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WICHITA, KANSAS "SHOCKER": Reminds of Columbia development incentive battle

You can beat the special interests who try to rule City Hall
 
COLUMBIA, 4/29/13 (Beat Byte) -- Last spring, the Wall Street Journal ran a short op-ed that should give heart to every conscientious Columbia citizen who has stood up to City Hall -- and the wealthy special interests that form a "shadow government" responsible for some of the most dangerous blunders in recent memory.

Here are some excerpts from the WSJ story, entitled "A Wichita Shocker":
 
"Local politicians like to get in bed with local business, and taxpayers are usually the losers. So three cheers for a voter revolt in Wichita, Kansas last week that shows such sweetheart deals can be defeated.
 
"In late 2011 the Wichita city council passed a bill exempting the new Ambassador Hotel, owned by real-estate developers, from 75% of the city hotel tax, on top of at least $10 million in other subsidies.
 
"The measure was sold in the name of jobs and urban redevelopment, and the local power brokers were all for it: the Chamber of Commerce, the political class, the city newspaper.
 
"All the skids were greased and, truth be told, hotel taxes are too high in Wichita, while the money at stake, $2.25 million over 15 years, was small.
 
"But voters were so enraged by the insider dealing they launched a petition drive for a voter referendum. Despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by hotel advocates, almost 10 times more than opponents spent, voters routed the subsidy 61% to 39%.
 
"The elites are stunned, but they shouldn't be. The core issue is fairness. One of the leaders of the opposition, Derrick Sontag, director of Americans for Prosperity in Kansas, says that what infuriated voters was the veneer of "political cronyism."
 
"What Americans seem to want most from government these days is equal treatment. They increasingly realize that powerful government nearly always helps the powerful."
 
 
Equal treatment under the law.  What a concept!  And what a shame that, at the local level especially, equal treatment is all too often nowhere to be found.  
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