City Commission candidate Leslie Soden answers your questions

March 23, 2015

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

Leslie Soden

Leslie Soden, one of six candidates for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission, answers reader-submitted questions in advance of the April 7 general election.


Hi everyone. Welcome to our online chat with city commission candidate Leslie Soden. If you have questions for Leslie, post them below, and we'll try to get to as many as we can. Welcome, Leslie.

Leslie Soden:

Hi Chad, thanks for setting this up. I'm looking forward to answering questions!


Don't you think that it is high time to start removing those stupid roundabouts from our city streets? I ride on a school bus as an attendant and the near misses at these damned fool roundabout intersections by distracted drivers that do not have a clue as to what the "Yield" sign means.

Leslie Soden:

Round-abouts can definitely be a major hassle with uninformed drivers and even reckless drivers. I just had to honk at someone the other day that completely ignored my car already in the roundabout, that had jumped out in front of me! I have also personally witnessed a semi-truck stuck on a roundabout just to the west of Wakarusa on Harvard. So I have very mixed feelings about roundabouts. I think some work well, such as at 19th & Barker, assuming drivers are using it correctly. But other roundabouts, such as north of Peterson Road on Kasold, seem like extremely unnecessary expenses. I think we need to hold off on adding more roundabouts for now.


I've received some questions via e-mail, and I'll try to pass some of those along as well. This one is from Melinda: What would change if you become mayor?

Leslie Soden:

Hopefully our budget priorities will immediately revert back to our core city services, especially in terms of public safety. I want to make "mental health issues" a new City Commission goal right off the bat. This will steer much of the internal decision-making at city hall. We also need to upgrade our current police facilities as well. Then we need to kick off a global review of our "emergency services system", which includes our police, fire, county jail and hospital. Let's start getting at some of these root issues, instead of applying band-aids.


For all candidates: What commissioner, past or present, do you admire most and which of his/her qualities will you bring to the job?

Leslie Soden:

What a great question. I'm afraid my personal knowledge of individual commissioners only stretches back maybe 5 years, so I have a limited pool to draw from. Of course Marci Francisco I admire for her due diligence and in depth understanding of issues, and her willingness to get down into the weeds to fully understand a problem. David Dunfield has been working with me on my campaign this campaign season (and last election too), and his careful & thoughtful consideration & diplomacy I greatly admire. And I have admired the long-term partnership that formed between Boog Highberger and Rob Chestnut, two Commissioners that are considered on the opposite sides of the political spectrum, but worked hard to come together on issues.


This question is from Gary: You have indicated your support for increased mental health services for youth and adults in Lawrence. Can you site specifically what you have done in the past two years to address this issue?

Leslie Soden:

Remaining open to all solutions, big & small, I feel has been my biggest asset. During my last campaign 2 years ago, I discussed with people the need to revisit fully funding the WRAP program in schools. WRAP is jointly funded by the school district, the county and the city. We need to restore our funding in that 3-legged stool. Lately in the past year or so as Chair of the Lawrence Affordable Housing Coalition, I have learned much about the importance of supportive & transitional housing, and how it needs to become part of our toolkit here in Lawrence. This coalition has worked hard in the last year with the Horizon 2020 Steering Committee, to bring the issue of affordable housing into the spotlight, and to add goals and solutions to our Horizon 2020 updates. I am happy to report that the Steering Committee has indeed chosen to make affordable housing a priority in their updates & revisions.


This one is from Marcel: Sidewalk construction and maintenance are a major part of the infrastructure component for implementing safe routes to schools across town, and for improving walkability in North Lawrence in particular. Do you support the city taking over the maintenance component of sidewalks, making it a specific component of the "non-motorized transportation budget line item"?

Leslie Soden:

Funding that budget line item is definitely important, and I'd like the city to look at funding it from the special infrastructure sales tax. I do think the city needs to take greater initiative in identifying & prioritizing first of all where sidewalk gaps exist, such as near schools, bus stops and grocery stores, and then working with the property owner to build a sidewalk. I'd like us to try that collaborative approach, rather than 'taking over" a sidewalk on personal property.


A reminder that you can post more questions in the space provided below. This one is via e-mail and is from Shawn: Do you feel that the police presence or number of active police officers in Lawrence could be reduced without danger to residents?

Leslie Soden:

This is definitely a question that cannot truly be answered until we take a global look at our "emergency services system" (fire, police, jail & hospital). After we do a comprehensive review, we can determine what kind of police officers we may need to add to the force. I am especially a fan of the Neighborhood Resource Officers and School Resource Officers, who are police officers that work more on the "preventive" end of the scale. But enforcement of the law is important, and there will always be people that break the law no matter how much time & energy we put into "preventive" resources. Until we start treating the root causes of crime, I would not be comfortable with changing the number of police officers.


No, that wasn't my question. My question was: If elected, how would you use social media to enhance communication with the residents of Lawrence? Would that change if you become mayor?

Leslie Soden:

I think the city has started doing a great job in using social media to better engage & inform residents. For example, in the past few weeks or so, City Hall has been putting out weekly emails to residents that outlines the City Commission agenda in plain english, and then giving a wrap up of what happened at City Commission the night before, in plain english. I would love to hear any and all ideas related to using social media. Let's try those ideas out. Some will work, and some won't. I'm open to suggestions.


This is an e-mail question from Tony: Do you support providing Broadband Fiber(1Gb) Internet to every home and business in Lawrence?

Leslie Soden:

I think the city needs to begin investigating offering fiber optic Internet as a municipal utility. The end goal will definitely be to every home and business in Lawrence. To keep implementation costs down, I would like us first to create a net over the city that brings fiber to our large businesses and schools. That would be VenturePark, East Hills Business Park, the Peaslee Center, Haskell Indian Nations University, KU, BTBC, the hospital, public schools, City Hall, and downtown. After this net has been implemented, and we have a revenue stream coming in from those subscribers, we can look at filling in the gaps in between, such as small business and residential. Let's look at what other communities are doing to make it a basic utility, and learn from their successes and mistakes.


This is an e-mail question from Shawn: Do you think additional westward expansion of the city is practical or necessary?

Leslie Soden:

Eventually expansion west of K-10 will happen, of that I am confident. Our city is hemmed in on 3 sides by floodplain, North, South & East, so that puts a limit on how we can grow. West is our most practical direction. Investing in infrastructure to make that happen is a budget priority that needs to be weighed next to our immediate public safety needs. In the next two to four years as a City Commissioner I would prioritize public safety needs over extending infrastructure past K-10. For now let's focus better on infill for development, and put "extending infrastructure" on the long-term Capital Improvement Planning budget.


Well, our hour is up. Thank you to everyone who participated. And thank you Leslie for being with us today. We have chats scheduled for all six candidates in the City Commission race. Our next one is at 3:30 today (Monday, March 23) with candidate Matthew Herbert.

Leslie Soden:

Thank you so much, I enjoyed it. And thanks to all of you that submitted such great questions!


David Holroyd 2 years, 11 months ago

Hmmm? Not much imagination. Brings to the table what?

Steve Jacob 2 years, 11 months ago

Funny she mentioned Marci Francisco, because she reminds me of her. Seems nice, but very liberal

And did anyone catch the insults? . "uninformed" and "plain english"

Leslie Soden 2 years, 11 months ago

Hi Steve, I am not sure what you mean when you say I was using insults. They certainly weren't intended to be insults in any way. I used the phrase "plain english" to be the opposite of "legal-ese". I used the word "uninformed" to refer to people that do not know how to navigate a roundabout. Hope this helps!

Samantha Martin 2 years, 11 months ago

This should cement her in fourth place April 7th.

Jake Davis 2 years, 11 months ago

I missed the deadline to get my questions in. For each candidate, I have the following questions:

1) What do you see as the top five priorities for the City in the next four years and what have you done to prepare yourself for addressing each one?

2) Describe a high-pressure situation you had to handle at work. Tell me what happened, who was involved, and what you did in terms of problem solving?

3) Having a good solution for a problem often entails more than just being intelligent. Often, exercise of good judgment is needed to complement logic in choosing a practical solution. Describe when you used good judgment in solving a problem.

4) Getting the job done may necessitate unusual persistence or dedication to results especially when faced with obstacles or distractions. Tell me about a time in which you were able to be very persistent in order to reach goals. Be specific.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

It would nice if a new commission will see fit to back up city guidelines for downtown as a change in pace.

I say VOTE Herbert/Soden/Boley if taxpayers want more respect for their money.

Voting the other three will bring on more reckless management that which has become the status quo.

Voting the other three will only reinforce reckless management as I see it.

I say VOTE Herbert/Soden/Boley if taxpayers want more respect for their money. And maybe a chance to vote on all projects that require tax $$$$$ and " tax incentives". All projects might be a stretch let's set our sights on more opportunities as tool for fiscal restraint.

Round Abouts effectiveness depend on driver skills. Other cities large and small have had roundabouts for many many decades. Obviously not new to the planet. The best attribute is the movement of traffic that which keeps flowing instead of stopping traffic for no reason.

Respect for taxpayers $$$$$ is a huge issue and realizing taxpayers are the largest and most important stakeholders in most issues contrary to popular belief of the current commission.

Steve Jacob 2 years, 11 months ago

Soden is a liberal so she will still spend our money like Farmer. I will not vote for her, but I am sure she will be serving a four year term soon.

Bob Forer 2 years, 11 months ago

Farmer a liberal???? Not quite. He has never seen a tax giveaway to the wealthy that he didn't like.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

How would describe the current reckless spending city commission?

You don't know whether Ms Soden is a liberal or not.

Ms Soden comes off as a fiscal responsible thinker.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Leslie Soden: "I think the city needs to begin investigating offering fiber optic Internet as a municipal utility. "

A smart investment.

This would attract some of the higher paying industries that indulge in a significant amount of "high tech". Very good thinking. Someday WOW will sell out which will cost many their jobs and increase our cost living as icing on the cake.

David Holroyd 2 years, 10 months ago

Mr Ogle, read her comments, they are not specific answers. And she has not been alone in that respect.

That's it!

You have a specific concern, call me, I am in the phonebook.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 10 months ago

The only sane and intelligent response to the roundabout hazards that is being foisted off on the public by persons addled by "traffic studies" (all with a major interest in the building and proliferation of these hazards). I will vote for her.

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