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Wichita Center City South Redevelopment TIF District Testimony

From John Todd.

Update: Watch John’s testimony on YouTube here.

Testimony delivered by John Todd before the Wichita City Council on December 2, 2008 in opposition to the proposed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan for the Center city South Redevelopment District located generally around the new Intrust Bank Arena.

In 2004, proponents of the new Intrust Arena were assuring voters that their approval of the new arena would provide the “economic boost” and the “synergy” needed for effective downtown redevelopment without the need for increased property taxes. No mention was made at that time of the need for additional taxpayer subsidies for downtown development.

In recent testimony before the City Council, I heard a staff member advise the Mayor and this City Council that county property appraisals in the area adjacent to the new Intrust Area had increased more than 10% in the prior year. Does this proposed TIF District sound like a blighted and declining area headed for economic stagnation? Or is it time for private developers to seize this development opportunity our Mayor envisions, and of course without the need for risking the taxpayer’s wallet that is a common element in private/public partnerships?

Since the parcels of land around the new Intrust Arena appear to be owned by dozens of small private property and business owners, private developers will need to assemble the parcel(s) they need for development through voluntary exchange rather than through government’s involuntary and coercive taking of property by either the threat of eminent domain or the actual use of eminent domain. Street improvements, if needed for the project(s), should be paid for by the private developers or through the use of special assessment financing. Can anyone believe that city and/or county planners failed to plan for the street improvements needed for the new arena and a method of paying for them prior to beginning construction of the arena? (Note: In addition to the nearly $12 million TIF proposal for streets, a last minute change added an additional $10 million the TIF for a parking garage.) Also, I believe the original Arena project the voters approved in 2004 included $14 million dollars for a parking garage.

One doesn’t have to look very far around our city to see and appreciate the success of our many risk-taking private developers who through their knowledge of the market and their problem solving abilities, plus most importantly the investment of their own money, continue to expand our tax base, create jobs, and enhance our quality of life. Perhaps these are the people you need to call on to bid on downtown development work without the need for a massive public subsidy?

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