Archive for Sunday, April 5, 2009

Surveys show candidates’ stances on key issues

Election set for Tuesday

April 5, 2009


Related document

City Commission Candidate Questionnaire ( .PDF )

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 But here’s a summary of how each candidate stands on some old and new issues presented in questionnaires.

Mike Amyx

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.

Price Banks

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.”

James Bush

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.

Dennis Constance

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.”

Aron Cromwell

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.

Lance Johnson

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.

Tom Johnson

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.”

Gwen Klingenberg

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.


gl0ck0wn3r 8 years ago

Hmm Ocean's poor use of the comma reminds me of Richard Heckler's inability to punctuate. Want to kill Lawrence? Vote for any of Richard's choices - particularly Gwen, a person who can't even manage her own financial affairs (owes back taxes, bad checks, bankruptcy) and yet wants to tell you how to run your financial affairs.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years ago

Some of these candidates have proven leadership.

Some of these candidates have unproven leadership.

Klingenberg has distiguished herself as the one candidate with a proven lack of leadership ability.

And... Cromwell is just another tax and spend liberal. It pains me to think that he'll get on the commission (which, in this town, I think he will).

I'm a Bush and Amyx man.

helter_skelter 8 years ago

I know Lance Johnson personally, have worked with him closely, and I can honestly say that he will absolutely not be getting my vote. The only times I have worked with him are because of forced situations. Given the option, I would turn to anyone else but this man. I have never met someone more arrogant, pompous, and just outright rude as this individual. I don't know who I will be voting for, but if this buffoon is elected, I will be moving away from Lawrence in the first thing I see with wheels. Do Lawrence a favor, do NOT vote for this man.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Don't take it personal, ocean. Glock just has an obsession with merrill.

throwdown_wallet 8 years ago

Okay, helter_, so you won't be having Lance Johnson over for dinner anytime soon. The man you described sounds different from the man I know. But I won't be voting for him on April 7 because he's a good guy. I will be voting for him because I like his ideas to bring jobs to Lawrence--something I believe this town needs. I'm sorry you don't like him, but you only seemed to make personal attacks on him, not his platform.

ConstantlyAmazed 8 years ago

Great Ocean, you like Constance, and as I've said before we need a balance on the commission, and Constance is old school, which is fine.

But you get three votes.

I too will be voting for Lance Johnson. Anyone who's ever logged on to LJW has seen his ad. I clicked thru and read the 5 point plan for job creation. We need jobs, and this guy is focused. He laid out the plan, and item # 5 is green jobs. Did you miss that ocean? Or are your blinders on for all Constance all the time?

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years ago

"ocean (Anonymous) says… perhaps it would be good to focus on the issues. Klingenberg had an unfortuante banktruptcy due to worker's compensation while working at Habit for Humanity, it was a medical banktrupcy."

Fiscal irresponsibility is an issue when examining a candidate. Her explanation for her financial problems (as outlined in the LJW story) was - at best - weak and furthered my belief that the woman cannot manage money. Even putting aside the "medical banktrupcy" (sic), the bad checks and inability to pay taxes prior to her medical issues are problematic. Equally problematic are the other businesses that are listed at her address that she neglected to include like "Petwatchers." She can't manage a family's budget, why trust her with making decisions for a city's budget?

independent_rebel 8 years ago

I actually have spoken to and actually know a few of the candidates. Sadly, I am more confident about who I would not vote for than who I will vote for.

After talking with Klingenberg and watching her performances at city commission meeting I believe she would be a disaster as a city commissioner. She is the worst candidate I've seen in a long time. Total disaster for Lawrence if she is elected.

Tom Johnson is not serious enough for me to consider. Very disappointed by my conversation with him and his performance at the "debate." He comes across as very lazy, even a bit aloof, although I'm sure that he is no. I just question someone that takes pride in coming across that way.

Dennis Constance is a very intelligent man. So is Bill Clinton. I just don't think either use their intelligence to solve problems as much as they do to ensure they keep folks dependent on their brand of politics (i.e. creating a dependent society that the rest of us are forced to take care of).

Cromwell is not my cup of tea. He seems to be one of the typical elite liberals where, some way, some how, he'll wiggle out of all the restrictions and rules he tries to impose on the rest of us. You know, such as Rosie O'Donnell pushing for restrictive gun laws while employing an armed bodyguard for herself because, well, because she's Rosie O'Donnel.

Lance Johnson...I really like some of the things he says in terms of job growth...but, my gut says he's a rubber-stamp guy when it comes to allowing the Doug Comptons and Fritzel boys of the community build more and more apartment complexes and townhomes.

Banks would be a disaster. I know him, I know many, many people who know him and some who have worked with him both in the public and private sector. Terrible choice.

Bush may my vote, but for no reason except I believe he is looking out for the community more as a whole than. I don't understand what he means by, in regards to the budget, that his first option would be to cut administrative support funding. What does that mean? Anyone know?

independent_rebel 8 years ago

Amyx has my vote, I guess.

I'm really puzzled by the liberals running on a platform of cutting Parks and Rec budgets since they just led a parade of crying kids to stop the axing of the Prairie Park Nature Center.

Oh, I get it. Being the anti-sports liberals that they are, they want the city to cut out sports programs administered by the Parks and Rec department for kids and adults so that out-of-town freeloaders (i.e. the homeless) can keep being funded.

If that is not it, well, I want a more precise explination on what they want cut. If they want to cut out money for flowers, I'm all for that! If they want to cut out youth basketball programs so that Loring Henderson can enable more drunks, felons, and meth/crack heads to keep hanging around Lawrence, well, I have a real problem with that.

Amyx has my vote because, to me, he has come closest to answering the question on the homeless issue honestly, stating 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.”

ConstantlyAmazed 8 years ago

Rebel, I hear you, and think Amyx is worthy of one of our three votes.

But I've seen nothing that tells me Lance Johnson is anything but seeking this office to spend 2 or 4 years of his life focused on bringing job opportunities to Lawrence workers.

If anyone has a project that plays by the rules, let them build it.

Compton's electricians, plumbers, framers, concrete finishers, and even the guy who installs smoke detectors, they all need jobs as much as we do.

That being said, I don't hear Lance talking about job creation thru new apartments or townhouses, I heard and read him looking to changing the tone at city hall, working with ku, improving our infrastructure, and trying to lead Kansas in green jobs. What's code word in there for apartments?

Ocean says I have my blinders on. Which is fine, but I think my eyes are pretty open, and Lance has my vote. Probably Amyx too. I still think Constance is old school enough to balance the commission. Lance Johnson's my first choice though.

Poon 8 years ago

Surveys show candidates’ stances on key issues

I prefer battering ram issues.

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