Here’s a new concept for Lawrence City Commission candidates — speed dating.
No, it is not the newest issue to come before the commission. Instead, the eight candidates running for a seat on the commission got to participate in a form of speed dating for candidates on Wednesday.
A crowd of about 80 people showed up for a luncheon forum Wednesday hosted by Central National Bank. Instead of the traditional question-and-answer format, each candidate went to a table of about 10 people to answer five minutes’ worth of questions.
Here’s some new information about each of the candidates gleaned from sitting at one of the tables:
• Mike Amyx said he generally is not in favor of a proposal to eliminate the city’s Human Relations Division. The division investigates complaints of discrimination. City Manager David Corliss has brought up the idea of closing the division to deal with an expected shortfall in the city budget. In that case, discrimination complaints would be handled by a state department.
• Price Banks said he would want the city to look at ways to convert the vacant, city-owned Carnegie Library building into office space for city departments that currently lease space outside City Hall. Currently, the city leases space for the Parks and Recreation Department, Municipal Court, the building inspections department and several other functions. Banks said he didn’t have a particular department in mind. At one point, the city was considering using the building for Parks and Recreation meeting, reception or classroom space.
• James Bush said he thinks tax abatements should continue to be a part of the incentives the community can offer to businesses interested in expanding or moving to the city. But Bush said he also thought the city should consider using five-year tax abatements instead of the more traditional 10-year tax abatements that have been approved in the past.
• Gwen Klingenberg said she could not currently support spending city money to buy the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Depot in east Lawrence. But Klingenberg said once the city’s budget situation improved, she would like the city to seriously consider it. A group of citizens has been working to preserve the depot and has asked the city to consider purchasing the building, which likely will need more than $100,000 worth of repairs and renovations.
• Dennis Constance said he generally is in favor of expanding the city’s rental registration ordinance to require all properties older than 50 years old to register and be inspected at least once every three years.
• Aron Cromwell said he supported the concept of expanding the city’s rental registration program, but said he still wanted more details on whether the program could truly pay for itself through fees before endorsing it.
• Lance Johnson said he wanted to guard against making decisions at City Hall based on appeasing a “very vocal minority.” He said he believed city commissioners had done that in the past.
• Tom Johnson said he does have some concerns about changes to the city’s development code that would make it easier for any church in the city to serve as a temporary homeless shelter. Johnson said he thought that may be an inappropriate use of churches that are in residentially zoned areas.