Lawrence City Commission candidate Dennis Constance to chat with LJWorld.com readers
March 31, 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 Dennis Constance. Thanks for being here, Dennis. We have some questions already, but we're still accepting questions from the audience.
Thanks for the opportunity to visit with the public today. I am anxious to communicate as often and as clearly as possible with the voters of Lawrence.
Have you had a chance to read the Lawrence Climate Protection Task Force report and recommendations that will be discussed at tonight's meeting? If so, how important of a role do you envision these recommendations will have in future planning for our community, for city expenditures and operations?
link to the power point presentation:
I have not had the opportunity to read the report, although I believe very strongly that each community needs to do it's part in sustaining the environment. It is a fundamental issue that needs to be a part of all the decisions a community makes. Many towns and cities are already on board with this responsibility, and a progressive city like Lawrence needs to on board too. I think we should be a leader among cities our size. Hence, I think the recommendations will be vitally important.
I tried to rent a space for a business in a shopping center. I was told by City Hall that because I was going to be a different type of business replacing the one that went out of business, I'd have to file a site plan for the whole shopping center. I was told by an architect it would cost me $3000. I was told by the Planning Department that they would need 30 days to approve or deny my request to rent the space, after the site plan was filed. I was also told that because of the change in parking code, I'd most likely have to file a parking variance which could take in addition a minimum of 45 days if approved but it could still be denied. There is an abundant amount of parking from what I can tell. The landlord told me that is why there are vacancies around town and it has been going on for a few years now, since the former Progressive Commission was in power. Now I'm looking at Lenexa because they do not require a site plan or parking variance to rent a small space in a shopping center. Dennis, would you consider all the hoops to jump through business friendly and would you change the process at all so Lawrence doesn't give such a poor impression? By the way, this issue cannot be taken on a case by case basis - these are the rules for everyone. I wish the citizens were better informed initially when it seems the new rules were written by novices.
I understand from talking with other small business owners in Lawrence, that there needs to be a distinction for "mom and pop" scale business from those that are still small, but significantly larger. I would consider changing the rules to make this distinction more workable, so that entrepeneuers don't have to meet requirements that push them to the edge of failure before they get off the ground. I understand that heavy, up-front expenses are a problem as can be delays. I think we can design ways to streamline the process, without giving up the protections to the larger community they are meant to provide. For example, I think assigning applicants a staff "advocate" that helps them understand the timeline and realize where it can be done more efficiently in order to get through the hoops more easily, would be an idea worth considering.
When a business is looking to relocate its operations to Lawrence: Do you think it hurts or hinders our chances by requiring a minimum number of employees, and a living wage, and do you agree with this policy? Why or why not?
I believe it helps our community. The living wage doesn't require a minimum number of employees, but it does require that all the employees that have a job because of a tax abatement be covered by that law. I think this is good for several reasons. First, I believe the basic driver of any healthy economy is buying power in the hands of as many citizens as possible. This means that whatever they do for a living, in needs to pay them enough to be a full participant in all the options that are out there. Secondly, I think when we concentrate on low wages as some kind of a buisness asset, we are selling ourselves short. When we don't do this, it reveals that we are a community confident of our own worth, and are no body's fool to be manipulated. Strong businesses, realize a strong community with quality standards is generally an asset, not a liablity. A freind of mine used to say, "A leader of lions is a big lion. A leader of sheep is a big sheep." I think Lawrence is and should be a lion.
It’s my understanding that you were involved with the campaign to save the “T” and that you have some personal responsibility for the passing of the sales tax that will be used to further finance the operation of the “T”.
Do you feel personal responsibility for the still mostly empty large buses that continue to drive around town, burning non-renewable, fossil fuels?
The short answer is "yes". That is one of the reasons I want to serve on the Commission again. I want to be there to be able to cast the votes that will help us improve the services and correct the problems. We have a good system. Not a perfect one. We'll probably never have a perfect one, but I want to help make it better. Even if I am not elected, I will work toward those improvements.
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 in "secondary" signage. Others prohibit living people from being considered. Virtually all having formal policies mandating formal notice to affected parties (residents, owners). Lawrence has no formal renaming policy.
Should Lawrence consider adopting such a policy.
It has been my belief that Lawrence has a policy, the recent inconsistencies not withstanding. I'm thinking here of when we named the bandstand in South Park in honor of Bill Kelly, and we had to be sure it had not previously been named for someone else and just forgotten. If we don't have a policy, i think we should. I particular I like naming things after people who have contributed to our fair city in some significant way. However, I don't think re-naming things is a good way to do it, because it can easily disrespect the people who made naming decisions in the past. Despite the current economic slow down, Lawrence can anticipate that our growth will give us plenty of opportunity to honor the people we collectively think deserve it.
We've reached the end of our questions. Thanks to everyone who submitted a question. And thank you, Dennis. At the moment, we do not have any more City Commission candidate chats scheduled, but look for future updates on the site. Candidate Gwen Klingenberg has been invited to participate in a chat, but has not committed to do one yet. As a reminder, the election is April 7.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to have this chat. As with most such public forums, it allows us to just get started before it is over. I hope my answers have given participants a better insight into who I am, particularly as it relates to being a community leader. It is a person's basic philosophy that we guide the decisions they make about all the momentous and especially the not so momentous deicisons that our Commission will make. I am fortunate to have served on our Commission before, so many people already have an idea about how I will fullfill that obligation. If you are not one of them, I bet you know somebody who is, so ask around. I believe in the open sharing of information, and the transparency of government processes. As I have often told people over the years, I think more harm comes from knowing too little than from knowing too much. I practices that belief in my previous role as a commissioner, and I will practice it again. On line, on the phone, via snail mail, via email, through a website, or by a knock on my door, I will always be open to what the public has to say, and make it a factor in my decions. Thanks again for being interested.