In a letter in yesterday’s Wichita Eagle, Randy Brown comments on my recent op-ed piece in the same newspaper. He is senior fellow at the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University, and also the executive director of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government. He’s done a lot to promote openness and transparency in government. His experience as an editorial writer for the Wichita Eagle shows in his use of vividly descriptive language like “under cover of Monday evening’s darkness” and “aggravated assault on its spirit.” I wish I could write like that.
Here’s Randy’s letter:
Reopen TIF issue
I’m fairly well acquainted with Bob Weeks, our extraconservative government watchdog. It’s fair to say that I agree with Weeks no more than one time in every 20 issues. But that one time is crucial to our democracy.
Weeks is dead-on target when he says that conducting the public’s business in secret causes citizens to lose respect for government officials and corrupts the process of democracy (“TIF public hearing was bait and switch,” Dec. 5 Opinion). And that’s what happened when significant 11th-hour changes to the already controversial and questionable tax-increment financing plan for the downtown arena neighborhood were sneaked onto the Wichita City Council’s Tuesday agenda, essentially under cover of Monday evening’s darkness.
This may not have been a technical violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act, but it was an aggravated assault on its spirit. Among other transgressions, we had a mockery of the public hearing process rather than an open and transparent discussion of a contentious public issue.
The Wichita officials involved should publicly apologize, and the issue should be reopened. And this time, the public should be properly notified.
Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government