Archives for May 2015

Why Contracted Services Matters

There is always quite a bit of chatter when the City talks about granting money to not-for-profits. I’ve received emails from both sides of the discussion. Some folks are adamant it’s not the government’s role to use tax money for things outside of infrastructure, public safety and the like. On the flip-side are folks who feel the government is to slow to react to community needs, and a lean non-profit can move quickly to address needs in the community much faster than the City could.

Whatever your side, we are well on our way to grant out close to three quarters of a million dollars to various non-profits this year. For the past couple of years, the City has worked hard to shift this process to a more outcomes-based system.  That means an organization must produce or exceed a set results or outcomes throughout the course of the year to continue to receive City funding.  Think of the private sector putting out a request for bids to do a job, then paying down half at the beginning and half when the work has been done satisfactorily.

So why is this the City’s role when it comes to not-for-profits?  Ultimately the City must provide a community people want to live in. That means citizens need to feel safe, have good roads, clean water and the like. Many of these organizations have the ability help achieve certain aspects of this Quality of Life goal much cheaper than could the City. Our role in granting these funds is to ensure we are getting the biggest bang for our buck and making Topeka the best community for everyone to call home.

Heartland Park: The Vote

Too often in the history of our community we have made what I would consider to be economic blunders, or generally shot ourselves in the foot. In years gone by, I’m told we had the chance to build the ExpoCenter downtown between two hotels. However, because the folks who owned them could have made quite a bit of revenue off it, the decision was made to build it in the old fairgrounds. Now, one of those two hotels sits abandoned and is one of the first things visitors to our community see as they enter our downtown. Not to mention the fact, that apparently we spent 10 years or so trying to get a hotel built next to the ExpoCenter. Blinded by the opportunity of someone else, we lost sight of the big picture for our community. I expect the same has now happened with Heartland Park. Blinded by the dissatisfaction of the current operator, we have voted down the safety-net that would have helped pay off the existing debt and given us the ability to control the immediate future of this vital economic engine.

Having said that, I do admit it is possible that the private sector could come charging in and save us. As I said in the council meeting life is all about risk, and leaving the Park in the hands of the private sector is one we must now take. I for one am hoping and praying that they do come in and keep it going. As far I understand for now though, it’s up to CoreFirst, and the judicial system to litigate it out. I expect, at least for the time being, the park going dark is almost certain. Let’s just hope, it’s not forever.

I voted yes tonight to help protect the jobs of the folks whose businesses support Heartland Park and the racing industry in Topeka. I voted yes to protect the taxpayers of Topeka who now must cover the debt, possibly with nothing to show for it. It was a tough vote, and I’ve lost quite a bit of sleep over it in the past week. But at the end of the day, I feel it was the right thing to do for the future of our City.

What’s done is done and now it’s time to move on. Thanks to everyone who contacted me to share an opinion. I look forward to hearing from you again on the next tough call.