More than 100 supporters gathered Thursday at Envision to launch a new group in support of the proposed 1-cent city sales tax that will be on the November ballot.
“We have union and non-union. Bus drivers and car drivers. People who were born here. People who moved here. We have Republicans. Democrats. A to zed we have it all. But what we all have in common is that we call Wichita home and that we are passionate for this community,” said Jon Rolph, co-chair of Yes Wichita and president of Sasnak Management. Rolph also served as chair of Visioneering Wichita.
The proposed sales tax would collect about $400 million over five years. It would help pay for a new water source, public transit, street maintenance and repair and job development.
City Council members Lavonta Williams, Janet Miller and James Clendenin also attended the event.
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“I’m so happy with the energy I’m seeing and feeling in the room today. Now is the time; no one else is going to come and save us but ourselves,” Williams said.
“We have a third that is going to say yes, a third that is going to say no, but you also have a third that is undecided and so we have to reach out to that one-third that are still undecided. We have to help them to understand that for the last several years we’ve tried everything and that hasn’t worked and so now it’s time to try something different. You can’t hope for anything new if you’re going to continue to do the same things.”
Clendenin said he was happy with the amount of support the proposed sales tax has from the private sector. On Monday, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce board of directors voted to support it.
Last month, a group called the Coalition for a Better Wichita formed in opposition to the sales tax. That group’s organizers say they mainly oppose the nearly $80 million job development portion of the sales tax. That group has been backed by some local businesses, including Koch Industries.
“I think it’s interesting to see the misinformation that’s already being put out there by various groups,” Clendenin said. “It’s important they allow the community to make an informed decision.”
Not all of those who attended the event were in favor of the tax.
“I don’t think the sales tax is needed at all. We have no idea how the money would be spent,” said Walt Chappell, a former state school board member. “I wanted to find out what both sides are trying to say. There’s a spin on each story. So I’m just trying to get facts without the spin.”