Recently I wrote about the Mississippi Beef Plant (The Mississippi Beef Plant Has a Lesson For Us) and its spectacular costs to the taxpayers of Mississippi. I wondered if there were less spectacular failures that we didn't know about because they weren't reported in the news media. Failures in this context could mean a situation where the taxpayers have to make good on a bond or debt that the benefiting company didn't pay, or it could mean a situation where the company doesn't default, but fails to deliver on the promised economic development activity.
Posts tagged as “Wichita city government”
This is a letter I am sending to Cox Communications, plus government officials who I think can help.
Recently I was in Portland, Ore. I happened to notice that there was true public access cable television. I watched several talk shows covering a variety of topics. There were locally-produced music shows, featuring local bands.
This experience caused me to wonder why Wichita doesnâ€™t have this type of community cable television access. I seem to remember that when cable television was new, that local governments were granted public access channels as part of the franchise agreement. In Wichita we have a few channels that are used by the City of Wichita and the local school district. It seems to me, however, that these entities use the channels for very little useful programming. Most of the time these channels are rolling the same stale and useless public service announcements, or the same photographs of downtown Wichita statuary for the past few years.
Because Government Should Have Accountability
Paul M. Weyrich, Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation (Click here to read the article.)
In an article from The Wichita Eagle published on May 3, 2005 titled "Ice rink figures don't add up, records show" we find this quote: "Ice Sports Wichita has been on a downward slide longer than the city staff admits in a report the City Council is scheduled to act on today, records show." These records were obtained through a request filed under the Kansas Open Records act. My understanding of this news story is that City of Wichita staff has been misleading everyone -- including the mayor and city council -- about the true state of the ice rink's financial affairs. If not for the reporters who obtained the records, this deception might be continuing.
The commentary by Paul M. Weyrich referenced above contains examples of where the Federal Freedom of information Act has been used to uncover governmental misdeeds. The article also mentions a bill titled the OPEN Government Act, designed to "ensure that government acts promptly and efficiently in responding to FOIA requests."
Mr. Van Williams, Wichita Eagle city hall reporter for the past three years, will become Wichita's public information coordinator.
I believe there needs to be a tension between the press and the government officials it covers. The press needs to hold officials accountable. It needs to dig deep to uncover facts officials don't voluntarily concede. It needs to ask them tough questions. It needs to make them angry from time to time.
Would the City of Wichita hire someone who had been doing that?
I was startled to hear this information, that the new contract has no dollar cap, as this has not been, in my memory, reported. It has been reported that AirTran sought a no-cap contract, but that Wichita would not agree to that. But it turns out that the city has agreed to what, in effect, is a no-cap contract. Yes, I believe Mr. Bell when he says that Wichita can cancel the contract, with notice, if the city believes it will spend more than the $2.5 million it has committed to. I would submit, however, that if the City spends the $2.5 million and realizes it needs to spend more to keep AirTran in town, the City Council would vote to do so. Therefore, the no-cap contract is in effect.
Following are remarks I am delivering to several groups, including the Wichita City Council, in April 2005.
WELCOME NEW COUNCIL MEMBERS
I AM OLD AND SICK AND GETTING GRAY
I DON'T KNOW WHERE I WILL GET THE MONEY THAT THE CITY WANTS ME TO PAY
Mr. Clements's article makes a striking conclusion as to why airfares in Wichita were so high. I would be curious as to whether any of our government leaders have read the study. We should also ask why our government leaders are not performing research like this when they propose to spend large sums of taxpayer money.
If you listen to local Wichita news media, our local politicians, and various community advocates, the desirability of downtown development over other development is accepted as a given. But what people actually do with their own money is different.
I am writing to express my concern about the upcoming renewal of the subsidy being paid to AirTran Airways. You may recall that I appeared before the Council last May and spoke in opposition to the subsidy. Since then I have learned more about the Fair Fares program.
Presently Mr. Bob Knight of Wichita, a private citizen, is promoting the building of a casino in Park City, Kansas. These articles from The Wichita Eagle have reported Mr. Knight's position on casino gambling in Kansas when he was the mayor of Wichita:
I recently read that the Wichita Airport's economic impact was estimated at $1.6 billion per year. I thought this seemed high, so I investigated further.
In 2003, local Wichita news media devoted extensive news coverage to two officials in the City of Wichita's finance department. They were accused of improperly spending between $52,000 and $73,800 on travel. While I don't condone this waste and I'm glad that our local news media uncovered it, the amount involved is relatively small. Furthermore, the people who wasted this money are no longer in a position to repeat.
The real scandal, however, is the ongoing lack of care exercised when spending our money. Time and time again we read in the newspaper how the mayor or city council members are surprised by facts and circumstances arising after a decision has been made.
I delivered these remarks to the Wichita City Council as they were preparing to vote on extending AirTran Airway's subsidy for another two years. The extension passed with only one dissenting vote.
Mr. Mayor, Members of the Council:
I speak today in opposition to the continuation of the subsidy the City is paying to AirTran Airways.
There are several reasons why I believe this subsidy should not be continued. The primary reason is that the subsidy, since it is paid to one company and one company only, is not fair to the other companies. Yes, it is true that fares are lower. But is that a legitimate reason to enrich one company at the expense of others?
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."
Image what our town could be like if the downtown arena in Wichita vote fails and the county commissioners put aside for a moment their plans for the renovation of the Kansas Coliseum.