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Archive for Saturday, March 17, 2007

Candidates clash over development

March 17, 2007

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How to attract new companies to town is creating disagreement among the six candidates seeking a seat on the Lawrence City Commission.

In a questionnaire sent out by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, candidates clashed on whether the chamber should be the lead agency to attract new businesses, whether the city should hire a new economic development planner, and how tax abatements and other incentives should be used.

The chamber currently receives city and county funding to market the community to potential employers. Here's a look at what each candidate said about economic development issues.

James Bush

Bush called the current City Commission the "weakest link" in the community's economic development partnership.

Specifically, he said it was inappropriate for commissioners earlier this month to express concerns about using tax abatements to attract new companies at a meeting that included a representative from API Foils, an East Hills Business Park company that is seeking an abatement to expand. The city ultimately approved the abatement, but Bush said the conversation created a poor business image for the community.

"Many companies will not even consider Lawrence because of this present commission's negative attitude to economic development," Bush said.

Bush said he thought the use of incentives to attract new businesses was "vital."

Rob Chestnut

Chestnut said the current City Commission has not fostered a level of trust with the chamber or the county in economic development matters. He said the creation of a new economic development planner position in City Hall communicates a lack of trust toward the chamber and will confuse potential employers considering Lawrence.

He also cited the recent API Foils meeting as an example of the city sending an "unclear message" about the city's commitment to the company.

Chestnut, who previously worked for API Foils, said incentives such as tax abatements should be among tools the city uses, but the city must make sure that such incentives "pay for themselves." The city could determine that by conducting thorough cost-benefit analyses.

Mike Dever

Dever said the City Commission needs to create a sense of urgency about economic development.

"I do not believe we as a community are in a position to say 'no' to any potential employer," Dever said.

Dever also said he was "uncertain" whether the new economic development planner was the best use of the city's limited resources.

He said the community needs to expand the list of incentives it can offer companies. One example would be the creation of a technology zone near downtown. Such a zone could include small office suites that offer free Internet service and discounts on utility bills and other city services.

Boog Highberger

Highberger, an incumbent commissioner, said the new economic development planner position would put the city in a better position to more "wisely allocate its economic development resources and to evaluate individual projects."

Highberger said he doesn't particularly like economic development incentives, but realizes it is unrealistic to do without them. He said anytime one is offered it should be for a company that is creating jobs that pay above the state average for an applicable job.

Carey Maynard-Moody

Maynard-Moody said the results of the current economic development partnership among the city, county and chamber have been "somewhat disappointing." She said the city should consider using someone other than the chamber to provide economic development services to the community.

"The contract should be opened to bidding to a wider range of sources qualified to do the job," Maynard-Moody said.

She also said the city's job growth rates paralleled state and national averages. She said it was unlikely that would ever change. She said candidates who said otherwise were "misleading the public."

David Schauner

Schauner, an incumbent commissioner, said Lawrence has been "behind the curve" on economic development issues for more than 20 years because the focus has been on residential growth.

He said the community needs to focus on attracting jobs that pay a wage to allow someone to buy a house in the city.

To offer tax abatements to companies that do not pay such wages would be unwise, he said.

Comments

jafs 7 years, 1 month ago

The city of Lawrence gets $0.23 for each $1 of property tax collected, and the city budget includes a 15% slice from property taxes.

It is the USD which collects $0.50 of each dollar, and the country another $0.25.

The vast majority of the revenue of the city comes from last year's fund, fees and salex tax.

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Michael Capra 7 years, 1 month ago

ok merrill one more the MERC PAYS LESS THAN WALMART so what your saying now is the MERC IS EVIL LIKE WALMART or are you saying the merc dosent pay a living WAGE WELL HELLO WHO ON YOUR VOTE LIST IS AT THE merc I thought SO

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Michael Capra 7 years, 1 month ago

oh and merrill BOOG got money from wint winter and he is tied to alot of real estate so does that make boog evil or in your thinking he now has ties to the developer

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Michael Capra 7 years, 1 month ago

merrill/D B IN YOUR WORLD OF PLANNING WE ARE DOOMED THE SKY IS FALLING AND WERE ALL GOING TO DIE.come on david if someone dosnt agree with you you talk it to death till they do, just to shut you up.You are part of the problem.So tell us oh great one how are you going to put people in lawrence that can afford it your like schauner you vote no on everything

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Liberal 7 years, 1 month ago

Bozo,You are wrong regarding the pre-living wage abatements. they were all exceeding the living wage already. BTW, there have not been any abatements granted to new companies since the LW was adopted.

Boy, the hatred for the chamber is incredible. You know most of the chamber members are your neighbors. By and large small business owners keeping a large percentage of Lawrence at work.

Richard, the city only pays the chamber $90000. How much is it giving downtown lawrence inc? 60K? Plus free trash pickup, landscaping, etc...

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KsTwister 7 years, 1 month ago

Really if Lawrence is better than it was 10 years ago,prove it. Ok, four years ago. ............

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hawkperchedatriverfront 7 years, 1 month ago

It is the Chamber of Horror's responsiblity to garner new business. It is the city staff and commission's job to help plan for these companies and issue building permits. It is the neighborhood groups job to become neighbors. Those groups are a pimple on the ass of the city. There have not been any sincere neighborhood groups since the original Old West Lawrence group formed. No one remembers Tom Gorton and his wife restoring an old church just across the street from Burrito King...or Elin Stene (wife of KU professor) who restored the beautiful stone house on Wth just west of Tennessee.

The city commission needs to tell the Chamber that they are on their own. An economic development director is not needed. What happened to all that crap that Corliss spewed when he was picked about how he was going to be a cheerleader for the city and take his message on the road.

I wish Corliss would get on the roads of this town and take his message around town about he, as City Manager, wants to improve the infrastructure of the city and the neighborhoods. He needs to put up or shut up. Nothing is any different now than before with Wildgen. Same old program...same old commissioners.

Lawrence is not going to attract financially stable businesses. The days of Farmland and FMC and Quaker Oats, Kmart Dist Center are over. Gone. Those companies do not need to do business in this community. First place, there is not a large enough pool of potential employees to draw upon.

If the JW would become a real newspaper and print the facts, the facts would show that the private industrial employers in Lawrence have a very large number of employees driving into Lawrence and leaving.

And to Dever, Chestnut, Bush, Schauner, Boog, Maynard-Moody)god...wish that woman would figure out if she is Maynard or Moody!@) Amyx, Hack...and anyone else who wants to become a potentate.....THE EMPLOYEES from other counties DO NOT WANT to live in Lawrence. Ask them!

Or, "don't ask, and they won't tell".

No company relocating here is big enough to offset the current property tax liability incurred by private businesses and privately employed residents of Lawrence. USD is like a cancerous growth on this town. It needs to have it's budget surgically removed, or like a stomach job. Remove part of the stomach of USD 497.

Why hasn't the JW reported about the cutback of hours at Amaar Garage Door group? ???Story here, hello?

Heard today that another plant in Topeka may move to Ottawa. Let's see if the JW has it's ear to the ground..

And this BUSH...guy..yi, yi, yi....he does know about abatements.....what would his former church been worth on the tax rolls if it weren't exempt?

PRAY for the city,,,reverend Bush,,,,pray for the Brain....did it show up today behind the dumpster at Johnnny"s...it is still not too late. St. paddy's is not over.

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Godot 7 years, 1 month ago

"Posted by pelliott (anonymous) on March 17, 2007 at 3:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The weakest link is the culture of our chamber of commerce, its like walking back into the 1950's to meet with them, rigid, dated, conservative is not the word. Sexist, racist, and often just creepy."

That is because there are more representatives of government agencies on the committees of the Chamber of Commerce than there are private business people.

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Richard Heckler 7 years, 1 month ago

=========== Lawrence has done a lot in the last four years in an effort to attract jobs. This includes provision of employment parks, providing good schools and having a well-trained workforce. We have all of these by any reasonable regional or national standards.

===================================

Other tactics, such as tax abatements can be wasteful and ineffective to some degree dependingon how the abatement is applied.

Inflated property taxes and inflated real estate values are not friendly to business and have nothing to do with city commissioners per se unless one or two are closely tied to the real estate industry through investment,special interest money or whatever.

=============================

It was the Chamber and real estate industry who rallied against the SE Lawrence Light Industrial Park....go figure.

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==== Too many so called "movers and shakers" seem to be concentrating on what Topeka and KC Metro has already done such as turning Lawrence into a "shop till you drop" shopping mecca. Won't work and will ultimately will continue to shoot our taxes up up up. Lawrewnce is but a few minutes away from shopping paradise in Topeka and/or KC/JOCO metro which is very stiff competiton.

===================================

Before relocating to Lawrence we noticed no shopping centers per se and a friendly downtown. We also realized KC metro was not far away for what we may not find in downtown Lawrence and KCI was only an hour away....great!

We also realized Lawrence would be a great place to walk and bike....great!

Tons of new retail is not the answer because of KC/JOCO Metro and Topeka of which Lawrence is very much a part.

Again:There is a new and booming industry out there aka the green-collar economy. It is big money and it's booming. Including renewable energy and clean technology "green" has become the fifth largest market sector in the United States and is growing. Lawrence needs to focus here ASAP before it is sucked to other communities. This is big business and small business...white, blue, and green collar employment.

============================

Vote Cary Maynard-Moody/Dennis "Boog" Highberger/David Schauner for they are not tied to the real estate industry special interest money .

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Richard Heckler 7 years, 1 month ago

Bush,Dever,and Chestnut obvously have been preped by the insulted, narrow thinking, old school of thought, real estate industry oriented Chamber people. So far as I can see the most effective chamber department is the tourism director. This chamber is too bias to be effective. They should be fired and learn to live off their membership dollars.

Paying the Chamber of Commerce $240,000 tax dollars and not really knowing how they are spending it is not good business. Bringing an economic development planner on board would provide transparency and excellent communication to city government. I say it is over due and hats off to our current city manager and commission for taking the step forward!

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There is a new and booming industry out there aka the green-collar economy. It is big money and it's booming. Including renewable energy and clean technology "green" is the fifth largest market sector in the United States. Lawrence Chamber where are you?

Meanwhile chamber folks are hung up on low wage Wal-Mart type stuff. This type of industry keeps wages low in a community and fails to generate sizeable expendable income. Low wages = tons of commuters!

Highberger, an incumbent commissioner, said the new economic development planner position would put the city in a better position to more "wisely allocate its economic development resources and to evaluate individual projects."

Right On Target!

"Schauner, an incumbent commissioner, said Lawrence has been "behind the curve" on economic development issues for more than 20 years because the focus has been on residential growth.

He said the community needs to focus on attracting jobs that pay a wage to allow someone to buy a house in the city."

Again right on target!

"Maynard-Moody said the results of the current economic development partnership among the city, county and chamber have been "somewhat disappointing." She said the city should consider using someone other than the chamber to provide economic development services to the community.

"The contract should be opened to bidding to a wider range of sources qualified to do the job," Maynard-Moody said."

Excellent thinking. Bringing on someone new is the best logic to date!

When asked what they will do to increase jobs, Chestnut, Dever and Bush are short on specifics. Attacking progressives on the job growth issue is simply a tactic to cast Carey,Boog and David as anti-business and therefore bad for the economy. There is no such thing as anti economic growth candidates . ===============================

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redglare 7 years, 1 month ago

Don't boycott your local paper...or your local paper will soon be the Star or USA Today. Write letters to the editor or start a blog if you disapprove of coverage.

Say what you will, at this very moment the JL World is fulfilling its role of providing a "town square" where citizens can hash out the issues.

As for development...Lawrence is uniquely lucky to have KU as it major employer and therefore can and should be pickier than most communities in choosing what companies deserve breaks.

Boog is on the mark when he says recipients of Lawrence largesse should at a minimum pay above average wages. I'd makes sure they provide health insurance, don't pollute and are good corporate citizens to boot. The notion that Lawrence can't say "no" to any business interest whatsoever espoused by the growth-at-any-cost candidates will lead to polluters, Wal-Marts killing downtown and working people without living wages on Medicaid.

What a poor vision of the future for this community!

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"since all of the companies already pay in excess of the living wage. "

That most certainly was not the case before the recent requirement for them to do so.

swan_diver--

I had exactly the same thought as I read this article (and previous ones.) These are complicated issues, and all we get from the JDub is soundbites.

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swan_diver 7 years, 1 month ago

Anyone notice the vacuum in real reportage in these storys about the commission race? There isn't any journalism here.

What would it take to organize a boycott of the paper's print edition, to make 'em feel some pain -- in exchange for the fraud that's being perpetrated upon the citizenry of Lawrence, Kansas, by its media monopoly?

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GOPConservative 7 years, 1 month ago

Socialists like Bush and Chestnut want to raise our taxes so they can dole them out as corporate welfare to big monopolies from back east as tax abatements. Although he didn't use the "abatement" word, I bet Dever would also like to raise our taxes and use them to pay back all the developers who are paying for his campaign. Maybe these socialists should move to China and practice their socialism and social engineering in a country more attuned to their rob-from-the-taxpayers-to-give to-the-rich commie concepts.

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swan_diver 7 years, 1 month ago

This community is in deep trouble, for lack of leadership. Does a city commission seat that pays $8K per annum for what should be considered a full-time job plus, attract the 'best and the brightest?'

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Liberal 7 years, 1 month ago

Jamesaust, first of all a community benefit analysis is conducted by the KU policy research institute. The commission knows in advance what the company will bring to the community.

Secondly, by code we can not give a company an abatement that does not pay a living wage. Of course the living wage ordinace has not benefited one person in Lawrence since all of the companies already pay in excess of the living wage. Just another example of solving a problem that did not exist, instead of working on things that could really benefit peoples lives. You and your type are all smoke and mirrors.

Want more examples. How about how many people live in one household. Completely unenforceable and it still leaves the neighborhoods with the same problem. Hey, we can say we did something...great, it solves nothing' we feel good as if we are doing something.

Why don't we keep the current commission. Attacking windmills, is the answer. I feel so good. I have protested the coal plant, the patriot act and the war and I can not wait to celebrate the next dada day.

Hey' I have an idea why don't we solve some real local problems. Like stormwater issues in N. Lawrence, sidewalks and lowering our property taxes.

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JohnBrown 7 years, 1 month ago

"I do not believe we as a community are in a position to say 'no' to any potential employer," Dever said.

Businesses do an ROI (return on investment) before investing in an expansion, and tax abatements can help.

The city also needs to keep doing ROIs on abatement applicants, because some of the abatement 'investments' this city makes will not prove beneficial. The goal should be to keep the entire portfolio of abatement clients at break-even or in the black.

If we follow Dever's view, there will be no ROI at all, rather "just say YES" to all abatement requests. This is hardly a responsible way to handle the taxpayers money. But it's a great way to reward you major financial backers.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

No, Liberal, the PLC Type's position was pretty well summed up by James--

"Why again would taxpayers ever want to subsidize below-average jobs (such as American Eagle)? Resources are scarce, opportunities endless."

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Liberal 7 years, 1 month ago

Bozo, the current policies that the current commission have had its desired effect. Growth of this community has stopped. The construction industry is all but gone and now property values are dropping, revenue will be down for atime and either taxes will be going up or services will be going up.

Soon supply will shrink due to the lack of available land and building, Property values will rise, making it even more unaffordable to live here. the goal of the PLC Types to create an elitist utopian oasis that only the wealthy will be able to live in.

The us vs. them attitude that the current majority of the commission has fostered is an opiate to lull the people they say want to help to sleep and then act in a way that has the opposite effect, making harder for the workers to remain. Elitism at its worst.

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Jamesaust 7 years, 1 month ago

In sum (on this topic, at least): Bush - no Chestnut - yes Dever - no Highberger - yes Maynard-Moody - yes Schauner - no

Stupidest remark: "I do not believe we as a community are in a position to say 'no' to any potential employer," Dever said." What? Dever lacks an imagination? I bet anyone can think of lots of employers that would contribute little or nothing to this community.

Most firm statement of intelligent principles: "[Highberger] said anytime [incentives are] offered [they] should be for a company that is creating jobs that pay above the state average for an applicable job." Why again would taxpayers ever want to subsidize below-average jobs (such as American Eagle)? Resources are scarce, opportunities endless.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"I love it when non-business types like Moody tell us what business is all about."

I'm no meteorologist, dambudzo, but I can tell you whether it's raining or not.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"What? I am not connecting the two."

What's so difficult about it? City policy was designed to promote sprawl, and little else. Any "job creation" was mostly an afterthought, and the primary goal of any industrial development was to funnel money to the same growth industries that profited from residential sprawl. The wage levels of the jobs created, and the balance between expenses to the city to support these businesses and the taxes collected from them was barely considered, if at all.

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Dambudzo 7 years, 1 month ago

I love it when non-business types like Moody tell us what business is all about.

Who spoons feeds her the cookie cutter responses?

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opinion 7 years, 1 month ago

I do agree with Maynard-Moody's assesment of the city/chamber partnership and would like to hear more about her idea of using other sources. However, I disagree with her resigning to "average" economic growth. We claim to live in a desirable city. If that is true, we should be able to leverage that to attract businesses if we also offer equal incentives as a less attractive community.

Mr Schauner - "we are behind in economic development because we have focused on housing". What? I am not connecting the two. You say we need jobs so people can buy here. People are already buying here! They are buying here because they have jobs - jobs down the road. He is another one that will say we are keeping pace with the rest of Kansas. Quit selling this city and its attractiveness short.

Boog would probably get my vote if he would distance himself from Mr. Schauner.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

Excellent comments, pelliot.

From the mouth of James Bush--

"Many companies will not even consider Lawrence because of this present commission's negative attitude to economic development,"

One of the biggest impediments to economic development is the monotonous drone of folks like Bush, Dever and Chestnut badmouthing Lawrence every chance they get for no other reason than self-promotion. It's a perfect example of a self-fulfilling prophesy. We don't need this sort of negativity on the city commission.

'(Maynard-Moody) also said the city's job growth rates paralleled state and national averages. She said it was unlikely that would ever change. She said candidates who said otherwise were "misleading the public."'

Maynard-Moody's was the most accurate and truthful statement in this whole article, followed closely by this statement --

"Schauner, an incumbent commissioner, said Lawrence has been "behind the curve" on economic development issues for more than 20 years because the focus has been on residential growth."

The city commission can affect job creation, but only in very indirect ways. That's the way our political system and our economy are designed. Government can be abused in order to give out massive amounts of corporate welfare, which is favored by Dever, Chestnut and Bush, but that should not be confused with "economic development."

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KsTwister 7 years, 1 month ago

Bush,Chestnut and Dever got it right. American Eagle would have been great for Lawrence but the current commission got it very wrong. And that was not 20 years back either,excuses,excuses.

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pelliott 7 years, 1 month ago

The weakest link is the culture of our chamber of commerce, its like walking back into the 1950's to meet with them, rigid, dated, conservative is not the word. Sexist, racist, and often just creepy. If someone gets in there with modern ideas they are soon squeezed or censured. I have worked with other chambers and found them a little more alert to modern issues. They seem blind to a need of a healthy climate for small and emerging local businesses . They literally have laughed at businesses that insist on having environmental concerns as part of their plan. They really like businesses that are "normal". I have been impressed with a lot of local businesses who keep their vision and have found ways to work with and within the chamber. It is a battle rather than an adjustment.

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