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.

Mike Dever:

Hello Everyone.


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.

Mike Dever:

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?

Mike Dever:

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?

Mike Dever:

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?

Mike Dever:

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?

Mike Dever:

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?

Mike Dever:

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?

Mike Dever:

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.

Mike Dever:

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.

Mike 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.

Mike Dever:

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 ... ... and Sam Fields ...


lawrencian 11 years, 3 months ago

I am disappointed that Mr. Dever did not answer my question about the "T". I think it is an important service in this community, and also important to find out how our potential city commissioners view it.

bangaranggerg 11 years, 3 months ago

I wish one of these canidates would really step away from the pack as clearly the guy you wouldn't vote for. Like ties to al-queda or something.

Jamesaust 11 years, 3 months ago

The answer about "overbuilding" retail space brought up an interesting point - if the City adopts planning that is more neighborhood friendly (de-emphasizing driving to retail) one consequence will be an increase in square footage of retail much faster than any increase in retail sales. After all, you can't chop up a "big box" store and spread it in pieces throughout the city.

weedwacker 11 years, 3 months ago

lawrencian, i don't see a question about that from the transcript above. Was it one of his questions to be answered, because I saw a question about the "T" on Boog's transcript. Maybe Dever didn't get that question passed on to him to answer?

weedwacker 11 years, 3 months ago

I'm real tired of people asking Dever and Chestnutt about the money they are raising. Is there a bit of envy out there that these two candidates can raise money and they have backing? When the others got into office, they had a strong backing, just not in money, it was in voice. Really what is the difference? There is none. There is a list of donors for both candidates, really if you look at ANY of the candidates, any funds they receive could have an "agenda" behind it. Looks like to me, Dever and Chestnutt just has a different group of backers. It's too bad people think there is a "hidden agenda". But that's Politics.

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

Seems to me if the growth in retail sales is lower than the growth in retail space, the problem lies with the kind of retail that is going in, rather than with the space being built. Payday loan, tshirt, and bead stores do not bring in the revenue per square foot that, say, a department or electronics store would.

Jamesaust 11 years, 3 months ago

Godot - I was going to mention the same but didn't want to stray too far.

Still, a square foot of retail is not equal to a square foot of retail. Solely from a tax revenue perspective, who is more valuable? "Everything's Potatoes" or "Nebraska Diamond Mart"?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

"There is no particular group or agenda providing me money."

At least we can rule out honesty as one of the characteristics he'd bring to the city commission.

rhd99 11 years, 3 months ago

Sounds to me like people complain about Chestnut & Dever for the wrong reasons. Instead of complaining about how they are campaigning, we need to focus on what Dah Dah Highberger & "Voting for & against roundabouts" Schauner are doing that have produced NOTHING but governmental road blocks here in Lawrence.

ilovelucy 11 years, 3 months ago

Lawrencian: It would have been nice to see your question regarding the T answered. Unfortunately my question wasn't answered either. Something tells me that there were a ton of questions not answered. Too bad there isn't more time for each candidate. Lucy

Stephen Roberts 11 years, 3 months ago


I guess we can also rule out honesty from Dennis "Bong Boy" Highberger and david " Mad as H@ll" Schauner. Too me since they are lawyers, they are worse than most people.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Joel 11 years, 3 months ago

Hi folks:

I moderated the chat, and chose the questions to throw at Mr. Dever. We had dozens and dozens that we didn't have time to get to, unfortunately, so I had to pick and choose. That's more art than science, unfortunately, but if you're frustrated that your question didn't get answered, please blame me and not the candidate.

Thanks, Joel

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

"I guess we can also rule out honesty from Dennis "Bong Boy" Highberger"

Either you don't know Highberger, and are making sht up out of sheer low-class pettiness, or you do know him, and are making sht up out of sheer low-class pettiness.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 3 months ago

"Chestnut and Dever have more money prior to the primary than is normally spent on an entire campaign which raises a few eye brows. They are running an extremely high dollar campaign considering the mailing(S) and TV commercials that have been underway. The number of signs at same locations is indictative of a high dollar campaign. Mr. Bush seems to have jumped into this ring as well."

merrill, just wait until the big dance gets going.... The donation amounts are indicitive of how much us little people desire a BIG change.

Besides, I did see ONE boog sign somewhere.

At least the supporters of those you dislike so much have not resorted to stealing signs of the opponents, as I have witnessed. You know that big brother thing, you just never know when you are on candid camera.

Mkh 11 years, 3 months ago

My Goodness, Mr. Dever managed to say a whole lot of nothing in that "chat". I now know absolutely nothing more than I previously did about him... except that he really doesn't like to answer questions.

So far I haven't heard much from any candidate. I was really hoping there would be some qualified candidates with new ideas to step forward, apparently not however.

It appears as though it's going to come down to the "pro-Developer" and "anti-Developer" vote.

Dever: "The majority of my support has been provided by a wide group of individuals who live in Lawrence. "

My question is, how many of those "wide group of individuals" besides the Developers will be routinely coming before you to seek approval for million dollar deals?

gccs14r 11 years, 3 months ago

Three Realtor-endorsed candidates interviewed, three candidates for whom I won't vote. We do not need to return to power the construction oligarchy.

The fact that we've been able to hold off being overrun by yet more box stores has been a good thing. Six years without a second Sino-Mart has been good, too. Here's hoping we can keep it that way.

Mike Ford 11 years, 3 months ago

I love how this guy speaks to his expertise on the SLT and then he ducks the question. The answer is this: a road cannot be built through a culturally and environmentally sensative area that is protected by federal law. Sure, the 32nd route was approved; only because the academics, federal officials and others, mostly Non-Native, didn't read the laws, didn't listen to mountains of documentation and testimony, and yet them and the undereducated public think they are going to railroad this road through. Not any time soon. And not through the wetlands, regardless of ownership.

cowboy 11 years, 3 months ago

Not impressive at all , tap dancing might be the right word

zimmerman 11 years, 3 months ago

Does anyone know if it's legal for candidates to put campaign signs in a person's yard without asking? I looked out my front window yesterday and saw a Mike Dever and a Rob Chestnut sign in my yard and no one asked me if they could put it up. I don't really know these guys personally, but whoever's running their campaigns seems like they might be a bit slimey.

Meatwad 11 years, 3 months ago

He ducks a lot of questions. I want to like the guy, but I'm having a hard time getting a read on where he stands on issues that are important to me. Look at his answer to the Walmart question, he seems to say, "no I don't want a Walmart" and then "yes I want a Walmart because all that matters is that they'll pay taxes so who cares that the town starts to look like overbuilt retail big box store crap and Walmart takes over everything and puts more people out of business and just brings MORE low income no health insurance jobs to our city."

I very much like that he wants to help bars who say they've been negatively affected by the smoking ban (that seems hard to believe if you look at Mass street, but I don't know about barfly type bars). But I have heard that some bar owners have met with opposition when they've asked for permission to build patios or small outdoor areas that don't have any negative affect on the surroundings, and that should change.

Meatwad 11 years, 3 months ago

speaking of the Drop In Center... if you even think it's awful now... wait until the weather gets nicer. It'll be a 24-hour party decorated by thick clouds of cigarette smoke and the smell of booze in the air. If I lived anywhere near there, I'd move. That place is getting way out of control. It looks more like a party every time I drive by. We need to make that place NOT quite so FUN for the Drop Ins and then maybe it would improve. If they had more fun going to work than hanging out at this fun place all day, it would be less crowded. :) And for the ones who truly need mental health help, that's another issue, they need to be hospitalized and helped. A fun/party Drop In center only incentivizes the Drop Ins to remain homeless and some addicted.

Meatwad 11 years, 3 months ago

I don't trust politicians who answer questions with, "I need more information on the issue". I would like my elected officials to be KNOWLEDGEABLE about all the issues and have a stance.

re: the domestic partner registry... what's the big deal? Either you think that it's fair for domestic partners to have certain rights like being able to see their partner if he/she is hospitalized, etc.... or you don't.

He ducked the question. It's not an issue that's high on my list, I have no problem with a domestic partner registry, but still, questions should be answered, not avoided. Look at Boog's chat. It's not hard to see where he stands on issues. I trust him. I don't NOT trust Dever or Chestnutt, I just don't know.

gccs14r 11 years, 3 months ago

Anyone know whether it's the landlord or the renter who controls what political advertising is displayed?

Patrick Wilbur 11 years, 3 months ago

gccs14r - I believe the property owner (landlord) controls what is or is not placed.

Also - signs placed in right of way areas are subject to local ordinances. The ordinances and the enforcement vary greatly depending on the city. Based on my own experience with campaigns Lawrence tends to be more forgiving.

Mike Blur 11 years, 3 months ago

You're correct Meatwad; I'd prefer a candidate that would come forth with a stance on an issue -whether I agree with that stance or not - than the wishy washy crap I've read so far.

About his views on the SLT - and I'll go ahead and make some allegations, open to refutation:

Isn't Dever the same candidate that listed one of his consulting firms with 3 different addresses, including an address in KCMO, another in West Lawrence and yet another in the "3200 block of Haskell?" I vaguely recall doing some research on his responses and came up with these factoids.

Now, I've lived in Lawrence about 95% of my time since the 1960s - and I cant recall any businesses, or ANYTHING, in the 3200 block of Haskell. Can someone enlighten me on what is out there, for real? I'm 70 miles away right now, and hell, I might go out there myself tonight.

The gist of my talk about his business at 32nd and Haskell - if he does own that business, and own property at that location, would be stand to benefit immensely from a 32nd street SLT alignment?

If elected, he should recuse himself from all talk about the SLT, if indeed he owns property in the line of his favored route for the trfficway.

cowboy 11 years, 3 months ago

there is a business park at 32nd and haskell , Harris const , RSC rental yard and a number of small offices in there

lawrencian 11 years, 3 months ago

weedwacker, I asked the same question ahead of time to all of the online chats. so far, everyone has answered it but Dever.

lawrencian 11 years, 3 months ago

I was just trying to say that I was disappointed that it was NOT posted, for him to answer. I think that much too little has been discussed regarding transit in Lawrence.

SoundMind 11 years, 3 months ago

"weedwacker, I asked the same question ahead of time to all of the online chats. so far, everyone has answered it but Dever."

You must have missed the chat moderator posting that there were so many questions submitted to Mr. Dever that not all - including your question regarding the "T" - were selected.

The amount of guessin, innuendo, speculation, and just sheer pettiness with respect to Mr. Dever - and other candidates for city commission - has me picking my jaw up off the floor.


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