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Opinion

Opinion

Vital votes

Choosing the members of the Lawrence City Commission is an important duty for local voters.

April 1, 2011

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Do the people of Lawrence really care about the future of their city? Apparently, those who do are in the small minority.

In the last Lawrence City Commission election, in 2009, only about 14 percent of Lawrence’s eligible voters actually went to the polls to decide who would control the city’s future. This is a disgrace.

It also says there really isn’t any justification for the majority of Lawrence residents to complain about city actions and policies, how the city deals with the quality of life in the community, job opportunities, the recruitment or attraction of new industry and business, growth or no growth, zoning matters, the condition of our streets, how the city is planning for future needs for clean water and sewage treatment, recreation facilities, falling retail sales and on and on.

Next Tuesday, Lawrence voters have the opportunity to elect three members of the five-member City Commission. These five individuals, like them or not, agree with them or not, are the five people who call the shots for Lawrence. This is a tremendous responsibility, and the type of individuals, the caliber of these members, their past records of achievement, their honesty, their fiscal soundness in how they run their own personal or business affairs, their education, their records (not their campaign strategies) on encouraging or opposing new jobs and new companies for the community, how they deal with Kansas University officials, their personal conduct, their values, what they think about annexation matters, their view of Lawrence’s future — all are important factors when considering for whom to vote in next Tuesday’s election.

Which candidates, if any, genuinely believe in the importance of attracting new business and industry, creating new jobs for individuals with varying job skills? Will Lawrence continue to see a drain in sales tax dollars due to policies of the city commissioners?

Is this a strong or weak slate of candidates? Is this slate likely to generate enthusiasm and excitement, or is it one that barely causes a ripple in the usual miserable voter turnout?

This is a serious matter. What kinds of individuals do local voters want to put in control of the city? These decisions will affect most every Lawrence resident, even the thousands who commute daily to Kansas City, Topeka, Ottawa or some other community to work or shop and really are only part-time residents of Lawrence.

What percentage of commuters think it is important to get involved in city affairs and vote in City Commission elections? How much do voters really know about the people who will determine the fiscal stability of this city, local tax rates and spending policies? How carefully will they spend taxpayers’ dollars and what is their record in this important matter?

Why isn’t there greater interest in the election? Is it the caliber of those seeking office? Is it a sense by the majority of residents that they, individually, really can’t make much of a difference, or is it a belief that no matter what the challenges may be, Lawrence usually slips through without too much damage so why worry about who serves on the commission? Whatever the reasoning, it is dangerous because there is nothing guaranteed about Lawrence’s future.

Past elections and past commissioners played a major role in cooling down Lawrence’s growth and sense of excitement. Years ago, Lawrence was looked upon as one of the nation’s finest, most progressive university cities. It enjoyed steady growth and truly was a shining star. The late Charlie Kimball, who headed Kansas City’s Midwest Research Institute, once said Lawrence should be “the lighthouse on the vast Midwest prairie.” This light does not shine as brightly these days.

Have local residents lost, or put aside, their enthusiasm and dreams for having Lawrence become an even finer, more progressive city?

Voter turnout in Tuesday’s election will offer an excellent read on the level of interest or concern about the city’s future as well as the level of confidence and enthusiasm for those seeking a position on the City Commission.

Comments

oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

Could the Journal World check out who owns the lot on Vermont where the "garden" space is? wilbur is curious as to who it might be and how it is classified for property tax assessment. huh?

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xclusive85 3 years ago

Wow LJWorld, really? Do you really believe this and won't release what happened to get Sven Alstrom banned several times from using your online forum? Even when asked by voters to release information that could help them decide who to vote for? I even asked if they could send some examples to my private email. I got told an emphatic no! Please quit chastising voters and provide information that you have that will help people make a more complete informed decision.

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BigPrune 3 years ago

If anyone good ran for City Commission they have to be willing to be crucified by letter to the editor campaigns, vandalisms, etc., of Lawrence's lunatic fringe that controls everything. The lunatic fringe is what made Lawrence go rotten.

Maybe the newspaper should stop letting so many haters through when those folks go on their letter writing rampage. Lawrence needs to rid itself of the Charlie Manson types.

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Flap Doodle 3 years ago

We'll see how Windels' case plays out in court.

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Flap Doodle 3 years ago

In other Wisconsin news: "MADISON (WKOW) -- Authorities say 26-year-old Katherine Windels sent disturbing emails to 16 Republican senators, repeatedly threatening to kill them. Windels, of Cross Plains, faces four charges including using a computer to send a threat and creating a bomb scare. Two of the counts are felonies, two are misdemeanors. The criminal complaint says the emails were sent on March 9, the same day senate Republicans passed the revised budget repair bill with no Democrats present. According to the complaint, Windels told the senators "you will be killed and your families [sic] will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks." She threatened to "put a nice little bullet in your head," and made reference to several bombs..." http://www.wkow.com/Global/story.asp?S=14361120

Vote ABS! Anybody But Sven!

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Richard Heckler 3 years ago

FYI

BREAKING NEWS: Wisconsin Democrats just announced that local activists submitted over 100% of the signatures needed to "recall" Republican state senator Dan Kapanke from office!

After local officials certify the signatures, a new election will be scheduled for Kapanke's seat. Today's news will send shockwaves throughout Wisconsin, and it gives huge momentum to efforts in other Senate districts to gather recall signatures.

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Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Not voting changes nothing...

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Richard Heckler 3 years ago

A combination of new local energy sources would produce cleaner more efficient energy. Additionally this combination would not only provide considerably more jobs throughout the states but also safer employment,reduce our cost of living and reduce the cost of doing business. Attracting industry associated directly with newer sources "local" energy might not be a bad idea.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists

Rebuilding economies http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/renewing-americas-economy.html

Wind http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/how-wind-energy-works.html

Solar http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/how-solar-energy-works.html

Biomass http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/offmen-how-biomass-energy-works.html

GeoThermal http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/offmen-how-geothermal-energy-works.html

Hydro http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/how-hydroelectric-energy-works.html

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cato_the_elder 3 years ago

"In the last Lawrence City Commission election, in 2009, only about 14 percent of Lawrence’s eligible voters actually went to the polls to decide who would control the city’s future. This is a disgrace."

Agreed.

What is equally disgraceful, however, is that so few qualified people have been willing to run for this office. Part of the apathy demonstrated by Lawrence voters has to have resulted from what can only be termed the mediocre qualifications of those few individuals who have run. When did we last see an Ernie Angino, Marnie Argersinger, Barkley Clark, Nancy Hambleton or Sandy Praeger? Most of the candidates who've run in recent years are either ex-hippies who haven't accomplished anything of real merit in their lives or faux "businessmen" who in reality don't know that much about business or can't even pay their own bills.

There are at least 100 people in Lawrence right now who would be better candidates than most of those currently running. Until those people agree to run for office and serve, the apathy will continue.

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tribalzendancer 3 years ago

Personally, I care a lot about our city. What we need are some visionary city commissioners that can see ways for Lawrence to become a vibrant ecological city as we transition into an era where climate change and peak oil are major realities. If we can seize the opportunities that present themselves by jumping on these issues now, rather than waiting till things get bad and leaving us totally unprepared, then we have the potential for Lawrence to thrive and attract people to our city when times get tough, because we spent time preparing while other cities floundered with the status quo.

It's getting popular to talk about climate change now, but what I see mostly is green-washing and half-measures, because they're still stuck in the old paradigm (speaking generally about the discussion nationally).

What we need is VISION. A comprehensive view of an alternative paradigm that is better than the one we have now, and which takes climate change and peak oil seriously.

I personally believe that a world with less oil could be preferable to a world with lots of oil, if we have the vision to see it.

I want Lawrence's local economy to thrive! But to do this, we can't get stuck in the old ways of thinking. City planners need to understand the challenges and trends that the future poses, and then work with these challenges to turn them into opportunities. The end of cheap energy is going to cause globalization to reverse: Wal-Mart's business model is going to stagnate, and local industries will thrive, because the cost of long-distant imports from China, for example, will no longer be subsidized by cheap transport fuels. Local is going to become competitive again. Relocalization is going to be an essential strategy for cities to thrive in the future - fostering the growth of a fully functioning local food economy, and cottage industries providing essential goods and services.

Acknowledging peak oil and climate change does not necessitate a gloomy outlook - it simply means acknowledging the trends of the future and finding creative, positive solutions to adapt to these new realities.

No matter who wins this year's election, I hope all of our commissioners will seize this moment to think creatively and differently about our economic problems, and not rely on the advice of the old economic strategies of the past. They certainly worked once, but it's clear we need to start thinking outside of the Chamber of Commerce's playbook (I can't speak for the local chapter, but the national organization didn't even recognize that climate change was real until very recently.)

With a fresh perspective, we can stop trying to make the future less bad, worrying about what we might have to lose; we can start thinking about everything we have to gain from imagining a way of life that's even better than the one we have now.

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