Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau

Questions for the next Wichita city attorney: Number 2

Wichita's city attorney is retiring, and the city will select a replacement. There are a few questions that we ought to ask of candidates. Will the next city attorney continue to obstruct government transparency or be an advocate for citizens' right to know? Since 2009 I have advocated for greater transparency regarding spending data for three quasi-governmental agencies. Others have since joined the quest. The agencies are Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, and Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. (See Open Government in Kansas for more information.) Each agency contends it is not a "public agency"…
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During Sunshine Week, here are a few things Wichita could do

During Sunshine Week, here are a few things Wichita could do

The City of Wichita says it values open and transparent government, but the city could improve several areas of providing information and records to citizens. The City of Wichita is proud to be an open and transparent governmental agency, its officials say. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer often speaks in favor of government transparency. For example, in his State of the City address for 2011, he listed as an important goal for the city this: "And we must provide transparency in all that we do." When the city received an award for transparency in 2013, a city news release quoted Wichita…
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WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita’s city tourism fee, Special taxes for special people

WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita’s city tourism fee, Special taxes for special people

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The Wichita City Council will hold a meeting regarding an industry that wants to tax itself, but really is taxing its customers. Also, the city may be skirting the law in holding the meeting. Then: The Kansas Legislature is considering special tax treatment for a certain class of business firms. What is the harm in doing this? Episode 35, broadcast March 16, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
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Wichita seeks to add more tax to hotel bills

Wichita seeks to add more tax to hotel bills

The city of Wichita wants hotel guests to make a "marketing investment" in Wichita by paying a "City Tourism Fee." This Tuesday the Wichita City Council will hold a public hearing regarding the formation of a Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID). The main characteristic of the proposed TBID is that it will add 2.75 percent tax to most hotel rooms sold in the City of Wichita. The funds would go to Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau to be used to enhance that agency's marketing efforts. The tax is estimated to raise $2.5 million per year. What is the motivation…
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Regulation failure leads to tragedy in Wichita

Regulation failure leads to tragedy in Wichita

When the Wichita City Council passed new taxicab regulations in 2012, the focus was on dirty cabs and slovenly drivers who were not acting as goodwill ambassadors for the city. Mayor Carl Brewer said he was "tired" of hearing complaints about drivers. So the council passed new regulations regarding taxicabs, including the requirement that drivers attend customer service training provided by Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau. Other regulations determine taxicab office staffing levels and level of supervision. But something very important slipped through the cracks. The Wichita Eagle has reported the city didn't competently enforce regulations designed to protect…
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Kansas Open Records Act and the ‘public agency’ definition

Kansas Open Records Act and the ‘public agency’ definition

Update: The bill has been referred to another committee, and the February 19 hearing is canceled. Despite the City of Wichita's support for government transparency, citizens have to ask the legislature to add new law forcing the city and its agencies to comply with the Kansas Open Records Act. Open records laws allow citizens to ask government agencies for records. While these laws are valuable, we find that in practice governmental agencies find many ways to avoid filling records requests. Because the City of Wichita does not live up to the standards of open government -- even through it proclaims…
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Transparency groups want to know where Wichita tax money is going to promote Wichita

By Craig Andres, KSN News. View video below, or click here. For more on this issue, see Open government in Kansas. WICHITA, Kansas -- Public or private? GoWichita, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition get more than three million dollars a year. Some of that is taxpayer money. "Why are their records not public?" asks Randy Brown with the Sunshine Coalition. "It's ridiculous because we ought to know. These are largely tax supported entities. It's our money that's being used. There's no reason in the world these things shouldn't be open." The Sunshine Coalition is…
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WichitaLiberty.TV January 19, 2014

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: How much would you pay to visit the Wichita Art Museum? You might be surprised to learn how much each visit really costs. Then: A transparency agenda for Wichita city government and the Kansas Legislature. Finally, a look at public schools wasting money. Episode 28, broadcast January 19, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
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Visit Wichita, and pay a tourism fee

The Wichita City Council will consider adding a 2.75 percent tax to hotel bills, calling it a "City Tourism Fee." Welcome to Wichita! This week the Wichita City Council will consider advancing the formation of a Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID). The main characteristic of the proposed TBID is that it will add 2.75 percent fee to most hotel rooms sold in the City of Wichita. The funds would go to Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau to be used to enhance Go Wichita‚Äôs market efforts. The cost of the effort is estimated at $2.5 million per year. The item…
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A transparency agenda for Wichita

Kansas has a weak open records law, and Wichita doesn't want to follow the law, as weak as it is. But with a simple change of attitude towards open government and citizens' right to know, Wichita could live up to the goals its leaders have set. The City of Wichita is proud to be an open and transparent governmental agency, its officials say. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer often speaks in favor of government transparency. For example, in his State of the City address for 2011, he listed as an important goal for the city this: "And we must provide transparency…
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Wichita can advocate for government transparency, or not

Government should be responsive to citizens when they make legitimate requests for records. Wichita should not hide behind non-profit entities and tortured interpretations of the law in order to keep records secret. When the Wichita City Council considers renewing its contract with Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, the council has another opportunity to decide whether it is truly in favor of open government and citizen access to records. Go Wichita, along with the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, contends that it is not a "public agency" as defined in Kansas law, and therefore does…
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For Wichita, more districts, more taxes, more bureaucracy

Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will consider formation of a Tourism Business Improvement District. Actually, the council will formation of a planning committee to determine boundaries, parameters, budgets, and how to fund the budget. The impetus behind the TBID, according to city documents, is "Go Wichita has proposed that a TBID be created to enhance its marketing efforts." Go Wichita is the Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau. The source of its funds, again from city documents: "A fee is assessed to each of these properties based on room night sales. This fee is usually determined as a percentage of the…
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In Wichita, failure to value open records and open government

On the KAKE Television public affairs program "This Week in Kansas" the failure of the Wichita City Council, especially council member Wichita City Council Member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita), to recognize the value of open records and open government is discussed. For more background, see Wichita, again, fails at open government.
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Wichita, again, fails at open government

The Wichita City Council, when presented with an opportunity to increase the ability of citizens to observe the workings of the government they pay for, decided against the cause of open government, preferring to keep the spending of taxpayer money a secret. The occasion was consideration of renewing its contract with Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau. I asked, as I have in the past for this agency and also for Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, that they consider themselves to be what they are: public agencies as defined in the Kansas Open Records Act.…
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Wichita could do better regarding open government, if it wants

Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will consider renewing its contract with Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau. The renewal will provide another opportunity for the council to decide whether it is truly in favor of open government and citizen access to records. Go Wichita, along with the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, contends that it is not a "public agency" as defined in Kansas law, and therefore does not have to fulfill records requests. Mayor Carl Brewer and all council members except Wichita City Council Member Michael O'Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita) are…
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Open records again an issue in Kansas

Responses to records requests made by Kansas Policy Institute are bringing attention to shortcomings in the Kansas Open Records Act. Those who have made records requests in Kansas are probably not surprised that KPI has had difficulty in having its records requests respected and filled. In 2007 Better Government Association and National Freedom of Information Coalition gave Kansas a letter grade of "F" for its open records law. Last year State Integrity Investigation looked at the states, and Kansas did not rank well there, either. See Kansas rates low in access to records. This week KPI president Dave Trabert appeared…
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Fact checking a Wichita Ambassador Hotel “Vote Yes” mailer

On February 10th many voters may have received a large mail piece from Moving Wichita Forward, a group formed to urge Wichitans to "Vote Yes" in the February 28 special election in Wichita. The subject of the election is a Wichita city charter ordinance that rebates 75 percent of the Ambassador Hotel's guest tax collections back to the hotel's owner. A yes vote means you agree with this allocation of the taxes the hotel collects. A no vote means you disagree, and would rather see the hotel's guest tax collections handled in the usual manner -- funding Wichita's convention and…
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In Wichita, disdain for open records and government transparency

Despite receiving nearly all its funding from taxpayers, Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau refuses to admit it is a "public agency" as defined in the Kansas Open Records Act. The city backs this agency and its interpretation of this law, which is in favor of government secrecy and in opposition to the letter and spirit of the Open Records Act. In the following excerpt from the KAKE Television public affairs program This Week in Kansas, this issue was discussed. Randy Brown, who is chair of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government and former opinion page editor of the…
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Open records, rights of Kansans disrespected at Wichita City Council

Yesterday the Wichita City Council decided to issue another contract to Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau. I appeared to recommend that the council not issue this contract until an issue regarding the Kansas Open Records Act is resolved. Explanation of why Go Wichita should be considered a "public agency" and comply with records requests is found in Wichita open records issue buried. A few notes from the meeting (video may be viewed here or at the end of this article): Discussion of this matter at the meeting reveals that city staff believes that the annual reports filed by Go…
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Wichita open records issue buried

Update: This agenda item has been moved from the consent agenda to a regular agenda. This week the Wichita City Council will decide whether to issue another contract to Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city should not issue this contract until an issue regarding the Kansas Open Records Act is resolved. I have asked for records from Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau. It refused to comply. Its reason was that it believes it is not a "public agency" as defined in the KORA. When citizens have problems with agencies refusing to comply with the law, one avenue…
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