Archive for Tuesday, April 4, 2006

As new mayor, Amyx seeks to build confidence in City Hall

April 4, 2006


Fixing streets and sewers are high on the priority list for City Commissioner Mike Amyx who embarks tonight on a one-year term as mayor.

But he said there may be an even larger repair job out there - restoring Lawrence residents' confidence in City Hall.

"I look at this next year as one where the City Commission and the mayor have to make people feel confident in city government and city services again," said Amyx, who if tradition holds, will be selected by his fellow commissioners at tonight's meeting to serve as mayor.

"The one thing I hope at the end of this year," Amyx said "is that people will accept the word of the commission and know that is the direction we're going to follow."

Members of the city's development community will appreciate that focus, said Bobbie Flory, executive director of the Lawrence Home Builders Assn.

She said members lack confidence after the city announced in June it was uncertain the sewer system in the growing northwest area of town could handle projected growth.

"It is very encouraging to hear Mike is committed to that," Flory said. "I would say there is definitely uncertainty in our membership. When there's uncertainty that causes people to start looking around to other communities. People need to know where they're going to get their work in the future."

Carrie Lindsey, president of the Lawrence-Douglas County League of Women Voters, which is one of the more active commission watchdog groups, said the issue of restoring confidence was probably a worthy one to tackle, though she didn't think the city was suffering from a crisis in confidence.

"I don't think the situation is the worst, but it always can be better," Lindsey said. "I still think we have a very accessible city government. But mistakes are made, and you are going to have that in a growing city. That's why you have to have the accountability, too."

Extensive list of goals

Restoring confidence, and in particular getting answers on the sewer issue, may mean commissioners will spend more time dealing with old ideas rather than searching for new ones to work on, Amyx said.

"We have a pretty extensive list," Amyx said. "I think the big thing before we add anything to that list is we have to come up with some sort of priority list."

Amyx, who is a downtown barber shop owner, is set to serve as mayor by virtue of his first-place finish in last year's City Commission election. He's served as vice mayor for the past 12 months. Commissioners traditionally select the top vote-winner to serve as mayor following the candidate's first full year in office.

Amyx will inherit one of the more interesting set of issues facing a mayor in recent memory. In addition to the sewer questions, the commission has received a report indicating about 30 percent of the city's streets need rebuilt, momentum is growing to build a new public library, and currently the key positions of city manager, planning director and director of utilities are vacant.

"With the things that we're looking at right now, this represents a very important time for city government," Amyx said.

Hiring a city manager

No issue will be more important than finding the next city manager, Amyx said. He hopes to have the process wrapped up by August and said he believes his fellow commissioners share in that urgency.

Commissioners are searching for a new city manager after Mike Wildgen was asked in March to resign after 16 years as the city's top executive. Commissioners were not unanimous in their call for Wildgen's resignation. Amyx and current Mayor Boog Highberger did not seek it. But Amyx said he's confident commissioners will work well together to find a replacement, and that it will not become a partisan political process where the three commissioners who ran together as part of the Progressive Lawrence Campaign pick a replacement without considering the two commissioners - Amyx and Sue Hack - who aren't affiliated with the PLC.

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"I do believe that there is a professionalism about this City Commission," Amyx said. "We do disagree, but the truth of the matter is that at the end of an item, we all understand we have to carry out what the majority wishes."

Other issues that Amyx anticipates dealing with in the next year:

¢ 31st Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. Amyx said he wants the city to make extending 31st Street east of Haskell a priority. He said he knows moving forward on 31st Street is difficult until a route for the South Lawrence Trafficway is finalized. That's because a 32nd Street route for the trafficway would significantly alter the portion of 31st Street that runs through the Baker Wetlands. But he said the city could begin working on some design ideas.

¢ Examine the budget. Amyx said he wants to have a thorough review of the budget to examine how much money the city has in reserve funds. He said the city commission needs to decide whether it wants to further reduce its reserve funds as a way to pay for some city projects without increasing tax rates.


Ragingbear 12 years, 1 month ago

I am sorry. But I don't remember voting for Amyx to become mayor. How come Lawrence does this wierd thing where the City Commission all take turns running the city like this? Where is the right to vote for our city leaders?

lunacydetector 12 years, 1 month ago

ummm, what if the progressives don't vote amyx in as mayor this year? don't they vote on this tonight? didn't rundle get skipped one year, or am i mistaken?

frankly i'm glad we have at least one business person on the commission. hopefully the next election will bring more business owners to the commission.

cutny 12 years, 1 month ago

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SpeedRacer 12 years, 1 month ago

lunacydetector, you are right about Rundle getting skipped once, but I doubt they would do anything that idiotic tonight. As far as business owners on the commission, I recall when the commission was controlled by business owners who were so protective of their businesses on Mass that they wouldn't let anyone else into town to build. There is still alot of that self-protection going on with veto power over what is going to go into the new deveopment out west.

lunacydetector 12 years, 1 month ago

i totally agree the business owners need to come from somewhere other than the downtown. frankly i'm so tired of all the pandering the downtown gets. it's the most taxpayer subsidized area in lawrence history. where is the outcry for the downtown to pay its fair share with the sewer line or water line replacement? if it happened out west, there'd be letters to the editor appearing. a little pandering is okay, but not 24/7 year in and year out.

lunacydetector 12 years, 1 month ago

regarding the online poll defined: dadaistic [French Dada, of baby-talk origin.]- A European artistic and literary movement (1916-1923) that scorned conventional values by producing works marked by nonsense, travesty, and not corresponding (a cluster f*ck if you will).

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 12 years, 1 month ago

I'd like to see the voting records of everyone. I don't think you'll see that much of a 3-2 split in voting as all the naysayers want to see. In fact Boog wasn't even in favor of getting rid of the city manager.
As for those of you who make rude comments about Boog's looks and disability and Mike's hair, why don't you move to California where they elect "pretty boys" like Arnold. Here in Lawrence we elect people who care and are educated. Mike and Boog are great guys. Frankly, I trust everyone on the commission. I may not agree 100% with any one of them, but I trust them. As far as regaining our trust, they never lost mine. Mistakes were made in projections, but instead of covering them up they have taken measures to solve the problem. Ok, some developers are going to have to wait awhile to add to their coffers, but I'll bet they will still eat, have a roof over the head, and pay the utilities. It's hard for me to listen to rich people whine. I do feel sorry for those who work construction. They'll have to go out of town for awhile to work, but there is a lot of work going on in Baldwin, Basehor, and they can always go south for awhile. Apparently they are hiring outside help more than local in Mississippi and Louisiana.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 1 month ago

The single biggest "mistake" of this commission (aside from roundabouts,) if you believe all the whining here, is the sewer problem in the NW part of the city.

But the plans and projections for the sewer expansion in that area were almost certainly made more than three years ago.

Same goes for almost every other major problem now confronting this city, but many posters on this forum would have you believe that to fix these problems, we need to elect more of the same good ole boy commissions who created the problems in the first place. Now that's rocket science.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 12 years, 1 month ago

Marion, Why are you so divisive? There just isn't that much difference between the whole group. Does everything have to be so pro and con. I'd hate to be married to you. Marriage is a whole lot of compromises. I don't see them skipping over Mike.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 1 month ago

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Rhoen 12 years, 1 month ago

It's good to see that the cartoon is over and that the movie is about to begin.

cowboy 12 years, 1 month ago

Id like to see a full scale audit and the city budget published in the newspapaer , line by line.

All of the crap that this and prior commissions have funded over the past ten years adds up to a lot of cash that should have been placed in reserve for the kind of issues we are facing today. some call these itenms small potatoes but add up ten years of waste at 4-5 million per year and youd have a large start on paying for a frigging sewer for your town.

pelliott 12 years, 1 month ago

The pass over I remember the most was the dastards who skipped Nancy Schuntz for mayor. I heard one of them say she goes on about drainage and sewer systems. She was a great comissioner, listened, did a lot of homework, fair. Paid a hell of a lot attention to physical plant and to costs. My guess is one great advantage to losing Wildgen is the new manager will be able to cut a lot of budgets that were part of Mike'vision. He was pretty loath to come down heavy on Public works and sanitation. They have know for a long time that changing schedules would elemnate a lot of overtime. Overtime is unavoidable due to storm and weather conditions but it is heavily built in the system as perks and favoritism. One reason managers should change is it make it tough to cut department costs when they asked the department to do the work in the first place, then neither can back off or god forbid change how they are doing something. One of the worst effect of Wildgens rule was the lack of departments working together, the other was almost bizarre control of information between departmens and from the departments to the commissions. The commissions need better, broader info than they have recieved for decades.Good luck, Mike, you have always been a good guy, and I think you have guts. It is a tough low paying job with a lot of barbs and not many roses. Thank you for being willing to do it. thanks to all the commissioners, even those I don't agree with.

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