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Archive for Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Transcript of chat with city commissioner Sue Hack

February 22, 2005

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Welcome to our online chat with Incumbent Lawrence City Commissioner Sue Hack.

The chat took place on Tuesday, February 22, at 1:30 PM and is now closed, but you can read the full transcript on this page.

Moderator: We'd like to thank Sue Hack for coming in today to take part in this online chat. We have lots of questions, so we'll go ahead and get started.

Donald, Lawrence, KS: I believe you were the only one of the five commissioners to vote against the smoking ban. While I understand you generally vote in favor of business interests over the interest of the community at large, I was wondering how you justify your pro-smoking vote given the hundreds of thousands of deaths each year caused by this addictive behavior. How can you believe it is fair to condemn non-smokers who wish to patronize the local music scene to breathing deadly chemicals?

Sue Hack: Donald - You are correct that I did vote against this particular smoking ban but my comments at that meeting and at subsequent meetings have centered around the unintended consequences of THIS ban. It is my belief that there are compromises that can be worked out so that local businesses are not hurt by this ban.

Jeremy, Lawrence: You say that you were "able to draw people together," but you were the only commissioner to vote against the smoking ban, and the only commissioner who voted that Lawrence should recognize the Patriot Act, even though these views are directly opposite of the mindset of the rest of the commissioners and the rest of Lawrence. Given that your views do not line up with the rest of Lawrence, how are you able to "draw people together" and represent the citizens of Lawrence?

Sue Hack: Jeremy - I would disagree with you that my views are "directly opposite of the mindset of the rest of .... Lawrence" As a commissioner, I study the issues and vote the way I feel is best for the community. You may disagree with how I vote, but I do keep the best interests of Lawrence in mind.

Jim, Lawrence: I have many friends in the construction industry and they all say that doing business with Lawrence is more difficult than any other community. Would you support streamlining or fast tracking items to make Lawrence more business friendly?

Sue Hack: Jim - I am currently working as chair of the Business Retention Task Force, and the issue you address is one that we have discussed for a while. It is my belief that we need to work with our planning and permitting process to make sure that they are efficient and fair. That does not mean that all projects should be given a free pass, but it does mean that individuals who want to do business here should feel that they are treated respectfully and that the rules are applied fairly.

Linda, Lawrence: Mrs Hack, since you were a teacher and familiar with the USD 497, could you clarify the ownership of the site where the Alternative High School is held. Is that building on City property or does the district own it? Thank you.

Sue Hack: Linda - I believe that it is school district property, but I certainly could be wrong on that. I can certainly check and get back to you if you would like to email me at home.

Judy, Lawrence: Do you think efforts to create a national heritage area in our region is a good thing? Why or why not?

Sue Hack: Judy - I am very supportive of these efforts and have been in contact with our Congressmen and Senators to try to move this along faster through Congress. While I am sure there are many such areas, I can't imagine one more perfect than Eastern Kansas with Lawrence at the hub! We are so proud of our heritage and to be able to share that with others would be tremendous. There will certainly be additional tourism dollars coming into our community and we will all benefit from that.

David, Lawrence: The roads in lawrence are in a state of disrepair. What do you propose to do to fix the roads that were constructed with poor oversight, and a general disregard for taxpayer money

Sue Hack: David - I understand your concerns and the condition of our roads is always difficult at this time of year due to freezing and thawing. The roads that are being constructed now and all of the replacement areas are being constructed to different standards than in the past. There is an under layer in place that will prevent many of the problems that we see in our older road surfaces. We have also instituted a survey of roads and are prioritizing them for needed repairs. While these improvements may cost more money up front, the eventual saving in taxpayer dollars is important.

John, Lawrence: One of your opponents sounded very interested in the possibility of legalizing marijuana. What are your thoughts on this possibility, and what do you like best about what they did in Columbia?

Thanks!

Moderator: Just for clarification, in November, Columbia, Mo., voters approved two marijuana-related ballot resolutions. One made marijuana the lowest priority for local police and required anyone caught with small amounts of the drug to be fined instead of arrested. The other said patients who used marijuana with a doctor's recommendation should not be arrested or punished in any way, or, if that part of the law was found invalid, should be punished by no more than a $50 fine.

Sue Hack: John - I am unfamiliar with what has happened in Columbia and would have concerns about commenting at this time.

Joan in Lawrence: After watching the City Commission vote on several important issues, I find that I can always count on you to vote squarely with the developers. I believe we need growth to remain a vital community but convince me that voters can count on you to be an independent voice and not just a rubber stamp for the big time developers.

Sue Hack: Joan - You have asked an interesting question and have made some assumptions that I would disagree with. First of all, whenever I am faced with any decision as a commissioner, I study all sides if the issue and vote in a way that is best for the community. I am sure that there are many in what is referred to as the development community who think I am not pro-development enough. I have made this analogy before and I will share it with you. My husband and I have two children. We were often accused of favoring one over the other...we always felt that made us perfect parents...

Drew, Lawrence: It seems to me that it is the community's liberal reputation regarding social welfare that makes Lawrence a logical destination for homeless people, and indeed, there exist many organizations throughout the community intent on helping those with very little. While I believe these institutions, and the moral qualities upon which they're based, to be an asset, others (specifically some small business owners) view them as perpetuating the problem of hopelessness. Do you believe it would help the community (as a whole - including its homeless members) to adopt a more strict, less charitable policy toward the homeless? What, if any, programs currently exist to not only provide food, shelter, and meals to the homeless, but to help them re-establish themselves as productive members of the community? Would you support the expansion of these programs? Thank you.

Sue Hack: Drew - There is a difference of opinion as to whether or not the services provided in any community attract individuals or not. What I do know is that Lawrence is a compassionate community, and I would not like to see the community adopt a more strict, less charitable policy toward the homeless. I do support the agencies that have worked with the homeless population to aid in moving out of the current situation. There are some very good examples of how these programs have made a difference in the lives of people.

Eric, Lawrence: Sue,

Do you have any ideas for improving public transportation in Lawrence (or in the KC-Topeka corridor)? How about encouraging carpooling, bicycling, or walking (e.g., incentives/disincentives)? Thank you.

Sue Hack: Eric - We have done some very aggressive marketing for our transportation system - The T, and due to this, ridership continues to increase. We will encourage bicycling and walking by providing connectivity in our planning for new neighborhoods and their connections to existing neighborhoods. I would hope that in the future we could see some activity in a light rail system between Topeka and Kansas City, but I would imagine that due to funding issues, that may be a while off.

Evelyn, Lawrence: Mrs. Hack, during the past 30 years, Lawrence has received federal money to help neighborhoods. Could you explain why some of that money couldn't have been used to fix the sidewalks at First Christian Church? The city cited them but cites no one else in the Oread Neighborhood. Our church provides free parking and the walks are used by low to moderate income people. Yet, the City Commission gives the Salvation Army money toward a homeless shelter and our church provides a place for LinK.

Where is the logic?

Sue Hack: Evelyn - I think the only answer that I could give you is that it might be appropriate for the First Christian Church to apply for some of the CDBG money that is used in target neighborhoods.

Bill, Lawrence: You claim to care about neighborhoods but voted to damage the value of properties along Avalon in order that a sorority that you are involved with could build a house. Are you really a supporter of neighborhoods?

Sue Hack: Bill - First of all I need to correct your comment about my involvement in that particular sorority. I have no involvement with the AGD House. The property has been zoned residential dormitory, and the house was an appropriate use for that zoning. I would hope that if you look at my whole voting record for the four years I have been on the commission, you would find continued support for neighborhoods.

Linda, Lawrence: Mrs. Hack, with the funding for the Neighborhood Resources being cut, would you favor a newsletter prepared in house for the five target neighborhoods. This way, the coordinator money could be spent on sorely need projects in the 5 target neighborhoods. Thanks again.

Sue Hack: Linda - Are you referring to the possibility of CDBG funds being cut? I am not aware of cuts to Neighborhood Resources. I would think that each neighborhood has its own format and information for its newsletter and would prefer to prepare each one.

Alex, Lawrence: How can you say that individual choice is involved in the smoking ban? It's just the opposite. Before the smoking ban, every bar and every downtown restaurant had smoking, and there often weren't actual 'sections' , just areas. If people wanted to choose to go downtown, people were choosing to be around smokers by proxy. If you 'choose' to be involved in community life, you 'choose' that lifestyle. That doesn't compute to me. It's just the same with college students--retail and food service are the only 'choices' for us if we want to work. Please elaborate on this choice issue, because I just don't understand. If you think smokers everywhere is akin to 'vitality' that's something else altogether.

Sue Hack: Alex - My comments regarding individual choice pertained to a customers decision whether or not to patronize a business. I also have been concerned about the unintended consequences of the ban. There may be businesses that are doing better as a result of the ban, there are business that are doing worse. I wanted the commission to fully explore the consequences of its actions before passing such a restrictive ban.

Moderator: This will be our last question.

Mark, Overland Park: The city of Lawrence currently is regarded as a somewhat hostile environment due to restrictive zoning regulations on the city's West side and lack of parking downtown. Not to mention the cigarette smoking ban. How are, or are these issues being resolved for small business?

Sue Hack: Mark - I think I have addressed the issue of the smoking ban in previous questions. I am not sure what you are referring to with restrictive zoning on the west side, but we are working toward new development codes. The issue of downtown parking has been discussed frequently. We continue to encourage folks to use the parking garage and look toward additional space as enhancements are made downtown.

Sue Hack: Thank you very much for participating in this forum. I have enjoyed the opportunity to answer the questions. I did want to say hello to Isaac Williams in Vienna, Missouri--thanks for participating! It has been an honor to have served as your city commissioner for the past four years and I would appreciate your vote on March 1.

Moderator: We'd like to thank Commissioner Hack for joining us in today's chat. And we'd like to thank all of our readers for so many questions.

Our next chat will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, featuring city commission candidate Doug Holiday.

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