Allen Bell

Wichita economic development policies questioned

Wichita economic development policies questioned

One of the themes of the recent Wichita mayoral campaign was the need to restore trust in city hall. Following, from April 2013, an example of how city hall has created the trust deficit. Although this story was covered nowhere but here, it it exemplary of how Wichita city hall operates. Since then the city's economic development director has retired, but we have the same city manager and nearly all the same council members, with one having moved up to mayor. For an update on this story, see Wichita: No such document. At Tuesday's meeting of the Wichita City Council,…
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Errors in Wichita Union Station development proposal

Errors in Wichita Union Station development proposal

Documents the Wichita City Council will use to evaluate a development proposal contain material errors. Despite the city being aware of the errors for more than one month, they have not been corrected. On August 19, 2014 the Wichita City Council considered an agenda item titled "Resolution Considering the Establishment of the Union Station Redevelopment District, Tax Increment Financing." The purpose of the item was to set October 7, 2014 as the date for the public hearing on the formation of a TIF district. The council passed this resolution. On August 27 Bob Weeks inquired this of Wichita city officials…
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‘Transforming Wichita’ a reminder of the value of government promises

‘Transforming Wichita’ a reminder of the value of government promises

When Wichita voters weigh the plausibility of the city's plans for spending proposed new sales tax revenue, they should remember this is not the first time the city has promised results and accountability. Do you remember Transforming Wichita? According to the city, "Transforming Wichita is the journey by which we are fundamentally changing the way we measure, report and perform the work of delivering services to the citizens of Wichita." In more detail, the city website proclaimed: "TW is the journey by which we will be fundamentally changing the way we deliver services to the citizens of Wichita. Our vision…
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What the Wichita city council could do

What the Wichita city council could do

While the proposed Wichita city sales tax is a bad idea, the city could do a few things that would not only improve its chance of passage, but also improve local government. This week the Wichita City Council passed an ordinance that starts the process of placing a sales tax measure on the November ballot. The one cent per dollar tax will be used for several initiatives, including an economic development jobs fund. The city will need to gain the trust of citizens if the measure is to have any chance of passage. While I am personally opposed to the…
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Wichita not good for small business

Post by Voice For Liberty. The Wichita Business Journal reports today: When it comes to having good conditions to support small businesses, well, Wichita isn’t exactly at the top of the list, according to a new ranking from The Business Journals. In fact, the Wichita metro area’s small-business vitality score is nearly at the bottom -- 99th out of the 101 U.S. metro areas included in the study. (Wichita near bottom for small-business vitality score, April 2, 2014) Many in Wichita don't want to recognize and confront the bad news about the performance of the Wichita-area economy. Last year, when…
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For Wichita’s economic development machinery, failure

Compared to a broad group of peer metropolitan areas, Wichita performs very poorly. As Wichita embarks upon a new era of economic development, we need to ask who to trust with this important task. The good news: In a recent op-ed, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer wrote that the city needs to make a decision regarding "A more aggressive approach to job creation." (Carl Brewer: Wichita can have a great next year, December 22, 2013 Wichita Eagle) The bad news: Wichita has performed very poorly in job creation in recent decades, and even if we decide on a more aggressive approach,…
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Wichita’s policymaking on display

When asked to provide documents that establish the city's proclaimed policy, Wichita city hall is not able to do so, leaving us to wonder just how policy is made. At an April meeting of the Wichita City Council, both Urban Development Director Allen Bell and Wichita city manager Robert Layton explained that for downtown projects, the city's policy that the debt service fund must show a cost-benefit ratio of 1.3 to one or better doesn't apply. (Video of Bell explaining this policy is here, and of Layton doing the same, here. Meeting minutes are here.) More about this policy is…
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Wichita economic development not being managed

The Wichita Eagle has reported that Wichita has increased its granting of property tax exemptions in recent years. (Wichita doubles property tax exemptions for businesses, October 20, 2013) Buried in the story is the really important aspect of public policy. In his reporting, Bill Wilson wrote: The Eagle asked the city last week for an accounting of the jobs created over the past decade by the tax abatements, a research project that urban development staffers have yet to complete. “It will take us some time to pull together all the agenda reports on the five-year reviews going back to 2003.…
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Wichita: No such document

When asked to provide documents that establish the city's proclaimed policy, Wichita city hall is not able to do so, leaving us to wonder just how policy is made. At last week's meeting of the Wichita City Council, both Urban Development Director Allen Bell and Wichita city manager Robert Layton explained that for downtown projects, the city's policy that the debt service fund must show a cost-benefit ratio of 1.3 to one or better doesn't apply. (Video of Bell explaining this policy is here, and of Layton doing the same, here. Meeting minutes are here.) More about this policy is…
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In Wichita, economic development policies are questioned

For an update on this story, see Wichita: No such document. At Tuesday's meeting of the Wichita City Council, I was prepared to ask the council to not approve issuance of Industrial Revenue Bonds. My reason, explained here, was that the cost-benefit analysis did not meet the standard the city has established in its economic development incentives policy. At the meeting, though, Urban Development Director Allen Bell and Wichita city manager Robert Layton both explained that for downtown projects, the city's policy that the debt service fund must show a cost-benefit ratio of 1.3 to one or better doesn't apply.…
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Wichita economic development and the election

As Wichitans decide their preference for city council members, voters should take a look at the numbers and decide whether they're satisfied with our city's performance in economic development. As shown in the article Wichita economic statistics, Wichita is not doing well in key economic statistics. Debt has risen rapidly in recent years. Growth of private sector jobs lags far behind the nation and the state of Kansas, and government jobs have grown faster than private sector jobs. While inflation-adjusted spending per person is holding relatively steady, the city is cutting services and generally sending a message of budgetary distress.…
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Wichita economic development solution, postponed

Recent reporting in the Wichita Business Journal on Wichita's economic development efforts has many officials saying Wichita doesn't have enough incentives to compete with other cities. That is, we are not spending enough on incentives. Whether these incentives are good economic development policy is open for debate. I don't believe we need them, and that we in Kansas and Wichita can chart another course to increase economic freedom in Kansas. That will make our area appealing to companies. But our local bureaucrats, most business leaders, and nearly all elected officials believe that targeted incentives are the way to attract and…
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Wichita revises economic development policy

The City of Wichita has passed a revision to its economic development policies. Instead of promoting economic freedom and a free-market approach, the new policy gives greater power to city bureaucrats and politicians, and is unlikely to produce the economic development that Wichita needs. Sedgwick County will also consider adopting this policy. The city wants to have policies that everyone can understand, but it also wants flexibility to waive policies and guidelines in light of mitigating factors. Here's an illustration of how difficult it is to adhere to policies. The draft proposal of the new economic development policy states: "The…
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Carl Brewer: State of the City for Wichita, 2012

Last night Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered his annual State of the City Address. The text of the address may be read at State of the City Address. In his speech, Brewer several times criticized those who act on "partisan agendas." This is quite a remarkable statement for the mayor to make. Partisan usually refers to following a party line or platform. The mayor didn't mention who he was criticizing, but it's likely he was referring to myself and others like John Todd, Susan Estes, and Clinton Coen, as we appear regularly before the city council, usually in disagreement with…
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Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday November 10, 2011

Occupy Wall Street. One of the most troubling things about OWS is the anti-semitism. FreedomWorks has a video which explains. Also from FreedomWorks, president Matt Kibbe contributes a piece for the Wall Street Journal (Occupying vs. Tea Partying: Freedom and the foundations of moral behavior.). In it, he concludes: "Progressives' burning desire to create a tea party of the left may be clouding their judgment. Even Mr. Jones has grudgingly conceded that tea partiers have out-crowd-sourced, out-organized, and out-performed the most sophisticated community organizers on the left. 'Here's the irony,' he said back in July. 'They talk rugged individualist, but…
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Wichita city council: substance and process

Today the Wichita City Council will conduct a public hearing for the second time. The reason the council must hold the hearing again is that a mistake was made in the official notice of the hearing. While I commend the city for realizing the mistake and following the letter of the law in conducting the hearing again, we must contrast this behavior, which is following the process according to the law, with the council's past behavior, which has shown no regard for the spirit and substance of the law regarding public hearings. The most recent example is when the city…
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At Wichita City Council, facts are in dispute

Some Wichita City Council members, including Mayor Carl Brewer criticize people who speak at council meetings for using inaccurate information. Although most citizens who speak are willing to take questions at the time they present their testimony, most council members will not engage in dialog with them, instead choosing to level their criticism at a time when the speakers are not able to defend themselves. So let's take a look at some of the statements made by city council members at the September 13th meeting, where the council approved by a six to one vote a package of incentives for…
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For Wichita’s Project Downtown, goal keeps slipping

In selling a plan for the revitalization of downtown Wichita, promoters started with a promise of much private investment for just a little public investment. But as the plan proceeded, the goal kept slipping, and the first project to be approved under the final plan will probably not come close to meeting even the modest goals set by the Wichita City Council. At the time agitation for a downtown plan started in 2008, research indicated that the ratio of private to public investment in downtown was approximately one to one. A March 2009 document hinted that we could do better,…
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In Wichita, historic preservation tax credits an inefficient form of developer welfare

As part of the subsidy plan for Douglas Place, a downtown Wichita hotel being proposed, developers plan to make extensive use of historic preservation tax credits to fund their project. This form of developer welfare, besides being inefficient, is largely hidden from public view. According to Allen Bell, Wichita's Director of Urban Development, the project's team, which is lead by David Burk, plans to tap $3.8 million in state tax credits and $3.5 million in federal tax credits, for a total of $7.3 million in this form of subsidy. Tax credits may be a mystery to many, but there is…
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Wichita City Council bows to special interests

Yesterday's meeting of the Wichita City Council revealed a council -- except for one member -- totally captured by special interests, to the point where the council, aided by city staff, used a narrow legal interpretation in order to circumvent a statutorily required public hearing process. The issue was a downtown hotel to be developed by a team lead by David Burk of Marketplace Properties. The subsidies Burk wants, specifically tax increment financing (TIF), require a public hearing to be held. The city scheduled the hearing for September 13th. That schedule, however, didn't suit Burk. In order to provide him…
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