Friday, July 20, 2007

Quiet agenda -- budget looming -- management expenses

Next week's city council meeting is filled with routine stuff that probably won't spark much discussion. But, there is an opening for talk on the 2008-2009 budget, which could be interesting if someone throws out a new idea or flags a flaw.

Also, we note in this week's agenda a simple record that the city has been transparent about for some time -- managment expense records. This month's is pretty routine. Just check the agenda each month if you'd like to see updates. Here's the report:

City Manager George Kolb, ICMA Strategic Planning Committee Meeting, Richmond, Texas $690.01

Kelly Carpenter, Director of Finance 2007 ICSC Spring Convention, Las Vegas Nev., $1,113.62

Law Joe Allen Lang, First Attorney Litigation, Wilmington, Del. $939.76

Jim Norris, Director of IT IS Broadband Wireless World @ Interop, Las Vegas, Nev. $1,523.32

Larry Garcia, Fire Chief, 2007 Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Conference, Los Angeles, Cali. $1,909.72

Cynthia Berner-Harris, Director of Libraries Strategic Planning for the Library Services & Technology Act, Topeka $124.90

Nancy Harvieux, Transporation Manager Partnerships For Transportation Conference, Kansas City $430.65

Total $6,731.98

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Check out the new fire stations

About a year ago, people from Jim Skelton's southeast Wichita district walked a picket line along Main Street in front of City Hall asking the city to build a fire station in South City. It couldn't happen soon enough for Skelton. But it will happen sometime around the end of 2008, fire officials say. Above are conceptual designs of all three fire stations that the city council approved. (Just click on the images for a larger view.) The first is Station 20, which will be built in far east Wichita. Station 21 will follow in west Wichita. And, finally, Station 22. Land hasn't yet been acquired for Station 22, but Assistant Fire Chief Mike Rudd said the city is working on that. The new stations will have separate dorm-style rooms instead of the more open rooms that firefighters sleep in at other stations. The two-bed rooms are intended to give firefighters more privacy and help attract more women to the profession. The large rooms next to the fire truck bays on Stations 20 and 21 are there to house alternative communications centers if something disables dispatch and communications downtown. Local community groups could also have meetings there.

We'll update you with new station addresses and a precise timeline soon.

(If you're curious where other city fire stations are, click here.)
(If you're interested in becoming one of the 31 new firefighters the city plans to hire, click here.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

City council will call bowling congress, examine Exchange Place plans and talk budget

Real Development's plan to turn several downtown buildings into high-dollar condos is about to get one of the last go-ahead signals it needs before developers can start building. The city council votes Tuesday whether to accept the project plan.

Under the proposal, the city would buy three downtown buildings, turn them over to Real Development and build a public parking garage with 150 monthly and hourly spaces. Altogether, that would cost $6 million in property tax money that would otherwise be split among the city, county and school district. The structures included are the Exchange Place Building, Michigan Building, Lerner's Building and a parking lot near Douglas and Market. The city would buy them for $2.25 million and give them to Real Development (AKA The Minnesota Guys), which would convert them into condos that would sell for an average of $200,000. Under the proposed agreement, Real Development would have to cover any costs that the TIF doesn't generate. That is supposed to protect the city's coffers if the project falls short.
(Check out the council agenda for more on the Exchange Place project and other city business.)

And, at some point Tuesday, Mayor Carl Brewer and Vice Mayor Sharon Fearey will have a teleconference with representatives of the United States Bowling Congress, which decided to back out of their plans to have a huge tournament at Century II in 2011. The bowlers have set some ground rules about what topics they'll discuss during the conversation, so it's unclear how much information might come out of it.

Following the council meeting, there will be a discussion about the 2008-2009 budget. There are other public meetings on the budget as well.

July 16 – Evening presentation to all six district advisory boards, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the council chamber (televised live on the city’s cable Channel 7).
July 17 - Public comment at council meeting. A workshop will follow.
July 24 - Set total dollars levied and take public comment at council meeting. A workshop will follow.
Aug. 7 – Public comment at council meeting. A workshop will follow.
Aug. 14 - Official public hearing and adoption of the of the 2008 budget at the council meeting.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Old Town partiers have been holding it (or watering the shrubs)

The public restrooms in Old Town have been open for about a month, but, for at least a couple weeks, some bar hoppers have had to hold it -- or find an alternate restroom (which is often an alley or some landscaping). That's because there's been a glitch in the automatic locks that were set up to close the new public restrooms down at 2 a.m. (bar closing time) on Friday and Saturdays and at midnight Sunday to Thursday.

Dale Goter, the city's lobbyist and fill-in spokesman, assures us the restroom locks are being fixed and will soon have a telephone connection to City Hall so that security officers can lock and unlock the doors as needed.

(See The Hall Monitor's first potty post here.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

On the cyber trail, Brownback campaigns, bloggers spoof

In the online world, where Sen. Sam Brownback (or his campaign) has set up a MySpace page and a robust, blog-filled homepage, the Kansan is taking some apparently comedic hits for his socially conservative views.

Consider this story today in The Denver Post:

"... And if you peruse some of the blogs supposedly authored by his supporters, such as baptistsforbrownback(, you'll see that he believes in lots of other things too. Like that the Earth is flat - and does not revolve around the sun. And that rape should be referred to as an "unplanned sexual event" in order to "eliminate the excuses given by many women" for getting an abortion." The Post also lists as one of the parody sites.

Later in The Post's story, Brigham Young University political scientist Richard Davis says: "Sites like these don't sway undecided voters or push away (Brownback's) supporters. I think the biggest effect is that it's embarrassing for the candidate."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

New York Times' Frugal Traveler visits Greensburg

"Some people find Kansas boring, flat and featureless," says The New York Times' Frugal Traveler (Matt Gross), who is traveling the country in a 1989 Volvo station wagon. "But not me. I love how oil derricks dot the cornfields and how sometimes out of nowhere you'll drive into something truly shocking. This is Greensburg. Or rather, this was Greensburg..."

That comes from a Times video taken as Gross visited Greensburg recently and got a plate of gumbo from Gulf Coast volunteers, a tour of the city and a chance to see some teenagers smash a tornado-ravaged, one-string acoustic guitar on a cement slab. The five minute video is on the Times' web site.

For comprehensive coverage of Greensburg's recovery, see The Eagle's special web section.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Pachyderms win trunkload of awards

Wichita Pachyderm Club members did more last weekend than play host to their organization’s national convention. They also hauled away some of the biggest awards in Pachydermdom.

The local club was named “2006 Most Outstanding Club in the Nation,” as well has “2006 Most Outstanding Club in a Non-federated State.” Bob Aldrich, last year’s Wichita Pachyderm president, was named “Most Outstanding Club President in the Nation” and “Most Outstanding Club President in a Non-federated State.”

To be a federated state, Kansas would need to have three clubs; right now it has two, the Wichita club that meets downtown and its spun-off cousin, the Sedgwick County Pachyderm Club, which meets in west Wichita. Club president Sarah Skelton said the Pachyderms are working to establish a third club, in northeastern Kansas.

The Wichita club also picked up awards at the convention for “Best Web Site” and “Best Club Newsletter.”
The National Federation of the Grand Order of Pachyderm Clubs is an officially recognized affiliate of the Republican Party, promoting party unity and citizen involvement in GOP politics.

The clubs work to recruit, train and assist Republican candidates, although they do not make endorsements in contested GOP primaries or take positions on divisive issues within the party.

By Dion Lefler