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Archive for Friday, April 21, 2006

Business interference

A proposal to regulate new retail businesses for Lawrence goes beyond the city’s normal silliness.

April 21, 2006

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A lot of strange things come out of Lawrence and Kansas University. For instance, a few months ago, then-Mayor Boog Highberger declared International Dadaism Month in Lawrence. In the spirit of Dadaism, an art movement that embraced nonsense, chance and randomness, the "month" consisted of 13 random dates stretching from February through next October.

There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason for the dates or the mayor's proclamation, but again, this is Lawrence.

More recently a proposal was suggested whereby a yet-to-be-appointed committee would decide what businesses would be allowed to operate in Lawrence. This committee would determine whether the city had a sufficient number of stores or businesses in various categories. They then would recommend to city officials that someone or some company wishing to open a business in Lawrence should get the green light or be told they couldn't operate in Lawrence.

This would have nothing to do with the legitimacy of the business or whether it met all other city requirements. All that matters is the opinion of this body which would give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down based on whether the business is in a retail category they think already is being adequately served.

Such a plan is open to all kinds of problems. First, what is to keep a business from offering bribes to members of the deciding body in exchange for approval to operate in Lawrence? What kinds of political influence could be exercised, i.e., offering campaign help (money) to those who appoint members of this body? What about certain businesses bribing the proposed body to keep out competition? The negatives of such a proposal go on and on.

An even more serious question is what right does a city have to decide someone can't be in business even if they meet the same requirements as other businesses in Lawrence? What right does a city have to control competition or protect a business from competitors?

Again, Lawrence and the university give our critics, as well as those who are envious of the city and KU, ample ammunition to use in poking fun at those of us who live here.

It's one thing to do something as silly as declaring International Dadaism Month; it's far more serious and dangerous to consider a policy, law or ordinance that would limit what businesses could be started in Lawrence.

Talk about government interference.

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