Jim Skelton

Sedgwick County Commissioner and former Wichita City Council Member Jim Skelton

Goody Clancy proposal for Downtown Wichita revitalization master plan

Last Friday a selection committee selected one company from four finalists to lead the planning effort for the revitalization of downtown Wichita. If some city leaders and a few citizen elites had their way, citizens of Wichita wouldn't be able to see the company's proposal document until after the city council makes a decision to follow -- or not -- the recommendation of the selection committee. But thanks to city manager Robert Layton's decision, this document is now available for all to read. (Thanks also go to council member Jim Skelton, for his unsuccessful effort to release the documents.) This…
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Janet Miller’s junket follow-up

At Tuesday's meeting of the Wichita City Council, I asked a question about council member Janet Miller and her travel and got a bigger response -- from the mayor, the Wichita Eagle and other news media, and the public -- than I expected. Some issues are still unresolved, however. First, I was surprised that this matter was reported on so prominently by the Wichita Eagle, as it turned into a front page story. It involves, as I noted in my testimony to the Wichita City Council, a relatively small amount of money. Furthermore, it wasn't the most important matter I…
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Wichita election results equal status quo, worse

The result of yesterday's elections in Wichita is an endorsement for the status quo. For those interested in liberty, free markets, and education in Wichita, the election was a total disaster. On the Wichita city council, the two incumbents running for re-election won. For the open seat, Janet Miller won. While her website talks of fiscal responsibility, it's a safe bet that Miller is on the side of increasing the size, scope, and intrusiveness of city government. The election of Miller doesn't signal a huge shift on the council, as Sharon Fearey, her predecessor, favored an expansionary city government. For…
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Wichita City Arts tech studio proposed

Randy Roebuck, in a presentation at the Wichita city council workshop, promoted the idea of a "digital oasis" in Wichita. It would be a place where people can go to get free help with technologies such as cell phones and computers. He told of how an Apple Genius Bar does things like this. Council member Jim Skelton asked who runs an Apple Genius Bar? Apple Computer Corporation, of course. Later council member Paul Gray continued with questions based on Skelton's. Why not an Apple Genius Bar in Wichita? Why is the city competing with private business? City officials insist they…
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Wichita’s Faulty Due Diligence

In the Wichita city council meeting on December 2, 2008, council member Jim Skelton questioned Allen Bell, Wichita's director of urban development, about developers the city is considering working with on a TIF district. Specifically, Skelton asked if there was anything in the backgound of the developers that the council should be concerned about. Bell referred specifically to Grant Gaudreau, naming him as the "principal developer." He said that the matters in Gaudreau's past had been "resolved," and had "no bearing" on this project. Video is available below. According to Wichita Eagle reporting in the story 35 suits in developer's…
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Wichita Penalizes Companies Through Taxation

Five years ago, the City of Wichita granted Big Dog Motorcycles industrial revenue bonds (IRB). The benefit of these bonds is that the company escapes paying property tax (and often sales tax) on the property purchased with the proceeds from the bonds. At the December 2, 2008 meeting of the Wichita City Council, the council reviewed the tax abatement to see if the company had lived up to the projections and promises it made as part of its application for the IRBs. Unfortunately for this company, their fortunes have reversed, and while at one time their employment was above what…
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Wichita TIF public hearing was bait and switch

This appeared in today's Wichita Eagle. On Tuesday December 2, 2008, the Wichita City Council held a public hearing on the expansion of the Center City South Redevelopment District, commonly known as the downtown Wichita arena TIF district. As someone with an interest in this matter, I watched the city's website for the appearance of the agenda report for this meeting. This document, also known as the "green sheets" and often several hundred pages in length, contains background information on items appearing on the meeting's agenda. At around 11:30 am Monday, the day before the meeting, I saw that the…
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Jim Skelton is Frustrated

At yesterday's meeting of the Wichita City Council, council member Jim Skelton expressed his frustration with last-minute additions to the plan for the Center City South Redevelopment tax increment financing (TIF) District, commonly known as the downtown Wichita arena TIF district. The problem is two-fold: First, when plans change at the last minute, there is no time for any debate or discussion about the changes. Citizens, and even newspaper reporters, don't have time to prepare. Second, when a major project -- one costing many millions and requiring multi-year commitments by local governments -- is apparently planned on the fly, it…
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Late Changes Don’t Inspire Confidence in Wichita Government

At today's Wichita City Council meeting, Councilmember Jim Skelton revealed that the plan for the downtown Wichita arena TIF district had changed. A provision for up to $10 million in parking was added. I had looked at the agenda report less than 24 hours before the start of the meeting. The plan for parking spending was not mentioned. I looked right now, and yes, it's there. There's a problem when things change so quickly. Citizens can't prepare themselves on such short notice. That's a problem for openness and transparency in government. This problem is in addition to the apparent uncertainty…
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Wichita Old Town Warren Theater Public Hearing Remarks

From John Todd. Testimony I presented before the Wichita City Council on July 1, 2008 in opposition to the proposed Old Town Warren Theater LLC loan. The question before the council today relates to the proper role of government. I believe the role of government is that of acting as a non-partial judge from the sidelines, protecting the rights and property of all citizens, through the rule of law, and not acting as a participant in any activity, particularly economic, that places it in a partnership role with one group of citizens to the exclusion of all others. When government…
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Let property rights rule Wichita smoking decisions

A system of absolute respect for private property rights is the best way to handle smoking, as it is with all issues. The owners of bars and restaurants have, and should continue to have, the absolute right to permit or deny smoking on their property. Not everyone agrees with this simple truth. Charlie Claycomb, co-chair of the Tobacco Free Wichita coalition, asks in The Wichita Eagle why clean air is not a right when smoking is a right. The answer is that both clean air and smoking are rights that people may enjoy, as they wish, on their own property.…
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