Welcome to our online chat with city commission candidate David Schauner.
The chat took place on Friday, March 28, at 2:00 PM and is now closed, but you can read the full transcript on this page.
Moderator: Welcome, everybody, to today's chat with city commission candidate David Schauner.
Moderator: Let's get started with the first question.
J.B.: On your website it says, and I quote: "I was attracted to Lawrence because I have always considered it to be a unique community with wonderful social and educational activities and an inviting "small town" atmosphere." Considering this, and on your profile you say that you don't like cliches or cheap campaign promises - only being a resident of Lawrence for almost 3 years, what makes you think you have the knowledge of the Lawrence community needed to help the city move forward? Also, regarding your promise cards - please address this issue: I understand that the point of the promise cards were so that people could know where you stand on the issues, however, your "suggestions" without a straight course of action appear to be nothing more than a cheap campaign promise themselves.
David Schauner: The problems that face Lawrence are not unique to Lawrence. My experience as an advocate and problem-solver for the past 25 years have given me an ability to analyze problems and be part of solutions. Although I have not lived in Lawrence for an extended period of time, what I have experienced in Lawrence has taught me that its problems are not unique and it can learn from solutions found in other places.
It is not possible in a modern political campaign to provide detailed answers to complex questions, but I believe my promise card offers the outlines of my platform.
Long time Lawrencian: I read in the paper a quote from you that indicated you believe all builders and developers in this town have money to burn and are getting rich off Lawrence. That's a little like saying all attorneys are rich and have money to burn from all the frivolous lawsuits they file, isn't it? As an attorney for the state, I know that you probably don't make huge amounts of money. Can you accept the fact that there are lots of small-time builders who, like you, only want to put food on their families tables and shelters over their heads?
David Schauner: The real question is not whether builders and developers make money, but rather whether the city can sustain long-term economic growth. Study after study have shown that commercial and residential developments do not pay their full cost, and as a result existing city neighborhoods are taxed to pay for major city roads leading to these developments, as well as utilities like water and sewer lines. In addition, these new developments to not fully pay their fair share of costs for public safety, such as police and fire.
Greg Moore: Do you think it will be difficult, if elected, to stay on top of your duties as a commissioner; since you will be dividing your time between Lawrence and Topeka?
David Schauner: My job is no different than any other person's full-time employment. Approximately 12 percent of the Lawrence community commutes to a job outside the city. Work as a city commissioner is not unlike any other service to the community, and I am confident that my schedule will allow ample time for me to competently perform my duties as a city commissioner.
kuhawk89: You say you are pro-business, yet you skipped a forum that represented over 8,000 workers in Lawrence and was the ONLY forum that allowed public participation because you felt you may be ambushed? Did you or did you not know the EXACT questions in advance, AND after all of the forums that Lynn, Lee and Greg appeared at that were obviously stacked against them justify your actions and call yourself pro-business?
David Schauner: I was only informed about the manufacturers' forum approximately 20 days before it was scheduled to occur. I had another event scheduled, and was unable to change that schedule. In addition, the members of the manufacturers' forum are members of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, and will have an opportunity to participate in that forum tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.
concerned Chamber member: You recently sent a letter addressed "Dear Chamber Member." How did you receive the mailing list, and are you aware of the Chamber's policies both restricting use of that mailing list for political purposes and content approval of any mailings to that list?
David Schauner: I did not receive the mailing list from the chamber, and I do not believe that the policies concerning the use of the chamber list prohibited me from the use of this independently developed list of chamber members. Specifically, I believe chamber members are interested in my campaign and should have an opportunity to hear directly from me as a part of the public debate in this commission election.
city dweller: David, What are some of your ideas for helping Lawrence's existing neighborhoods?
David Schauner: Infrastructure repair, zoning and ordinance enforcement, and revitalization of the center city neighborhoods are priority items in my platform. The city commission should recognize that existing neighborhoods are the foundation for Lawrence's growth. Developing a vision for all of Lawrence should include an active role for existing neighborhoods and not just focus on suburban growth.
David: How many groups do you volunteer with here in Lawrence?
What City do you work in and how will you have time to serve our city when so many meetings are during the day?
How long have you lived here?
David Schauner: Having just settled into Lawrence, I have been volunteering all my time recently into my campaign for city commission. I have already answered the middle part of your question above.
Although I am a native Kansan, born in Wichita and have lived in Topeka for the previous 28 years, I have lived in Lawrence for three years.
I believe that I bring a fresh perspective to the issues in Lawrence, and have no vested business or commercial interest in the growth issues that are being discussed.
Ted: What's your position on the proposed Wal-Mart at 6th & Wakarusa?
David Schauner: I have advocated against the building of a Wal-Mart superstore at 6th and Wakarusa. The store should, if built, be located away from a residential neighborhood, Free State high school and the aquatic center.
concerned Chamber member: in response to your answer to kujhawk 89, the business forum was orchestrated by a completely different group of people than that of the chamber forum. Are you discounting the efforts put forth by the manufacturing, technology and agribusiness sector?
David Schauner: No, however, Erv Hodges, who invited me to attend, is a co-founder of the Truth for Lawrence group, which has actively advocated against my election. As I indicated in an earlier answer, it is my belief that most, if not all of those in attendance at the manufacturers' forum are members of the chamber of commerce and will be present at their forum tomorrow. There have been a number of forums at which any member of the community could attend and ask questions, including those in attendance at last night's forum, and as the campaign enters the final phase, it is not possible to attend every event that someone schedules.
city dweller: Hi David, I'm impressed by your work on behalf of Kansas teachers and your problem-solving abilities. Can you tell us about your vision for Lawrence including a land use plan and how downtown Lawrence has suffered as a result of not having such a plan?
David Schauner: It is not my vision for Lawrence that is important; it is the creation of a vision that is developed by all stakeholders that matters. If elected, I would work hard to achieve consensus from all segments of the community to develop a plan for land use that would honor neighborhood sanctity and use a neighborhood concept in locating future commercial and retail development. Downtown Lawrence has lost 50 percent of its retail businesses to suburban commercial sprawl. The development on South Iowa has effectively become a mall and has had a measurable and negative impact on the retail core of Lawrence. Lawrence is overbuilt in office space and commercial space, which collectively harm the long-term survivability of downtown Lawrence retail.
Sue: Are you the attorney representing a group suing the Lawrence School Board? If that is true, if you were to be elected to the city commission, how do you feel that would impact your ability to effectively work, as your campaign literature states, "more closely with the city, the school district, and the county?"
David Schauner: I am the general counsel for Kansas NEA and have been employed in that capacity since 1979. One of my clients is the Lawrence Education Association, and I represent them in a contract dispute with U.S.D. 497. I do not believe my professional relationship with LEA will have any effect on my service as a commissioner.
Buddy: What specifically will you do, if elected, to encourage new businesses and new industry to Lawrence?
Living wage and discouraging tax abatement is not a sufficient answer.
David Schauner: Tax abatements, although frequently not in the long-term best interest of the city, have become an important element in attracting new businesses. A careful review of tax-abatement applications is needed to ensure that Lawrence attracts companies that will stay in Lawrence beyond the tax abatement period. In addition, working with Kansas University to assist the marketing of their research programs should be encouraged by the city. Every city in the country is attempting to secure additional businesses and a better job base. Lawrence offers an educated workforce and terrific location, and needs to work harder to develop its marketing strategies to retain our current companies and attract new ones. Creating an ombudsman postiton at city hall for representatives of prospective businesses could make access to these companies easier and more understandable.
Floodplainer: Recently I received something for the Lawrence Builder-Realtor coalition that suggests that you will cause my flood insurance to increase and prevent me from improving my home. What are your plans for the floodplains?
David Schauner: Floodplain insurance premiums are set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The city has no control over these premiums, and the recent floodplain ordinance did not impact those premiums. In addition, homes and other structures already built in floodplains are not prohibited from being rebuilt, remodeled or expanded. New buildings constructed in a floodplain are required to mitigate their impact on downstream property owners. Essentially, this "golden rule" is an attempt to balance the interests of upstream property owners with those of existing downstream development.
Desparate?: Why do you think your opponents, and their supporters (developers, Lawrence Realtor-Builder Coalition, Truth for a Better Lawrence) are so vigorously attacking you? Are you really that controversial?
David Schauner: I didn't think so, until I began to read their literature. I believe too many residents in Lawrence have had no voice in its future. I have nothing personally against builders or developers, and believe that all taxpayers should be fairly represented on the city commission and other decision-making bodies. That has been my position since the beginning of this campaign, and it remains so today. Special-interest groups should not have special representation in local government.
You seem sweaky clean...: Who has contributed to your campaign? Can you characterize what motivated folks to contribute to and support you?
David Schauner: By and large, the hundreds of people who have contributed to my campaign are just like you and me. Although I have received a few large donations, the average donation to my campaign is less than $50. I believe these individuals believe that city government is out of balance, and that their voices have not been heard by decision makers in the past few years. This election is their opportunity to be heard and participate in Lawrence's future.
bonded: Do you support the proposed school bond issue?
David Schauner: I am running for the city commission and not the school board, and ultimately the voters will decide whether the bond issue is passed or not.
Freeboard: Do you support the two foot freeboard in addition to the current FEMA floodplain regulations?
David Schauner: I do not believe that we have enough evidence to support a two-foot freeboard. However, as the known floodplain is built out, we will gather more and better information about the impact that construction has on downstream development.
Laurie: I've heard rumors that, if elected, you would look at firing Mike Wildgen and naming marci francisco as interim city manager. Does this rumor bear any truth? On what grounds could you justify either of these actions?
David Schauner: I had not heard that rumor, I did not start that rumor, and I do not support that rumor.
Tax abater: The current tax abatement plan factors in wages as part of its return on investment formula used to approve tax abatements......What would you do you think that a Living Wage Ordinance would do that the current tax abatement plan does not, besides give new businesses an excuse to mark Lawrence off of their lists?
David Schauner: Providing tax relief to a business that refuses to pay sufficient wages to keep its employees out of poverty is not good public policy. Employees who earn only a poverty wage ultimately increase the cost of social services for the city and the taxpayers of Lawrence. Tax abatements and other tax advantages should only be provided to those businesses who will provide benefits to the community. Attracting business that are not good community citizens is ineffective and does not serve the economic interest of taxpayers.
thomas: Lawrence has prided itself on its ability to attract "independent" candidates for public office who are elected from the city at-large. This is the first campaign that three candidates have locked arms with a PAC. You obviously feel this is good politically for your campaign. Do you feel this kind of campaign influence is good for Lawrence? Also, do you support all the positions and philosophies presented by candidates Rundle and Highberger. On what issues or philosophies do you disagree?
David Schauner: The fact of the matter is that the chamber of commerce has for a long time promoted groups of candidates for election to the city commission. These candidates represent a specific interest group. PLC is an attempt to educate the community about the candidacies of myself, Highberger and Rundle. An informed electorate is able to make decisions based on fact and information, rather than innuendo and untrue statements.
Grapevine: The rumorville tells me that you had a restraining order filed against you by your former spouse/partner. Does this rumor bear truth?
David Schauner: Absolutely untrue. Generally, the grapevine is inaccurate.
freeboard: SO DO YOU OR DO YOU NOT SUPPORT THE FREEBOARD? Answer the question.
David Schauner: I support the concept of protecting downstream properties, and if there is scientific evidence to indicate that a freeboard will accomplish that, I support it. To date, as I indicated earlier, I do not know if we have sufficient evidence to make a decision one way or the other.
Confused: I keep receiving mailings from you and the PLC at my home where you say you are opposed to development and growth, then I get your propaganda at my office saying you are pro business.
So what are you?
David Schauner: I have never said that I am anti-growth or anti-business. I have said consistently that I am not in favor of short-term growth at the expense of long-term economic vitality. Developing a comprehensive land-use policy and then following it is the best way to ensure that Lawrence will grow over the long haul.
small business owner: From what I read, all of the area manufacturers who receive abatements pay at or above the living wage. If that is true, and you are concerned about increasing wages, how do you view the living wage for KU, USD 497, local non profits, churches, day care centers, and other tax exempt businesses and organizations? Should the living wage apply to them too? As a small business owner, my fear is that if it extends to those businesses, I will find it difficult to attract and retain employees at a wage I can afford to pay what with all of the state and federal requirements I have, let alone the cost and time of paperwork.
David Schauner: Tax abatements are not available to most of the business that you listed in your question. Some of the business that have received tax abatements have paid a living wage, while some have not. Serologicals has said it will pay an average wage of approximately $43,000 annually. Other communities that have a living-wage ordinance have found that it does not harm the small business owner and has in fact helped the business climate in those communities. The only recent study I've seen came out of Texas and came from a professor who was anti-living wage, but on the conclusion of the study he found that the living wage was not a detriment to the community or business climate. Let me be clear, the living wage ordinance is not a minimum wage for the community, but would apply only to those businesses who are receiving a tax break from the community. Surely you would not want a business to have a tax advantage and pay a poverty wage to its employees.
CFO: What is your experience in running a $100+ million per year business?
David Schauner: To my knowledge, none of the six candidates have any experience running a $100 million business. It is not the function of the city commission to micromanage city government. The city employs a professional management team for that purpose.
Moderator: Time is almost up; we'd like to thank David Schauner and all those who have contributed questions. We have time for one final question.
Confused: Please give me an example of Lawrence choosing short term growth at the expense of long term vitality.
Isn't Horizon 2020 a comprehensive land use policy.
David Schauner: Horizon 2020 is not a land-use policy. It is a guide to how the planning commission should react to requests for development/land use. A true land-use policy would be the creation of a city-wide vision locating residential neighborhoods, commercial development, industrial development, and other aspects of community life. The Home Depot/Best Buy at 31st and Iowa is a current example of short-term growth at the expense of long-term vitality. Lawrence taxpayers spent $1.3 million to improve that intersection on behalf of Home Depot. In addition, the city gave away a substantial amount of Iowa right-of-way for Home Depot's use. I believe that the Home Depot development is the latest in a long series of Iowa Street developments done on an ad-hoc basis without any though to area residents or traffic flow. We can do better, and we must do better.
David Schauner: I ask that you gather as much information as you can about all the candidates and decide whether candidates that are financed by the development community have your best interest as taxpayers in mind. If elected, I will be a voice for neighborhoods and growth that honors those qualities which have made Lawrence an attractive community.