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Posts published in “Wichita city government”

Tax Abatements in Wichita

A few months ago I spoke before this council asking that you not grant a tax abatement. At that time I was told that granting a property tax abatement doesn't have any impact on City of Wichita spending.

I found this quite remarkable, that new homes and buildings can be built but not consume any additional resources that the city and other local governments supply. If this is truly the case, why should a new development of any type at any location have to pay any property tax at all?

Wichita City Manager Search: Look Before You Leap

In the business world, there’s an old adage that says "look before you leap." So, upon hearing that the Wichita city council was going to hire the only city manager candidate interviewed, I decided to do some looking. What I have seen thus far, has not been all that pretty to me. One of the reasons for the "rush," we were told, is Pat Salerno is a finalist for the same position in Durham, North Carolina. What we were not told was that he was a finalist in Durham in 2001, and was not selected. Also, this candidate was passed over in recent months by two cities in Florida, Naples and Fort Meyers. Both took a pass after initially interviewing Pat Salerno for a city manager position.

Haze surrounds Wichita smoking ban

Smoking ban supporters claim that they have the right to go to bowling alleys, bars, and other such places without having to breath secondhand smoke. That's false. No one has the right to be on someone else's property on their own terms. The property owner controls those terms. If the bar owner lets the band play too loud (or maybe not loud enough), or the restaurant is too dimly lit, or the floor of the steakhouse covered with discarded peanut shells, do we want to regulate these things too?

How to pay for special tax treatment in Wichita

Mr. Mayor, members of the city council, I ask that you not vote to approve this request for a tax abatement, and that you cease this practice altogether. Alternatively, I ask that you adopt a practice that will help realize the costs of these actions.

It is no doubt difficult to compete with other states when they offer huge gifts to companies in order to lure them to their state. That's a problem that needs to be addressed at a different level of government.

Remarks to Wichita City Council, April 1, 2008

By asking for the TIF financing, developers are sending us a signal that without the special tax favor, their project would not be economically feasible. They evidently have judged that it would not be profitable. They must feel that they will not be able to sell or rent at prices that will cover their costs of developing this project.

This means that proceeding with the project is investing capital somewhere other than its most-valued use. We know that because developers build other things in Wichita without receiving a subsidy, and they are able to earn a profit.

It’s not the same as pee in the swimming pool

In a column in the February 27, 2008 Wichita Eagle ("Smoking ban issue not one to negotiate"), columnist Mark McCormick quotes Charlie Claycomb, co-chair of Tobacco Free Wichita, as equating a smoking section in a restaurant with "a urinating section in a swimming pool."

This is a ridiculous comparison. A person can't tell upon entering a swimming pool if someone has urinated in it. But people can easily tell upon entering a restaurant or bar if people are smoking.

The harmful effects of Wichita’s special tax favors

In the past few weeks a handful of companies in Wichita have asked to be exempted from paying property taxes on investments they have made. This week Wichita may decide to grant special tax treatment to a large development in downtown Wichita.

Is it wise for the City of Wichita to grant these special tax favors?

Testimony on the Wichita New Communities initiative

I am a Wichita area real estate broker and developer, and I am here to speak as a private citizen. I speak in opposition to the city’s $250,000 Funding proposal for the current New Communities Initiative Area, because I believe this program in reality, represents the resurrection of the failed government Urban Renewal housing programs of the 1960-70’s.

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

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.

Let property rights rule Wichita smoking decisions

A system of absolute respect for private property rights is the best way to handle smoking, as it is with all issues. The owners of bars and restaurants have, and should continue to have, the absolute right to permit or deny smoking on their property.

Consider the alternative to a public library in Wichita

As Wichita considers the need for a new public library, a more central and fundamental question goes unconsidered: what is the role of the public library today, and do we really want one?

Wichita’s payday lenders

Payday loans are expensive, a recent Wichita Eagle articles tells us. If someone needs to borrow money and has access to a loan from almost any other source, they should avoid payday lenders. But the reality is that there are people who have poor credit and are not able to obtain credit through the usual channels such as banks, credit unions, credit cards, and family and friends. These people may have but one source for loans: the maligned payday lenders.

Everyone’s Right in AirTran Affair

The Wichita Eagle reports that Mayor Carl Brewer and City Manager George Kolb received free upgrades to business class seats on a recent AirTran flight. The two are indignant over being questioned about the propriety of accepting the gift. The Eagle described Kolb as "peeved." The Mayor was moved to write a letter to the Eagle describing its reporting as a "cheap shot" with its "lapse in basic journalistic standards" a risk to "harming reputations."

The AirTran station manager who granted the free upgrade was quoted as saying "Do I expect something from those people? No!"

Wichita civic and business leaders who also traveled on the flight were bothered by the incident, according to Eagle reporting.

Who's right in this story? The answer is: everyone!

The Eagle is right to report this story. It happened; therefore it's news.

The AirTran station manager was correct in giving the upgrades to the politicians. She clearly knows who butters her bread. I presume she was being discreet when she denied expecting something from those people -- something other than the up to $7 million annual subsidy provided by the City, Sedgwick County, and the State of Kansas, that is.

The Wichita civic and business leaders are right to be miffed, as they are the ones who buy a lot of AirTran tickets, and if anyone deserves to receive a free upgrade, it's them.

The two politicians are right to be peeved about the reporting of the appearance of a conflict of interest. That's because there is a conflict of interest, since the city and other local governments give up to $7 million of taxpayer money each year to AirTran. Any relations between the airline and these governments must be analyzed in the light of the subsidy. This is symptomatic of the problems that arise when government intervenes in areas properly left to markets.

When I receive the occasional free upgrade to first class, I say "Thank you, American Airlines!" and accept it gladly, with clean conscience, knowing that I have done nothing wrong. The fact that Mayor Carl Brewer and City Manager George Kolb weren't able to do this, coupled with how their acceptance of a business courtesy caused such a stir, tells us a great deal about the problems of government interventionism.

Economic fallacy supports arts in Wichita

Recently two editorials appeared in The Wichita Eagle promoting government spending on the arts because it does wonderful things for the local economy. The writers are Rhonda Holman and Joan Cole, who is chairwoman of the Arts Council.

I read the study that these local writers relied on. The single greatest defect in this study is that it selectively ignores the secondary effects of government spending on the arts.

A downtown Wichita urban renewal success story … not

This history lesson from Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network tells the story of what might have been for downtown Wichita, and shows how close Wichita came to losing a company very important to our local economy, even if they're not located downtown.

Bill Davitt on blight

Bill Davitt makes some excellent points about the dangers of giving politicians power to control blight through eminent domain. He also explains why it is best to vote for Carlos Mayans for mayor of Wichita.

A roadblock to private investment in Wichita

So for the moment, a developer's plan for a downtown hotel and conference center is blocked by a law, the Kansas preservation statute. What is the problem with the proposed building? "[the problem] is that it incorporates too many materials and features inconsistent with the surrounding buildings. That includes glass, marble, stainless steel, redwood and balconies."

Wichita City Council and Cessna Aircraft Company Industrial Revenue Bonds

I received this letter written to Wichita Mayor Carlos Mayans and members of the Wichita City Council. The author makes excellent points about the harmful effects of special tax treatment for special interests. A better goal would be to work to reduce taxes for all companies and all people. This way, each company and individual can decide how to make best use of their own funds, instead of the Wichita City Council deciding for us. That is, in effect, what tax breaks like this do. It is the government deciding that resources should be allocated in a way different than how the market has decided. Our experience tells us that governments aren’t as smart as markets, and that governments almost always allocate resources inefficiently.

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