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Great Bend Politics Gone Awry

By Christina Stein
Opinion | June 11, 2011

man-sheep-taxpayers.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - Corruption in Federal politics is all too common. What really surprises me is when we have possible corruption at a local level. Right here in Great Bend.

All of us know that a corporation named Red Barn came into Great Bend. This week, through research, I found a deed to Mayor Mike Allison's home. What most of us don't know is that Kan-Can Holdings LLC, which owns Red Barn, purchased Mayor Mike Allison's home in February of 2010. Actually, his house was first purchased by a Red Barn executive, and then within a year, completely transferred to the corporation.

When Red Barn came into Great Bend, the city gave Red Barn thousands of dollars in cash incentives (which come out of taxes; citizens in Great Bend pay this) and also hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax incentives (taxes that Red Barn would have owed but will not have to pay).

In essence, Mayor Mike Allison took hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the Great Bend current and future budgets to give to this company. Shortly thereafter, his house was sold to the same corporation.

It appears his house was sold for several hundreds of thousands of dollars. (The cost of sale was not available, but tax information was.)

I met the mayor last year. He is a very pleasant man, very enjoyable. Which is why this situation is even more concerning.

The story doesn't end here, according to the City Council Meeting notes, February 22, 2010, Red Barn was required by the City Council/EDRL to provide 51% low-paying to moderate-paying jobs.

Is it also possible that city-sanctioned wage suppression is alive and well in Great Bend? If the mayor could provide information on what "low wage" jobs mean, I would be more than happy to listen.

So if, we the tax payers, are giving our hard-earned dollars to a company that pays minimum wage or close thereto, we are paying many times over for those employees, as they may also have to qualify for food stamps and other social service benefits. We pay for this through our city, state and federal taxes.

Currently, we have anonymous donors in Great Bend who gave $500,000 to the city to purchase the Convention Center. The city will need to dump much more money into the building to fix it up. After learning what I have about the Red Barn Scandal, I am very curious about who these anonymous donors might be. Why are they anonymous?

Corruption in politics must stop. It begins here at home.


That's an unbelievable story. Has the Mayor of the corporation given any explanation as to why the corporation wants with the mayor's home.

You should keep pressing that issue. Your story may not be on as grand of a scale (although hundreds of thousands of dollars is pretty grand to me) but it brings back thoughts of the Belle, CA affair where city managers were bring home huge salaries in a small town. You are right that corruption begins at home. Keep up the fight.

Independent Kansas, that is a lot of money for such a small town, I agree.

The house is currently for sale, so I am not sure what the corporation's intentions with the house were. I would be interested to hear from both parties.

All the more reason why public welfare to corporations must stop. How many times does this happen and never come to light? This is the real problem with TIF and CID districts and other forms of corporate welfare. It's just too easy for the officials making those decisions to "get a little or a lot" on the side.

Giving away tax incentives happens here in Kansas City also. I remember one case where this developer got TIF money to rebuild a downtown hotel. He did it then sold the hotel and kept all the profits. The TIF money came from several tax entities like the school district.

Years ago a major corporation wanted to come into Kansas City. They wanted the city to buy the property, put in a street, massive tax incentives, the moon, and everyone's firstborn baby. Luckily that time the city said no.

Harley Davidson came in about 10 years ago and got some TIF money to build a plant in Kansas City. For a long time this was working well because over 600 good paying jobs came in. Sadly though HD was overbuilt and flooding the market with motorcycles and when the economy tanked, there went the jobs.

Going back even further Olathe gave TIF money to Dillards to build a warehouse. They also promised jobs BUT, it wasn't written into the contract correctly so Dillards didn't keep their side of the bargain.

In my community of Overland Park, there is one shopping center where the owner let it fall into disrepair and the jerk went to the city and demanded taxpayers pay 75% of the cost of remodeling. He almost got it until locals and the media stood up and stopped it.

About a mile from my house our local school district sold an old elementary school to this developer for nothing more than a promise that he would pay them $900,000 later after he developed the property into condos. Well he built his condos, the real estate market went south, and the school district never got there money. But just try and bring up the $900k IOU to the school board (who's always crying they have no money) and they deny knowing anything.

So its not just Great Bend that makes bad deals. And like your case, a common thread is the backroom business deals, often involving real estate, that makes these deals go thru.

I think this Mayor's financial records need to be investigate. What the heck is going on in that town!

Economic developement is the name of the game. Whose economics? Local communities pour tax money into projects, give tax abatements, etc. to compete with other communities for businesses to relocate. When the tax abatements run out and upgrading of facilities is needed, the companies go on the market for a new location with lucrative incentives to come there. In smaller communities that leaves the town with infrastructure that is no longer needed, classrooms with declining attendance, etc. This prompts the Economic Development committee to start working on city administration to offer incentives to compete with the neighboring communities for new business.

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