Charlie Stevens stood at a podium in the front of an east Wichita big box building Thursday and said he wants to create a environment in Wichita where more businesses like the building’s new tenants, DTYdirect, can flourish.
Stevens, a 41-year-old real estate manager and investor, said his company bought and renovated the building that it is now leasing to DTYdirect, an online marketplace. There was no government subsidy involved — just free market business, he said. He wants city hall to focus on core services.
“Police, fire, water and sewer, streets, parks and arts,” he said. “Those are the types of things city hall should be focused on and let our industrious citizens decide for themselves what to do with the rest of their money.”
Stevens’ comments came as he announced his bid for the District 2 Wichita City Council seat, which represents east and northeast portions of the city. Its current representative, Sue Schlapp, can’t run again because of term limits. Stevens will face Om Chauhan, Steve Harris and Paul Savage in the March 1 primary. The top two candidates will face off in the April 5 general election. The deadline to file for local city council and school board positions is noon on Jan. 25.
Stevens said that the city’s budget has grown at a rate much faster than population and inflation. “There has to be fluff in there somewhere,” he said.
Stevens, who is also known as a top-notch amateur golfer, said government should mostly get out of businesses’ way. In an interview after his announcement, he said he opposes tax incremental financing, which the city has used heavily to spur growth, and that the city has expanded the use of industrial revenue bonds far beyond their original intent of luring job-producing industry to the city. “We’re using it as a crutch for businesses that don’t have a good business plan,” he said.
Stevens also said he opposes the trash hauling cooperative that has been presented by City Manager Robert Layton and the Independent Haulers Association. And he said he is philosophically opposed to spending public money downtown to spur redevelopment. “I believe the free market works best,” he said.
“What if we were the city with the lowest tax burden and the least amount of bureaucratic costs,” he said to applause. “I believe if we do that then we will be in a position to maintain our existing jobs and let the citizens of Wichita create new ones.”