Monday March 7, 2011: Read transcript
LJWorld.com asked Sven Alstrom 11 questions about issues facing Lawrence:
1. Do you support the city studying the privatization of the city’s trash system?
No, I firmly believe that this service should remain a municipally owned service. The taxpayers have helped pay for the organization and infrastructure over the decades that provides employment managed locally in Lawrence.
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?
With current fluctuations in the market for recycled materials, I believe that curbside recycling should remain a private industry enterprise. No, I do not encourage a city-operated curbside recycling at this time.
3. Did you support the $18 million bond issue to expand, renovate and add parking to the Lawrence Public Library?
Yes, I supported the library bond issue.
4. Are you interested in receiving proposals to redevelop city-owned parking lots in Downtown Lawrence?
Available parking is a key ingredient of a successful downtown retail area. Redevelopment that provides all of the required parking in addition to the existing parking at each site should be considered. I would not encourage proposals that provide only the existing parking total of these lots. New buildings and dwelling units will need additional parking which should be provided by the applicant. However, ground level parking along Vermont and New Hampshire is much more attractive than parking garages.
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?
The Farmland site along the K-10 corridor has needed redevelopment for a long time. While I am very pleased that efforts are being made to redevelop the property, I would have preferred that the city not be the main owner. In terms of economic opportunity we should have already seen some results here so my question is when are we going to see new site work and buildings appear and at what stage is the current master plan for this redevelopment? Tax abatements would be considered for new investment here but my own policy is to discourage TIF or other additional sales tax districts.
6. What’s your position on the use of tax abatements to attract economic development projects to the city?
I support the use of tax abatements when needed to help sponsor new employment opportunities in Lawrence. Tax abatement requirements may also include important things like a minimum number of new jobs, 30 — that also must meet a living wage threshold. There are also cost-benefit models for evaluation of whether a tax abatement should be granted. These policies should be reviewed periodically and could include requirements for helping to provide affordable housing in the community. Recent smart growth studies however provide evidence that other factors in the community may attract new employment more than tax abatements. Focusing only on tax abatement or financial incentive policies is not the exclusive strategy to attract new businesses to Lawrence.
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 would rate our city streets 6 on a numerical scale. Well-maintained streets will help to increase the appeal of Lawrence to visitors. Truck traffic, drainage, and our subsoil are all part of the problem in maintaining our streets.
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?
Yes, I strongly support a new recreation center for the western portion of Lawrence. I would additionally support a branch library in the future in West Lawrence. If we can find a way through grants and budgeting to develop a new recreation center for West Lawrence that would be a great accomplishment of the next city commission.
9. Would you have supported a proposal to allow Lowe’s to build a store near Sixth Street and Folks Road?
No, the most recent proposal is to replace currently approved residences with a big box retail store. Bauer Farms started out with a more pedestrian friendly streetscape of commercial buildings within walking distance of a residential neighborhood and a mix of housing types. This earlier proposal was modified to add more retail space and was at that point above the amount recommended by the Horizon 2020 plan. This degree of change begins to throw into question the work done by the school district in its original site selection for Free State High School in a residential area.
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 support these type of incentives but only for exceptional projects, and with some additional caveats. I do not support the use of these incentives for the Hobby Lobby area improvements. If the CID tax is not limited to 1 percent it is possible that we could have some sales tax rates exceeding 10 percent at locations in Lawrence. The city should prohibit the use of CID revenue for private expenditures and should only be approved by the use of special obligation bonds that do not place any risk upon local taxpayers. Overland Park has made additional restrictions upon CID usage. Notice of additional sales tax should be required to be posted at all current TIF, CID, or TDD districts. CID, TDD or TIFs should not be allowed where they would place an additional tax upon groceries. The city policy on the use of CIDs should be more restrictive than the range of options offered by state law, in other words we should tailor the use of these for the benefit of Lawrence, not simply out of expediency for one project.
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 would rate our current system only a 4, mostly due to both the limited number of routes and to the limited frequency on those routes. I fully support the merger of the City of Lawrence and KU bus systems.