Recommendation FD

The People Verses the City of Topeka

In 2014, Chris Imming took the City Governing Body to court to challenge the City’s plan to re-structure the current STaR Bond and borrow $10M for improvements to Heartland Park. After months of litigation, Mr. Imming lost his lawsuit, but in the end, the time the litigation took arrived at the same effect. Now former City Council member and current State Representative John Alcala is challenging a contract hire of the new Interim Fire Department Chief. On March 14th, Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty denied Alcala’s request for an injunction preventing the 6 month contract from being in effect while the case is litigated. Judge Crotty considered that Rep. Alcala standing to bring the lawsuit was limited.

This lawsuit is not solely about the cost. It is about who did the deal, the lack of the City Council to review the contract as prescribed by City Ordinance. Additionally, was anyone else considered? How will the contractor provide the City of Topeka $81,600 worth of value over 6 months? While not having a Fire Chief is a potential problem, Mr. Colson moved to fill that vacancy without the consent of the City Council, a violation of City Ordinance. If a citizen of Topeka has limited standing to oppose that, we are not getting justice in our courts.

On February 16, 2016, Mr. Kent Green, Sr Vice President of Eastern Regional Emergency Services International, gave an update presentation to the 2006 Fire Department Deployment study. Mr. Green explained the methodology behind the study and the reasoning behind its recommendations. In the end, Mr. Green could not guarantee that the study’s recommendations would improve services nor that it would save the City money. In all likely hood, it would cost the City millions. The Study’s recommendations were never pursued because the previous Fire Chief, fire department members, the City Council and the public did not support it. Why would we? It didn’t solve any problems. The only apparent reason the City Manger would pursue such a ridiculous contract is to get an outsider to consider implement this plan.

Public safety is foundational purpose and duty of the City of Topeka to provide. You can watch the presentation here: .
All the associated documents here:

It is interesting to note that on the right, Fire Department Contracts are all dead links.

$1.3M Bailout to a local company to “save” and “add” 217 jobs

What is JEDO thinking?

Where is the outrage in this corporatism?

This joint counsel should not be just granting $$$ willy nilly to any sad sack cause.


HPT’s Walk-over Bridge is Falling Down

According to the TCJ: A 1 ton City truck full of dirt drives across the HPT pedestrian bridge making it collapse. The driver said “someone said it was ok to do that”. No injuries reported at this time….

At several public forums, there were various reports on state of repair at the track. Obviously, this event is not necessarily a maintenance issue rather a competence one. However, this incident does not bode well in regards to public perception of the state of the park as the high quality venue it has consistently been acclaimed to be. I sincerely hope nothing else falls apart or goes awry for the racers or attendee’s this weekend.

JEDO Picks a Contractor to Tell Them How to do Business

Tonight’s meeting actioned important agenda items. The keynote was 2 contractors vied for position to advise JEDO on how it is organized, communicates and the way forward to be successful. This would cost about $82K for 16 weeks of work.

Both companies presented their plan on how to do this and answered questions. There seemed to be a leaning by the body toward Avalanche by the board. Upon voting, Avalanche lost the contract 3 to 4 voting no wining. A vote for Gardner was 1 to 6 for yes and carried.

It is important that whatever is accomplished, JEDO and Garner will be held accountable to the electorate for their plans and execution.

empty seats

Its Time to Quit Lying to Ourselves

Its time to stop lying to ourselves.

Its time to stop pretending that sales tax and property tax are not both taxes.

Its time to stop pretending that the economic impact claims of $160M or $53M are not just propaganda and guesses.

Its time to stop pretending that the only people guaranteed to make money on this HPT deal are those investors buying bonds at an ultra safe 3.3% with the full faith and credit of the city of Topeka’s taxpayers footing the bill and those managing the accounts.

Its time to stop pretending that good intentions of better contract negotiations will succeed this time.

Its time to stop pretending that this HPT deal is about salvaging a terrible circumstance and making the solution risk free to property tax payers in the city.

Its time to stop.

Tomorrow our City Government will be faced with a conundrum: to give the city manager the authorization to issue $5M in STAR bonds or not or to kick the can down the road.

A no vote or a motion to kick the can down the road provides the citizens more time to let the leadership know their opinion on this purposal. Write, call or show up at City Hall and make a statement of your opinion. Support adding a friendly amendment limiting the City Manager to only specific actions, the current ordinance gives him vague and expansive language to issue the bonds and whatever else he deems necessary to make the deal go thru.

The scheme purports to skim 1.7M per year or more from the new district. The money is held in trust by the State of Kansas until the end of the contract year, then the debt is serviced. Shortfalls are covered by the city. Excess is held in trust to service the debt in the next year. The entire STAR bond districts has to have $180M in sales over a 10 year period to cover the debt. Does that make sense to you given the state has such a short fall and the school wants a mil level increase?

Its time to stop and let market forces decide. Its time to let this project go. Its time to stop making the tax payers, locals, regional and visitors pay for our poor decisions. Its time to recognize that after 26 yrs, $60M in investment, to pay our debt and let the bank find a successor. Its time to have the courage to quit.

Public Forum Draws 80 to Discuss HPT

The Not Way Ahead

Last Tuesday, 21 April 2015 and this evening, the City Government presented a new presentation during the City Council Meeting entitled: Heartland Park – Two Possible Futures.

This presentation was premised with an acceptance that “Topeka should not be in the racing business”. This acceptance was used to pivot the conversation away from ending the city’s involvement to protecting the property tax payer from the consequences of previous poor decisions.

The presentation gave a brief overview of the history of Topeka’s involvement in original HPT purchase, the 1st partner bankruptcy, the 1st bail out, new investment to get a new partner, the 2nd partner failure and how now we need to save the tax local property tax payer. Additionally, we learned that we have spent property tax to make up for the lack of revenue generated by sale tax in the current STAR BOND district to the tune of $2.9M over the past 10 years or so. Prior to the potential default of Jayhawk Racing, this government expressed no concern toward the property tax payer, rather developed a plan to bail the operation out.

I agree we should not be in the racing business. I believe we need to have the courage to quit. We need to let the free market be free at this venue. We are shown an easy path on the left and a hard path on the right. The path on the left is to issue a new $5M STAR Bond – a loan, that will pay our debt off, the status quo will go forward and the various consumers will pay for the race track along several miles in the Capital City. We solve problems by making visitors, county residents, the poor and our neighbors pay a bill 2 and a half times what we owe. Our other choice, is to let the current STAR Bond die and pay up to $10.3M and let the bank foreclose. Should be bail ourselves out? Is HPT too big to fail? Since the Topeka residents of 1988 voted to invest in HPT, does that mean we must own it and bail it out every 10-15 years? We need to get out of the racing business and cut our losses.

Since the announcement of this way a head last summer in June and the vote last August, a public petition calling for a public vote was rejected and dismissed on format, the functional of the ordinance as being administrative and a lack of courtesy to the will of the Topeka voters. The City Council should have passed a resolution for a ballot intuitive even if the results were non-binding to ensure the voters had their say. The fact that 2 elections in the past 6 months were perfect opportunities to do so. No, the City spent 6 figures in legal fees fighting the petitioner and the people in the appellate court over percentage of administrative language in the ordinance may disqualify it from public input. What do you have to lose? If the vote was close, you could proceed, if it wasn’t in favor, you could dismiss it if the turnout was low or go forward if there was a clear majority regardless of turnout – you heard from the voters on such a controversial issue. It was 2 opportunities lost.

Before taking this question to court the city spent money negotiating the deal that was voted on last August. Those man-hours, fees and expenses have not been accounted for. This new proposal, fees, man-hours, travel, consultant fees, audit costs, filing fees for the new STAR Bond have also not been disclosed. The cost of putting this new STAR bond district conjoined with the legal fees spent fighting the petition in court must be over a million dollars, yet this government continues to claim its fighting for the tax payer. Vote no on Heartland Park, it’s time we cut our losses.

City Manager’s Office HPT Redistricting Presentation From 21 Apr 15 Meeting


Tuesday, 21 April, the City Manager’s Office provided a presentation in a graphical manner in an attempt to simplify  the Heartland Park Topeka Issue:  Let if fail or Issue a new STAR Bond District.

The bad news that was presented is that original STAR Bond district did not generate the projected revenue as designed.  The shortfall over the past several years was made up with property tax dollars from the city’s general fund.  By keeping the status quo, the tax payers will have to pay between $8.2 and $10.3M by 2025.  The $2M delta is dependent on whether HPT continues to operate without foreclosure so the STAR Bond revenue continues to come in.

According to the City Manager’s Office, pursuing the new STAR Bond proposal is designed to ensure Topeka Property tax payers will not pay anymore money ever for HPT.  Depending on the timing, ie Core First does not foreclose,  Jawhawk Racing, LLC’s equity in the property, called Reversionary Interest, would collect $2.9M as part of the deal.  Jawhawk Racing, LLC would pay all other outstanding debts with that.  The Bank will get its money and the City would enter into a contract with probably Shelby LLC.

There was a lot of new information in the discussion that I had not heard or read in this session. Regardless of how the council votes, people in Topeka will pay for the park one way or the other and never got a recent chance to vote on it. The city had 2 elections since Mr. Immings petition was submitted, yet instead of putting it on the ballot, they chose to find a legal way not to be responsive, including spending 6 figures outsourcing to attorneys.
Regardless of the format of the petition, the content of the ordinance, any council member could have submitted a ballot measure ordinance just like the Mayor did.

I am still not a fan of this deal, but doing nothing isn’t a better deal. Should we just make Topeka property owners pay for this mistake or should be pass it on to all consumers in the county without a racetrack to draw them in? In the end, the State will get its money back.



Leivan Address City Council on Heartland Topeka Redevelopment

Tonight’s council meeting was interesting and added new information and raised more questions on the HPT issue.   Leivan’s comments start at 8:33 on the link below.   Leivan ran out of time before he could address the fact that the City Government spent 6 figures fighting against a ballot initiative rather than putting it on the Nov or Apr elections.  Leivan raised questions about the cost in developing the new STAR Bond district and the City’s vision for S. Topeka.  Additionally, the City Manager announced that  next week on 28 April, there will be a town hall meeting at the public library for folks to get informed on the latest on the deal and again on 29 Apr at 11 am at the Holiday building. Finally, what do you think about investing another $5M in HPT, hiring another contractor and preserving the status quo?


HPT helicopter view

Governing body turnover threatens proposed Heartland Park purchase Four new city council members to take office Tuesday

The 7 April election has changed the compositon of the City Council.  The following article speculates that HLP issue may have a different outcome now.  HPT is on the agenda on 21 April – Let your opinion be known…..

From the Topeka Capital Journal…..

By Tim Hrenchir

Topeka’s governing body has approved every proposal it has considered to move forward with the city’s proposed purchase of Heartland Park Topeka.

But a 40 percent turnover that body will see when four new members are sworn in Tuesday could threaten the move’s chances for approval.

The governing body plans to discuss the topic next week, though no vote has been scheduled whether to finalize the transaction. The purchase would need six votes from the 10-member governing body to pass.

Seven members voted in favor Dec. 2 as the governing body authorized steps to market and sell bonds for the purchase.

That vote saw:

■ “No” votes being cast by council members Elaine Schwartz, Richard Harmon and Chad Manspeaker.

■ “Yes” votes being cast by Mayor Larry Wolgast and council members Karen Hiller, Michelle De La Isla, Denise Everhart, TJ Brown, Nathan Schmidt and Sylvia Ortiz.

Among the “yes” votes, Everhart, Brown and Schmidt are leaving the council Tuesday while Ortiz indicated in an email Monday she opposes the purchase.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Ortiz wrote.

That leaves Wolgast, Hiller and De La Isla as the only “yes” votes from Dec. 2 who remain on the council and haven’t withdrawn support for the purchase.

The Topeka Capital-Journal emailed city governing body members Monday asking them to share their perspectives regarding the potential upcoming vote.

Schwartz responded in an email she wouldn’t be ready to vote in favor of the purchase if it were considered next week but left open the possibility she could eventually vote in favor of it. She wrote she had told city manager Jim Colson he needs to do more to educate voters and get the entire community behind the decision to purchase the track and expand its STAR Bond district.

Schwartz added while most of the input she has received in her district has been against the purchase, her constituents are more inclined to agree the purchase is a good idea when she notes the proposed arrangement calls for state sales tax from the track’s expanded STAR Bond District to go to pay off the Heartland Park STAR Bonds rather than go to the state.

The new governing body members who take office Tuesday were each asked their thoughts regarding Heartland Park for a Voter’s Guide The Capital-Journal published March 28.

One, Brendan Jensen, appeared to support the Heartland Park purchase. The others — Jonathan Schumm, Jeff Coen and Sandra Clear — were less enthusiastic.

■ Jensen responded: “HPT is a difficult situation, from what I understand there were a number of decisions made years ago that set up the current situation. HPT is a city property we are in danger of losing unless we take swift action to protect it. I believe with the right management and expanded events and activities calendar, it has the opportunity to become an asset to our community. I think the city has made the best of a not-so-good situation, though I wish they would have been much more open about what led up to this issue and the process of trying to solve it.”

■ Schumm responded: “I am not in favor of the city running a racetrack when we have street and infrastructure issues that have been unresolved for years. The vast majority of the voters I have spoken with in District 4 have expressed to me their desire to not have the city involved in a project that a private owner could not make profitable. Our City’s focus needs to be on jobs and infrastructure. The recent news that the City kept quiet for five months on an additional $7 million of needed improvements has further eroded our citizens’ trust in our local government.”

■ Coen responded: “The people who live in my district aren’t very happy with how the City has handled the Heartland Park situation. The communication from the City Leadership has been below average on keeping the community informed. It’s definitely on the minds of a lot of people I have spoken to. They are concerned that their tax dollars are being wasted, and I am also concerned.”

■ Clear responded: “The City’s approach has turned a ‘problem’ into a ‘fiasco.’ Because of wheeling and dealing behind closed doors and a process of excluding the public from the discussion before committing millions, we are now facing paying a failed businessman $2 million, rescuing a large bank from their decision to make an ill advised loan, subjecting Topeka taxpayers to a $1.8 million guarantee of a race that may never be held, and to another $7 million of improvements to a facility that has already had over $20 million of public monies infused into its existence the last 12 years. As a government, if you wish to have the support of the public in the decisions you make, this ordeal is a lesson in how not handle the matter.

“Probably the worst move the Council has made, in the whole affair, is their vote to not even have a discussion on the public’s right to vote on the matter. After voting with the majority to deny that debate and discussion, my opponent now has the audacity to state in his campaign material that he ‘Supports a binding public vote on Heartland Park that counts.’ I believe voters are tired of politicians who treat them as ignorant.”


HPT on the City Agenda 21 Apr 2014

Heartland Park Purchase on the City Council Agenda 21 April 2014

From the meeting agenda:

“The City of Topeka is in the process of purchasing Heartland Park Topeka (HPT) and expanding the STAR Bond district that currently encompasses HPT property.
On August 12, 2014, the City Council voted to approve the purchase of Heartland Park and the STAR Bond district expansion. This acquisition will allow the City to meet its ongoing debt obligation associated with Heartland Park.”

This is the last chance for citizens to make their voice heard on this matter and that is to ask to speak on the issue or show up in the gallery for this meeting.