Category Archives: city council

Election turnout grows to. . .7.8 percent

Does a voter turnout of 7.8 percent sound better than 7.7 percent? Probably not.

Nonetheless, the turnout for Tuesday’s primary election in Wichita increased ever so slightly Friday when 75 provisional ballots were certified and counted toward the total.

The official numbers:  Of the 201,2346 registered voters in Wichita, 15,597 voted. That comes to 7.75 percent. Rounded up it’s 7.8 percent,   Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale confirmed.

Thirteen of the 88 provisional ballots didn’t count for various reasons, including some who voted in the wrong precinct. Provisional ballots are cast at the polls on Election Day when questions arise about a voter’s eligibility.

The provisional ballots did not alter the outcome of any of the races, including in the one for City Council District 2. Pete Meitzner still won the second spot to advance to the April 5 general election with 8 votes more than Steve Harris. Charlie Stevens won the primary by 130 votes.

Advance voting in the primary accounted for 24.4 percent of the ballots, or about 3,800 ballots.

Mayor defends Sister Cities trip to France

WICHITA — Facing criticism of City Council member Janet Miller’s planned Sister Cities trip to Paris, Mayor Carl Brewer launched a long defense, saying that such trips can draw business to the city.

Brewer’s response today comes after Bob Weeks, a local blogger who has pressed the city on the issue, called the International Sister Cities Conference a “junket” that the city should not pay for in a tough economic climate.

“Even in good budget times, I would argue these trips should be avoided,” Weeks told council members this morning.

Read More »

Topeka OKs sales tax increase for streets

WICHITA — As Wichita struggles to find enough money to repair its deteriorating streets, another Kansas community has chosen a solution for its street problems.

Topeka residents approved a half-cent sales tax Tuesday to fix streets and other infrastructure. The proposal to raise the sales tax to 7.95 cents on the dollar was approved by 57 percent of voters.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports: The 10-year tax takes effect Oct. 1, with proceeds going to pay costs of “maintenance and improvements of existing streets, gutters, curbs, sidewalks, alleys and street lighting.”

Wichita has more than 500 miles of streets in “critical” condition and isn’t spending enough to keep up with the deterioration, we reported in February.

Families of Carr victims: Don’t abolish death penalty

TOPEKA – Standing with Attorney General Steve Six on Thursday, family members of the Carr brothers’ victims joined him in urging lawmakers not to abolish the death penalty.

On Monday, Senate Bill 208 is scheduled to for debate on the Senate floor. The proposal would abolish the death penalty for cases sentenced after July 1, 2009.

Six worried that the change could mean that death row inmates currently appealing their sentences – such as Michael Marsh and Gavin Scott – could be exempted from execution.

Family members also worried that Reginald and Jonathan Carr could escape the death penalty through appeals, if the law were changed.

It is’t about cost or closure, said Amy Scott, who was dating Brad Heyka, one of four people kidnapped and shot execution style on a Wichita soccer field in 2000 by brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr. A fifth person survived. The Carrs have been on death row since 2002.

“We’re never going to have closure because we’ve lost the people we loved so much,” she said. “I just think this is a matter of justice. This just needs to be finished to the end.”

The proposal comes from Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, who says all cost-saving measures should be considered while the state faces a budget crunch.

Prosecutors, such as Six, have argued that the cases do not necessarily cost more and justice should not be predicated on expense.

He urged Kansans to contact their lawmakers and express opposition to banning the death penalty.

Kansas has 10 men on death row. No one has been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1994.

Mayor quietly sought wage freeze for himself

Mayor Carl Brewer said ‘we all need to share in this pain’ during his State of the City Address last night, and he pledged to not accept a cost of living increase or raise. City spokesman Van Williams said Brewer recently quietly sought a wage freeze for himself in the human resources department. If the wage is frozen, that would lock the mayor’s salary at $82,660, according to the 2009-2010 city budget.

Last year, the mayor and city council members each got a 4 percent cost of living boost — along with most other city employees. Council members, whom most consider part-time employees, are actually listed as full time employees (or equivalent), and they make about $35,000 a year.

To see more about the council’s budget, see their portion of the city budget.

Word cloud from Brewer’s State of the City speech

Here is a word cloud of Mayor Carl Brewer’s third State of the City speech, which he delivered Tuesday night. The Eagle created it using the text of Brewer’s speech and (You can double-click it to get a closer look.) Click here to see the word cloud from his 2008 speech and to read more about word clouds. Or click here to read this year’s speech as it was written.

Tuesday is State of the City speech

Mayor Carl Brewer plans to give his second State of the City speech Tuesday night at 6 p.m. Invitations to the speech were sent out a week ago, but no official announcement has been posted on the city’s web site. Brewer, who has struggled with some speeches and proclamations, has been rehearsing the speech for at least a week.

Last year, Brewer spoke to a packed city council chamber of mostly invitees. His 3,800-word speech drew applause more than 30 times, giving it the feel of a State of the State or State of the Union address. But his themes were hyper-local, addressing gang violence, the murder of Robert Ridge, fighting blight and retaining and attracting business — particularly in the aviation sector, where Brewer worked until he was elected as mayor, a full-time job, in 2007. This year, we anticipate that the speech will focus on layoffs in the aviation sector and downtown development.

In keeping with the parallels between the city speech and those of governors and presidents, here is a “word cloud” image that balloons the words he used the most in his 2007 address. This cloud was created using Wordle. Similar clouds are used by major media outlets, such as The New York Times, to give readers a sense of the dominating themes of speeches.

Brewer speech cloud

Brewer speech cloud

Wichita is Onionized

We hope we don’t ruin the fun by typing about parody here on a stuffy government blog, but we couldn’t resist the chance to chatter about The Onion’s election coverage — complete with a Wichita dateline.

Using the tone of some of the stories chronicling President-elect Barack Obama’s win, the satirical periodical reports that Alan Klemke won the District 4 City Council seat in the Nov. 4 election. (Of course, being a serious news source, we feel compelled to note that Wichita’s city council elections are in April and District 4 isn’t up for election in 2009.)

Here’s a taste of The Onion’s story: Read More »

Bring your beer with while bar hopping?

So you’re at a bar and all your friends want to take off to the next establishment — but your beer is still half full. As it stands now, you’ll have to pound it or leave it behind. But there’s some hope for pedestrian drinkers. One of the legislative issues Wichita City Council members will discuss Tuesday is a move that would urge the state to pass a law allowing “entertainment overlay districts” where you could take your drink out of the bar and down the street. Read More »

Amtrak, Cowtown and homelessness on Council’s agenda

City Council On Tuesday, the Wichita City Council will vote on whether to endorse a plan to end chronic homelessness, a resolution supporting the expansion of Amtrak passenger rail service through the city and a $54,000 contract to market the Old Cowtown Museum. And there’s also a contract on the agenda that would sell a city-owned downtown parking lot to Cargill Meat Solutions for $1.

Homelessness: This move wouldn’t commit the city to any spending, but it would let Interim City Manager Ed Flentje work with County Manager Bill Buchanan to develop yet more recommendations on what local governments should do to help people who are on the streets.

Amtrak: It has been 28 years since Wichita had passenger rail service, and now many are calling for an extension of existing rail lines through Wichita. That would provide train service from Fort Worth to Kansas City. This resolution wouldn’t authorize any spending, but it would formally encourage the project.

Cowtown: The museum is set to re-open May 9, and the city wants to hire and advertising firm to get the word out via a marketing campaign. The gig would go to Jajo, Inc., a Wichita company that would use e-mail, radio and other tactics to “generate buzz” and bring people into the struggling museum.

Cargill: The parking lot is located near First and Water streets downtown, which is near one of Cargill’s buildings. The company has been expanding downtown, and it is adding more and more employees.