City commission candidates: Downtown is important to city

April 1, 2009


Everybody loves downtown.

At a forum Wednesday morning sponsored by Downtown Lawrence Inc., all eight candidates for the Lawrence City Commission gushed about the importance of keeping downtown healthy.

In particular, all the candidates said they supported the continued use of property tax money to at least partially fund the operations of the nonprofit Downtown Lawrence Inc. organization.

But there were nuances in each of the candidates’ messages. Here’s a look:

• James Bush said he supported continued funding for DLI — which in 2009 is budgeted to receive $42,500 — but also said the amount might have to be adjusted, based on the economic situation.

Bush also seemed to question whether other candidates in the field were in a position to back up promises of financially supporting downtown for the long term.

“I want you to really hear what all of us are saying and why we’re saying it,” said Bush, who has at times questioned some candidates’ commitment to grow the community’s job and tax base. “Is there a sensible solution behind the plans?”

• Dennis Constance said he supported the funding but didn’t want Downtown Lawrence Inc. to use the money to become economic development recruiters for downtown.

• Lance Johnson said he also wanted to maintain the level of funding. But as he’s indicated with most budget-related questions, he said he would have to examine the merits of DLI funding against other budget issues the city will face.

• Aron Cromwell said he supports the funding. He said downtown should be central to Lawrence’s job growth in the future by playing an “absolutely critical” role in Lawrence’s efforts to grow its tourism industry.

• Incumbent Mike Amyx said his voting record shows that he has been a consistent supporter of funding downtown efforts, although he said economic conditions did require the city to reduce the amount of funding to DLI in 2009.

He said the organization could perhaps garner more city funding by showing growth in its membership and pointing to larger sales tax collections from downtown.

• Price Banks told the crowd that the downtown organization deserved the funding it receives because a large amount of the property taxes the city receives comes from downtown property owners.

• Gwen Klingenberg said she supported providing funding to DLI, but wanted the organization to work on playing a “larger role at City Hall and to be heard more often.”

• Tom Johnson, as part of DLI’s written questionnaire to candidates, was the only candidate who did not say protecting Downtown Lawrence was his highest priority. He ranked it as an eight on a scale of 1 to 10, with protecting core services and infrastructure ranking higher.

But Tom Johnson did say he supported funding for the organization, and wanted to work on ways to make it a larger player in the city’s economic development scene and to be more of an equal partner with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce in those efforts.


cavtrooper 9 years ago

If Downtown is that important, why does the city pander to the "homeless" that make any visit to downtown a real "nice" time? Or are they supposed to be part of the local "flavor"?

HermioneElliott 9 years ago

cavtrooper Why don't you tell us what kind of people would be fit to be downtown? No one is pandering to the homeless, helping others is called being decent and thoughtful.

Danimal 9 years ago

Clearing the homeless out of downtown really shouldn't be a huge priority because downtown is actually pretty safe, especially when you consider how many people go down there and get wasted on a nightly basis.

I think supporting downtown is important, but that we can't sacrifice the rest of Lawrence's infrastructure to pander to downtown. I don't think that there's a problem with decreasing funding to DLI because guess what? In the midst of the most rapid economic downturn in a half century everyone's budgets are contracting and DLI should be no different.

BigPrune 9 years ago

It's always about saving the downtown as the rest of Lawrence dies.

fairplay 9 years ago

Is Tom Johnson intentionally missing these forums? He hasn't made it to a single one. What's the story?

Dennis Constance doesn't want DLI to be used for economic recruiting. What should DLI be used for? Downtown concerts? They are not concert promoters, they are an organization of businesses and individuals concerned with the viability of Downtown Lawrence. Why can't this guy seem to get it?

Jan Brocker 9 years ago

There is no sense in giving the DLI more money. Actually any money we throw their way could be saved for other projects like supporting homeless families who are down on their luck or have been evicted but want to get back on their feet. Other homeless people have chosen to not do anything and pretty much panhandle and get mad when you don't give them money or a cigarette. These people cause a huge problem for downtown. My point is that as long we have people like this hanging around downtown a lot of people will NOT come downtown while otherwise they would (I've heard it over and over). There is another article in the LJW about Lancaster. They don't have the aproach like our homeless shelter has; letting anyone stay there without any rules and without having to do anything in return. Please go to: I think this is a program the city should look into for Lawrence. To pay for the bus tickets we can use the tax money allocated for the homeless shelter until we are down to the "true" homeless people that deserve the help! Just my 2 cents.

Dacia McCabe Maher 9 years ago


While I am open to new and creative ideas for our community, I am having a problem with your suggestion. Please help me understand your position.

1) What qualifies someone as a "true" homeless person? 2) What factors determine whether or not a person is deserving of help? 3) Please list any and all qualifications that allow you (or anyone else) to make these determinations (judgements) about other human beings.

Please help me understand. I am baffled.

WWoftheW 9 years ago

Tom Johnson has attend most forums. He only missed the first VEC forum and the NLIA. He attended the VEC meet and greet. Even the article said what Tom said yesturday.

Richard Heckler 9 years ago

"Dennis Constance doesn't want DLI to be used for economic recruiting. What should DLI be used for?"

That's not true. He may be against funding the Chamber with $190,000 tax dollars. He's right on the money.

Economic Development could be brought to City hall for about half that amount of money and transparency for a change.

Vote Constance,Cromwell and Klingenberg for economic growth instead of economic displacement.

*Economic Growth Problems in Lawrence

It's a good idea to replace incumbents.....

Practicality 9 years ago

I disagree with the notion about the homeless not being an issue downtown. I have routinely avoided going downtown numerous times after tiring of being accosted from homeless people soliticting donations. I have also had out-of-state guests not want to return downtown after spending one day there, for the same reason. Instead we went to KC where they spent loads of money in KC businesses. Too bad. I am afraid Lawrence's businesses are missing out on plenty of revenue due to this problem.

ConstantlyAmazed 9 years ago

You've got it all wrong ocean. That's what makes Lawrence...Lawrence. That our State Senator Marci Franscico can stand up and say I support my friend Mike Amyx. Lawrence needs that, so why do you criticize it?

What Lawrence, and Downtown Lawrence, needs is jobs. New jobs, old jobs, tall jobs, small jobs.

Of all the candidates I've seen, one seems to me to be heads above the rest. Lance Johnson is for Lawrence Jobs.

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