Tag Archives: Gwen Welshimer

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday January 3, 2011

This week at Wichita City Council. Roger Smith will be sworn in to take the place of Jim Skelton. Smith’s term will end in April, when the voters will select a permanent member of the council from district 3. Of course, Smith could be that person. … The council will hear from an independent fact-finder regarding the firefighters. See Wichita Eagle Wichita firefighters union stresses staffing in contract requests with city. … Also improvement of two south Wichita intersections will be considered. See Wichita City Council to consider $4 million in street work on S. Broadway.

Last meeting for two commissioners. This Wednesday will be the last meeting for two members of the Sedgwick County Commission, Gwen Welshimer and Kelly Parks. New members will be sworn on this Sunday.

Legislators to hear from citizens. The South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation will be taking public comments Tuesday January fourth from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm in the Jury Room of the Sedgwick County Courthouse, 525 N. Main in Wichita. (Use the north entrance to the courthouse). This is your opportunity to let local legislators know your wishes on issues that will be considered during the 2011 legislative session. In the past, each person wishing to talk has been limited to between three and five minutes depending on the number of people wishing to speak.

State GOP chief to speak in Wichita. This Friday (January 7th) Amanda Adkins, who is Chair of the Kansas Republican Party, will speak at the Wichita Pachyderm Club. The topic is “Conservative Leadership Now — 2020: Building Long-term Political Infrastructure for the State of Kansas.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers include Bob Lamke, Director of the Sedgwick County Division of Public Safety on January 14th, and Ed Flentje, Professor at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University, will be discussing a book he co-authored titled “Kansas Politics and Government” on January 21.

Repeal of sales tax. Many of the new members of the Kansas House of Representatives ran on opposition to the statewide sales tax increase that took effect in July. I had speculated in an appearance on This Week in Kansas that the House would entertain a bill to repeal the sales tax, while another — more experienced, I might add — observer of Kansas politics felt that leadership would tamp down such an effort. Today David Klepper of The Kansas City Star takes a look at the prospects for legislative action on this issue. Some would like to repeal the sales tax right away, while others say that repeal needs to be part of a broader, long-term look at Kansas tax policy. Senate Vice President John Vratil — not a supporter of limited government and economic freedom — is quoted as saying tax reform is a “multi-year project.”

Net neutrality advances. Almost lost in all the congressional activity before Christmas was the fact that the Federal Communications Commission voted to pass new rules on net neutrality. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, John Fund says: “The Federal Communications Commission’s new ‘net neutrality’ rules, passed on a partisan 3-2 vote yesterday, represent a huge win for a slick lobbying campaign run by liberal activist groups and foundations. The losers are likely to be consumers who will see innovation and investment chilled by regulations that treat the Internet like a public utility.” Fund explains the radical political views of those behind the net neutrality campaign. He also explains that President Barack Obama is ignoring the will of Congress and court rulings, seeking to impose internet regulation through the executive branch.

Wichita noticed in Boston. A writer from the Boston Globe visits Wichita and writes on his tourist experiences. It follows a predictable template: First, put away the Toto jokes and overlook the city’s problematic reputation. Then — I found public art, lattes, and a restaurant! Wow! Who would have figured?

Sedgwick County Republicans elect leadership

Last night the Sedgwick County Republican Party met in an organizational meeting to elect its leadership for the next two years. The primary news made was in the contest for chairman and vice-chairman. The secretary and treasurer positions were not contested.

Some observers, including myself, saw the contest as being between “establishment” Republicans and a group associated with the tea party. Others cast the election as more between experienced and veteran party members versus relative newcomers, while still others saw the differences as based more on personalities than anything substantive. Whatever the terminology, the newcomers did not do well in the election.

The people attending the organizational meeting and voting on leadership are those elected or appointed as precinct committeemen or committeewomen. That election was held in August in conjunction with the statewide primary election.

In the past, there have been contentious election contests at the organizational meeting, with the dividing line being between conservatives and moderates, with the abortion issue prominent. The last organizational meeting in November 2008 was calm, with one slate of candidates offered for the leadership and delegate positions, with party leaders urging that no nominations be brought up from the floor.

This year’s meeting had two slates of candidates. One — clearly the establishment or veteran slate — was headed by Bob Dool, a Wichita businessman who has been serving as treasurer of the fourth congressional district party committee. Julie Sipe was the slate’s nominee for vice-chair. Dool was endorsed by Mike Pompeo, the recently-elected U.S. congressman from the Kansas fourth district, which includes all of Sedgwick County.

The other slate was headed by Jim Anderson, who recently ran for U.S. Congress, with Judy Park of Republican Women United as vice-chair.

There’s a backstory here that deserves mention. The 2008 organizational meeting, where there was one slate of candidates and any talk of offering nominations from the floor was strongly discouraged by party insiders, made a bad impression on many activists. Some were particularly disturbed that the slate of delegates to the fourth district committee — the next level up in the party hierarchy — included many people who were not elected precinct committeemen or committeewomen. To newcomers, the 2008 meeting smacked of “good ol’ boy” cronyism, with no consideration given to the newcomers who had ran for election to — and had to campaign in order to win — precinct committee positions.

Since then, the tea party movement started in the winter months of early 2009. This movement, operating largely outside the established Republican party, grew to become a significant force nationally. Locally, a tea party activist group led by Craig Gabel and Lynda Tyler played a significant role in the November elections by working for Republican candidates, although the group did support one Democrat, Gwen Welshimer. The group played a crucial role in electing Benny Boman and Les Osterman to the Kansas House of Representatives by defeating incumbent Democrats. The group helped in the reelection of Phil Hermanson to the House, and helped elect Joseph Scapa and Jim Howell to open House seats. John Stevens and James Clendenin came surprisingly close to gaining election over their Democratic Party incumbents.

At the county level, the group was active in helping Richard Ranzau in his election to the county commission. Gabel estimates his group distributed 4,000 blended packets of literature, placed 600 signs, and made 40,000 robo-calls plus several thousand live calls.

Having played a role in local politics — successful by their own account, but perhaps not appreciated by everyone — the group wanted inclusion in the local Republican Party process. Neither Gabel or Tyler sought leadership positions. (Tyler is running for Wichita city council in the spring.) Instead, both wanted an open and honest process that was inclusive and gave everyone an opportunity to seek office, either as leadership or a delegate to the higher committee.

Both leaders seem genuinely concerned that the Republican Party be open and seek to grow. I asked Gabel what he would like to see in a chairman. He said: “A chair that would reach out to all portions of the Republican Party, that would keep the momentum flowing that was started in the election — someone interested in filling the precincts, raising funds, and educating people.” Reaching out to young people and minorities is also important, Gabel said.

As Dool made his candidacy for chair known, Gabel, Tyler, and others invited him to a meeting. Initially Dool did not want to meet and declined the invitation. A meeting with Dool took place earlier this week, said Gabel. He described the meeting as unproductive.

Back to last night’s organizational meeting: While social issues weren’t the primary issue on voters’ minds in the recent national election, abortion politics played a role last night. In his nominating speech for Dool, Mark Kahrs said that Dool “strongly supports the sanctity of life, which is the concern of this local party, and must remain the cornerstone of our party’s platform.” That drew applause from the audience.

Before that, in her speech Park, the nominee for vice-chair, said that someone in the audience was spreading rumors that she is not conservative and not pro-life. Park said these allegations were not true.

In nominating Jim Anderson, John Stevens praised Anderson for his experience in campaigning and technology. Explicitly referring to the tea party, Stevens said that we need as chair “a person who is inclusive of all Republicans, as well as tea party active people. These folks helped make it work this time. Don’t deny them.”

Speaking for himself, Dool said he wanted to increase the Republican Party base by increasing communication, hosting events for elected officials to meet with the public, increasing opportunities for all to participate in the political process, creating a business-friendly environment with lower taxes and less regulation, and raising enough money locally for a full-time employee. He said he supports the tea party movement, saying such populist movements have helped us stay true to the Founding Fathers’ principles.

In his speech, Anderson referred to his run for U.S. Congress. He also addressed an issue that many said would prevent them from voting for Anderson — his failure to endorse Mike Pompeo after Anderson lost to him and others in the Republican primary election in August. Anderson said he pledged his support to Pompeo — privately, though. Anderson said we need to grow the party by reaching out to all people, including independents.

The results of the election for vice-chair were Park 43 votes (21 percent), and Sipe 164 votes (79 percent).

For chair, the result was Anderson 59 votes (28 percent), and Dool 149 votes (72 percent).

In the selection of delegates to the fourth congressional district committee, voters had to select 98 delegates and 100 alternate delegates. A group called “Republicans for Conservative Leadership” provided a slate. The group headed by Gabel and Tyler had a slate, but the slate did not have enough names. The RCL slates won. (Disclaimer: my mother was on the RCL slate as an alternate delegate.)

Analysis

After the meeting, reaction was mixed as to whether the group of tea party or new activists felt welcomed into the process. Some felt the process was improved over 2008, as there were two candidates for each of the top leadership positions. Others felt that the outcome was nonetheless predetermined. But like in most elections, the winning candidates had the message most voters agreed with, and simply did a better job of campaigning for their positions.

Going forward, the local party has the same challenge as does the national party: how to integrate or channel the energy of the tea party. If the vote for the challengers — about one-fourth of the party members present — is a measure of the numbers in the tea party, it’s a significant force that Republicans should welcome. But an initial challenge for Dool and party leaders is that many tea party activists will resent anything they perceive as channeling of their energy or integration of their politics.

Also, some had asked that the slates of delegates should have been made available before the meeting. Voters had to vote for 98 delegates and 100 alternates. But party officials refused to release the names before the meeting, which seems to be the type of needless secret-keeping that breeds distrust and conspiracy theories.

Political attacks not all bad

Dr. Mel Kahn, a political science professor at Wichita State University, gave a lecture Friday on why he believes negative campaigning is essential to democracy. Kahn said that a recent study shows that there are sometimes more lies in positive ads than in negative commercials, and as long as ads are based on evidence, they help people know what’s going on in a world full of political spin.” The lecture was at the Wichita Pachyderm Club as covered by State of the State KS.

Kahn also said that since accountability is important to democracy, he was pleased to see the activation of those who disagreed with the policies of the current administration, saying this is the essence of democracy. He quoted John Stuart Mill: “Attacks and criticism make a real contribution. In other words, if the attack has validity to it, and it brings about a feeling on the part of the populace that things could be much better than what turns out to be a flawed policy, then we benefit. Because what we’ve really done is we’ve exchanged something closer to the truth for the error that we held sacrosanct before. … Any kind of policy ought to be able to withstand the nature of sharp criticism.” Also, if policies withstand attacks, we can have more confidence in them.

Kahn also took news media to task for not really doing its job, saying media mostly covers the “horse race” aspects of campaigns — who leads in polls, etc. — rather than covering “the substance of the real policies. I think a net loss,” he said. I would add that it’s not only news media, it’s the candidates themselves that don’t want to talk about substantive issues. In the campaign for the Kansas fourth Congressional district, the two major candidates — Democrat Raj Goyle and Republican Mike Pompeo — didn’t really have a lot of substantive discussion of issues. Goyle, in particular, made charges about Pompeo outsourcing work to China. But we never had a discussion about the merits of outsourcing, except for here: Outsourcing Kansas jobs. Other issues I covered in the campaign included social security in Goyle on Social Security protection, business incentives in Business can oppose incentives and use them, and Goyle’s purported tax-cutting votes in Raj Goyle tax cut votes not exactly as advertised. My articles were mostly critical of Goyle — as an advocate of limited government and economic freedom, it just works out that way — but I believe the articles examined the issues in way that other media did not.

In responding to a question, Kahn said that those who make criticisms may do so even though they may not have a better plan that would be better. Criticism of the critic for that reason, therefore, is not valid.

On local politics, Kahn said that Sedgwick County Commissioner Gwen Welshimer told him before the election that she had tea party support, but she didn’t want her liberal friends to know about it. Kahn said that was a mistake, that many people — Democrats and Republicans both — appreciate officeholders who will object to big-spending projects. Welshimer had earned tea party support because of her positions on taxation and spending, particularly her opposition to subsidy for developers. Kahn noted that the Wichita Eagle had been unfavorable to Welshimer.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday November 3, 2010

Republican Party on probation. Noted conservative figure Richard A. Viguerie of ConservativeHQ.com expressed a common idea: “Voters have given Republicans one more chance to get it right. They are on probation, and if they mess up again, they won’t get another chance. The last time the Republicans were in charge, they became the party of big spending, Big Government, and Big Business. They abandoned the philosophy of Ronald Reagan and cozied up to lobbyists and special interests. And they paid a price at the polls.”

Limited government and economic freedom not desired. In today’s Wichita Eagle editorial assessing the election results, Rhonda Holman just can’t grasp the importance of limited government and economic freedom to prosperity. Instead, she prefers what some call “nuanced” politicians, who can be pressured by newspapers to vote for big-government boondoggles: “Incumbent Commissioner Dave Unruh and Wichita City Council member Jim Skelton already have proved to be thoughtful leaders; the same cannot be said of Richard Ranzau, whose tea party tendencies could put important county priorities at risk.” The victories of Ranzau — there were two, one in the primary over an Establishment Republican and again in the general election over a Democrat in a Democratic district — were gained the old-fashioned way: by meeting voters and letting them know what he stands for. And he was not bashful in his message of limited government. Both times, voters responded. The Wichita Eagle ought to take notice.

Future of Sedgwick County Commission. Yesterday’s defeat of incumbent Gwen Welshimer by Jim Skelton replaces a commissioner committed to low taxes and spending with someone with a less convincing record. While Skelton has sometimes voted against TIF districts — he and Paul Gray voted against the $10.3 million Exchange Place TIF district, although they were okay with it at $9.3 million — he firmly believes it is his duty — as city council member and as future county commissioner — to direct the economic development of the region.

Future of Wichita City Council. Skelton’s move to the county commission means there will be another new face on the council be fore long. Already the spring elections will bring two new faces, as members Sue Schlapp and Paul Gray will be leaving the council due to term limits. Now Skelton will be replaced, either by city council appointment or election next spring, depending on the timing of Skelton’s resignation. That’s a total of three new members. Mayor Carl Brewer and Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell must run for relection in the spring if they want to stay on the council. Brewer has already announced his intent to run.

Commission criticized as “gutless.” Because Wichita real estate developer Rob Snyder wasn’t granted some $400,000 in taxpayer subsidy because of the action of the Sedgwick County Commission, he criticized the commission as “gutless,” according to Wichita Eagle reporting. When testifying before the Wichita City Council as to the need for his developer welfare, Snyder whined about how that earmarks are now unpopular with the American public and not available to finance his proposed Save-A-Lot grocery store. An earmark — that is to say, a grant of money paid for by U.S. taxpayers — was used as a large part of the financing for the other Save-A-Lot in Wichita at 13th and Grove.

Kahn to substitute at Pachyderm. A scheduling change means Wichita State University political science professor Mel Kahn will be the presenter at this Friday’s (November 4) meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. The always-interesting and entertaining Kahn will speak on the topic “Do Political Attacks Help or Harm our Republic?” This seems like a timely topic given the recent general and primary elections. The public is welcome at Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Peterjohn presses taxpayer protection platform through Sedgwick County Commission

At today’s meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission, commissioners revised the county’s 2010 legislative platform, adding important and groundbreaking taxpayer protection to the platform. The split vote lets voters know without a doubt where commissioners stand on taxpayer protection issues.

The legislative platform is Sedgwick County’s “wish list” for the legislature. The items in the platform are not laws, but instead indicate the desires of the county commission.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn proposed new language to add to the legislative platform: “All local sales tax increases must be approved by voters under Kansas law. All property tax increases that raise the mill levy should also be required to receive voter approval.”

Kansas has no such provision, and this is a defect, Peterjohn said. Kansas is one of the few states that have property taxes at the city, county, school district, and state levels. Most states did away with state-wide property taxes in the 1930s, he said, but Kansas did not.

Peterjohn made a motion that this language be included in the legislative platform, and Chairman Kelly Parks seconded.

Peterjohn noted that three of the four states surrounding Kansas have such limitations.

Commissioner Tim Norton asked a question that revealed that cities have more authority than counties to raise sales tax. He said this is an issue of equity, of rebalancing the ways that counties can fund their government. “Counties don’t have the ability to have more tools in their toolbox other than just property tax. … We’re very restricted.” He added that he doesn’t like the idea of artificial ceilings being placed on the county.

Commissioner Dave Unruh agreed with Norton, saying local officials are elected to carry out the responsibility of making responsible budget decisions. A limitation from the state makes no sense, he said.

Norton made the point that the state can place a lid on the ability of counties to raise funds through taxation, and may still place mandates on what counties must do. This compresses the decisions that the commission gets to make, and goes against representative government.

Peterjohn’s motion passed three to two, with Commissioner Gwen Welshimer and Parks joining Peterjohn in the majority, with Unruh and Norton in the minority.

After the meeting, Peterjohn said this platform language represents a major change in the county’s position, a reversal of the county’s historic position on property tax policy. This action is also at odds with the Kansas Association of Counties. It’s a major change, he said.

“Traditionally the local government lobby has been in lockstep opposition to any requirement that property tax hikes get voter approval. Sedgwick County’s shift today is extremely significant for the second-most populous county in the state, the county that contains the largest city in the state, to support voter approval for any increase in property taxes.”

Analysis

Requiring voter approval of tax increases was one the “Five Reasons to Back Karl Peterjohn” that Peterjohn used in his successful campaign for the county commission last year. His action today represents a move towards fulfilling that pledge.

It’s important to remember what the commission passed was simply their desire — and a split decision at that — for the legislature to pass a law requiring voter approval of tax increases. Whether the legislature acts on this request is anyone’s guess. For such a law to have any chance, it will take a determined advocate to press for it. The commission’s action today created no such advocate. As it stands now, the county will not have a lobbyist in Topeka next year, as the budget passed in August provided no funding for a lobbyist.

Officeholders who are in favor of more government spending are generally opposed to giving voters the right approve or refuse tax rate increases, for the simple reason that voters often refuse to approve the tax hikes. Often the argument is given that the elections that are now necessary are expensive, and there may be emergencies that require the rapid raising of funds. There may be small amounts of validity in these arguments. But tax revenues, through the natural forces of economic growth and rising property tax appraisals, rise on their own without any help from officeholders. Anything that restrains the growth of tax rates, which is what today’s proposal does, is welcome relief as a restraint on the runaway growth of government.

Welshimer files for re-election to Sedgwick County Commission

Gwen Welshimer campaign announcement 2009-10-09Sedgwick county commissioner Gwen Welshimer files for re-election.

Today, Sedgwick County Commissioner Gwen Welshimer filed for re-election to her position as a member of the commission. Her statement is below.

Welshimer, a Democrat, is so far the only candidate in that party. There are three Republicans who have either filed or are considering filing.

Welshimer campaigned and has voted as a fiscal conservative. I asked her given your fiscal conservatism, how will these Republicans differentiate themselves from you? Welshimer said that she’s not heard their campaign platforms. They are all city people, she said, likely to support funding of downtown Wichita.

Responding to my question about the downtown Wichita revitalization planning and the likelihood of a tax to fund it, she said that we’ve given the city a $210 million economic development tool called the downtown Wichita arena. The county has also given many years of property tax incentives, both in the past and in the future. The other 19 cities in the county have not enjoyed this treatment, she said.

In 2006, Welshimer signed a pledge to not raise taxes if elected, and she has fulfilled that pledge so far. Her opponent in that election, incumbent Ben Sciortino, received the endorsement of the Wichita Eagle. Welshimer narrowly won that election, 10,081 votes to 9,941.

Analysis

Given Welshimer’s fiscal conservatism, Republican candidates will find it difficult to run to her right. Her stand against tax increment financing (TIF) districts and subsidies to downtown developers means she’s not likely to get the support of those downtown developers who thrive on taxpayer subsidy. Those people contribute heavily to political campaigns. Additionally, her support for the dismissal of Sedgwick County Manager Bill Buchanan — a position I support — puts her at odds with the Chamber of Commerce crowd. They make political contributions, too.

In this district (district 5), my analysis of a recent voter file shows voter registration runs 29% Democratic, 40% Republican, and 31% unaffiliated. (The remainder are Libertarian and Reform party registrants.)

Considering recent voters (those who voted in an election in 2008), the numbers change a bit. In this case, 30% are Democratic, 44% Republican, and 26% unaffiliated.

Welshimer’s statement

I have filed as a candidate for re-election to the 5th District Seat on the Sedgwick County Commission. I want to continue holding the line for Sedgwick County taxpayers.

At this time, center Downtown redevelopment is the number one issue for this race. I want the tax dollars paid by Southeast Wichita, Derby, and Mulvane to be used for paving roads, drainage, infrastructure, traffic controls, township assistance, and business district enhancements in District #5. The $210 million sales tax arena and decades of property tax incentives for center Downtown have been a weight around the neck of my district. I will support redevelopment of Downtown through private investment only in the future.

I want more property tax reduction. I want to pay for it with new revenues and more efficient policies.

If re-elected, I will continue to work for safe, sensible, and reasonable alternatives to a costly new jail.

The Coliseum site has the potential for 1,000 new jobs and $10 million in new revenue over the next five years. I want to work to make this happen.

I want to continue to work for the success of the National Center for Aviation Training at Jabara Airport. This is evolving into a job training destination center for employers around the world and it offers an incredible new future for Sedgwick County.

I believe in the power of progressive new ideas. I have not been a commissioner who gives in to the out-of-touch “good old boy” network.

I am ready for a rigorous campaign.

Wichita Eagle reporting, headlining discussed by commissioners

In today’s meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission, Wichita Eagle reporting and editorializing was the subject of an off-agenda item.

Commissioner Gwen Welshimer used this opportunity to read into the record part of a press release she issued yesterday. The entire press release, as well as video, is at the end of this article.

Commissioner and Chairman Kelly Parks mentioned that he has been disturbed with some headlines in the Wichita Eagle recently, and that the media has “not checked out some of the headlines they’ve put out.”

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn shared his concerns with misleading Wichita Eagle headlines, referring to a headline that appeared after the county approved its budget, as covered in my post Wichita Child Advocacy Center still in business, despite headline.

I spoke to Wichita Eagle reporter Bill Wilson, and he had no comment other than his reporting speaks for itself.

It should be noted that reporters generally don’t write the headlines for their stories.

Regarding this matter, it may be that the parties are quarreling over relatively minor details of events and the meaning of words.

For example, Welshimer’s press release states “Reporter Bill Wilson’s latest article stated that the City of Wichita knew nothing about the County’s plans.” The article referred to (“County scouting locations for site to ease jail crowding” August 20, 2009 Wichita Eagle) states, in part: “The county’s search is unwelcome news to city officials …” (emphasis added)

Editorialist Rhonda Holman‘s August 21 piece repeats this idea: “It reportedly was news to city officials and downtown leaders that county commissioners were discussing the possibility of locating such a facility and hadn’t ruled out the core.” (emphasis added)

Does this all boil down to what the meaning of “news” is? Does “unwelcome news” mean that someone has never heard of an item before, or does it mean “Yes, I am aware of this item, and I don’t like it?”

Following is the full text of the press release issued by Gwen Welshimer on August 25, 2009.

Either the Wichita Eagle knew they were putting out false information on their jail annex stories or they didn’t know for sure and printed their stories recklessly. Their August 20, 21, and 23 articles and editorial, claiming the County Commission had been reviewing properties in Downtown Wichita for a jail annex, were not true. The Eagle’s actions caused considerable concern for Downtown business owners. No commissioner has looked at any Downtown buildings with any real estate agent for the purpose of housing detainees. A retraction and an apology are due to the county from the Eagle.

The Eagle reporter who wrote the stories quoted me erroneously and had not interviewed me. Eagle editorialist, Rhonda Holman committed an egregious act with her August 21 editorial in which she scolded the commission for having the intent to put jail detainees Downtown. Reporter Deb Gruver showed a lack of professionalism by her participation in this deed.

Reporter Bill Wilson’s latest article stated that the City of Wichita knew nothing about the County’s plans. That was also not true. On July 29, the Wichita Mayor, Vice Mayor, and Sedgwick County Commission Chairman and I met at City Hall. The topic of conversation was that the County’s prison farm on McLean and Harry would need to be replaced in the future. This facility is currently being used to house work release detainees who go to their jobs and return there for the duration of their sentence. The Mayor said he would see if the City had a building that could be used for this purpose.

The truth is that Chairman Parks and I took one short afternoon to see two buildings with a real estate agent. We were shown warehouse properties, one off south Southeast Boulevard and one off north I-135. These properties had no potential of filling our needs. The next day the Eagle reported that we were scouting for a site in Downtown Wichita and attempting to do harm to Downtown redevelopment plans. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I believe the Eagle is angry because of the county’s decision not to continue funding the needs of Downtown and give more consideration to the future of Sedgwick County. County commissioners did put their political careers on the line to raise the money and build a $210 million economic tool for Downtown. I have not witnessed appreciation for this effort. What I have witnessed is a constant demand for more. It appears that we will continue to be harassed by the Eagle, until we bring out the checkbook.

Gwen Welshimer
Chairman Pro-Tem
Sedgwick County Commission

Parks’ Selection as Sedgwick County Commission Chair Breaks Tradition

In a move that suggests that there may be some change in the way things are done in the Sedgwick County Courthouse, Kelly Parks was selected as chairman of the Board of County Commissioners for the next year. No other name was placed in nomination.

Then, Gwen Welshimer was selected as chairmen pro tem, again with no other name placed in nomination.

Why is this a change? As the Wichita Eagle’s Deb Gruver wrote in todays news story Parks may chair commission: “For years, it’s been the Sedgwick County Commission’s tradition to ‘promote’ the board’s vice chairman to chairman.”

Sedgwick County Commission fails citizens

At yesterday’s meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission, Commissioners Tom Winters, Tim Norton, and Dave Unruh failed to take an opportunity to stand up for good government.

By ratifying the City of Wichita’s defective public hearing, notice is given that it’s open season on citizens. Their concerns are shoved aside. Commissioners say they were constrained by a very narrow range of action permitted by law. The reasons they voted against this TIF district in August are still there, though present in smaller measure.

The problem is that these politicians want something so badly that they’re willing to overlook major problems in procedures that are designed to give citizens a voice. Newspaper editorial writers aren’t helping. They’re usually at the forefront of “good government” efforts. But not the Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman, who wrote this in today’s lead editorial: “Yes, as some argue, the city should have done a better job of allowing public input on the arena TIF district. The late changes to the Dec. 2 City Council agenda left the public and at least one council member unfamiliar with the plan to add $10 million for future parking needs, arming critics and fueling public distrust of local government generally.” But, she’ll go along with this action anyway.

Nothing that this TIF district can build is as important as destroying citizen confidence and procedures designed to give them a voice.

Thank you to Commissioners Gwen Welshimer and Kelly Parks for voting for the interests of citizens instead of those of Wichita’s political entrepreneurs.