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Candidate survey explores potential projects

March 23, 2007


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A new open-air downtown market. Expanded affordable housing options. A Twin Rivers recreation trail. All those ideas and several more have been presented by Lawrence City Commission candidates as new projects the community should consider.

The six candidates for the City Commission spelled out ideas for new amenities as part of a questionnaire by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. The chamber recently released results of the questionnaire.

The election is April 3. There are three at-large seats on the City Commission.

Here's a look at how candidates responded when asked about improvements to community amenities.

James Bush

Bush said he was not focused on adding many amenities in the near term. Instead, he said the community should focus on maintaining and enhancing what it has, and assessing what our needs are versus our "desires or wants."

Bush was the lone candidate to say he did not think affordable housing was a weakness in the community. He said many community leaders defined affordable housing as homes in the price range of $120,000 to $140,000. Bush said he thought there were adequate homes available in that range.

Rob Chestnut

Affordable housing should be addressed by making infill development more cost-effective, Chestnut said. He said the current city approval process to rehabilitate homes in older neighborhoods is "long and complex."

He also said the school board should look at increasing vocational and technical training opportunities. The community also should continue exploring the need for an inpatient mental health unit.

Chestnut said some of the city's recreational facilities were lacking. He said the city park system and swimming pools were good, but that there hadn't been enough investment made in other recreational facilities in the last 20 years. He stopped short, however, of saying he would support new taxes to improve recreational facilities. Instead, he said he wanted to see the results of a city survey to determine what recreational needs residents see.

Mike Dever

Dever said the community needs to increase affordable housing options by creating incentives to allow builders to develop more densely. He also said the city needs to encourage partnerships between the high schools and universities to create more vocational training opportunities. Creating citywide, wireless Internet access also would be a good goal for the city, Dever said.

Dever said he thought many of the new amenities could be paid for through private sector investments or grants.

Boog Highberger

Highberger, an incumbent commissioner, wants to create a funding system that would allow the city to tackle additional affordable housing projects. He supports lobbying for state legislation that would allow the city to increase the tax charged on all new mortgages filed in the city. He also supports zoning changes that would allow builders to develop higher-density neighborhoods, as long as they include a certain number of homes that are part of an affordable housing program.

Highberger also said he wants the community to develop a Two Rivers Trail linking the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers. He said that project should be done in conjunction with the redevelopment of the former Farmland Industries site to ensure that industrial space and green space are developed in tandem.

Carey Maynard-Moody

Maynard-Moody said she would like to see one block of Massachusetts Street shut down to traffic one night per month during the summer to allow for a downtown open market and street fair environment. She also said the city should seek federal transportation grants to develop promenades and trails along the southern banks of the Kansas River. She also supports higher downtown parking fines to fund a greater police presence in downtown.

Improvements to infrastructure in older parts of town also should be made to discourage the migration of residents to newer neighborhoods, Maynard-Moody said.

David Schauner

Schauner, an incumbent commissioner, said he thought any major new amenities should be approved directly by voters because they likely will require an increase in sales or property taxes. Schauner said he thought it was important to have a "concentrated review" of city expenses to determine if the city could shift any of its current expenses toward new amenities.


SettingTheRecordStraight 11 years, 2 months ago

"All those ideas and several more have been presented by Lawrence City Commission candidates as new projects the community should consider."

How about no new projects. City government, stay out of my pocket.

jafs 11 years, 2 months ago

I'd like to see a moratorium on new projects until we get our current situation in order.

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

The city should take a serious look at the parks & rec fitness classes that are a huge part of the parks & rec budget. These programs are competing directly, and unfairly, with the private fitness businesses. The city uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize these programs heavily, allowing them to advertise better, pay better, and have more equipment, and then charge less and require less commitment than the private businesses must. Partly as a result of this unfair competition, some private fitness businesses have had to close their doors, and some others are stuggling.

I am not saying this is not a good program; it is very well done, thanks to the funding it receives; it is, however, one of those city services that competes with private businesses, and is actually harming them. Our city should never compete with a service that could generate tax revenue and foster non-government jobs.

The money that funds the fitness classes could be directed toward the sports fields and other youth sports activities.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

"The city uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize these programs heavily,"

Heavy is a relative and subjective term. If you think they should spend less, then what you are really saying is they should be totally eliminated.

"allowing them to advertise better, pay better, and have more equipment,"

Advertisement? I don't really see all that much advertisement. They print up schedules and run a few newspaper ads, but other than that, I don't see much at all. As far as pay, no one teaching classes at Parks and Rec gets paid much at all. They aren't doing it for the money. And none of the rec facilities I've been in have much more than minimal equipment. The private facilities have much more to offer.

"and then charge less and require less commitment than the private businesses must."

They charge less because in general they offer less. Parks and Recs by and large offers what private facilities can't or won't provide. Where there is a bit of overlap, those using the city's facilities do so because they couldn't begin to afford the private gyms, so it's costing those gyms very little in customer base.

Thats_messed_up 11 years, 2 months ago

Bozo SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!PLEEEEZE!!!!!!!!!!!

Confrontation 11 years, 2 months ago

I've belonged to more than one gym here in town. I really like LAC for their choice of classes and the amount of exercise equipment available. However, their fees are outrageous. This is especially true if you don't sign on for two years or more. LAC does offer some excellent rates for employees of businesses who can get enough people to join. One thing that drives me crazy about LAC and some other gyms in Lawrence, is that they don't offer an end to your membership if you move out of town. KU students already get a special rate, so they can't blame them for this rule. If you sign up for a rec department class, and then you move, you're only losing about $35 (depending on the class). You'd be out hundreds if you did this at one of the gyms. Keep the rec classes. Build a YMCA. Please don't play that song.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

"Bozo SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!PLEEEEZE!!!!!!!!!!!"

Not a chance-- doesn't that just pi$$ you off?

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

Bozo, you could not be more misinformed about the programs offered by Parks & Rec, and their attendance.

If the city charged what it actually costs the city to put on those classes, people would say that the fees were outrageous for them, as well.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

Yes, they are subsidized, and the city as a whole better off for it.

Too bad other, much larger subsidies, which go directly into the pockets of a very few wealthy individuals, aren't acknowledged as such.

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

"One thing that drives me crazy about LAC and some other gyms in Lawrence, is that they don't offer an end to your membership if you move out of town. "

That is the way gyms all over the country operate. They have to have a committment because they have to purchase equipment, space, and hire employees. They need to be able to budget or they will lose money.

They city does not have to worry about losing money. Making a profit is not even remotely connected to their offering of a service that competes with others that must make a profit.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

"It's ok to type piss. "

You demonstrate that every time you post, pussycat. (nothing smellier than cat piss)

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

Confrontation, if the city did not offer these open-ended, underpriced classes, you would more likely be able to re-sell your membership to a private club if you have to move out of town.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

With most of the classes and other activities, if the city didn't offer them, they wouldn't exist or would be wholly unavailable for a large segment of the population. An unfit population is an unhealthy one, and the relatively small investment the city makes in Parks and Rec and fitness programs is well worth it.

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

One of the problems with Lawrence is that the government too often steps in to fill the "wants" that private businesses should fill. What next, a city-operated grocery store downtown? What if Libery Hall went belly up, would you expect the city to open an avante-garde movie theatre? This is the same thing with funding a recreation program that has grown expontentially in the last few years that, combined with KU's gym, is outperforming the private fitness operations, at least as far as the numbers of participants are concerned. The reason there are more participants in the city and KU programs is easy: they are cheaper, and they are cheaper because taxpayers are subsidizing them.

ilovelucy 11 years, 2 months ago

Messy: Bozo can't help talking..that is just his way. However, I have been patiently waiting for 3 weeks now regarding his claim that the development community funding has comprised 70% of several commission candidate's funds. I have repeatedly asked him for proof of that allegation but he has remained silent. So, how about it Bozo? Cat (piss) got your tongue? Thanks-Lucy

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

"This is the same thing with funding a recreation program that has grown expontentially in the last few years that"

Oh, puhleeze. Look up "exponential growth" before you throw it around so loosely.

"is outperforming the private fitness operations, at least as far as the numbers of participants are concerned."

And almost all of those are activities that no private company would want to try to offer, because it's not going to be profitable.

"taxpayers are subsidizing them."

Because taxpayers want to subsidize them.

Confrontation 11 years, 2 months ago

Actually, I have purchased the remainder of someone's membership to LAC. That person had an excellent employee-only rate. If you have one of the more expensive rates or an extra-long commitment left, then you're pretty much screwed if you have to move. Many of the national gyms do offer an "out" if you move 50+ miles away. The LAC membership agreement allows you to close your membership by paying 100% of the rest of your agreement. If there's a possibility of you or your spouse being transferred at any time, then these agreements aren't worth it.

shockchalk 11 years, 2 months ago

Bozo........don't forget clueless, ludicrous, and senseless when you respond to lucy

altarego 11 years, 2 months ago


The gym business is one of the biggest scams of the last few decades. Just another variation of the old record club cons. Sure fitness is important. It was important long before $50,00 steppers.

Don't let me get caught agreeing with bozo, but your assumptions are based on nothing. People who sign up for fitness classes through LPR are taking absolutely and exactly zero business from commercial gyms. There are not now, and never have been, enough people (that actually work out enough to make a gym membership pay off) to support a commercial facility. Commercial gyms have always made up the difference by suckering people into long-term contracts. Their existience has always been dependent on taking advantage of people.

Apparently you you either work at or own one of these places, so I have some friendly advice for you.

RUN! Run like the wind.

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

altarego, you apparently do not have any experience with either the fitness businesses or the LPR, either. That is why you are close to agreeing with Bozo about this, because both of you are making false assumptions based on what you think it should be, not what it is.

Yes, I do enjoy working out in fitness clubs. Yes, I have recently realized how huge the Lawrence Parks and Rec program is. And, yes, I am now participating with both a private club and parks and rec, just to compare.

I have seen many people that I used to see at the private gyms now participating in the Parks and Rec programs. And they are doing exactly the same things they were doing at the gyms: walking on treadmills, steppers, elipticals, working out with weights, and taking part in group exercise classes that are nearly identical in format to the ones in the private clubs.

No doubt about it, the city sponsored, subsidized low-price program does pull customers away from private businesses.

Tax dollars are being spent to sponsor a program that pulls people away from tax generating businesses.

TruthSeeker 11 years, 2 months ago

couranna1 "that's why Lawrence will always be a small hick town"

That's better than an overdeveloped sprawling hick town.

ilovelucy 11 years, 2 months ago

Oh c'mon Bozo. I'm neither lazy or helpless. The records I've examined show approximately 35%. Those are the records filed at the County. I'm just waiting to see yours :) Shock: if you wouldn't have made that clueless, ludicrous and senseless statement regarding domestic registry, I would not have responded in kind. Have a great weekend!


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

Those are the same records I looked at, lucy, and my estimate is easily over 50%, and folks who are more knowledgeable about the contributors than I estimated closer to 70%.

You know what they say about opinions.

ilovelucy 11 years, 2 months ago

OK, I'll give to that. I'm just trying to figure out if you are counting anyone in a business setting as into development? Maybe I'm blind, but I just didn't see it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

Depends on the business. Banks and real estate, most certainly. Businesses that cater primarily to the construction/development industry go on the list as well. If their businesses rely on growth, I counted em.

Godot 11 years, 2 months ago

"If their businesses rely on growth, I counted em."

Grocery stores, barber shops, clothing stores, restaurants, bars, funeral homes, doctors, pharmacies, even public schools, all, depend on growth for continued existence and success.

What a conspiracy!

ilovelucy 11 years, 2 months ago

I have to agree with Godot on that one, Bozo. I think your list is skewed but everyone is entitled to his own opinion. Enjoy the weekend. Go Hawks! Lucy

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

I would disagree, Godot, and that's not how I based my assessment.

jafs 11 years, 1 month ago

Fees received by the city account for about 25% of the overall revenue of the city - this includes Parks and Rec fees.

I don't have the expenditure budget in front of me - what percentage of the budget does Parks and Rec account for?

Also, you have to remember that Parks and Rec is responsible for the maintenance of all public parks in the city as well as classes.

And, as a property owning taxpayer I'm glad to see my tax dollars go to fund these services, and take advantage of them.

I'd much rather see that than the subsidizing of new development, corporate welfare, or simple waste.

When did the concept of community-oriented government spending become distasteful?

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