Robert Layton

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton

Naftzger Park on the web: Do we care?

Naftzger Park on the web: Do we care?

A badly outdated portion of Wichita's website makes me wonder: Does anyone care? In the Naftzger Park Facebook group that I co-administer, someone recently posted this: Hi! I'm [not] new to Wichita and a friend told me about a quaint and lovely Victorian style park set in the downtown area. I love little parks like these as they're such an endearing surprise in the midst of old industrial buildings and warehouses. After seeing the pictures on your website, I can tell my friend understated the beauty of the park. I can't wait to visit! One problem though, I can't find…
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In Wichita, revision of water history

In Wichita, revision of water history

In 2014 Wichita voters rejected a sales tax which would have provided $250 million to spend on a water project. What were the city's concerns? A recent Wichita Eagle article has ignited some revising of history regarding Wichita's water infrastructure. [1. Swaim, Chance. Wichita’s water plant: ‘Every hour that thing is running, it could fail.’ Wichita Eagle, July 21, 2019. Available at https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article232826482.html.] The article is grim, starting with, "Next time water comes out of your tap, don’t take it for granted. Wichita’s only water treatment plant could fail at any moment." The article reports on the poor condition of…
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On big contracts, Wichita has had problems

On big contracts, Wichita has had problems

As Wichita prepares to award a large construction contract, let's hope the city acts in an ethical manner this time. As the Wichita City Council prepares to make a decision regarding a contract for the new baseball stadium, the council's past reputation in these matters can't be overlooked. The controversy over the stadium contract has been covered by the Wichita Eagle: "The Wichita City Council hasn’t officially approved a design-build team for the city’s new $75 million Minor League ballpark, but there’s already been a protest over the recommended group. ... At issue in a protest by a competing team…
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Wichita being sued, alleging improper handling of bond repayment savings

Wichita being sued, alleging improper handling of bond repayment savings

A lawsuit claims that when the City of Wichita refinanced its special assessment bonds, it should have passed on the savings to the affected taxpayers, and it did not do that. A lawsuit filed in Sedgwick County District Court charges that the City of Wichita improperly handled the savings realized when it refinanced special assessment bonds at a lower interest rate. The case is 2018-CV-001567-CF, filed on July 13, 2018, and available here. The suit names David L. Snodgrass and Leslie J. Snodgrass as plaintiffs, and a long list of defendants, namely: The City of Wichita, Kansas Wichita City Manager…
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Lawrence has it. Wichita doesn’t.

Lawrence has it. Wichita doesn’t.

Despite promises, Wichita fails to inform citizens on important activities of its government. For several years, the Kansas city of Lawrence has published an economic development report letting citizens know about the activities of the city in this area. The most recent edition may be viewed here. The Lawrence report contains enough detail and length that an executive summary is provided. This report is the type of information that cities should be providing, but the City of Wichita does not do this. It's not like the City of Wichita does not realize the desirability of providing citizens with information. In…
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Wichita to look outside for management of engagement

Wichita to look outside for management of engagement

Wichita decides to have someone else conduct public engagement. At the November 7, 2017 meeting of the Wichita City Council, the council will be asked to approve a request for proposal (RFP) document relating to Century II. The RFP is a document that spells out what the city wants done relating to public engagement regarding the future of Century II. Specifically, interested parties are invited to "design and implement a transparent public engagement process that involves a broad cross-section of Wichita residents in a discussion of interests related to the future of Century II as a performing arts center." A…
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A Wichita social media town hall

A Wichita social media town hall

A City of Wichita town hall meeting ends in less than nine minutes, with a question pending and unanswered. As part of its engagement with citizens, the City of Wichita holds social media town hall meetings. On June 20, 2107, there was a Facebook town hall on the topic of economic development featuring Assistant City Manager Scot Rigby. His charge is "developing and implementing a coordinated and comprehensive development services program and for developing, implementing and overseeing economic development, redevelopment and real estate programs and projects." He's worked for the city for two years. [2. City of Wichita. Assistant City…
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Wichita WaterWalk contract not followed, again

Wichita WaterWalk contract not followed, again

Wichita city hall failed to uphold the terms of a development agreement from five years ago, not monitoring contracts that protect the public interest. Two weeks ago a Wichita Eagle article reported on a 2002 public-private partnership that called for the private-sector company to submit an annual report to the city. But the company did not submit the reports, and the city didn't ask for them. The city did after the Eagle inquired. [1. Lefler, Dion. WaterWalk profit-sharing: 15 years, zero dollars for Wichita. Wichita Eagle, July 8, 2017. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article160147944.html.] Much of the Eagle article described why current…
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Wichita check register

Wichita check register

A records request to the City of Wichita results in data as well as insight into the city’s attitude towards empowering citizens with data. As part of an ongoing transparency project, I asked the City of Wichita for check register data. I’ve made the data available in a visualization using Tableau Public. Click here to access the visualization. Analyzing this data requires a bit of local knowledge. For example, there is a vendor named “Visit Wichita” that started to receive monthly payments in March 2015. What about payments for January and February? Those were made to a vendor named “Go…
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Year in Review: 2016

Year in Review: 2016

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;…
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Wichita doesn’t have this

Wichita doesn’t have this

A small Kansas city provides an example of what Wichita should do. For several years, the Kansas city of Lawrence has published an economic development report letting citizens know about the activities of the city in this area. The most recent edition may be viewed here. The Lawrence report contains enough detail and length that an executive summary is provided. This is the type of information that cities should be providing, but the City of Wichita does not do this. It's not like the City of Wichita does not realize the desirability of providing citizens with information. In fact, Wichitans…
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Wichita: A conversation for a positive community and city agenda

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. Notes were taken by an assistant and can be viewed here. View below, or click here to view in high definition at YouTube. Videography and production by Paul Soutar.
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Empowering and engaging Wichitans, or not

Empowering and engaging Wichitans, or not

In this excerpt from WichitaLiberty.TV: The Wichita City Manager says "we will continue to empower and engage citizens by providing information necessary to keep them informed on the actions their government is taking on their behalf." So what actually happens when you ask the city for data, including data that many governmental agencies make freely available? View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Originally broadcast December 13, 2015.
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Wichita checkbook register

Wichita checkbook register

A records request to the City of Wichita results in data as well as insight into the city’s attitude towards empowering citizens with data. I asked the City of Wichita for checkbook spending records and received data for 2015 through September 25, as I asked. I’ve made the data available in a visualization using Tableau Public. Click here to access the visualization. (A visual guide for using the visualization is at the end of this article.) Analyzing this data requires a bit of local knowledge. For example, there is a vendor named “Visit Wichita” that started to receive monthly payments…
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Wichita property tax delinquency problem not solved

Wichita property tax delinquency problem not solved

Despite a government tax giveaway program, problems with delinquent special assessment taxes in Wichita have become worse. It's surprising to read reporting in the Wichita Eagle that the city is owed millions in delinquent special assessment taxes. (City of Wichita owed $4.8 million in delinquent special assessments, August 15, 2015) That's because in 2012 the city adopted a program that rebated property taxes to buyers of new homes. The goal of the program was twofold: To help builders sell homes, and to help the city collect delinquent special assessment taxes. In February of that year, according to city documents, "Current…
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Wichita’s WaterWalk apartment deal

From August 2012, an episode of cronyism in Wichita. On Tuesday the Wichita City Council will consider the type of taxpayer-funded giveaway that voters have shown they don't like. How council members vote may set the stage for city elections next March and April. Tuesday's item involves a proposed apartment development on the west bank of the Arkansas River across from the downtown WaterWalk development. The apartment developer is WaterWalk LLC, whose manager is Jack P. DeBoer. The highlights of the deal include: 1. The lease of 4.4 acres of city-owned land for $1 per year, for the next 93…
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Wichita economic development policies questioned

Wichita economic development policies questioned

One of the themes of the recent Wichita mayoral campaign was the need to restore trust in city hall. Following, from April 2013, an example of how city hall has created the trust deficit. Although this story was covered nowhere but here, it it exemplary of how Wichita city hall operates. Since then the city's economic development director has retired, but we have the same city manager and nearly all the same council members, with one having moved up to mayor. For an update on this story, see Wichita: No such document. At Tuesday's meeting of the Wichita City Council,…
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No-bid contracts still passed by Wichita city council

No-bid contracts still passed by Wichita city council

Despite a policy change, the Wichita city council still votes for no-bid contracts paid for with taxpayer funds. In the current campaign for Wichita mayor, one candidates says he never has voted for no-bid contracts: "[Longwell] also takes issue with the claim he has ever voted for any no-bid contract, something he says his voting record will back up. 'That's the beauty of having a voting record,' he says." Mayoral candidate Williams decries ‘crony capitalism’ of critics, Wichita Business Journal, March 12, 2015 We don't have to look very hard to find an example that contradicts Longwell's claim of never…
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Wichita drops taxpayer protection clause

Wichita drops taxpayer protection clause

To protect itself against self-defeating appeals of property valuation in tax increment financing districts, the City of Wichita once included a protective clause in developer agreements. But this consideration is not present in two proposed agreements. When the Wichita Eagle reported that a downtown developer represented himself as an agent of the city in order to cut his taxes on publicly owned property he leases in the Old Town Cinema Plaza, city officials were not pleased. The property in question is located in a tax increment financing district. Incremental tax revenue from the property is earmarked for paying off bonds…
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For Wichita city hall, an educational opportunity

For Wichita city hall, an educational opportunity

Will Wichita city officials and sales tax boosters attend an educational event produced by a leading Kansas public policy institute? It will be an opportunity for city officials to demonstrate their commitment to soliciting input from the community. Wichita voters will face a choice in November -- whether to vote for or against a proposed sales tax of one cent per dollar. Wichita city council members and city hall bureaucrats say they have spent great effort educating Wichitans on issues relevant to the sales tax. Members of the "Yes Wichita" group are holding events to educate the public on why…
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