Chat about the Lawrence City Commission race with candidate David Schauner

February 22, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

David Schauner, who is general counsel for the Kansas National Education Association, began serving on the commission in 2003. Schauner last won re-election in 2005, when he finished third in the race and received a two-year term. The top two finishers get four-year terms. In his four years on the commission, Schauner said he was pleased that commissioners had been able to lower the city's property tax mill levy. Schauner, 61, also said he would make completing a backlog of street, sidewalk, sewer and other infrastructure projects his top spending priority during a new term. He said he only would be comfortable moving forward on large-dollar projects, such as a new library or new recreational complex, if voters specifically approved the project.


This is 6 News Reporter Laura McHugh. I'll be moderating our chat with current city commissioner and candidate David Schauner. David's partner and campaign volunteer Cheryl Hewitt is here to help with the typing. Thanks for joining us this morning.


Why is the Wakarusa Water treatment facility estimated to run 33% over budget .Why can't the city estimate project costs accurately ?

David Schauner:

DearCowboy, Thanks for your question, the estimates for the water treatment plan were first made in 2003. A number of costs have gone up in that 3-year period including steel and other materials needed to operate the plant. The city has made as reliable estimate as possible under the circumstances.


What is your view of the proposed domestic partnership registry?

David Schauner:

Dear Souki, Thanks for your inquiry about this important issue. I voted to support creation of the registry and believe that it will offer a valuable benefit to all unmarried couples without regard to sexual orientation if their employers choose to make those benefits available.


Do you support a new library for Lawrence? What is your view on the current proposal before the city commission?

David Schauner:

Dear Komorgan, This issue seems to be one of the most consistent and important issues facing the city in the next few years. I support building a modern library. I strongly support building that facility downtown. I also believe that the library should be a city-only project. Ultimately, the city must put this item on a ballot for public vote, both as to whether such a project is built and how it is financed.


What do you think, in general, of the property market in Lawrence? Do you think that Lawrence home prices are higher then surrounding areas, and if so, to what do you attribute their higher prices? Is there something you think the city can or should do to help first home buyers who make $35,000 a year (or less) afford to purchase a home of their own?

David Schauner:

Dear Justthefacts, Lawrence housing prices are higher than our surrounding communities which makes it difficult for first-time home buyers to qualify to buy a house. There are a number of factors that influence the cost of housing and based on conversations I have had with local realtors, the cost of raw ground in Lawrence seems to be a significant factor in this price differential. The city continues to make efforts through our housing programs to provide additional housing available at affordable prices. However, the city has limited tools with which to provide large amounts of affordable housing that would meet the needs of this sector of the home buyer market. The city is committed to working towards increasing our stock of this housing through our Housing Trust Program.


How do you propose to solve the escalating property taxes while maintaining our current infrastructure needs and enhancing our city with better amenities such as an expanded library and the annual costs that are associated with it?

David Schauner:

Dear abby, What a great name for an online chat! The city funds most of its general fund operations with either sales or property taxes. The State of Kansas does not give the city any other revenue tools. In 2004, I worked to maintain or reduce the city mill levy and our mill levy has remained constant since that time. However, the county appraiser has increased assessed valuations an average of 5-7% each year during that same period of time. The simple truth is all new projects and amenities must be paid for with revenue from either sales or property taxes. The city must prioritize which projects it can afford and make the difficult decisions about which projects not to fund. In short, no matter how worthwhile any project may be, it will require sales tax or property tax support. There is no 'magic bullet' or revenue stream that will solve these problems or pay for these projects.


Can you name three areas of city operation costs where you feel there are efficiencies to be realized ?

David Schauner:

Dear cowboy, I suspect there are efficiencies to be realized in every department of city government. I believe we should change our reliance on consultants for public projects. Much of this work can and should be done by city staff. I also believe that our take-home car policy needs to be reviewed and reduce the number of vehicles taken home by our employees. These vehicles should be on an emergency call basis. Lastly, I believe that our transit system, although it is showing increased ridership, must constantly review its operation procedures and routes to make the 'T' an even more attractive option. One last thing would be to look at increasing our reliance on alternative fuels for our city fleet and reducing the size of our vehicles whenever possible.


what have you done for this town since elected

David Schauner:

Dear concrete, The things I am proudest of in my four years on the commission include lowering the mill levy, adopting a modernized development and sub-division code, making strides toward developing a one-stop shop for dealing with our neighborhood resources and planning departments, making plans for building a waste-water treatment plant that will serve the city's future growth needs, updating our waste-water transportation network to serve our newest sub-division requests on the west edge of town and finally, being part of a top-to-bottom review of city services and approving the hiring of an internal city auditor. In addition, the city is moving forward on its biosciences support including working with The Kansas Biosciences Authority to attract good jobs at the East Hills Business Park. Further, we have begun a serious effort to acquire the Farmland Industry property to be used as an employment center.


Many people have labeled you "anti-growth", but you say you are for "Smart growth". Looking at your past voting history, what growth issue have you supported?

David Schauner:

Dear flyi_squirrel, I believe that smart growth should mean quality and sustainable growth. I have supported a number of projects, both in-fill and green field that meet that definition. In truth, if you examine the number of housing projects and others that have been approved in the past 4 years, you will find that nearly every proposal submitted has been approved.


Will you vote YES or NO on Walmart?

David Schauner:

Dear chic, The Walmart question is currently in the Douglas County District Court and trial of this matter is scheduled for April 16, 2007. The original Walmart proposal was for a land use that was not permitted at that location. Walmart is a department store and department stores are not a permitted land use at 6th and Wakarusa. Further, K-DOT's traffic studies suggest that the density of development proposed at this location would cause that intersection to provide an unacceptable level of service for the travelling public. At this point, there is no opportunity for the city commission to vote yes or no on the Walmart proposal. I have not supported the proposals from Walmart that I have seen during my tenure on the commission.


What would you rank as the most important issue facing the City of Lawrence and why is more important than other issues being discussed?

David Schauner:

Dear commonsense, Lawrence must find a balance between being a bedroom community and a city where we offer good jobs, cultural activities and the other amenities that Lawrencians have come to expect. The latest cost-of-growth study found that residential growth does not pay all costs related to its development (police, fire, streets, water, sewer, schools and general city services.) That does not mean we will or should stop growing, but it means we must find a balance of residential and business growth that will enable the city to offer services at a price that our taxpayers can afford. Unless we find that balance, we are at risk of losing the charm and character for which Lawrence is known.


How do you feel about tax abatements after seeing the economic benifits Eagle Outfitters has created in Ottawa?

David Schauner:

Dear flyin_squirrel, Unfortunately, the wages paid by Eagle Outfitters coupled with the fact that many of those jobs do not the employees for health benefits would make it difficult for these employees to live in Lawrence. I was not on the commission that dealt with Eagle Outfitters, however, the city continues to use tax abatements as one tool to attract new businesses. In fact, while I have been on the commission, we approved and I supported, a substantial abatement to Packer Plastics for a $90,000,000 expansion of their existing plant. This enabled a long-time Lawrence employer to not only remain in Lawrence, but add additional jobs. Economic development is driven by adding new jobs that pay good wages which enable employees to live in Lawrence and participate in our economy. Simply adding additional retail opportunities does not equal economic development.


Thank you for joining us today and to David for answering our readers' questions.

David Schauner:

Laura, thanks to you and those who participated in discussing issues that will affect all of us in Lawrence for the future. I encourage all of us to work for projects and decisions that provide the greatest good for the greatest number. I look forward to continuing this debate and discussion of issues in the next few weeks. Remember to vote Feb. 27. Thanks for your support.


commonsense 11 years, 3 months ago

In reference to a new public library, you stated, "Ultimately, the city must put this item on a ballot for public vote." What constitutes a public vote? The "smoking ban" is still an issue in Lawrence and with downtown businesses, so why wasn't this issue brought to a public vote?

scary_manilow 11 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for answering all the questions but mine, Davey. Shoulda known we couldn't pitch you anything but softballs... Can't wait to see you lose.

rhd99 11 years, 3 months ago

What this roundabout wonk doesn't understand either, commonsense, is that roundabouts are a public nuisance as well. Like the smoking ban, roundabouts NEVER got a vote, why? This wonk tells us that his policy is for the common good. Tell that to the FIREFIGHTERS, police & ambulance navigating the roundabouts, David Dim Twit! You are one of Lawrence's weakest links! Get lost Schauner!

rhd99 11 years, 3 months ago

Marion, David Schauner provided that legal LOOP HOLE so that city bureaucrats would not be held accountable if they refused to answer questions. TYPICAL lawyer CRAP!

justthefacts 11 years, 3 months ago

According to this information any public agency may charge record requesters for the costs associated with complying with an open record request. That can include staff time spent on the request.

So in answer to the questions: The KORA allows (but does not require) a public agency to recoup the actual costs associated with finding, copying, mailing etc. copies of public records. If you do not like that policy, talk to lawmakers about making a change in the KORA (FYI - this fee provision has been in there since the law first went into effect, in 1984).

A way around higher record request fees is to ask for access, not copies. Ask them to SEE copies of the financial reports - or whatever records/books/documents contain the information you want - so you can look for the details you are seeking.

The public agency may STILL (legally) charge you for the time it takes a staffer to help you with that research project (i.e. stand over you to make sure you aren't defacing public records), but if you are a swift reader, you can speed up the process and that may help reduce over-all staff time spent (costs).

SoundMind 11 years, 3 months ago

To those complaining because he didn't "answer your questions," please note that in even a non-political chat, the chat moderator receives and chooses questions to put to the chatter.

So if Mr. Schauner, or Mr. Dever, or any of the other candidiates participating in a chat didn't answer "your" question - it was not THEIR choice - but the moderators.

So if you want to take it up with someone, contact the chat moderator.

flyin_squirrel 11 years, 3 months ago

His answer to my question about what growth HE has voted for was not answered. He only stated what had passed during his time on the commission. I think he has voted down everything associated with growth.

Wonder if his Fox Fire neighborhood would have been approved if he were on the commission when it was built. And his neighborhood is definitely one that "residential growth does not pay all costs related to its development."

This guy needs to go back to Topeka.

KsTwister 11 years, 3 months ago

"He was pleased that commissioners had been able to lower the city's property tax mill levy." Excuse me but nothing was lowered --it just wasn't increased as much as they wanted. He did not do good here at all. He is only concerned with "large dollar" projects. Go figure.

bearded_gnome 11 years, 3 months ago

wow, the amount of indirectness in Schauner's answers is amazing. what he was plain about, I certainly disagree with.

yes, funny that roundys are imposed on us, the smoking ban is imposed on us, but we have to have a library vote? I agree w/above posters on that.

note Schauner, a lawyer, had his GF type for him? at least Sam-I-am did his own typing.

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

"According to this information any public agency may charge record requesters for the costs associated with complying with an open record request. That can include staff time spent on the request."

Well, if they are charging $30 per hour for staff time to make photo copies, then there is something else to complain about. The city should not be paying clerical staff $30 per hour.

oldgoof 11 years, 3 months ago

Comensense at12:31 asks why a vote will happen on library when it did not happen on smoking policy. . The need to issue General Obligation bonds will necessitate the vote. A vote to issue the bonds in essence will be a vote on the policy decisions made regarding the liblrary at that point in time.

George_Braziller 11 years, 3 months ago

Marion - If you did about 15 minutes of research on the internet you could find out the information yourself. If city staff spent six or seven hours copying original documents for you at $30 per hour you'd be indignant about that as well.

"During a call to that office, I was told that I would have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request and would be billed for the research at the rate of $30.00 per hour."

The reason they have a policy like this is that there are TONS of people who really don't have an actual need or purpose for the obtaining the information other than to just be a crank.



cowboy 11 years, 3 months ago

Mullins knows damn well what the city has spent on every item , if he doesn't as head of finance he should be fired tomorrow morning. His attitude is typical of many of the city managers , Torrez is another one that should be gone.

nothing other than sandbagging info from the public !

These dumba$$es need to understand who they work for , THE PUBLIC

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

Marion, if you ask the city staff to analyze and compile information, that will be $250 per hour.

rhd99 11 years, 3 months ago

I believe you Marion, but like I said the power rests within all of us. GET OUT & VOTE so that Schauner the ambulance chasing wonk & Dah Dah Highberger will get the picture, they ARE the weakest Links! Time for them to go BYE BYE!

bearded_gnome 11 years, 3 months ago

I used to refer to this commissioner as commissioner schnauser, until Mrs. Gnome pointed out that Schnausers are a fine cute little trainable dog. then, she proceeded to telling me to be nicer to Schnausers--the dog breed.

wasn't it Shakespeare who wrote: "first, we kill all the lawyers."

Jamesaust 11 years, 3 months ago

Well, there you go.

Schauner's time on the Commission has improved the smoothness of his answers but not the quality of them.

I especially like the reference to housing costs and the "cost of raw ground". Well, shucks, if the price of dirt in Lawrence is high then what can be done? Shrug.

Please - dirt is dirt. What differs are the government policies that restrict the "amount" of dirt available relative to demand.

Meatwad 11 years, 3 months ago

Swan_diver wrote: "All you folks who think that the David Schauners and Dennis Highbergers of the world are the vanguards of the problems we all face in society, are worse than sorry fools. You're the types who deserve to reap the fruits of your sordid dreams..."

Thank you Swan! And those type folks you mention are HOW nice towns turn to absolute crap with boarded up empty retail space and ugly urban sprawl. I wish they'd move to the crap towns with the WalCrap stores instead of constantly bad-mouthing the people who actually have this towns best interest at heart.

TruthSeeker 11 years, 3 months ago

Marion, the fool, keep on living in your little dream world that the developer's puppets (ie, Dever, Chestnut and Bush) are looking out for your best interests. Get these three clowns on the commission and the Schwadas, Comptons, World Co., and the rest will rape the face of Lawrence and make you pay dearly for it while they laugh all the way to the bank. Wake up and smell what you're shoveling.

(Thank you sir may I have another.)

George_Braziller 11 years, 2 months ago

Guess you didn't really read mine:

The reason they have a policy like this is that there are TONS of people who really don't have an actual need or purpose for the obtaining the information other than to just be a crank.

"By the way, Georgie, if you bother to READ my post, you would see that I only asked for NUMBERS, NOT COPIES of anything!



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