On August 25, 2004 and prior to the arena vote in November of that year, I presented testimony before this Commission questioning the wisdom of building a downtown arena without knowing the exact location of the parcel(s) of land the project would be located on. I asked the questions, does the Commission know the exact location of the arena project? Is the needed land for sale? Are the property owners willing to selling their land? And, most importantly, has the County secured a contract option to purchase the needed land with an exact purchase price? I believed then and now that the taxpaying public needed to know the answers to those questions before making a decision on a $184.5 million dollar project in the voting booth. From what I have been reading in the news recently, it seems apparent to me now that County officials failed in their "due diligence" responsibility to the citizens of this county by not securing the land for the arena in advance, and should now be willing to authorize another "non-binding" or perhaps a "binding" and final public vote on the arena project.
Posts tagged as “Sedgwick county government”
You may recall that I have spoken to this body in years past expressing my opposition to the AirTran subsidy. At that time we were told that the subsidy was intended to be a short-tem measure. Today, four years after the start of the subsidy, with state funding planned for the next five years, it looks as though it is a permanent fixture.
In a June 20, 2006 Wichita Eagle editorial, Rhonda Holman writes about the WaterWalk project in Wichita.
Evidently there is controversy over the public not knowing the name of the "destination restaurant" that is being courted and favored with a gift of $1 million. To me, the controversy is not the identify of the restaurant or when and how the city should conduct its negotiations, but that we are paying for a restaurant to be built.
In a June 16, 2006 column, Wichita Eagle editorial writer Rhonda Holman again congratulates local and state government for its success in renewing the AirTran subsidy, and for getting the entire state of Kansas to help for it.
There is an interesting academic paper titled "The Failures of Economic Development Incentives," published in Journal of the American Planning Association, and which can be read here: www.planning.org/japa/pdf/04winterecondev.pdf. A few quotes from the study:
Given the weak effects of incentives on the location choices of businesses at the interstate level, state governments and their local governments in the aggregate probably lose far more revenue, by cutting taxes to firms that would have located in that state anyway than they gain from the few firms induced to change location.
In a free society dedicated to personal liberty, people should be able to gamble. But that's not what we have, as in a free society dedicated to personal liberty, people wouldn't be taxed to pay for the problems that others cause in the pursuit of their happiness.
How does this relate to the issue of casino gambling in or near Wichita?
Government leaders and newspaper editorial writers tell us that we cannot afford to lose such a wonderful place. But if it's so wonderful, why won't its customers pay what it really costs?
In an article in the May 12, 2005 Wichita Eagle titled "County plans no tax rate increase" we learn that "Sedgwick County's property tax rates will stay the same next year and the county will be able to avoid layoffs and drastic cuts in programs, officials predicted Wednesday."
Spending in next year's budget will not contain "significant increases in spending."
Before I go too overboard with thanks, I will remind readers that it was this commission that pushed for the sales tax increase for the downtown Wichita arena.
Following is a message from Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network, regarding the debate over SB 58, allowing Sedgwick County to raise its sales tax to pay for the downtown Wichita arena. I listened to the (as Karl rightly characterises it) "debate." Karl's reporting of the legislative action and the effects the sales tax will have is accurate. (Someone called the sales tax the "Western Butler County Improvement Act.") You may listen to the debate by using this link: https://wichitaliberty.org/files/SB_58_House_2005-03-21.mp3 (10 MB mp3 file).
After a relatively brief and lackluster debate, the 1 cent sales tax hike for the downtown arena in Wichita received preliminary approval in the Kansas house March 21 on a voice vote. SB 58 will be voted upon for final action tomorrow in the Kansas House of Representatives. This odious bill should have been amended but a bipartisan group of Wichita legislators worked hard and were successful in keeping it "clean" so there weren't any amendments. An amendment would have required a conference committee and a delay in enacting this tax. SB 58 will be passed easily and signed by the governor within the next couple of weeks.
The closest amendment to getting added to this bill was a "prevailing wage," amendment offered by Democrat Minority Leader McKinney that failed on a division vote (no roll call) with over 40 yes votes. Prevailing wage would require union wages for the construction of this project but even the Democrats did not press this very hard since they did not even bother forcing a roll call vote on this amendment.
After some desultory comments by proponents, Rep. Huebert offered an amendment to address the uniformity issue but then withdrew it following Rep. Wilk's opposition and promise that the tax committee that Wilk chairs would take up this issue shortly.
My primary reason for opposing this subsidy is that it distorts the market process through which individuals and businesses decide how to most productively allocate capital.
Aside from that, it seems to me that the argument that many Fair Fares supporters make is flawed. They are grossly -- I would say even speciously -- overstating the importance of the airport to our local economy.
More testimony opposing SB 58, the bill to allow Sedgwick County to increase its sales tax to pay for the downtown arena.
Testimony Opposing SB 58
By Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director, Kansas Taxpayers Network
SB 58 is a flawed bill that should either be re-drafted or defeated in its current form, Let me outline the major problems with this legislation.
1) This bill does not address the serious flaws already contained within KSA 12 187 that cry out for correction. This is a grossly non uniform statute that should be made, uniform covering all local government units. Today, cities may, and some already have, opt out of this statute using their home rule powers because of this statute's non uniform condition. County home rule requires a change in statutes for the lid on local sales taxes (see KSA 19 101a). At some point in time the cities may opt out of this statute in a way that negates any requirement for voter approval at an election. It will be a sad day for Kansas government when the voter approval requirement within this statute gets voided within a municipality. This is only a matter of when, not a matter of if
On Saturday February 5, 2005 I attended the meeting of the local legislative delegation regarding the arena tax. Representative Tom Sawyer chaired the meeting. The audience wrote questions on notecards, and Representative Brenda Landwehr read them. To the best of my recollection, the people allowed to answer questions were Sedgwick County Commissioner Tom Winters, Sedgwick County Assistant County Manager Ron Holt, Sedgwick County Director of Finance Chris Chronis, Wichita Mayor Carlos Mayans, and Wichita Downtown Development Corporation President Ed Wolverton. All of these are arena supporters. No one with an opposing view was allowed to speak, except for near the end when Kansas Taxpayers Network Executive Director Karl Peterjohn spoke from the audience for a moment.
February 3, 2005
Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee
Topeka, Kansas 66612
Subject: Testimony in OPPOSITION TO SENATE BILL #58 (Sales Tax Increase For The Proposed Wichita/Sedgwick County Arena).
My name is John Todd. I am a self-employed real estate broker from Wichita, and I come before you in opposition to the enabling legislation that would allow Sedgwick County to raise the local sales tax 1% to fund a new Downtown Arena.
The reason why I am here in opposition to this government driven plan is my basic belief that individuals know best how to spend their own money, and that they should be allowed the freedom to spend the fruit of their own labor as they wish, and not as government dictates, particularly when it involves mandatory spending for an elective entertainment venue like the proposed downtown arena.
I realize that the voters in Sedgwick County voted for the arena sales tax increase. I believe, however, there is ample reason why you should vote against the tax. The idea of the taxpayer-funded arena came about so fast in the summer of 2004 that there was little thought given to the underlying issues. I wish to present what my research has uncovered.
The following is from the Kansas Taxpayers Network. It shows how government-funded organizations participated in the campaign to increase Sedgwick County taxes.
Taxpayers' funds are being used to promote higher taxes in Kansas. Tax funds are also being used to lobby for higher taxes (see VI. and 1. above). This is an egregious mess that the legislature should stop. Tax funds are also used for "informational" campaigns by taxpayer funded groups. This includes a variety of local units like school boards but is not limited to any local units.
How bad is this problem? Public campaign donation and expense records show that $45,907.85 was contributed to the "Vote Yea" committee from organizations that are partially or fully funded by tax funds. Here's how the money is broken down in this advisory election:
I am writing to express my opposition to the legislature granting Sedgwick County the authority to raise its county-wide sales tax in order to fund the proposed downtown Wichita arena.
(It has been suggested that the following message, which I have sent as email to all Kansas State Senators and Representatives, may be of interest to you.
The article, as written and sent, does contain some minor inaccuracies, both in fact and in interpretation; but this merely shows that those of us who relied on the Wichita Eagle, my primary news source, for information prior to the arena tax vote were denied needed information and were, probably deliberately, given false, incomplete, and/or misleading information. I have made no effort to update it since a week or two after the election.
John A. Robinson
The Kansas Legislature will be asked soon to approve a special sales tax for construction of a Downtown Arena in Wichita.
The recent "Arena Vote" in Wichita is a classic example of an election rigged by special interests, and does not represent an informed consent of the people of Wichita and Sedgwick County.
A vote was taken approximately a year prior to this vote in which the people of Wichita voted NOT to build a "downtown arena." A main reason for the failure to support such a construction in that vote was the almost total inability of those favoring the arena to provide verifiable information in support of their claims that an arena would "do great things for Wichita," a complete lack of any assessment of adverse related effects, denial, without examination, of any and all obvious problems, and a total lack of any coherent PLAN for the proposed arena. Those advocating this project were essentially unable to demonstrate that they had the best interests of the people of the community in mind, and made it clear that their real objective was their own personal profit and interest.
The people of Wichita voted NO to a downtown arena.
Collecting the sales tax to pay for the downtown Wichita arena may produce unintended consequences.
It is clear that our local government leaders want a downtown arena in Wichita. Just read their remarks in the Wichita Eaglenewspaper. Since the Sedgwick County Commission has promised that they will proceed with renovation of the Kansas Coliseum if the downtown arena vote fails, it is in their interest to make the Coliseum renovation option look as bad as possible. In my opinion, they've done a pretty good job of this.
Kansas Attorney General Opinion 93-125 deals with "the use of public funds to promote or advocate a governing body's position on a matter which is before the electorate." In its summary, it states "However, public funds may be expended to educate and inform regarding issues to be voted on by the electorate."