To the editor:
We attended Tuesday night's meeting of the City Commission, and the discussion of the Wal-Mart issue was a lesson in democracy. This is what we learned:
- Adhering to the city's own blueprint for development doesn't matter. One public commenter said the proposed store of nearly 100,000 square feet violated the provision in Horizon 2020 that no discount store in the type of commercial center designated for Sixth and Wakarusa (CC200) can be over 65,000 square feet. Commissioner Highberger asked a city staff member if this is correct, and she replied that she did not know. He suggested that it would be good to delay action on the Wal-Mart proposal until this issue could be cleared up. No other commissioner responded in any way to his suggestion.
- The opinion of the people doesn't matter. Twelve of the fourteen people who spoke during the public comment session opposed the Wal-Mart proposal. One of those speakers carried a petition with several hundred signatures asking that it be put to a referendum and noted that an unbiased telephone survey of over 200 Lawrence residents found them to be opposed to the proposal by a two-to-one margin. These matters went utterly unrecognized by all five commissioners in their discussion of the proposal.
- Despite the above, the proposal passed 4-1, with Commissioner Highberger in opposition.
So what did we learn from our lesson in democracy? That today, in this town, democracy is in serious trouble.
Louise and Allan Hanson,