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Archive for Friday, March 28, 2003

Interesting race

March 28, 2003

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In an election dominated by divisions, the Journal-World crosses the battle lines to support candidates for the Lawrence City Commission.

Let's say it out loud: This is not a particularly enticing group of candidates for City Commission. It's no doubt a reflection on the unpleasantness and rigors of the election process that more citizens don't step into the arena. Nevertheless, the community owes a sincere vote of thanks to each person who put his time, reputation and money into the process that will be culminated Tuesday.

That said, when we look back at this election, we'll no doubt see that it permanently changed electioneering in Lawrence, and probably not for the better. The divisive introduction of political action committees and coalition candidates moved the City Commission election race, and probably future election contests, into more of a big-city political realm. Ironically, that's probably a result of Lawrence's growth!

If the coalition candidates sweep into office, as might be speculated from the primary voting, the new commissioners will, for the most part, be lacking the traditional backgrounds found in those who have governed the city in the past. Two don't work in Lawrence and don't depend on the local economy. None has children in school here -- another set of community ties that often typifies those seeking such responsibilities. One doesn't own a home and thus is not directly affected by the tax issues the commission oversees. Their involvement in the community's churches, clubs and organizations is relatively sparse. Bad? Good? Certainly not typical.

The other candidates are from a more familiar mold, having participated in a variety of local activities, validating in some sense their community interest and involvement and exposing them to their fellow citizens over a period of time. Regardless, they have not excited the voters in this campaign, and often appear unfocused and amateurish -- again typical Lawrence candidates in most respects. Their messages have been overshadowed.

The coalition's campaign issues are troubling to many. The so-called "living wage" is no panacea. Just as not every job is worth $100,000 a year, not every employee is worth even $5.25 an hour in terms of productivity and efficiency. It's likely that benefits and jobs will be squeezed to balance any employer's equation, and that those least able to produce will be affected first and most.

Whether new jobs that might have come to the city will be lost is speculation. Nevertheless, it is difficult to get the coalition candidates to be specific about when and under what conditions they would approve tax abatements for new industry. It is worth noting that tax bills throughout the city would be far different without the taxable valuation and jobs provided by firms now located in the city's business and industrial parks.

The whispered agenda of personnel changes in City Hall as another of the coalition's aims will be worth observing. The last time such maneuvers were attempted, the pot really began to boil. That's Lawrence, and that's politics.

Tuesday's results will be extremely interesting.

Based on their experience, their community involvement, the backgrounds they present, and the length of time voters have had to observe and evaluate them as fellow citizens, the Journal-World is more comfortable with Lynn Goodell, Mike Rundle and Lee Gerhard as potential members of the commission voters will choose Tuesday.

We hope there's a great voter turnout, and we earnestly hope that no matter who is elected, all the successful candidates continue the Lawrence tradition of honest and honorable representation. We hope each commissioner will carefully consider what's best for the city as a whole so that Lawrence can continue to thrive, to be in the future an even more desirable place to live, work and play, and to meet fully its potential to be the best community of its size anywhere.

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