Archive for Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mayor appoints Sebelius adviser to Planning Commission

June 27, 2006


One of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' top aides is set to become the newest member of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.

Joe Harkins, who is Sebelius' top adviser on energy policy and planning, has been appointed to the Planning Commission by Mayor Mike Amyx. He's expected to be routinely confirmed by city commissioners at their meeting tonight.

"His involvement in government is just incredible," Amyx said. "It goes without saying that he is very involved and understands planning very well."

Harkins, prior to becoming a special assistant to the governor, was director for health planning for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in the 1970s and was director of water planning for the Kansas Water Office in the 1980s.

"Over the years, I've had a lot of opportunities to engage in comprehensive planning at the state level," Harkins said.

Harkins will replace Marguerite Ermeling, who was a controversial appointment by then-Mayor Mike Rundle in 2004 because she lived outside city limits and had been heavily involved in politics as an unsuccessful candidate for the Douglas County Commission.

Ermeling - a Lawrence veterinarian - was eligible to serve another term, but Amyx said he chose to go in a different direction.

"I think it really comes down to a comfort level for me," said Amyx, who spoke with Ermeling for about an hour during his interview process for the position. "I have a lot of respect for Dr. Ermeling and the job she has done. But it is my job to make an appointment, and that is what I've done."

Attempts to reach Ermeling on Monday for comment were unsuccessful.

Recently, it has become more common for mayors to not reappoint a member to the Planning Commission, even though they are eligible and willing to serve again. Mayor Boog Highberger took that route last year when he declined to reappoint Ernie Angino, a frequent counterweight to a group of planning commissioners who often touted "smart growth" or progressive planning policies.

Ermeling frequently was a member of the progressive majority on the commission.

Harkins declined to get into details about what type of philosophy he would take into the position.

"The only label I'll accept is that of a Lawrence resident," Harkins said,

However, he said doing planning in a way that maintains or improves the community's quality of life would be a large issue.

He said he had not formed "hard points of view" on current issues the Planning Commission is dealing with, such as more regulations for retail development or where the final leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway should be located.

The Planning Commission has perhaps the highest profile among city and county-appointed boards. Its 10 members - five appointed by the Douglas County Commission, the other five by the Lawrence City Commission - review plans for development and redevelopment in Lawrence and rural Douglas County. The board acts only in an advisory capacity. City and county commissioners still make final decisions on development issues.


Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

Sorry to see Ermeling go. Having moderates with common sense on board makes for better decisions. Looks like the former "growth machine" is making a come back as will increased property taxes. Former City, County Commissioner and now current City Commissioner Amyx is from the old "growth machine" crew.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

A Desire Named Streetcar Desperate to get citizens to move to the city and ride mass transportation, local governments embrace "traffic calming." by Rachel DiCarlo 06/23/2006 12:00:00 AM

PICTURE THE STANDARD CONGESTED AMERICAN CITY. Traffic backs up on city blocks each day during rush hour as cars creep along, catching every red light. A half-mile trip takes half-an-hour. The forced on-and-off of the gas and brake pedals spends more gas--and creates more pollution--than if cars were traveling at consistent speeds. Emergency vehicles have a difficult time cutting through the gridlock.

One cause of this gridlock is a practice that sprang from the increasingly powerful "smart growth" movement, and has been implemented in almost every American city and in many suburbs: traffic calming.

PROPONENTS OF TRAFFIC CALMING--mostly government planners--not only oppose new highway construction and, in some instances, highway maintenance, but want to reduce mobility by installing roadway barriers and traffic-slowing devices that clog up the roads. In other words, rather than alleviate congestion, traffic calming aims to induce it.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago


Why create congestion? The goal is to make driving as undesirable as possible, thereby discouraging sprawl and encouraging people to live in high-density areas, where they will either ride mass transportation or walk. Since most cities have trouble filling seats on their money-losing transit systems, traffic calming is also another way to try to make these systems more financially justifiable.

Traffic calming can be achieved in a number of ways. For instance, there are devices, such as speed bumps, small traffic circles, cul-de-sacs, and chicanes (which change a street's orientation from straight to winding), which help prevent cars from speeding through suburban neighborhoods. The most common practice is signal disruption--which guarantees that a driver who is obeying the speed limit will have to stop at almost every red light.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago


There are also choke points, which suddenly narrow a street to one travel lane; curb extensions, which eliminate right-turn lanes (so anyone who slows down to turn right slows down the cars behind her); median barriers, which reduce traffic volume (when located mid-block, median barriers do not help pedestrian safety, and, incidentally, have devastated some small roadside businesses by hindering access); orientation shifts, which change a one-way street into a two-way street; and vehicle exclusion lanes, among others. "Boulevarding" is the urban planning term used to describe when a variety of traffic-calming devices are used in conjunction with one another.

There's no firm data on how many cities and municipalities have invested in traffic calming, but it's difficult to find one that hasn't. (The FHWA has a partial list here.) Portland, Oregon, the birthplace of smart growth, spends over $2 million a year on traffic calming. Transportation expert Randal O'Toole notes in his book The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths that the Port of Portland, which helped fund the light rail line to the city's airport, claimed in a slideshow presentation that the key to successful airport rail is a "congested highway and roadway access system." Ten years ago, Portland predicted that its traffic-calming plan would triple local congestion, and concluded that "congestion signals positive urban development." The good news for the city council is that they're on target: In 2003 (the last year for which data is available), Portland's total delay had risen to 33,387,000 hours a year from 25,066,000 in 1996, according to the Texas Transportation Institute.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

"Former City, County Commissioner and now current City Commissioner Amyx is from the old "growth machine" crew."

Why is Mr. Amyx the current mayor? Could it be because he got the highest number of votes?

Maybe us idiots wanted a change.

lunacydetector 11 years, 5 months ago

truth, i trust amyx didn't appoint a nutcase. my fingers are crossed.

...and merrill, since when did liberals become moderates? kind of like progressive means regressive, smart growth means NO growth.

anything or anyone to make the population bounce forward is okay in my book.

we certainly don't need anyone appointed that will turn the clock back. we don't need anymore people who will be business unfriendly.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

Central Planning Dooms "Smart Growth" by Randal O'Toole

Randal O'Toole ( is senior economist with the Thoreau Institute ( and author of the recent book, The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths. - Jan. 9, 2002

Imagine that almost every city, county, town, and village in the United States has at least one communist on its staff--not an infiltrator, but someone whose job title is Communist, whose job description is to implement communism in that community.

Difficult to believe? The most important part of soviet communism is central planning. Now go back to the previous paragraph and replace the word communist with planner and communism with planning. Then the paragraph turns out to be the truth.

In the United States, many planners agree with architect Andres Duany, who urges land-use planners to write plans "with such precision that only the architectural detail is left" to the land owners. Most planners believe property rights are "flexible," and that no property owner should be able to do anything with his or her land without government approval.

Despite their scientific pretensions, planners really have no idea how a city or any other economy works. So they rely on fads to tell them how to run our lives. In the 1950s and 1960s, the fad was urban renewal. Today, it is smart growth.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

Oregon: Planning's Victim

Smart growth says Americans drive too much, and the large lots on which they live waste too much land. The smart-growth fad is furthest advanced in Oregon, where planners have passed an unbelievable set of regulations for land use and transportation. Here are just a few of them.

Planners have drawn urban-growth boundaries around all of Oregon's cities and towns. These boundaries contain just 1.25 percent of all the land in Oregon, yet planners hope to force 90 percent of Oregon residents to live within them. Only actual farmers should be allowed to live outside the boundaries, say planners.

Inside the boundaries, planners regulate everything from parking on the streets to the use of church buildings. One Portland church with 400 seats in its sanctuary was told it could allow no more than 70 people to worship in the church at one time. A growing church was told it could not expand unless it remained closed on Saturdays and held no more than five weddings or funerals a year.

To fit a growing population within the urban-growth boundaries, planners are rezoning existing neighborhoods to higher densities. If you own a quarter-acre lot in such a neighborhood, you would not be allowed to build a single house on it--even if many other homes in the neighborhood are on quarter-acre lots. Instead, if the area is zoned to 24 units per acre, you will be required to build a six-unit apartment. If your existing house burns down, you will be required to replace it with an apartment.

Planners also want to control the design of people's homes. They derisively call houses with garages in front "snout houses," and say people who own such houses drive too much. So Portland has passed an ordinance requiring that garages be recessed behind the front of new homes.

To further discourage driving, planners are deliberately not building new highways. Their goal is to increase congestion so people will walk or ride public transit instead of drive. Planners are building concrete barriers and speed bumps on existing roads to slow traffic and reduce traffic flows. They call this traffic calming . . . though the people who must drive on such roads feel anything but calm.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

Careful What You Ask For

Smart growth turns out to accomplish the exact opposite of almost everything it promises. It makes cities more congested. It increases air pollution. Artificial land shortages lead to unaffordable housing. Open spaces are rapidly filled with high-density housing.

Portland planners admit their goal is to "replicate" Los Angeles--the nation's most congested and polluted city, and one of its least affordable. In the last 18 years, congestion in the Portland area has grown faster than in any other U.S. urban area. The city has gone from being one of the 50 most affordable to one of the 10 least affordable markets for single-family housing in the nation.

A decade ago, smart-growth ideas were peculiar to Oregon. But now they are rapidly taking over the country. Government officials in such diverse states as Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin have strongly endorsed smart growth.

In retrospect, it is likely that planners in our city governments will do far more harm to our personal and economic freedoms than communists in the State Department. The solution is simple: Fire all the planners.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

If hysteria weren't your apparent cause, I'd say that your hysteria is doing your cause no good, monkeyhawk.

Keep up the hysterically good work.

kucimat 11 years, 5 months ago

As a long-time reader and first time poster, it took a lot for me to actually chime in on a story. But I have to say I was extremely heartened to see this appointment to the Planning Commission. Having the unique experience of working with past planning commissions and Joe Harkins, I can personally vouch that this man has no agenda and no set political purpose. He has served both Democratic and Republican administrations throughout the State of Kansas whenever he has been asked to do so. He is of that special breed of dedicated civil servants who want to continue to serve their community and their state however possible. He will be an excellent asset to the commission.


Michael Young

lunacydetector 11 years, 5 months ago

reality check, i've lived in lawrence for over 40 years, so why are you here? the progressives want people to move away. you are a contradiction by moving back. in fact, you are doing exactly the opposite of what the progressives want in this community. i guess contradiction is common place for the lunatic fringe, thus the smart growth = NO growth, progressive = regressive.

the progressive legacy:
*for the first time since lawrence was founded, the population has decreased

*housing prices keep increasing

*retail dollars keep going to kansas city or topeka

*there has been virtually ZERO job creation

...progressives in action. (please add any other contributions the progressives are leaving us as their legacy)

lawrence, kansas business UNfriendly

Godot 11 years, 5 months ago

Monkeyhawk, once again, you have found sources that are voices in the wilderness. If it were not for you, I would not have researched "smart growth," and would have continued to think it was just a silly slogan used to describe the messed up planning process that is unique to Lawrence. Now I know that Smart Growth is an organized movement made up of various liberal groups who intend to completely change the lifestyle and living conditions in the US, not by choice of the citizenry, but by government force, beginning at the local level.

Smart Growth means "we think you are too stupid to leave to you the decisions about how you want to live; we are going to make you do it our way, because only we know what is best for everyone else."

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

la de da come go leave stay what ever build the bridge and casinoes already :) Just having fun guys I do want to know how this guy is really qualified for this job? And what does he know about lawrence? To me those points seem important. And my head hurts to bad to work right so HELP.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

Arminius (anonymous) on June 27, 2006 at 12:17 p.m. (Suggest removal) "lunacydetector:

One more item for your list. When PLC became a majority on the city commission, Forbes magazine ranked Lawrence in the top 10 amongst smaller metros to start a business or get a job. Last year we fell to #22. This year we were ranked at #60. The only thing that kept us from falling completely off the list is our #4 ranking for educational attainment. Fortunately, that's one area the PLC commissioners can't touch."

It also could be the Kansas Legislature, our inflated property taxes/inflated real estate costs and the fact that we still have 15,000 commuting to decent paying jobs. While the real estate industry was busy selling Lawrence for it's many attributes the cost of living soared and not enough high end salaries surfaced to support the new residents...perhaps the "growth machine" got the cart before the horse aka bad planning.

staff04 11 years, 5 months ago

kucimat- Well stated. Unfortunately, the Godots, Arminii, and lunacydetectors of this board don't care if he worked for both parties or how good he may be at what he does. All they care about is the fact that Sebelius appointed him, thus making him a moonbat liberal.

Godot 11 years, 5 months ago

Hey, Staffie, you are off the deep end with your generalizations and stereotyping again today. Please point out where I have criticized this appointment. Unless, of course, you know something we don't know, and are taking my criticism of "smart growth" activists as being a criticism of Harkins.

lunacydetector 11 years, 5 months ago

staff04, i thought i was being indifferent regarding this pick. i have my fingers crossed that it is a good decision.

please point out where i was critical of this guy.

the progressive legacy: *for the first time since lawrence was founded, the population has decreased

*housing prices keep increasing

*retail dollars keep going to kansas city or topeka

*there has been virtually ZERO job creation

*In the year 2000, Forbes Magazine ranked Lawrence, Kansas as the 10th best smaller metro area to launch a business or a career --- TODAY---Forbes Magazine ranks Lawrence, Kansas #60.

...Progressives in action keeping Lawrence, KS business UNfriendly

monkeyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

Reality_Check, If you could suspend your confirmation bias for a few moments, here is a link to the thoughts of someone who you may consider to be a little less radical:

Sorry, but I don't know how to get the link to turn blue like Arminius. How do you do that?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

Does "Smart Growth" have all the answers? Probably not. But "Dumb Growth" is what has accomplished 99% of the problems people bitch about on this forum, so returning to the "Good Ole Boy" system that profits from "Dumb Growth" is the absolute worst thing we could do.

A_Guy 11 years, 5 months ago

I've owned a business in Lawrence for a number of years now and it has been a great experience. It's pretty simple really. The citizens in Lawrence make above average income. Offer a good product, and you'll make money. If Lawrence is losing people, it certainly doesn't show in my growth rate.

In terms of population growth, some growth is good and some is bad. A city can grow, but if that growth uses more services than it pays for, then it's a net loss to the city. It's a pretty basic concept. Do you care if growth drives up your taxes? I can point to a city in Johnson County where it's happening right now, Shawnee. I've heard it from their mouths. They're massive growth rate has placed them in a debt they can't afford, so they're going to raise taxes to help pay for it. Am I saying that growth is bad? Nope. Growth is usually a good thing. I just wanted to point out that growth is not always good.

Developers should not have absolute say about how a city should grow. The citizens should have some choice in that matter. Developers will build to make money and will do so without regard to how they affect the people who live there. Good planning gives people the ability to choose how they live. Without planning, we let developers choose for us. I don't want choices that determine my life to be made by someone who is making choices based on what makes him the most money.

I do believe in the market place. But, I also understand that the market makes bad decisions sometimes too. After all, the market may say it is efficient for your next-door neighbor to run an auto-body shop out of his garage. Maybe a couple of your neighbors could make a lot of money if they replaced their houses with a new apartment building. Planning says that the citizens should have a say in what happens, not just the people making money.

I can't say that I agree with all planning. Just like growth, some planning is good and some planning is bad. But, I certainly wouldn't want to give up planning as a function. If we give up planning then we give up our voice. We give up our ability to make choices. Some of the planning in Lawrence I agree with. Some of it I don't. The progressive party may very well get voted out of office. We just need to make sure that we don't give control of our city to people who don't care about us, and only care about making money.

Godot 11 years, 5 months ago

Reality_check wrote: "radical libertarian "

LOL! What an oxymoron!

Godot 11 years, 5 months ago

"good ole boy" "radical libertarians" "rabid anti-planning" "nutjobs"

The libs are brilliant today, I must say. Absolutely brilliant.

Godot 11 years, 5 months ago

Hey, Libs, try this. Hopefully using this reference will make your posts more entertaining. As a side benefit, it might even cause you to stop and think about what you are writing:

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

"Reality_check wrote: "radical libertarian "

LOL! What an oxymoron!"

In many respects, "radical libertarian"="anarchist."

lunacydetector 11 years, 5 months ago

an update to the Progressive legacy:

*for the first time since lawrence was founded, the population has decreased

*housing prices keep increasing

*retail dollars keep going to kansas city or topeka

*there has been virtually ZERO job creation

*In the year 2000, Forbes Magazine ranked Lawrence, Kansas as the 10th best smaller metro area to launch a business or a career --- TODAY---Forbes Magazine ranks Lawrence, Kansas #60.

*expensive traffic-slowing devices to clog up the roadways.

...Progressives in action keeping Lawrence, KS business UNfriendly

Godot 11 years, 5 months ago

""radical libertarian"="anarchist."

Boog is a radical libertarian?

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