Archive for Monday, March 2, 2009

Helping city from the bottom up is candidate’s aim

March 2, 2009

Editor's Note: This is one story in a series profiling the eight candidates running for City Commission.

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Dennis Constance

Age: 60 Address: 817 Tenn. Family: Divorced; two grown children. Occupation: Custodial supervisor Substantial business interests: Constance lists ownership interests in one pension fund and two mutual funds, but does not list any ownership in businesses or rental property. He does serve as the president of Kansas University’s Support Staff Senate.

Dennis Constance remembers a lot about Lawrence in the 41 years since he first came to the city as a Kansas University student.

He remembers that he was out of town the night the Kansas Union burned in the 1970s, and how he had to prove to a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper that he actually lived in the city before he could return home.

He remembers the political “chaos” of the mid-1980s when he served on the Lawrence City Commission as developers sought to build a mall in Downtown Lawrence.

And he remembers watching the city add subdivision after subdivision during the go-go ’90s, wondering if Lawrence was heading down a wrong path.

All those could make good stories to tell, but as Constance hits the campaign trail as one of eight candidates seeking a seat on the Lawrence City Commission, he’s more likely to tell a less dramatic story about a snowy Lawrence day.

“I knew this guy who had his transmission go out in his car,” Constance said. “He was laying on his back in the dead of winter, in the snow, with his wife reading him the instructions as he tried to fix this transmission. He needed the car to get to work, and he just couldn’t afford to have someone fix it for him. Yet, he was full-time employed at the time.

“That’s a wrong picture, no matter how you slice it.”

Changing that picture has been the central theme of Constance’s second act on the political stage. After losing a re-election bid in 1989, Constance gradually has been working back into the city’s political scene. He was a major organizer behind the efforts in 2002 to create the city’s living wage ordinance, which requires companies that receive a tax abatement to pay all employees at least $11.45 per hour. More recently, he was a leader of the Save the T Campaign, which successfully campaigned for passage of two sales taxes to fund the city’s public transit system.

“I think we definitely need to pay attention to the bottom end of the spectrum,” Constance said. “That is what both of those issues — the T and the living wage — had in common.”

The idea of keeping the working class happy and financially healthy is a linchpin of Constance’s economic and political philosophy.

“I’m a believer that most social ills result from an inequality in wealth,” Constance said. “One of my goals will be to make sure the playing field is as level as possible.”

And Constance says he’s in a good position to survey the working class landscape because most days he’s knee deep in it.

“I’m in housekeeping,” said Constance, who has been a custodial supervisor at KU for about 30 years. “I clean toilets from time to time.”

Just think

That position isn’t exactly what you would call a perch atop Mount Oread, but it has been a good job for learning about people — something that Constance, who has his degree in psychology from KU, appreciates.

“Any job that involves waiting on people or picking up after people can be very instructive,” Constance said.

What he’s generally learned is that people don’t think enough. They leave candy wrappers or pop cans laying around when there is a trash can just a few feet away. They don’t think about how their actions affect other people.

“One of my themes is that we need to think about what we do,” Constance said.

Perhaps nowhere will he emphasize that more than in growth and economic issues. On growth issues, he said the City Commission needs to closely consider whether there is enough demand for future retail and housing projects.

“I have thought for some time we’ve been building more retail and housing than we’ve really needed,” Constance said. “I think that has basically caught up with us.”

On economic issues, he said he wants to focus more on helping small, local companies grow and expand and spend less effort on attracting companies from other communities.

That will mean strengthening relationships with KU and its research efforts, he said. Constance believes he can help in that regard. In addition to working at the university, he’s held several leadership positions there. He’s currently in his third term as the president of the University Support Staff Senate, an organization that represents the rights of many non-faculty members. He also currently is on the search committee that is seeking a replacement for outgoing Chancellor Robert Hemenway.

The issues

Constance is bringing up the on-again-off-again idea of consolidating Lawrence city government with Douglas County government. Constance has stopped short of endorsing the idea, but said he thinks the community ought to seriously consider a unified government after seeing such arrangements work in other communities. Nearby, Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County created a unified government several years ago, and Manhattan and Riley County have a shared police force.

If the city doesn’t go down the consolidation route, he said the community ought to consider expanding the City Commission to seven members in order to add more perspectives to the group.

On other issues, Constance said:

• He would not rule out a tax increase to address the city’s budget issues. He said he believes property taxes generally are fairer than sales taxes.

“I don’t believe in taxing the daylights out of people, but I won’t sit here and tell you I’m a no-tax person,” Constance said. “I think quality government costs money, and you do have to be able to pay for it.”

• He does not support the idea of across-the-board cuts to social service agencies to make up for an expected shortfall in city revenues.

Comments

Chris Ogle 6 years, 4 months ago

I think we definitely need to pay attention to the bottom end of the spectrum,” Constance said.

Now that most of us are at the bottom end, I was hoping someone would pay attention to the bottom LINE>

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

"Now that former City Commissioner Dennis Constance has thrown his hat into the ring, there is an now a full Independent, Moderate Slate for City Commission: Constance, Cromwell and Klingenberg. Boog has decided not to run again. Since there are eight candidates in the general election with no primary, it will be easier for Progressive candidates to win.

I have a lot of respect for Constance. He is not afraid of speaking out and almost always votes for neighborhoods and ordinary Lawrencians (not the developers, bankers, land speculator, et al).

Since lots of people are now registered due to the presidential race, it is possible more voters might turn out in April. This will help the Independent Moderate slate. " http://news.larryville.com/index.php/forums

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 4 months ago

"“I’m a believer that most social ills result from an inequality in wealth,” Constance said. “One of my goals will be to make sure the playing field is as level as possible.”"

That's called socialism. It's nearly communism. He's proud that he saved the T? NOT how you get votes, if you ask me. I'll vote for ANYONE but this dude.

jafs 6 years, 4 months ago

OldEnuf,

As I recall, the question of an extra sales tax was added to the ballot and passed by a 70% majority.

Isn't that called democracy?

Scott Drummond 6 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Constance gets my vote. Clear-eyed pragmatism and good government on behalf of the common good is much needed these days.

justthefacts 6 years, 4 months ago

It is nice to know where a candidate stands.

It looks like there is a clear path ahead for those who are in favor of what some refer to as the "Hippy Socialist" crowd in town. To some they are anti-growth, anti-free-market, and pro-government regulation of all aspects of business. To others, they are the pragmatic free-thinkers who are not tied to developers, and are considered smart-growth, pro-little guy, and anti-big-business-big box stores.

Being up front about your view point at least helps people figure out for whom to vote. Now who represents the other side issues? Or is there going to be only one choice of view points this time around?

deskboy04 6 years, 4 months ago

He is a good man. Lawrence needs someone like Dennis in public office again.

HermioneElliott 6 years, 4 months ago

I am glad the paper took my advice about doing profiles on the candidates.:-) Forgive me but I am not a fan of the small speciality stores. I like Wal-Mart because I can get everything I want in one place and at a price I can afford. There are times when the number 8 T bus is packed with KU students on their way to Wal-Mart. I have noticed that the T is pretty full, except at the end of the loop, when everyone has got off at their destination. Level playing field? Just a phrase, doesn't really mean a thing. I think of the human species as a batch of yeasty dough rising.

Jeremy Lichtenauer 6 years, 4 months ago

No offense, but... The city of Lawrence is a multi-million dollar corporation in financial crisis. I don't believe a janitor is qualified to make those type of decisions. He may be the best janitor on earth, but I don't want him managing my stock portfolio or deciding how millions of tax dollars are spent.

Have we already forgotten what the grocery clerk did to us?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

The city of Lawrence is not a corporation. It's a city. If you don't know the difference, I'd say the janitor is much more qualified to run this city than you are.

gccs14r 6 years, 4 months ago

You mean by trying to keep a predatory global retailer at bay? Yes, I remember, and I think we would have been better served by more like-minded commissioners over the last 30 years.

antikoolaiddrinker 6 years, 4 months ago

Did anybody notice another candidate has been profiled? Why was his picture not posted or headlined? If the City of Lawrence is not a corporation, then why is it said that a piece of ground is incorporated when it is annexed? Why would we need a City Manager? Nope it is better to subscribed to ideologies or so called feelings than it is by logical deduction of what will work for the benefit of all in a community and not some special interest. The City of Lawrence is a business and will prosper or fall based on the decisions of its governing body.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

If the city is a corporate business, what's it's current share price?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 4 months ago

"The idea of keeping the working class happy and financially healthy is a linchpin of Constance’s economic and political philosophy."

This was the context of my comment. What that has to do with sales taxes, I don't know.

Lawrence will be the next Boulder, with $800K two bedroom homes that people like Constance won't be able to afford. Moves like increasing the minimum wage will simply make basic services more expensive. The checker at the grocery store will make more money, but won't be able to afford groceries because of the increase in prices. These kinds of "distribution of wealth" concepts simply make life harder on those who are already struggling. The rich will still be able to buy tenderloin, but the rest of us will be eating dog food.

But why am I ranting? Who's paying attention? You Constance supporters STILL think supporting the T was smart. The city will probably have to fire needed employees... but the empty smog machines will keep going around and around Lawrence...

This city has lost it's mind.

antikoolaiddrinker 6 years, 4 months ago

RESOLUTION NO. 6817

A RESOLUTION SETTING FORTH THE POLICY OF THE CITY OF LAWRENCE, KANSAS, WITH REGARD TO EMPLOYEE ORGANIZATIONS AND AMENDING RESOLUTION 6690.

WHEREAS, it is the policy of the Governing Body of the City of Lawrence, Kansas, not to come under the provisions of K.S.A. 75-4321 et. seq., generally known as the Kansas Public Employee Employer Relations law, and;

WHEREAS, the Governing Body of the City of Lawrence fully subscribes to the precept of Home Rule as delineated in Article XII, Section 5 of the Kansas Constitution, in that employee relations are most suitably conducted at the local level, and;

WHEREAS, the Governing Body of the City of Lawrence, Kansas, does not intend to formally recognize any employee union, group or organization as the exclusive bargaining agent of its members, and;

WHEREAS, the Governing Body of the City of Lawrence, Kansas, believes that the interests of both the City of Lawrence and its employees are best served by maintaining the two party relationship of individual employee and employer, and;

WHEREAS, representatives of employee groups and the City's administration have in the past held discussions arriving at mutually agreed upon memoranda of understanding on work related issues;

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Governing Body of the City of Lawrence, Kansas.

SECTION I. Definitions. For the purpose of this resolution, the following definitions shall apply:

a. "City" is the City of Lawrence, Kansas, a municipal corporation.

Jeremy Lichtenauer 6 years, 4 months ago

I don't drink the same kool aid as some here. Never have, never will...

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 4 months ago

“I’m a believer that most social ills result from an inequality in wealth,” Constance said. “One of my goals will be to make sure the playing field is as level as possible.”

This, combined with:

"I don’t believe in taxing the daylights out of people, but I won’t sit here and tell you I’m a no-tax person,” Constance said. “I think quality government costs money, and you do have to be able to pay for it.”

This brings the Marxist lolz.

fairplay 6 years, 4 months ago

Merrill wrote: "Since there are eight candidates in the general election with no primary, it will be easier for Progressive candidates to win...This will help the Independent Moderate slate. “

Yup. That sounds like the typical independent moderate progressive spiel. Can we please get someone to comment who doesn't have an agenda?

My mind is so far from made up it's crazy, but there is no help on these comment boards. You guys are so out there, it's a wonder anyone with ANY brain EVER gets elected.

classclown 6 years, 4 months ago

Helping city from the bottom up is candidate’s aim

==================================

I think the city's bottom is up enough. The city has been showing it for several years now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

OK, antikoolaiddrinker, it's a "municipal corporation." But in it's most common usage, "corporation" is usually synonymous with "corporate business," and that seems to be how you are expecting that Lawrence should be run. But a "municipal corporation" is not and never has been a business, and should not be run like one.

Jeremy Lichtenauer 6 years, 4 months ago

I am in no way bagging on the man's job. I support anyone who is willing to go out and put in an honest days work.

I am, however, questioning his credentials and ability to manage million$ and million$ of tax payer dollars!

I know a plumber who is a good man and does fantastic work, but I wouldn't let him do my business taxes. Nor would I let my CPA replace my water line.

gccs14r 6 years, 4 months ago

Jeremy,

What do you suppose the budget for housekeeping is at KU? It's probably at least a million dollars a year.

TacoBob 6 years, 4 months ago

"OK, antikoolaiddrinker, it's a “municipal corporation.”"

I think what the OP was saying was "I was wrong, you win."

Sometimes he can be a shy lil' feller. Or busy defoliating the Victory garden.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

“I was wrong, you win.”

Nice try, taco, but I can speak for myself.

Do you have anything of substance to add to the discussion?

bearded_gnome 6 years, 4 months ago

merrill spammed: “Now that former City Commissioner Dennis Constance has thrown his hat into the ring, there is an now a full Independent, Moderate Slate for City Commission:

neither independent, or moderate.

and if Merrill supports CC&K, well we know clearly not to vote for them...heck even the manager of KJHK would be better than CC&K!

makes the choice clearer indeed.

and again I note with mirth the Bozo's complete lack of business understanding: not all corporations have shares to sell or shares sold to the public. Bozo: you should limit yourself to commenting on areas where you have some slight understanding.

HermioneElliott 6 years, 4 months ago

I am mystified by some of the remarks on here. Do you consider yourself to be too "good" to shop at a lower end store such as Wal-Mart, or to ride the bus with the common people? I am not impressed by this man and his ability to make decisions that will benefit Lawrence. I thought his reference to the candy wrappers was rather silly. Okay, so my actions do affect others, sometimes. But, seeing a candy wrapper on the ground does little to ruin my day.

HermioneElliott 6 years, 4 months ago

Forgot, is the LJW trying to confuse us with swapping pictures around?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

" Bozo's complete lack of business understanding: not all corporations have shares to sell or shares sold to the public. Bozo: you should limit yourself to commenting on areas where you have some slight understanding."

I understand the issue quite well, BG. Antikoolaiddrinker was trying to make the same tired old argument that government should be run like a business, but with the added twisted of using the word "corporation" to justify it, despite the fact that there is very little similarity between a for-profit business corporation, and a city, incorporated or otherwise.

I'm not sure what your point is, except to be pissy, which appears to be your favorite state.

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