Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

City Hall report

Weekly review of city government

March 31, 2004

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Smoking ban

While the Lawrence City Commission mulls a ban on smoking in public places here, advocates have proclaimed success with a similar ban in New York City.

The New York Times reported Monday that the Big Apple has seen an increase in jobs, liquor licenses and business tax payments since the ban went into effect a year ago.

"It really confirms that New York City is now a healthier place to work, eat and drink," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, commissioner of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which co-sponsored the report.

But critics told the Times the statistics were misleading and that bars have suffered because people leave bars to smoke outside.

"I can't serve people outside," bar owner David McWalter told the Times. "Every time a smoker goes outside, that's lost revenue."

The Lawrence City Commission meets at 9 a.m. today in City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets, to consider its options regarding public smoking.

Growth consultants

Consultants from the Smart Growth Leadership Institute will be in town Thursday and Friday to help Lawrence craft new rules for the look of the city's growth.

City officials said in December the institute approved the city's application for help creating new rules for "fringe development" on the edge of the city and design guidelines to govern how new projects would look.

"Their task is to work with communities that have made a commitment to smart growth but are struggling with implementation ... and other issues that typically accompany a major change in development practice," Planning Director Linda Finger said in a memorandum on the issue.

The consultants will tour the city Thursday afternoon and meet Friday with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission committee considering the design guidelines.

The five-person team includes Will Fleissig, former planning director for Boulder, Colo. The remaining experts come from the University of Colorado and the University of Southern California.

Living wage

The group that campaigned successfully last year for a "living wage" requirement for companies seeking tax abatements in Lawrence hasn't gone away.

The Kaw Valley Living Wage alliance announced this week that the wage had been recalculated for 2004 to be $9.79 an hour, up from $9.53 an hour in 2003.

The requirement sets the wage at 130 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of three. The federal government set that level at $15,670 a year for 2004. The wage applies to jobs created by new tax abatements given by the city; it does not apply retroactively to older abatements.

The alliance also announced it plans a series of forums in the fall on poverty-related problems, including affordable housing and health care.

"We hope to help bring people together to share ideas about ongoing efforts and new possibilities," the alliance said in a press release.

For more information, contact the alliance at kawlivingwage@yahoo.com.

Sales taxes up

City sales tax receipts continued their upward trend of recent months, City Hall reported this week.

The city received $1.596 million in sales taxes in March, up from $1.416 million during the same month a year before, a 12.7 percent increase.

After two years of slumping sales tax collections, the March report reflected the fourth straight month that taxes were up over the previous year.

City Finance Director Ed Mullins said the March collections reflect sales made in late January and February.

"We are seeing some growth," Mullins said. "It's looking good. It's encouraging."

Schedule

  • 9 a.m. today: Lawrence City Commission study session with the Smoking Task Force, City Hall.
  • 3:30 p.m. Thursday: Practitioners' Panel meeting, City Hall.
  • 6:30 p.m. Thursday: Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, City Hall.
  • 7:30 p.m. Monday: Traffic Safety Commission meeting, City Hall.

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