Lawrence City Commission candidate Mike Machell live chat

March 14, 2011

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

Mike Machell

Lawrence City Commission candidate Mike Machell will hold a live chat with users Monday, March 14 at 12:30 p.m. You can submit your question in advance below.


Hello. I'm Journal-World reporter Chad Lawhorn. I'm the moderator for today's chat with City Commission candidate Mike Machell. We have a few questions already submitted, but we're still accepting new ones. Thanks for being here, Mike.

Mike Machell:

Thanks for having me today, Chad. Hopefully this snowfall is winter's last gasp.


As a city commissioner how will you help resolve the homeless shelter problem?

Mike Machell:

This is a complex problem. Extending the special use permit at the current location is a reasonable short-term approach during the winter months. But downtown is not the solution long-term. We need to hold the leaders of LCS accountable to find a long-term location for a larger shelter. They should report progress quarterly to the City Commission until this occurs. I do think that the City Commission, Planning Department, community and shelter officials need to cooperate to determine a long-term location for the shelter.


What do you think of the proposed changes in the library project, including an extra level in the parking lot and a bus station?

Mike Machell:

It was extremely important to me that the voters were able to decide this issue. Having said that, I want to make sure that it meets voters expectations of what was voted upon. My job as City Commissioner will be to see that the project comes in under budget. I think that considering these changes during the design phase is the right time and financially prudent. But I do have reservations about the changes. Old West Lawrence has rightly raised concerns about the aesthetics of an additional story of parking. Placing a transit transfer site at the library has its pros and cons as well. I've let the City Manager and the architects for the project know that community input to the process is important. I'd like to hear all the facts before I decide to support any changes.


How about revisiting the Lawrence fireworks ban since it seems it is never enforced. Any consideration in doing away with the ban?

Mike Machell:

This is not an issue with which I am that familiar. I am certain that the ban has to do with safety and respecting the right of others to quiet enjoyment of their property. However, if is not being enforced, we should look at the policy or how it is being enforced.


What is your position on the completion of the SLT?

Mike Machell:

I support moving ahead with the 32B alignment. It has been approved at the federal level and everyone has lined up behind it. I support KDOT's efforts to mitigate loss of wetlands. I also think that Lawrence greatly benefits from this alignment. Streets in east Lawrence were not designed for the heavy traffic they currently have. Residents in this area have a difficult time getting out of their neighborhoods during peak traffic times. The SLT will facilitate better repaired streets, make it safer for kids in the area and reduce truck traffic.


If elected, what is your stance on island annexation, and how will you protect rural residents from island annexation?

Mike Machell:

The city policy currently is applicant (property owner) driven. I would need to look at this issue closer, but at present I don't see a compelling reason to change the policy. If an annexation is under consideration, I would want to hear from all sides - including residents - in deciding what's best for the overall community.


Lawrence continues to be anemic when it comes to job growth. When and how will City Hall finally change its tax policies to attract higher paying jobs in this town and what are you going to do to make this happen? Thank you.

Mike Machell:

Job growth is a key part of my platform. We need to invest in the community to build our economic base. Growth over time will enable us to reduce the mill levy. My focus is to: partner with community colleges and technical schools to provide training in skills that prospective companies will find attractive, continue to build an inventory of available industrial sites, provide quality infrastructure, and continue to demonstrate that we are willing to work with businesses. I've also said that we should play to our strengths and market what's unique about Lawrence - arts, retirement opportunities, etc. My focus has been on bringing primary jobs to Lawrence - these are jobs that bring in revenue from outside the community. I have been part of start-ups so I know something about what companies like to see when they come to a community. I want to use that experience on the City Commission.


Two part question:
What would you do to improve voter turnout in Lawrence for local elections?

Would you support holding local elections at the same time as national elections in November?

Mike Machell:

Puggy, I wish I had the answer for that. I've heard some arguments that having local elections occur at the same time as national or state elections might bring out more voters. But even those elections don't have high turnout. I don't know whether that would make a difference, but I can say that people aren't really focused on local elections at the same time as spring break and March Madness!


The homeless shelter would like to increase their occupancy from 57 to 82. Do you feel this is a good idea and would you consider the concerns of the adjacent neighborhood and downtown businesses?

Mike Machell:

I know that the sitting Commission has different views on this subject. I don't think that increasing occupancy is a good idea because I don't think the downtown shelter was designed for this many people. But I also don't think that there is a more palatable short-term solution. Having people sleeping on the street downtown is not an option for me. I believe my position considers the concerns of the adjacent neighborhood and downtown businesses, but I am open to hearing their views. I would vote increasing occupancy at least as a short-term alternative.


Have you ever been banned from a public online forum for TOS violations?

Mike Machell:

Not to my knowledge.


As a reminder, we are still taking questions from our online audience. Please feel free to submit.


Who designed your yard signs?

Mike Machell:

I have been working with Billy Pilgrim.


I wanted to follow up on your earlier response to the island annexation question. That has been a touchy subject at City Hall recently as commissioners have approved two island annexations for property near the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. Commissioners said they supported the annexations because they believe the interchange offers good opportunity for industrial development projects in the near term. But they've also said island annexation is less than ideal. Can you give us any insight into how you would have approached those island annexation requests?

Mike Machell:

I agree with commissioners that the proximity to the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike make these properties ideal for industrial development projects. The expense of running sewer and water and providing city services makes this problematic. I think these are the right considerations. I'd be looking to compare the long-term benefit to the community against the immediate cost of investment. Based on what I know, I would support the island annexations.


This will be our last question, unless we get some more submitted. There have been various proposals over the past several years for all rental units in the city to register with the city and then be inspected by the city periodically. Currently, the city only requires registration and inspection for rentals that are in single-family zoning districts. What are your thoughts about expanding the city's rental registration program?

Mike Machell:

I'm not in favor of expanding the city's rental registration program at this time. It would increase cost to the city to hire more staff to enforce it and I don't think fees would support the increase. If we don't have staff to enforce properly, I don't see the logic in expanding the program. My preference would be to maintain the current practice of enforcing codes on a complaint basis and citing repeat or habitual offenders. I'd like to see greater cooperation between LAN and property owners versus adding more regulation. Providing affordable housing in Lawrence is an issue, so adding costs to comply with more regulation isn't helpful in my mind.


Well, that will do it for this chat. Thanks to everyone who submitted a question. And thanks, Mike, for your time. Any closing comments?

Mike Machell:

Thanks for providing this opportunity to exchange views with Lawrence voters. I am very excited about the opportunity to serve the community on the City Commission. If you would like to learn more about my views on the issues, as well as my background and experience, please go to my website: And regardless of who you decide to support, please vote on April 5th!


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