Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2008

Smart city

Is Lawrence too smart for its own good?

February 23, 2008

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The news this week that Lawrence had been identified by Forbes.com as the seventh smartest city in the country is an interesting honor.

On one hand, it's a wonderful compliment to the community, but it also could prompt a number of questions that begin with, "If we're so smart, then why can't we :"

The ranking was purely objective, based on the number of people who had achieved various levels of education. Almost 44 percent of Lawrence residents 25 or older have at least a bachelor's degree, and about 93 percent of residents had graduated from high school.

Those are numbers that should impress employers who might be considering locating in Lawrence. They would seem to indicate that we have a strong, well-educated work force. And yet, we haven't been particularly successful in recent years in attracting new businesses.

It's sometimes said that it's not so much how smart you are but what you do with that intelligence. In Lawrence, it seems that a lot of our energy is put into trying to outsmart one another. No matter what proposal is put forth, someone seems prepared to take exception.

That often is considered part of Lawrence's charm. We don't do things the easy way, but our lively debates are supposed to lead to better decision-making in the end. It would be interesting to know whether other cities on the "smartest" list, most of which also are university cities, have a similar situation. Are their streets falling apart? Are their bank accounts so low they cannot afford to correct many deficiencies or add badly needed community programs?

Perhaps the best way to look at this honor is as a challenge. Such a well-educated city ought to be able to tackle important issues with both intelligence and creativity. Experience tells us that there is no shortage of ideas or opinions in Lawrence. Now we just have to figure out how to be smart enough to translate them into positive action.

Comments

Kookamooka 7 years, 6 months ago

There is a difference between "book smart" and "street smart". I think Lawrence could do with a little more "street smart".

There is little correlation between Cum Laude and common sense.

Michael Capra 7 years, 6 months ago

tell that to the planning department they might get your message in two to three weeks because they are never there or they will tell you some bs to delay you from getting what you want.So if you want something done in lawrence by pass the planning department

monkeyhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

Notice Lawrence was not awarded this honor when the "smart" (growth) people were in power.

"Are their streets falling apart? Are their bank accounts so low they cannot afford to correct many deficiencies or add badly needed community programs?" --- that is their legacy. Bankruptcy.

What happened to our general fund?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 6 months ago

Notice several of those towns made the top ten list of green college towns: The top 10 "Green" best college towns

  1. Burlington, VT

  2. Ithaca, NY

  3. Corvallis, OR

  4. Springfield, MA

  5. Wenatchee, WA

  6. Charlottesville, VA

  7. Boulder, CO

  8. Madison, WI

  9. Binghamton, NY

10. Champaign-Urbana, IL

Could it be that "Green" towns have become the drug of choice?

Maybe those other cities are not obsessively controlled by those who promote over saturation in retail and residential? Thus economic displacement instead of economic growth.

Empty buildings on commercial sites cost taxpayers money everyday in sales tax revenue. Our government bodies likely count count these properties as potential revenue sources while doing nothing for sales tax generation :.. the city cannot live off property tax alone cuz it does not pay the bills.

Based on current square footage of retail space our government bodies project their budgets yet keep coming up short.

More housing will not add much considering Lawrence is over stocked in both housing and retail.

The city's current budget. crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of residential you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

It's time for Impact Fees in a huge way so we other taxpayers stop picking up the tab for developers.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 6 months ago

Spending $88 million on a new sewage treatment plant will only encourage more of this: The city's current budget crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of residential you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

If instead we do what other cities are doing to revitalize economies such as restoring their existing downtowns and neighborhoods.

Perhaps this would make dollars and sense because small town sprawl does not pay back to the community:

What could $ 88 million or less accomplish? Invest in exisiting infrastructure instead of allowing it to go hell due to negligence.

*Repair streets and sidewalks in: Downtown Old west Lawrence Old East Lawrence Barker Brookcreek North Lawrence Oread

*Build a $17.5 million dollar LEED specifiication library across the street from the New Hampshire parking garage(saves 10 million) and make use of a failed TIF project aka parking garage

*Convert the existing library building into an energy efficient convention center which could save millions upon millions and protect taxpayers from another TIF project. When library shelves and office space is removed there is a huge space. Lawrence does not need an extravagant building. Clean it up,do some remodel and landscape,landscape,landscape... we're set to go. Two large meeting spaces(one downstairs) and two existing smaller places in the current space.

*Provide development funding for a economic growth team in city hall. There is more transparency in City hall.

*Build the east Lawrence hike and bike trail

*Develop an exciting public transporation system accompanied with an appropriate maintenance facility.

Investing in existing infrastructure pays back and is good for business.

Lawrence cannot be a "green" college town without public transporation.

Bring real New Urbanism not new suburbanism(6th and Wakrusa area). Restore neighborhoods to their original. http://www.neighborhoodsolutions.info/index.html

Demand lap siding over T-111 siding.

BigPrune 7 years, 6 months ago

When Merrill posts it makes me think of envy, greed, wrath, and sloth (for good measure).

Richard Heckler 7 years, 6 months ago

The LJW should more concerned with personal attacks from saying the same things over and over from the same old sources plus their numerous additional alias aka bogus names. Granted if enforcement were pursued allowing only one name per subscriber forever there would be far fewer posts on these chatboards. Face it personal attacks are the trash of the chatboards.

The smart cities label has little true value except as a tool for trying to push real estate. It does not indicate that a city is progressive or well managed or necessarily has the type of employable population an industry is in search of.

If in fact the city were always governed by the best and the brightest Lawrence would not be in this situation:

The city's current budget crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of residential you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

The above is not indictative of smart city which may be why Lawrence,Kansas has become among those cities touted as how not to grow a city.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 6 months ago

This project might be indictative of a smart city: http://www.neighborhoodsolutions.info/index.html

In this city the developer is responsible for financing all of the infrastructure that which includes streets,sidewalks,water,sewer,internet etc etc. The cost is not put on the backs of existing property owners according what I was told on 2/23/08. The cost is included with the price of each of the 38 homes.

This REAL new urbanism project http://www.neighborhoodsolutions.info/index.html is one half mile from downtown, a few blocks from the university and within walking distances to many other services.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 6 months ago

A new sewage treatment is paid for by the general fund revenue paid by each taxpayer in the city. Citizen taxpayers on one side of town are paying for growth in demand caused by the developers in other parts of town.

If impact fees had been collected on all the new homes in the past 20 years the city would have extra revenues.

In order for the city to have orderly growth, developers need to be responsible for new infrastructure. Most builders understand impact fees are for a purpose that improves their development. Why not impact fees?

camper 7 years, 6 months ago

"No matter what proposal is put forth, someone seems prepared to take exception."

This will never change and it is no different in any city. No matter how good an idea is, some will naturally disagree (with valid or invalid reasoning). The best think to do is what the majority of the people think is best. General consensus is usually a good measuring stick to go on.

I think Lawrence should continually seek new business because it will offset commerce lost through normal attrition. Incentives like tax rebates and abatements can be effective....but administered in transparent and forthright fashion.

That being said, this was a good editorial.

pisafromthewest 7 years, 6 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says:

"The LJW should more concerned with personal attacks from saying the same things over and over from the same old sources..."

At least most of them paraphrase instead of quoting themselves ad infinitum.


max1 (Anonymous) says:

"It shouldn't come as a surprise that many in Lawrence have high school diplomas"

Shouldn't matter much, either, especially when so many high school graduates can't spell or divide by ten. (Most probably think the text-message abbreviations are the correct spelling and wonder why the dictionary has the words spelled wrong.)

pisafromthewest 7 years, 6 months ago

beobachter;

Maybe, instead of printing everything in English and Spanish, we should start printing everything (including job aps) in English and text-message!

grimpeur 7 years, 6 months ago

The editors ask re: other cities on the smart list:

"Are their streets falling apart? Are their bank accounts so low they cannot afford to correct many deficiencies or add badly needed community programs?"

Continuing with the editors' theme, then, some other, even more relevant questions, very much related to the foregoing:

Are they making enough money from growth and development? Because Lawrence is not making enough from growth, and has not in the last 20 years, obviously.

Are they finding success in providing their citizens with convenient and efficient intra- and inter-urban transportation? Or are they (and their major employers/universities) still stuck in the un-smart paradigm of encouraging (and therefore subsidizing) more expensive and unsustainable private auto use?

Complete the following: Lawrence has a transportation planning staff of a) 1 b) 2 c) 5 d) 7 e) 10

The editors should follow up with an outline of which "badly needed community programs" they believe should be funded if the money were there. WRAP? Bert Nash? Parks? Police? Safe routes to school?

C'mon editors, what did you have in mind, exactly?

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

pisafromthewest (Anonymous) says:

"Shouldn't matter much, either, especially when so many high school graduates can't spell or divide by ten."

I took a cost accounting class while I was getting my bachelors. Most of the kids in the class were going for accounting degrees. In a class exercise, we had just completed figuring our production costs and had to break it down into per unit costs. There was a mad scramble into backpacks and pockets for calculators, and as the instructor and I stared at each other and sadly shook our heads, everyone furiously punched in numbers. As they were all about to push the total key, I suggested they try moving the decimal point two places to the left - there were 100 units.

All these kids had high school diplomas, and I'm sure the words "college graduate" apply to almost all of them. The word "smart?" Not so much.

At another time, when I was a bartender and one of the waitresses (who was a college student) was finishing her shift and came over to tip me out, she had to ask me how much 10% of $100 was.

Despite the LJW's contention, there is nothing "objective" about calling Lawrence "smart" because of the number of people who have reached certain educational milestones. As I mentioned in the other thread, I moved here from the Kansas City area, and some of the kids I worked with there, while getting A's and B's in high school, could not spell three-letter words correctly.

And by the way - if we were all so smart, maybe we'd start talking in terms of the population of the city being smart, since the city itself would not seem to be capable of intelligence.

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