To the editor:
Well, the Chamber of Commerce has to be congratulated on their latest achievement: an agenda to destroy the Central Business District, ruin neighborhoods and get their coveted cornfield mall. After their Downtown Task Force met in secret for 18 months, the chamber board of directors rejected all recommendations of their subcommittees that were not politically correct. Citizens can now rest easy; the "right" plan is at hand.
But the chamber has been semi-smart. Unlike the ill-fated Downtown Improvement Committee of years past, the chamber eschewed grassroots input at the critical formative stage, opting for a see-if-you-can-beat-this Grand Plan. Their wedge issue is to play downtown merchants against the neighborhoods. Not a bad move for amateurs.
The assumption that downtown needs to grow begs the question. What evidence supports a huge downtown? A quick stroll down Massachusetts shows a regular storefront turnover. If we need to expand away from Massachusetts Street, how about razing the Douglas County Bank. Allen Press and the Journal-World buildings to construct multifamily buffer zones?
The chamber manifesto ransoms growth with the gold of Lawrence livability. While they promote the quality of life in Lawrence to potential businesses, they continue to undermine this, our finest attraction.
I understand the interest of the chamber promoting immediate profits for investors. Their downtown agenda would make a lot of money for some. But those of us with long-term interest in our community welfare are willing to resist the quick money for a continuation of our long-term quality of life.
The chamber agenda must be declared dead on arrival. The city commission cannot condone the play of neighbor against neighbor for hollow profits. We should continue to promote a strong, unique downtown within the current boundaries while resisting incursion into East Lawrence, Pinckney, Oread, Old West Lawrence, North Lawrence and other Lawrence neighborhoods.
A wise city commission will accept the chamber report as a nice try, but as a report without merit. Next time, they should call together a broad-based study committee rather than a cabal of cronies interested in making money at the expense of our community.