Carl Brewer admits the state of the city probably won’t be the biggest thing on Wichitans’ minds Tuesday night.
That’s because Wichita State’s men’s basketball team – undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the nation – will tip off its game with Loyola at Koch Arena about 40 minutes after the Wichita mayor wraps up his annual look forward at City Hall.
“Second fiddle? Well, yeah. I mean, Gregg Marshall notched his 21st win Saturday and everything,” Brewer offered with a wry chuckle.
Indeed, Brewer’s annual address, which begins at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers, isn’t a masterpiece of timing: In addition to the Shocker game, President Obama’s annual State of the Union address is set for an hour after tipoff, at 8 p.m.
So Brewer’s hoping for a second-place finish.
“It’s a big part of why we’re fighting to try to make sure the speech is down to 20-some minutes,” the mayor said. “We want to respect Shocker basketball, and we want people to know we’ll get them out there.”
Brewer will talk about the city’s ongoing battle with a tight budget. He’ll talk about the efforts to stabilize Wichita’s water supply. He’ll talk about the city’s continued financial commitment to public safety. He’ll talk about economic development, downtown and other issues driven by citizen input in an elaborate community engagement process implemented in 2013.
And he’ll tell Wichitans about efforts to improve the city’s “processes,” to guard against procedural snafus like the flap over West Bank development land.
“We’ve increased the amount of money we’ve put into streets,” Brewer said. “Our citizens wanted a focus on streets instead of just arterials. They wanted a focus on neighborhoods, and we agree. It’s a quality-of-life issue.”
Brewer said residents also want to see some results at the city’s groundwater recharge project and on a long-term solution to the city’s water future.
“We’re addressing the issue of the ASR (groundwater recharge) project alone, we’ve run into the drought and we’ve had issues with Cheney Reservoir,” the mayor said. “We’ve gained some ground on water, but we have to come up with a long-term plan. We’re asking citizens for continued input on what they’d like to see.”
Transit will be another focus of the mayor’s speech. The city’s bare-bones bus system runs out of funding this year.
“We’re going to redo the bus system,” Brewer said. “We want input from the people on which system is the right one. Do we operate on weekends? Do we run on later hours? Do we do a regional system out into the smaller cities around us? It’s going to present some financial challenges.”
So will a speech on a busy night – in Wichita and in the nation.
“Normally, the president does his, the governor does his, and we do ours,” Brewer said. “Not this year.
“The president, I guess, can do whatever he wants, so we just decided to go on and get our portion done.”
Slightly more than 300 people have indicated they plan to attend the city speech.
“The cumulative message is this: Let’s keep working, give us some input, and we’ll all get to the ballgame together,” Brewer said.