Jim Skelton

Sedgwick County Commissioner and former Wichita City Council Member Jim Skelton

Kansas PEAK program: corporate welfare wrapped in obfuscation

Whether one agrees with the effectiveness and wisdom of government involvement in local economic development, there's one thing that's certain: facts and understanding are in short supply. An illustration of how confusing things can get was provided last Wednesday at a meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission. Aviation manufacturer Bombardier LearJet was seeking a small part of a larger incentive package from the county. The county was being asked to contribute $1 million, but the overall package Bombardier is seeking is worth $52.7 million. That's the entire cost of the Wichita portion of the project. A large part of the…
Read More

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…
Read More

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…
Read More

Sedgwick County considers a planning grant

This week the Sedgwick County Commission considered whether to participate in a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. A letter from Sedgwick County Manager Bill Buchanan to commissioners said that the grant will "consist of multi-jurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic prosperity, social equity, energy use and climate change, and public health and environmental impact." The budget of the grant is $2,141,177 to fund the three-year plan development process, with $1,370,000 from federal funds and $771,177 of…
Read More

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…
Read More

Wichita city council to decide between rule of law, or rule by situation

Tuesday's Wichita City Council meeting will provide an opportunity for the mayor, council members, and city hall staff to let Wichitans know if our city is governed by the rule of law and proper respect for it, or if these values will be discarded for the convenience of one person and his business partners. Here's the situation: a person wants to gain approval of a tax increment financing (TIF) district project plan. This requires a public hearing, which the city has scheduled for September 13th. But this schedule doesn't suit the applicant. He has a personal business need -- an…
Read More

Wichita and its political class

The discussion at yesterday's Wichita City Council meeting provided an opportunity for citizens to discover the difference in the thinking of the political class and those who value limited government and capitalism. At issue was Mid-Continent Instruments, Inc., which asked the city for a forgivable loan of $10,000. It received the same last week from Sedgwick County. According to city documents, the State of Kansas through its Department of Commerce is also contributing $503,055 in forgivable loans, sales tax exemptions, training grants, and tax credits. At the city council meeting Clinton Coen, a young man who ran for city council…
Read More

Sedgwick County, Golf Warehouse, reveal shortcomings in procedure

Wednesday's decision by the Sedgwick County Commission to grant a forgivable loan of $48,000 to The Golf Warehouse is yet another example of local government relying on corporate welfare as economic development, and exposes how little deliberation is given to making these decisions. This subsidy was promoted by the county and TGW's consultant as necessary to persuade the applicant company to expand its operations in Wichita rather than Indiana, where the company has other operations and had also received an offer of subsidy. The same argument had been made to the Wichita City Council in May 10th, and it was…
Read More

Education gap on Wichita City Council

Before Jim Skelton left the council in January, none of the four men serving on the Wichita City Council had completed a college degree. The three women serving on the council set a better example, with all three holding college degrees. Of the candidates running in next week's election for four council seats and the office of mayor, less than half hold college degrees. Is it necessary to complete college in order to serve in an office like mayor or city council? Apparently none of the four men who held these offices without a degree thought so. The two running…
Read More

In Wichita, start of a solution to federal spending

At the Sedgwick County Commission, newly-elected commissioner Richard Ranzau voted three times against the county applying for grants of federal funds, showing a possible way that federal spending might be brought under control. During the meeting, Ranzau asked staff questions about where the funding for the grant programs was coming from, which, of course, is the federal government, sometimes routed through the Kansas Department of Commerce. Sometimes local spending is required by these grants. In opposing the programs, Ranzau said that federal government spending is too high. Also, our level of debt is too high, and that the cost of…
Read More

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…
Read More

Economic freedom at decline, across the U.S. and in Wichita

Earlier this year Robert Lawson appeared in Wichita to speak about economic freedom throughout the world. While the United States presently ranks well, that is changing. Writing this month in The Freeman, Lawson and his colleagues warn of dangerous trends -- particularly the Obama Administration's response to the recession -- that pose a threat to the economic freedom that powers growth and prosperity. While the article is focused primarily at the national economy, there are lessons to be learned locally, too. In particular, increasing intervention into the state and local economy leads to compounding the loss of economic freedom. As…
Read More

For Wichita city government, open records are not valued

As a condition of renewing its contract with the Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, I asked that the Wichita City Council require that the agency comply with the Kansas Open Records Act. As has been the case before, the city council and city staff say they are in favor of open records and government transparency, but their actions indicate that they are not. After my remarks, which are presented below, City manager Bob Layton said that my attack on the city attorney was unfair, that it was not he who made this decision not to comply with the Kansas…
Read More

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday November 22, 2010

Wichita city council this week. This week is workshop only, meaning that legislative action is limited to consent items. These items are voted on in bulk, unless a council member wants to "pull" an item for separate discussion and voting. Generally consent items are thought to be non-controversial, at least by the person who creates the agenda. This week one consent item may cause a bar to lose its license, as Hurst Laviana reports in the Wichita Eagle. Start time is 9:30 am instead of the usual 9:00 am. Workshop to discuss Wichita trash. Tuesday's Wichita city council meeting will…
Read More

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…
Read More

Sedgwick County Commission candidates to appear

On Friday October 1, 2010 at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Republican candidates for the Sedgwick County Commission will speak. The candidates that will appear are: Dave Unruh, District 1 Richard Ranzau, District 4 Jim Skelton, District 5 All are welcome to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. The program costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch including salad, soup, two main dishes, and ice tea and coffee. The meeting starts at noon, although it's recommended to arrive fifteen minutes early to get your lunch before the program starts. The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank…
Read More

Wichita Pachyderm speaker lineup set

The Wichita Pachyderm Club has released its lineup of speakers for the upcoming month. Everyone is welcome to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. The club meets on Friday at noon at the Wichita Petroleum Club on the top floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway). The cost for the meetings is $10, which includes a buffet lunch. For more information, contact President John Stevens at at [email protected] or Vice President John Todd at [email protected] September 10, 2010 Honorable Eric F. Melgren, U.S. District Judge in the District of…
Read More

Wichita Bowllagio hearing produces only delay

Yesterday's meeting of the Wichita City Council featured a lengthy public hearing for a proposed west-side entertainment development known as Bowllagio. Bowllagio is planned to have a bowling and entertainment center, a boutique hotel, and a restaurant owned by a celebrity television chef. The developers of this project propose to make use of $13 million in STAR bond financing. STAR bonds are issued for the immediate benefit of the developers, with the sales tax collected in the district used to pay off the bonds. The project also proposes to be a Community Improvement District, which allows an additional two cents…
Read More

Wichita city council signals possible change in economic development incentive policy

At today's meeting of the Wichita City Council, discussion by council members and their vote may signal a change in the city's stance toward economic development incentives. At issue was a request for extension of economic development incentives for a Wichita company. Five years ago the city council approved an economic development package for the company that included a tax abatement. As is the city's policy, the council revisits the issue in five years to see if the company has meet its goal commitments. In the case of this company, one commitment -- the building of a new facility --…
Read More

Wichita city council discusses economic development incentives, again

At this week's meeting of the Wichita City Council, underperforming companies that have received economic incentives was at issue. Wichita grants incentives -- usually in the form of an escape from paying property taxes -- to companies. Usually there are conditions attached to the incentives, such as a certain amount of capital investment or employment targets. Recently -- and in the past two or so years -- several companies that received incentives have not met employment goals. Should the city rescind the tax breaks in these cases? Or should there be recognition that there's a tough economy at the moment,…
Read More