Chat about the Lawrence City Commission race with candidate James Bush
February 20, 2007
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
James Bush, who is the senior pastor at Lawrence's First Southern Baptist Church, said he decided to seek a seat on the commission after becoming frustrated by hearing candidates and commissioners say the city needs to do more planning. Bush said he would promote himself as a pro-growth candidate who was interested in expanding the community's tax base.
Hi there! I'm Joel Mathis, managing editor for convergence. James Bush is here; Linda Finger, his campaign manager, is typing his answers.
This is James Bush. I appreciate the time to visit with you this afternoon.
What is your position on building a new library in Lawrence?
I had the opportunity to attend a Library Bd meeting last week -- all the candidates were invited. Our library director, Bruce Flanders, and his staff do a tremendous job with the current resources, space and facility that we have now. I believe we need a new library with expanded facilities in Lawrence. Further, I might add, keeping it downtown is not only an investment in the library itself but it is an investment in our downtown -- and one I think is worthy of pursuing.
What is your view of the proposed domestic partnership registry?
Thank you for asking this question that so many in the community are pondering during this election season. I haven't seen the actual wording of the proposed ordinance so I may be at a disadvantage to address specific language but, I do have an opinion. First, I am opposed to discrimination in any form. I do know the city has an ordinance that addresses discrimination in hiring practices. The questions I have in regard to this registry is what the economic impacts are from such a registry and have these consequences been fully considered.
What are some of your plans for tackling the issues of affordable housing and non-minimum wage job growth in the city?
First, let me speak to the affordable housing issue: The conversation that I've been involved in sets affordable housing at about $130,000. The question is really how to create incentives for builders and developer to provide in their inventory affordable homes or does the city become a central player in that effort. I think the city has the ability to provide incentives in the form of reduced fees, expedite processing to name just two possibilities.
The second issue you asked about is non-minimum wage job growth. This is an issue that the city's partnership with the other taxing bases -- county and USD -- comes into play. 80% of job growth comes from existing businesses and industries. We need to build that base with new businesses and industries that provide a job growth in all sectors and wage scales.
Where do you stand on the SLT?
I believe it is a long overdue transportation improvement that needs to happen and I support the 32nd street alignment with an additional net gain of 230+/- acres of land dedicated to preserve existing wetlands and the wetlands development center that was proposed several years ago. I believe the 32nd street alignment is good because it prevents any direct motor vehicle access to Haskell's campus which would be disruptive to their campus and developed areas. This is an example of how local government has to make decisions that provide the greatest benefit to the largest number of people while doing the least amount of harm.
James, what are your views about transit in Lawrence? Do you support the "T"? On the "T" website there are reports from a study about possible coordination of services with KU on Wheels -- what do you think about this idea?
I haven't been asked that question publicly and appreciate the opportunity to address it here. I am in support of the "T" and the development of a more extensive public transportation system. I like the fact that busses will have designated locations for picking up passengers -- I was not supportive of the hailing a bus and it stopped whereever it was. That was disruptive to traffic. I have tried to follow the KU on Wheels merger with the T but do not know how the recent student election on the issue resulted. I do think it makes more sense to make to have one very well developed transit system then two systems that overlapped services.
Why should Lawrence Firefighters vote for you, instead of other candidates?
I attended a meeting where this question was raised earlier in the campaign where there were representatives from Lawrence Firefighters. I believe it is important for Lawrence to continue to strive to build and maintain the quality of life that we, as citizens, have come to appreciate. In that regard, our efforts should be focused on the foundations of those basic governmental services that are related to health, safety, protection of life and property values. Certainly, the Lawrence Firefighters and EMS services are central to this mission of providing basic governmental services. Sometimes, I think our city commission has spent too much time and emphasis on non-local issues while trying to weigh in on more global state or national issues. We need to return or refocus our attention to local issues.
You views on tax abatements and the burden of paying for city services being mostly on the shoulders of property owners?
I believe there is too great a burden in the current 70%(residential)|30%(non-resid.)split of taxes on property owners. There is a right way to use tax abatements as one out of many different choices for incentives for new businesses and industries or expansion of existing businesses and industries. It should not be the only tool we have in the tool box and reliance on tax abatements should be weighted against the value that the community as a whole will experience or receive if that is the choice of incentive used to attract new or expanded growth. What I would prefer or like to see the city work towards (and achieve) is a split of 55%|45% instead of the current 70%|30%.
Mr. Bush, you say that the City needs to do a better job in planning for the future. How do you plan to cut unnecessary spending & governmental red tape if elected? Thanks.
We're going to pose two more questions after this.
We need to make a distinction between good planning and just planning. I don't equate planning with unnecessary spending and red-tape. My position has been that we do or have done unnecessary additional studies and plans for areas as a way to delay or stall development. When planning is done that involves the community and a plan, such as Horizon 2020, has been adopted with a broad base of community support, I question the motive and need to do additional study. I think we rely too heavily on outside consultants than on existing professional staff. I want to rely more on existing adopted studies and plans that were developed through a broad-based public hearing process. I don't like changing the rules in the middle of the game. I think that is what has led in a large part to a negative image of Lawrence by prospective business and industries looking to grow here.
Where does Christian stewardship of the environment fit in with your pro-growth/less planning agenda?
My position is not pro-growth/less planning agenda. I think planning has been used too long as a tactic to stall and delay development requests that are not favored by a certain segment of the community. That being said, if you are using "Christian stewardship of the environment" in the sense of protection/preservation of the environment, then my response is: I think it places a high consideration on what the impacts of development are on the environmental integrity of an area and that is necessary to create, protect and enhance the quality of life issues that I have campaigned on as being central to responsible growth of the tax base. Good stewardship requires respecting the natural features of the land, however that land is ultimately used.
How do you plan on paying for a $30 million library? How about the projected $1 million annually operating expense for it?
Let me say that while I may not have the complete answer to your question, I believe that the community must have an opportunity to discuss and vote on any measure the city wants to take on the library. I want to insure that the community has a voice in moving forward with any plan for library expansion/improvement. Allow me to add, in my view, each issue discussed in this chat is inter-connected. Expanding our tax base through job growth, business development and so forth, provides a greater base from which to pay for projects like a library expansion, new ballfields, and expansion of current infrastructure.
Thanks to James Bush for joining us today. A reminder that chats continue tomorrow: 11 a.m. with Boog Highberger and 1:30 p.m. with Mike Dever.
In closing, I want to express how much I appreciate this type of dialogue. One of the strengths of our community is that we can have these kinds of discussions that allow us to express varying values and points of view. I believe that at the heart of this kind of dialogue is a desire to bring out what is best for the Lawrence community.