Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Commissioners put big projects on back burner

June 13, 2007

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City leaders vote to increase "T" fares

In news fresh out of city hall, Lawrence city commissioners decide to cut funding to two dozen social service agencies by four percent this year. Enlarge video

For now, the city's vision is a balanced budget.

City commissioners agreed at their annual goal-setting session Tuesday afternoon to put off any talk of a major, communitywide "visioning" process until after the city finishes what is expected to be a difficult 2008 budget.

"We've got an awful lot on our plate right now," Mayor Sue Hack said.

Commissioners directed staff to offer ideas this fall on how to conduct a visioning exercise that would help the community agree on principles to guide city operations. But a majority of commissioners also told staff to keep the process simple, and, preferably, not use outside consultants.

"Let's not spend a lot of time and reinvent the wheel on this," said Commissioner Mike Dever.

Dever suggested the city use its Web site or the Journal-World Web site to solicit comments from the public on ideas for the city's future. Hack also suggested a "hot dogs and hot topics" format where the commission puts on neighborhood parties to hear from people.

Several commissioners also said they wanted to make sure they entered any visioning process free of preconceived notions. For example, Commissioner Rob Chestnut said he was upset with a recent report from a city consultant that recommended the city adopt codes that protect the city from a "slow transformation to Anywhere USA."

Chestnut said he found the phrase "incredibly prejudicial."

"That comment seems to make a statement on suburbia that we need to be careful about," Chestnut said. "For example, I know a lot of people who live on cul-de-sacs who like to live on cul-de-sacs."

The city currently is debating a new "Traditional Neighborhood Development Code" that would design new neighborhoods in a more "old-style" manner rather than in traditional suburban style. Several commissioners on Tuesday cautioned that they don't want the community to become divided over how neighborhoods are built.

"We don't want to do anything to add to the division of the community," Hack said. "A statement about Anytown USA does seem to pit one person's lifestyle against someone else's."

Other items that were discussed at Tuesday's goal-setting session included:

¢ Direction to staff to provide information on how the Convention and Visitors Bureau spends nearly $850,000 in guest tax dollars paid by hotel guests. Commissioners also want more information on how Downtown Lawrence Inc. spends the roughly $50,000 it receives in city funding. Commissioners said they are interested in exploring ways to increase promotion for downtown.

¢ Initiate a meeting with the Kansas University School of Business and other KU schools to discuss resources the schools may have that the city could better capitalize on. Commissioners also told staff to set up similar meetings with leaders of Haskell Indian Nations University.

¢ Ask the Lawrence Alliance, a city-appointed advisory board, to explore ways to encourage public comment and participation from a more diverse group of residents.

¢ Have at least one City Commission meeting each quarter in a site away from City Hall.

Comments

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

"Oh, and btw, Merrill, just because you keep repeating the 30% figure as if it is some pseudo-religious mantra doesn't make it so. And it came from one of those expensive outside consultants. We will be better off rid of them."

They came at the request of Mayor Hack. AND because they left a message behind that some did not want to hear in spite of their fee says to me this is an honest assessment.

Who on the current commission is an expert? How do they justify not believing experts in their field of expertise? Thus far developer run commissions have given taxpayers higher than normal rates of tax increases consistently over the last 20 years. Now just because you and others can afford to pay them and don't mind is no indication that is a good business practice. If anything it is this high cost of doing business created by the real estate community that is unfriendly to business.

The city should always require with each specific retail applicant: a detailed economic impact study an economic impact study a traffic impact study an environmental impact study

Every other year the city should perform a Detailed Cost of Community Services Study to determine what is not paying for itself in order to avoid cutting necessary budgets and/or services. It is healthy to apply wise use of business tools to gather data.

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

Traffic Calming - Allow speeding drivers to pick up the tab

Instead of penalizing the neighborhoods for speeding vehicles allow me to offer suggestions. Mandate the following: bill the violators include a $200 Traffic Safety Fee with each speeding violation citation over and above current fine and court costs second violation double the Traffic Safety Fee plus loss of license for 60 days third violation quadruple the Traffic Safety Fee plus loss of license for 12 months over and above state law. If a DUI is involved make the fee $1000.00 and loss of license for 24 months over and above state law. if staff is available create or increase the size of a Traffic Enforcement Patrol and bill this cost to violators.

*What is truly harsh? A high dollar speeding fine or dead bodies and auto accidents?

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

What big projects were put on the back burner?

Sigmund 8 years ago

"For now, the city's vision is a balanced budget." This is the best news I have heard in a long, long time. The other ideas are nice as well. I especially liked Commissioner Chestnuts attempt to tone down the rhetorical hate speech that has for far too long been used, successfully I might add, to intimated or bully this Commission. But again the single most important thing for this Commission is to correct the mistakes of the past by staying focused on balancing Lawrence's budget.

KS 8 years ago

Well, Sigmund, I agree. There goes the new library, sports facilities, etc., at least for awhile. Timing is everything, huh? I like holding those folks accountable that have received tax dollars, ie. Convention Bureau and Downtown Lawrence. If the "T" is going to get major hits, so should these folks.

Steve Jacob 8 years ago

"Direction to staff to provide information on how the Convention and Visitors Bureau spends nearly $850,000 in guest tax dollars paid by hotel guests. Commissioners also want more information on how Downtown Lawrence Inc. spends the roughly $50,000 it receives in city funding. Commissioners said they are interested in exploring ways to increase promotion for downtown."

Does that sound like the commission has no idea what the Visitors Bureau actually does?

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

"Commissioner Rob Chestnut said he was upset with a recent report from a city consultant that recommended the city adopt codes that protect the city from a "slow transformation to Anywhere USA." Actually this type of code is smart and useful thinking which makes dollars and sense. We're not talking Cul de Sacs were talking keeping Lawrence unique for that is the primary attraction to Lawrence,Kansas. Yes this group provided very good ideas on neighborhoods however we've over built in residential as well sooooo do not need more neighborhoods. They increase our overall cost of living aka Cost of Community Services.

That same group also advised that Lawrence is over built in retail by 30%. However some commissioners have said they don't believe it....based on what? This tells me that Lawrence should invest in promoting existing resources not bring new locations on line. New retail stores in existing downtwown space that would encourage walk-by traffic throughout downtown not solely on the north end.

A new Italian cafe is now open where Mass Street Deli was located. Thank you Bob for selling out to people who are making wise use of existing space and not letting sit empty...hats off to Bob and the new building owners on this one.

Thanks David Millstein for bringing in a downtown grocery store rather than allow space to remain empty for any length of time...Yes to the Milstein family and friends. And to The Merc who will be contributing some used equipment to the endeavor that will encourage success. A community village can make things work....aka team.

No to a second Wal-Mart or any other big box store. North Lawrence has requested a grocery store,laundromat and a hardware store. How can the powers that be make Tanger Mall pay for itself and remove itself as beast of burden on the taxpayer? The same goes for the Riverfront Mall which has ton of empty space...that which cost the taxpayer money.

Tourism Bucks is wonderful money. Yep folks come spend with existing vendors,have fun and/or take care of business and provide Lawrence with new economic growth without the cost of new additional infrastructure.

Nick Combs 8 years ago

I applaud the commissioners for striving for a balanced budget.

NOW STICK TO IT!

sourpuss 8 years ago

Sounds like a great argument to divide the city. Let the "suburbanites" have their lifestyle and the Old towners have theirs. Why stick together if you don't like each other? This is a free country and we don't have to be one town.

eatit 8 years ago

If were trying to promote downtown buisnesses then why get rid of the NCAA bike race that brought thousands to the downtown area? Doesn't seem right to get rid of something that was so pleasent for everyone in Lawrence and surrounding communities.

ilovelucy 8 years ago

What ARE you talking about? The race is leaving Lawrence? Why? Proof? Information on this?

justthefacts 8 years ago

Well, thank God the city council appears to have gotten it through their heads that most (voting) citizens (on either side of town) do not want to see a tax increase of any kind (property or sales or income). The only people who usually don't mind a tax hike either (a) have enough money they can afford to spare a little (or lot) more for taxes (b) have enough clout or money that they qualify for all kinds of deductions etc. so they won't be impacted by a hike or (c) have so little money they are exempt or it won't matter any way - they're already so far down they'll never get up!

It's always much easier to support a tax hike when the $ is not coming out of your own personal pocket(s)!

However, don't hold your breath too long. It is quite likely that any other decisions by the newly constituted council will follow the same path of most such groups. In more then one city have I seen this scenario played out: (1) Candidates promise their voting consituency some desired results, if elected. (2) Newly elected candidates take office, get with budget people and long-time city bureaucrats, and "manage" to work #'s around so that pet projects get approved, making their constiuents happy and (3) New officials then let bureucrats run the show for the rest of their time in office. So if we don't want to see that happen, continued vigilance is required.

If we really want to cut costs, a top to bottom audit needs to be done (by a qualified municipal forensic accountant) and that includes looking at (A) how all tax dollars, including grant moneys, are spent and (B) How much we pay city staff to see if we need so many and if they're being paid according to market values (e.g. compare how much the city manager in Wichita is paid, as compared to ours!). I bet we'd find a lot of "extras" that the private sector should be supporting instead of government!

Meanwhile, those of you who had all those suggestions on how tax dollars could be better spent or allocated may want to create your lists, and send them (repeatedly if necessary) to the city council members and all associated staff. They may not be reading the LJW comment sections!

J Good Good 8 years ago

The city did not get rid of the bike race - it moves around. It was scheduled to be here three years and it was.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

Experts, merrill?

I tend to think that people who actually LIVE in Lawrence or the surrounding areas are more "expert" in what the city is like, what it wants to become, and how to accomplish that than some over-priced consultants who had probably never even seen the place before.

kmat 8 years ago

"Pilgrim (Anonymous) says:

P.S. "North Lawrence has requested a grocery store,laundromat and a hardware store."

The last time they had those things, they failed to support them in sufficient numbers, and those businesses had to close. Nothing's changed there."

That grocery store closed how many decades ago? Back when N. Lawrence didn't have anywhere near the number of residents it now has? You must be one of those people that only drives through N. Lawrence getting to the turnpike. The population has grown a lot, new houses and neighborhoods are being built all the time. The city has only focussed on getting new businesses in the "new' areas of Lawrence - as long as it's big box stores they like (not Wal Mart).

A grocery/drug store is needed and there is plenty of unused space in the Tanger Mall. We now have to drive to Dillon's or HyVee on 6th to go to the store. But of course, the rest of Lawrence doesn't give a rats ass about N. Lawrence.

Don't talk unless you actually know about the area, pilgrim.

stuckinthemiddle 8 years ago

kmat Good points... A grocery / drug store could serve as anchor for Tanger Mall that could lead to other businesses moving in...

and you know... lots of people talk about lots of things they actually know nothing about...

Godot 8 years ago

If you want a grocery/drug store at the former Tanger mall, I am sure the property owner would be willing to lease you some space so you can open one.

Jamesaust 8 years ago

"North Lawrence has requested a grocery store,laundromat and a hardware store."

Yes, that's how it works. Someone puts in a request to government and then government provides them a store. Sort of sounds like the Soviet Union ... "Truck Factory No. 2." Maybe I should request a Maserati from the City. Where do I file my request?

kmat 8 years ago

Godot - give me the money then to open it. Otherwise, why do yo have to make stupid comments like this? Just makes you look like an ass. I'm not the only one, all residents of N. Lawrence would like basic services like the rest of town has.

The city has made a point over the years to not encourage any growth in N. Lawrence and that is why no one has been able to get anything done on this side of town. The city only gives incentives for the areas they care about, and as I've posted here before, the city manager did actully have the balls to tell me that the city doesn't care about N. Lawrence and has no plans of doing anything for the residents. That's why they wouldn't even fix the big bump on 2nd St. until someone died because of it. And I'm sure the city only did fix it then because they figured there would be lawsuits if they didn't. How are we supposed to get new businesses to open when the city encourages companies to not do business there?

As always, only the cookie cutter, trying to be JoCo western and southern parts of town get any attn. because the snobs there whine the loudest when they aren't pampered by the city. I say take your snobbish butts back to JoCo (because a lot of the residents in those areas are moving up from JoCo and are changing our small, college town into a damn upper-middle class suburb of KC). I chose to live in Lawrence to escape the hell hole of O.P. I grew up in, only to see if move here too.

kmat 8 years ago

Jamesaust - the city has to approve these things. Can't just set up a business with out going through all the red tape. Companies have looked into opening stores in N. Lawrence (this is something that residents have been working on for years!!!!!), but the city gives no incentives and won't even fix the roads here. So, these businesses go elsewhere because they realize that the city won't do a damn thing for thie area. No one wants to open a business in an are the city ignores.

Why do so many smart asses have to fill up these boards with B.S.? Do you have anything constructive to say, or do you just like to see your comment in print so you feel important?

Godot 8 years ago

Here I pay kmat a compliment by suggesting that she open her own business, which, to be successful, takes talent and smarts, and she attacks me.

If you want something, make it happen.

gabbo 8 years ago

KMAT,

"The city only gives incentives for the areas they care about, and as I've posted here before, the city manager did actully have the balls to tell me that the city doesn't care about N. Lawrence and has no plans of doing anything for the residents."

The city offered no incentives for my business. In fact, it was quite the oppposite. $

"Godot - give me the money then to open it. Otherwise, why do yo have to make stupid comments like this?"

" As always, only the cookie cutter, trying to be JoCo western and southern parts of town get any attn. because the snobs there whine the loudest when they aren't pampered by the city. I say take your snobbish butts back to JoCo (because a lot of the residents in those areas are moving up from JoCo and are changing our small, college town into a damn upper-middle class suburb of KC). I chose to live in Lawrence to escape the hell hole of O.P. I grew up in, only to see if move here too."

It seems to me that whatever you ran from has to do with you, not OP or NL. You certainly didn't move here for an economics degree. You whine the loudest, but noone with the capital and the druthers to make your fantasy North Lawrence a reality will listen.

blackwalnut 8 years ago

Godot (Anonymous) says: If you want a grocery/drug store at the former Tanger mall, I am sure the property owner would be willing to lease you some space so you can open one.

Is that the best you can do? It's incredibly offensive to respond to every idea with "if you don't like it..." go home, buy it yourself, run for office yourself, etc.

You seem to give yourself the right to weigh in on everything with your opinion, even though you don't move to another town/country, buy the property yourself, run for office...

Not everybody can do all of those things, but each of us has a right to say what we think about our community, our country, and our government. It's called democracy, and responsible citizens PARTICIPATE in it.

Godot that is just a stupid and offensive comment and I know that you know it. I'm giving you that much credit. Surely you've got more in the way of an argument than that non-argument.

blackwalnut 8 years ago

Godot (Anonymous) says: Here I pay kmat a compliment by suggesting that she open her own business, which, to be successful, takes talent and smarts, and she attacks me.

That is classic passive-aggressive.

Really lame.

blackwalnut 8 years ago

"We don't want to do anything to add to the division of the community," Hack said. "A statement about Anytown USA does seem to pit one person's lifestyle against someone else's."

So does screaming that Lawrence is anti business over and over and over again. Whether it's true or not, screaming that just to support what you want gives outsiders the perception that it is true, making a self-fulfilling statement.

Let's get rid of all the catchphrases that divide Lawrence, and start working together.

lunacydetector 8 years ago

30% vacancies in retail? the City stifles retail every chance they can, and not just wal-mart. it is the progressive way.

the real irony is the City (for some reason), likes to bite the hand that feeds them.

Sigmund 8 years ago

Jamesaust comments fit perfectly. If you want the roads and sewers fixed in North Lawrence then keep on the Commission for those items and be prepared to fight against the other priorities like an Empty Bus system that costs $1,400,000/year.

Do not ask the Commission for a Grocery or Drug store, it is not their place nor can they "give" you one. In fact, I don't remember them "giving" one to the rest of Lawrence either. Start asking the "Community" Merc, Tom Harper, merrill, PlaceMakers (they have $250,000 of our dollars at least) or the Milstein's, Dillon's, HyVee, Checker's and Walmart to "give" you one. When they say "no" ask them why.

Sigmund 8 years ago

I do have one quibble with Jamesaust, he is in the wrong line for the wrong car! When you get behind me in line, here is the car you want. 250mph and it is built by Volkswagen, it's the "peoples car!" Originally they planned to build 300 Veyrons over five years, but at only $1,440,800 (almost exactly the amount of corporate welfare paid each year to MV Transportation to run empty buses around Lawrence) they have been selling like hot cakes and they have had to step up production! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfFAZ5-P04I

Oracle_of_Rhode 8 years ago

What's divisive about "Anytown USA?" I don't get it. Do some people actually want to transform charming Lawrence into an air-conditioned carbon copy nightmare exurb, complete with Wal-Mart karma and massive garage door architectue? I guess they do, and they wield power.

blackwalnut 8 years ago

Oracle_of_Rhode (Anonymous) says: What's divisive about "Anytown USA?" I don't get it.

I agree, I don't know why Chestnut immediately equated that with cul-de-sacs, unless there was more context around that phrase.

It seems to me nobody would want to take away a town's uniqueness. New development doesn't have to be so bland and characterless, it's just cheaper for builders to make it that way.

It's pretty clear what Chestnut's bias is.

blackwalnut 8 years ago

Pilgrim, Pilgrim, always misquoting people and accusing them of saying things they never said. Do we all look alike to you? Can't you tell us apart?

I never typed the phrase "Anytown, USA" until today. You might want to refrain from accusing people of things unless you're really sure.

gccs14r 8 years ago

Kmat,

N. Lawrence should be abandoned. It sits in the Kaw valley and the river will demolish it, eventually. Billtown, Perry, Grantville, and any other towns that sit in the river should be cleared out, too.

Godot 8 years ago

blackwalnut wrote: "Not everybody can do all of those things,"

Yes, you can. Just take the chance, invest in yourself.

Godot 8 years ago

I sympathize, to a degree, with the folk who bought property in North Lawrence. And then, again, I do not.

What I see with them is, they knew the roads sucked, they knew they were in a flood prone area, they knew there were used car lots and no grocery store and a strip joint and a fertilizer plant and bad sewers, and they got a deal on their property because of it; now they complain because it is what it is.

This scenario reminds me of a woman (for the sake of simplicity, allow me to assign gender, here) who is attracted to a guy, for who knows what reason. During the infatuation phase, she overlooks all the things she does not like about him because of the strength of all the currently attractive things she sees. She takes the plunge and marries the guy, with the intent of fixing the things she does not like about him.

Ten frustrating years later, she divorces the guy because he did not change. And she demands that he pay her off because he did not fulfill her fantasy.

Same thing with the people who, within the last 20 years, bought property in North Lawrence.

Godot 8 years ago

"Same thing with the people who, within the last 20 years, bought property in North Lawrence."

Except that, with no ex-husband to pay for their mistakes, they expect the rest of the citizenry of Lawrence to do it.

location, location, location.

blackwalnut 8 years ago

Godot, what a pretty story, but more than we need to know. Glad that ex gives you enough for cosmetic procedures!

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