Kevass Harding

In Wichita, the need for campaign finance reform

In Wichita, the need for campaign finance reform

Actions of the Wichita City Council have shown that campaign finance reform is needed. Citizen groups are investigating how to accomplish this needed reform, since the council has not shown interest in reforming itself. Consider recent actions by the council and its members: The council voted to give a movie theater operator a no-interest and low-interest loan, after having already received the benefit of tax increment financing. A minister dabbling in real estate development made a large contribution to his council representative just before he asked the city council for tax increment financing. The council voted to give a construction…
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Could Wichita be the next Detroit?

That Detroit has declared bankruptcy: Does this mean anything for Wichita? From time to time we see news stories wondering if there is a parallel between these two cities -- one known as Motor City, and the other as the Air Capital. The similarity is the concentrated nature of the economies of the two cities. Both have, as can be seen in the nearby chart, a greater percentage of jobs in manufacturing than does the United States as a whole. Furthermore, when considering the dominant manufacturing industry in each city, we see that Wichita is more concentrated in aviation than…
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Wichita school board reacts to criticism

In the following video, USD 259 (Wichita public school district) board member Betty Arnold reacts to concerns that citizens expressed at a recent meeting. It's common that citizens who disagree with governmental agencies -- especially the Wichita school board -- are told that they have the wrong information, or that they simply don't understand the complexities of running government. A few years ago when board members dismissed the input of an elected official because he disagreed with the board, I wrote in my coverage: "Certainly these three board members were dismissive of Chappell and his input. This is characteristic of…
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Wichitans have choices; perhaps not information

The Wichita Eagle publishes a voter guide before each election. While this is a useful civic service, readers of the newspaper might wonder what is the point of allowing candidates to make statements and claims without being held accountable. Here are two examples of candidates responding to the question "Assess the city's success in downtown revitalization so far. How do you see that role evolving in the future?" Council Member Lavonta Williams (district 1, northeast Wichita) responded as follows: The trend in downtown redevelopment is showing a definite payoff in private investment exceeding $250 million since 2009. People are moving…
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In Wichita, a quest for campaign finance reform

Actions of the Wichita City Council have shown that campaign finance reform is needed. Citizen groups are investigating how to accomplish this needed reform, since the council has not shown interest in reforming itself. Consider recent actions by the council and its members: The council voted to give a movie theater operator a no-interest and low-interest loan, after having already received the benefit of tax increment financing. A minister dabbling in real estate development made a large contribution to his council representative just before he asked the city council for tax increment financing. The council voted to give a construction…
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In Wichita, a gentle clawback

Tomorrow's Wichita City Council meeting will consider a clawback provision for a forgivable loan made by the city. It's on the consent agenda, so it is unlikely there will be any discussion. Clawbacks are mechanisms whereby government can be paid back for the cost of economic development subsidies when companies don't achieve the promised goals, usually employment levels or capital investment. Officials like to look tough on this issue, so they can say they're fighting for the interests of the taxpayer. An example is Wichita City Council Member Jeff Longwell, who during his recent campaign was quoted by the Wichita…
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Ken-Mar TIF district, the bailouts

Tomorrow the Wichita City Council handles two items regarding the Ken-Mar shopping center being redeveloped in northeast Wichita. These items illustrate how inappropriate it is for the city to serve as either entrepreneur or partner with entrepreneurs, and is another lesson in how Wichita needs pay-to-play laws. In August 2008 the city formed a tax increment financing (TIF) district to benefit the center. This allows $2.5 million of the center's future property taxes to be earmarked for the district's exclusive benefit. In January 2009 the city approved a development plan that specified how the public money would be spent, and…
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Wichita school board: critics not welcome

A recent meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, provided insight as to the insularity of the board members and district staff, and as to how little meaningful discussion or debate takes place at board meetings. At the June 20th meeting, Dr. Walt Chappell, an elected member of the Kansas State Board of Education, used a slot on the public agenda to address the board about the upcoming budget. Chappell received a chilly reception -- to say the least -- from board president Connie Dietz. Chappell has been outspoken in his criticism of the way…
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Wichita school district turf vendor selection process unlawful, board members told

At last night's meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, citizens learned that the process used to select the vendor for artificial athletic fields was flawed and violated Kansas law. The district will start over, almost from the beginning, and use a competitive bidding process to select the firm to install the fields at five high schools. The result is that the fields will not be available for the coming football season. Interim Superintendent Martin Libhart announced that a hearing committee had been working all day, and that its recommendation was to reject and revoke…
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More unlikely Lavonta Williams voters

I don't want to emphasize this too much, as these cases are not in the same league as listing an endorsement from a dead man (Wichita political endorsements from the other side and Campaign mailer listed endorsement from dead man ). But for completeness -- possibly, who knows -- here's the rundown on a few more people who are listed on Lavonta Williams' campaign literature under the heading "Join us in voting WILLIAMS on April 7:" Elder Herman Hicks. He lives in Derby. Reverend Kevass Harding. He lives in Bel Aire, outside the Wichita city limits. But he works at…
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KenMar Shopping Center, Funded by Righteousness

Can the Lord's work be funded by taxation? If you're Reverend Kevass Harding, the answer is sure, why not? He might even think it's his calling. Never mind that at its fundamental level, taxation takes money from one person against their will and gives it to another. Sure, some people will argue that taxes are "the price we pay for civilization" or something like that. Or they will say that since we all benefit from, say, police and fire protection, we all have to pay taxes. Even if true, these rationalizations are a long way from using taxation to support…
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Proposition K and TIF Districts Collide

A recent story in the Wichita Eagle by Dion Lefler (Tax plan could leave city with TIF debt) illustrates the some of the problems that can happen with complex economic development efforts. The problem in this case lies in the interaction of Proposition K, an effort to reform property tax appraisals in Kansas, and tax increment financing, or TIF districts. The idea behind TIF districts is that as property is developed, its value will rise enough that the increased property taxes will pay off bonds that the city issued to benefit the developer. Proposition K, however, alters the way that…
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From Kevass Harding to Lavonta Williams

One of the unusual sightings on the campaign finance report filed last month by Lavonta Williams, current Wichita city council member and candidate for re-election, is two contributions totaling $1,000 from Kevass Harding and his wife. These contributions represent the maximum it was possible for two people to give at the time. These contributions are unusual in that the Hardings don't show up very often on the lists of contributors to local politicians. On May 20, 2008, Kevass Harding contributed $250 to Donald Betts, Jr. in his campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. Then on November 24, 2008, Teketa…
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Prudence Requires Postponement of Wichita TIF District

Remarks to be delivered to the Wichita City Council on January 6, 2009. Mr. Mayor, members of the council: Last month it was discovered that procedures used to investigate the background of potential city business partners were lacking in some respects. It is now recognized that the process that were in place failed to give city council members information that they needed in order to make a fully-informed decision about the desirability of partnering with a certain development firm. Today the council is facing a similar situation. As with the previous case, the TIF district itself has already been approved.…
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Records Requests Sent Today

Today, I've made two records requests under the Kansas Open Records Act. The first, to USD 259, the Wichita public school district, is this: All correspondence between USD 259 and Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture and its representatives from July 1, 2007 to the present. I ask for both written and electronic correspondence such as email. This would include email between USD 259 and Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture's email accounts at sjcf.com, and also email accounts of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture representatives such as Joe Johnson, Kenton Cox, and Ken Arnold that may not be at an sjcf.com…
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Wichita School District: TIF Action Tests Accountability and Ethics

Remarks to be delivered to the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, at tonight's meeting. Regarding the Ken Mar Redevelopment District: There is simply no way to look at this TIF district other than as a transfer of $2.5 million from the taxpayers to Reverend Harding's group. Why? According to material prepared by the City of Wichita, the development was $2.5 million short in its funding. But after the creation of the proposed TIF district, the project is fully funded. Furthermore, as I explained at an earlier meeting of this board, a TIF district allows developers to…
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Being Open and Transparent: A Sedgwick County Commissioner’s View

Yesterday (August 27, 2008) I testified briefly at a meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission opposing the formation of a tax increment financing (TIF) district that will benefit a Wichita political insider. My concern that I wanted the commissioners to be aware of is was that the applicant, Wichita school board member Reverend Kevass Harding, has not acted in an open, transparent, and ethical manner. Commissioner Dave Unruh said that he had thought that Harding was being open and transparent. I suppose if you're a full-time county commissioner who, presumably, thinks about these matters on a full-time basis, and you…
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Will George Fahnestock Vote For the Wichita School Bond Issue?

Wichita's mysterious "Boondoggler" posted today that George Fahnestock, the businessman selected to lead the campaign for the proposed bond issue for USD 259, the Wichita public schools, doesn't live in the Wichita school district. The post is Fahnestock's Motivation? A map of his house, along with school district boundaries, may be viewed here. Earlier this year, USD 259 board members Lynn Rogers and Kevass Harding made an issue of the fact that a mailing address used by Citizens For Better Education, an anti-bond group, was in the Maize school district. A "fact check" sheet on USD 259's website raised the…
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Wichita’s Naysayers Shortchanged in Council’s Record

On August 12, 2008, the Wichita City Council considered the establishment of a TIF district that would benefit Reverend Kevass Harding and his real estate development team. At the council meeting Reverend Harding spoke, and then John Todd spoke, and then myself. We all spoke for, I would guess, roughly the same amount of time. On Monday August 18 I looked at the city's website to read the minutes from that meeting. I printed the part of the minutes that covered this item. My printout may be seen in this image. But you don't need to look at the printout…
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Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, August 12, 2008

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered these remarks after John Todd and I testified against the creation of a tax increment financing (TIF) district benefiting Wichita minister Kevass Harding. My remarks can be read here: Reverend Kevass Harding’s Wichita TIF District: A Bad Deal in Several Ways. John's remarks are here: Testimony Opposing Tax Increment Financing for the Ken Mar Redevelopment Project. I took the time to transcribe the mayor's remarks not only because I think Wichitans need to know more about his philosophy of the way government should work, but also because they reveal a few of the mayor's beliefs…
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