It is the changing of the guard at Lawrence City Hall tonight.
Two new commissioners - Rob Chestnut and Mike Dever - will be sworn in at the 6:35 p.m. meeting tonight at City Hall. Commissioner Sue Hack also is expected to be elected to serve a one year term as Mayor, taking over for Mike Amyx, who will stay on the commission.
Hack is expected to talk about her idea of a new one-cent, citywide, sales tax as part of her mayoral address.
Journal-World reporter Chad Lawhorn will report live from the meeting in this space beginning at 6:35 p.m.
Have a thought or opinion on the changing of the guard, before tonight's City Commission meeting? Post it in the comment space below.
Hi. The meeting is just now getting started. Commissioners are reading a few proclamations. The swearing-in ceremonies should start shortly.
Before we get started, I also wanted to offer a quick note. This is called a blog, but it not a typical one in that there be no opinions offered. Instead, this will be a live account of the meeting. I also apologize in advance for any typos and such. Since this report is happening in real time, it does not have the benefit of being edited prior to posting.
Commissioners have just finished approving the consent agenda, and the changing of commissions is about to begin. There are approx. 50 people on hand tonight.
City Manager David Corliss wishes the outgoing commissioners "heartfelt appreciation" and thanks the outgoing commissioners for the kindness they have shown him and his family over the past year.
Outgoing commissioner David Schauner said this is a bittersweet moment. Quotes Robert Frost you said that he can sum up everything he has learned about life "It goes on."
Accomplishments in his term include building of two fire stations, hiring a new fire chief, adopting new development code, adopting smoking ban, adopted living wage ordinance, have added $1 million per year each of last two years for street maintenance. We have taken up the domestic partnership registry and I hope the future commission acts positively on that. Have opened up new discussions with federal legislators. Have installed a number of traffic calming devices in the community. Have begun construction on a new park in West Lawrence, DeVictor Park.
"Rather than addresssing what we have done, I would like to focus on the future of the community. The one single decision that we made that will have the most lasting impact on the community is the hiring of a new city manager. Frankly, I think Dave Corliss will be the decision that will have the greatest lasting impact of all the decisions that we have made," Schauner said.
On other commissioners. "There is only one Mike Rundle." Applauds his work and said everyone will miss the efforts of Rundle. Says that he didn't agree with Commissioner Boog Highberger as much as he thought they would, but never questioned that he always had the best interests of the community at heart. On Commissioner Hack, he joked with her and said he was dissapointed that she never told him where she got the ice for her glass of water that she always drank at commission meetings.
On Amyx, he said he "will always value knowing you." Praises his work ethic.
Schauner said that he thought the commission had created a culture where everyone could stand up and be heard. "That committment to the every man or every woman is the mark of a truly civilized and caring community. I know we didn't make everyone happy. I know I didn't make everyone happy. But because we all act collectively in the best interest of the community, I challenge the next commission and the one afterthat and the one after that, that every body's voice should carry equal weight."
Outgoing Commissioner Mike Rundle: He said he wanted to comment on a couple of issues brought up in the campaign. He said that if there is a problem with economic development in the community that we need to talk and solve it as a community. On affordable housing, he talks about other communities that have formed real partnerships to address the issue.
"I have often said that if you throw a rock on Mass. Street, there is a 50/50 chance you'll hit a former mayor. One thing I would say is that there is somtimes more rock throwing in this community than we need. We would get more done if we did less of that."
Says namecalling has been problematic. "One of the names used recently has been no-growther. If there is one thing I wish as we leave office, I wish we could leave that phrase behind," Rundle said. He particullary criticized the Journal-World for the use of the term.
Rundle thanks his fellow commissioners and said he "looks forward to being involved in this great community."
Outgoing Mayor Mike Amyx, who will remain on the commission. Estimates that there were about 2,000 items the commission dealt with during the last year. Thanks members of the staff who have given me the opportunity to grow.
"This is a tough job. We have a whole lot of egos sitting on this board," Amyx said. "And I'm not very good at corralling them in."
"We are a very fortunate group of people," Amyx said. "Very few people get a chance to serve on this board. To be part of the Lawrence City Commission is something to be proud of. I think it is a governing body second to none in the state. We back down from nothing."
Amyx continued: "No one can question the dedication of each member of this body. They can question the decisions we each make, but I will never question the dedication that each member has."
"I truly love this community. Thank you all very much."
Amyx offers tokens of appreciation to both Rundle and Schauner. Rundle has served on the commission for twelve years at different times. Schauner has served for four years.
Commissioner Boog Highberger, Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut are being sworn in by the city clerk to "faithfully discharge the duties of city commissioners."
The new commissioners take their seats. Amyx begins to take nominations for mayor. Highberger nominates Sue Hack. No other nominations are made. Seconded by Chestnut. Hack approved 5-0.
Dever is nominated to serve as vice mayor. No other nominations. Dever elected on 5-0 vote.
Mayor Hack: Thanks family. Thanks daughter who came in from Denver. Thanks mother-in law and husband Al Hack. Also thanks staff. Thanks commissioners.
"I have learned so much for those I have served with. Anybody who has the nerve to put themselves in this arena, I really appreciate it."
Hack on Mike Amyx: "I have learned that Mike has grown up next to, went to school with or cuts the hair of every man woman or child of this community. He knows everybody. He knows the pulse of this community."
Hack continues: On transportation says that community has some "large decisions in front of us." A planning commission report to be completed in September will give us a closer look at regional transporation plan. Also wants to look at Iowa Street corridor and Wakarusa Street corridor. "There also has to be strong consideration to connect 15th Street to the SLT." Says without it Sixth Street and 23rd Street will suffer.
On social services, Hack calls the homelessness issue complex. She also said on housing affordablity issues would like to see us use a "carrot and not a stick" with our building community. She said Lawrence is a compassionate community but must demand accountablity on homeless service programs. Will ask Amyx to serve on the city's homeless services task force to help develop a financially feasible plan.
On job creation she said that Lawrence is challenged in areas of "resources and repuation" Must continue work on developing the Farmland site and area near the airport. Must continue to look for other sites as well.
Said the city's economic development reputation also needs work. Says that the city does not have to apologize for its high standards, but said discussion needs to begin with state and area leaders about the good work that is going on in Lawrence.
On the budget, Hack said the city will have less additional funds to work with because of the slowdown in assessed value growth. Said that must prioritize our goals.
On the need for a new sales tax:"While a sales tax increase is many times as controversial as a property tax increase, it does allow us to capitalize on people who visit this city and are not residents." She said there is the possibility of a reduction in property taxes.
"The one goals that is most important to me is thehealing of this community. We must find a way to stop this cycle of distrust." She comments that a city hired consultant said that the levels of distrust were higher here than in any other community they had worked in.
"Shame on us," she said.
Said that the number of people who "sling mud" on blogs and Websites represent a small minority of people in this community. Said that increasing the level of trust in the community is the "best gift we can give to our children and grandchildren."
Commissioner Boog Highberger: Thanks Amyx. Calls him the hardest working man he knows. To Sue Hack. Appreciates her "ambitious agenda." Let's go. Thanks her for here dedication to children. On Schauner: Respected his dedication to the community. On Rundle. Praises his dedication and said he is a "tough act to follow." Welcomes Dever and Chestnut. "I hope you know what you have gotten yourself into. I was really impressed at how you both got up to speed on issues during the campaign."
Says that he will continue to do everything he can "to ensure that neighborhoods have a strong voice in this community."
Mike Dever: Thanks wife and family. "I'm exicited and can not wait to learn all the things I need to learn and to provide positive input into this community."
Rob Chestnut: Thanks his family. "It is a bit of a surreal experience. i was driving down Sixth Street and thinking about growing up here. It is a surreal experience to think about coming full circle."
"It is a tough job. The farther you run, the more you realize how far behind you are," Chestnut said of the learning he has to do on the job.
That concludes the swearing-in ceremony. Commissioners are taking a 20-minute break. Following the break, they are scheduled to go into a closed-door executive session to discuss legal matters with their attorney. The city is preparing to begin a trial related to a proposed Wal-Mart store on Monday.