A map plotting the election precincts that voted for and against the $18 million bond issue to expand the Lawrence Public Library discloses an interesting pattern.
Citywide, about 55 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the library funding. Although none of the city’s 49 voting precincts registered strong opposition to the bond issue, a majority of voters in 13 of the precincts voted against the plan. The location of precincts where the negative votes occurred are somewhat interesting.
The entire central part of Lawrence supported the library’s expansion plan. Between Clinton Parkway and Sixth Street and from Wakarusa Drive to the city’s eastern boundary, all but a handful of precincts voted in favor of the bonds.
The highest vote against the bond issue was 56.5 percent at Haskell Indian Nations University. The other precincts opposing the plan were located at the north, south and west edges of the city.
Again, it’s hard to draw many solid conclusions from the relatively narrow margins by which the bond issue was defeated in these precincts, but the ring of opposing precincts around a core of supporting precincts is notable. Are the people in southern and western Lawrence more concerned about property taxes than those in the center of the city? Could that be driven by a higher concentration of rental property in the central area?
Another factor might be the location of the soon-to-be expanded library. Do voters in the outlying precincts feel the library is of less benefit to them because it is located so far away?
Library officials have, until recently, been adamantly opposed to any plan to establish satellite facilities at locations outside downtown Lawrence. However, leading up to Tuesday’s election, Library Director Bruce Flanders acknowledged that the expansion that would be financed by the $18 million bond issue probably would be the last for the current library and that future projects would involve satellite library locations.
There probably were a variety of reasons voters at the edges of Lawrence showed weak support for the library expansion, but the proximity and convenience of the project to where they lived might have been a factor. When it comes time to approve funding for satellite library facilities outside of downtown, will central city voters who live close to the current library get on board? Time will tell.