News and notes from around town:
• Some of you may be noticing small signs at Lawrence intersections advertising “freelovelawrence.com.” For those of you starting to have ‘60s flashbacks (at least those who remember the ‘60s), here’s a little more information. The signs are for a Lawrence church, EastLake Community Church, which regularly meets at South Junior High. The Web address takes you to a site inviting you to Easter events the church is having on April 24 at the school. City commissioners last week gave approval for 100 of the signs to be placed in city rights-of-ways at major intersections throughout the city. The city routinely allows special events to place signs in rights-of-ways, although this one may be one of the larger sign drops and also one of the more mysterious.
• When it comes to East versus West in local politics, the West is still winning, and by about the same score. I spent a little time yesterday looking at voter turnout numbers for Tuesday’s election. As I’ve done in the past, I compared how the east side of the city turned out with the west side. Here are the results:
The average voter turnout for precincts with polling places west of Iowa Street was 17.3 percent. That was down from 18.7 percent in the 2009 city/school election.
But it was still quite a bit better than eastside turnout. The average voter turnout for precincts with polling places east of Iowa was 11.8 percent. That also was nearly unchanged from 11.9 percent in 2009. So, the gap between the two was 5.4 percent. In 2009 it was 6.8 percent. In fairness, the eastside does include the Burge Union precinct — which probably couldn’t get voters for a city election even if it handed out free beer. It’s turnout was 0.3 percent. If you take that precinct out of the mix, the eastside average rises to 12.2 percent. That’s still pretty low, especially for the side of town that is supposed to include all the activists.
• Some people have asked me whether local elections would look any different if eastside voters showed up in greater numbers. In other words, do eastside voters support different types of candidates from westside voters? Here are a couple of things I’ve drawn from the numbers about that.
- Take Lawrence City Commission candidate Sven Alstrom, for example. I think most election observers would agree that Alstrom was further to the left (in City Commission ideology, anyway) than many of the other candidates. For example, he was the only candidate who said he thought the chamber of commerce should have some of its city funding taken away. In every precinct west of Iowa, Alstrom finished fifth — or last — in the voting. But in precincts east of Iowa, Alstrom’s average finish was 3.8. In fact, Alstrom finished second in four eastside precincts.
- Also look at Hugh Carter, the City Commission candidate who finished third in the race and received the last seat, so to speak, on the new commission. Carter’s average finish in precincts on the westside was 2.8 out of the field of five. On the eastside, Carter’s average finish was 4.0. In fact, he finished last in 11 of the 26 eastside precincts.
Who knows how different City Commission elections would look if eastside voters showed up in the same numbers as westside voters? Eastside residents seem intent on making sure we don’t find out.
• The MagnaGro chapter in Lawrence is quickly winding down. MagnaGro International, in case you’ve forgotten, is the eastern Lawrence company where two workers died last year in an industrial accident. The city had shut off the water and sewer service to the site because of illegal dumping that was occurring at the site, but the company — with the city’s knowledge — kept operating its fertilizer production plant at 600 E. 22nd St. Eventually, the city shut the building down all together, after it became clear that MagnaGro was violating city code by operating without water and sewer service. Well, now the city is soon ready to hook the building back up to city sewer and water service. As we previously reported, a company is moving MagnaGro’s equipment out of the building, perhaps to a site in Western Kansas. Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard told me that she expects the move to be completed by next week. At that point, the city will consider the building safe to be rented out for other uses. Stoddard said the move has gone smoothly. The city insisted upon an environmental management company being on site during the move to ensure that everything related to the move was done within environmental regulations.