Letters to the Editor

A little boycott

October 20, 2010


To the editor:

I believe in buying local. It’s part of what makes us a community. Each Christmas, I know I’m spending more than I probably should. I enjoy it though. It makes me feel like I’m helping everyone out just a little bit more. I enjoy laughing with the shop owners as I search for something made or sold nowhere else. They’re treasures these days.

This year, though, I cannot bring myself to do it. You see, as I walk our streets visiting and laughing, I also like to give what I can spare to the homeless vagrants. I know what some of them do with the money, and it’s their business. I know the complaints as well: alcohol and drug use, unemployment, public urination and vomiting all seem to make them undeserving of the borrowed money they live on. The same may be said of many of our students, although bums don’t drink and text while driving and they don’t run over people on bicycles.

We could choose to let our homeless nomads remind us of the broader illusion we all would prefer to hide in these days, of the consequences of war and capitalism run amok and what being a community really means. For me, Lawrence has been an oasis amid a seething Kansas, a place of vibrant, artistic grit. Today, it feels more like a peeling, faded mural that once proudly celebrated its diversity. So, in honor of this season’s communal spirit, I hereby revoke my charity — to the downtown merchants.

Richard Sullivan,



appleaday 7 years, 7 months ago

Richard -- remember, though, that Jane Pennington does not speak for the actual downtown merchants individually. She is actually more allied with the Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Phil Wilke 7 years, 7 months ago

A beautifully written letter that expresses the feelings of moat people in this city who are not Chamber members.

Phil Wilke 7 years, 7 months ago

... Should read: "most people in this city" ..... The moat people live elsewhere, in Mordor I think

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 7 months ago

Thank you Mr. Sullivan. There, but for the grace of God.....

vuduchyld 7 years, 7 months ago

I must admit...I am lost amid the soaring rhetoric. I have absolutely no idea what the author is trying to say.

So...you like buying unique items at unique stores. But this year you can't bring yourself to do it. Usually you give money to the homeless. They're not as bad as the students. The homeless are nomads...a symbol for the truth that one can find underneath the veneer of war and capitalism. Lawrence ain't what it used to be.

OK...I guess I get what you are saying, but where are the connecting thoughts? Are you refusing to spend money downtown because of the homeless? Do they bother you? Are you avoiding spending money downtown so you can instead give your money to the homeless?

I'm pretty sure you aren't endowing any new scholarships, but other than that, I can't really make heads or tails of the flowery prose. Congratulations for getting it published, though.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

People can make whatever choice they want regarding giving money to panhandlers.

It is surprising, though, that simply because some downtown merchants ask people to give to charities instead, that someone would no longer wish to shop downtown.

The money given to panhandlers isn't borrowed unless it's given back - I've never received anything back when I've given them money, and expect I never will.

And, yes, students are capable of bad decisions and bad behavior as well, which concerns me.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps the letter writer doesn't wish to have his dollars support the sort of reactionary views expressed by the downtown businesses in question.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

I don't see them as "reactionary" - they have a legitimate interest in their business ventures succeeding.

And, providing information on where people can get help is a good thing, in my opinion, and probably better than simply giving people money when they ask for it.

dlkrm 7 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Sullivan,

Complete unadulterated nonsense. If you want to walk through vomit and have your kids sexually harassed, do it at home. We're tired of it happening downtown. Get lost in your hatred of capitalism and freedom, and wander back towards campus in your daze.

notajayhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

You mean back towards campus, where he can walk through vomit and be sexually harassed (or worse)?

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 7 months ago

lets see...

Reference to local economy over big retailers, CHECK Romanticism of the homeless lifestyle, CHECK Reminiscing of what Lawrence used to be, CHECK Obscure statement regarding war and capitalism, CHECK Claim of Lawrence as an oasis of culture in a sea of neanderthals, CHECK Shouts of support throughout the comment section, CHECK!

All the markings of a Hipppie Rant. Can almost hear the Marley and smell the reefer.

Meatwad 7 years, 7 months ago

why must you assume people are hippies? The guy isn't a hippie, he's misguided. I'm a liberal and love Bob Marley, and I love the way Lawrence used to be,. I also love our downtown and think panhandling bums are ruining it. I love the way Lawrence used to be... when one could walk downtown and not encounter a drunken panhandler on every single block and a few in the middle of each block too. It's completely out of hand. Kudos to the DLI for trying to do something about it.

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 7 months ago

Wow, even disowned by the hippies... That really says something.

notajayhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

"why must you assume people are hippies?"

For the same reason you assume people are drunks and bums.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 7 months ago

You actually make me want to spend the extra money to shop downtown!

gatekeeper 7 years, 7 months ago

I will do the same as Mr. Sullivan, except I will not purchase anything from businesses that chose to have these stupid cards at their register. The businesses that don't try to tell me how I am allowed to spend of give away my money will get my business.

"Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people; but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am Jehovah. " Leviticus 19:18

"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise." Luke 10:25-37

gatekeeper 7 years, 7 months ago

To those that claim to be Christians, then bash the homeless, remember that Jesus was homeless. He preached to care for those in need.

Matthew 25:34-35 "Then the King will say to those at His right, 'Come, my Father's blessed ones, receive your inheritance of the Kingdom which has been divinely intended for you ever since the creation of the world. For when I was hungry, you gave me food; when I was thirsty, you gave me drink; when I was homeless, you gave me a welcome.'"

Matthew 25:40 :And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me."

gatekeeper 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm promoting an anti-religion agenda by quoting basic scriptures? Unlike so many that comment here, I did pay attn to the Christian teachings I received from my family and church. I was raised in a very religious household that practices what the Bible has taught us and instructed us to do. I don't judge the homeless, only try to offer them help, as I was taught to do. I was brought up believing in compassion. It doesn't appear you were taught the same. I would advise you to read the Bible. Even if you aren't Christian, there are many good teachings in it. I am also from a military family and was taught that we are here to serve. Sacrifice is a part of life.

Co-dependency? My husband laughed his butt off reading that (psych major). Maybe you haven't encountered many people like us, but we are very giving and live fairly simple lives (that's what my parents taught me). I believe in Kharma and try to do good. I live by the Golden Rule. My sense of self worth comes from within. Sorry, no co-dependency, addictive traits here. If you had read some of my other posts on this same subject, you would have seen that I sometimes give money, sometimes I buy them a meal. Sometimes I don't have enough to be able to give. I do what I can. I just don't understand the harsh words from so many on here, especially ones in other posts that have called themselves Christians but don't follow the basic teachings. I have unfortunately lost many family members in the last decade to cancer and heart disease and it has taught me how fragile and valuable life is. It makes me want to help others. I'm just a terrible person, aren't I? I guess my biggest flaw is that I feel too much empathy for others. Stone me for it.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Giving to charities that actually help people would be better than enabling them, if the money you give them directly is spent on self-destructive activities.

JustNoticed 7 years, 7 months ago

If you're a Christian, why do you believe in Karma?

somedude20 7 years, 7 months ago

if you do not shop local then the terrorists win

Joe Hyde 7 years, 7 months ago

I think it's inaccurate to villify only the downtown merchants based on a request they've made: that shoppers and diners please don't give money to panhandlers.

I think it's more accurate to visualize a "what if" scenario. What if next week Lawrence somehow physically relocated every one of the city's businesses into downtown. I'm pretty sure each relocated business operator would concur with the request being made by today's downtown group.

It might be worth considering this scenario before assuming that non-downtown merchants have a more welcoming attitude toward panhandlers operating near their front entry doors.

Hudson Luce 7 years, 7 months ago

Just having two cops walking a foot patrol up and down Massachusetts Avenue (and maybe the streets nearby) might solve some of the problem. There are already local ordinances in place which prohibit a lot of the problems which come up. Alternatively, busking/begging could be restricted to certain places downtown, say, for example, the parking lot on the corner of 11th and Massachusetts, which is largely unoccupied after 5pm and on weekends. It's away from most of the stores which are complaining about things, it's pretty much unused, and if people want to go up there and check things out they can do so. That's the best solution I can think of.

Meatwad 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm very saddened by this letter. I now want to make sure that I spend EXTRA money on downtown merchants. These hard working people are trying to better our downtown, many are struggling and the DLI is trying to do something to help them and help people want to be downtown. To try to go for a walk, shopping, out for the night and to have to encounter bums begging for money (most of them not sober) on every single block is horrible. Boo to Richard and anyone else who seeks to destroy and hurt our beautiful downtown. I hope Richard is happy when we have a ghost town of a downtown and the only places he has to shop/eat are big box stores and chains.

Meatwad 7 years, 7 months ago

By the way, I do not equate buskers/musicians with panhandlers and bums. Musicians are performing a service (Ok well the marimba girl is a bit questionable, but most of the musicians downtown are great), no musician has ever asked me for money. What we need to get rid of are the mostly young, mostly drug/alcohol addicted panhandlers who need help that is not acquired by people simply giving them money to spend on drugs and alcohol. If people stop giving them money, they will stop begging and maybe decide to get help they need.

Hudson Luce 7 years, 7 months ago

"If people stop giving them money" ... That's the trouble. People won't stop giving them money. Begging has been going on probably as long as money has existed, and it's obviously profitable enough, because people have been doing it for millenia. You're not going to change that aspect of human behavior, either begging or people giving to beggars. The problem in Downtown Lawrence is that beggars are all over the place, they're in places where they think people with money are going to pass by, and that's usually in front of stores which have goods which sell for a lot of money, or bars, where people get a little bit drunk, and maybe a lot generous. A solution is to take all the beggars and buskers and whatnot, and concentrate them in a certain area, where people can choose to go, or not. They're still on the street where people can see them and they can make their appeal and play their music and do their magic acts or do fire rings or whatever... it might even be an attraction, kind of like a small Renaissance Faire in Lawrence. The city could issue licenses for others, like that guy who plays the sax on the corner of 7th and Massachusetts - he adds a positive note (pun intended) to Lawrence nightlife.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Hey the real problem for downtown retail is the Chamber of Commerce and their pals aka westside developers = kill downtown retail. The Chamber is all too happy to give big box stores a leg up with OUR tax dollars in any way possible. Even a secret back door sales tax that does nothing for the community.

As for the Chamber/westside developer management skills I offer this as a testimony:

By Kim McClure


To the editor:

The July 14 editorial asks, “What’s downtown going to look like five, 10 or 15 years from now?” The answer can be known, and the picture is not pretty.

Lawrence has enough spending to support about 4.1 million square feet of retail space, but the City Commission permitted developers to expand the supply to over 5.5 million square feet.

Lawrence has too much retail space chasing too few vendors, which means that many stores go empty, especially in the older shopping centers like downtown.

The surplus development has stalled redevelopment plans downtown and has pushed the vacancy rates so high that disinvestment and blight now threaten. Investment, both public and private, is wasted. The taxpayers’ $8 million parking garage stands largely empty. The Hobbs-Taylor building and the 600 block of Massachusetts should be the top performing spaces in the community, but they have significant vacancies.

The recession has contributed to the problem, but had we properly managed our growth we would be much better off.

The developers’ short-term gain is now our long-term loss. Managed growth would have prevented much of the problem and would have protected and enhanced our downtown.

It will take many, many years to absorb this surplus space and, until this happens, it will be hard for downtown to compete. We can only look forward to many years of high vacancy and disinvestment. We need a City Commission that knows how to pace the growth of supply so as to protect our unique downtown.

McClure is from Lawrence


  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.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

David Cay Johnston then boggled the crowd with a blunt assertion: "We pay billions of dollars in taxes that never get to the government." Much of the sales tax we pay at big box stores and shopping centers is diverted to the large companies that own the stores. It's just one of the many swindles these chains have learned to perpetrate against city and county governments. This is so effective that the Cabela family, which owns a chain of big-box sporting goods stores, receives 137% of its profits from taxpayer subsidies. If they couldn't work this scam, they wouldn't be in business at all.

The heart of the wealth transfer is tax increment financing (TIF). Store owners come to town leaders and offer to build a new store that, they promise, will "create jobs." In exchange, the city gives them the land, builds the store to their specifications, and finances it all with tax-free municipal bonds (which are usually held by associates of the store owners). To cap it all, the store keeps the sales tax generated in the store to pay off the bond holders. If the store is built on government land, it's also exempt from paying any property taxes.

Why do city governments take such a blatantly bad deal? Many of them are struggling, and believe that a new Wal-Mart OR LOWES will bring in shoppers from all over—shoppers who will stick around and shop in their town. It never works out that way. Under stiff competition the small shops go out of business, taking the town's tax base with them. Schools, parks, recreation programs, and libraries are starved. Almost always, these city councils would be far better served putting the money in upgrades to local Main Street businesses, rather than financing the competitor that will kill them.

Johnston also noted that as a result, the nation is losing mom-and-pop businesses that are often more efficient in real terms than the big box stores, which carry tremendous overhead in management and distribution. He suggested that audience members do an experiment: first, eat at a chain restaurant like TGIF—and then go the next night to a local family-owned place. Not only will you spend half as much in the family place—the people working there are probably making more money. That's what real efficiency looks like.

Community Improvement District Sales Tax = local corporate Free Lunch

Much of Legends appears to be a Community Improvement District Sales Tax participant and Baur Farms may be as well.

Community Improvement District Sales Tax = local corporate Free Lunch is a never ending sales tax. Once the improvements or new projects are accomplished and paid for the sales tax rolls on into large profits.... we can assume. A new Lowe's store would be covered by this Community Improvement District Sales Tax.

Who collects this tax? Is the taxpayer funding the tax dollar management?

None will ever reach local or state cookie jars.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

You seem to be forgetting that attribution thing again, merrill. Plagiarism makes the Baby Al Gore cry.

Jimo 7 years, 7 months ago

I don't believe boycotting anyone is the answer for offering a generally accurate and unobjectionable piece of advice (don't feed the bears), however incapable this is of providing any solution to the larger problem.

I typically make a generous series of donations around the holiday period (in recent years mostly to the Salvation Army). Last year and probably this year, I've also made certain, given the sad plight of the unemployed, to give to ECKAN. I'm both blessed and lucky and recommend the same to those who are able to give.


kernal 7 years, 7 months ago

Boycotts businesses that already struggle to keep going? I'm sorry, but people who are uptight about the panhandlers presence are already boycotting Downtown and now we're proposing the double whammy against local business owners?

Count me out.

weeslicket 7 years, 7 months ago

"Lawrence has been an oasis amid a seething Kansas"

now folks, that one line ought to make one take notice and ponder our condition.

Bob Burton 7 years, 7 months ago

Have you all forgot the Screamer of West Port!!
Lived in PV or Leawood & drove a Beemer I think.. They can make some serious money..

bearded_gnome 7 years, 7 months ago

Sully wrote in his LTE:

We could choose to let our homeless nomads remind us of the broader illusion we all would prefer to hide in these days, of the consequences of war and capitalism run amok and what being a community really means. For me, Lawrence has been an oasis amid a seething Kansas, a place of vibrant, artistic grit. Today, it feels more like a peeling, faded mural that once proudly celebrated its diversity. So, in honor of this season’s communal spirit, I hereby revoke my charity — to the downtown merchants.

---Dicky, war and capitalism, reeeeeeally??? wow, somebody really leans hard to the left there. you probably have to replace your left shoe more often, don't you? yes, some responsible families wind up homeless and do need help. Family Promise and the Salvation Army help them and [gasp] they have standards and expectations.
these standards and expectations acually serve to help these down-on-their-luck to prepare for life once again self-supporting, and gives them a sens of pride and accomplishment.

your enabling the bums doesn't do these things, and these bums are in general there by choice, or as a result of making repeated bad choices. your giving only stoes the fire of their self-destruction. you give with no standards. what they do with your no-strings-attached handout is indeed your business, because they couldn't do it without your money. if your money is their last hit of meth that kills them, aren't you to blame?

and more than that, we are our brother's keeper, to a degree. if my fellow human is headed off a cliff, do I: a. do nothing; b. tackle him to stop him though maybe I hurt him a bit; c. give him a shove in the direction of the cliff?

well, B is usually the right answer in multiple choice tests!
you are writing a letter to the editor in favor of C.!

and finally, why are you giving? to help him or her? or to think you are good and that's because you are "helping?" your giving is the selfish option there.

give your money to Salvation Army/Family Promise Sully.

Daniel Kennamore 7 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Liberty275 7 years, 7 months ago

Mr blog writer,

welcome to the boycott! I don't spend a dime downtown because they fight too hard to limit other businesses from coming to Lawrence. Your reasoning borders on idiocy but the effect is admiable nontheless. I suggest spending your money in Topeka or Olathe at real malls with real stores.

Kontum1972 7 years, 7 months ago

how about a vomit .....and .....pan-handling tax?

Richard_Sullivan 7 years, 7 months ago

I appreciate everyone's feedback. To be honest, the merchants were my primary audience, but I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the comments. I wish I'd had more than a couple hundred words to express my reasoning.

  1. No, I don't smoke pot. I'm actually a military officer and veteran of several conflicts. I have seen homelessness and poverty in far more places than Lawrence, Kansas and in far more destructive forms.These are probably the most "well-behaved" and curtious panhandlers I've ever seen.

Those of us who have dealt directly with both the causes and consequences of homelessness, understand the links between war, predatory economics and these types of issues. Homelessness certainly isn't the only consequence we'll see. That much I promise you. The real question before us is whether or not we're willing to see it and take responsibility for it.

  1. I have no problems with capitalism, but I do with an unfettered capitalism that causes this kind of a human condition. I find it curious that so many who champion the merits of the free market would take exception to the leveraging of that same market to express dissatisfaction with its behavior.

  2. For those who take exception to the fact that panhandlers make more money asking for change than they would with a job, ask yourselves why begging pays more than labor does. My take is that your labor has value. Without it, there would be no goods and services produced. Yet, the value of your labor has been steadly eroded over the last three decades. See the CIA worldfact book write up on the U.S. economy (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html). As a result, wealth creation stopped driving this economy and was supplanted by the debt-driven economy that we are all reeling from, inlcuding the merchants. Agreement on this statement is not required. It's your labor. You can continue to sell it cheaply if you want to, but we should not be surprised when people are attracted to the activity that yields the most return on their investment.

  3. Understand that each of us makes a conscious decision every day about who we give power to. We can choose to continue to defer that power to those with money and influence if we so desire. If we do, then do not expect this democracy or this market to respond to our wishes or complaints. In doing so, we are accepting the inevitable exclusion of those without power or voice. And, if we except exclusion from the public domain, however subtle it may be or which veneer of virtue we choose to shroud it in, we will find that the exclusion does not stop at the "least desireable" aspects of our society.

Have a wonderful day, everyone. And please be glad that you live in such a wonderful place as Lawrence, Kansas. I hope we can keep it that way. Richard Sullivan

Kontum1972 7 years, 7 months ago

i havent given them any money.....lets "FINE" the people who give them money...since they promote it...

Commenting has been disabled for this item.