Three area organizations have endorsed a slate of candidates for the upcoming City Commission elections.
• The political action committee for the Lawrence chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition announced that it is endorsing James Bush, Dennis Constance and Aron Cromwell for the April 7 election. The equality coalition is working to persuade city leaders to legally protect transgendered people from discrimination.
• The Lawrence Professional Firefighters’ Political Action Committee has endorsed candidates Mike Amyx, Bush and Cromwell. The group said those candidates were most likely to protect public safety funding from budget cuts.
• The Lawrence Board of Realtors also endorsed a set of candidates. The group has endorsed Amyx, Bush and Lance Johnson. The real estate group said those candidates were most likely to grow the community’s property tax base through new jobs.
Come Tuesday evening, it will all be over.
Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to select three people to serve on the Lawrence City Commission. Since late January, eight candidates have been vying for three spots by stumping at forums, neighborhood meetings and on front porch stoops.
But they’ve also been waging an almost behind-the-scenes battle of written words. Candidates during each election season are asked to fill out a plethora of questionnaires, which usually aren’t seen by the general public but rather just by members of specific organizations.
The Journal-World has reviewed questionnaires from four of the larger and more politically active groups: the League of Women Voters of Lawrence and Douglas County; the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce; Downtown Lawrence Inc.; and the Lawrence Home Builders Association.
The complete questionnaires from all four groups are available for review at LJWorld.com. But here’s a summary of how each candidate stands on some old and new issues presented in questionnaires.
Amyx is a downtown barber shop owner and the lone incumbent in the race.
• Homeless services: He told the League that it is possible to go too far with services, and that the private sector may have to step up with funding.
“The key is to provide emergency shelter for those in need rather than use resources for the ‘lifestyle’ homeless,” Amyx wrote. “We should be looking for ways to help our citizens who have fallen on hard times, but it should not be only the city’s responsibility, but a community effort.”
• Development: Amyx told the League he expects to see more infill development in the future rather than projects on the edge of town. He also said he supports Horizon 2020, the city’s comprehensive plan, but does not think it is the final authority on growth issues.
“The city’s comprehensive guide plan is a good tool for all development, but it is not cast in stone,” he wrote.
• Environment: Amyx told the League that creating a new curbside recycling program may be too cost-prohibitive right now. But he does want to explore purchasing the city street lights from Westar and using electricity generated at the Bowersock power plant on the Kansas River to power the lights.
• Budget: The Chamber asked candidates to rank actions they would take to deal with a 10 percent reduction in city revenues. Amyx had these four items tied for his top choice on how to deal with a shortfall: A cut to social services; a cut to planning/development review services; a cut to Parks and Recreation Department funding; and a cut to city administration. Amyx’s least likely option was to raise property or sales taxes.
• New codes to require fire sprinklers in all new single-family homes: Amyx told the Home Builders he “absolutely” was opposed to the proposal.
Banks is a Lawrence attorney and a former director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department.
• Budget cuts: Banks told the League he does not believe cuts to services will be necessary. Instead he said there is “substantial waste and inefficiency” in city government.
• Development: Banks said government needed a fairly strong hand in managing growth. “Growth patterns should not be driven exclusively by the market,” Banks told the League.
• Public transit: Banks told the League he wants to explore eliminating some lesser-used fixed routes, replacing them with smaller vehicles operating on a demand-response system.
• Environment: Banks pointed to several items that he thought were wasteful. He told the League he would question the idea of fire trucks going to most medical calls, the number of full-size pickups the city owns, and the amount of energy used by city street lights.
• Fire sprinklers: Banks told the Home Builders he doesn’t support requiring sprinklers for new single-family homes.
• Budget: Banks told the Chamber his first option would be to cut city administration. His last: Raise property taxes or sales taxes.
• Downtown parking: Banks told DLI he believes a new multi-story parking garage to serve the 600 through 800 blocks of downtown will be needed in the “not too distant future.”
Bush is a sales and marketing professional with the downtown catering firm Maceli’s.
• Public transportation: Bush told the League his goal is to “consider every new development project in light of its relationship with public transportation.”
• Priorities: Bush told the League that the community’s “No. 1 goal” must be to “encourage businesses to expand in Lawrence and redouble our efforts to attract new businesses.”
• Environment: Bush said to the League he supports a recommendation to provide a dedicated staff member to oversee local efforts to protect the climate and sustainability initiatives.
• Budget: Bush told the Chamber his first option would be to cut administrative support funding. His last option: Cut core services such as police, fire and sanitation. An increase of property or sales taxes was his second-to-last option.
• Development: Bush told the Home Builders the city’s planning process often “seems to seek ways to say no to a development plan rather than judging a project on its merit.”
• Fire sprinklers: Bush said he doesn’t support requiring them in new single-family homes.
• Commercial development: Bush told DLI he would support building additional commercial space to “encourage downward pressure on rents” downtown. He also said downtown could be enhanced by more retail establishments, particularly along the riverfront.
Constance is a Kansas University custodial supervisor who served a two-year term on the City Commission in the 1980s.
• Development: Constance told the League he believes the city has “twice as much housing stock and five to six times as much retail space as we need.”
• Priorities: He told the League he believes human services are an essential core city service equal to water, sanitation, and fire and police protection.
• Budget: Constance told the Chamber that cuts to the Parks and Recreation Department funding would be his first option. His last: Across-the-board cuts to the city budget. Increasing city property or sales taxes was his third highest option among the eight presented by the Chamber.
• Development process: He told the Home Builders it has been too permissive. “I think the city has operated on the premise that any growth is good growth, and that is not necessarily so. Infrastructure expansion at a significantly faster rate than population leads to blight and decay.”
• Fire sprinklers: Constance told Home Builders he supports requiring sprinklers in new single-family homes.
• Downtown: Constance told DLI he would work with KU to “stop exporting major sports events to Kansas City.”
Cromwell owns Lawrence-based Cromwell Environmental, an environmental consulting business.
• Priorities: He told the League that the “only city budget items I would not trim are the social services.”
• Development process: Cromwell told the League that too many waivers are given to city code, and when Horizon 2020 is selectively used, it creates “the impression of an ‘old-boy’ network ruling the process.”
• Homeless services: Cromwell said to the League that a larger shelter and a campsite for the homeless are needed.
• Environment: Cromwell said to the League that the city needs curbside recycling.
• Budget: Cromwell told the Chamber his first option would be across-the-board departmental budget cuts. His last: Cuts to social services. Raising property or sales taxes would be his fourth option out of the eight presented.
• Fire sprinklers: Cromwell told the Home Builders he doesn’t support adding sprinklers to new single-family homes.
• Downtown: Cromwell told DLI he was committed to keeping the post office and library downtown.
Johnson owns the Peridian Group, a Lawrence-based civil engineering company.
• Homeless services: He told the League he’s willing to use Community Development Block Grant money to help fund a temporary homeless shelter to make up for the expected closing of the Salvation Army Shelter on May 1.
• Priorities: Johnson said to the League that he would have a “daily focus” on job creation and retention.
• Budget: Johnson told the Chamber that cuts to planning/development review services would be his first option. His last option would be to cut core services such as police, fire and sanitation services. Raising property or sales taxes would be his fifth option out of the eight presented.
• Development process: Johnson told the Home Builders that the process in Lawrence is “difficult to navigate and often unpredictable.”
• Fire sprinklers: Johnson told the Home Builders that he doesn’t support the proposal to require sprinklers in new single-family homes.
Johnson is the adviser and general manager for KJHK, the student-run radio station at KU. Johnson did not respond to questionnaires from the League or the Home Builders.
• Budget: Tom Johnson told the Chamber his first option would be to cut Parks and Recreation funding. His last option would be across-the-board cuts. Raising property or sales taxes was his fifth option out of the eight presented.
• Downtown: He told DLI he wants to work with downtown businesses to develop an “incentive bus pass” that would give riders access to special discounts and promotions at downtown businesses.
• Commercial development: He told DLI that the city should work to “protect local businesses from competing directly with large-scale national or multinational operations.”
Klingenberg, president of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, is a private music instructor.
• Neighborhoods: She told the League “the city’s agenda should reflect more than the interests of builders and developers.”
• Economic development: Klingenberg said to the League she would “cut most of the money” set aside in the city’s budget for the Chamber of Commerce.
• Commercial development: She told the League that the city should adopt polices that ensure “commercial growth is only slightly ahead of population growth.”
• Environment: She told the League the city needs curbside recycling, and the city should support development of a pay-as-you-throw trash system that increases sanitation rates for households that generate large amounts of trash. She also said the city should support a policy to ban plastic bags.
• Budget: Klingenberg told the Chamber these five options were tied for her first choice: Cuts to administration; Parks and Recreation; planning/development review; infrastructure maintenance; and core services. Cuts to social services were her last option. Raising property or sales taxes was her sixth option out of the eight presented.
• Development process: Klingenberg told the Chamber she would support new rules restricting membership on the Planning Commission “to people without a profit stake in planning.” She also said she favors creating a new neighborhood board to advise the Planning Commission.
• Fire sprinklers: Klingenberg told Home Builders the idea needed more discussion.
• Commercial development: She told DLI she wants to use incentives to cap rent rates for commercial properties.