Cronyism

Swamp refilling itself

Swamp refilling itself

Although there has been progress, cronyism and the swamp may be renewed in Washington. Right under the nose of a president who promised to drain the swamp, one of the government’s shadiest handouts to large banks and big companies looks like it will be renewed for another 25 years. It will not get adequate oversight and congressional review. All it will take is the approval of two out of three U.S. Export-Import Bank directors, who are political appointees. That entity is called the Private Export Funding Corporation, or PEFCO. Veronique de Rugy is a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus…
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The Making of the Wichita Mayor 2019

The Making of the Wichita Mayor 2019

The Making of the Wichita Mayor 2019 By Karl Peterjohn There are eight major lessons for Wichita voters when they cast their ballots on or before November 5, 2019, concerning the revelations of favoritism involving the mayor, apparently a majority of the city council, and a number of Wichita businesses and businessmen concerning a proposed massive city water plant contract that is close to half a billion dollars. The Wichita Eagle’s detailed reporting on this proposed contract, Mayor Longwell’s role deserves scrutiny at several different levels. Let me begin with full disclosure. Both Mayor Longwell and I are registered Republicans,…
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Contribute to a campaign, get (nearly) free rent

Contribute to a campaign, get (nearly) free rent

Citizens may not have noticed that a campaign contributor to Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell received a large benefit from the city this week. This Tuesday the Wichita City Council voted to amend an existing lease. In a nutshell, the city council voted to lease to a tenant 8,600 square feet of retail space for $1.00 per year. Not $1.00 per square foot per year, but $1.00 per year for all 8,600 square feet. That's for the first four years of the lease. Computed as rent per square foot, which is the common way to quote rent for commercial space, the…
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For Wichita, another agenda surprise

For Wichita, another agenda surprise

Wichita city hall again places a controversial matter on the consent agenda, where it might pass without notice. Should the City of Wichita lease part of a new park to a private entity for its exclusive use? That's what the Wichita City Council will consider this week. But there are issues apart from the lease itself. The subject of the item this week is Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita. The new building on the east side of the park has ground floor retail space, including a restaurant. To have an outdoor patio area in which alcohol is served, the restaurant's…
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Taxpayers will miss Richard Ranzau

Taxpayers will miss Richard Ranzau

When a county commissioner's questions produce a reversal of the county manager's spending plans, you know we have good representation. That's what happened in 2013 when the county manager wanted to spend $47,000 to clear some trees. Commissioner Richard Ranzau thought the expense should be the responsibility of the neighborhood that would benefit from what he thought was a thinly-veiled request to shove off spending to the county. What did the county manager say after Ranzau's questions? “We got out in front of ourselves without doing much critical thinking, and I take full responsibility for that,” Sedgwick County Manager Bill…
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From Pachyderm: Robert L. Bradley, Jr.

From Pachyderm: Robert L. Bradley, Jr.

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Robert L. Bradley, Jr. He is CEO and Founder of Institute for Energy Research, visiting fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, and an adjunct scholar at both the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. His topic at the Pachyderm Club was "The Contra-Capitalist Corporation (In Search of Heroic Capitalism)." This audio recording was made on November 2, 2018. The accompanying visual presentation may be viewed here. Shownotes Institute for Energy Research and on Facebook Books by Robert Bradley: Enron Ascending: The Forgotten Years, 1984-1996, Capitalism at Work, Edison to Enron: Energy…
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More TIF spending in Wichita

More TIF spending in Wichita

The Wichita City Council will consider approval of a redevelopment plan in a tax increment financing (TIF) district. This week the Wichita City Council will hold a public hearing considering approval of more tax increment financing (TIF) spending in downtown Wichita. The spending is for the second phase of redevelopment of the Union Station property on East Douglas. According to city documents, the total cost of this phase is $31,000,000, with TIF paying for $2,954,734. [1. Wichita city council agenda packet for September 11, 2018.] This is a pay-as-you-go form of TIF, which means the city does not borrow funds…
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Taxers prefer Hugh Nicks for Sedgwick County Commission

Taxers prefer Hugh Nicks for Sedgwick County Commission

Those who supported higher sales taxes in Wichita also support one Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican candidate exclusively. In 2014 the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, now known as the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, managed a campaign to persuade voters to institute a sales tax in the City of Wichita. The sales tax was to be one cent per dollar for five years, estimated to raise about $400 million in total. Of that, $250 million was to pay for enhancing the ASR water supply project, $80 million for job creation, and lesser amounts for bus transit and street…
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For Hugh Nicks, a return to the backroom deal?

For Hugh Nicks, a return to the backroom deal?

Remarks from a candidate for Sedgwick County Commission call for presenting a unified front to the public. Speaking to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Sedgwick County Commission candidate Hugh Nicks called for leadership to end what he called "divisive behavior:" "We can’t have -- we can’t have the kind of divisive behavior that we have going on right now -- we just -- it’s just not -- it’s just not acceptable." His opponent in the August Republican Party primary election is Richard Ranzau, who currently holds the office. The "divisive behavior" that Nicks objects to takes several forms, but it's clear…
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In Wichita, spending semi-secret

In Wichita, spending semi-secret

The Wichita City Council authorized the spending of a lot of money without discussion. At its March 27, 2018 meeting, the Wichita City Council passed a resolution authorizing the spending of funds for the River Vista development on the west bank of the Arkansas River in downtown. The agenda packet for the meeting gave the details: "The overall project budget is $7,862,999 with STAR Bonds financing $4,750,000 of the costs and the City financing $1,050,000. The balance of the project costs will be assessed against the Improvement District." (STAR bonds are a mechanism whereby future sales tax revenue is routed…
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Naftzger Park private use plans unsettled

Naftzger Park private use plans unsettled

An important detail regarding Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita is unsettled, and Wichitans have reason to be wary. In the developer agreement regarding Naftzger Park passed on December 19, 2017, there was this: “The City and the Board will cooperate with Developers, upon Developers’ request, to create an Annual Master Calendar of private and public events for the Park, with the expectation that the Developers will have the use of the Park for certain private events.” [1. DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT between the CITY OF WICHITA, KANSAS, BOARD OF PARK COMMISSIONERS OF THE CITY OF WICHITA, KANSAS, SENECA PROPERTY, LLC, and SUNFLOWER…
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Sedgwick County’s David Dennis on economic development

Sedgwick County’s David Dennis on economic development

Following the Wichita Mayor, the Chair of the Sedgwick County Commission speaks on economic development. Last week Sedgwick County Commissioner David Dennis penned a column for the Wichita Eagle praising the county's efforts in economic development. [1. David Dennis. Sedgwick County part of drive to strengthen area workforce. Wichita Eagle, March 5, 2018. Available at http://www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article203559734.html.] Dennis is also chair of the commission this year. In his column, the commissioner wrote: "Economic development is a key topic for the Board of County Commissioners and for me in particular. Right now we have a lot of momentum to make our community…
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Naftzger Park concerts and parties?

Naftzger Park concerts and parties?

In Wichita, a space for outdoor concerts may be created across the street from where amplified concerts are banned. One of the City of Wichita's stated purposes for the redesign of Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita is to, "create a continuous flex space for multi-use; i.e. Tai Chai, as well as other passive use activities including but not limited to weddings, concerts, performances, films, special celebrations and parties as well as quiet contemplation." [1. Request for Qualifications No. -- FP740043. Available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B97azj3TSm9MQ1ZVcXVsNVQ2dkE/view.] There may be a problem, however. Directly across the street from Naftzger Park lies Gallery Alley. This…
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Wichita WaterWalk contract not followed, again

Wichita WaterWalk contract not followed, again

Wichita city hall failed to uphold the terms of a development agreement from five years ago, not monitoring contracts that protect the public interest. Two weeks ago a Wichita Eagle article reported on a 2002 public-private partnership that called for the private-sector company to submit an annual report to the city. But the company did not submit the reports, and the city didn't ask for them. The city did after the Eagle inquired. [1. Lefler, Dion. WaterWalk profit-sharing: 15 years, zero dollars for Wichita. Wichita Eagle, July 8, 2017. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article160147944.html.] Much of the Eagle article described why current…
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Wichita WaterWalk agreement not followed

Wichita WaterWalk agreement not followed

Does the City of Wichita enforce its public-private partnership agreements? In some cases the city doesn't even ask for the information that is needed for enforcement. A Wichita Eagle article reports on a 2002 public-private partnership that called for the private-sector company to submit an annual report to the city. But the company did not submit the reports, and the city didn't ask for them. The city did after the Eagle inquired. [1. Lefler, Dion. WaterWalk profit-sharing: 15 years, zero dollars for Wichita. Wichita Eagle, July 8, 2017. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article160147944.html.] The deal involves the city leasing land to a…
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WichitaLiberty.TV: Dr. James Otteson on capitalism

WichitaLiberty.TV: Dr. James Otteson on capitalism

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Dr. James Otteson is executive director of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism, the Thomas W. Smith Presidential Chair in Business Ethics, and Professor of Economics at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was in Wichita to speak at the Bastiat Society and stopped by the WichitaLiberty.TV studios to discuss capitalism. Thank you to Raul Brito and the Bastiat Society for making him available. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 140, broadcast February 26, 2017. Shownotes James Otteson personal website James Otteson author page at Amazon BB&T…
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Year in Review: 2016

Year in Review: 2016

Here are highlights from Voice for Liberty for 2016. Was it a good year for the principles of individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas? Also be sure to view the programs on WichitaLiberty.TV for guests like journalist, novelist, and blogger Bud Norman; Radio talk show host Joseph Ashby; David Bobb, President of Bill of Rights Institute; Heritage Foundation trade expert Bryan Riley; Radio talk show host Andy Hooser; Keen Umbehr; John Chisholm on entrepreneurship; James Rosebush, author of "True Reagan," Jonathan Williams of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); Gidget Southway, or Danedri Herbert;…
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State pension cronyism

State pension cronyism

A new report details the way state pension funds harm workers and taxpayers through cronyism. Updated to accurately reflect the time period of the targeted investments. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has released a report detailing the various ways state employee pension funds are harmed by cronyism. The report may be read at Keeping the Promise: Getting Politics Out of Pensions. The problem, ALEC reports, is: "Unfortunately, many lawmakers and pension plan officials have other priorities besides doing what is best for workers. They see the billions of pension fund dollars they manage as an opportunity to advance their own…
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Wichita to grant property and sales tax relief

Wichita to grant property and sales tax relief

Several large employers in Wichita ask to avoid paying millions in taxes, which increases the cost of government for everyone else, including young companies struggling to break through. This week the Wichita City Council will hold public hearings concerning the issuance of Industrial Revenue Bonds to Spirit AeroSystems, Inc and other companies.[1. City of Wichita. City Council agenda packet for December 6, 2016.] In the IRB program, government is not lending money, and Wichita taxpayers are not at risk if the bonds are not repaid. In fact, in the case of Spirit, the applicant company plans to purchase the bonds…
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In Wichita, developer welfare under a cloud

In Wichita, developer welfare under a cloud

A downtown Wichita project receives a small benefit from the city, with no mention of the really big money. Today the Wichita City Council approved a subsidy for a project in downtown Wichita. The city will lend the developer of a project at 303 S. Broadway $620,000 to improve the building's facade. The property must repay this amount through an assessment on its property tax. The benefit to the property is that the city is able to borrow money at a lower interest rate, and this reduces the cost of borrowing for the project. The agenda packet for this item…
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