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City of Wichita: Save Century II petition invalid

(KWCH)
Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 7:39 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 7:39 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - (Update Wednesday, July 29, 2020): The City of Wichita Wednesday filed a petition that challenges the validity of a petition filed earlier this month to the City Clerk by the Save Century II committee and representatives of the group.

On July 10, the committee presented 17,000 petition signatures to Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple. The petition calls for an ordinance that would require voters to have a say with the futures of historic buildings including the former Wichita Public Library and Century II, which was built in 1969.

In a statement, the City of Wichita said it strongly supports the petition process and in providing citizens the right to express their opinions through their vote, but believes the petition presented is legally invalid and “does not serve the citizens’ best interest.”

The city gives two reasons for why the petition doesn’t meet the requirements to be valid. The first is that “the proposed ordinance is overly broad, unconstitutionally vague and fails to define or provide any criteria to define what buildings are “of historical importance or architectural significance.”

“The proposed ordinance would create an impractical precedent for the current and future city councils as, in effect, they would be required to submit to public vote any renovation, lease, construction or general maintenance of its public buildings,” the City of Wichita said. “As the petition is written, any building could be determined to be of historical importance or architectural significance. The petition is invalid because it requires the City to call for a binding election before any city-owned building with historical significance is significantly remolded or demolished. State law does not permit the City to call for binding elections for these types of decisions.”

A second concern with the Save Century II petition deals with its demand for an administrative ordinance, “and thus not be authorized to be adopted by the referendum policy as defined in the Kansas referendum process.”

“An administrative ordinance is one that seeks to allow citizens to make governmental decisions which require specialized training, experience in municipal government and knowledge of the fiscal affairs of the City. Such ordinances are improper as they seek to infringe of areas of governmental control which have been determined by the legislature should be addressed by the city governing body and not the electorate,” the City of Wichita explained.

While the city said it can’t support the petition presented earlier this month, it is “unanimously supportive of continuing dialogue with all residents about this important issue.”

“We recognize that there are other civic groups, including Save Century II and the Riverfront Legacy coalition (which engaged many thousands of residents in conversations about their project plans), who have emerging proposals regarding the future of Century II and neighboring buildings. We believe it is critical to hear from as many interested residents as possible before moving forward with any definitive plans,” the City of Wichita said. “However, after residents have been more comprehensively engaged on this issue, we are committed to seeking a citizen advisory vote to help guide future decisions.”

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July 10, 2020 :

The Save Century II committee Friday morning presented 17,000 petition signatures to Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple. The petition calls for an ordinance that would require voters to have a say with the futures of historic buildings including Century II -- built in 1969 -- and the former Wichita Public Libary that sits nearby the half-century-old venue.

Members of the Save Century II committee say the signature-collecting effort faced some setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they stayed persistent to add names to their message.

Celeste Racette, a leader of the grassroots campaign to keep Century II standing said petition circulators got out into the community, going door to door and visiting with different groups.

“Someone (Thursday) night at 10 o’clock delivered 30 signatures to my house. We’ve done what it takes to hit a good number,” Racette said.

The Riverfront Legacy Master Plan for downtown Wichita calls for a new performing arts venue to replace Century II.

Late last year, part of the effort to save the historic venue involved a push to place Century II on the National Register of Historic Places. At that time, Eyewitness News reported that doing so would qualify the building for certain types of funding, as paying for upgrades and how to go about doing so has been part of the ongoing debate about Century II’s future.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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