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.