Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey

Special interests will capture south-central Kansas planning

Special interest groups are likely to co-opt the government planning process started in south-central Kansas as these groups see ways to benefit from the plan. The public choice school of economics and political science has taught us how special interest groups seek favors from government at enormous costs to society, and we will see this at play over the next few years. Sedgwick County has voted to participate in a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. While some justified their votes in favor of the plan because "it's only a plan," once the planning process begins, special interests plot to…
Read More

In Kansas, planning will be captured by special interests

The government planning process started in south-central Kansas will likely be captured by special interest groups that see ways to benefit from the plan. The public choice school of economics and political science has taught us how special interest groups seek favors from government at enormous costs to society, and we will see this at play again over the next few years. This week the Sedgwick County Commission voted to participate in a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. While some justified their votes in favor of the plan because "it's only a plan," once the planning process begins, special…
Read More

Pay-to-play laws are needed in Wichita and Kansas

In the wake of scandals, some states and cities have passed "pay-to-play" laws. These laws often prohibit political campaign contributions by those who seek government contracts, or the laws may impose special disclosure requirements. Many people make campaign contributions to candidates whose ideals and goals they share. This is an important part of our political process. But when reading campaign finance reports for members of the Wichita City Council, one sees the same names appearing over and over, often making the maximum allowed contribution to candidates. Their spouses also contribute. And when one looks at the candidates these people contribute…
Read More

Wichita BOE’s Nolan expresses concern

At Monday's meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, board members expressed frustration over the mishandling of a construction contract. It's not clear where fault lies, or whether the board has any interest in finding where that fault should be laid. At the meeting, board member Lanora Nolan expressed dismay that none of the public speakers mentioned the kids. The school district has a larger responsibility than just the education of children, however. It needs to be responsible to taxpayers -- the "adult issues" Nolan bemoans. She also said the delay of the fields is…
Read More

Wichita school board members should not be re-elected

Next Tuesday, four members of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, seek to be elected again to their current posts. These members -- Lanora Nolan, Lynn Rogers, Connie Dietz and Betty Arnold -- are part of a board and school district that is increasingly out-of-step with education reforms that are working in other parts of the country. Their policies and actions are harmful to both Wichita schoolchildren and Wichita taxpayers. At the time when most of the country is starting to realize that quality teachers, not the number of teachers, is what makes the biggest difference…
Read More

For Wichita school contracts, it helps to pay

USD 259, the Wichita public school district, has recently decided on some architects to award contracts to for work funded by the 2008 bond issue. Citizens might have wondered why so many architectural and construction firms had such a high degree of interest in public schools. But these firms know that if you want to get contracts, it's not required, but it sure helps to make some campaign contributions. The following chart shows that while the correlation isn't perfect, it helps to make a large contribution if you want to get a large contract. The outlier data point is Schaefer…
Read More

Wichita school bond finance report omits a big contribution

Yesterday, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Education (CARE) filed their campaign finance report. This group was in favor of the bond issue to benefit USD 259, the Wichita public school district. There are some interesting details in this report, but there's one glaring omission: there's no mention of the campaign contribution made by the taxpayers of USD 259. The administration of USD 259 says they spent nothing on a campaign to pass the bond issue. They say what they did was merely an educational and informational campaign. But what USD 259 did had all the characteristics of a political campaign except…
Read More

Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture Wins. Who Lost?

In what must be the most unsurprising news reported in Wichita this year, Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture was awarded the contract for plan management services for the USD 259 (Wichita public school district) bond issue. Their fee is one percent of the total of the bond issue, or about $3.7 million. If this contract is anything like the one from 2000, they can also bill expenses. This is the same role this firm played in the 2000 bond issue, as reported in Wichita School District’s Favorite Architect Stands to Win Big. It's little too late to ask this question,…
Read More

Jeff Fluhr’s Decision

At the December 2, 2008 meeting of the Wichita City Council, Jeff Fluhr, the new president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, spoke on behalf of the expansion of the Center City South Redevelopment District, commonly known as the downtown Wichita arena TIF district. Attending the meeting with him were several members of that organization's board of directors, headed by Joe Johnson of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture. This board, emblematic of the "good ol' boy" network, is stocked with those who seek to profit in the halls of government power rather than in the marketplace where consumers rule. It's…
Read More

Wichita school district’s favorite architect stands to win big

Shortly after USD 259 (the Wichita school district) passed a bond issue in 2000, a contract was formed between the district and its favorite architectural firm, Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture. The contract, portions of which you can read here, pays this firm one percent of the bond amount for "Project Management Services." Plus expenses, I should add. In addition, Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture earned huge fees for being the architect on many school buildings. Their contract with USD 259 for their role as the architect of Earhart school gives their fee as about $420,000. The construction cost of…
Read More

Raising Wichitans’ Taxes in a Recession is Not A Good Idea

"Democrat Barack Obama says he would delay rescinding President Bush's tax cuts on wealthy Americans if he becomes the next president and the economy is in a recession, suggesting such an increase would further hurt the economy." (Associated Press, September 7, 2008) Contrary to assertions by Wichita school interim superintendent Martin Libhart and school board president Lynn Rogers, Wichita can't tax and spend its way out of a recession that may or may not be forthcoming. Not even Barack Obama believes that, as shown in the news story quoted above. Still, bond issue supporters say that's what happened after the…
Read More

In Wichita schools, smaller classes mean adding on — and subtracting

Today's Wichita Eagle contains a story about the need for additional classroom space to support the initiative of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, to reduce class size. Presenting to the board was Kenton Cox of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, the school district's favorite architect. This firm stands to earn millions in fees and commissions if the bond issue passes. Their motives must always be kept in mind. Smaller class sizes seem like a great idea. Teachers like them, as it means less work for them. Teachers unions like them, as it means more teachers paying union dues.…
Read More

Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture: Wichita School District’s Favorite Architect Has Hand in Everything

Recently I obtained the contract for the construction of Stucky Middle School for USD 259, the Wichita public school district. Something I observed is that Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture was not the architect. Instead, it was Gossen Livingston Associates, Inc. Gossen Livingston was one of the hosts for the kickoff of the "Yes For Kids" pro-bond campaign in August. Was this firm inspired by a sense of civic duty and concern for the children of Wichita? Or by the prospect of earning architectural fees? Something I also noticed in this contract was the naming of an "owner's representative." I…
Read More

Records Requests Sent Today

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

Mark McCormick’s Wichita School Bond Bias

Writing from Scottsdale, Arizona Today's Mark McCormick column in the Wichita Eagle (Opponents of school bond skip specifics) provides an example of this columnist's bias, and how this bias leads to his rapidly losing credibility among Wichitans. Bias is okay for a columnist. Everyone is entitled to a point of view. After reading a few of McCormick's columns you get used to his way of looking at the world. Then you can either read his column, filtering it as you do. Or, like many people tell me, they've simply stopped reading his column. Sometimes they stop the entire newspaper. Here's…
Read More

Wichita School Safe Rooms: At No Cost?

Writing from Scottsdale, Arizona At the September 8, 2008 meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, safe rooms were on the agenda. A few things I learned: It appears that it was by serendipity that the district discovered that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would help pay for the hardening of safe rooms. If not for that discovery, would these safe rooms be under consideration? Joe Johnson, head of the school district's architectural firm Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture gave a presentation highlighting the benefit of FEMA paying $18 million towards hardening the safe…
Read More

Carol Rupe, Kansas School Board Member, Speaks for the Wichita School Bond Issue

In a letter to the Wichita Eagle, Kansas school board member Carol Rupe makes the case for supporting the Wichita school bond issue. It's not remarkable that a member of the public school bureaucracy would support increased spending on schools. Her letter is remarkable, however, in what it says, and what it doesn't say. For example, Ms. Rupe says "I think I know who will be giving money to the group supporting the bond issue." She then lists a few parties, but leaves out a few who have a huge interest in passing the bond issue: architects like Schaefer Johnson…
Read More

Increasing the Wichita School Bond Issue: Why Was Courage Required?

Talking to news media during a break in the meeting of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, on Monday August 11, 2008, Connie Dietz referred to her surprise motion to increase the amount being asked for by $20 million, remarking "I knew what I wanted to do, and I guess I was trying to find the courage to do it." Personally, I want to take Ms. Dietz at her word when she says that her motion was unplanned. But I've talked to quite a few people in the community, and no one I've talked to believes that the board's…
Read More

How to Pass the Wichita School Bond Issue

For tonight's meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, a resolution has been prepared that calls for a vote on a proposed bond issue to be held on November 4, 2008. I don't know if the board will vote to approve this measure or if they will even take a vote tonight, but I suspect the resolution will pass. Randy Scholfield's editorial Put school bond issue to public vote is correct in its assessment of the feckless campaign in favor of the bond issue. But it's not all the fault of the school board or…
Read More

Wichita School Bond Issue: What We Don’t Know

In a recent article I wondered Who Runs the Wichita School Bond Issue Campaign? Reporting in today's Wichita Eagle (Technical ed at center of bond changes) makes me even more concerned about this. At Monday's school board meeting, representatives of Citizens Alliance for Responsible Education (CARE) revealed their recommendations for the revision of a proposed bond issue. The upshot of their recommendation is to eliminate some spending for athletic facilities, replacing it with spending on technical education programs, including an aviation technology-themed magnet high school, perhaps housed in an existing facility. This might be a good idea. It might even…
Read More