If anyone in Lawrence wants to elicit an immediate, vehement reaction, all they need to do is mention the word "downtown."
In the last two decades, there has been no hotter topic in the city and no issue on which the battle lines have been more clearly drawn.
The ink was hardly dry on a downtown proposal formulated by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce before it was attacked by representatives of various neighborhood groups. Even before closely examining the chamber proposal, the groups were solidly against it.
One of the major reasons cited for the opposition was the "process" by which the proposal was completed. There wasn't enough public input, critics said, and neighborhoods weren't consulted. Yet the chamber's plan is far from a fait accompli.
Why shouldn't the chamber of commerce direct its energies toward working on a downtown plan that will now be the object of considerable public scrutiny before it has any chance of becoming part of the city's development policy? If chamber officials view action on downtown as a priority for the city, shouldn't they be able to offer suggestions on what action should be taken?
Once those suggestions are on the table, it's the responsibility of city commissioners and planners, as well as city residents, to take a look at the plan and decide whether it suits the city's needs. If the chamber has failed to adequately address the concerns of neighborhood groups and other city residents, changes can be made. Or if the chamber plan is deemed to be completely incompatible with the needs and philosophy of the city, it can be scrapped altogether.
It's too bad that critics are so quick to dismiss a plan before it has hardly been discussed. There is no harm in looking at the chamber's proposal. All or part of it might have something beneficial to contribute to the future of the city's downtown area.