Wichita Confronts Contamination case study
This is an assignment I did for one of my grad school classes -- I'm not particularly thrilled with the assignment since the constraints of it ended up stifling much of my creativity and I had to remove most of my favorite parts leaving it rather dry and redundant. On the upside, the case itself (see link below) is pretty interesting and provides some insight into crisis management and how legality and incentives came into play for Wichita, Kansas back in 1990... Wichita Confronts Contamination Case Study
The “Wichita Confronts Contamination” case study discusses the problems when a city discovers that it is located on a contaminated underground lake and the ensuing chaos that surrounds a city when its investors, creditors and residents all began moving away in the face of such adversity. These types of case studies are important to public administration because they are classic problems of public management and provide insight into how to effectively manage crisis that is literally beneath our feet and cannot be run away from. Crisis management is a major part of every leader’s job and understanding how other leaders have handled dire situations can help add new perspectives, techniques for managing unexpected events and also how to tactfully resolve major problems facing cities such as Wichita. The content areas of federalism and intergovernmental relations are important to public administration because a deep understanding of how these two concepts integrate together is required for any successful public administrator. Federalism is simply the separation of powers between different levels of government and intergovernmental relations is the process of how each unit of government interacts with one another as a cohesive whole. Federalism has many advantages and disadvantages but a comprehensive understanding of how these attributes interact with one another and influence how government is run is vital for effective public administration since cooperation with other levels of government can be paramount in crisis management.
Chronology of Facts
During the summer of 1990, Wichita, Kansas’ central business district was having problems with urban decline and the prospect of revitalization in the face of a nationwide real estate slump causing stagnant economic activity. The plan was a common formula to boost the town’s economy by implementing substantial public improvement projects to spur additional private investment to the tune of $375M (Stillman, 2009, p. 145). In August of 1990 it was reported by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), acting on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that Wichita was on top of an underground lake contaminated by commercial and industrial chemicals that measured about four miles by one and a half miles. To make matters worse the aquifer was directly beneath the city’s central business district affecting 8,000 parcels of land valued at $86M. Initial estimates to clean the site were $20M and would take 20 years (p. 146). KDHE offered two recommendations: (i) the companies responsible for the contamination could work together and cleanup the area or (ii) the state would place the site for National Priority Listing and try to get the site eligible for Superfund (p. 146). If the site were deemed a Superfund site, all 508 area businesses would be potentially liable for cleanup costs regardless of whether they had contributed to the contamination. In addition the recent US vs. Fleet Factors Corp. court case ruled that a lender may incur Superfund liability and in this case “financial institutions made ideal targets for Superfund cleanup cost recovery” (p. 146). In response Wichita bankers stopped all lending to the heart of the city further stalling the city’s economic activity and halting all development within the central business district. Worse yet, the city’s residents were...
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