Lawrence City Commission candidate Tom Johnson to chat with readers

March 30, 2009

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


Hi. I'm your moderator Chad Lawhorn. With us today is City Commission candidate Tom Johnson. Thanks for being here, Tom. We are still accepting questions from the audience.

Tom Johnson:

Thanks for the opportunity to answer some questions about Lawrence and the current challenges we're faced with, and for the chance to share my thoughts on what makes Lawrence a great place to live. I look forward to this chat!


I will start the questions. Over the last week, the community has experienced some incidents of violence near bars. Is there anything you think the City Commission can do to improve the safety surrounding drinking establishments?

Tom Johnson:

In both recent and previous instances, we have been fortunate to have such a capable and efficient Police force, with investigations and subsequent arrests made extremely quickly. Often times offenders are coming in from east and west of town. The current circumstances show us three things:

1) That Lawrence Police, along with Fire Department, should not be targets of cuts in the city's 2010 budget.

2) That perpetrators of violence against the community are both residents and individuals who come into town with an agenda of criminality.

3) That criminality is not necessarily determined by a specific type of Lawrence bar...there have been previous complaints regarding establishments as catering to a specific 'violent' crowd.

The City Commission should serve the public interest by regulations and funding that promote public safety. As recent instances prove, Lawrence needs to continue to illustrate tough sentencing and effective police work, which will act as deterrent over time. Beyond that, if instances continue in the future, we may need to again look at what factors of targeted venues are contributing to this problem.


The City Commission has considered two proposals for street renaming on an ad hoc basis in recent months. They were handled in inconsistent manners. Some municipalities allow "honorific" names only for "secondary" signage. Others prohibit living people from being considered. Virtually all having formal policies mandate formal notice to affected parties. Lawrence has no formal renaming policy.

Should Lawrence consider adopting such a policy.

Tom Johnson:

I think that if Lawrence solidified and approved a street renaming policy with fair and clear guidelines, it would save a lot of time during meetings debating the merits of renaming streets in a case-by-case basis. This would be an easy policy to adopt, after looking at other effective codes from other municipalities, and would be set in stone for future circumstances.


Would you be open to the idea of a citizens review board for oversight of the lawrence police department ?

Tom Johnson:

I'm open to review boards on any areas of city government that citizen tax dollars fund...I think that for any instance where a review board is established, it must be determined how 'active' the board is in oversight, and to what degree board recommendations must be implemented. In the case of public services such as fire and police, we could create a board of citizens from many demographics around Lawrence. In terms of board authority for police, I think it it would be simple enough to bring community safety issues to police in a direct manner, but leave spending evaluations and auditing to city offices. A board like this could convene quarterly, and garner information from the community prior to each meeting.


Considering your dedication to an economically efficient campaign, why would you miss the candidate forums in February and March that would have given you an opportunity to get your message out to the public without costing you anything? 7 of the 8 candidates made it to both forums, you were the only one absent. Do you have something more important to do than running for Commissioner? Is this indicative of your dedication to the City? How do we know that you would not blow off budget meetings, executive sessions or regular old Commission meetings?

Tom Johnson:

I was away for a KU-related business trip in February, which was job-related and set six months prior to my filing for City Commission. I did in fact attend the March forum sponsored by the Voter Education Coalition, and my replies can be found on 6News on-demand, as well as through this website.

I am a schedule-oriented person, and I honor my calendar commitments. The interests of 80,000 people are more important than my own self-interest, which is how I would conduct city business as well. I will be at the VEC forum tonight at Lawrence High School, should you wish to attend.


As a reminder, we're still accepting questions from the audience. Unless we receive others, this next question will be our last.


How has music prepared you for a life of city servitude? And who cuts your hair?

Tom Johnson:

This had better not be from Mike Amyx. :) My wife cuts my hair...I know I'm due again soon...I'm waiting until after election, kind of a Samson-and-Delilah thing. :)

As a musician who has toured across the country with bands, I've been exposed to the importance of democracy of ideas, the intrinsic value of art and creativity, and how we are all in the same 'van', so to speak. The concept that everyone has the right to present their version of a valid, creative idea is what should be driving affairs at City Hall, and the values I've experienced through music mirror Lawrence's core values as well.


That will do it for this chat. Thanks to everyone who submitted a question, and thank you, Tom. Our next chat will be at 2 p.m. today. It will be with Commissioner Mike Amyx. As a reminder, the election is April 7.

Tom Johnson:

Thanks once again to answer some questions on your minds...I value and respect all questions posed to me. Our Commission Election on Tuesday, April 7, will determine the face of Lawrence for more than just a two-year term. We're facing stark economic conditions, the threat of losing social and city services, and a stagnant property valuation period. In spite of all these challenges, I know that Lawrence and its citizens are both creative and compassionate, and that we can work together to maintain our collective history as a progressive and successful city. There's one week left to decide who will help shape Lawrence's history for years to come. I encourage all voters to educate themselves about all candidates, and compare and contrast their plans for the next generation of residents. My platform ideas on a better Lawrence for everyone can be found on my website, . Thank you once again for your time and questions, and I would appreciate your consideration for the future of a great place to be.


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