Jobs and taxes were on the mind of city voters Monday evening at the first major campaign forum of the season.
"I want to hear about job growth," said Lori MacDonald, one of about 100 people who attended the forum for City Commission and school board candidates at the Lawrence Arts Center. "I would really like to hear about how they would create job growth. Lots of people have been talking about the need for it, but specifics would be nice."
Monday's event, however, was more about generalities than hard details. Eight of the nine candidates for the City Commission attended the "meet-and-greet" event, where candidates introduced themselves and then mingled with the crowd. Seven of the eight school board candidates attended.
Voters will go to the polls Feb. 27 for a primary election to narrow the City Commission field to six candidates. Three at-large seats are up for grabs in the April 3 general election. There will be no primary election for the school board, which has four seats opening.
The event - hosted by the Voter Education Coalition, which is made up of a variety of neighborhood groups, nonprofits, media organizations and trade associations - did give candidates a glimpse at what's on the mind of Lawrence voters.
For Ron Wright, it is the topic that always rises to the top in elections: taxes.
"I would really like to hear what they plan to do about high property taxes and how they plan to get them in check," Wright said. "If we have a new library or a new recreation complex, I want to make sure that we don't put all the burden of paying for them on the property taxes of people."
The newly formed Grassroots Action political organization will host a traditional debate for Lawrence City Commission candidates at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Lawrence High School commons area. The forum will be structured in a traditional debate format, giving candidates the opportunity to ask questions of each other.
Candidates seem to have already received the message. During their two-minute speeches, virtually all of the City Commission candidates either said something about increasing the number of jobs in the community or broadening the city's tax base.
School board candidates also gave brief speeches as part of the event. No single issue dominated the discussion, although candidates Marlene Merrill and Michael Pomes both made a point to mention their support for all-day kindergarten.
School board candidates at the event were Merrill, Pomes, Robert Rauktis, Mary Loveland, Michael Machell, Scott Morgan and school board member Rich Minder. Victor Sisk was unable to attend.
City Commission candidates who attended were Sam Fields, James Bush, Jake Davis, Michael Limburg, Mike Dever, Rob Chestnut, Carey Maynard-Moody and Commissioner David Schauner. Commissioner Boog Highberger was unable to attend.