Wichita city council

Wichita Primary Election, August 3, 2021

Wichita Primary Election, August 3, 2021

In each city council district, the top two candidates move to the general election in November. This means in district 3, Mike Hoheisel will face the newly-appointed incumbent Jared Cerullo. In district 6, Maggie Ballard runs against incumbent Cindy Claycomb.
Read More
Wichita City Council District 6 candidates

Wichita City Council District 6 candidates

The Save Century II committee presented a forum of candidates for Wichita City Council District 6. There are six candidates. The primary election is August 3, 2021, and the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general election on November 2, 2021. (more…)
Read More
Wichita ethics code to be considered

Wichita ethics code to be considered

The Wichita city council will consider an ethics code that overlooks a simple and effective solution to a problem. This week the Wichita City Council will consider the final version of a proposed ethics code. It does not cover campaign finance. It does cover gifts to council members, which has been an issue in the past. Part of the problem with the proposal is the creation of a new board, the Ethics Advisory Board. Its members will be asked to judge things like whether a gift is "... intended or has the appearance or effect ..." The board will be…
Read More
Historic buildings bill on tap

Historic buildings bill on tap

A bill designed to protect two buildings in downtown Wichita has a legislative hearing this week. Last year a citizen group gathered signatures on a petition that would prevent the City of Wichita from disposing of two downtown buildings without an approving vote of a majority of citizens. Based on having the required number of valid signatures, the petition was certified as valid. But the city sued to have the petition thrown out, contending the petition went beyond what Kansas law allows as the subject of municipal petitions. A judge agreed with the city. Now the group has a bill…
Read More
Naftzger Park event management agreement still ambiguous

Naftzger Park event management agreement still ambiguous

This week the Wichita City Council will update an agreement from last year, but it appears important issues were not addressed. Last February the City of Wichita approved an agreement with a local business to manage events at Naftzger Park. With the pandemic upending public events, the business -- Wave Old Town, LLC -- was unable to program any events. Therefore, the city wants to add additional time to the agreement. During the delay, the city could have addressed problems with the original agreement. Some problems concern the bidding process. My concern was the uncertainty in the profit-sharing agreement, which…
Read More
GDP by metropolitan area and component

GDP by metropolitan area and component

An interactive visualization of gross domestic product by metropolitan area and industry. The Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, gathers data about economic output, known as gross domestic product. The visualization I have created presents this data in tabular and graphic form. (more…)
Read More
Wichita property tax rate: Up

Wichita property tax rate: Up

The City of Wichita property tax mill levy rose slightly for 2020. In 1994 the City of Wichita mill levy rate -- the rate at which real and personal property is taxed -- was 31.290. In 2020 it was 32.749, based on the Sedgwick County Clerk. That's an increase of 1.459 mills, or 4.66 percent, since 1994. (These are for taxes levied by the City of Wichita only, and do not include any overlapping jurisdictions.) (more…)
Read More
Downtown Wichita population is up

Downtown Wichita population is up

New Census Bureau data shows the downtown Wichita population growing in 2019. Data released today by the United States Census Bureau shows the estimated population for zip code 67202 in 2019 was 1,751, an increase of 80 from the prior year. Zip code 67202 is greater downtown Wichita, from the Arkansas River east to Washington, and Kellogg north to Central, roughly. The source of this data is U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. This is not the Bureau's estimate of the population in 2019. This is because for areas of population less than 65,000, the Bureau does…
Read More
Century II appeal filed

Century II appeal filed

A group opposing any future plan to raze Century II or the former central library building has filed an appeal of the decision in their lawsuit. A group called Committee to Save Century II organized and filed a petition aimed at requiring a popular vote before demolishing Century II or the former central library building. The City of Wichita challenged the legal basis of the petition and a judge ruled in favor of the city. Now, that decision is being appealed. Following, a press release announcing the appeal. For more information on Century II and its future, see my Century…
Read More
John Todd: Wichita officials may have won a battle, but the Century II war isn’t over

John Todd: Wichita officials may have won a battle, but the Century II war isn’t over

On Century II, Wichita City Hall won the first round, but the public issue remains, writes John Todd. A special to the Wichita Eagle by John Todd. The Wichita City Council’s lawsuit against the Save Century II committee and the 17,265 Wichitans who had signed our petition won a first-round legal victory in state district court Aug. 28. The effort to have a binding vote by Wichita voters at an upcoming election was rejected by the court. This is a setback for Wichitans seeking to resolve this issue at the ballot box in November. This courtroom defeat demonstrates that the…
Read More
Economic development incentive to be canceled

Economic development incentive to be canceled

The City of Wichita will consider canceling an economic development incentive for a firm that no longer meets policy requirements. Two years ago the Wichita City Council granted an economic development incentive for a freestanding emergency department in northeast Wichita. The incentive was in the form of property tax relief. The firm would be exempt from paying 88 percent of its property taxes for five years, with the possibility of renewal for another five years. [1. Weeks, Bob. Free standing emergency department about to open in Wichita. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/free-standing-emergency-department-room-open-in-wichita/.] At the time, the city estimated the first-year property tax…
Read More
Century II maintenance to be considered

Century II maintenance to be considered

The Wichita city council will consider spending $250,000 on maintenance for Century II. There are questions regarding the source of funding. This week the Wichita City Council will consider spending $250,000 on maintenance items for Century II and the attached expo hall. The items are mostly ventilation, air conditioning, and plumbing. [1. The bonding resolution, number 20-192, states: "Facility repairs and improvements to Century II (District I). Including, but not be limited to, prioritized critical building system improvements, renovation and repairs as well as replacement of Expo Hall HVAC Roof-Top Unit systems and Century II circulation pumps throughout the facility…
Read More
Wichita presents industrial revenue bonds

Wichita presents industrial revenue bonds

A presentation by the City of Wichita regarding IRBs is good as far as it goes, which is not far enough. Recently the City of Wichita prepared a short video explaining the city's industrial revenue bonds (IRB) program. The video may be viewed on YouTube by clicking here. Several times the presenters emphasized that in the IRB program, the city does not lend money. They properly identify the true purpose of the program, which is to subsidize companies by allowing them to avoid paying property taxes and possibly sales taxes. Several times the presenters emphasized that the IRB program has…
Read More
Wichita needs transparency from its agencies

Wichita needs transparency from its agencies

When the Wichita city council delegates spending to outside agencies such as Visit Wichita, it should insist on the same transparency requirements the city itself faces. The Kansas Open Records Act is designed to give citizens access to data concerning their government. In the words of the Kansas Attorney General, "An open and transparent government is essential to the democratic process." The preamble to the Kansas act states, "It is declared to be the public policy of the state that public records shall be open for inspection by any person unless otherwise provided by this act, and this act shall…
Read More
Wichita city council to address misunderstanding

Wichita city council to address misunderstanding

The Wichita city council will address a misunderstanding regarding imprecise language in an economic development incentive agreement. This week the Wichita City Council will address a mistake or misunderstanding regarding an economic incentive. Briefly, a company that received a tax abatement believed that land was included in the abatement. When it received a bill for tax on the land, it paid it and inquired to the city as to why it received a bill for taxes it believed it would not owe. Documents for the meeting state: "The agenda report and Economic Development Incentive Agreement did not specifically state that…
Read More
Should Wichita have a deputy to the mayor?

Should Wichita have a deputy to the mayor?

A proposal to hire a deputy or chief of staff to the Wichita mayor is a good idea which will increase transparency and accountability of elected officials. Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will consider a proposal to create the position of Deputy to the Mayor. I've excerpted the relevant portion of the agenda packet in pdf form, available here. I include partions below. How could a deputy or chief of staff help improve the city? As an example, at the April 14 council meeting, approval of a loan for a portion of the new water treatment was on the agenda.…
Read More
Naftzger Park on the web: Do we care?

Naftzger Park on the web: Do we care?

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

Wichita water plant financing on agenda

The Wichita city council will consider borrowing $280 million from the federal government, and also consider issuing bonds of up to $331 million to repay the loan. Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will consider approving a large portion of the financing for the new Northwest Water Facility (NWWF). The financing comes from the United States Government through a program called Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The amount of financing is $280,860,714, which is 49 percent of the total cost of the plant. A loan from the State of Kansas…
Read More
Freestanding emergency room in Wichita closes

Freestanding emergency room in Wichita closes

The conversion of a medical facility should receive city scrutiny due to tax breaks granted based on its original use. The Wichita Eagle reports that a freestanding emergency room in northeast Wichita has closed after two years. It will be converted to a cardiology office under the same ownership. As I reported in Free standing emergency department about to open in Wichita, the facility received property tax abatements worth an estimated $61,882 per year in the first year. The abatement was scheduled to last for five years, with a likely extension for an additional five years. These abatements were obtained…
Read More
Wichita city council to consider COVID-19 response measures

Wichita city council to consider COVID-19 response measures

The City of Wichita may spend to create a COVID-19 expense tracking project and to bypass normal purchasing processes. At Tuesday's meeting of the Wichita City Council, members will consider measures to help the city respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the agenda packet for the meeting, the city advises that the pandemic will financially impact the city, and that the city needs to take steps to respond. According to the city document, the city may experience extra costs and revenue shortfalls. There is the potential for the city to be compensated for these if the city can "aggregate and…
Read More