In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Dr. Tom G. Palmer of Atlas Network joins Bob Weeks to explain why the usual approach to foreign aid isn’t working, and what Atlas Network is doing to change the lives of the poor across the world. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 189, broadcast March 24, 2018.
The City of Wichita cracks down on panhandling.
In today’s Wichita Eagle Chase Billingham has an excellent column explaining the recent changes to panhandling laws in the City of Wichita (Chase Billingham: New laws will criminalize homeless). An assistant professor of sociology at Wichita State University, he makes important observations and warnings about the effect of these laws.
In his column, Billingham notes a problem with the ordinance designed to regulate “aggressive” panhandling: “Importantly, though, the ordinance defines ‘contact’ in an extremely vague manner.” I may have noticed the same problem in this example from Ordinance No. 50-643:
Section 2: “Contact” means the intentional action by any person which attempts to attract the attention of any other person for the purpose of inducing such other person to slow, stop or which obstructs or hinders the movement of such other person to facilitate a transfer of anything to or from either person.
What is an example of attracting someone’s attention to induce them to slow or stop? Busking. And it’s designed to encourage — “facilitate” — the transfer of money to the busker.
In the ordinance, the city says its purpose is to “regulate behaviors that are intimidating, threatening or harassing.” At the same time, the city takes actions that work in cross-purposes. In particular, the city has taken steps to allow — if not to encourage — more alcohol consumption. In 2016 laws were changed that both restricted and liberalized alcohol consumption. This year the city lobbied the state for laws that would establish “common consumption areas.” These are geographically-defined areas where free-range drinking is allowed. That is, you can drink outside in public, like on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Besides Old Town, the city mentioned Delano and College Hill as possible common consumption areas.
There is a reason why cities have long outlawed drinking on the streets and sidewalks. But I guess that no longer applies.
I wonder if the city is running the risk of creating a Disneyland downtown, where everything is planned, staged, and regulated. Our city planners set design standards for buildings, and then use the lure of our tax money to encourage compliance. Is there a purportedly problematic public park interfering with you plans for development? No problem. Just ask the city to redirect your tax dollars away from police and schools so that the park can be rebuilt at no cost to you — in a Disneyland style. Too much crime on the streets? The city will install expensive and obtrusive surveillance systems to protect you, and also to harvest revenue if you forget to activate your turn signal in time.
The city uses words like “vibrant” to describe its vision for downtown and other areas. In this commentary about Indianapolis we see the same issues at play. This is from Erika D. Smith: Tougher panhandling law would hurt Indy’s urban fabric:
Vibrant urban areas need organic, grass-roots use of public spaces. It’s a big part of what makes a city a city and not a carefully manicured suburb. It’s knowing that the unexpected could be around any corner and fully embracing that possibility.
Funny thing is, the entities that are pushing for this crackdown on panhandling know this. Visit Indy, Indianapolis Downtown Inc. and Ballard’s administration called for the promotion of organic urban experiences in the Velocity Action Plan released earlier this month.
They want a freer, livelier atmosphere Downtown. They want “guerrilla-style” takeovers of public spaces. They want visitors and residents to be surprised by randomness. In short, they want a true urban environment.
But here’s the inconvenient truth: To get that kind of organic, vibrant urban atmosphere, you cannot control everything. And part of not being able to control everything is that, to a certain extent, you have to accept the good with the bad. The pretty with the ugly.
The mime outside Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the man sitting quietly with a sign asking for money. The woman sprawled on the sidewalk with a cup and the saxophone-playing busker who sends people to the Chatterbox club to hear more jazz.
This is the messiness of an urban environment. It’s not always pretty. But it’s not supposed to be. The people who live Downtown know this. We understand it. It’s why we moved here and not to Carmel.
Wichita economic development efforts viewed in context.
Greater Wichita Partnership is the organization with primary responsibility for economic development in the Wichita area. Data provided by GWP shows that since 2004, GWP takes credit for creating an average 1,847 jobs per year through its economic development efforts. 1
To determine whether this is an impressive amount, we need context.
Over the past ten years the labor force for the Wichita MSA has averaged 314,877 each month (in May 2017 it was 306,809), and there were an average of 295,785 people working each month (May 2017 value was 293,763).
So one level of context is that the jobs for which GWP credits itself amount to 1,847 of 295,785 jobs, or 0.6 percent of the number of people working.
Another way to look at this level of job creation is to consider it in relation to the number of hires. Over the past ten years, the national average monthly rate of hires is about 3.4 percent, meaning that each month 3.4 percent of jobs have a new person filling them, or the jobs are newly-created. With an average of 295,785 people working in the Wichita MSA each month, this means that about 10,057 jobs have a new worker, each month. That’s 120,684 per year. With GWP taking credit for 1,847 jobs, this means that GWP’s efforts are responsible for 1.5 percent of the new hires each year.
Another context: Employment in the Wichita MSA reached a peak of 312,100 in July 2008. In June 2017 it was 298,800. To get back to the peak, Wichita needs 13,300 new jobs. At the GWP rate of 1,847 per year, it will take seven more years to recover.
All this shows that the efforts of our economic development machinery are responsible for small proportions of the jobs we need to create. This assumes that the data regarding jobs and investment that GWP provides is correct.
Here’s one example of problems with the data GWP provides. GWP reported that companies made investments of $1.2 billion in 2016 when the average for years before that was $138 million. That looks like an impressive jump. This figure, however, contains over one billion dollars of investment by Spirit Aerosystems projected to occur over the next five years. Not in 2016, but possible over the next five years. Yet GWP presents this investment as through it occurred in 2016.
Furthermore, when Spirit asked the city for authority to issue $280 bonds over five years, it told the city this would result in 349 new jobs over the same time period. That’s creating jobs at the rate of 70 per year. These jobs are welcome, but we need thousands of jobs per year. 2
Does GWP deserve credit? GWP says, “We only incorporate data and dollar amounts from projects which we helped attract, retain or expand; we do not include announcements that we have not assisted with.” 3 “Helped” and “assisted” are not very precise. How much “help” did Spirit need to decide to remain in Wichita, except for hundreds of millions of dollars in forgiven taxes? That is something the people of Wichita pay for, not GWP.
We must also be concerned about the reliability of GWP statistics. Earlier this year GWP was prominently promoting on its website the success of NetApp, a technology company. The problem is that NetApp never met the job creation numbers GWP promoted, and in fact, had been downsizing its Wichita operations. 4
Still, GWP promoted NetApp as a success. An important question is, the NetApp jobs that were announced but never created: Are they included in the jobs and investment totals GWP provides? We don’t know, because GWP will not disclose the data used to build its report.
There are other instances of GWP’s predecessor, Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC), promoting Wichita as home to companies that had closed their Wichita facilities, or were in the process of closing. 5
GWP also promotes this on its website: “Downtown Wichita is work central, boasting 26,000 daytime workers in the financial, healthcare, education, oil & gas and creative services industries.” This claim of 26,000 workers is based on blatant misuse and misrepresentation of U.S. Census data, and GWP leadership has known of this for several months. 6 Still, the use of incorrect data remains.
Capacity to create
When the Wichita area offered incentives to a company that planned to add 50 jobs, the president of the chamber of commerce told commissioners that staff worked very hard to acquire these jobs. He called it “a great moment” in economic development. 7 But 50 jobs, while welcome, is just a drop in the bucket compared to what Wichita needs.
For Spirit to create 349 jobs over five years, we must let the company escape paying property tax and sales tax on $280 million of property.
For BG Products to add 11 well-paying jobs, we must let them avoid paying $204,280 per year in property taxes and $368,417 in sales tax.
In order to prepare the incentives package for another company, several events took place. There was a visit to the company. Then another visit and tour. Then economic development officials helped the company apply for benefits from the Kansas Department of Commerce. Then these officials worked closely with Wichita city staff on an incentive package. City documents stated that the expansion will create 28 jobs over the next five years. Obtaining these jobs took a lot of effort from Wichita and Kansas economic development machinery. Multiple agencies and fleets of bureaucrats at GWEDC, the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County, and the State of Kansas were involved. Wichita State University had to be involved. All this to create 5.6 jobs per year for five years.
This illustrates a capacity problem. Acquiring these jobs took a lot of bureaucratic effort, which has a cost. It required expensive incentives. Occasionally the city works with a large number of jobs, as in the recent case of Cargill. But those jobs required many expensive incentives, and no jobs were created. The incentives and effort were spent simply to persuade Cargill to remain in Wichita instead of moving elsewhere.
All this assumes, of course, that the incentives are necessary. Either that, or there is a larger problem. If companies can’t afford to make investments in Wichita unless they receive exemptions from paying taxes, we must conclude that taxes are too high. It’s either that, or these companies simply don’t want to participate in paying for the cost of government like most other companies and people do.
Civic leaders say that our economic development policies must be reformed. So far that isn’t happening. Our leaders say that we will no longer use cash incentives. But cash incentives like forgivable loans were a minor part of the incentives Wichita and the State of Kansas used. Furthermore, forgiveness of taxes is just as good as receiving cash. 8
The large amount of bureaucratic effort and cost spent to obtain relatively small numbers of jobs lets us know that we need to do something else to grow our local economy. We need to create a dynamic economy, focusing our efforts on creating an environment where growth can occur organically without management by government. Dr. Art Hall’s paper
Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy provides much more information on the need for this. 9
In particular, Hall writes: “Embracing dynamism starts with a change in vision. Simply stated, the state government of Kansas should abandon its prevailing policy vision of the State as an active investor in businesses or industries and instead adopt the policy vision of the State as a caretaker of a competitive ‘platform’ — a platform that seeks to induce as much commercial experimentation as possible.” But our economic development policies are that of an “active investor,” and the cost of incentives increases the cost of experimentation.
Another thing we can do to help organically grow our economy and jobs is to reform our local regulatory regime. Kansas Policy Institute released a study of regulation and its impact at the state and local level. This is different from most investigations of regulation, as they usually focus on regulation at the federal level.
The study is titled “Business Perceptions of the Economic Impact of State and Local Government Regulation.” It was conducted by the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs at Wichita State University. Click here to view the entire document.
Following is an excerpt from the introduction by James Franko, Vice President and Policy Director at Kansas Policy Institute. It points to a path forward.
Surprising to some, the businesses interviewed did not have as much of a problem with the regulations themselves, or the need for regulations, but with their application and enforcement. Across industries and focus group sessions the key themes were clear — give businesses transparency in what regulations are being applied, how they are employed, provide flexibility in meeting those goals, and allow an opportunity for compliance.
Sometimes things can be said so often as to lose their punch and become little more than the platitudes referenced above. The findings from Hugo Wall are clear that businesses will adapt and comply with regulations if they are transparent and accountable. Many in the public can be forgiven for thinking this was already the case. Thankfully, local and state governments can ensure this happens with minimal additional expense.
A transparent and accountable regulatory regime should be considered the “low hanging fruit” of government. Individuals and communities will always land on different places along the continuum of appropriate regulation. And, a give and take will always exist between regulators and the regulated. Those two truisms, however, should do nothing to undermine the need for regulations to be applied equally, based on clear rules and interpretations, and to give each business an opportunity to comply. (emphasis added)
Creating a dynamic economy and a reformed regulatory regime should cost very little. The benefits would apply to all companies — large or small, startup or established, local or relocations, in any industry.
Our civic leaders say that our economic development efforts must be reformed. Will the path forward be a dynamic economy and reformed regulation? Or will it be more bureaucracy, chasing jobs a handful at a time?
- Greater Wichita Partnership – 2017 Investment Request. Part of the February 15, 2017 Sedgwick County Commission meeting. Available at https://goo.gl/hk6RHB. ↩
- “Spirit is now requesting a new Letter of Intent (LOI) to issues IRBs in an amount not to exceed $280,000,000 for a period of five years. … Spirit projects it will create 349 new jobs over the next five years as a result of these expansions. In addition to the $280,000,000 Spirit expects to invest in facilities over the next five years, it also projects approximately $825,000,000 of capital investment in new machinery and equipment for a total capital investment in excess of $1 billion dollars.” Wichita City Council agenda packet for May 3, 2016. ↩
- Personal correspondence from Andrew Nave, GWP executive vice president of economic development. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Greater Wichita Partnership. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/greater-wichita-partnership/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Wichita economic development not being managed. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-economic-development-managed/. ↩
- “The claim of 26,000 workers in downtown Wichita is based on misuse of data so blatant it can be described only as malpractice.” Weeks, Bob. Downtown Wichita jobs, sort of. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/downtown-wichita-jobs/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Economic development in Sedgwick County. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/sedgwick-county-government/economic-development-sedgwick-county/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Contrary to officials, Wichita has many incentive programs. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/contrary-officials-wichita-has-many-incentive-programs/. Also: Fact-checking Yes Wichita: Boeing incentives. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/fact-checking-yes-wichita-boeing-incentives/. ↩
- See also Weeks, Bob. Wichita to grant property and sales tax relief. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-grant-property-sales-tax-relief/. ↩
More, but likely not all, of the Cargill incentives will be before the Wichita City Council this week.
A division of Cargill, Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, is moving from an office on North Main Street in downtown Wichita to the site of the former Wichita Eagle building, also in downtown Wichita. Last year it was widely reported that Cargill was considering moving this division to another city. Reports of incentives offers to Cargill from other cities spurred the City of Wichita to offer its own incentives if Cargill would remain in Wichita. This week the city council will consider additional subsidies and incentives besides those already offered. 1
As summarized in the agenda packet:
“In exchange for Cargill’s commitment, the City has negotiated the following:
- Issue Industrial Revenue Bonds (Letter of Intent approved April 18, 2017) 100% property tax abatement; 5+5 year basis
- Sales tax exemption
- Acquisition of a 15 year parking easement for public access to the garage in the evenings and on weekends (estimated cost of $6,500,000)
- Expedited plan review (50% reduction in time)
- Reduced permitting fees (50%) (estimated savings of $85,000)
- Assign a project manager/ombudsman for a single point of contact for the company”
Industrial Revenue Bonds
In April the city council approved a letter of intent regarding Cargill’s participation in the Industrial Revenue Bond program. 2 The city won’t be lending Cargill money. Instead, IRBs are a (convoluted) method whereby local governments are able to forgive the payment of property taxes. For the case of Cargill, city documents from April state the tax forgiveness could be worth $1,359,531 per year. 3 This would be shared by these taxing jurisdictions in these annual amounts, again according to city documents:
- City of Wichita: $378,450
- Sedgwick County: $340,958
- USD 259, the Wichita Public School District: $622,723
- State of Kansas: $17,400
Cargill has agreed to make an annual Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILOT) of $413,900, according to city documents.
In addition to the property tax exemption, the IRBs also carry a sales tax exemption for purchases related to construction. City documents give an estimated value of $2,026,291 for the sales tax Cargill will not have to pay. 4
At one time, it was thought that the city would build a parking garage and let Cargill use it an no cost, or at a greatly reduced cost. Instead, the city now proposes that Cargill build the garage and the city will acquire an easement. This has sounded almost benign, but now we realize that the city will pay Cargill an estimated $6.5 million. In return, the city will be able to use up to approximately 700 parking spaces outside of Cargill business hours for a period of 15 years.
Is this a good deal for the city? The city has agreed to pay $9,286 for the use of each parking space for 15 years during non-business hours. 5 For comparison, recently the city rehabilitated the parking garage at 215 S. Market at a cost of $17,609 per parking space. The city rents 180 of these to a nearby company at the rate of $35 per month, which is $420 per year. 6 In the case of Cargill, the city is paying — effectively — $619 dollars per parking spot per year, and for off-hours use only.
It is not known whether the city will charge fees to the public to use the garage. It is also unknown whether there is much demand for public parking at the Cargill location, but present market conditions would suggest there is not much additional demand.
Expedited plan review, reduced fees, and ombudsman
The city has agreed to cut permit fees and speed response time for approvals. 7
This incentive — the need for it and its value to Cargill — is an explicit admission that City of Wichita regulations are burdensome. If not, why would the city devote time and expense to helping Cargill obtain relief from these regulations?
Consider this aspect of public policy: Cargill is a large company with — presumably — fleets of bureaucrats and lawyers trained to deal with burdensome government regulation. These costs can be spread across a large company, meaning that Cargill can afford to overcome burdensome regulations.
But what about the small companies that don’t have fleets of bureaucrats and lawyers? What about the young or small companies that can’t spread the costs of regulation across a large volume of business? What will the city do for these companies? This is especially important because the spirit of entrepreneurship the city wants to cultivate is most commonly found in small, young, companies — the type of company without fleets of bureaucrats and lawyers.
The city says it would do for any company what it is doing for Cargill. Except: How are companies supposed to know to ask for regulatory relief, streamlining, and a discount on fees?
If the city really wants to help all companies, it would — at its own initiative — cut fees and reduce response time across the board, for everyone. Until then Wichita offers special regulatory treatment for special circumstances, which widens the gulf between the haves and have-nots. 8
Other subsidy programs
The agenda packet for the city council meeting doesn’t mention this, but from the State of Kansas Cargill is likely to receive PEAK benefits. Under this program, the Kansas state withholding tax deducted from Cargill employees’ paychecks will be routed back to Cargill. 9 (Not all; only 95 percent.) Some very rough calculations show that PEAK benefits might be worth some $2 million annually to Cargill. 10
Ironically, with the recent increases in Kansas income taxes, PEAK is even more valuable to Cargill.
Is this needed?
In the past, economic development subsidies of this type were justified by local governments as necessary to recruit new companies to the area. These subsidies, however, are used simply to retain a company that is already located in downtown Wichita.
The city has asked Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research to produce benefit/cost ratios. They show that the costs the city, county, and state incur will generate benefits that exceed these costs. For the school district, costs exactly equal benefits — a remarkable coincidence.
The reasoning and calculation behind these benefit/cost ratios is opaque. The general idea is that spending by a company spawns other spending that results in economic benefit and growth. That’s true. It’s important to know, however, that this benefit also occurs when companies move to Wichita or expand in Wichita, without the benefit of economic development subsidies.
The question, then, becomes are these incentives necessary? Would Cargill have moved to another city if not for these incentives? It’s only if Cargill would have left Wichita that the benefit/cost ratios have any meaning.
The City of Wichita says Cargill received lucrative offers from other cities. But these offers have not been seen, to my knowledge. We’re left to take the word of Cargill that it received offers from other cities, and that it would have moved from Wichita if not for Wichita’s incentives.
Cargill, as we’ve seen, has a multi-million dollar motive. City of Wichita officials also have a large motive, as do officials and politicians at the state level. The politicians and bureaucrats want to — need to — be seen as doing something to improve the economy. It costs none of them one dime to pay these incentives. But the Cargill building will fulfill their ediface complex when they preside at groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
If Wichita leaders wanted to gain the trust of Wichitans, to have us believe and understand that these incentives are necessary to keep Cargill in Wichita, the city could reveal the other offers Cargill received. Cargill itself could reveal offers it received from other cities. These actions would help Wichitans understand whether these incentives are truly needed. But the world of economic development incentives is a murky swamp.
Finally, Mayor Jeff Longwell, other council members, and city hall bureaucrats tell us that the city has moved beyond cash incentives. Cash will not be paid for jobs, they say.
But forgiving a tax bill is just like paying cash. Discounting the cost of permits is just like paying cash. Paying $6.5 million to use a company’s parking garage during hours the company has no use for it: How is that different from simply paying the company a cash incentive?
Perhaps the mayor and others have a different understanding of the economics of transactions than I.
- City of Wichita. Agenda Packet for July 18, 2017. Approval of Development Agreement with Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Industrial revenue bonds in Kansas. https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/industrial-revenue-bonds-kansas/. ↩
- City of Wichita. Council agenda packet for April 18, 2017. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Cargill subsides start forming. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/cargill-subsides-start-forming/. ↩
- $6,500,000 / 700. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Why is this man smiling? Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/man-smiling/. ↩
- “Section 4.03. Approvals. The City agrees to provide a 50% reduction in the fees charged by the City for permits and approvals, including plan review, utility and building permitting fees, for all matters related to the Project. The City also agrees to reduce the response time for approval of building plans from the standard 30 days to 15 days for all matters related to the Project.” Also: “The reduction in the permitting fees will be paid from the Economic Development fund.” ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Regulation in Wichita, a ‘labyrinth of city processes.’ Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/regulation/regulation-wichita-labyrinth-city-processes/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. In Kansas, PEAK has a leak. https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/kansas-peak-leak/. ↩
- For the first year of the agreement, Cargill is expected to have 750 or more employees at an average salary of $66,814. That annual salary / 26 pay periods = $2,570 biweekly. For a family with two children (this is just a guess and could be way off), there are two withholding allowances, so $2,570 – ($86.54 x 2) = $2,397. Using the new withholding tables for married workers (another assumption), bi-weekly withholding is $48.17 + 5.7% x ($2,397 – $1,298) = $48.17 + $62.64 = $110.81. That means $2,881 annual withholding, so Cargill’s 95% share is $2,737. For 750 employees, this is an annual subsidy to Cargill of $2,052,750. ↩
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV. Fred L. Smith, Jr. is the founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He explains the problems with excessive regulation and a large administrative state. Episode 145, broadcast April 2, 2017. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
- Competitive Enterprise Institute
- Fred Smith biography.
- Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State
- CEI Center for Advancing Capitalism
- The Morality and Virtues of Capitalism and the Firm
- Toward a Thinker/Doer Alliance: A Grand Strategy for Liberty Advocates
Here are highlights from Voice for Liberty for 2016. Was it a good year for the principles of individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas?
Also be sure to view the programs on WichitaLiberty.TV for guests like journalist, novelist, and blogger Bud Norman; Radio talk show host Joseph Ashby; David Bobb, President of Bill of Rights Institute; Heritage Foundation trade expert Bryan Riley; Radio talk show host Andy Hooser; Keen Umbehr; John Chisholm on entrepreneurship; James Rosebush, author of “True Reagan,” Jonathan Williams of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); Gidget Southway, or Danedri Herbert; Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education; and Congressman Mike Pompeo.
Kansas legislative resources. Citizens who want to be informed of the happenings of the Kansas Legislature have these resources available.
School choice in Kansas: The haves and have-nots. Kansas non-profit executives work to deny low-income families the school choice opportunities that executive salaries can afford.
Kansas efficiency study released. An interim version of a report presents possibilities of saving the state $2 billion over five years.
Wichita Eagle Publisher Roy Heatherly. Wichita Eagle Publisher Roy Heatherly spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 15, 2016. This is an audio presentation.
Pupil-teacher ratios in the states. Kansas ranks near the top of the states in having a low pupil-teacher ratio.
Kansas highway conditions. Has continually “robbing the bank of KDOT” harmed Kansas highways?
Property rights in Wichita: Your roof. The Wichita City Council will attempt to settle a dispute concerning whether a new roof should be allowed to have a vertical appearance rather than the horizontal appearance of the old.
Must it be public schools? A joint statement released by Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents’ Association, and Kansas National Education Association exposes the attitudes of the Kansas public school establishment.
Kansas schools and other states. A joint statement released by Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents’ Association, and Kansas National Education Association makes claims about Kansas public schools that aren’t factual.
After years of low standards, Kansas schools adopt truthful standards. In a refreshing change, Kansas schools have adopted realistic standards for students, but only after many years of evaluating students using low standards.
Brownback and Obama stimulus plans. There are useful lessons we can learn from the criticism of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, including how easy it is to ignore inconvenient lessons of history.
Spending and taxing in Kansas. Difficulty balancing the Kansas budget is different from, and has not caused, widespread spending cuts.
In Sedgwick County, choosing your own benchmarks. The Sedgwick County Commission makes a bid for accountability with an economic development agency, but will likely fall short of anything meaningful.
This is why we must eliminate defined-benefit public pensions. Actions considered by the Kansas Legislature demonstrate — again — that governments are not capable of managing defined-benefit pension plans.
Kansas transportation bonds economics worse than told. The economic details of a semi-secret sale of bonds by the State of Kansas are worse than what’s been reported.
Massage business regulations likely to be ineffective, but will be onerous. The Wichita City Council is likely to create a new regulatory regime for massage businesses in response to a problem that is already addressed by strict laws.
Inspector General evaluates Obamacare website. The HHS Inspector General has released an evaluation of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, shedding light on the performance of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
Kansas highway spending. An op-ed by an advocate for more highway spending in Kansas needs context and correction.
Brookings Metro Monitor and Wichita. A research project by The Brookings Institution illustrates the poor performance of the Wichita-area economy.
Wichita: A conversation for a positive community and city agenda. Wichita City Manager Robert Layton held a discussion titled “What are Wichita’s Strengths and Weaknesses: A Conversation for a Positive Community and City Agenda” at the February 26, 2016 luncheon of the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
In Kansas, teachers unions should stand for retention. A bill requiring teachers unions to stand for retention elections each year would be good for teachers, students, and taxpayers.
In Kansas, doctors may “learn” just by doing their jobs. A proposed bill in Kansas should make us question the rationale of continuing medical education requirements for physicians.
Power of Kansas cities to take property may be expanded. A bill working its way through the Kansas Legislature will give cities additional means to seize property.
Wichita TIF district disbands; taxpayers on the hook. A real estate development in College Hill was not successful. What does this mean for city taxpayers?
Kansas and Colorado, compared. News that a Wichita-based company is moving to Colorado sparked a round of Kansas-bashing, most not based on facts.
In Wichita, the phased approach to water supply can save a bundle. In 2014 the City of Wichita recommended voters spend $250 million on a new water supply. But since voters rejected the tax to support that spending, the cost of providing adequate water has dropped, and dropped a lot.
Wichita Eagle, where are you? The state’s largest newspaper has no good reason to avoid reporting and editorializing on an important issue. But that’s what the Wichita Eagle has done.
Wichita on verge of new regulatory regime. The Wichita City Council is likely to create a new regulatory regime for massage businesses in response to a problem that is already addressed by strict laws.
Wichita economic development and capacity. An expansion fueled by incentives is welcome, but illustrates a larger problem with Wichita-area economic development.
Rich States, Poor States, 2106 edition. In Rich States, Poor States, Kansas continues with middle-of-the-pack performance, and fell sharply in the forward-looking forecast.
In Wichita, revealing discussion of property rights. Reaction to the veto of a bill in Kansas reveals the instincts of many government officials, which is to grab more power whenever possible.
‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ … oops! An event in Wichita that made national headlines has so far turned out to be not the story news media enthusiastically promoted.
Wichita doesn’t have this. A small Kansas city provides an example of what Wichita should do.
Kansas continues to snub school choice reform that helps the most vulnerable schoolchildren. Charter schools benefit minority and poor children, yet Kansas does not leverage their benefits, despite having a pressing need to boost the prospects of these children.
Wichita property tax rate: Up again. The City of Wichita says it hasn’t raised its property mill levy in many years. But data shows the mill levy has risen, and its use has shifted from debt service to current consumption.
AFP Foundation wins a battle for free speech for everyone. Americans for Prosperity Foundation achieves a victory for free speech and free association.
Kansas Center for Economic Growth. Kansas Center for Economic Growth, often cited as an authority by Kansas news media and politicians, is not the independent and unbiased source it claims to be.
Under Goossen, Left’s favorite expert, Kansas was admonished by Securities and Exchange Commission. The State of Kansas was ordered to take remedial action to correct material omissions in the state’s financial statements prepared under the leadership of Duane Goossen.
Spirit Aerosystems tax relief. Wichita’s largest employer asks to avoid paying millions in taxes, which increases the cost of government for everyone else, including young companies struggling to break through.
Wichita mayor’s counterfactual op-ed. Wichita’s mayor pens an op-ed that is counter to facts that he knows, or should know.
Electioneering in Kansas?. An op-ed written under the banner of a non-profit organization appears to violate the ban on electioneering.
Wichita city council campaign finance reform. Some citizen activists and Wichita city council members believe that a single $500 campaign contribution from a corporation has a corrupting influence. But stacking dozens of the same $500 contributions from executives and spouses of the same corporation? Not a problem.
In Wichita, more sales tax hypocrisy. Another Wichita company that paid to persuade you to vote for higher taxes now seeks to avoid paying those taxes.
Wichita student/teacher ratios. Despite years of purported budget cuts, the Wichita public school district has been able to improve its student/teacher ratios.
KPERS payments and Kansas schools. There is a claim that a recent change in the handling of KPERS payments falsely inflates school spending. The Kansas State Department of Education says otherwise.
Regulation in Wichita, a ‘labyrinth of city processes’. Wichita offers special regulatory treatment for special circumstances, widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots.
They really are government schools. What’s wrong with the term “government schools?”
Kansas City Star as critic, or apologist. An editorial in the Kansas City Star criticizes a Kansas free-market think tank.
State and local government employee and payroll. Considering all state and local government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many, compared to other states, and especially so in education.
Kansas government ‘hollowed-out’. Considering all state and local government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many, compared to other states, and especially so in education.
In Wichita, Meitzner, Clendenin sow seeds of distrust. Comments by two Wichita city council members give citizens more reasons to be cynical and distrusting of politicians.
David Dennis, gleeful regulatory revisionist. David Dennis, candidate for Sedgwick County Commission, rewrites his history of service on the Kansas State Board of Education.
Say no to Kansas taxpayer-funded campaigning. Kansas taxpayers should know their tax dollars are helping staff campaigns for political office.
Roger Marshall campaign setting new standards. Attacks on Tim Huelskamp reveal the worst in political campaigning.
Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce on the campaign trail. We want to believe that The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and its PAC are a force for good. Why does the PAC need to be deceptive and untruthful?
Which Kansas Governor made these proposals?. Cutting spending for higher education, holding K through 12 public school spending steady, sweeping highway money to the general fund, reducing aid to local governments, spending down state reserves, and a huge projected budget gap. Who and when is the following newspaper report referencing?
Wichita Business Journal editorial missed the news on the Wichita economy. A Wichita business newspaper’s editorial ignores the history of our local economy. Even the history that it reported in its own pages.
Sedgwick County Health Department: Services provided. Sedgwick County government trimmed spending on health. What has been the result so far?
School staffing and students. Trends for the nation and each state in teachers, administrators, and students, presented in an interactive visualization.
Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2015 is $4.1 million. The depreciation expense of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita recognizes and accounts for the sacrifices of the people of Sedgwick County and its visitors to pay for the arena.
School spending in the states. School spending in the states, presented in an interactive visualization.
Kansas construction employment. Tip to the Wichita Eagle editorial board: When a lobbying group feeds you statistics, try to learn what they really mean.
Wichita has no city sales tax, except for these. There is no Wichita city retail sales tax, but the city collects tax revenue from citizens when they buy utilities, just like a sales tax.
CID and other incentives approved in downtown Wichita. The Wichita City Council approves economic development incentives, but citizens should not be proud of the discussion and deliberation.
Cost per visitor to Wichita cultural attractions. Wichitans might be surprised to learn the cost of cultural attractions.
GetTheFactsKansas launched. From Kansas Policy Institute and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a new website with facts about the Kansas budget, economy, and schools.
The nation’s report card and charter schools.
* An interactive table of NAEP scores for the states and races, broken down by charter school and traditional public school.
* Some states have few or no charter schools.
* In many states, minority students perform better on the NAEP test when in charter schools.
School choice and funding. Opponents of school choice programs argue the programs harm traditional public schools, both financially and in their ability to serve their remaining students. Evidence does not support this position.
Public school experts. Do only those within the Kansas public schooling community have a say?
Kansas and Arizona schools. Arizona shows that Kansas is missing out on an opportunity to provide better education at lower cost.
Video in the Kansas Senate. A plan to increase visibility of the Kansas Senate is a good start, and needs to go just one or two steps farther.
Kansas, a frugal state?. Is Kansas a frugal state, compared to others?
Topeka Capital-Journal falls for a story. The editorial boards of two large Kansas newspapers have shown how little effort goes into forming the opinions they foist upon our state.
Kansas revenue estimates. Kansas revenue estimates are frequently in the news and have become a political issue. Here’s a look at them over the past decades.
Kansas school fund balances.
* Kansas school fund balances rose significantly this year, in both absolute dollars and dollars per pupil.
* Kansans might wonder why schools did not spend some of these funds to offset cuts they have contended were necessary.
* The interactive visualization holds data for each district since 2008.
In Wichita, developer welfare under a cloud. A downtown Wichita project receives a small benefit from the city, with no mention of the really big money.
Wichita, give back the Hyatt proceeds. Instead of spending the proceeds of the Hyatt hotel sale, the city should honor those who paid for the hotel — the city’s taxpayers.
Kansas Democrats: They don’t add it up — or they don’t tell us. Kansas Democrats (and some Republicans) are campaigning on some very expensive programs, and they’re aren’t adding it up for us.
How would higher Kansas taxes help?. Candidates in Kansas who promise more spending ought to explain just how higher taxes will — purportedly — help the Kansas economy.
Decoding the Kansas teachers union. Explaining to Kansans what the teachers union really means in its public communications.
Kansas school spending: Visualization. An interactive visualization of revenue and spending data for Kansas school districts.
Decoding Duane Goossen. The writing of Duane Goossen, a former Kansas budget director, requires decoding and explanation. This time, his vehicle is “Rise Up, Kansas.”
Decoding the Kansas teachers union. Decoding and deconstructing communications from KNEA, the Kansas teachers union, lets us discover the true purpose of the union.
Government schools’ entitlement mentality. If the Kansas personal income grows, should school spending also rise?
Wichita bridges, well memorialized. Drivers on East Twenty-First Street in Wichita are happy that the work on a small bridge is complete, but may not be pleased with one aspect of the project.
Gary Sherrer and Kansas Policy Institute. A former Kansas government official criticizes Kansas Policy Institute.
Wichita to grant property and sales tax relief. Several large employers in Wichita ask to avoid paying millions in taxes, which increases the cost of government for everyone else, including young companies struggling to break through.
Economic development incentives at the margin. The evaluation of economic development incentives in Wichita and Kansas requires thinking at the margin, not the entirety.
The Wichita economy, according to Milken Institute. The performance of the Wichita-area economy, compared to other large cities, is on a downward trend.
State pension cronyism. A new report details the way state pension funds harm workers and taxpayers through cronyism.
In Wichita, converting a hotel into street repairs. In Wichita, it turns out we have to sell a hotel in order to fix our streets.
In Wichita, we’ll not know how this tax money is spent. Despite claims to the contrary, the attitude of the City of Wichita towards citizens’ right to know is poor, and its attitude will likely be reaffirmed this week.
Decoding and deconstructing communications from KNEA, the Kansas teachers union, lets us discover the true purpose of the union.
Here, we look at a dispatch from Kansas National Education Association’s “Under the Dome” newsletter from March 14, 2013. It may be found here. The topic of this day was a charter school bill. Kansas has a law that allows charter schools, which are public schools that operate outside many of the rules and regulations that govern traditional public schools. But the Kansas law is written in a way that makes it difficult to form a charter school, and as a result, Kansas has very few charter schools.
KNEA, the teacher union in Kansas, says: Rep. Ed Trimmer noted that a study provided by the proponents (anti-public school “think tank” Kansas Policy Institute) reported that the worst performing charter schools are in states that have multiple charter school “authorizers” — just like this bill.
This sentence holds much of the key to understanding the motives of the teachers union, and the rest of the public school spending lobby. First, they use the term “anti-public school.” This lets us know that for all the bluster coming from the teachers union and its allies about the importance of education and Kansas schoolchildren, it is only public schools that interest them. The simple reason is that in private schools and charter schools, the teachers aren’t union members. It is those union members that the union cares about. Other schools where teachers can work free of the union and its influence are competition to the union.
The use of “think tank” lets us know that the union doesn’t think Kansas Policy Institute is deserving of respect. KPI uses government data to show the true state of Kansas public education, so naturally the teachers union needs to suppress the tellers of truth.
By the way, I don’t think KPI is “anti-public school.” KPI advocates for school choice, to be sure, but school choice programs comfortably co-exist with public schools in many states. And — let’s remind the teachers union that charter schools are public schools.
Then the use of “authorizers” in quotes: Charter school authorizers oversee the charter schools they authorized. In Kansas, the only charter school authorizers are local school boards, and they have shown very little willingness to authorize charters. Here’s what is interesting: In some states with good charter school laws, authorizers must hold their charter schools accountable. In Denver, for the 2011 school year, 25 percent of the charters seeking renewal were closed.1 (There, charters are reauthorized every third year.) That type of accountability is rarely seen in the traditional public schools, where poor-performing schools live on, year after year.
The teachers union says: The Committee reconvened at 1:30 to get a special presentation by anti-public school zealot Dave Trabert of the “think tank” Kansas Policy Institute. Trabert sold his usual snake oil denouncing Kansas public schools as failing most students and thoroughly confused the committee with his talk of NAEP, NCLB, RTTT, state assessments, cut scores and the performance of Texas schools compared to Kansas.
See? The teachers union doesn’t like to talk about the performance of Kansas schools. Anyone who presents the data is denounced. It’s easy to see why. The U.S. Department of Education, through the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), conducts the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) every other year. Known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” it is “the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.”2 The important thing to remember is that the test is not under the control of states. It is the same in all states, and allows for state-to-state comparisons. (More about this in a moment.)
Nearby is a chart showing performance on the NAEP test. It presents data for grade four reading over time, divided by major categories of race. It shows the percent of students scoring at the level of Basic or better, and on a separate scale, at Proficient or better.
Looking at the first column of data, labeled “All Students,” we can see that Kansas performs better than Texas in every year. It is this finding that the teachers union and its allies use to promote the goodness of Kansas schools.
Aggregated data like this can hide some underlying truths. Look at the third column, reporting scores for black students. For “At or above Proficient,” Kansas and Texas students perform nearly the same. For Basic or better, Texas has the clear advantage in most years.
Similar investigation reveals that for Hispanic students, Texas and Kansas score nearly the same. For white students, Texas scores better than Kansas in each year.
So which schools are better in fourth grade reading, Kansas or Texas? If you were the parent of a young black child learning to read, Texas is doing a better job. For that matter, if you were the parent of a young white child learning to read, Texas has been doing a better job than has Kansas.
(By the way, Texas spends less on its schools than Kansas, on a per-pupil basis.3)
(These charts are derived from an interactive visualization of NAEP scores that I developed. You may access it here to conduct your own investigations.)
We can see why the teachers union demeans and demonizes those who present data like this.
Why are NAEP scores important? Doesn’t the State of Kansas have its own tests? The answer is yes, Kansas has its own tests. And until recently these tests — the standards that the state used to measure achievement — were very weak. That is, Kansas was willing to say students are “proficient” at a much lower level of performance than most other states. In some cases, just a handful of states had lower standards than Kansas. But now the new Kansas standards are more in line with those of other states, and present a more truthful assessment of Kansas schoolchildren. Not surprisingly, scores on the new tests are lower.4
In the past, the teachers union and its allies used the (generally good) performance on these very weak Kansas tests to conclude that Kansas schools were performing well. But that was a lie.
The teachers union says: He was joined via Skype by noted ideological researcher Matthew Ladner. Ladner, who greatly admires Jeb Bush and Florida schools was brought to Kansas by Trabert and KPI once before. Only back then his presentation was colored by the fact that he won a “Bunkum Award” from the National Educational [sic] Policy Center (NEPC). The NEPC, located at the University of Colorado is a national consortium of education researchers and academicians who review the reports of think tanks to make sure it is based on sound research standards.
First, Florida schools perform well on the NAEP, relative to Kansas. If you need convincing, use the visualization of NAEP scores referenced above to compare Florida and Kansas. You’ll find many cases where Florida does better than Kansas.
(By the way, Florida spends less than Kansas on schools, on a per-pupil base.3 This is the real problem the teachers union and its allies have with Florida and Texas: These states spend less than Kansas.)
Now: What is the National Education Policy Center (NEPC)? Just like the Kansas teachers union says, it reviews the reports of think tanks. And when it does, its criticisms are routinely shredded when placed under scrutiny. (Example criticism of one NEPC writer: “His review is deeply flawed and significantly misrepresents our data and findings.6) Almost all the reports it finds to be faulty are published by conservative/libertarian think tanks, although I did see a Brookings Institute report criticized.
Here’s something else: The Kansas teachers union and its allies vigorously attempt to discredit KPI because of its purported funders. If that is a valid concern or criticism, consider this. NEPC’s funders include the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.7 Teachers unions funding research to discredit non-union schools. Who could have figured?
Now we ask this: Should we hold the Kansas teachers union to the same standards it expects of others?
- Colorado League of Charter Schools. ↩
- National Assessment of Educational Progress. About. Available at nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/. ↩
- U.S. Census Bureau. Annual Survey of School System Finances: Per Pupil Amounts for Current Spending of Public Elementary-Secondary School Systems by State: Fiscal Year 2014. https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/SSF/2014/00A08. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. After years of low standards, Kansas schools adopt truthful standards. https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/after-years-of-low-standards-kansas-schools-adopt-truthful-standards/. ↩
- U.S. Census Bureau. Annual Survey of School System Finances: Per Pupil Amounts for Current Spending of Public Elementary-Secondary School Systems by State: Fiscal Year 2014. https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/SSF/2014/00A08. ↩
- Jim Kessler, Tess Stovall, and Dee Dee Dolan. A Response to the National Education Policy Center: “NEPC review is fatally flawed.” http://www.thirdway.org/memo/a-response-to-the-national-education-policy-center-nepc-review-is-fatally-flawed. ↩
- National Education Policy Center. Support. http://nepc.colorado.edu/support. ↩
The Kansas economy benefits greatly from foreign trade, and we should oppose restrictions on trade.
Bryan Riley of Heritage Foundation has contributed an extensive analysis of the benefits foreign trade brings to Kansas. Riley is Jay Van Andel Senior Policy Analyst in Trade Policy at Center for Trade and Economics (CTE).
Riley notes three ways that foreign trade benefits Kansas:
- Imports provide competitive products for Kansas consumers and manufacturers.
- Exports benefit Kansas farmers and aerospace workers.
- Foreign investment supports thousands of Kansas jobs.
He recommends: “The state’s congressional delegation can best advance the interests of Kansans by opposing protectionist policies and working to remove barriers to international trade and investment.” Specifically:
These benefits are threatened by U.S. trade barriers that protect politically well-connected companies from competition while driving up prices and threatening jobs in Kansas industries reliant on international trade.
The state’s congressional delegation can best advance the interests of Kansans by opposing protectionist policies and working to remove barriers to international trade and investment.
The danger to Kansas, and to the entire country, is that President-Elect Donald J. Trump campaigned on a platform of renegotiating trade agreements and imposing high tariffs if favorable agreements were not obtained. This is the opposite of free trade.
Concluding, Riley projects a bright future for Kansas — if trade increases:
Kansas is positioned to prosper from continued growth in trade with the rest of the world as trade barriers are reduced. Physical barriers, such as the limits imposed by canals and ports unable to handle modern cargo ships, and governmental barriers, like limits on shipping and the use of imported inputs, are falling across the globe. The state’s congressional delegation should take the lead in making sure that government-constructed impediments to trade and prosperity fall as well.
Riley’s paper at Heritage is Trade and Prosperity in the States: The Case of Kansas. He also appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV earlier this year to discuss trade and its importance. See WichitaLiberty.TV: Heritage Foundation’s Bryan Riley on free trade.
In the campaign for Sedgwick County Commission, the incumbent Tim Norton touts his experience, judgment, “intellectual stamina, thirst for data and feedback,” and his efforts in economic development. Following, from January 2013, an example of how uninformed he is regarding basic facts about the Kansas economy.
In Sedgwick County, Norton’s misplaced concern for an industry
Expressing concern about a large industry that he said is important to Sedgwick County and Kansas, Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton spoke in favor of the need for comprehensive government planning. He cited the commonly-held belief that humans, with their desire for large suburban home lots, are depleting the stock of available farmland.
Specifically, Norton said “Agribusiness is the third largest economic driver in our community, in our region.”
But is this true? Using 2010 figures from the Kansas Statistical Abstract, these are the largest industries in Kansas in terms of gross domestic product:
Agriculture ranks below many other industries, contributing 3.7 percent of Kansas Gross Domestic Product. In most years agriculture would rank even lower, but because of high farm prices in recent years, it ranks higher than it has.
Norton also expressed concern that humans with large home lots would deplete the land available for agriculture. But he need not worry, as I show in Saving farms from people.
In the campaign for Sedgwick County Commission, the incumbent Tim Norton touts his experience, judgment, “intellectual stamina, thirst for data and feedback,” and his efforts in economic development. Following, from January 2013, an example of how uninformed he is. You also see his preference for government regulation over economic and personal freedom.
Tim Norton: Saving farms from people and their preferences
Last week at a meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission, Commissioner Tim Norton spoke in favor of the need for comprehensive government planning. In support, he cited the commonly-held belief that humans — especially with their desire for large suburban home lots — are depleting the stock of farmland to the point of being detrimental to agribusiness.
Here’s part of what Norton said (video below):
Now I know people don’t like the idea of sprawl and growth rings and all that, but the truth is there is a balance between where people live and preserving our good agricultural lands and how do you make that work. And that’s being able to sustain part of our economy. Agribusiness is the third largest economic driver in our community, in our region, and to say that we’re okay with every five acre tract being taken up by somebody’s rural residence sounds really good if you’re talking only property rights. But if you’re talking about preserving and sustaining agribusiness you gotta have the land and it’s got to be set aside for that enterprise.
Farms and ranches being driven out of existence by homeowners — that sounds like a problem that might threaten our food supply. But what are the facts?
First, there is an overabundance of farmland in America. There is so much farmland that we pay farmers billions each year to refrain from planting crops. We pay corn farmers billions in subsidies each year and then use their crops for motor fuel, instead of for making fine Kentucky bourbon and taco shells, as God intended.
Considering Sedgwick County, as that is what Norton represents: Despite being the second-most populous county in Kansas and home to its largest city and surrounding suburban communities, Sedgwick County ranks fourth among Kansas counties in the number of farms, thirty-fourth in farmland acres, seventh in total harvested cropland acres, thirty-third in market value of harvested crops, sixty-sixth in market value of livestock, and eighty-seventh in pasture acres. (Data from Kansas Farm Facts 2011, reporting on 2007 farm statistics.)
There’s something else that might ease Commissioner Norton’s concern, if he would only believe in the power of markets over government: That is the price system. If we were truly running short of farmland, crop prices would rise and farmland would become more valuable. Fewer people would be willing to pay the price necessary to have a five-acre home lot.
In fact, if crop prices were high enough, farmers would be buying back the five-acre lots, or perhaps paying homeowners to rent their yards for planting crops or grazing livestock.
In either case, markets — through the price system — provide a solution that doesn’t require politicians and bureaucrats. There are many other areas in which this is true, but government nonetheless insists on regulation and control.
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Don Sherman, Vice President Community Relations and Strategic Partners with Westar Energy introduced Jeff Beasley, Vice President of Customer Care with Westar for an informative presentation titled, “An overview of Westar Energy — Solar, Conservation, Community.”
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita’s economic development, Sedgwick County spending, editorials ignoring facts, your house numbers, Kansas governors, taxpayer-funded political campaigns, and the nature of economic competition. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 127, broadcast August 21, 2016.
What did the nation’s governors tell their constituents this year?
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has examined the “State of the State” addresses delivered this year by state governors. Its report State of the States 2016 analyzes each for proposals that will affect economic competitiveness.
The good news, according to the report? “The majority of governors seem to understand that lower tax rates and limited government give citizens and businesses a greater incentive to reside and operate in their states compared to others with higher tax rates and more regulations.”
But some states received bad news. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards told his state: “So, if you insist on saying that I never said I would raise taxes — that I’m going back on my word — that’s fine. Say it. Get it out of your system, and then please come back here ready to work with me to do the job we were all hired to do.”
In Minnesota — which has a budget surplus — Governor Mark Dayton told his constituents, “They say, ‘give it all back’ to the taxpayers. But that slogan is based upon a wrong premise and a wrong conclusion.”
Kansas wasn’t highlighted in this report, as Governor Brownback’s State of the State address contained little regarding economic policy.
The report is available at no charge from ALEC at State of the States 2016.
Thousands of Wichita homeowners may soon be lawbreakers if the city council follows its staff’s recommendation.
An update is at the end of this article.
This week the Wichita City Council may make your house number illegal, even though those numbers may — literally — be set in stone. This will be the case if the council takes the action recommended by its Department of Public Works and Utilities.
Current city code requires address numbers three inches high. The proposed ordinance requires numbers four inches tall. The penalty for noncompliance is $500 per day, with each day being “a separate and distinct offence.”
Existing and proposed ordinances
The existing city code:1
Sec. 10.04.190. – Same — Duty of owner or occupant to place; size, etc.
The owner or occupant of each and every house or building in the city is required to place on the house or building, in a conspicuous place, numbers of at least three inches in height of a type to be selected by the owner or occupant, which numbers shall be in conformity with and according to the provisions of the two preceding sections of this chapter. (Ord. No. 14-491 § 2)
The proposed code.2
SECTION 10. Section 10.04.190 of the Code of the City of Wichita, Kansas, is hereby amended to read as follows:
“Duty of owner or occupant to place; size, etc.”
The owner or occupant of every house or building in the City is required to conspicuously place on the house or building house numbers of at least four (4) inches in height. Painting house numbers on the Curb alone shall not be sufficient to comply with this Section.
Such numbers shall be consistent with Sections 10.04.170 and 10.04.180. Such numbers shall be of a sufficient contrast such that police officers and firefighters can read the numbers from the abutting street. Any property owner failing to comply with this Section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed five hundred (500) dollars. Each day house numbers are not properly placed on the house or building is a separate and distinct offence.
At its August 9 meeting, the city council deferred this item to September.
- Wichita City Code. Available at www.municode.com/library/ks/wichita/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT10STSI_CH10.04INGE_S10.04.190SAUTOWOCPLSIET. ↩
- Wichita City Council Agenda, August 9, 2016 meeting. Available at http://wichita.gov/Government/Council/Agendas/08-09-2016%20City%20Council%20Agenda%20Packet.pdf. ↩
David Dennis, candidate for Sedgwick County Commission, rewrites his history of service on the Kansas State Board of Education.
In 2012 the Lawrence Journal-World reported this regarding a meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education: “Board chairman David Dennis of Wichita said the state needs more information on home schools to ensure that children are being taught. … Dennis suggested perhaps the board should propose legislation to increase the state reporting requirements for home schoolers.”1 Other newspapers published similar reports.
Now, Dennis is a candidate for the Sedgwick County Commission. At a candidate forum held by the Wichita Pachyderm Club on June 10, I asked Dennis about regulation of homeschools. Was that representative of his stance towards homeschooling and regulation?
In his response, Dennis said the board never sent a recommendation to the Legislature. But that wasn’t the question that I asked. Here is a transcription of my question.
“This week the Wichita Eagle reported that as part of the effort to retain Cargill in Wichita that the City of Wichita will appoint an ombudsman to help shepherd Cargill through the labyrinth is the word they use of business processes and regulations in Wichita. Which seems to me to be tantamount that regulation in Wichita is burdensome. So for all candidates, I would ask, how do you feel about that? What can you do to streamline regulation? And for you, Mr. Dennis, I’m particularly concerned because as a member of the State Board of Education you proposed that the board recommend the Kansas Legislature pass regulations regarding the performance of home schools. So I’m wondering if that’s indicative of your philosophy toward a free market in education and regulation in general.”
In his response to this question, Dennis made a point of “correcting me,” contending that the Kansas State Board of Education never sent such a recommendation to the Legislature. He said it again for emphasis, thereby “correcting” me twice.
Initially, I was confused by his answer. I thought perhaps I had misstated the premise of my question. But after listening to the recording, I realized that I asked the question precisely as I had intended. I said that Dennis proposed that the board recommend regulation to the Legislature, not that the board actually made such a proposal to the Legislature.
Perhaps, I thought, David Dennis didn’t hear my question correctly. So I followed up by email, including a link to an audio recording of the exchange, the same recording that appears at the end of this article. He stood by his response.
I don’t like calling anyone a liar. I’m willing to allow that people misspoke, or didn’t understand the question, or had an episode of faulty recollection, or that they changed their position over time. So maybe this episode doesn’t represent David Dennis lying. Perhaps three newspaper reporters incorrectly reported what Dennis said during the board of education meeting.2 3
But David Dennis was gleeful in “correcting” me in public. Twice. And in a forum where debating the speakers is not part of the culture.
Maybe Dennis’s response wasn’t a lie. But it was deceptive. It was evasive. It was characteristic of someone who is supremely confident in himself, even when he is wrong.
Perhaps this confidence is useful when serving as a military officer, as Dennis did. But it isn’t evidence of humility, and that’s something we need in our public servants.
Following is an excerpt from the candidate forum containing my question and the response from the candidates. A recording of the entire meeting as available at From Pachyderm: Sedgwick County Commission candidates. The participating candidates were Dennis and his opponent Karl Peterjohn in district 3, and Michael O’Donnell, the Republican candidate in district 2. (Only Republican candidates were invited.)
- Rothschild, Scott. State board discusses home-schooling requirements. Lawrence Journal-World, August 14, 2012. Available at www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/aug/14/state-board-discusses-home-schooling-requirements/. ↩
- Associated press in Topeka Capital-Journal. Kansas education board looks into home schooling concerns. August 14, 2012. Available at cjonline.com/news/2012-08-15/kansas-education-board-looks-home-schooling-concerns. ↩
- Tobias, Suzanne Perez. Kansas education official’s comment riles home-schooling parents. Wichita Eagle, August 18, 2012. Available at www.kansas.com/news/article1097490.html. ↩
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Citizen activists were concerned about unleashing a corrupting influence in Wichita City Hall, but they didn’t know it’s already there. Then, the regulatory landscape in Wichita. Finally, what can a pencil teach us about how the world works? View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 121, broadcast June 12, 2016.
Wichita offers special regulatory treatment for special circumstances, widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots.
The Wichita Eagle reports that part of what the City of Wichita is offering to Cargill as an inducement to stay in Wichita is regulatory relief.1 In particular:
The city has offered smaller incentives to Cargill as well, including an ombudsman.
[Wichita assistant city manager and director of development Scot] Rigby called the ombudsman something of a project manager.
“They’ll just call one person,” Rigby said of Cargill’s dealings with the city. “It’s a way to eliminate … a business trying to figure out, how do I get through the labyrinth of city processes?”
Rigby said the city has done this with other companies, such as Spirit AeroSystems and JR Custom Metal Products, and would do it for any company with an expansion or project that needs streamlining.
He said the city also is committed to work with the state and the Greater Wichita Partnership to create a talent recruitment position that could help Cargill and other companies recruit employees at all levels.
The city has said it would offer a 15-day turnaround instead of the customary 30 days for plan review and permits, along with a 50 percent reduction in plan review, utility and building permit fees.
Let me repeat the highlights:
labyrinth of city processes
15-day turnaround instead of the customary 30 days
50 percent reduction in … fees
All of this is an explicit admission that City of Wichita regulations are burdensome. If not, why would the city devote time and expense to helping Cargill obtain relief from these regulations?
Further: Why do we have these regulations? If the purpose of the regulations is to protect people from harm, how can we relax or streamline them for the benefit of a few companies? Wouldn’t that expose people to the harm the regulations purportedly prevent?
What’s even worse is this: Cargill is a large company with — presumably — fleets of bureaucrats and lawyers trained to deal with burdensome government regulation. These costs can be spread across a large company. Meaning that Cargill can afford to overcome burdensome regulations.
What about the small companies that don’t have fleets of bureaucrats and lawyers? That can’t spread the costs of burdensome regulation across a large volume of business? What will the city do for these companies? This is especially important because the spirit of entrepreneurship the city wants to cultivate is most commonly found in small, young, companies. The type without fleets of bureaucrats and lawyers.
Well, the city says it would do for any company what it is doing for Cargill.
Except: How are companies supposed to know to ask for regulatory relief, streamlining, and a discount on fees?
And is it equitable to offer special companies special regulatory relief when it is not readily available for all?
Last year Kansas Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs at Wichita State University produced a report titled “Business Perceptions of the Economic Impact of State and Local Government Regulations.”2 On the city’s offer of special treatment to one company, KPI Vice President and Policy Director James Franko commented:
This bears out one of the key findings from a paper we did with WSU’s Hugo Wall School: Companies want transparency and simplicity in the local regulatory environment. Businesses are not as concerned about the regulation themselves as they are in navigating what the city admits is a “labyrinth” of regulations and processes.
The regulatory process should be simplified for all businesses, not just a few. Hopefully there is a realization that an “ombudsman,” or better yet a transparent, straightforward regulatory regime, should be available to anyone wanting to start or grow a business in Wichita.
Instead of the city offering regulatory relief on an as-needed, as-requested basis, why not simplify and streamline regulation for everyone? That seems to make a lot of sense. But if you were a city politician or bureaucrat, this isn’t in your best interest. If regulations are burdensome, and you — as a bureaucrat or officeholder — can offer relief, then you have power. You become important. You have the ability to grant favors and make people feel special.
But if regulations were streamlined and reformed for everyone as the city will do for Cargill, then bureaucrats and politicians would not be so powerful and important. But the people would be more free and prosperous. Think about that trade off.
An interview with James Franko of Kansas Policy Institute on the topic of regulation is on WichitaLiberty.TV here.
- Rengers, Carrie. City offers Cargill tax abatement, parking garage financing. Wichita Eagle, June 6, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/news/business/article82076122.html. ↩
- Kansas Policy Institute. Business Perceptions of the Economic Impact of State and Local Government Regulations. Available at kansaspolicy.org/businesses-welcome-transparent-accessible-accountable-state-local-regulations/. ↩
By Andrew Brown, Foundation for Government Accountability
This site recently published an extensive critique of HB 2615, a bill that would protect doctors and health care professionals providing free charity care and reward them with a minor licensing incentive, and the author encouraged Gov. Brownback to veto the bill. Mr. Weeks has graciously allowed me, as a supporter who worked on behalf of HB 2615, to issue a response to his article. I truly appreciate the opportunity to present another side.
I agree that we do need to reconsider and reform occupational licensure across the board and we absolutely should expect medical professionals to stay current in their field. And while Continuing Medical Education credits are one way, they aren’t the only way to achieve that goal. In fact, Kansas already allows doctors to receive CME credits for a range of non-educational activities.
What’s more important though is the stifling effects abusive medical malpractice lawsuits which often benefit lawyers more than patients can have on the amount of free care doctors and health care professionals are willing to give. This means doctors and others offer less charity than they otherwise would while our low-income neighbors struggle to get access to the health care services they need. HB 2615 seeks to change this by reducing government barriers and freeing medical professionals to provide high-quality care to those who need it most.
HB 2615 doesn’t increase regulations on medical professionals, but eases the burden of existing continuing education regulations and rewards them for giving their time and talents to voluntarily serve those who can’t afford care. It also extends liability protections provided by the Kansas Tort Claims Act to medical professionals who choose to volunteer serving those in need so that the fear of a frivolous lawsuit doesn’t stand in the way of doing good.
Although Kansas currently requires physicians to participate in 50 hours of continuing medical education annually (which they often pay for out of their own pockets), the law divides continuing education hours into two categories.
Category I hours are the kind we typically think of when it comes to continuing education — the structured, academic lectures or workshops where physicians get up to speed on the latest medical research and techniques. 1 Every Kansas physician is required to earn 20 hours of Category I credit each year. 2 This doesn’t change with HB 2615.
The remaining 30 hours, then, may be earned from Category II, which is considerably more flexible. 3 A physician can earn Category II hours in a number of ways like “participating in journal clubs,” having “patient-centered discussions with other health care practitioners,” and (my personal favorite) “using searchable electronic databases in connection with patient care activities.” 4 The hours that physicians would earn for charitable care provided under HB 2615 fall under Category II, meaning that they will still have to earn the same 20 hours of critical Category I hours in order to maintain licensure. If we allow physicians to earn Category II credits for writing journal articles or Googling a patient’s symptoms, why shouldn’t we reward them with a few Category II hours for voluntarily providing a child with an inhaler to provide relief from his asthma symptoms, or treating a mother’s high blood pressure?
HB 2615 is a proven bi-partisan solution that works to provide care to our friends and neighbors in need by reducing regulatory barriers and unleashing the power of charity to immediately improve access to quality medical care. In 1993, the state of Florida instituted the nation’s first volunteer health services program, which served as the model for HB 2615. Since that time, volunteers in the Sunshine State have provided more than $2.8 BILLION in care to those in need. Each year, nearly 500,000 free patient visits are provided by the state’s top medical professionals valued at more than $300 million. 5 All this happened not through a government program, but because the government recognized that the local community was better equipped to handle a problem, so it got out of the way.
While the data is impressive, HB 2615 is about changing lives. Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with a doctor in Orlando who has dedicated her career to providing volunteer medical services. She told me a powerful story of a truck driver who lost his job because of severe diabetes. Since he was unable to work, he did not have insurance to get the care he needed to get his diabetes under control. Fortunately, he lived in the community where this doctor worked and he was able to get the treatment and care he needed. Eventually, his health improved, which allowed him to go back to work. Thanks to the efforts of this doctor and the volunteer health services program, this man is now working, providing for his family, and has health insurance coverage so that he can stay healthy and working. HB 2615 would bring more stories like this to Kansas.
If Governor Brownback wants to chalk up another win for individual liberty, signing HB 2615 is the best way to do it. This action would send a message that Kansas not only trusts its medical professionals to care for the needs of medically indigent citizens, but that they are better able to provide this care than any government program or insurance company could ever dream.
Andrew Brown is an attorney and Senior Fellow with the Foundation for Government Accountability.
- K.A.R. 100-15- 4(b) ↩
- K.A.R. 100-15- 5(a)(1)(A) ↩
- Id. ↩
- K.A.R. 100-15- 4(c) ↩
- Patrick Ishmael and Jonathan Ingram, “Volunteer Care: Affordable Health care without Growing Government,” The Foundation for Government Accountability, Oct. 27, 2015, available at thefga.org/download/Volunteer-Care-Research-Paper.pdf. ↩
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has another opportunity to promote and protect individual liberty by blocking expansion of an ever-growing regulatory state.
It took a bit of legislative wrangling, but on Sunday May 1 HB 2615 passed the Kansas Senate by a vote of 40 to zero, and the Kansas House of Representatives by 115 to seven. In its final form, the bill allows physicians and dentists to satisfy a portion of their continuing education requirements by providing charity care to medically indigent persons.1
This bill provides an opportunity to examine and reconsider the purpose of occupational licensure. Most fundamentally: In the case of physicians and dentists, we trust them with our health, our very lives. Can’t we trust them to do whatever they believe is necessary to stay up-to-date in their field without the government requiring a specific number of hours of continuing education? By the way, how does the state of Kansas know how many hours of continuing education are necessary to stay current? Is it the same in all branches of medicine and dentistry? That’s what the Kansas regulations imply.
In Kansas, physicians must participate in 50 hours of continuing medical education annually. This education requirement is satisfied by participating in “activity designed to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance of persons licensed to practice a branch of the healing arts.”2
But HB 2615 will let physicians satisfy 20 hours of this requirement by providing 40 hours of health care to needy people. Having doctors perform routine medical care — doing their daily job, in other words — doesn’t seem likely to advance the “knowledge, skills, and professional performance” of doctors, which is the stated goal of the regulation.
We have, therefore, a regulation that has a plausibly reasonable purpose — ensuring that physicians and dentists are up-to-date in professional knowledge — instead being used by the state to “encourage” them to provide free labor.
Charity is good. It’s wonderful. It’s why I regularly engage in charitable activity. But it isn’t charity when government is forcing you to do something. I have a feeling that many healthcare professionals already provide much charitable care. But now Kansas wants them to enter into an agreement with the Secretary of Health and Environment to provide gratuitous services if they want credit for performing care as a way to avoid continuing education requirements. Again: If continuing medical education is necessary, why let it be avoided by providing charity care? By allowing the performance of routine medical care to substitute for continuing education, isn’t the state creating a risk to physicians’ regular patients?
Governor Brownback has shown by his veto of SB 338 this year that he has the capacity to appreciate individual rights. In 2012 his veto of SB 353 shows he has an appreciation of the harm of burdensome regulation.
Now, Governor Brownback has another opportunity to promote individual liberty and block the expansion of an ever-growing regulatory state.
- “The bill would allow charitable healthcare providers and dentists to fulfill one hour of continuing education credit for performance of two hours of gratuitous service to medically indigent persons if the provider signs an agreement with the Secretary of Health and Environment (Secretary) to provide gratuitous services. Healthcare providers would be allowed to fulfill a maximum of 20 continuing educational credits through gratuitous service per licensure period, and dentists would be allowed to fulfill a maximum of 6 continuing educational credits through gratuitous service per licensure period.” Kansas Legislature. HB 2615, Fourth conference committee report brief, May 1, 2016. Available at www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/measures/documents/ccrb_hb2615_03_may1.pdf. ↩
- Kansas State Board of Healing Arts. K.A.R. 100-15. (2016). Ksbha.org. Available at http://www.ksbha.org/regulations/article15.shtml#kar100154. ↩
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Author John Chisholm talks about entrepreneurship, regulation, economics, and education. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 119, broadcast May 8, 2016.