Wichita City Council member Michael O’Donnell issued a public apology Tuesday for misrepresenting the city’s plans for a west-side flood control project last week to the Sedgwick County Commission, one of his final acts before joining the Kansas Senate.
O’Donnell, who defeated Tim Snow in November for the Kansas Senate District 25 seat, made good on his promise last week to try to ease the tension with fellow council members over his appearance last week before the Sedgwick County Commission.
The apology came in the midst of a joking and sometimes terse exchange with Mayor Carl Brewer, who has often been at loggerheads with O’Donnell over city issues.
O’Donnell, in that appearance, told the County Commission they didn’t need to support the Bowllagio project, a $96 million entertainment district at Kellogg and Maize Road, in order to get flood control work done in the area. He told county commissioners that the project was already in the city’s capital improvement plan.
In fact, the project has never been in the city’s CIP, a fact O’Donnell was told Nov. 20 on the bench during a public hearing on Bowllagio. The county voted 5-0 last week to effectively kill the project despite the City Council’s approval, since county and Goddard School District approval is required for the project to be eligible for tax increment financing.
O’Donnell, who was honored with a medallion by the City Council for his service on the bench, opened his remarks with the apology, saying he “misspoke.”
“When you get bombarded with as much information as we do about public improvement projects, anybody could get twisted,” he said.
Then, O’Donnell directly addressed his City Council colleagues, each of whom told The Eagle last week that they were upset with the misrepresentation of the city’s flood control plans in the area.
“I apologize to my colleagues,” O’Donnell said. “Everyone wants a good relationship when I leave, so Kansas and Wichita are best represented.”
O’Donnell’s remarks came after a long and rambling introduction from Brewer, who seemed to grudgingly wish O’Donnell well.
Brewer noted that one-third of his constituents are often unhappy with his decisions, one-third want them to change and the other third aren’t happy because he woke up in the morning, saying public service is “always difficult.”
“So anyone elected to office, I have a lot of respect for them because it is not the easiest job,” the mayor said. “The most you can seek to do is maintain the integrity, do the very best job you can possibly do and listen to what you have to say and represent the people in your best interests.”
O’Donnell wryly observed that “it won’t come as a surprise” that he and Brewer haven’t always seen eye to eye.
“But he is a fine man who works hard for the community,” he said. “I want to publicly say I respect the mayor and wish him well for the rest of his term.”
O’Donnell then addressed each of his council colleagues, saving for council member Jeff Longwell — whose district lost the Bowllagio project with the county vote — a convincing imitation of Longwell’s favorite protestation, “You’re killing me.”
After the presentation, Brewer turned back toward O’Donnell as the council member returned to his seat on the bench.
“Michael, did you really mean all those things you said?” Brewer asked, chuckling.
“Don’t push it,” O’Donnell shot back with a grin.