Archive for Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Year in review: A month-by-month look at 2003 in Lawrence

December 31, 2003



January was not a good month for Kmart shoppers. On Jan. 14, company officials announced plans to close 326 stores nationwide, including the one in Lawrence, in a cost-cutting move aimed at pulling the troubled chain out of bankruptcy. In Lawrence, 80 full- and part-time employees were told they would soon be unemployed.

The Lawrence Police Department on Jan. 27 suspended Officer Mike Peck after Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone ruled that Peck, considered by many to be the city's top "drug cop," had misled the court in obtaining a warrant to search the residence of a drug-dealing suspect.

Kansas University officials on Jan. 22 discovered that a hacker had downloaded personal information about 1,450 international students. The information, stored in the university's computer system, had been collected in keeping with new homeland security requirements. The next day, KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said the hole in the system had been found and patched.

David Joel Uptain, 31, was charged in the Jan. 3 stabbing death of 49-year-old Michael Bruce Riley. The two shared an apartment at 1722 W. 24th St.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney on Jan. 23 announced she would seek the death penalty for Damien Lewis, a former convict accused in the execution-style shooting of an elderly couple in their east Lawrence home.

State Rep. Troy Findley, D-Lawrence, resigned his 46th District seat Jan. 3 to become legislative liaison for newly elected Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Eight days later, precinct committee members selected Paul Davis to replace Findley after Davis promised he and his wife would move to a house in the district.

School board member Jack Davidson on Jan. 10 announced that he would not seek re-election as debate about spending cuts and plans to close schools turned acrimonious.

The Dole Institute of Politics at KU on Jan. 8 began processing 153 boxes of Gov. Bill Graves' papers.

The Douglas County Historical Society hired a new executive director: Rebecca Phipps, former curator at Carroll House Museum in Leavenworth. The Jan. 28 hiring followed controversial decisions to demote and cut the salaries of longtime historian Steve Jansen and employee Judy Sweets.

As the United States geared up for war with Iraq, more than 30 Lawrence residents joined nearly 200 people from northeast Kansas on a bus caravan to protest at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Jan. 18 national antiwar rally was thought to draw at least 50,000 participants. Back in Lawrence, antiwar demonstrators protested each Saturday outside the Douglas County Courthouse.


Lawrence residents responded to the Feb. 1 explosion of the space shuttle Columbia as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies above Texas. Several Lawrence churches had services to pay tribute to the seven astronauts who died, and Kansas University campuses observed a moment of silence Feb. 4.

Lawrence residents were further saddened by the death of Bob Billings, 65, on Feb. 13. The multifaceted Billings changed the face of the city as the leader of the Alvamar development, which includes 3,000 acres of residential and commercial property and a nationally recognized golf course in west Lawrence. Billings, a former basketball player at Kansas University, was described as an optimist and visionary who improved the quality of life in Lawrence.

February also brought focus on the city police force, as 10 criminal cases were dismissed by judges, allegedly because of suspended Officer Mike Peck's involvement. Peck denied any wrongdoing.

Kansas University received good and bad news on the economic front. Longtime Kansas Board of Regent Bill Docking and his wife, Judy, of Arkansas City, donated $1 million to his alma mater to fund a teaching professorship in the KU School of Business. On the negative side of the ledger, KU officials were told they would receive 20 percent less from the KU Endowment Association. The economic downturn had eroded the endowment's principal.

On the environmental front, a fish kill in the Baker Wetlands raised a political stink. The 270 carp apparently died after a rural water district crew drained a canal to repair a water line. But Roger Boyd, a Baker University biology professor who manages the wetlands, downplayed the damage, saying the fish would repopulate and the drainage of a canal wouldn't have any long-term effect on the wetlands' ecosystem.

Bird-watchers received a treat as February brought two rare trumpeter swans -- an adult and a juvenile -- to Perry Lake. The birds aren't common to Kansas, and the two stayed for about three weeks.

In primary elections, Lawrence voters narrowed the field of City Commission and school board candidates, setting up a spirited election April 1.

Meanwhile, the state legislative session churned amid reports of deepening deficits. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' education task force started meeting; advocates for the disabled staged protests at the Capitol; and KU employees lobbied lawmakers for a payraise.

The official premiere of "C.S.A. -- The Confederate States of America," was Feb. 21 at Liberty Hall as part of the Langston Hughes February Festival. The mock documentary by Lawrence-based writer-director Kevin Willmott and its view of life if the South had won the Civil War, gained national attention.


March was all about competition in Lawrence -- the Kansas Jayhawks' run to the Final Four, as well as election races for seats on the Lawrence school board and Lawrence City Commission.

One of the hot issues in the City Commission contest was Wal-Mart's proposal to build a new store at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

The month opened well for Wal-Mart's efforts. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission approved the company's plans to build a 158,000-square-foot store at the intersection, but approval was made with the condition that construction couldn't begin until Sixth Street was widened. That project isn't expected until 2006.

The conditional approval didn't matter. At the City Commission's last meeting before the April 1 election, commissioners voted 4-1 to reject Wal-Mart's plans. Outgoing Commissioner Marty Kennedy cast the lone vote supporting Wal-Mart. After the meeting, Wal-Mart attorney Todd Thompson said the retailer might bypass the rejection and try to build a smaller store under plans already in place; that attempt occurred later in the spring.

Kirk Hinrich launches a three-point attempt in the closing seconds
of the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. The shot, which
would have tied the game, failed and Syracuse defeated KU 81-78 for
the national title.

Kirk Hinrich launches a three-point attempt in the closing seconds of the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. The shot, which would have tied the game, failed and Syracuse defeated KU 81-78 for the national title.

The Jayhawks, meanwhile, were possessed by March Madness, racing through what was widely believed to be the toughest bracket in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks disposed of several top programs, beating Duke University and the University of Arizona in the span of three days to win the right to face Marquette University in the Final Four.

But the joy was tinged with fear on the part of Jayhawk fans.

Jobs at UCLA and North Carolina opened during March, and Coach Roy Williams -- known to be at odds with Athletic Director Al Bohl -- was rumored to be a candidate for both jobs.

March was also a month for protests in Lawrence.

A young woman known as Sikha climbed the remains of the giant "Borders Tree" at Eighth and New Hampshire streets to protest its removal. She and her cohorts stayed for more than a week before being ejected by Lawrence Police.

And as the war in Iraq got under way, peace advocates in Lawrence were busy, camping out in South Park and holding vigils at the Douglas County Courthouse. They drew counterprotesters, who urged passers-by to support the troops.


Kansas University men's basketball coach Roy Williams tries to hold
back his emotions as he leaves Allen Fieldhouse for a trip to North
Carolina to accept the head coaching job there.

Kansas University men's basketball coach Roy Williams tries to hold back his emotions as he leaves Allen Fieldhouse for a trip to North Carolina to accept the head coaching job there.

April was a month of upheaval in Lawrence -- both in sports and in the city's leadership.

A few days after Kansas University's loss to Syracuse in the men's national championship basketball game, coach Roy Williams announced he would leave for the University of North Carolina. The school later hired Bill Self from the University of Illinois.

Shortly before Williams announced his departure, the school fired athletics director Al Bohl. He claimed in a press conference held in his driveway that the powerful Williams had "crushed" him.

On April Fool's Day, voters elected a trio of "smart-growth" candidates for City Commission: Dennis "Boog" Highberger, David Schauner and incumbent Mike Rundle. The three, along with Commissioner David Dunfield, were allied with the Progressive Lawrence Campaign political-action committee, which formed to counter developers' influence on city politics.

Voters also defeated a proposed $59 million school-bond package based on a plan to close Centennial, Riverside and East Heights schools. Voters kicked out two board incumbents, Scott Morgan and Mary Loveland, and elected newcomers Leonard Ortiz, Rich Minder and Cindy Yulich.

In Iraq, a soldier from Wellsville, Sgt. Jacob L. Butler, died April 1 when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle near As Samawah. Centennial School dedicated a book collection to alumna Leslie Whittington, who died in the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

A study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment found that Perry Lake was filling with sediment faster than expected. Another study found Hispanic and black drivers were three times as likely as other drivers to be stopped by the Kansas Highway Patrol.

And KU announced a $3 million gift by Roger and Annette Rieger to build a new scholarship hall in the 1300 block of Ohio.


May 2003 will be remembered as the month of the tornado.

On the evening of May 8, only a few days after a tornado caused considerable damage to the Kansas City metropolitan area, another tornado ripped through southwest Lawrence. Aberdeen South apartment complex, 4700 W. 27th St., and many nearby houses were especially hard hit. Damage totaled more than $6 million. The good news was that no one was killed or seriously injured.

Controversy surrounded Kansas University professor Dennis Dailey and his human sexuality class. He was criticized for the way he conducted the class by a Wichita Republican, state Sen. Susan Wagle. Even Fox news commentator Bill O'Reilly attacked Dailey. But the majority of Dailey's students and his colleagues stood up for him.

Ann Riat's home is showered with debris from the Aberdeen South
apartments, which were the first buildings hit by the May 8 tornado
in Lawrence. Riat's home had to be razed and rebuilt as a result of
the damage from the F2 tornado that hit southwest Lawrence.

Ann Riat's home is showered with debris from the Aberdeen South apartments, which were the first buildings hit by the May 8 tornado in Lawrence. Riat's home had to be razed and rebuilt as a result of the damage from the F2 tornado that hit southwest Lawrence.

The city's refusal to grant a building permit for a Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive brought a lawsuit by the land developers, 6Wak Land Investments LLC.

Lawrence's decision to ban fireworks in the city limits had Douglas County officials a bit nervous. They were concerned that everyone who used to shoot off fireworks would take their Roman candles to the rural areas to play.

The Lawrence community was angered about an attack on a 15-year-old with disabilities at Clinton Park, 500 Ill. Police said six teenagers were suspected of taking part or being present during the attack.

On the lighter side, the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds became a weekend gathering place for members of the Mo-Kan Volkswagen Club's 2003 Bug/Bus Blast. About 130 different Volkswagen vehicles were on display.

Lawrence Freemasons announced they would sell the Scottish Rite Temple, 1001 Mass. The asking price for the building, constructed in 1911: $775,000.

In Overbrook, 50 people gathered in city hall to discuss how they could raise money to save the town's only medical clinic, operated by Topeka-based Kansas Medical Clinic.

Finally, former and current students, parents and teachers said a tearful goodbye to three elementary schools as the school year ended. East Heights, Centennial and Riverside schools were closed.


Members of the Commission on Presidential Debates toured Kansas University facilities and met with a committee trying to lure a 2004 debate to Lawrence.

Lawrence businessman Scott Radford was killed when his Cessna 182 airplane crashed near Gettysburg, S.D.

Lacey Hanson, a senior at Oskaloosa High School, saw censorship first-hand when principal Brad Reed ordered changes to a story about school budget problems.

Some Kansas University basketball season ticket holders who had fallen behind on donations to KU received letters saying they likely would be required to donate $5,000 to the Williams Fund or lose their seats. A Topeka attorney announced he would file a lawsuit challenging the action.

Red Dog's Dog Days kicked off its 20th year with nearly 1,000 people gathering at Memorial Stadium for often-grueling workouts.

Angela Busby, a Kansas University junior, was crowned Miss Kansas. Busby is known for baton-twirling with the KU Marching Band.

Lew Perkins, athletic director at the University of Connecticut, was named athletic director at KU to replace Al Bohl, who had been fired earlier in the year. Perkins was hired at an annual salary of $400,000.

Officials with the Kansas Department of Revenue raided the Eldridge Hotel, cleaning out the cash registers to pay for part of the $108,982 owed in unpaid taxes. General manager Rob Phillips blamed the unpaid taxes on the poor economy.

Damien Lewis, 22, was sentenced to 158 years in prison for killing Lawrence residents Pete Wallace and Wyona Chandlee. Lewis had pleaded guilty to the murders to avoid a potential death penalty.

A crew from Stained Glass Overlay in Minnesota installed the world's largest stained-glass American flag at the Dole Institute of Politics. The flag is 36 feet tall and weighs 1 ton.

Combines were cutting a bumper wheat crop in Douglas County, with some farmers reporting 70-bushel-per-acre yields.

The Kansas Board of Regents approved a 20 percent increase in tuition at KU, bringing rates to $2,050.25 for a resident undergraduate.

The Dole Institute of Politics on Kansas University's west campus
was dedicated in July, on former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole's 80th

The Dole Institute of Politics on Kansas University's west campus was dedicated in July, on former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole's 80th birthday.

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway's salary was boosted by 24 percent, thanks to a $1 million endowment established by Charley Oswald of Edina, Minn. Hemenway now makes $272,711 a year.

A Supreme Court ruling in a Texas case also invalidated a Kansas law banning same-sex sodomy.


The Lawrence City Commission began the month by voting to allow Sunday liquor sales within city limits.

Two newcomers to Lawrence made debuts July 7. Lavern Squier started his job as Lawrence Chamber of Commerce president while Lew Perkins took over as Kansas University athletic director.

KU Medical Center announced plans July 10 for a $72 million building to treat heart and lung patients and to house its emergency department.

Honeywell International Inc. announced July 14 pending closure of its Lawrence avionics plant and movement of 189 jobs to Olathe.

Al Bohl, ousted Kansas athletic director, staged a garage sale July 16 of "barely used Jayhawk clothing and mementos."

The Lawrence City Commission agreed July 16 to raise property taxes by 10 percent in 2004.

Journal-World Sports Editor Chuck Woodling predicted July 17 the Kansas Jayhawk football team would go 6-6 in the regular season. He was right.

Distinguished guests, including former President Jimmy Carter, flooded Lawrence July 22 for dedication of the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University.

State regulators filed 13 separate liquor-law charges against owners of the Cork & Barrel liquor stores at 901 Miss. and 2000 W. 23rd Street.

James Gentry, dean of journalism at Kansas University since 1997, announced plans July 24 to resign in 2004.

The Douglas County Commission decided July 28 to allow Heritage Baptist Church, 1781 E. 800 Road, to continue flooding its 600-square-foot U.S. flag with six beams of light despite the protests of neighbors over unsightly "light pollution."

Douglas County District Judge Jack Murphy refused July 30 to block a requirement that 121 Kansas University men's basketball season ticket holders pay $5,000 each to keep their seats at Allen Fieldhouse.


The 109-degree temperature that suffocated Lawrence on Aug. 21 -- making the city the hottest place in the United States that day -- wasn't the only thing turning up the heat in August.

A judge's decision prompted city officials to deny building permits for a proposed Wal-Mart and restaurant at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, setting the stage for further litigation on the divisive growth issue.

Lew Perkins, a month into his tenure as Kansas University's athletics director, confirmed that he intended to raise money with a priority seating plan for the hottest tickets in town: men's basketball games at Allen Fieldhouse. The system, he said, would be based on financial contributions.

Lawrence police faced scrutiny after a pursuit ended when officers had chased a souped-up road racer driven by Nam Ouk Cho, of Lee's Summit, Mo., that crashed into Judith Vellucci's Pontiac at 31st Street and Nieder Road. Vellucci died in the wreck, and Cho was charged on suspicion of second-degree murder.

Lawrence residents were forced to stay dry during a stifling weekend, as health and city officials ordered the closure of four pools in town -- a precaution to help stop the spread of the cryptosporidium parasite, which already had sickened a handful of people who suffered from diarrhea, headaches and other problems. The city had 22 confirmed cases by month's end.

Jack Fincham, KU's pharmacy dean since 1994, announced he would retire at the end of the school year. Patrice Delafontaine, a nationally known heart researcher, also announced he would leave KU.

Central Junior High School and Lawrence and Free State high schools were placed on a watch list for not demonstrating "adequate yearly process" on reading or math assessments taken by students in the spring, part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

And World Online's Dave Toplikar touched off a wildlife discussion after spotting what "had to be a mountain lion" prowling on KU's west campus near 15th Street and Lawrence Avenue. His column led others to report sightings and convinced a KU researcher to set up a motion-activated camera in an attempt to verify the beast's existence.


September was highlighted by plenty of good news from Kansas University.

KU's football team scored a 35-14 upset in the annual "border war" against the Missouri Tigers at Memorial Stadium, eliciting waves of euphoria on campus and throughout the city. After the game, Jayhawk fans stormed the field, tore down the goal posts and dumped them into Potter Lake.

KU officials announced the largest research grant in the university's history -- a $17 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create an engineering center that will seek more environmentally friendly ways to speed chemical reactions.

And, despite a hefty tuition increase, KU's fall enrollment was the highest in university history. There were 29,272 students enrolled at KU's three campuses, topping the previous record of 29,161 set in 1992.

KU football fans climb the north goalpost after KU's win over
Missouri in September at Memorial Stadium. Fans ripped down both
goalposts before taking them to rest at Potter Lake on campus.

KU football fans climb the north goalpost after KU's win over Missouri in September at Memorial Stadium. Fans ripped down both goalposts before taking them to rest at Potter Lake on campus.

On the down side, an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in Douglas County spread to five nearby counties, prompting health officials to heighten warnings across the region. By mid-September, 103 people had contracted the illness, including 86 in Douglas County.

Meanwhile, on the second anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, 150 new American citizens from 59 countries were sworn in during a naturalization ceremony at the Dole Institute of Politics, the first event of its kind at KU.

The cost of metered parking downtown faced the prospect of tripling -- a concern to many merchants -- as the Lawrence City Commission considered a proposal to increase parking meter fees from 25 cents for 90 minutes to 25 cents for 30 minutes. The commission ultimately approved a rate of 25 cents per hour.

Lawrence made the grade as being among the healthiest cities in the United States. Organic Style magazine rated Lawrence 30th out of 125 cities in its ranking of least-polluted "healthy cities" nationwide. Lawrence ranked 13th in the country for its relatively clean air.

And a new U.S. Census Bureau report showed that Lawrence ranked third in the nation for the percentage of its population made up of newcomers. According to the bureau, 39.8 percent of those living in Lawrence in 2000 had not lived in the city five years earlier.


Big things -- good and bad -- happened for Kansas University athletics in October.

Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self made his triumphant debut when the 2003-2004 squad took the court for its annual Late Night shenanigans and scrimmage -- this time "in the Phog" instead of "with Roy Williams."

Ten days later, the KU football team's yearly romp at the hands of the Kansas State University Wildcats proved costlier than usual when star quarterback Bill Whittemore suffered a potentially season-ending injury. He returned for the final game of the season.

In alumni news, the Seattle Supersonics announced Nick Collison would sit out his rookie year due to injuries in both shoulders.

Two-year Dole Institute director Richard Norton Smith announced in early October that he would leave the post -- just a few months after formal dedication ceremonies marked the institute's public opening. An offer to run the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, Ill., lured him away, but Smith said frustrations with fund raising and bureaucratic regulations at Kansas University made it easier to leave.

On the crime front, 11 people were injured when a man opened fire Oct. 5 outside It's Brothers in downtown Lawrence. The Douglas County District Attorney's Office brought charges against 21-year-old Topekan Jason A. Tremble, who later pleaded guilty.

A Douglas County Jail inmate took a nurse hostage for a half-hour but released her unharmed. And a KU student narrowly escaped an attacker while walking to her car on west campus, causing students campuswide to question the university parking department's policy of overselling parking permits.

International news struck close to home when two reservists with KU ties were injured in Iraq near the end of the month. Chuck Bartles lost the lower portion of his right arm and Jared Myers suffered shrapnel injuries Oct. 23 when a remote-controlled bomb exploded under their military Humvee north of Baghdad.

And, much to everyone's relief, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department declared the cryptosporidium outbreak that had plagued the county for three months to be officially over.


The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga became the answer to a trivia question in November. Kansas University beat the Tennessee basketball team, 90-76, for Bill Self's first regular-season victory as KU's coach.

The KU football team made headlines, too. The Jayhawks received an invitation to the Tangerine Bowl. It was the squad's first bowl invitation since 1995 and capped a turnaround from a 2-10 season the year before.

Douglas County Sheriff's deputies spent much of the month trying to solve a homicide. Carmin Ross, a 40-year old attorney who only recently moved to Lawrence from Manhattan, was found dead in her home near Lakeview Lake north of Lawrence.

Lawrence Police also were busy. A 31-year old man sought in connection with a counterfeiting investigation successfully fled from police by driving across the golf course of the Lawrence Country Club.

Police also were searching for suspects in a vandalism case against approximately 25 Nebraska Cornhusker fans. The fans reported their automobiles' tires were slashed while in Lawrence for the KU-Nebraska football game. In a gesture of goodwill, Lawrence merchants and the Convention and Visitors Bureau sent packages containing gift cards to the Cornhusker fans.

In Costa Rica, two defendants were convicted in the 2001 stabbing death of KU student Shannon Martin in Golfito. The two were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Kansas University officials announced that their fund-raising drive, KU First: Invest in Excellence, exceeded its $500 million goal one year ahead of schedule.

Trouble continued at the Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence. State revenue officials raided the hotel for the second time in six months to collect back taxes.


Raymond Boothe pleaded no-contest to a reduced charge of second-degree murder on Dec. 24. Boothe killed his 11-year-old, developmentally disabled son, Levi. on Aug. 27, 2002. Boothe, who had a history of mental illness, stabbed the boy before dumping him on the Kansas Turnpike near Lawrence. Boothe faces about 13 years in prison for the crime.

The Lawrence school district created a council to study the problem of childhood obesity. Earlier in the month, school board opposition to soda pop sales in the schools melted away after board members learned how much money the district could pocket from a contract with soft drink vendors.

Facing possible foreclosure because of debt owed bankers and tax collectors, the historic Eldridge Hotel filed for bankruptcy protection Dec. 22.

The Kansas University football team lost 56-26 to North Carolina State in the Dec. 22 Tangerine Bowl.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius sought a federal drought declaration for Douglas and Franklin counties. If successful, the move would make available aid for farmers in Douglas and 91 other Kansas counties where Sebelius said the drought had reached "disaster" level.

In a case with broad ramifications for Lawrence schools, a state judge declared the Kansas school-finance formula unconstitutional and ordered policymakers to fix it by pumping an additional $1 billion into K-12 spending.

A nighttime fire in the basement of Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 N.H., caused several thousand dollars in damage Dec. 29.

The mad cow worries that followed discovery of one diseased animal in Washington state brought criticism from Lawrence-area people involved with the beef industry. They said the federal government created needless panic by announcing the news on national television instead of handling the situation more discretely.

Friends and family grieved the death of Sarah Elbayoumy, a 16-year-old Free State High student, who was killed Dec. 28 in a Missouri traffic accident.

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