Government transparency

Wichita needs transparency from its agencies

Wichita needs transparency from its agencies

When the Wichita city council delegates spending to outside agencies such as Visit Wichita, it should insist on the same transparency requirements the city itself faces. The Kansas Open Records Act is designed to give citizens access to data concerning their government. In the words of the Kansas Attorney General, "An open and transparent government is essential to the democratic process." The preamble to the Kansas act states, "It is declared to be the public policy of the state that public records shall be open for inspection by any person unless otherwise provided by this act, and this act shall…
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Missing from Wichita city documents: Sales tax

Missing from Wichita city documents: Sales tax

It would be simple for the City of Wichita to include additional relevant information regarding economic development incentive decisions. When the Wichita City Council makes decisions regarding economic development incentives, the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University prepares an analysis for the city. The purpose of the analysis is to determine benefit-cost ratios for overlapping governmental jurisdictions, purporting to show that these jurisdictions will receive more in benefits than they pay in costs. An example of the analysis for a large project is here. The city does not make this analysis document available to the…
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Wichita should post fulfilled records requests

Wichita should post fulfilled records requests

When the City of Wichita fulfills records requests, it should make those records available to everyone. When governmental agencies like the City of Wichita fulfill records requests, they could also publish the records on their websites. When records are supplied electronically to requestors, this is an additional simple (and low cost) step that would leverage the city’s effort and increase its value. Some federal agencies do this. For example at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, there is a page titled FOIA Library. An example entry on this page is titled "Executive Orders on Travel Records." The explanation for…
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Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency

Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency

Kansas law requires publication of certain notices in newspapers, but cities like Wichita could also make them available in other ways that are easier to use. As Wichita's new mayor takes office, there are a few things the city could do to increase the availability and distribution of government information. An easy project to accomplish would be placing legal notices on the city's web page. Kansas law requires that many legal notices must be printed in a newspaper. That law needs to be changed. Newspapers resist this reform, as it might mean a loss of revenue for them. (That's right.…
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Wichita water plant contract

Wichita water plant contract

Wichita should consider discarding the water plant contract in order to salvage its reputation and respect for process. This week the Wichita City Council will consider approving a contract with Wichita Water Partners to build a new water treatment plant. It's a controversial matter that likely played a significant role in the recent mayoral election. Wichita Eagle reporting by Chance Swaim in the story Wichita’s mayor steered multi-million-dollar water plant contract to friends traces through the issues. The most important thing is that the city receives a reliable water plant that meets its needs. Currently, the city operates a plant…
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Wichita consent agenda reform proposed

Wichita consent agenda reform proposed

The Wichita city council will consider reforms to the consent agenda. Next week the Wichita City Council will consider changes to the form of city council meetings, specifically the consent agenda. [1. Wichita City Council agenda packet for November 19, 2019, item V-2.] A consent agenda is a group of items -- perhaps as many as two dozen or so -- that are voted on in bulk with a single vote. If the consent agenda is passed, each individual item on the consent agenda is also considered as passed. An item on a consent agenda will be discussed only if…
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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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Wichita checkbook updated

Wichita checkbook updated

Wichita spending data presented as a summary, and as a list. As part of an ongoing transparency project, I asked the City of Wichita for check register data. I’ve made the data available in a visualization using Tableau Public. This visualization is updated with data through August 13, 2019. Of note, the city does not make this data available on its website. To learn more about this data and use the visualization, click here.
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Wichita airport hotel ownership unclear

Wichita airport hotel ownership unclear

The Wichita City Council plans to use the consent agenda to vote on an item containing confusing language. For the Tuesday June 25, 2019 meeting of the Wichita City Council meeting, item No. II-17 concerns the city leasing land to a company wanting to build and operate a new hotel near the airport. [1. Wichita city council final agenda packet for June 25, 2019. Available at https://wichita.gov/Council/Agendas/06-25-2019%20Final%20Council%20Packet.pdf.] The agenda packet holds this language: "Upon execution of the lease, WEH will provide a $2 million good faith security deposit in escrow with the Airport to ensure timely construction of the hotel.…
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In Wichita, respecting the people’s right to know

In Wichita, respecting the people’s right to know

The City of Wichita says it values open and transparent government. But the city's record in providing information and records to citizens is poor, and there hasn't been much improvement. The City of Wichita is proud to be an open and transparent governmental agency, its officials say. Former Mayor Carl Brewer often spoke in favor of government transparency. [1. For example, in his State of the City address for 2011, Brewer listed as an important goal for the city this: "And we must provide transparency in all that we do." See https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xgx96BEXALDEgLBRcQdz2Kg0_W5x3e2J.] When the city received an award for transparency…
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Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency

Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency

Kansas law requires publication of certain notices in newspapers, but cities like Wichita could also make them available in other ways that are easier to use. As Wichita's new mayor takes office, there are a few things the city could do to increase the availability and distribution of government information. An easy project to accomplish would be placing legal notices on the city's web page. Kansas law requires that many legal notices must be printed in a newspaper. That law needs to be changed. Newspapers resist this reform, as it might mean a loss of revenue for them. (That's right.…
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Wichita checkbook updated

Wichita checkbook updated

Wichita spending data presented as a summary, and as a list. As part of an ongoing transparency project, I asked the City of Wichita for check register data. I’ve made the data available in a visualization using Tableau Public. This visualization is updated with data through August 31, 2018. To learn more about this data and use the visualization, click here.
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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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Lawrence has it. Wichita doesn’t.

Lawrence has it. Wichita doesn’t.

Despite promises, Wichita fails to inform citizens on important activities of its government. For several years, the Kansas city of Lawrence has published an economic development report letting citizens know about the activities of the city in this area. The most recent edition may be viewed here. The Lawrence report contains enough detail and length that an executive summary is provided. This report is the type of information that cities should be providing, but the City of Wichita does not do this. It's not like the City of Wichita does not realize the desirability of providing citizens with information. In…
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WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas Senator Ty Masterson

WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas Senator Ty Masterson

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas Senator Ty Masterson, a Republican from Andover, joins Bob and Karl to update us on happenings in the Kansas Legislature. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 192, broadcast April 14, 2018. Shownotes Senator Ty Masterson at Kansas Legislature Ty Masterson campaign website SB 424: AN ACT concerning education; establishing the office of education inspector general within the office of the state treasurer; providing the duties and functions thereof. SB 393: Legislative committees; all votes of each legislator on motions or other action recorded in minutes. SCR 1611: Making application to…
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Kansas government data may not be available

Kansas government data may not be available

There is a movement to increase the transparency of government in Kansas, but there's much to be done, starting with attitudes. One of the major economic development programs in Kansas is PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas. [1. Weeks, Bob. PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/peak-promoting-employment-across-kansas/.] It provides benefits to companies when they expand their operations in Kansas, or sometimes when they merely threaten to leave. The recent expansion by Spirit AeroSystems is reported to benefit from $23.5 million in PEAK cash. [1. Jerry Siebenmark. New facility part of Spirit’s new jobs, expansion plan. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/business/aviation/article201082884.html.]…
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WichitaLiberty.TV: Danedri Herbert, Editor of The Sentinel

WichitaLiberty.TV: Danedri Herbert, Editor of The Sentinel

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The Sentinel's Danedri Herbert joins Bob Weeks to discuss the upcoming gubernatorial debate, the Kansas Legislature's website and transparency, and accountability in government. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 184, broadcast February 17, 2018. Shownotes The Sentinel Inside Kansas GOP The debate rules and Garden City Telegram editorial The Kansas Legisature website
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Wichita check register

Wichita check register

Wichita spending data presented as a summary, and as a list. As part of an ongoing transparency project, I asked the City of Wichita for check register data. I’ve made the data available in a visualization using Tableau Public. Click here to access the visualization. Analyzing this data requires a bit of local knowledge. For example, there is a vendor named “Visit Wichita” that started to receive monthly payments in March 2015. What about payments for January and February? Those were made to a vendor named “Go Wichita,” which changed its name to “Visit Wichita.” Similarly, there are payments made…
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WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita school board member Joy Eakins

WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita school board member Joy Eakins

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita school board member Joy Eakins joins Karl Peterjohn and Bob Weeks to discuss important issues facing the school district. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 170, broadcast October 28, 2017. Shownotes Op-ed by Joy Eakins in Wichita Eagle: Transparency indeed an issue with Wichita school board Wichita Eagle reporting on this issue: Wichita school board member speaks out about closed-door dealings. The Eagle has other articles and op-eds on this topic.
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Too much on the consent agenda in Wichita city hall

Too much on the consent agenda in Wichita city hall

The Wichita city council will consider an item that, I believe, is of sufficient interest and controversial enough that it should appear on a regular agenda, not a consent agenda. Update: at Tuesday's meeting, the council passed the consent agenda without discussion of this agenda item. Meetings of governmental bodies like the Wichita City Council may contain a consent agenda. That's a collection of agenda items that are voted on in bulk, with one single vote, unless a council member requests an item be "pulled" for discussion and possibly a separate vote. Generally, items on consent agendas are not controversial,…
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