On August 12, 2008, at a meeting of the Wichita City Council, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered remarks that I found … well, I’m still trying to find the words that fully describe my astonishment. You can read my transcription of his remarks in this post: Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, August 12, 2008.
The context of these remarks is that John Todd and I had just testified against the city establishing a tax increment financing (TIF) district that benefits a local developer. Mayor Brewer believes it is the city’s firm duty to guide and subsidize economic development. His remarks on July 1, 2008 (Mayor Brewer Warren Theatre [sic] Statement) leave no doubt about this. So I wasn’t too surprised that the mayor ignored John’s and my advice and supported the formation of this TIF district.
What surprised me was when the mayor said that without the city’s “role in guiding and identifying how the city was going to grow … we would still be in covered wagons and horses.”
When I heard him say that, I thought he’s just using a rhetorical flourish to emphasize a point. But later on he said this: “… then tomorrow we’ll be saying we don’t want more technology, and then the following day we’ll be saying we don’t want public safety, and it won’t take us very long to get back to where we were at back when the city first settled.”
So I think it’s fair to say that the mayor believes that without the city’s role in economic development, we would soon return to the stone age (okay, there I exaggerate a bit).
Many people in Wichita, including the mayor and many on the city council and county commission, believe that the public-private partnership is the way to drive innovation and get things done. It’s really a shame that this attitude is taking hold in Wichita, a city which has such a proud tradition of entrepreneurship. The names that Wichitans are rightly proud of — Lloyd Stearman, Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, W.C. Coleman, Albert Alexander Hyde, Dan and Frank Carney, and Fred C. Koch — these people worked and built businesses without the benefit of public-private partnerships and government subsidy.
Today this rugged heritage is disappearing in favor of the public-private partnership and programs like Visioneering Wichita. We don’t have long before the entrepreneurial spirit in Wichita is totally extinguished. What can we do to return power to the people instead of surrendering it to government?