Jayhawk Audubon Society is sponsoring a Douglas County Commission candidate forum at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the fellowship hall of Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 N.H.
Also, a replay of the Oct. 2 commission candidate forum by the Voter Education Coalition will be replayed at 7 p.m. Thursday on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6. The broadcasts are also available on-demand on Sunflower Broadband and at the Election 2008 link on LJWorld.com.
In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.
A new lawsuit.
A federal record of decision last year to support the 32nd Street alignment to complete the South Lawrence Trafficway.
And a Douglas County Commission election on Nov. 4 that could affect the county's support about where to finish the road southeast of Lawrence.
The seemingly never-ending saga still packs plenty of drama these days, and the decades-old issue is a hot topic in the race for two County Commission seats.
Republican Jim Flory, who faces Democrat Ken Grotewiel in the county's 3rd District race, has said one of the first things he would do if elected is seek a resolution or some kind of letter that shows the county and local state legislative delegations support completing the trafficway.
"My common sense thoughts are that if we aren't unified in the request for funding of the project, then that hurts our chances," Flory said.
Flory and Republican David L. Brown, a 2nd District candidate, have said they agree with the Federal Highway Administration's support for the 32nd Street route.
Democrats Grotewiel and Nancy Thellman, Brown's opponent, have said the decision is out of the county's hands right now because of pending litigation and state funding highway decisions. But they have also mentioned the benefits of a more southerly route, such as the 42nd Street alignment.
The election winners will replace 32nd Street route supporters and Republicans Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney and join Democrat Charles Jones, who has opposed that route, on the new commission.
In the 3rd District, which includes roughly the western half of the county and western Lawrence, one candidate wants the commission to show more support for completing the SLT. Meanwhile, the other candidate says a new lawsuit from opponents, expected to be filed Friday, and a funding decision at the state level need to play out.
Completing the SLT has been controversial because the 32nd Street route involves going through the Baker Wetlands, and opponents argue that route would produce environmental and cultural damage to nearby Haskell Indian Nations University.
Flory, a former Douglas County district attorney and retired federal prosecutor, has said the 32nd Street alignment would be the best option for both sides because a mitigation plan provides for expanding the wetlands.
He also said the Federal Highway Administration's approved route would cost less than a more southerly route. State officials estimate the 32nd Street route completion would cost $148 million.
"I'm firmly a supporter of the (32nd Street) alignment and getting it done just as soon as we can," Flory said.
But Grotewiel, a former Wichita-area state legislator and retired Kansas Water Office official, says with groups planning a lawsuit an issue in the court case likely be whether the 42nd Street option was discussed enough. The county needs to wait and see what happens with the litigation.
The county does need a project that moves more traffic around the southern edge of Lawrence, he said. He would prefer it not go through the 32nd Street option.
Grotewiel said a more southerly route might have some merit, especially if the county develops south of the Wakarusa River, but the higher cost also presents problems.
"There is no magic solution. I wish there was," he said.
Brown, a Vinland-area farmer and rancher and retired Douglas County sheriff's officer, echoes Flory's views on working to complete the SLT through the 32nd Street route.
He said it's a controversial issue, but the plan seeks a middle ground with wetlands expansion and less cost.
"I think it's a win-win," Brown said.
The 2nd District includes North Lawrence, southeastern Lawrence, Baldwin City, Eudora and the eastern half of the county.
Brown's opponent, Thellman, a Presbyterian minister, says energy costs and transportation needs should still be part of the conversation.
She opposes the 32nd Street route because she said it would mix too much truck and local traffic, and she said it would only moderately lighten congestion.
Thellman said a route farther south makes more sense for long-term planning. While litigation is pending, she says the county needs to consider a comprehensive transportation plan that includes fixing infrastructure and assessing future needs for oil-based transportation.
"My preference in all of this is to take a deep breath in this moment while so much has changed and really think about what our comprehensive transportation system needs to look like," Thellman said.