Candidates for Lawrence City Commission and school board were peppered with questions about growth and its side effects Wednesday night at a Brook Creek Neighborhood Assn. forum.
Eight commission candidates and four board candidates attended the forum, which was put together so quickly that some candidates who didn't attend said they hadn't been notified in time.
Brook Creek residents asked a wide range of questions, but didn't mention one of the hottest topics in their neighborhood a Salvation Army proposal to build a new homeless shelter at 15th Street and Haskell Avenue.
Mark Lehmann, a city commission candidate, mentioned it in his opening statement, the only time the topic came up.
"I want to tell you straight out that I'm against the Salvation Army putting its shelter across the street from East Heights School," he said. He suggested the city buy the land and sell it to the school district for $1 to build a new school.
Other topics at the forum:
Tax abatements. The candidates all praised Mayor Jim Henry's plans to look at the abatement policy with a task force, but they were divided on how that examination should end.
One candidate used this week's bankruptcy filing by Oread Inc. as proof of the need for tax abatements. "Tax abatements are needed," said Commissioner Erv Hodges, running for re-election. "This city has lost 250 jobs since Friday."
Lawrence city commissioners approved tax abatements twice for Oread twice since 1995, but neither agreement ever was implemented.
Other candidates called for tighter reins on abatements.
Commission candidate Scott Bailey said he thought abatements should only be used in special circumstances. "The evidence would currently suggest that everyone is special," he said.
The future of East Heights School. During the 2000-2001 school year, the elementary school's principal was suspended and an interim principal placed in the job. Test scores indicated students at the school are falling behind their peers across Lawrence. Brook Creek residents fear it may be closed.
Board President Austin Turney, running for re-election, said the board has earmarked $240,000 for physical improvements at the school.
"Whether a school gets closed isn't the issue," said board member Leni Salkind, also running for re-election. "It's whether each and every child in that building receives the proper education, as good as students in other schools."
About two dozen people attended the forum.