In July of this year City Manager Robert Layton introduced budgetary ideas to Mayor Jeff Longwell and the City Council that proposed drastic cuts and eliminations of some libraries, public pools, Cowtown, and City Arts in order to “balance” the increased costs of our police force.
Yes, it was recognized that these cuts would be a big blow to the arts community, and more importantly, to the children, more specifically, the children of financially strapped families here in Wichita. The tone was set that the City is simply poor and the coffers are empty. Amid public outcry, Mayor Jeff Longwell suggested a 2 year moratorium on final decisions so that something might be figured out.
But then, low and behold, the City is able to find funding to build a new 81 million dollar ballpark at the same time that it’s too broke to recoup 3 million dollars it claims the libraries, pools, Cowtown, and CItyArts together are costing it? According to wichita.gov, the West Bank Project “will provide significant quality of life amenities and as such would help retain and attract talent to Wichita.”
Ironic, isn’t it? What can provide significant quality of life more than libraries and the arts? How does cutting funding to public pools and museums jive with these improved amenities?
I am for the new ballpark, and yes, I understand that we’re talking about two different “pots,” or types of funds. But I am convinced that the Mayor and the Council could save these other entities if they wanted to. They have proven time and time again that they get what they want, how they want it, and when they want it.
Show me a successful American city that doesn’t put its children and it’s art at the forefront, and I’ll show you a city that searches for ways “to retain and attract talent.”