Thursday March 10, 2011: Read transcript
LJWorld.com asked Mike Dever 11 questions about issues facing Lawrence:
1. Do you support the city studying the privatization of the city’s trash system?
I am in favor of studying the current services provided by the City of Lawrence and determining how we can continue to provide the highest quality service for the most reasonable cost. Our city has a highly-respected solid waste department that provides excellent service to all of its customers. Over the last few years, private companies have been providing the citizens of Lawrence with curbside recycling at a reasonable cost, but the long-term goal should be to reduce the wear and tear on our city streets from multiple providers using heavy equipment, reduce the amount of waste that is generated to keep our costs down and extend the life of our local landfill and create a unified approach to solid waste services in Lawrence. The end goal of any study should include the cost of providing an integrated level of service to all residential and commercial customers. Once the costs are identified, an evaluation of how the City of Lawrence can provide the services at the most competitive rate should be completed.
2. Would you favor the city creating a city-operated curbside recycling service or do you believe that the system should continue to be operated privately?
It seems like the most efficient approach is to have recycling and solid waste handled by the same party, whether that be public or private employees. Many citizens currently utilize the services of third party vendors for their curbside recycling needs. We have studied the opportunity to partner with third party vendors to provide curbside recycling in the past and the results indicated that there is the potential to partner with existing providers. Experts in the field indicate that the most effective way to implement a successful curbside recycling program is to implement a variable rate pricing program for solid waste. I am in favor of evaluating the options and making changes to the program that will result in waste reduction and lower costs to our citizens in the long run.
3. Did you support the $18 million bond issue to expand, renovate and add parking to the Lawrence Public Library?
I voted in favor of the ballot initiative allowing the vote on the library. I believe that on major issues such as the public library it is important that citizens across the community have an opportunity to weigh in on such decisions. I applaud the approach that was taken with regard to the library since it allowed the citizens of Lawrence to vote on the option to increase the mill levy in order to fund the improvements desired.
4. Are you interested in receiving proposals to redevelop city-owned parking lots in Downtown Lawrence?
I am in favor of evaluating any investment in our downtown by private companies. Downtown Lawrence is very important to the long term viability of our community. By creating more office and residential space in our downtown we will encourage more people to patronize existing retailers. Increased density in our downtown can only be achieved by utilizing existing vacant land and creating structures that are vertically expansive.
5. Do you support the city’s decision to take over ownership of the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant and its plans to convert the area into an industrial/business park?
I was involved in the decision making regarding the city taking over ownership of the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant. As a current city commissioner, and environmental consultant, I carefully evaluated the technical documents provided by the former owner of the property and was involved in meetings with the State agencies charged with overseeing the cleanup required at the property. I was in favor of the acquisition and am confident the property will provide the city of Lawrence with a viable and attractive location for the growth of existing businesses and allow us to attract new businesses to our community. The Farmland redevelopment offers the community a unique opportunity to beautify a major entrance tot he city, improve the environment, acquire much needed industrial land for job creation, and shape the future of our eastern border.
6. What’s your position on the use of tax abatements to attract economic development projects to the city?
I believe that tax abatements are one of many tools that need to be utilized to help stimulate economic development in our community. With the proper evaluation and oversight, tax abatements allow communities to prosper and receive benefits that far outweigh the value of the tax abated. Current economic development trends regionally and nationally require our community to offer a variety of incentives to potential investors just to be considered for a potential expansion or relocation. Careful evaluation of the benefits and costs of any economic incentive must be conducted, however without the option of tax abatement our community will not be involved in the expansion plans for many companies.
7. How would you rate the overall condition of city streets on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poor and 10 being excellent?
I believe that the condition of the city streets is a subject of careful evaluation every year. Using the pavement condition index (PCI), the city has been carefully evaluating the condition of our many miles of streets and has been modifying our long and short term repair programs accordingly. We have focused on the condition of our roads over the last few years and have improved the overall condition of the roads in Lawrence since I have been on the commission. Major road improvement projects and routine maintenance procedures have been implemented to assure that the roads in Lawrence improve long term. We can always do better, but I would rate the current condition of the roads at 7.
8. Do you believe the city needs a recreation center to serve the western portion of the city, and would you work to move that project forward during your term?
I believe that we need to continue to evaluate the location of our recreational centers as it relates to the geographic location of our citizens. It has been made clear by many inside the city and outside recreational leaders that Lawrence needs additional indoor recreational space including sport courts. Given the current economic climate, it would be difficult to construct and operate additional recreational facilities in our community without outside investment. If a suitable public/private partnership was established that would serve the needs of the community, I would be in favor of exploring that opportunity.
9. Would you have supported a proposal to allow Lowe’s to build a store near Sixth Street and Folks Road?
I was a member of the Lawrence City Commission that voted unanimously against the rezoning of the parcel of land identified by Lowe’s as a preferred location for a new store.
10. Do you support the use of incentives such as Community Improvement Districts and Transportation Development Districts that allow businesses to charge an additional sales tax to help pay for improvements at their properties?
I have historically been in favor of the use of as Community Improvement Districts and Transportation Development Districts as a tool for businesses to help pay for improvements at their properties. The use of such tools is governed by state law, and the application of the incentives has been on a case-by-case basis.
11. How would you rate the quality and effectiveness of the city’s public transit system on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being poor and 10 being excellent?
I believe that the condition of the transit system is better than it has been in many years. By approving the ballot initiative two years ago, the citizens of Lawrence empowered the city to make the investments necessary to provide a higher quality and more effective system. Through a coordinated effort with the University of Kansas, we have begun implementing new, coordinated routes that make using the system more convenient and sustainable. Ridership has been positively impacted by the changes, and new hybrid buses will help improve the fuel efficiency of our fleet. New, appropriately sized vehicles have been ordered and place into service and plans have been made to further integrate the two transit systems. The transit system offers transportation to workers and students, and is an economic development tool that allows Lawrence to compete against other cities when businesses consider relocation. I would give the transit system a rating of 6, and am hopeful through continued improvement and integration that we will create an even better system.