Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Commission candidates debate tax abatements, city’s growth

March 30, 2003


Tax abatements were a hot topic Saturday morning during the final forum for candidates for Lawrence City Commission.

Candidate Greg DiVilbiss mixed it up with incumbent candidate Mike Rundle over Rundle's vote earlier this year against an 80 percent tax abatement for Serologicals Corp., a biotech company paying average wages of $47,000 a year.

Rundle said he tried to persuade his commission colleagues to offer a 50 percent abatement, but to no avail.

"I talked to (Lawrence Chamber of Commerce chairman) Kelvin Heck and he even acknowledged the cup was half full," Rundle said.

DiVilbiss countered that Rundle's willingness to vote for a 50 percent abatement was a political move in an election year.

Six candidates vying for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission met as a group for the last time before the election at the forum sponsored by the chamber.

l DiVilbiss argued against electing candidates supported by the Progressive Lawrence Campaign political action committee -- Rundle, Dennis "Boog" Highberger and David Schauner. Combined with Commissioner David Dunfield, DiVilbiss suggested, the three could ignore other points of view in the planning process.

"The idea of a slate with a supermajority power on the commission is a power grab on the Planning Commission," he said.

l Candidate Lee Gerhard said he would approach governing in a positive manner.

"Our City Commission can lead and facilitate. Or it can demand and penalize," he said. "I prefer the former."

l Candidate Lynn Goodell touted his experience as a former director of the city's Housing and Neighborhood Development department.

"You don't have to guess if I'd work with neighborhoods. I've done it," he said. "You don't have to guess if I'd work with businesses. I've done it."

l Highberger said he would promote growth that is in keeping with Lawrence's character.

"We have something unique here in Lawrence," he said. "If we don't preserve it, we destroy the engine of our economic growth."

l Rundle continued to argue for his vision of "managed, equitable growth."

"We have to plan for the future," he said, "and direct growth toward a common vision we build together."

l And Schauner sounded similar notes as his Progressive Lawrence colleagues.

"I am not antigrowth," he said. "But I want us to grow in a way that doesn't cause one part of the community to pay for the development of another."

The election is Tuesday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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