ISSUES 2017 10/08/17

Steve McIntosh
Thursday, October 5th

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton discusses bringing minor league baseball to Wichita, plus plans for downtown conevtion and performing arts facilities


Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

This is issues Tony 79 Steve Macintosh and I guess is Wichita city manager Robert Leighton welcome to is usually seven to eight thanks Steve didn't. Several months since Ron Blackwell retired as Wichita fire chief do we have a permanent replacement now not yet were in national search. Tammy snow is our interim chief and is doing a wonderful job and that capacity. I'll be a learning more about the some of the other finalists for the position later this week so we take this long I mean. He can't yes especially Camry and I wonder when we win we had the police chief search that went for that would for a long time because if you remember we did an assessment of the department Estrada and Astro community feedback before we went into this election. Money from the sale of the downtown Hyatt hotel has been allocated for projects in the City Council districts and for street repair. Give us an update on how street repairs going. We EC when where you just finish up our first season they'll be two or three years. An order for us to be able accomplish all the work if you're Robertson ten million dollar project. A worker primarily are almost exclusively in the residential areas that's where for where residents the most. Terms of the need and we really want to move the needle that regard we're doing some positive feedback from the neighbors. That had been affected where we have made repairs. We're doing more than just filling potholes but were actually. Improving surfaces while sort taking care of all of those surface initial surface problems and then were resurfacing the news you look at some like ten and you've got. Literally thousands of miles of residential streets right we do and it's just. It's a phenomenal job to keep on top of pride in it I'm on top of it. We've gone through some difficult Financial Times over the last point 15 years and as a result of that probably not invested or reinvest in our street system that we needed to and so were playing catch up. And a residence that remind you that every time I'm not talking neighborhood associations you know cellular Riverside area. The other day on a bidding street there's a water main break. And then replace. Felt things up for several days and I don't think Intel ago opened yet. Did a rebuilding urban street everything else I'd have people forget we have old infrastructure in some places in the city we have infrastructure is over a hundred years old. And we're replacing water mains now that are about yeah. Well it's been reported that the city is very close to getting Minor League Baseball franchise to vote in Wichita. Kenya data supplement or I don't really have a lot to report in that regard. The we have a consultant that we've been working with the Mets tell you have to do it we're not allowed to have any direct contact with any team. Until they've declared. An official interest in the city and so right now. Our consultant is working with. Multiple interested parties and at some point. We're hoping that they'll come forward with. Formal request. Two negotiate with the city in you know the thing is that the willingness of just at a phenomenal job of of what they have to work with and what they are. But is it me do you perceive that as site of this year react perceive that they. And affiliation with a Major League team issue is much better if you should be allowed better. I you know I don't really competent and all eyes light to wait and on that I'd. And the wing nuts have done a phenomenal job is independent Kenya and I have a great a lot of respect and I think a good relationship with the ownership. Hmmm I. And me are fighting. A tough battle right. When you don't have an affiliation it's I think a little harder for people to be excited about a team because they don't watch people. Move up and down into the majors and and that does seem to have some excitement for fans. They're also playing an old stadium and we know we have to do something. With that facility. If we are successful game affiliated team will. Race this that stadium and build new. If not in the wing nuts stage here. Then will be doing something to improve the facility okay so that's where you are the news we get the affiliation or and the team imminent. Then we cared and start glory right in the reason we can do that is we have state assistance that is tied to affiliated baseball team. And so we're not successful in getting affiliated team then that state money disappears. And as a result of that our resources will be limited you'll have to make the best oval we've got journey thought of moving this city into a difference place. Again my opinion. That's a perfect place for the stadium but is there any thought about do and know. There was some discussion when they were doing some initial planning this year for improvements in the Leino. And they did look at some concepts are moving ahead but he I think you're right it's a perfect location and it helps energize the river. And that's what's so important and basically it's pretty good parking to relate. And it does have good parking. It's. It'll be an interest dean challenged to do the planning because if you do it right you can spur. Additional commercial development around the facility. And as a result of that maybe you'd even go to some structured parking so that you pick up some additional space for that development. Upgrading downtown convention of performing arts what to do a century to. It's and this is again and it got a lot but what where we are now and I don't know ST what are you gonna do with if I don't like what you okay and that's all and I want to keep it via. Well and I some Alonso mobile era and I've heard from a lot of people. I as you know I made a recommendation of the City Council a little less than a month ago about how to move forward and and we've been paralyzed by this decision. Partly because of the large scale and scope of of the project. And what I did asked the council to consider is splitting off to two decisions one. What do we do with our convention center. And at our needs for convention space. And what we do for the cultural arts piece of the performing arts piece and I better recommendation that we take the existing Bob Brown convention center space and modernize it and expanded in due to a point real 150000 square feet. Of modern open space and I think they'll allow us to be competitive again in the convention industry and that's really important. Because bad drives. Our economy there which we know that. Did at the law away and that for every dollar we spend in the on the convention facility reject can generate at least two dollars into our economy. And on the high and probably getting closer to four dollars so that that's important in terms of economic development. On performing arts side I have made a recommendation that we keep the existing building. And that we the day and modernize. And I used and as kind of in my model. But the palace roof of fine arts are for fine arts in San Francisco but another good example. Is if you look worldwide. The opera house in Vienna all building obviously right now if you see it the building is okay it's historic. But when you go inside and it's grand and they have modernized it and captain. Kerr are relevant and current. And that's another great example if we. Preserve and and celebrate what we have is the architectural feature downtown which. Yeah I do think his iconic and I assure you could see a picture downtown that doesn't have a seat to in either in the foreground or background. But then let's make it relevant let's put in the right performing arts is facilities that we need. And do it in a way that we can really be proud and it will generate a performing arts for the next thirty years he's an overheating are you asking from yet more public input on this yes yes I'm glad you asked Steve. Assuming my recommendations were only a starting point. The council has said that they now want to go out and get it to import from the community and we're in the process of trying to design that I am going to asks and a group. Either local or some from another part of the state were soliciting proposals right now. To lead that so it doesn't look like the cities trying to. Suited to come in with us any kind of biased approach. And we wanna get a neutral party to ask the questions to me. What do you hear what you wanted to give a kid did he can difficult to bring you people have a hard time I'm having a hard time imagining. Century two with improvements on the exterior of that he builds we have to see some sort of offering a rendering or something I would look at one of the things we're thinking of. Out is have been sure rats as part of this input process. And that is where somebody says I love seat to but I think if you were to do XYZ to it it would be even more interest. And then someone can sketch set up people and can respond in the meeting two that. That's the kind of suggestions when it. We can see construction activity on the west bank of the anchored obviously by the new library. When you set project be completed. Well on we've got a great contractor Don under whose were doing that project and they are ahead of schedule. We originally were planning to open hand spring. Or around march or April. It would they believe that there will be completed with the building by the end of the year. There are few pieces of it that we still need to make sure our own. Operational the especially the technology inside the building so it made the early 2018. When we're ready to open that give him any development in the construction project by local government as an economic impact. You put people worked for a talk about that for just a little bit. Well you know that's I am glad you brought that up because there's not something that we spent a lot of time talking about and some people say I know I'm I'm not real appreciative of you spending my tax dollars in terms of some of the ways that you do. Put him on the capital side. We are helping our economy because we are trying to keep our contractors. At full employment at all possible that's not the purpose our project is to improve our infrastructure but it does. Allow for our local contractors to have predictable business we do tenure planning for capital projects and so anyone who's following and the construction construction industry knows that. If they make the right investment that they've got some work that's coming from us. There's another piece of that that's really kind of exciting for me is that. We're. Receiving money from Hud. In order to upgrade all of our public housing. And that's going to be shot in the arm of sixty million dollars into our local economy for all that remodeling work now so we're working with the Wichita area builders. About how do they gear up their staffs to be able to do that work as much as possible with the local. Contractors. Is that something unqualified for. Uncomfortable I don't qualify more for the elderly housing. Mean is that really is up for low income people than it is for low and moderate income because you know what we've got to groups. Yes you know we've got a lot of houses around saying there breached and she eat right right and and some of those are owned by the city our housing authority really and there will be and grow great condition many of those case houses will take down the studs. And then completely rebuild the interior what you and viewers we were talking about this. Construction projects and whatnot but did. Heard from people who are involved with the UST 259. And its pastor Brandon said. And you know that bond issue. Overhauling all those schools. Basically kept us kept some of the construction people in business for a few years we'll because they did do their work in during the recession you and but that wasn't by design right it just is happenstance they. That was approved I think in 2008 right Robert Ray just as a result into it and kept it pretty good time to stop it. A Tyson food's looking to place a chicken processing plant somewhere. After functioned in lover caddie said no. Is Wichita involved and any attempt to get Tyson's foods come here I mean you get yours you've got huge base of their 21 street and know that. It with a balanced the counties just taking the lead on the calculation caddy dealer right and we said we'll be supportive in any way that they need is to be and that's an early phase so you probably offering him the whole what. To 300 million dollar tax break him right I don't think those who would fly. I mean I know you talked to Merrill lots. And you know that the marriage counselor can change our approach to economic development so we write big checks well. You're listening to issues Tony seventeen on the intercom radio stations are against his Wichita city manager Robert Leighton. Economic development a big part of any community's survival and growth. How does the city of which don't participate in that effort. We do it in a partnership ways to end I think the first thing after recognizes that cities don't create jobs right government doesn't create jobs private sector does so. I'm assuming there are certain things you can do to make the business environment better. And that's our number one issue and that is that is you were project is on the drawing board we need try to gauge you. Through our process quickly we need to be business friendly in that regard. And two we are doing and a partnership with county is you know we have. Building department that is a city cameo operation that when it comes to. Projects like Cargill it's a matter of sitting down and asked to the company what do they need to be successful. In Wichita and what we're finding is it is not that they need us to write a check for a million dollars. Normally it's. Infrastructure. And so we've been helping with parking garage is that we will not only benefit of business but also benefit the public for. For instance the Cargill. Parking garage that we are we bought. Easement rights so to speak. So that the public can use that for Entrust. Arena offense and also for. Or he means in old town. And that way the public is served by an infrastructure investment and helps the business so we we look for those partnership opportunities. Particular card illustrated examples somebody staying down there in the central part of the city and making use of space it's already there. And you you think it's could become a trend may be well we hope so and then of course we then see someone back fill into their building. By their old building and and so we were definitely gaining in that regard. You look you took over his city manager in 2009. Friday after the Great Recession hit. You think which does fully recovered from the recessions nine years later. While that's a really good questions do you I would tell you that we have not fully recovered were not backed the levels that we were maybe 2007. So if you use that as your standard in the growth period that proceeded the recession we're not there yet. What we're doing some great things and so. You if you remember our you know our growth was so reliant on aviation Aaliyah and now with. Regional effort to diversify our economy. Work we're doing. New clusters and and taking some expertise that exist here and taking it beyond aviation. Doing that through what we call the blueprint for regional economic growth. That's you know that's one approach. And we're starting to see a lot more work done with the Oxford two hours and I think that's really exciting. Howard generating are helping those new businesses. Grow and so I think it's a it's an organic process and one that's gonna make as much healthier and less. Make us less for or more resistant to changes in the economy of the future. You know one of the things it's it's cropping up in many areas and I don't know how to city government I don't know what the impact is that there are people who are. Baby boomers are staying on the job longer. A lot of us but. One of these days soon coastal we're gonna start retiring and probably in bunches and food. Where we need to workers front that's a question to our east and is that anything you're involved and at City Hall owners and just as an economic problem. Steve I think workforce development is our number one economic development issue in this region. How do we attract people for that very reason to come in for existing jobs and also prepares for the future. We know we're gonna lose a number of workers. Through retirement. Partnership. Greater which our partnership is actually a creative position whose whole mission is to help attract. Work with local companies to attract talent into the area and we also have the workforce alliance's but he Lotta time and attention on this issue. And I think you're gonna see more more. From policy in a support role. It with those agencies to make sure that we're we're addressing this issue on my in my if you used it all the other issues we talk about streets taxes. The state government in this still to me is a central issue right next facing our culture and it goes further than what you talked about yes we have a lot of folks who will be leaving the workforce. But we have people that left this community win and we went into the downturn and aviation jobs disappeared. They had to do something in so many of them moved out of our area. Aren't unemployment rate is fairly lol but our our total employment base has dropped and so it's and low number of smaller. There are fewer people unemployed the there are few people employed in the workforce for and that's it that's our dilemma. Talk about the importance of old town and delay know and attracting visitors and boosting the local economy. Well I think it's all part of that energy that were feeling right now our enemy old town has done well. I even during the recession did well but. Quality of life is so important. And we're seeing more and more attention paid to that by. Not just those of us in City Hall Orange City government put. More importantly buyer residents and our businesses are saying we have to do things. In order to be able to attract twenty and thirty somethings and they won't they want. A lot of amenities they want what old town the Leno and other parts of the town offer. Social about the police for just a minute money into a body camp for every officer now we do. That's been glitch which. And it all paid foreigner in the way they're all paid for the bigger challenge will be how do we continue to support those and under we've been planned for their replacement. As we go forward. But it's been a great tool its benefits are great benefit to our residences walls store officers. It did the department is it that I understand is he's do you generate a lot of video and so to keep track of it. And you know there's evidence evidence in there and all kinds of things that's true there are layers to ride and we're learning. How to better manage that data. You don't have to look at everything every minute video in just a matter when you're making cases yet. A police have worked hard on community involvement. Is or can. Well I think so I don't measure and I'm not sure well I I think we'll find out when we do our nexus mystery will be able to judge how we've done in the past for our residents are perceiving the police department now. But I think we've always had. Great people on the street we have more focused effort on community policing. In talking to the chief you know that he is emphasis is that every police officers community police officer. That they understand the importance of community policing and relationships with people and our right our residents and or businesses. And I I think there's a real positive feeling community about what are police department. City Council passed another budget a few moments ago with a lot of property tax increase. How are you maintaining city services without increasing taxes here as a great question Steve because even though our economy is better than it was in 2009. What this week navy's one of the most difficult budgets I've had to prepare because what we're seen as it changes and our revenue sources we have what I've said is we have a 21 entry budget on twentieth century revenue. Base. Property tax is taking a more of the burden. We had fees that had come to us so wolf personal sales tax. We know what's happening in the sales tax more more people are buying. On the Internet and from law school. Businesses. And when it happens the city should sales tax and I collected by the Internet provider and so we're seeing Andrew. Difficulties our sales tax receipts. We have received money continuously in the past from. Telephone franchise fees from cable tell franchise fees or we know with the changes of technology. Very few Emmy people are dropping their hard lines and fewer fewer people are using cable. And there getting their entertainment a different way. And so we're being challenged on the revenue side. The council has continued to say that property tax increases in the last resort. We are going into we'd we'd two things in this budget that I think are really important for our residents one. We did we called Missouri base to review and I think you and I talked about the the last time I was on the show so what's been on time and another who say we took the organization down to its base level. And trying to identify what are the course services are residents expect to some clever and shed the other services that hard to track us. And then the other thing is we're looking at of our policy. Regarding. The fees that we charge for special services and we recognize that the average taxpayer was being asked to subsidize. A number of services that were being. And I enjoyed by a limited number are resistant residents or businesses and so we're trying to get more that financial burden put on the place of are on in the laps of those your benefit from answer. What's toughest part Eurasia. Besides talking you know jelly. Actually. I don't know I I do I enjoy my job so much I don't know there is any one aspect of it that I would see is a challenge other than. To make sure that I continue to work our staff. Creating a vision for where we're headed. And that we are always in tune with where residents want you AIG do you have people around you. Over a two year period and with all of our employee groups. All soil hopefully touch most of our employees and in doing so. We identified what we believe is our core mission and vision and then also the values what does it mean to work for the city Wichita. Who is it that we serve and what do they expect from loss and I think you'll see even more focus on customer orientation. Can the customers' desires. We're service industry and people forget that they always considered government to be something different but I'm no different than a retailer or private business. Why I have to ice or. You know over half billion people and businesses in the city. And I can't forget what it is they want us to do whether dollars and so that's what we've Hispaniola. I'm curious Tim and seeing people come to Wichita because when you're running here in October in this town. Sponge goes against it is that you can run almost outdoors almost every day of the year if you bundle up for the last couple years especially if we've been fortunate yes all right so you get now you taking care of your health. To went terribly worried about it to America I don't hide out and order at all. Yes as I get older anatomy are more concerned about that yes of to get assail us. Couple years harmony I love SCI. I'm not interest in leaving and hopefully my bosses are leave interest in me leaking so we'll have a lot of talk with a method and I finished or thanks as always has been some time was we always learn something new evidence session when they're becoming for the issue show thank you to answer Steve thank you so much our guest just Wichita city manager Robert Leighton. And that's all for this edition of issues. Tony seventeen we will of course be back next week thank you for listing. I'm Steve Macintosh.