Tag Archives: Sedgwick county government

The use of sales tax proceeds in Wichita

Must the City of Wichita spend its share of Sedgwick County sales tax proceeds in a specific way?

Sedgwick County collects a one-cent per dollar retail sales tax. The county keeps some, then distributes the rest to cities. On Facebook, a question arose regarding how Wichita may spend its share of the sales tax proceeds. Couldn’t some funds that go towards building Kellogg be rerouted to, say, fund the operations of Wichita’s public library system?

A former city council member argued that “As it stands, Wichita cannot spend its allocated portion of that sales tax on anything but roads and bridges.” I posted that there was a Wichita city ordinance that said how the sales tax is to be spent in Wichita, and that ordinance could be modified or canceled. The same former council member admonished me to call a specific person in the city budget office and “he will clarify for you that the City Council doesn’t have the ability to override the Sedgwick County sales tax referendum language.”

I looked for the referendum language. The document is available in Sedgwick County’s election document system. The canvass of the special sales tax election was held on August 2, 1985, and this was reported:

The returns of the election were presented to the Board as received from the official conducting the election on the following proposition:

SHALL THE FOLLOWING BE ADOPTED?

A proposition to enact a countywide retailers’ sales tax in Sedgwick County, Kansas, in the amount of one percent (1%), such tax to take effect on October 1, 1985, pursuant to K.S.A. 1984 Supp. 12-187.

The language of the referendum is silent regarding how the tax revenue may or may not be spent.

Certificate of canvass, portion. Click for larger.
There are, however, other considerations. One, according to Mark Manning, the city’s budget officer, is that the city has borrowed money, with proceeds from the sales tax pledged for repayment.

Second, there is a Wichita city ordinance, number 41-185. It pledges half the city’s share of the sales tax towards property tax reduction. Then, it states: “… and pledges the remaining one half of the one percent (1%) of any revenues received to Wichita road, highway and bridge projects including right-of-way acquisitions.” This was adopted on August 25, 1992 and replaced an existing ordinance that said the same.

The 1992 ordinance also holds this, in section II: “It is the specific intent of the Governing Body of the City of Wichita that the City of Wichita continue to use the tax revenues as outlined in this ordinance and that this pledge be continued as a matter of faith and trust between the people and the present and future Governing Bodies of the City of Wichita.”

We often hear that half the city’s share of the sales tax is pledged for Kellogg construction. In actuality it is pledged to “Wichita road, highway and bridge projects.”

But really, it isn’t even pledged to that. The pledge is in the form of a city ordinance. It may be changed at any time at the will of four council members.

Yes, the ordinance says the city intends to continue using the tax revenues in the same way “as a matter of faith and trust.” Unfortunately, that trust has been destroyed in many ways, one being council members who tell us things that aren’t true.

From Pachyderm: Sedgwick County Commission candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Republican Candidates for Sedgwick County Commission. Appearing, in order of their initial appearance, were:

  • Richard Ranzau, District 4.
  • Pete Meitzner, District 1.
  • Jim Howell, District 5.

This was recorded September 7, 2018.

Shownotes

Wichita, not that different

We have a lot of neat stuff in Wichita. Other cities do, too.

In New York Magazine, Oriana Schwindt writes in “The Unbearable Sameness of Cities: What my journey across the United States taught me about indie cafés and Ikea lights.”

I couldn’t stop noticing. I’d go on to see the same in Colorado Springs, in Fresno, in Indianapolis, in Oklahoma City, in Nashville.

And it wasn’t just the coffee shops — bars, restaurants, even the architecture of all the new housing going up in these cities looked and felt eerily familiar. Every time I walked into one of these places, my body would give an involuntary shudder. I would read over my notes for a city I’d visited months prior and find that several of my observations could apply easily to the one I was currently in.

In his commentary on this article, Aaron M. Renn wrote: “While every company tries its hardest to convince you of how much different and better it is than every other company in its industry, every city tries its hardest to convince you that it is exactly the same as every other city that’s conventionally considered cool.”

Later in the same piece, he wrote:

A challenge these places face is that the level of improvement locally has been so high, locals aren’t aware of how much the rest of the country has also improved. So they end up with an inflated sense of how much better they are doing versus the market. … People in these Midwest cities did not even know what was going on in the next city just 100 miles down the road. They were celebrating all these downtown condos being built. But the same condos were being built everywhere. … But even today people in most cities don’t really seem to get it that every city now has this stuff. Their city has dramatically improved relative to its own recent past, but it’s unclear how much it’s improved versus peers if at all.

Does this — the sameness of everywhere — apply to Wichita? Sure. Everyone thinks Wichita is different from everywhere else. We have a flag! A warehouse district! A Frank Lloyd Wright house! The NCAA basketball tournament! We’re (probably) getting a new baseball team and stadium!

We even have, as Schwindt does in cataloging what you’ll find in every single city mid-size and above, “Public murals that dare you to pass them without posing for a pic for the ‘gram.”

So many other places have this stuff, too.

It isn’t bad that Wichita has these things. But the danger, as Renn notes, is that these things don’t distinguish Wichita. As much as we wish otherwise, these things are probably not going to reverse the course of the declining Wichita economy. If you don’t believe the Wichita economy is declining, consider that our GDP in 2016 was smaller than in the year before. Wichita metro employment growth was nonexistent during 2017, meaning it’s unlikely that GDP grew by much. (In January 2017 total non-farm employment in the Wichita MSA was 295,000. In January 2018 it was the same. See chart here.)

Even things that might really have a positive effect on the economy, like the Wichita State University Innovation Campus, are far from unique to Wichita. But developments like this are pitched to Wichitans as things that will really put Wichita on the map. A prosperous future is assured, we are told.

It’s great to love your city. But we can’t afford to be lulled into complacency — a false recognition of achievement — when all the data says otherwise.

We need a higher measure of honesty from our leaders. It might start with the mayor and the chair of the county commission, but the mayor seems terribly misinformed, as is the commission chair. Institutions that we ought to respect, like the local Chamber of Commerce, have presided over failing economic development but refuse to accept responsibility or even to acknowledge the facts. Worse, the Chamber spends huge amounts of money on blatantly dishonest campaigns against those candidates that don’t support its programs. Those programs, by the way, haven’t worked, if the goal of the Chamber is to grow the Wichita economy.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Sedgwick County and Wichita issues

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The end of a Sedgwick County Commission election, the Wichita Eagle editorializes on school spending and more taxes, and Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell seems misinformed on the Wichita economy. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 207, broadcast August 26, 2018.

Shownotes

Sedgwick County jobs, first quarter 2018

For the first quarter of 2018, the number of jobs in Sedgwick County grew, but at a rate slower than the nation.

Data released today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor shows an improving labor picture in Sedgwick County, but one growing at one-fifth the rate of the nation.

For the first quarter of 2018 there were 12,500 establishments in Sedgwick County employing 247,800 workers. That is an increase in jobs of 0.3 percent from the same time the previous year, a rate which ranked 293 among the nation’s 350 largest counties. For the same period, the national job growth rate was 1.6 percent.

(Ranked by labor force, Sedgwick County is the 120th largest county.)

The average weekly wage was $967, an increase of 2.4 percent over the year, that change ranking 228 among the same 350 largest counties. The U.S. average weekly wage increased 3.7 percent over the same period.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Primary election results, part two

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Hosts Karl Peterjohn and Bob Weeks continue reporting on some of the results of the August 7, 2018 primary election in Kansas. View below, or click here to view on YouTube. Episode 206, broadcast August 19, 2018.

Since this episode was recorded, the Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican primary manual recount was completed. There were no discrepancies between the results reported after the canvass and the results from the recount. The result is Hugh Nicks 3,438 votes, and Richard Ranzau 3,513 votes.

Taxers prefer Hugh Nicks for Sedgwick County Commission

Those who supported higher sales taxes in Wichita also support one Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican candidate exclusively.

In 2014 the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, now known as the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, managed a campaign to persuade voters to institute a sales tax in the City of Wichita. The sales tax was to be one cent per dollar for five years, estimated to raise about $400 million in total. Of that, $250 million was to pay for enhancing the ASR water supply project, $80 million for job creation, and lesser amounts for bus transit and street repair.

The sales tax failed to pass, with 62 percent of voters saying no. Since then, the wisdom of voters in rejecting the tax has become evident. For example, the city has developed a plan to provide the same benefits for water supply for over $100 million less.

During the 2014 campaign the sales tax boosters raised campaign money through an organization named Yes Wichita Inc. Over one hundred people and companies contributed $321,527 in cash, and the Chamber of Commerce added $50,818 as an in-kind contribution.

These people and companies contributed money to persuade voters to raise taxes in Wichita. In some cases, a lot of money: $100,818 from the Wichita Chamber of Commerce, $40,000 from Intrust Bank, and $25,000 from Westar Energy.

Some of these people and companies have also contributed to a candidate for the Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican primary election. I examined campaign finance reports for matches. It isn’t an exact science. The data is not filed in a way that can be readily analyzed by a computer in a spreadsheet or database. Sometimes donations are made in a company name, and sometimes by owners or executives of the same company. There are spelling errors and variations in how company names are reported. So I may have failed to notice matches, and there is a small chance that I made erroneous matches.

Based on my research, I found that all the pro-tax people and companies who also contributed to Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican candidates had one thing in common: They contributed to Hugh Nicks exclusively. His opponent, Richard Ranzau, received no contributions from the pro-tax people and companies, based on my analysis.

Separately, the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC has spent $45,148 on political candidates through August 1 of this year. Of that, $36,665 was spent in favor of one candidate, Hugh Nicks. That’s 81.2 percent spent on one candidate from an organization that contributed $100,818 towards higher taxes. (See Wichita Chamber PAC spends heavily for Hugh Nicks.)

What does this mean: Those who want higher sales taxes in Wichita contribute to Hugh Nicks for Sedgwick County Commission, and he alone? It is a coincidence, mere serendipity?

In his campaign literature, Hugh Nicks says “Taxes Are High Enough.”

But the evidence is clear: Those who want higher taxes prefer Hugh Nicks.

Following, a table showing the commonality between contributors to the Yes Wichita sales tax campaign in 2014 and Hugh Nicks. Click for a larger version.

Wichita Chamber PAC spends heavily for Hugh Nicks

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC dedicates a large portion of its spending on placing its crony in office.

In the contest for Sedgwick County Commission District 4, the Wichita Chamber of Commerce is spending heavily on one candidate.

Through its political action committee, the Chamber has spent $45,148 on political candidates through August 1 of this year. (There could be more spending before the August 7 primary. We don’t know.)

Of that, $36,665 was spent in favor of one candidate, Hugh Nicks. (The Chamber PAC’s finance report designates these expenditures as in favor of Nicks.)

That’s 81.2 percent spent on one candidate.

Click for larger.

Besides the spending on Nicks, the Chamber PAC sent money to legislative and statewide candidates. Most contributions were for $500, with the most notable exception being Governor Jeff Colyer at $2,000.

Really, the Chamber’s spending hasn’t been so much in favor of Hugh Nicks as it has been against his opponent Richard Ranzau.

And this campaigning by the chamber has been largely based on outright lies and absurd leaps of logic regarding Ranzau’s record. Their record is documented on the pages of Voice for Liberty. (Click here to read the articles.)

Instead of denouncing the lies and distortions told on his behalf by the Wichita Chamber PAC, candidate Hugh Nicks embraces the PAC’s endorsement.

We’d like to be able to trust the Wichita Chamber of Commerce. We want to trust our business and civic leaders. We want the Chamber and its surrogates and affiliates like Greater Wichita Partnership to succeed in building the Wichita economy.

But the Chamber is shaming itself in this campaign, and spending a lot of money to do that.

It would be one thing if the Chamber and its surrogates were successful in economic development efforts in the region. But if you’ve been following analyst James Chung — and it seems like everyone has — he’s delivered a sobering message: The Wichita economy has not been growing. “[Wichita has been] stuck in neutral for about three decades, with basically no growth, amidst the landscape of a growing U.S. economy,” he said. (In fact, in 2016 the Wichita economy shrank from the previous year, and numbers for 2017 don’t look much better.)

Chung says we need to change our ways. In his June visit he said, and the Chung Report wrote, “Every market signal points to the same conclusion: The manner in which Wichita is operating during this critical point in our history is just not working.”

When James Chung (and others) says our manner of operation is not working, it’s the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and its ecosystem that must assume a large portion of blame.

Having failed the people of Wichita, now we know just how much the Chamber wants to put Hugh Nicks on the Sedgwick County Commission.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Joseph Ashby on Kansas elections

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita talk radio pioneer Joseph Ashby shares his thoughts on the upcoming Kansas primary election. We cover the Secretary of State, Governor, and Sedgwick County Commission. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 204, broadcast August 4, 2018.

Shownotes

Wichita Chamber PAC spending on Hugh Nicks

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC dedicates a large portion of its spending on placing its crony in office.

There is an updated version of this containing data from new reports. Click here.

In the contest for Sedgwick County Commission District 4, the Wichita Chamber of Commerce is spending heavily on one candidate.

Through its political action committee, the Chamber has spent $39,925 on political candidates through July 26 of this year. (There could be more spending before the August 7 primary. We don’t know.)

Of that, $31,442 was spent in favor of one candidate, Hugh Nicks. (The Chamber PAC’s finance report designates these expenditures as in favor of Nicks.)

That’s 78.8 percent spent on one candidate.

Besides the spending on Nicks, the Chamber PAC sent money to legislative and statewide candidates. Most contributions were for $500, with the most notable exception being Governor Jeff Colyer at $2,000.

Really, the Chamber’s spending hasn’t been so much in favor of Hugh Nicks as it has been against his opponent Richard Ranzau.

And this campaigning by the chamber has been largely based on outright lies and farcical leaps of logic regarding Ranzau’s record. Their record is documented on the pages of Voice for Liberty.

We’d like to be able to trust the Wichita Chamber of Commerce. We want to trust our business and civic leaders. We want the Chamber and its surrogates and affiliates like Greater Wichita Partnership to succeed in building the Wichita economy.

But the Chamber is shaming itself in this campaign, and spending a lot of money to do that.

It would be one thing if the Chamber and its surrogates were successful in economic development efforts in the region. But if you’ve been following analyst James Chung — and it seems like everyone has — he’s delivered a sobering message: The Wichita economy has not been growing. “[Wichita has been] stuck in neutral for about three decades, with basically no growth, amidst the landscape of a growing U.S. economy,” he said. (In fact, in 2016 the Wichita economy shrank from the previous year, and numbers for 2017 don’t look much better.)

Chung says we need to change our ways. In his June visit he said, and the Chung Report wrote, “Every market signal points to the same conclusion: The manner in which Wichita is operating during this critical point in our history is just not working.”

When James Chung (and others) says our manner of operation is not working, it’s the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and its ecosystem that must assume a large portion of blame.

Having failed the people of Wichita, now we know just how much the Chamber wants to put Hugh Nicks on the Sedgwick County Commission.

Joseph Ashby endorses Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau

Conservative grassroots activist and pioneering radio host Joseph Ashby explains why Richard Ranzau is the best choice for Sedgwick County Commission District 4. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Hugh Nicks on character and respect in Sedgwick County

In the campaign for a Sedgwick County Commission position, character is an issue.

On his Facebook campaign page for Sedgwick County Commission, candidate Hugh Nicks wrote: “This election is about numerous issues, with jobs being #1. But quality of character is a strong second.” 1

A value that Hugh Nicks promotes on his campaign website and in printed material is “Debate respectfully.” 2

It’s richly ironic that Nicks makes character an issue, because his campaigning is rife with outright lies and logic-twisting distortions about his opponent Richard Ranzau.

And if Hugh Nicks values respectful debate, he could elevate the discourse by stopping the lies.

This campaign has gone beyond the usual character-bashing and self-promotion we expect.

It’s not only Nicks himself that is campaigning dishonestly. The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC is also lying and distorting.

It’s true that the Chamber PAC is campaigning for Nicks (and against Ranzau) independently. The PAC speaks for itself.

But if Hugh Nicks is aware of the dishonest campaigning by the Chamber PAC, there’s nothing to stop him from publicly denouncing and disavowing the Chamber. That would be a positive display of character, showing he values truth more than holding political office.

(If Nicks is not aware, or if he doesn’t realize the Chamber PAC’s campaigning is dishonest, that itself is a problem.)

Instead, Nicks embraces and promotes the Chamber PAC’s endorsement.

Hugh Nicks, should he lose the election next week, will fade from public attention. But the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and its PAC won’t. The Chamber will still be involved in civic life and political campaigns.

That’s too bad. The people of Wichita want to trust their business and civic leaders. We want the Chamber and its surrogates and affiliates like Greater Wichita Partnership to succeed in shepherding the Wichita economy.

But the Chamber is shaming itself in this campaign.

The record of the Hugh Nicks campaign

Allegation: On July 23, 2018, Hugh Nicks wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page: “Richard Ranzau has spent the last 8 YEARS saying ‘NO’ to our safety. Voting against support for law enforcement.” An article from the Wichita Business Journal is then linked to. The subject of the article was the proposed WSU Law Enforcement Training Center.

Truth: The article reports that Richard Ranzau and all commissioners voted to defer a decision on the training center for one week. Then, Ranzau and all commissioners voted in favor of building the center. For more on this, see Hugh Nicks and the law enforcement training center.

Allegation: Hugh Nicks wrote this on his campaign’s Facebook page, referring to Richard Ranzau: “And even questioned the need for handicapped-accessible recreational options.”

Truth: Richard Ranzau asked questions about a proposed ADA-compliant fishing dock with a cost of $53,500. The next week commissioners were told that the dock cost was just $26,162, with other things like site prep, a sidewalk, and an access road adding up to $53,500. With this additional information, Ranzau and all commissioners approved the project. For more on this, see Hugh Nicks and the Sedgwick County fishing dock.

Allegation: In a campaign mailing paid for by the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, Richard Ranzau is criticized: “Ranzau also suggested that Wichita annex a large local job-creating aerospace employer to generate more tax revenue.”

Truth: This claim is based on a farcical interpretation of what the commissioner actually said. Richard Ranzau did not suggest that Wichita annex Spirit Aerosystems. He merely illustrated that property taxes within the City of Wichita are higher than those outside the city. For more on this, see Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC mailing.

Allegation. On his Facebook page, Hugh Nicks accuses Richard Ranzau of “Voting against our community’s children and babies.”

Truth: Regarding the WIC program, no needy women or children went without the ability to use this program. The commission voted to reduce spending on administrative costs. The commission does not have the authority to set qualifications for participating in the program, nor does the commission set the level of benefits, that is, the amount of money and services participants receive. The county merely administers the program according to federal and state guidelines. For more on this, see Hugh Nicks: Misinformed, or lying?

Allegation: On Facebook, Hugh Nicks wrote: “He was the ONLY ‘NO’ vote for funding the Greater Wichita Partnership.”

Truth: The article Nicks uses as evidence states: “Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau took on the Greater Wichita Partnership on Wednesday, questioning why the public-private economic development coalition needs more county money to focus its strategy.” This extra funding was to pay for a consultant to focus on a strategic plan and regional strategy. It wasn’t for funding the basic operations of GWP.

Allegation: On Facebook, Hugh Nicks wrote: “He was the ONLY ‘NO’ vote for the county’s investment at Spirit AeroSystems to create 1,000 new high-paying jobs.”

Truth: In a television interview, Ranzau said that no economic development official could tell him that the incentives were necessary for the Spirit project to proceed in Wichita. One fellow commissioner said the incentive was needed to “show Spirit we care.”


Notes

  1. Nicks For County Commission Facebook page, July 27, 2018. Available at https://www.facebook.com/NicksForCountyCommission/posts/2027095350699179.
  2. http://www.nicks4commissioner.com/, viewed August 1, 2018.

Hugh Nicks: Misinformed, or lying?

Analysis of criticism by Hugh Nicks, a candidate for Sedgwick County Commission, demonstrates that the candidate is either misinformed or lying.

On his Facebook page, Sedgwick County Commission candidate Hugh Nicks accuses Richard Ranzau of “Voting against our community’s children and babies.” As evidence, Nicks supplies a link to an article in the Wichita Eagle. 1

What’s notable about this claim is this paragraph from the article Nicks uses as evidence:

In 2015, Ranzau and other commissioners voted to cut the federal Women, Infants and Children program grant by $320,000 to $1.9 million. He said at the time that WIC could be more efficient because it was serving fewer clients. The county health department used only $1.83 million of the $2.15 million it was awarded the year before. 2

Note that the amount Ranzau (and others) voted to spend on WIC was slightly more than what was spent the year before, at a time when WIC demand was declining, as there were fewer clients. At the time, KMUW Radio reported: “Citing a recent decline in WIC participants that coincides with an increase in employees with the program, the commission’s majority voted to accept only a portion of the grant, saying the full amount wasn’t needed.” 3

So no needy women or children went without the ability to use this program. The commission voted to reduce spending on administrative costs. The commission does not have the authority to set qualifications for participating in the program, nor does the commission set the level of benefits, that is, the amount of money and services participants receive. The county merely administers the program according to federal and state guidelines.

What does Hugh Nicks think of this? In the Eagle article he uses in his Facebook post, the reporter wrote this about Nicks:

He also called the WIC program “one of the saddest things I’ve seen recently.”

“When it comes to infants and children, I’m not too worried about politics, but I am concerned about children’s health and safety,” Nicks said. “The commission has a duty to protect the most vulnerable among us, particularly when they have nowhere else to turn.”

Since no women and children lost their benefits or had them cut, it’s difficult to see why Nicks is sad.

Is he concerned that the county trimmed administrative costs? Consider some of the values listed in Nicks’ campaign literature: “Ask tough questions” and “Be conservative with finances.”

That is what the commission did, under Richard Ranzau’s chairmanship. Trimming administrative costs — no matter who is paying them — is financially conservative.

Those savings came from “asking tough questions,” a value Nicks upholds. Yet for doing that, Nicks blasts the commission, including Ranzau, as “sad” and “political.”

Voters ought to ask: Is Hugh Nicks merely uninformed, or is he lying? It might be tempting to dismiss these remarks as having been made by an uninformed candidate. But Nicks says he has been running since October 2017 so that he can learn about the issues. 4

If we eliminate “uninformed,” we’re left with “lying.”

Nearby, see Richard Ranzau speak on this issue. (Hugh Nicks and his campaign surrogates were also invited, but would not appear.) Or, click here to view at YouTube.

Following, some excerpts from the commission meeting where this matter was discussed: 5

Ms. Adrienne Byrne-Lutz, Director of the Health Department: “The Health Department has provided WIC services for well over 40 years, and the program is funded entirely through the United States Department of Agriculture that passes through KDHE.”

Later:

Chairman Ranzau said, “Our assigned caseload is going down 9.88 percent, expenditures going up 5.51 percent, and we’re actually combining two, last year there were two separate, the WIC and then the breastfeeding.”

Ms. Adrienne Byrne-Lutz said, “That’s correct.”

Later:

Chairman Ranzau said, “Historically, the past, we tend to spend less than what we’re actually given. Like the last two years, we spent about $320,000 less than what we were given to begin with?”

Ms. Adrienne Byrne-Lutz said, “Well, we don’t get a lump sum from WIC. We just get what we spend.”

Chairman Ranzau said, “But we spent $320,000 less than what we were authorized to spend?”

Ms. Adrienne Byrne-Lutz said, “Yes.”


Notes

  1. Nicks For County Commission Facebook page, July 20, 2018. Available at https://www.facebook.com/NicksForCountyCommission/photos/a.1633354576739927.1073741832.1591968844211834/2011959645546083/.
  2. Tidd, Jason. Ranzau, County Commission challengers spar over grant funding in health forum.” *Wichita Eagle, July 17, 2018. Available at https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article215075195.html.
  3. Sandefur, Sean. Sedgwick Co. Commissioners Approve Reduced WIC Grant. Available at http://www.kmuw.org/post/sedgwick-co-commissioners-approve-reduced-wic-grant.
  4. “You may wonder why I’m announcing so early, since the Republican Primary for the County Commission seat isn’t until August 2018. The reason is simple. I like to do my homework. I want to learn about the way Sedgwick County governs, and the rationale behind the decisions that have been made. I want to learn about the issues that are most important to the people in the 4th District. I think serving as County Commissioner is too important to take an on-the-job-training approach, and I don’t want to be on a learning curve at the taxpayers’ expense.” Nicks4commissioner.com. News. October 19, 2017. Available at http://www.nicks4commissioner.com/news.html. .
  5. Sedgwick County Commission. Meeting Minutes, October 7, 2015. Available at https://sedgwickcounty.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=436793&GUID=B8AC30D4-8245-4631-A804-0690C15BC9CC.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Sedgwick County Commission District 4

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Candidates and parties involved in the Republican party primary for Sedgwick County Commission District 4. Efforts were made to reach both candidates plus representatives of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC, as it is advertising in this contest. Only candidate Richard Ranzau agreed to appear. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 203, broadcast July 28, 2018.

Hugh Nicks and the law enforcement training center

Sedgwick County Commission candidate Hugh Nicks again falsely criticizes his opponent for living up to the values Nicks himself proclaims.

On July 23, 2018, Hugh Nicks wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page: “Richard Ranzau has spent the last 8 YEARS saying ‘NO’ to our safety. Voting against support for law enforcement.” An article from the Wichita Business Journal is then linked. 1

Nicks is a candidate for the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners, District 4. His opponent is the incumbent Richard Ranzau.

The article the Nicks campaign uses reports on deliberations on the new Law Enforcement Training Center in the spring of 2016. 2 But: There are some problem with Hugh Nicks’ presentation and interpretation of this matter.

First, the action described in the article is “tabled.” This merely postponed a decision to another day. No one voted either yes or no.

Second, it wasn’t postponed for long. The next week the Sedgwick County Commission held a joint meeting with the Wichita City Council to discuss the training center. 3 The result of this meeting was unanimous approval, as reported by the Wichita Eagle: “Sedgwick County and the city of Wichita unanimously approved a letter of intent Tuesday to build a new training center at Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus.” 4

The next day, at the regular meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission, the training center was considered. 5 In his remarks from the bench, Commissioner Ranzau summarized: “I do believe this is the best deal we can get given the circumstances, certainly for the county, law enforcement and fire folks, it’s a tremendous step forward. I appreciate our legal council and all the work they did as well on this and the County Manager. I know there’s been a lot of discussion, a lot of stuff going on, so appreciate that, and I’ll be supportive of this motion today.”

When a vote was taken, all commissioners voted in favor.

Now that you know the entire story, reconsider the claim that Hugh Nicks made regarding Ranzau and the law enforcement training center: “Voting against support for law enforcement.”

That simply isn’t true. Not even close.

So: Why is Hugh Nicks critical of Ranzau on this matter? Why is he creating lies?

Consider some of the values listed in Nicks’ campaign literature:

“Be conservative with finances”

“Decisions have consequences. Make them wisely.”

This is what Richard Ranzau did. He favored, as you can read below, a less expensive option — the fiscally conservative option — but voted for the compromise position so that the project could proceed.

Furthermore, the Wichita Business Journal article that Hugh Nicks relies on as a source holds this: “On Wednesday, commissioners — particularly Chairman Jim Howell and Richard Ranzau — expressed concern about selecting a bid that wasn’t the lowest. MWCB has the second-highest cost of the four proposals, county documents show.”

Here, Ranzau was concerned about a potentially unwise decision, that is, not accepting the lowest bid. That’s fiscally conservative and wise.

So exactly what problems does Hugh Nicks have with Richard Ranzau?


Following, an excerpt from the minutes of the meeting of the Sedgwick County Board of Commissioners on May 18, 2016:

Commissioner Ranzau said, “As Commissioner Peterjohn alluded to, this particular attempt started basically back in July of 2015 when the mayor informed us that they would be willing to work with us on an RFP (Request for Proposal) together to move this forward. This particular effort has lasted 10 months. Now, that’s about four months longer than what I had anticipated, but never nevertheless, compared to the 30-year process that’s been going on overall, you can consider this almost lightning speed for government actions. Nevertheless, we are finally here at the point that we’re going to make a decision on the Law Enforcement Training Center, and I appreciate the effort of staff both here at the County and at the City, as well as all the Law Enforcement personnel who participated in getting us to this point.

“I think we have two options that will fit the needs. The WSU option would fit the need so would, I believe, the Commerce Building, which is over $3 million cheaper. That would be the particular one that I would have preferred to go to, because I think it does meet all of our community needs at the lowest cost possible for the taxpayers. That being said, while this may not be the most cost effective option that we could have gotten, it’s certainly probably the best we can get given the circumstances. The City of Wichita made it very clear they would not proceed with the Commerce Building. They would start all over and do it again if we selected that, so we’re left in the conundrum of what do we do? Do we say we aren’t going to do anything or do we say that we are going to work with them and see what we can do? Fortunately, we had a Chairman who had some vision and followed the big picture and said, well, if we’re going to spend more money on this facility, then what can we get for the extra expense for the taxpayers, and so we entered into discussions about the Fire Training Center, and while he was criticized for this, I think it’s an example of having a vision and not having tunnel vision.

“You’ve got to see the big picture, and he addressed two very important issues for this community in a very effective way. And so we’re not just here today to celebrate Law Enforcement Training Center, but we can celebrate the Regional Fire Training Center as well and the new partnership between the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County, and I think he should be congratulated for his vision and leadership in that area for our community. Sometimes, if you want to be a leader, have you have to be prepared to be criticized. But you continue to march forward and do the right thing because you know it’s the right thing. That’s what leadership is. Despite all the detractors and all the nay-sayers, you have a vision, you have a goal, and you execute a plan to reach that goal, and that’s admirable in this day and age.

“For those reasons, as stated, I do believe this is the best deal we can get given the circumstances, certainly for the county, law enforcement and fire folks, it’s a tremendous step forward. I appreciate our legal council and all the work they did as well on this and the County Manager. I know there’s been a lot of discussion, a lot of stuff going on, so appreciate that, and I’ll be supportive of this motion today.”

When a vote was taken, all commissioners voted in favor.


Notes

  1. Nicks For County Commission Facebook page, July 23, 2018. Available at https://www.facebook.com/NicksForCountyCommission/photos/a.1633354576739927.1073741832.1591968844211834/2019318654810182/.
  2. Heck, Josh. Sedgwick County Commission tables vote on law enforcement training center at WSU. Wichita Business Journal, May 11, 2016. Available at https://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/blog/2016/05/sedgwick-county-commission-tables-vote-on-law.html.
  3. Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners. Meeting detail, May 17, 2016. Available at https://sedgwickcounty.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=486352&GUID=99EB8331-86AD-48CD-B8E5-743F2FF28AA6.
  4. Salazar, Danial. Sedgwick County, Wichita agree to build law enforcement training center at WSU. Wichita Eagle, May 17, 2016. Available at https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article78051732.html.
  5. Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners. Meeting detail, May 18, 2016. Available at https://sedgwickcounty.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=485988&GUID=ABD59669-B2C6-409F-8978-049DEF903C56.

Hugh Nicks and the Sedgwick County fishing dock

Sedgwick County Commission candidate Hugh Nicks criticizes his opponent for living up to the values Nicks himself proclaims.

On July 13, 2018, Hugh Nicks wrote this on his campaign’s Facebook page, referring to Richard Ranzau: “And even questioned the need for handicapped-accessible recreational options.” 1

Nicks is a candidate for the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners, District 4. His opponent is the incumbent Richard Ranzau.

The accusation is a bit vague, but it’s pretty certain that Nicks is referring to an item from 2011 when commissioners were asked to approve spending $53,500 on what was described as “VIC’S LAKE FISHING DOCK – FACILITIES DEPARTMENT FUNDING — ADA COMPLIANCE UPGRADES.”

Examining the record, we find that yes, there is a grain of truth in Nicks’ allegation: Ranzau did question this item, but not because it was “handicapped-accessible.” Here’s what happened.

On September 28, 2011, when this item came before the commissioners, Commissioner Ranzau expressed concern with the cost of the fishing dock, given the information commissioners had been provided. So too did Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Tim Norton. A motion was made to defer the item, and all commissioners present that day voted in agreement. 2

At the next meeting, on October 5, 2011, the item was again on the agenda. 3 At this meeting Joe Thomas, at that time Acting Director of the Purchasing Department, explained that the dock itself did not cost $53,500. Instead, the dock cost only $26,162. Other necessary items in the project included site prep ($6,920), a concrete sidewalk ($3,066), a concrete pavement parking and picnic area which includes an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant picnic table ($6,852), an asphalt drive ($7,400), site restoration ($1,500), and “general conditions” ($1,600).

Knowing this, $53,500 seems reasonable. And Ranzau said as much in remarks after these costs were presented: “So my questions were not based on whether or not because it was an ADA dock. If you take the word ADA off of it and you come to me and say you’re going to build a $53,000 dock, I’m going to ask, do we really need to do that? Because that’s a lot of money for a dock, and so we asked for further information about how that money was going to be spent, and it clarifies a lot of information.”

After more discussion, there was a vote, and all commissioners voted in favor of building the dock, including Ranzau and Peterjohn.

Now that we know the whole story, why would Hugh Nicks be critical of Ranzau on this matter? Especially considering these values listed in bullet points on Nicks’ campaign literature:

  • Never be afraid of hard work.
  • Listen openly. Debate respectfully. Ask tough questions.
  • Be conservative with finances and generous with time.
  • Decisions have consequences. Make them wisely.

I’ve emphasized where Ranzau’s action on the fishing dock aligns with Nicks’ values. The questions Ranzau asked weren’t really “tough questions,” but they were needed and submitted respectfully. The answers helped the commissioners learn they were indeed being conservative with finances. It was a decision made wisely, with complete information.

So exactly what problems does Hugh Nicks have with Richard Ranzau?


Following, relevant Sedgwick County Commission meeting minutes.

Excerpt from the meeting of the Sedgwick County Board of Commissioners on September 28, 2011:

Chairman Unruh said, “Now we’re ready to discuss Item 6, and Commissioner Ranzau, I will ask you to lead that discussion, also.”

Commissioner Ranzau said, “Well, this is $50,000 for a boat dock, or for a dock out at the fishing lake. While I’ve had time to go out and look at the bridge at the Boys Ranch, I’ve not looked at this specific thing. And with the information I’ve been given, I’m not prepared to support this, because I’m not sure this is the best route to go. Particularly at this current status with our finances here, this seems like a lot of money for a fishing dock. And even though I’m a fisherman, I’m just not convinced. Unless I’m totally convinced it’s appropriate enough of a project, I’m not prepared to vote yes. It’s really up to the will of the Board. Today, if we vote on it today, I’ll vote no.” Chairman Unruh said, “Thank you. Commissioner Peterjohn.”

Commissioner Peterjohn said, “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m concerned with the price tag of $53,500 for basically a boat dock. I have concerns on the expense here, and I realize this is the low bid, and it’s a low bid by significant margin from two other firms that provided bids, and there was a much larger list of firms that didn’t even offer. My question to ask, is if we could also put this issue off a week like we did Item number 4 without causing any difficulty?”

Mr. William P. Buchanan said, “Yes.”

Commissioner Peterjohn said, “Mr. Chairman, I’d like to see if we could get some more information on this project, just like we did on the prior item.”

MOTION

Commissioner Peterjohn moved to defer Item 6 of the Board of Bids and Contracts Regular Meeting of September 22, 2011.

Commissioner Ranzau seconded the motion.

Chairman Unruh said, “All right. We have a motion and a second. Discussion? Commissioner Norton.”

Commissioner Norton said, “I’ll support the deferral. I would like to ask a question, though. It talks about that it’s not just the boat dock that we’re, actually we’re replacing one that should be out of service. Is that correct?”

There followed more discussion, and then the vote on the deferral. All commissioners voted in favor, except for Commissioner Skelton, who was absent.

Here are the complete minutes for the dock item from the meeting of the Sedgwick County Board of Commissioners on October 5, 2011:

L 11-1028 RECONSIDERATION OF ITEM 6 OF THE MINUTES OF THE SEPTEMBER 22, 2011 MEETING OF THE BOARD OF BIDS AND CONTRACTS: VIC’S LAKE FISHING DOCK- FACILITIES DEPARTMENT.

Presented by Joe Thomas, Director, Purchasing Department. This item was deferred at the September 28, 2011 Commission Meeting.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Approve the recommendations of the Board of Bids and Contracts.

Mr. Joe Thomas, Acting Director, Purchasing Department, greeted the Commissioners and said, “The recommendation for this item is to accept the low bid from DanCo Enterprises, Inc in the amount of $53,500.00. I’ll be happy to answer questions. We also have members of staff that are available to answer questions as well, and I recommend approval of this item.”

Chairman Unruh said, “All right. Thank you, Joe. We’ve had lots of discussion and exposure to this item. Commissioners, are there any other comment or questions that need to be answered?”

MOTION
Commissioner Norton moved to approve the recommendation from the Board of Bids and Contracts. Commissioner Skelton seconded the motion.

Chairman Unruh said, “Thank you. We have a motion and a second. Commissioner Peterjohn.”

Commissioner Peterjohn said, “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Joe, could you give us just a quick rundown in terms of the, because the heartburn that we expressed last week was we were looking at a dock that was $53,000, and then we discussed $53,000 and change, and we discovered it was more than just a dock. And I was very much interested in getting for the record and appreciating of staff and other folks in terms of getting the bid broken down so we had a better understanding of what the numbers
actually were.”

Mr. Thomas said, “Yes. The fishing dock itself was $26,162, site prep was $6,920. Then there is a concrete sidewalk in the amount of $3,066. Then there is a concrete pavement parking and picnic area which includes ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant picnic table, $6,852. The asphalt drive was $7,400. To restore the site was $1,500, and general conditions $1,600 that made that total of $53,500.”

Commissioner Peterjohn said, “Thank you, Joe. Because Sedgwick County Park is, at the moment, currently surrounded by my district even though my best efforts to try to and get it split it up between myself and Commissioner Ranzau was not successful. But it’s a jewel, I think, that’s valuable for the entire Commission and the entire community, so I’m planning to be supportive now that we have this additional information and details. It’s a lot easier to explain the costs. It’s still an awful lot of money, but I’m comfortable with it, and I’ll be supportive.”

Chairman Unruh said, “Thank you, Commissioner. Commissioner Ranzau.”

Commissioner Ranzau said, “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to make several comments here. I originally wanted to postpone this or had some issues with this for a couple of reasons. I asked the question, do we really need to do, have an ADA dock given our current situation, our financial situation, and why do we need to do this now and I also questioned the cost of it. I’ve gotten some feedback, some of it supportive of my position, some of it is not. Some people think my opposition is somehow because I oppose the ADA or people with disabilities, which could not be further from the truth. I think it’s important to remember that we have an ADA plan here at the county which I have supported voted for things previously and I will continue to do so. So my questions were not based on whether or not because it was an ADA dock. If you take the word ADA off of it and you come to me and say you’re going to build a $53,000 dock, I’m going to ask, do we really need to do that? Because that’s a lot of money for a dock, and so we asked for further information about how that money was going to be spent, and it clarifies a lot of information. I think it’s reasonable and justified to question how we spend taxpayer dollars regardless of what it’s going to be spent on.

“I think the fact that it has an ADA stamp on it doesn’t mean in my mind that it should get a pass. I have questioned things that the Sheriff Department is going to do. I’ve questioned things that the Fire Department is going to do. I’ve questioned things that the road and bridge, Public Works are going to do. It’s not because I don’t support those things, but I want to make sure that each project and each cost is appropriate. I will continue to support the ADA program, but once again, if there is a program in the future that I think the costs seems a little out of whack, I’m not going to hesitate on behalf of the citizens to ask for more information and put the vote off if necessary. I also want to point out that at this particular meeting, we actually postponed two items.

Commissioner Ranzau continued, ““It was this item, and another one was a bridge that we’re going to possibly put in down at the [Judge Riddle] Boys Ranch. I called it a bridge to nowhere, because it’s actually a bridge to get horses to the pasture. And in my mind, that was the most problematic of the two, to be honest, because it’s almost four times the cost almost as what this is. That’s the one I spent more time investigating and learning about and as you’ll notice, it’s not back on the agenda yet, so we’ll have to address that in the future. I’m not singling out the ADA program at all. I have voted for them in the past and will continue to do so, but I’ll take a close eye at every spending project we have. And like I said, there were two different items on last week’s agenda that I talked about, and the most clearly problematic was the other one, the other one that didn’t get all the attention or all the press. So I want to clarify that so that people understand where I’m coming from. As I said, I make no apologies for examining how we are spending taxpayer dollars regardless of where it comes from, if it’s ADA, police, sheriff, whatever, these are all good programs, but we just need to make sure we get the best bang for our buck. Thank you.”

Chairman Unruh said, “Thank you, Commissioner. Before we go to vote here, Mr. David Calvert is here, a leader in the community for ADA issues. Did you want to make a comment, sir?”

Mr. David Calvert, Chair, Wichita/Sedgwick County Access Advisory Board, greeted the Commissioners and said, “I would like to, Mr. Chairman, just briefly, and I’ll spare you the 30-minute…I’ve got a microphone on. I don’t know if it works. I can hear myself, but that’s about it. I am David Calvert. I’m an attorney, but I also chair and have chaired for the last six years the Wichita/Sedgwick County Access Advisory Board, started out as the Wichita Access Advisory Board to advise the city on disability issues. Sedgwick County joined this board by this board’s request in, I think 2007, and each of you Commissioners have appointees to that board and the Manager has appointees to that board as well. I will spare you the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I will say as part of the proactive stance this county has taken and this board has taken on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a self-evaluation and transition plan was created in 2006. Self-evaluation itself is online. It is 200 pages. I don’t necessarily urge you to read it. I will tell you that the transition plan is also online, and there is a link to those plans on the home page, again to the county’s credit.

“The list of facilities covered by the transition plan is itself six pages long. The link to the Sedgwick County Park gets you to the Sedgwick County Park’s transition plan, which is 17 pages long. The total of all of these is like a couple of thousand pages. This particular fishing dock is referenced in the transition plan, pointing out that there are no accessible docks at all in Sedgwick County Park, and each one of the projects set forth in the transition plan is given a priority rating from very high to low priority. Low priority items can be done 5 or 10 years from now, high priority and very high priority items, many which should have been done by now. This is a very high priority item, and simply gives access to people with disabilities, which covers statistically probably 75,000 people in Sedgwick County alone, and if we all live long enough, it will cover each and every one of us at one time in our lives.

“The reason everybody doesn’t end up with a disability is a lot of us simply die first, which I guess is the ultimate disability, isn’t it? But I would, this is part of this Commission’s continuing commitment to ADA compliance. People with disabilities don’t ask for special favors.

“We ask for compliance with the ADA, which simply gives people with disabilities the same right to be independent that people without disabilities have, and I think that that’s what this does. I would urge this Commission to unanimously support this bid. Thank you.”

Chairman Unruh said, “Thank you, sir. We have a couple more comments. Commissioner Ranzau.”

Commissioner Ranzau said, “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to clarify a couple of things just for the public. The $53,000 we’re spending, $26,000 is for the dock itself. Now, that’s been part of my consternation that regardless whether it’s ADA compliant or not that that seems like a lot of money, but I know Mark Sroufe has done some research, and it’s possible that that actual cost will come in less than that, because he’s compared it to the price of some docks that other facilities have put into place. Also one of the big questions was why are we doing a dock now compared to, well, when you put it in the context of the overall budget. And I’ve been told that it’s a matter of priority and timing in that for the parks system, this is the high priority because, as he stated, we have no accessible docks, and it’s also a factor of timing in that the dock is getting to the point that now it needs to be replaced. So, I have to put all of those things together and then decide if this is the best way to spend money on behalf of the citizens at this time, and that’s why we took the time to ask the questions to get more information.”

Chairman Unruh said, “Thank you, Commissioner. Commissioner Skelton.”

Commissioner Skelton said, “I just wanted to concur with Mr. Calvert’s comments. I appreciate them very much. That provides the basis for my support for this project today.”

Chairman Unruh said, “Thank you, Commissioner. Commissioner Peterjohn.”

Commissioner Peterjohn said, “I’ll just state for the record I appreciate Mr. Calvert’s work on a volunteer basis for the board that works with these issues here in Sedgwick County. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

Chairman Unruh said, “Thank you. Commissioner Norton.”

Commissioner Norton said, “Well, I’m going to be supportive. I’ve been supportive of what we’ve done over the years for our population that have difficulties maneuvering our community. The truth is to me it’s not about ADA, although some of that is prescriptive, it’s about what’s right for our community and the population that we live with that are part of our families, a robust part of our community and doing the right thing. So it’s not about the ADA, it’s prescriptive on what we do when we remodel something. It’s about what is right for our community. We’ve developed Sedgwick County Park with a balanced playground through help from West Side Rotary [Club of Wichita]. We continue to try to make our community as vibrant as we can for all the populations. So I think it’s the right thing to do. We were going to replace that anyway, and it makes sense to replace it in a manner that will make it accessible to all citizens regardless of age and difficulty. That’s all I have, Mr. Chair.”

Chairman Unruh said, “Thank you, Commissioner. I don’t believe I can add anything to all the conversation.

Chairman Unruh continued, “I also express my appreciation to Mr. Calvert and for your leadership on our committee that addresses these issues and I also see Lindsey here, she’s our staff person who keeps us on track. We’re proud of the valuable work she does for us all, so thank you.”

Mr. Calvert said, “I want to say, Mr. Chairman, if I might, Lindsey is the Vice Chairman of our committee, and she’s the one that does all the work.”

Chairman Unruh said, “It’s good to have someone like that around, isn’t it? Mr. Manager.”

Mr. Buchanan said, “I can’t help myself. So does that mean you’re the pretty face?”

Mr. Calvert said, “Are you looking at me or are you looking…”

Mr. Buchanan said, “Yes, no, I’m looking at you, Dave.”

Commissioner Peterjohn said, “I think the Manager needs a new pair of glasses.”

Chairman Unruh said, “You were right, Mr. Manager, that was unnecessary. Madam Clerk, I think we have a motion, we’re ready to call the vote.”

There was a vote, and all commissioners voted in favor.


Notes

  1. Nicks For County Commission Facebook page, July 13, 2018. Available at https://www.facebook.com/NicksForCountyCommission/photos/a.1633354576739927.1073741832.1591968844211834/2000527696689278/.
  2. Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners. Meeting detail, September 28, 2011. Available at https://sedgwickcounty.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=161070&GUID=2982541F-CC0E-4FFE-9DE3-CE1C4D59FA4D.
  3. Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners. Meeting detail, October 5, 2011. Available at https://sedgwickcounty.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=162540&GUID=1CF92BD6-DF16-460A-8BFA-F1B86A5AB115.

Is the pursuit of intergovernmental grants wise?

Is the pursuit of intergovernmental grants wise? Would local governments fund certain programs if the money was not seen as “free?”

An eariler version of this article failed to distinguish Jim Howell’s position from the majority of candidates. I regret the error.

At a forum of candidates for Sedgwick County Commission, the subject of intergovernmental grants was discussed. All candidates except for current commissioners Richard Ranzau and Jim Howell were fully in favor — enthusiastic, even — of the grant system. Both Ranzau and Howell expressed skepticism of the wisdom and efficacy of the grant system.

Other candidates participating in the forum had several justifications for accepting intergovernmental grants: It’s our tax money we sent to Washington or Topeka, it’s foolish not to try to get back our tax money, the grants are already funded, the money will simply go somewhere else. There are a few problems with these lines of reasoning.

First, the grants are not “already paid for.” Since the federal government runs a deficit, we’re not paying the entire cost of government. To say that some things (program A, B, and C) are paid for, and other things (programs D, E, and F) are not paid for, is making artificial distinctions that can’t be justified.

But deficit spending (on grants or other things) makes sense to politicians who want to deliver more government services than are being paid for by current levels of taxation. Federal and state grants make sense to local politicians and bureaucrats who want to be able to say they “won” federal or state dollars, so that the county or city can spend at no one’s cost. That’s how grant money is often characterized: Spending at no one’s cost.

But politicians and bureaucrats across the nation make the same argument. We all wind up spending money at no one’s cost, so they say.

Then: We must “try to get back our tax money.” This highlights another absurdity of government grants. We pay taxes, and then hope that we win the competition to get back our money. Who developed this system? Again, politicians like to boast they “won” grant funding that has no cost. Bureaucrats thrive on the jobs and power that grants provide, both locally and at the state and federal levels. Someone has to collect the taxes, write the applications for grants, evaluate the applications, administer the grant money at the state or federal level, administer the grant money at the local level, write reports on how the grant money is spent, and then someone has to read the reports. This creates a lot of jobs for bureaucrats. It also costs a lot, which is a deadweight cost, that is, costs that provide no benefit.

(If politicians and bureaucrats in other states, cities, and counties are smarter than us, do we have a fair chance of getting our tax money back in the form of grants?)

Finally: There is evidence that intergovernmental grants accepted today result in higher taxes tomorrow. Worse, this is for spending that local governments might not choose if local government bore the entire cost. But after the grant ends and after a constituency is created, it’s difficult to stop the spending.

Following, from 2013, a presentation of research on grants and future taxation.

Federal grants seen to increase future local spending

“Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” — Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman

Is this true? Do federal grants cause state and/or local tax increases in the future after the government grant ends? Economists Russell S. Sobel and George R. Crowley have examined the evidence, and they find the answer is yes.

The research paper is titled Do Intergovernmental Grants Create Ratchets in State and Local Taxes? Testing the Friedman-Sanford Hypothesis.

The difference between this research and most other is that Sobel and Crowley look at the impact of federal grants on state and local tax policy in future periods.

This is important because, in their words, “Federal grants often result in states creating new programs and hiring new employees, and when the federal funding for that specific purpose is discontinued, these new state programs must either be discontinued or financed through increases in state own source taxes.”

The authors caution: “Far from always being an unintended consequence, some federal grants are made with the intention that states will pick up funding the program in the future.”

The conclusion to their research paper states:

Our results clearly demonstrate that grant funding to state and local governments results in higher own source revenue and taxes in the future to support the programs initiated with the federal grant monies. Our results are consistent with Friedman’s quote regarding the permanence of temporary government programs started through grant funding, as well as South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s reasoning for trying to deny some federal stimulus monies for his state due to the future tax implications. Most importantly, our results suggest that the recent large increase in federal grants to state and local governments that has occurred as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will have significant future tax implications at the state and local level as these governments raise revenue to continue these newly funded programs into the future. Federal grants to state and local governments have risen from $461 billion in 2008 to $654 billion in 2010. Based on our estimates, future state taxes will rise by between 33 and 42 cents for every dollar in federal grants states received today, while local revenues will rise by between 23 and 46 cents for every dollar in federal (or state) grants received today. Using our estimates, this increase of $200 billion in federal grants will eventually result in roughly $80 billion in future state and local tax and own source revenue increases. This suggests the true cost of fiscal stimulus is underestimated when the costs of future state and local tax increases are overlooked.

So: Not only are we taxed to pay for the cost of funding federal and state grants, the units of government that receive grants are very likely to raise their own levels of taxation in response to the receipt of the grants. This is a cycle of ever-expanding government that needs to end, and right now.

An introduction to the paper is Do Intergovernmental Grants Create Ratchets in State and Local Taxes?.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Kelly Parks and property rights

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Kelly Parks joins Karl Peterjohn to discuss county and zoning issues. Parks is a former member of the Sedgwick County Commission and is a member of Kansans Advocating Responsible Zoning (KARZ). View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 201, broadcast July 14, 2018.

Shownotes

KARZ meets the third Wednesday of each month at Spangle’s, Broadway and Kellogg in downtown Wichita. Meetings start at 6:30 pm for dinner with the actual meeting starting at 7:00 pm.

To learn more about KARZ, call Kelly Parks at 316-755-2757, or by mail:
KARZ
c/o John Dailey
P.O. Box 381
Valley Center, KS 67147

For Hugh Nicks, a return to the backroom deal?

Remarks from a candidate for Sedgwick County Commission call for presenting a unified front to the public.

Speaking to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Sedgwick County Commission candidate Hugh Nicks called for leadership to end what he called “divisive behavior:” “We can’t have — we can’t have the kind of divisive behavior that we have going on right now — we just — it’s just not — it’s just not acceptable.”

His opponent in the August Republican Party primary election is Richard Ranzau, who currently holds the office.

The “divisive behavior” that Nicks objects to takes several forms, but it’s clear he thinks that the Sedgwick County Commission should present a united front: The commission should have a plan that’s agreed to, and if commissioners don’t follow the plan, there should be consequences. At least that’s the moral of a story he told members of guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club.

That attitude is problematic. Especially so because the Sedgwick County Commission is different from a legislature. At the commission, there is no opportunity for interested parties — lobbyists and regular people — to testify before a committee as legislation is being developed. At the commission, there is no committee mark-up process in which the text of a bill is crafted and finalized. There is no committee vote that decides whether to recommend the bill to the entire legislative body.

So there really isn’t much debate or disagreement in public at the Sedgwick County Commission meetings. And when there is, it may be squelched. Last year a commissioner attempted to offer two amendments to a proposal. He was trying to generate a consensus. But the majority of commissioners wouldn’t have it, and the vote happened without considering the amendments. (See For Sedgwick County Commission, too much debate.)

It’s important that there be discussion in public, even if “divisive.” The prelude to the Kansas Open Meetings Act gives a reason why: “In recognition of the fact that a representative government is dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be the policy of this state that meetings for the conduct of governmental affairs and the transaction of governmental business be open to the public.” 1

When things are not done in view of the public, we call them backroom deals, with all the well-deserved negative connotations. Here’s an example, from 2012: Sedgwick County staff and several commissioners worked out a deal to sell an unused radio tower for $280,000. Commissioners Ranzau and Peterjohn thought there should be an auction. There was an auction, and the county received net proceeds of $553,872. 2

There is already too much suspicion that backroom deals are common at the county and City of Wichita. The more important and “divisive” a matter is, the more discussion it deserves in public.

But that isn’t the attitude of candidate Nicks when he said, “It’d be like a business: I mean, if in our business when we had closed door meetings when, when we argue about how we move forward, in our, in our business, we didn’t go out in front of our employees afterwards and act the same way that we did back behind closed doors. It just doesn’t work. And if we went and acted that way in front of our customers, if we did, we wouldn’t have any customers.”

Business and government are different things. A business is accountable only to its owners and shareholders, and also to the public by acting lawfully. Other than this, a business can do what it wants. It may make decisions using any means its owners tolerate. 3

Government, however, is different. It should be accountable to the people. Sometimes — frequently — that requires “divisive” discussion and debate. And the more important the matter, the more discussion and debate — transparency — is needed.

It’s a lot easier on commissioners if the attitude is “go along to get along.” That attitude has led to a faltering Wichita economy as majorities of members of the Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Commission have avoided debate and gone along with the advice of staff and economic development regimes. I think this is the strategy of Hugh Nicks, should he be elected to the commission.

It might be tempting to dismiss these remarks as having been made by an uninformed candidate. But Nicks says he has been running since October 2017 so that he can learn about the issues. 4

Following are excerpts of remarks of Hugh Nicks and Richard Ranzau at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, June 8, 2018.

Hugh Nicks:

In the area — in the area of leadership, uh, it always starts at the top. Yeah, it doesn’t matter what organization it is, it always starts at the top. I’ll give you just a couple of examples. Uh, when I first started out as a young guy, and I was coaching, I worked for a guy Lafayette Norwood. Maybe some of you know that name. Uh, he was the first black basketball coach — the city league’s first black coach in the city of Wichita, actually. And I worked for the man for two years and learned some hard lessons from him because he wanted to fire me a couple times.

Yeah, he wanted to fire me because one day I decided I’d run some drills that he would not have agreed upon and when we got back in the locker room and got all the kids checked out, he came and said, “I believe I’m gonna fire you.” I said, “I need that job.” It pays 6,200 dollars a year. I already said that. He said, “Well I saw what you were doing down at the other end of the court. It’s not what we agreed on. And uh, so, when we have a plan, we leave this, this office, then you’re gonna do what you’re supposed to do, and you’re not gonna counter anything that I say out on that floor because we’re a team and we’re gonna move forward.”

Uh, so that — that was one of my first lessons that I learned with regard to leadership. But I, I think it starts at the top, so here’s what I see at the county: Um, you know, we can’t have — we can’t have the kind of divisive behavior that we have going on right now — we just — it’s just not — it’s just not acceptable.

Now, it’s alright to disagree in my view. I mean, I’m probably one of the — one of the guys that disagree with and vehemently if I have a strong opinion. But it’s not done in public. You just — you just — you just can’t do that. So, if you want to have an argument with me and go back behind closed doors and have it all day long, that’s alright with me. But when we come out and we’re in front of a staff, then were gonna act differently, and we’re certainly gonna act differently in front of our constituents — in front of, in front of the, the people that we represent. It’d be like a business: I mean, if in our business when we had closed door meetings when, when we argue about how we move forward, in our, in our business, we didn’t go out in front of our employees afterwards and act the same way that we did back behind closed doors. It just doesn’t work. And if we went and acted that way in front of our customers, if we did, we wouldn’t have any customers.

So I’m a proponent, and trying to answer that question from back there in, in terms of leadership style, that we need a different leadership style in the county. Now Richard’s probably gonna take exception with that because he fights for what he believes in and I understand that. But it’s a matter of the way we go about it in my view, uh, and everything starts at the top. I mean, it starts at the top and works its way down, uh, that’s — that’s how I view that.


Notes

  1. Kansas Statutes Annotated 75-4317. Available at https://www.ksrevisor.org/statutes/chapters/ch75/075_043_0017.html.
  2. As a result of system upgrades, the county no longer needs a radio tower located near 77th Street North and Interstate 135. Pixius Communications, LLC made an offer to purchase the tower and the five acre tower site for $280,000. The county proceeded making arrangements for the sale, preparing a sales agreement contract between Sedgwick County and Pixius with a sales price of $280,000, along with several other legal documents necessary to support the sale. … But commissioners Richard Ranzau and Karl Peterjohn felt that the best way to sell the tower was through an auction. … The result of the auction? A Florida company offered $610,000. After a sales commission ($55,000) and half of closing costs ($1,128), the county will net $553,872. That’s almost twice the price the county manager and two commissioners were willing to sell the tower for. See Weeks, Bob. Sedgwick County tower sale was not in citizens’ best interest. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/sedgwick-county-government/sedgwick-county-tower-sale-was-not-in-citizens-best-interest/.
  3. It’s true that some government officials say we must run government like a business. They usually mean that until they are held to the standards of accountability the private sector faces. Then, things are different. Accountability is avoided. (The non-discussion of expenses of the Intrust Bank Arena is an example of evading business-type accountability by members of the Sedgwick County Commission. See Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2017 is $4,222,182.)
  4. “You may wonder why I’m announcing so early, since the Republican Primary for the County Commission seat isn’t until August 2018. The reason is simple. I like to do my homework. I want to learn about the way Sedgwick County governs, and the rationale behind the decisions that have been made. I want to learn about the issues that are most important to the people in the 4th District. I think serving as County Commissioner is too important to take an on-the-job-training approach, and I don’t want to be on a learning curve at the taxpayers’ expense.” Nicks4commissioner.com. News. October 19, 2017. Available at http://www.nicks4commissioner.com/news.html. .

WichitaLiberty.TV: Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman briefs Bob and Karl about the upcoming elections. View below, or click here to view at youTube. Episode 200, broadcast June 30, 2018.

Shownotes

  • Website for Sedgwick County Election Office. Includes how to register, sample ballots, options for voting, where to vote, when to vote, and other information.
  • Telephone number for the election office: 316-660-7100.