Archive for Tuesday, February 17, 2009

City candidates, public get acquainted at forum

City Commission candidates, from left, Dennis Constance, Aron Cromwell and Lance Johnson participate in a public forum Monday at City Hall.

City Commission candidates, from left, Dennis Constance, Aron Cromwell and Lance Johnson participate in a public forum Monday at City Hall.

February 17, 2009


A clear scorecard began to emerge on growth and development issues following the first candidate forum for Lawrence City Commission hopefuls Monday.

A trio of candidates believe the city is overbuilt and is traveling down the wrong economic development path. A pair of candidates said the city wasn’t doing enough to attract new businesses. And two others fell somewhere in the middle.

Candidates Dennis Constance, Aron Cromwell and Gwen Klingenberg all said they believed the city’s retail and residential scenes were overbuilt, and all urged the city to change its focus from attracting new industrial employers to one that emphasizes nurturing small local companies.

“Jobs don’t grow a city. People grow a city,” said Klingenberg, who said she was concerned the city was trying to attract employers who paid wages that were not sufficient to allow people to live and work in Lawrence.

But candidates James Bush and Lance Johnson both firmly stated they did not believe the city was overbuilt, and said they thought the community needed to focus on ways to be more welcoming to businesses that are considering locating in the city.

“I believe in letting the free market work,” Johnson said. “I don’t believe in the City Commission getting involved in saying that we have too much space. I think the free market does a good job of regulating that.”

Candidates Mike Amyx, the lone incumbent seeking re-election, and Price Banks fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Amyx said he did not think the city was overbuilt, and said the city had enough ability to control growth through controlling where new sewers are located. He did say, though, that he supports keeping the city’s living wage ordinance, which currently requires companies that recently received tax abatements to pay every employee at least $11.44 per hour.

Banks said he thought the city was temporarily overbuilt and needed better long-range planning. He said he believed tax abatements were a necessary evil that the city needed to offer to companies, but said Lawrence’s biggest selling point to potential employers is its quality of life.

“Too often we think the growth has caused Lawrence to become a special place,” Banks said. “The reason we have had the growth is because we are a special place. We can’t have a better economic development incentive than being a nice place to go and a nice place to live.”

Tom Johnson was the lone candidate who did not attend the City Hall forum, which was sponsored by the nonpartisan Voter Education Coalition. Johnson had already scheduled a trip out of the community.

The eight candidates are seeking three at-large seats on the City Commission. The election will be April 7.

Two incumbents — Sue Hack and Boog Highberger — are not seeking re-election. Incumbents Rob Chestnut and Mike Dever still have two years left on their terms.

The Voter Education Coalition will next host a City Commission and school board forum at 6:30 p.m. on March 18 at City Hall. That forum will be taped to be broadcast on Sunflower Broadband and on


Richard Heckler 8 years, 10 months ago

Placemakers ,consultants hired by the city commission, said the community was 30% over built in retail when they here. The city commission refused to believe them. More retail has been approved since. One way the city has attempted to reduce the square footage of vacant retail is to call failed retail areas "industrial" such as Tanger Mall.

You cannot have a tax incentives and a free market for that is contradicting. If two commissioners are voted in that believe the free market will rule they will always say yes to new projects because how will they know if the market is over built? Of course they are receiving funding from our local developers. Lance Johnson works with developers. Taxpayers bear the brunt of over built residential, retail and light industrial.

Can Lawrence afford to give out tax abatements? Do taxpayers want to make up the loss? Shouldn't new business be expected to pay its' way the same as old business? Tax incentives are business unfriendly towards existing business.

Why would new business be attracted to an over built community? As far as retail is concerned Lawrence,Kansas is surrounded by retail giants such as KCMO/JOCO and Topeka which are but a short drive away. Lawrence,Kansas simply does not the retail dollars available.

Why should developers and new business be given a free lunch?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 10 months ago

Economic Growth Problems in Lawrence

============================================ Basic findings:

  1. Lawrence is overbuilt in housing: Homes were built faster than popualtion growth supporting these homes. Excessive subdivisions caused an outmigration from older neighborhoods causing a severe loss of value, a loss of dwelling units, and a variety of other problems such as school closings.

  2. Lawerence is overbuilt in retail: Stores were built faster than retail spending growth supporting these stores. This excessive growth has hurt the public and private investment in downtown redevelopment (e.g.: the empty $8 million parking garage, the empty Hobbs-Taylor space, etc.) and has caused deterioration and blight in existing shopping centers (e.g.: Tanger Mall, Food-for-Less, etc.)

  3. Douglas County is overbuilt in manufacturing and warehousing; employment in these sectors is declining, not growing. Yet, the Chamber calls for more and more space in the false belief that more supply creates more demand.

  4. Office space in Douglas County is relatively well balanced, but the market for office space is severely crippled by the excessive supply of unused retail space which is competing for office tenants.

Kirk McClure Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction

Michael Capra 8 years, 10 months ago

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Chris Ogle 8 years, 10 months ago

Too often we think the growth has caused Lawrence to become a special place,” Banks said. “The reason we have had the growth is because we are a special place.

I am tired of hearing the "Price talk" already. Please Mr. Banks.... write a book.....go bird watching..... anything but City commission.

JohnBrown 8 years, 10 months ago

Tax abatements are a necessary evil. Business owners look to save a buck like everyone else.

Incubators, a JuCo, and an expansion of efforts to make Lawrence a Civil War destination should be considered.

Incubators help create jobs. Most people starting out know how do do something people want to pay for, but they don't know the 'business' end (HR, taxes, insurance, bookkeeping, marketing, locating investor angels, etc.). An incubator that provided these services would be a great help.

A JuCo would be a destination too, for the students and, occasionally, their parents family, etc. Plus we'd have a trained workforce.

We have come a long way, thanks to Judy Billings, towards making Lawrence a Civil War destination. We could convert the old library into a Bloody Kansas museum and map room, a starting off point for Civil War buffs. We could even host a Bloody Kansas Bike Race.

gabbo 8 years, 10 months ago

Gwen Klingenberg filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and does not work. She has no business on the commission. Remember how Rundle worked out?

spankyandcranky 8 years, 10 months ago

What is this living wage ordinance or $11.44/hr? I'd like to know what companies rcvd the tax abatements. This is the first I've heard of either.

newshound25 8 years, 10 months ago

Maybe we need to look at what type of retail we bring to Lawrence. Recently, the Lawrence Journal World wrote about how people from the Lawrence area are leaving to shop at the Legends taking their dollars to another city. If we don't let the consumer drive the market they will take their dollars to stores outside our city to stores where they want to spend their money. I call that free market. Yes, I do believe it's important to look at how the city grows. Attracting companies that will create good jobs is the key. Lance Johnson believes that as well. I think his background in civil engineering can help the city plan for the future. He understands the process. I believe he will grow Lawrence in a positve direction at a good pace.

newshound25 8 years, 10 months ago

Since he is a small business owner himself, I think he understands what it takes from a city to support new and existing local businesses. I also think there is a lot more to civil engineering than just concrete. He understands what it takes to plan for infrastructure (includes streets, sewer & electronic communications) to help support the growth. Without that, many companies might think twice to moving to Lawrence.

truckfan 8 years, 10 months ago

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truckfan 8 years, 10 months ago

i was obviously referring to the upcoming shortfall in our cities budget. while bankrptcy is available to all who need it and qualify some way, as we know from recent presidential appointment debacles, fiscal responsibility is important to be a leader.

Michael Capra 8 years, 10 months ago

lets see cromwell is backed by myimpac which rundle started with ermiling half of those funds came from anarchist which gave cromwell money and he didnt give it back so does he support anarchist.Next klingenberg bankrupcy 47 pages and wrote bad checks to local businesses never paid back and is on work comp for back problems do we need another bankrupt commissioner Not

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