City commission race 2007
City commission race
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- More on the 2007 City Commission race Â»
The six candidates seeking seats on the Lawrence City Commission have wide-ranging views on how much new oversight is needed for the Lawrence Police Department.
The candidates Wednesday evening were split on the issue of whether a new Citizens Police Review Board should be created that would advise the police department on policy and operation issues.
On one end of the spectrum was Commissioner David Schauner, who said the review board was a good idea.
"Our police department is our police department," Schauner told a crowd of about 70 people who attended the candidate forum at Lawrence High School. "They do answer to the citizens of Lawrence. We should work to have more regular involvement from the citizens."
On the other end of the spectrum, candidate James Bush said he couldn't support the idea of creating a new advisory board because his research had indicated they had not worked well in other communities. He also said he thought the board might be duplicative.
"I believe citizens do have a police review board," Bush said. "It is your City Commission."
The other four candidates all expressed varying levels of interest. Rob Chestnut said he would need to review the issue and wanted to determine whether it would be duplicative of outreach efforts the department already makes. Carey Maynard-Moody promised to study the idea, but said the city did need to get serious about putting more police officers downtown during evening hours. Mike Dever said he would consider creating the board if there were significant amount of interest from the community to do so and if the board weren't duplicative of current outreach efforts. Commissioner Boog Highberger said he was interested in the idea as long as the board had a clear set of guidelines. But he also said the board likely wouldn't be one of his "higher priorities" in a second term.
On other issues:
¢ The candidates expressed varying levels of support for the city's existing living wage ordinance, which requires companies that receive city tax abatements to pay all of their employees a wage equal to 130 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of three. This year that amounts to $10.73 per hour. None of the candidates specifically said the living wage ordinance should be repealed.
But Chestnut stopped short of saying that he supported the policy of automatically rejecting tax abatement requests from companies that do not pay every employee a living wage. He said looking at whether a company met the living wage standard should be a factor, but should not be the "overarching factor" in the decision-making process.
Dever and Bush also stopped short of saying they liked the living wage ordinance, but both said they would not support changing the city's ordinance because they thought it was important that the community not constantly change its economic development rules.
Highberger, Maynard-Moody and Schauner all expressed strong support for the living wage ordinance.
¢ Highberger made a point to tell the audience that some candidates in the race had accepted campaign contributions from individuals who are part of a lawsuit suing the city over its refusal to issue a building permit for a Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. Highberger said he was not trying to question the character or integrity of any of the candidates, but said he thought it was important that it be pointed out to voters in the interest of full disclosure.
Bush, Chestnut and Dever all listed on previous campaign finance reports that they've received donations from individuals who have an ownership interest in the disputed property at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
After the forum, Bush, Chestnut and Dever each said they had done nothing wrong in accepting such donations because campaign contributions do not influence their stance on issues.
Bush said he did take some offense at Highberger's comments, which were made during the response to a question that was not directly related to Wal-Mart or campaign finances.
"Too often there have been a couple of candidates who have suggested if you are not giving money to their campaigns but instead are giving money to someone else's campaign, that you're doing something wrong," Bush said.
The forum was sponsored by the Voter Education Coalition, a group of organizations and businesses that have banded together to host candidate forums.