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Archive for Tuesday, April 13, 2004

KU professor named group’s ”Public Citizen of the Year’

April 13, 2004

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A state social workers' association has named Lawrence resident David Smith its Public Citizen of the Year.

"He cares about people, community and social justice -- and that's what this award is about," said Sky Westerlund, executive director at the Kansas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers office in Topeka.

The award, Westerlund said, recognized Smith's work with the Kaw Valley Living Wage Alliance and the group's success in linking Lawrence tax abatements with businesses paying a living wage.

"He was a volunteer, an organizer and a spokesman from the very beginning," Westerlund said.

The Lawrence City Commission last year added living-wage provisions to the city's tax abatement ordinances, ending almost three years of often-contentious debate.

Smith, a sociology professor at Kansas University, accepted the award with reluctance.

"It's a bit embarrassing to be singled out for an award when, really, this was very much a team effort," Smith said Monday. "I was on the steering committee, and I did end up acting as sort of a spokesman on a number of occasions. But at any given time there were seven or eight committee members who were just as active and just as visible."

That's all true, said Marci Francisco, president of the League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County. But it's also true, she said, that Smith "articulated the group's goals very well and made sure that everyone stayed in contact with one another."

She added: "I'm delighted to hear he got an award."

In Lawrence, the living-wage rate is defined as the amount needed to keep a family of three at least 30 percent above the federal poverty wage rate.

Companies seeking tax abatements in 2004 in Lawrence are expected to pay at least $9.79 per hour plus health benefits.

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