As part of its effort to revitalize downtown Wichita, the city wants to hire a planning firm. Four firms have been selected as finalists. Tuesday and Wednesday, (September 22 and 23), the firms will make public presentations as part of the selection process.
I had thought that it would be great if the public would be involved in this selection process. To that end I asked — first informally, then under the provisions of the Kansas Open Records Act — for copies of the proposals submitted by the finalist firms. My requests were denied. (See Downtown Wichita proposals not available to citizens)
In the end, the fact that the city won’t let citizens see the proposals probably doesn’t matter. At this week’s planning meetings, citizens will not be allowed to ask questions. There will be a city council meeting where the council will make a decision, and citizens will have an opportunity to provide input at that time. But without detailed knowledge of the proposals, how can citizens ask questions?
Citizens need to realize that city government and downtown leaders are just not interested in their input in this matter.
There are a few citizens, though, who do have these proposals. If you’re a member of a select committee, you can have them. Government shouldn’t be allowed to pick and choose which select citizens are allowed to see how their tax dollars are to be used.
The fact that the city doesn’t want to let citizens — except those in a limited circle of downtown boosters — view these proposals and participate in the planning firm selection process is disturbing. It follows a pattern of stacking committees with people friendly to the desired goal, with no desire for dissent to be heard. It’s a public relations disaster for the City of Wichita.