Chat about the Lawrence City Commission race with candidate Mike Dever
February 21, 2007
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
Mike Dever, 43, is the owner of GuideWire Consulting, which provides site assessments and testing for a variety of environmental issues. "I really believe that we need to expand our business and industrial tax base in town," Dever said. "I think we have held off for too long in moving the burden from homeowners to businesses. We need to start making that transition."
Hi folks. Joel Mathis, managing editor for convergence, here moderating. Mike Dever is here and ready to take questions.
I know the information is available through other sources, but if you could just tell me in a short reply, who is providing you with all the funds used to buy all the adverstisement I see with your name on it (TV, signs, etc) it would save some time. I'm not affiliated with any other candidate(s) - just wanting to know who is helping you pay for these things, to help determine if you are being supported by some particular group or agenda.
Thanks for the question.
I am flattered by the response I have received while attempting to raise funds for my campaign. The majority of my support has been provided by a wide group of individuals who live in Lawrence. There are people from all walks of life and all socioeconomic areas. There is no particular group or agenda providing me money. Just hard working people who think I have the skills and abilities to be a good city commissioner.
Assuming the state Attorney General gives it his legal "OK", what is your position on the proposed domestic partner registry ordinance that has been proposed here in Lawrence?
I am against discrimination of any kind. I believe that we as a community must be prepared to defend the rights of our citizens. I need to become more informed on this issue to be able to make a sound decision as a commissioner if I am elected.
You were quoted in the Journal World as saying that you had seen data that suggested the community was not overbuilding it's retail market. However, according to 2005 census data, in the last 15 years Lawrence's retail sales (after adjusting for inflation) have increased only 1.6%, while the actual retail development has increased 4.1% It seems obvious that we are spreading our retail market thin. What data would lead you to believe otherwise?
I am not sure what quote you were alluding to, but let me see if I can explain my views.
I believe that the current geographic location of the existing retail space is not consistent with the location of the population. If we are truly going to provide our citizens with an opportunity to walk to the retail areas of their community, we need to realign the location of the retail areas with the population. We need to focus on what makes downtown more vibrant and sustainable, without serving other parts of the community. I am not sure what the best way to accomplish that goal is, but with the professional input from the planning staff at the city and my background in land use planning and analysis, I can help achieve the goal.
The Placemakers consultants suggested that our city government planning process is broken and that developers are frustrated and lack trust in our leaders. What is your opinion of these comments and how would you respond to them?
I attended several sessions of the Placemakers process and have a number of views regarding our current city processes. First, I think we need to improve the way our current city staff serves the potential users of city services. We need to encourage a friendly, professional engaging process for applicants to follow, and hold them to it. We must demystify the process of applying for and planning for renovation, construction and development projects. As in any team effort, the city just needs to refocus itself and reenergize the staff to provide the best possible service to all applicants.
Clear rules, consistent application of the rules and fair assessment of compliance with the rules are all part of what I want to encourage at city hall.
I live by what is called the drop in center in Lawrence and am disgusted with the place what do you think can be done about it and all the drugs fighting and drinking? Does it get city funds and can those be taken away?
I am sorry to hear about your troubles, and would like to learn more about the challenges of living near the community drop in center. It is important to consider the impact of any such facility on the neighborhood when approving its location. I am a believer in enforcement and police presence. Perhaps we can increase the visibility of our police officers in the area t otry and discourage the negative behaviour.
I am uncertain as to the funding mechanism of the facility, but I will investigate it.
what will you do to make the SLT a reality?
The history of the SLT is long and storied. I am certain that when Lawrence city leaders first proposed the concept it seemed like a good idea. Twenty-eight years later it would be ambitious of me to think that I could single handedly finish the project. I do believe however, that I am uniquely qualified to help encourage the thoughtful completion of an east west bypass around our city. I am a trained environmental professional, I am passionate about the proper use of our resources to complete such a bypass and believe it is imperative that we as a city provide the infrastructure needed to attract new businesses to the city of Lawrence.
What is your position on bringing another Wal-Mart to Lawrence?
I am not a retail expert, nor am I particularly interested in having another Wal-Mart in our city. I must trust the research and expertise of the retail professionals that believe our REGION can support another Wal-Mart store. These professionals came to the city with a plan to build another store. Many years later our city is engaged in a lawsuit with the retailer, and we are spending taxpayer dollars to litigate. I want to be collecting tax dollars from retailers, not spending dollars on a lawsuit.
What do you think the biggest mistake in process or policy the city has made in the past few years.
I believe many people think that our city has displayed a pattern of hiring consultants to provide insight and expertise in our unique community. The problem is, often times the advice of the consultants is not followed, or the conclusions that they provide could have been provided for free from some local group of citizens. The end result is a waste of taxpayer dollars. The waste may be from the study that told us what we already knew, or the waste may be from not following the advice that we were given. Either way, the end result is money that has not been spent on infrastructure or enhancements. The commission needs to more often be more comfortable asking questions, reading reports and making a decision, without spending extra dollars on a third party opinion.
Would you be willing to re-evaluate the living wage ordinance if elected?
We're winding down the chat; only another question or two will be posed to Mr. Dever.
If I am elected, I am going to make it a priority to make Lawrence a place where businesses can thrive. Existing businesses and new businesses. I am not certain what effect the current living wage ordinance has had on our ability for new and existing businesses to thrive. It is fairly narrow in its scope and application. I want to focus my energy and attention of job growth. If I find the living wage is an impediment for Lawrence to compete on a regional and national scale, I would revisit it. However, we have a busy time ahead of us and I am in favor of moving forward with the processes we have in place and getting down to the business of creating a sustainable economy here in Lawrence.
I don't believe the smoking ban is in any danger of being overturned, but I would like to know your opinion on this issue.
I am in favor of keeping the existing smoking ban in place. Lawrence was a leader in the region, and there are entire countries where a smoking ban is now in place. I do think we must work with small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the ban to help them accommodate outside smoking areas. Helping our local businesses through the process of adapting to the changes put forth by the city, will improve the profile of the city government and allow for minimal impact of the ordinance on small business owners.
Thanks to Mike Dever for joining us today. A reminder that we'll be joined tomorrow by David Schauner ... http://www2.ljworld.com/chats/2007/feb/22/david_schauner/ ... and Sam Fields ... http://www2.ljworld.com/chats/2007/feb/22/sam_fields/>