?

Actually, the broader question needs to be asked, as the city often subsidizes development all over town. An example is the new Cabela’s store, an example of “greenfield” development that supposedly sucks away all the money from downtown, and which the elitists despise. In that case the city lent its taxing authority to Cabela’s to be used for its own purposes. A more direct example was when the city granted, through a forgivable loan, $48,000 to The Golf Warehouse, located in a suburban office park.

So what is it about Wichita? Won’t anyone invest in Wichita without subsidy?

It turns out, fortunately, that many do.

In the “real world,” there’s a lot of development going on. It just isn’t always taking place where Holman and other elites think it should be taking place.

Interestingly, when the elites advocate for public funding of their goals, their own actions often belie their true preferences. For example, a lot of development in Wichita is taking place near Holman’s suburban home. Many other supporters of subsidized downtown development don’t live anywhere near downtown — or even in Wichita, in at least two examples.

Why this building?

There’s much more in Holman’s article that deserves discussion. For example, Holman writes: “The Union National Bank building is a prime example: If it could be developed without the use of public tools, it wouldn’t still be empty after 12 years.” Underlying this statement is the assumption that this property should be developed. I don’t know where she and the supporters of subsidized downtown development get these ideas. What is it about this property that gives it priority over other properties in the city or downtown?

If Holman makes the case that this small piece of land deserves massive public spending to support its development, can’t the same argument be made for every other vacant building or empty plot of land in downtown Wichita? We can anticipate that it will be.

Scrutiny, by cheerleaders only

Holman praises the scrutiny that the project has undergone, writing that the project has been “vetted by a public-private evaluation team.” By my reckoning, the committee that performs this function doesn’t have a single member who is skeptical of subsidies for downtown development. Can’t these people tolerate even one person who might voice dissent?

Further, that committee decided to approve the project despite the involvement of David Burk of Marketplace Properties. Holman’s own newspaper reported this last year: “Downtown Wichita’s leading developer, David Burk, represented himself as an agent of the city — without the city’s knowledge or consent — to cut his taxes on publicly owned property he leases in the Old Town Cinema Plaza, according to court records and the city attorney. … Officials in the city legal department said that while Burk was within his rights to appeal taxes on another city-supported building in the Cinema Plaza, he did not have authorization to file an appeal on the city-owned parking/retail space he leases. … As for Burk signing documents as the city’s representative, ‘I do have a problem with it,’ said City Attorney Gary Rebenstorf, adding that he intends to investigate further.”

The development agreement for the current project contains restrictions on the type of behavior that Burk has exhibited in the past. Call it the “Burk clause.”

Election as referendum?

Holman claims that the recent spring city elections were a referendum on downtown, and that subsidized downtown development won. (Here again Holman doesn’t make a distinction between “development” and “subsidized development.”)

But elections are a decidedly poor way to make these decisions. For one thing, policy regarding subsidized downtown development is just one issue that candidates ran on. Voters have to vote for the entire package. They can’t pick and choose among issues, and it’s a reason why we need to leave more economic activity in the realm of markets — where people can pick and choose what they want — rather than turning it over to politics.

Then, there’s the low turnout for these elections. In the past, Holman described the turnout for the spring primary as “depressingly low.” But now — since the results largely fit her ideology — she describes the election is a “referendum.”

Then, there’s this: A recent Rasmussen poll carried the headline: “Just 6% Think Most Politicians Keep Their Campaign Promises.” Elaborating, the pollster explained: “Voters remain overwhelmingly convinced that most politicians won’t keep their campaign promises, but they’re a little less convinced that their elected officials deliberately lie.”

As shown in my reporting of one of the first times two new city council members faced a test, they didn’t fare well at all (Wichita forgivable loan action raises and illustrates issues):

Politically, Wichitans learned today the value of promises or statements made by most candidates while campaigning. Most candidates’ promises along with $3.75 will get you a small cappuccino at Starbucks — if you don’t ask for whipped cream.

Particularly interesting is the inability of politicians to admit they were wrong, or that they made a mistake, or that they were simply uninformed or misinformed when they made a campaign promise or statement. … City council members Clendenin and Meitzner could not bring themselves to admit that their votes today were at odds with their statements made while campaigning. This lack of honesty is one of the reasons that citizens tune out politics, why they have such a cynical attitude towards politicians, and perhaps why voter turnout in city elections is so low.

As one young Wichitan said on her Facebook page after sharing video of the three new council members today, obviously referring to city council district 2’s Pete Meitzner: “How to use your mouth: 1. Campaign under the guise that you are a fiscal conservative. 2. Insert foot.

Finally, there are the out-sized campaign contributions made by those who ask the city council for money. See Wichita City Council campaign contributions and Douglas Place for details on the campaign contributions made by these developers.

One more thing: If Holman is advocating using the results of elections as a measure of city sentiment, why oppose this election, where the ballot question addresses one issue, and there can be no confusion as to what the voters mean?

The naysayers

Holman, as do many downtown supporters, falsely frames the issue. She writes: “To oppose the Ambassador project is, in effect, to oppose downtown redevelopment.” She uses, as does Mayor Carl Brewer, the term “naysayer.” They don’t mean it as a compliment.

What I — and the people I ally myself with — oppose is subsidized development. We oppose this whether it is downtown, suburban, or elsewhere. As it turns out, we can’t even have an honest assessment of the level of public involvement in the current project under consideration. While the City of Wichita employs a very narrow definition of public involvement, a more realistic look shows that the hotel benefits from $15,470,000 in public money to get started, and then $321,499 per year for the first five years, with smaller amounts for 22 years.

Saying no to government intervention doesn’t mean saying no to progress. It does mean saying “no” to the self-serving plans of politicians and bureaucrats and the crony capitalists who seek to profit from political entrepreneurship.

It means saying “no” to Wichita’s political entrepreneurs, who seek to earn profits through government coercion rather than meeting the needs of customers in the marketplace. It means saying “no” to the public-private partnership, where all too often it is the risk that is public and the profit that is private.

So yes, I guess I and Wichita’s other naysayers are saying “no” to a lot of things.

But what we’re saying “yes” to is liberty and freedom. We’re saying “yes” to a civil society that respects the rich diversity of human individuality instead of government planning and bureaucracy. We’re saying “yes” to free people cooperating voluntarily through free markets rather than forced government transfers from taxpayers to politically-favored individuals and programs.

We’re saying “yes” to consumers choosing which businesses in Wichita thrive, rather than politicians on the city council — and their elitist sycophants — choosing. We’re saying “yes” to people making their own choices, rather than government “incentivizing” the behavior it desires through TIF districts and tax abatements, those incentives being paid for by taxpayers.

Pompeo, Congressional candidate, to address Pacyhderms

The speaker at this Friday’s meeting (September 3rd) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club is candidate for the United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo, a Republican, is challenged by Reform party candidate Susan Ducey, Democrat Raj Goyle, and Libertarian David Moffett.

All are welcome to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. The program costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch including salad, soup, two main dishes, and ice tea and coffee. The meeting starts at noon, although it’s recommended to arrive fifteen minutes early to get your lunch before the program starts.

The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions). You may park in the garage (enter west side of Broadway between Douglas and First Streets) and use the sky walk to enter the Bank of America building. The Petroleum Club will stamp your parking ticket and the fee will be $1.00. Or, there is usually some metered and free street parking nearby.

Wichita economic forecast to be presented

This Friday (August 27) the Wichita Pachyderm Club will feature a presentation titled “Economic Forecast for the Wichita Area.” The presenter will be Debra Franklin, Regional Labor Force Analyst at the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University.

All are welcome to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. The program costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch including salad, soup, two main dishes, and ice tea and coffee. The meeting starts at noon, although it’s recommended to arrive fifteen minutes early to get your lunch before the program starts.

The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions). You may park in the garage (enter west side of Broadway between Douglas and First Streets) and use the sky walk to enter the Bank of America building. The Petroleum Club will stamp your parking ticket and the fee will be $1.00. Or, there is usually some metered and free street parking nearby.

Investment strategies to be discussed in Wichita

This Friday (August 13) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features a program titled “Could any investment strategy be successful in today’s economic climate?” The presenter will be Dr. Malcolm Harris, who is Professor of Finance at Friends University. His blog is Mammon Among Friends, and he is regularly quoted in Wichita news media regarding financial and economic matters.

All are welcome to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. The program costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch including salad, soup, two main dishes, and ice tea and coffee. The meeting starts at noon, although it’s recommended to arrive fifteen minutes early to get your lunch before the program starts.

The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions). You may park in the garage (enter west side of Broadway between Douglas and First Streets) and use the sky walk to enter the Bank of America building. The Petroleum Club will stamp your parking ticket and the fee will be $1.00. Or, there is usually some metered and free street parking nearby.

Schodorf poll indicates three-way tie in Kansas fourth Congressional district

Today the campaign of Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf released a poll that shows her in a three-way tie with Wichita businessmen Wink Hartman and Mike Pompeo in the race for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas.

The candidates and their campaign websites are Wichita businessman Jim Anderson, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, Wichita businessman Mike Pompeo, Latham engineer Paij Rutschman, and Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf.

In answering a telephone question “If the election for congress were today, would you be voting for Jean Schodorf, Jim Anderson, Mike Pompeo, or Wink Hartman?” with the names rotated, Schodorf’s survey shows Hartman in the lead with 19 percent, Schodorf with 18 percent, Pompeo with 16 percent, Anderson at nine percent, and 39 percent undecided.

As with all polls produced on behalf of a candidate, we need to remember that surveys produced and released by campaigns are just that, and the results would probably not be released by a campaign if the results did not portray the candidate favorably. Without knowledge of the questions being asked, there is always the possibility that a survey is a “push poll,” meaning an instrument designed to influence participants and produce a desired result.

The Schodorf campaign released the text of the question asked, but other questions asked — or statements made — before the reported question can influence the response.

The difference between the Schodorf campaign poll and an independent effort conducted last week can be seen in two places: First, Schodorf — in her campaign’s results — is in a statistical tie with Hartman and Pompeo, and the number of undecided voters in Schodorf’s poll is much higher than in the SurveyUSA poll from last week. In that poll, undecided voters were nine percent of the total. That’s less than one-fourth of the undecided voters found in the Schodorf poll.

Kansas fourth Congressional district poll resultsKansas fourth Congressional district poll results

Letters on Wichita Bowllagio

Letters recently appeared in the Wichita Eagle regarding the proposed Bowllagio project, a west side entertainment destination. Bowllagio is planned to have a bowling and entertainment center, a boutique hotel, and a restaurant owned by a celebrity television chef.

The developers of this project propose to make use of $13 million in STAR bond financing. STAR bonds are issued for the immediate benefit of the developers, with the sales tax collected in the district used to pay off the bonds. The project also proposes to be a Community Improvement District, which allows an additional two cents per dollar to be collected in sales tax, again for the benefit of the district.

Property rights

Imagine paying your mortgage and taxes for many years, only to get a knock on your door one day. A real estate developer tells you he wants your land.

That’s what happened to a couple on South Maize Road in the boundaries of the proposed Bowllagio sales-tax-and-revenue (STAR) bonds district. They were offered the county-appraised value, plus 10 percent, for their home. But they don’t want to move, as they couldn’t find a comparable property for what the developer offered.

Now the homeowners are concerned they may be forced out of their home through the process of eminent domain. This forceful taking of property by government is one of the worst possible violations of private property rights.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said that the city does not intend to use eminent domain for the proposed Bowllagio entertainment complex.

That’s good news. The city can and should affirm this promise by writing it into the Bowllagio authorizing ordinance. Supporting private property rights is essential; the use of public funds for private projects is bad policy.

Susan Oliver Estes

Let developer fill funding gap

Bowllagio’s representative told the Wichita City Council last week that the developer needed $13 million in public money to fill the projected funding shortfall for the project to be economically feasible. I believe the developer needs to dig deeper into his own pocket to fill this funding gap, or seek private venture capital.

As an experienced real estate practitioner, I am aggrieved that the Wichita mayor and City Council members lack the necessary experience to properly evaluate these projects. They have proved to be little match in protecting the public treasury against sophisticated developers accustomed to using the public purse as part of their real estate funding formulas.

The investment of public money in bowling alleys, restaurants, shops and hotels that compete with existing businesses that offer the same services is not a proper role for government to play and is wrong. It creates an unlevel playing field for those businesses that compete in the same market using their own money.

If the Bowllagio development venture is an economically feasible project, the private developer will find the private money he needs to fund it.

John R. Todd

‘This Week in Kansas’ new to KAKE Television

Update: KAKE now has a webpage for this show. It contains announcements of the topics for each show and video of recent episodes. Click on This Week in Kansas. Also, broadcast time has moved to 10:00 am.

At the end of May, a Kansas broadcasting institution came to an end: Kansas Week, produced by KPTS public television in Wichita. KAKE Television (channel 10) in Wichita immediately started a similar show titled This Week in Kansas, with the same Tim Brown as host. The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Ric Anderson, a frequent guest on the show, provides more detail below.

I was a guest from time to time on Kansas Week, and I’ll be a guest on tomorrow’s episode of This Week in Kansas. The new show is broadcast at 9:00 am Sunday morning.

Shows like This Week in Kansas are a valuable public service, so “thank you” to KAKE for picking up the show.

Additional coverage beside Anderson’s (below) is at KAKE-TV and WIBW-TV Launch New Sunday Morning Political Show and KAKE, Channel 10, to debut “This Week in Kansas,” a public affairs show.

Ratings, schmatings — TV show is good for Kansas

By Ric Anderson

The TV talk show “Kansas Week” has been discontinued, probably because the producers kept putting on some doofy newspaper guy who said “Um” too much and had a face built for print.

Oh wait, that guy was me.

But actually, I’m relieved to report two things about the show: One, I’ve been told I didn’t single-handedly kill it, and two, it’s been resurrected on a different station under a new name.

Click to continue reading at the Topeka Capital-Journal

Candidates for Congress to debate in El Dorado

The candidates for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas will participate in a forum this Friday in El Dorado.

The event is sponsored by the Great American Forum. The date is Friday, April 23 at 7:00 pm, at the El Dorado Senior Center, 210 E. 2nd Avenue, El Dorado, KS.

Questions may be submitted in advance my email at For more information, contact Ben Sauceda at 316-640-2065 or

Tour of Register of Deeds office offered

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, Wichita Chapter, will hold an informational tour of the Sedgwick County Register of Deeds Office on Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at 11:30 am in the lobby of the
Sedgwick County Courthouse at 525 N. Main in Wichita.

The tour of the office will be presented by the Register of Deeds, Mr. Bill Meek.

Then from 12:30 pm to 1:15 pm, participants may have lunch at the Sedgwick Court House Cafeteria, located in the basement of the Sedgwick County Court house. Attendees will need to pay for their own meal.

Optional RSVP to John Todd, Wichita AFP volunteer coordinator at or 316-312-7335, or to Susan Estes, AFP-Kansas Field Director at or 316-681-4415.

The Register of Deeds is responsible for recording all transactions relating to real estate in Sedgwick County. This includes deeds, mortgages, oil and gas leases and platted additions to all cities in Sedgwick County. The Register of Deeds also files financing statements and security agreements on personal property under the Uniform Commercial Code; federal and state tax liens, corporation papers, powers of attorney, county school records, and military discharges. The Register of Deeds office plays a vital role in the protection of private property under our system of government.

To Kansas school spending advocates, criticism comes fast and loose

As the debate over the funding of Kansas public schools goes on, sometimes facts get lost in the shuffle, and school spending advocates sometimes invent “facts” in order to score political points by criticizing those working to bring inconvenient facts to light.

Besides spending advocates, journalists can get caught up in this. In a recent news story in the Hays Daily News, the paper reported a claim made by Linda Kenne, Victoria USD 432 superintendent. Here it is:

One particular corporation seems to drive the efforts. Kenne said, “Koch Industries’ address is the same as the Kansas Policy Institute.” “Do you want the state to be owned by Koch Industries?” she asked.

The reporter of this story, Dawne Leiker, quoted a government official who said something. I guess that constitutes news. But responsible reporting and journalism requires that there be at least some factual basis underlying the statement, or the reporter needs to say so. In this case, the facts are that the two organizations do not share the same address.

It’s worth noting that Leiker writes for the leftist blogs Everyday Citizen and Kansas Free Press. At Everyday Citizen you may read her poem Ode to Conservatism, in which she likens conservatives to “pit bulls, bedecked with luscious lips” who are offended by the existence of poor people, and that opportunity goes to those who beg for it, presumably from rich conservatives.

It’s tempting to feel a little empathy for school spending advocates like superintendent Kenne, as Kansas Policy Institute has uncovered and given publicity to large fund balances that schools could be using if they want to. And it’s not just KPI that says so. Kansas Deputy Commissioner of Schools Dale Dennis agrees.

But that’s not an excuse for playing fast and loose with facts.

Kenne may be taking her cue from the Kansas National Education Association (or KNEA, the teachers union). It, along with the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB), is at the forefront of defending the status quo in Kansas public school spending — that being a rapid rise. Their lobbyists and publications also show little regard for facts when scoring political points by criticizing those who uncover facts inconvenient for them.

As an example, a recent edition of “Under the Dome Today” referred to the “Kansas Policy Institute whose board of directors includes Koch Industries executives.” The facts are that of the members of the KPI Board of Trustees, two are former Koch industries employees. Neither has worked there for many years.

Misreporting simple facts like this should give us reason to question the facts used to support their larger and more important arguments.

Underlying this is the puzzle as to why Wichita-based Koch Industries is the subject of so much criticism from Kansas school spending advocates. With some 2,100 employees in Wichita and owning a large amount of property, Koch Industries and its employees pay many millions in taxes that go to school districts and other functions of government.

The company is involved in other ways, too. In 1991, Charles and Elizabeth Koch founded (and a Koch Family Foundation continues to fund) Youth Entrepreneurs Kansas, which “teaches free enterprise fundamentals through hands-on experiences and encourages students to start their own business, enhance their business skills for future career opportunities and continue into higher education.” YEK is present in many Wichita and surrounding area public schools.

As another example of Koch Foundation generosity, a page on the Wichita public school website tells of Education EDGE Koch Focus mini-grants given to support classroom projects in several areas.

Further, a recent letter appearing in the Wichita Eagle told of this: “Thanks to the support of USD 259’s administration, the financial generosity of the Koch foundation, and the expertise of Gilder Lehrman and the Bill of Rights Institute, programs such as these are having a profound positive impact on history and civics education.”

We need to carefully examine the facts and arguments advanced by school spending advocates. They could also learn to say “thank you” now and then.

In Central-Northeast Wichita, government is cause of problem, not solution

From the November 2007 archives. Since then, the Wichita schools have a new superintendent, and Kansas has raised its minimum wage.

An article in The Wichita Eagle “Plan offers hope for city’s troubled heart” (November 14, 2007) reports on the development of a plan named New Communities Initiative, its goal being the revitalizing of a depressed neighborhood in Wichita. The saddest thing in this article is the realization that there is consideration of a plan for large-scale government intervention to solve problems that are, to a large extent, caused by government itself.

The article laments low high school graduation rates and the low proficiency in math and reading. We should make sure we remember that almost all these children have gone to public schools, that is, schools owned and run by government. Plans to improve public schools almost always call for more spending. While education bureaucrats do not like to admit this, spending on government schools in Kansas has been increasing rapidly in recent years. The results of these huge spending increases are just being learned, but it is unlikely that it will produce the dramatic results that are needed.

There is a simple solution to improving schools that won’t cost more than what is already spent, and should cost even less: school choice. In parts of our country where there is school choice through vouchers — or better, through tax credits — it is low-income parents who are most appreciative of the chance for their children to escape the terrible public schools. Further, there is persuasive evidence that when faced with viable competition, the public schools themselves improve.

In Kansas, however, there is little hope that meaningful school choice will be implemented soon. Although Winston Brooks, superintendent of Wichita schools, says he is open to competition and accountability, it is a false bravado. The political climate in Kansas is such that it is nearly impossible to get even a charter school application approved, much less any form of school choice with real teeth. (See What’s the Matter With Kansas, January 3, 2007 Wall Street Journal.) As the government schools consume increasing resources, parents find it even harder to pay taxes and private school tuition. So the government schools, responsible for graduates who can’t read and calculate, extend their monopoly.

A continual problem in depressed areas of cities is low employment. Government again contributes to this problem by creating barriers to employment, most prominently through the minimum wage law. People have jobs because their employers value the work the employees perform more than what they pay them in wages and benefits. When government says you must pay a higher wage than what the potential employees can contribute through their labors, these low-productivity workers won’t be hired. As the minimum wage rises, which it is on the federal level, it becomes even more difficult for the least productive workers to find jobs.

The reason that some young people find it difficult to get jobs is that they don’t have the education, training, or experience to be very productive at a job. While no one likes to work for only, say $3 or $4 per hour, working for that wage is preferable to being unemployed when the minimum wage is $6 per hour. While working for $4 per hour the worker gains experience at a specific job, and experience at holding any job in general. Soon, as workers become more productive, their wages will rise. Sitting on the sidelines not working or wasting time in a government job-training program does the workers no good.

The article mentions the plight of children whose parents are in prison. More generally, this neighborhood is plagued by crime and gangs. While I do not know the proportion of these people that are in prison for crimes related to drugs, it most surely is high. Gangs exist almost solely because of the trade in illegal drugs. The government’s prohibition of drugs, then, plays a huge role in the problem of crime.

The solution is to legalize drugs. Legalize all drugs, without exception. This should not be interpreted as an endorsement of drug use, as drug abuse is a serious health problem for many people. The health problems that drug abuse causes might even increase after legalization. But the crime problem would cease to exist. No longer would people be in prison simply because they are drug addicts. With legalization, the price of drugs would rapidly decline to perhaps the cost of a pack of cigarettes or a few cocktails each day. No longer would drug addicts have to raise several hundred dollars per day through crime. No longer would gangs find selling drugs profitable, and gangs would likely disappear, or at least move on to other endeavors. Do the owners of liquor stores shoot each other over turf wars, and do their customers engage in crime each day to pay for their fix of cheap alcohol?

The alternative to legalization of drugs is more law enforcement aimed at decreasing the supply of illegal drugs. This government action, if successful, has this consequence: by reducing the supply of drugs, it increases their price, thereby making it even more lucrative to deal in illegal drugs.

Then there is the government’s war on poverty. The economist Walter Williams recently wrote this:

Since President Johnson’s War on Poverty, controlling for inflation, the nation has spent $9 trillion on about 80 anti-poverty programs. To put that figure in perspective, last year’s U.S. GDP was $11 trillion; $9 trillion exceeds the GDP of any nation except the U.S. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita uncovered the result of the War on Poverty — dependency and self-destructive behavior.

In the same article:

There’s one segment of the black population that suffers only a 9.9 percent poverty rate, and only 13.7 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. There’s another segment that suffers a 39.5 percent poverty rate, and 58.1 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. Among whites, one segment suffers a 6 percent poverty rate, and only 9.9 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. The other segment suffers a 26.4 percent poverty rate, and 52 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations among blacks? … The only distinction between both the black and white populations is marriage — lower poverty in married-couple families.

In 1960, only 28 percent of black females ages 15 to 44 were never married and illegitimacy among blacks was 22 percent. Today, the never-married rate is 56 percent and illegitimacy stands at 70 percent. If today’s black family structure were what it was in 1960, the overall black poverty rate would be in or near single digits. The weakening of the black family structure, and its devastating consequences, have nothing to do with the history of slavery or racial discrimination.

Williams and Thomas Sowell, who have studied the issue extensively, conclude that it is government anti-poverty programs that are the cause of a permanent underclass. These programs should be canceled.

We see that government — through its poor schools, the raising of barriers to employment through minimum wage laws, the prohibition of drugs, and the culture of dependency and family disintegration supported by welfare — has been a contributing factor, probably the most important factor, in the decline of this neighborhood. It is foolhardy to believe that more government programs can reverse the damage already done by past and present government programs. While I’m sure that the intent of the New Communities Initiative and its coordinating members is noble, the reality is that government intervention is dangerous to the future of Wichita and to this neighborhood.

Rep. Steve Brunk to address Pachyderms

Please note: Effective October 2, 2009, the location of Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings has changed. The new location is the Wichita Petroleum Club.

This Friday, the Wichita Pachyderm Club presents Kansas State Representative Steve Brunk, Republican from Bel Aire, as the speaker. His topics will include proposed House Concurrent Resolution 5019, the REAL (Revenue Expenditure and Assessment Limitations) Act — a state constitutional amendment dealing with revenue, expenditures, assessment, and limited government, the need to restructure the budget, and property tax reform.

All are welcome to attend Pachyderm club meetings. Lunch is $10. It’s a delicious buffet lunch including salad, soup, two main dishes, and ice tea and coffee. The meeting starts at noon, although it’s recommended to arrive five or ten minutes early to get your lunch before the program starts.

The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions). Park in the garage just across Broadway and use the sky walk to enter the Bank of America building. Bring your parking garage ticket to be stamped and your parking fee will be only $1.00. There is usually some metered and free street parking nearby.

DeBoer plan for Wichita downtown redevelopment largely realized

The following is a lightly edited version of an insightful comment left on this site by an unknown writer, the “Wichitator.” Since many readers don’t read comments, I’ve promoted this to a post.

Hundreds of millions have already been spent for downtown redevelopment and what do we have to show for it? In contrast, look at the benign neglect the city has had on the thriving east and west sides of town where projects on Maize and Webb roads have prospered despite heavy property taxes.

Over 20 years ago the current downtown developer of the languishing East Bank (WaterWalk) project, Jack DeBoer, provided his vision for revitalizing downtown. There was a lot of public discussion about DeBoer’s proposal including front page Wichita Eagle articles at that time. No one in the local news media wants to talk about this now apparently.

Ironically enough, at that time, DeBoer’s plan did not include the struggling East Bank (Waterwalk) project that he is currently involved in. DeBoer’s vision of downtown projects were largely implemented by taxpayers over time.

The largest and most expensive of these projects will be the Intrust Arena with its $200+ million price tag. The only one that has been partially rejected was turning the Keeper of the Plains into a 500 foot community version of a Seattle Sky Needle that one might argue was at least partially implemented when this statue was placed on a much higher pedestal at a more prominent point where the two rivers meet at high cost to city taxpayers.

Lesser downtown projects that were part of DeBoer’s plan and were a lot less expensive than the new arena, were completed years ago. This public infrastructure is now in place at a very expensive cost to taxpayers of the past few decades. Another example, Exploration Place, still has years before its mortgage will be paid off, I believe.

Where has been the return for this community? It is invisible to this taxpayer. Look at the downtown taxing district. It takes in about the same level of property tax revenues as it has always received. It is clear that there is no private sector growth downtown. So tax revenues are stagnant. This publicly funded but privately selected downtown board operates with almost no media oversight. There is some taxpayer subsidized remodeling going on but outside of that, I can only think of the Garvey Center where significant private funds are being spent on a partial remodel of their downtown property.

The philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Since the downtown development plans are NOT being made public it looks like we’ll soon have another, 21st century version of the 1980s DeBoer plan that the taxpayers in our community will be expected to fund. In Washington, nothing fails like excess (see GSE’s Fannie & Freddie) and in Wichita we are trying to follow in our federal masters’ footsteps. Since local government can’t print money like the political fools in Washington can through the Federal Reserve Bank, the fiscal chickens will come home to roost a lot more quickly here. Mr. Weeks is right in trying to see the details of these proposals. If we did, the price tag would probably take our collective breaths away. The downtown development folks who want to be the 21st century reincarnation of Mr. DeBoer are just as right in wanting to keep this information hidden.

Marcussen organ a Wichita treasure

Marcussen Organ, Wiedemann Hall, Wichita State UniversityThe Great Marcussen Organ in Wiedemann Hall, Wichita State University. This is how it looks from my usual seat, A2, right on the front row.

One of the most important — but most underappreciated, in my opinion — cultural assets in Wichita is the Marcussen organ at Wichita State University and Wiedemann Recital Hall, which houses the organ.

It’s not only the organ and recital hall, but the people who have been in charge of WSU’s organ program and the Rie Bloomfield Organ Series, which brings in accomplished concert organists from around the world for a series of five or so recitals each year.

It was WSU organ professor Robert Town who had the vision for a grand concert organ at WSU, and it was he who did the fund-raising necessary for such a project. The result was a recital hall and an organ built by the distinguished 200-year-old Danish firm Marcussen and Son. The WSU organ was the firm’s first in North America. Its first concert was in October 1986.

Marcussen Organ, Wiedemann Hall, Wichita State UniversityThis is the performance setup that Professor Lynne Davis recently started using, where video of the console of the organ is displayed on a large screen.

In 2006 Town retired. WSU was very fortunate to recruit Lynne Davis, a native of Michigan who had an accomplished music career in France, to come to Wichita and assume the duties of running the university’s organ program. Professor Davis has interjected a great deal of energy into the organ program at WSU, as far as its public face goes.

In particular, last year she started the “Wednesdays in Wiedemann” series of recitals. These short events are a fine way to become acquainted with the organ and its music without making a major time commitment.

(I should mention that the music you’ll hear at these recitals is usually far removed from what most people are accustomed to hearing in church.)

Lynne Davis Marcussen Organ 2009Lynne Davis at the console of the Great Marcussen Organ.

Dates for Wednesdays at Wiedemann are (in 2009) September 2, October 7, November 4, December 2, (in 2010) January 27, March 3, March 31, and April 28. For all dates, the starting time is 5:30 pm. The recitals are billed as lasting just 30 minutes, but fortunately for attendees, they usually last a little longer. Admission is free.

For the Rie Bloomfield series, events are (in 2009) Brian Campbell of Lawrence on October 13, Anna Myeong of Lawrence on November 10, (in 2010) Michael Bauer of Lawrence on February 2, and Ludger Lohmann of Stuttgart, Germany on March 23. These recitals start at 7:30 pm and have a small admission charge.

In addition, on February 16, 2010 at 7:30 pm, Professor Davis will perform a faculty recital.

In Kansas, is the problem spending or revenue?

Does Kansas have a spending problem or a revenue problem?

One thing is for certain: spending in Kansas, as in many states, has risen rapidly in recent years. Tax revenue has too — until recently. Americans For Prosperity — Kansas explains and illustrates the present budget situation in Kansas.

Kansas State Spending Policy Primer April 2009

Kansas State Spending: A Policy Primer April 2009 Kansas Government is out of money. There are now no more hidden funds or accounting tricks that can hide this fact. How did Kansas get put in this spot, was it a tax revenue problem or a spending problem? The chart to the right tracks State General Fund (SGF) tax receipts growth since 1999. Contrary to what many are suggesting, does this look like a state has seen a “crash” in tax revenue? Since 2002, SGF tax receipts have increased almost $2 billion; this is an increase of 38%. As recently as FY ’05, revenues were $4.8 billion and now as revenues are projected to run $5.38 billion for FY 2010, despite those who seem to believe that the state is hemorrhaging tax revenue. (If you add in federal stimulus money, then FY 2010 revenue is $5,777) The “massive budget shortfall” may make for great press, but consider that revenues are still projected to be flat from FY ’08 to FY ’09. If you include Federal Economic Stimulus Legislation (red line on chart) that Kansas is As the chart to the right shows, spending is at the heart of the fact that the state is now out of money. As tax revenues grew leaps-and-bounds from 2002, state spending kept up right along with it. However, as tax revenue growth began to flatten (as it always eventually does), note that spending kept right on increasing. SGF spending increased 48% from 2004 to 2008 while inflation during the same time was only 13% and population is increasing less than ½ of 1% a year (.45% annual). Now Kansas, one of only four states without a rainy day fund, is facing a situation where spending has outpaced receipts and we did not put any money “in the bank” to help weather this type of financial storm. SGF Tax Receipts Since 1990 SGF Tax Receipts and Expenditures (more on reverse) Americans for Prosperity-Kansas 2348 SW Topeka Blvd., Ste. 201, Topeka, KS 66611? 785-354-4237, 785-354-4239 (fax) 800 E. 1st, Ste. 401, Wichita, KS 67202? 316-269-4170, 316-269-4176 (fax) Education has been a huge beneficiary of the massive spending increase Kansas has experienced. As this chart shows, Education spending has increased over $1 billion since 2003, despite student enrollment that statewide is flat. For example, in the states largest school district, USD 259 (Wichita), student enrollment since 2003 has decreased by 201 students. How many chances do they need? The Governor and Legislature have had many opportunities over the last several years to avoid this problem we face. For example, since just 2004: • • • As revenues continued to rise, surplus monies should have been put in a rainy day fund for use in more difficult budget times. As revenues began to flatten in ’07-‘08, increased spending should have been reduced (not cut!) just “less of an increase” to match revenues, not outpace them. This was not done. As far back as 2007, Legislative Research has been predicting what has just happened for FY 2010. In a memo dated 5/2/2007, Legislative Research predicted that by FY 2010, the state’s ending balance would be $-272 million. As it turns out, they were right about the potential negative ending balance, they just underestimated its size. What Happened to the Budget Surplus Still no Solution According to Legislative Research, Kansas ended FY 07 with $934 million in reserves. It is now projected that Kansas will end FY 09 with $29 million in reserves. That means the Governor and Legislature spent OVER $900 MILLION MORE THAN THEY TOOK IN during just two fiscal years. To put it another way, Kansas increased its budget $900 million in two years, but did it by draining the savings account to almost zero, instead of using income tax dollars. If we had just spent what the state took in tax receipts, we could enter this 2010 shortfall with over $900 million. This is why we have a problem, spending more than we took in from FY 07-09 and nothing else. You might think that with the Governor and Legislature in the midst of this deepening fiscal crisis, they would be working on crafting a longer-term solution to our budget problems. This would be wrong. A memo dated April 5, 2009 from Legislative Research shows that the current path the Legislature is taking is only a temporary fix. According to Kansas Legislative Research, the estimated FY 2011 ending balance will be $-240 million and the FY 2012 deficit will be $-822 million! This means despite all the talk of “serious cuts” that will “balance our book” the Legislature still has Kansas on a path that is estimated to spend over $1 billion more than we take in starting the with just the next Legislature’s budget, FY 2011.