What will it take and how long will it be before Lawrence and Douglas County residents realize it is imperative the city and county have better planning, better forecasting, a clearer vision of the future and far better fiscal management?
The city and county and local taxpayers cannot afford more and more spending, particularly when a considerable amount of this spending is due to poor, shortsighted planning and inefficient use of dollars.
Lawrence is a great place to live, but there must be a balance on what people want on their wish list and what they can afford. Or the city must come up with a reasonable plan to pay for the ever-expanding number of wish list projects or develop a priority list for what projects are the most essential.
City residents will have to come up with many millions of dollars to pay for a new sewer treatment plant, rebuild and repair streets, enlarge the city's sewer system, fund a grand plan to enlarge the city's recreation facilities, build new streets and fund many other needs that are sure to surface.
It would be great to give a quick and enthusiastic OK to all the projects mentioned above, but the city's bank account would be severely overdrawn if all of these attractive opportunities were to be funded within a short time.
Someone in City Hall - whether in the professional staff or among elected officials - must show some leadership, wisdom and courage to demand far better planning for the city's future.
There has to be some control, restraint and common sense. Everyone cannot have everything they want.
In addition to better vision and planning by those in City Hall, there is reason to wonder whether the city is getting the best advice from professional firms and consultants.
For example, whose fault is it that the Lawrence sewer system seems to be so mixed up and unable to handle the demands of a growing city? Pump stations are unable to handle loads and various areas of the community apparently are underserved with sewer lines even though city officials have OK'd growth and development in these areas. Flooding also continues to be a problem in certain areas.
The city has relied on Black and Veatch, a highly respected Kansas City firm, to serve as its main consultant for many years on water and sewer needs and yet, there's little but bad, costly news in these areas. Is this the result of city officials not giving good information to the engineers, or has someone at Black and Veatch failed to measure up?
Streets and highways are another matter in which Lawrence doesn't seem to exercise much vision or planning. Why not and who is at fault?
Lawrence should set an example for the rest of the state, whether it is in excellent planning, how to get the most out of every tax dollar, providing superior recreation facilities and parks, planning ahead for necessary streets and highways and many other categories. Officials from other cities should want to come to Lawrence to see how Lawrence addresses and solves many headaches facing growing cities.
Lawrence is blessed to have many opportunities to become an even finer community, but, lately, there have been far too many examples of poor planning. Where is the leadership in City Hall, and how long will it take for residents to say enough is enough and demand better performance?
Lawrence residents should not rely on good luck, history or momentum to sustain the city's growth and leadership position. Managing a city such as Lawrence is serious business, and it requires the best efforts of all officials - elected and appointed. Personal bias, political considerations and selfish motives should be checked at the door. Complacency or a reluctance to demand top-flight performance by professionals, elected officeholders and fellow residents is Lawrence's greatest weakness.
Opportunities abound, but will Lawrence be able to take advantage of its many assets? What will history books 50 years from now have to say about how Lawrence, Douglas County and Kansas University took advantage - or mishandled - their opportunities to achieve excellence?