Archive for Sunday, February 20, 2011

Economic gardening’ major part of Sven Alstrom’s campaign for Lawrence City Commission

Sven Alstrom answers three questions about his campaign for the Lawrence City Commission.

February 20, 2011


Sven Alstrom

Sven Alstrom

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Editor's note: This is one of the articles in a series of profiles on the five candidates who are seeking three at-large seats on Lawrence City Commission. The general election will be April 5. The candidates are Sven Alstrom, Hugh Carter, Mike Dever, Mike Machell and Bob Schumm.

For a while, it was the Rocky Mountain high life.

Lawrence City Commission candidate Sven Alstrom lived for 14 years in Aspen, Colo., and another two years in Boulder. There were some good times, Alstrom says. Potluck dinners with the founder of the Quark software program. A friendship with Sen. John Warner’s daughter, who also is the granddaughter of banking mogul Paul Mellon. Visits with former U.S. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder about their shared love of the Keeshond breed of dogs.

The rarefied air of Colorado’s wealthiest communities helped shape Alstrom, but don’t expect him to run a city commission campaign trying to convince Lawrence residents that the city ought to become more like Boulder or Aspen.

“I loved it, but it was like treading water economically,” Alstrom said. “Boulder is expensive. Aspen is exorbitant.”

As an architect — Alstrom is the owner and sole employee of Lawrence-based Ecological Architecture — he won design awards in Aspen (the former Gap building in Aspen is his design), served on downtown committees, and was part of a group that studied light rail options for the community.

But he never did get over that treading water stage. Following 9/11, his business took a downturn and he decided it was time to return to Lawrence — where he had graduated from Kansas University in the 1970s. By 2004 he was living in Lawrence, and he also had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

“It was an unfortunate result of our cyclical economy,” Alstrom, 59, said.

It is not a result, though, that he said should disqualify him from being a Lawrence city commissioner. Instead, he said going through ups and downs have provided him perspective. It also has provided him an unofficial slogan that isn’t all that common in city commission campaigns.

“I think Lawrence sometimes kicks itself, but really I think we’re doing OK,” Alstrom said. “You have to remember to look at how everybody else is doing. I think we’re doing most things right.”

An active voice

That doesn’t mean, however, that there have been any shortage of items for Alstrom to talk about. He was one of the more vocal critics of The Oread hotel project north of KU. He said he opposed the project on historic preservation grounds — Alstrom is a former member of the city’s Historic Resources Commission — though he said he also didn’t like the design of the building. But he also freely admits the project has ended up being a positive for the Lawrence economy.

Alstrom also was active among a group of Centennial neighborhood residents who opposed parts of the school district’s plans for new athletic facilities at Lawrence High. He ended up being one of seven plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the district, which eventually was settled out of court when the district agreed to make some design changes to the project.

Alstrom’s home — a 1950s cement home built for the Penny family — abuts the new softball field. Alstrom said there are still a few aspects he doesn’t like about the project, but he’s generally pleased with the end result.

In the nearly eight years since he’s been back in Lawrence — he grew up in Wyandotte County, the son of a businessman who owned a title insurance company — he’s been involved in other issues. The scholarship halls in the Oread neighborhood were a hot issue that he became active in when he first arrived in the city, and he said he once applied to be a long-range planner for the city of Lawrence.

“I really would have driven people wild as a long-range planner,” Alstrom said.

Alstrom does admit that he sometimes can be a bit of a lightning rod. Alstrom once was generally considered to be a prolific commenter on the Journal-World’s online forum. Until he filed for city commission — he filed five minutes before the deadline — he had been banned from the forum by moderators for activity that violated the site’s terms of service.

But Alstrom disputes that he got out of line on the site, especially when compared with other commenters. Instead, he said some people just don’t like to hear his opinions.

“It is like they are xenophobic,” Alstrom said of other commenters. “If you don’t agree with them, they go crazy.”


Alstrom’s stance on several issues can be complex. For example, he said that he does think Lawrence’s retail industry is overbuilt, but that he wouldn’t try to stop new retailers from building here. He’s also a historic preservationist but said that he thinks downtown Lawrence needs to be open to change.

“I had a biology textbook titled ‘Grow or Die,’” Alstrom said. “That is a basic law of nature. Historic preservation doesn’t mean you put downtown under a bell jar. We have to let downtown grow.”

He also said he’s tired of hearing rhetoric about Lawrence being a community that is unfriendly to business. He said that Lawrence is a welcoming place for business, but that the community just wants to go about attracting businesses different from a place like Johnson County. Alstrom uses the phrase “economic gardening” to express the idea of tending to businesses that are existing and homegrown. He said places like Johnson County use a lot of “Miracle-Gro,” such as tax abatements and other incentives.

“I think we’re saying we want to be a little more sustainable, a little more organic here in Lawrence,” Alstrom said.


WHY 6 years ago

You are so smart. It is a wonder your talent has not been put to better use.

GardenMomma 6 years ago

Is it possible to find out which name he commented with before he was banned?

not_dolph 6 years ago

There were more than a dozen. Cool, Spiderman, Jaguar, Bronze, Ariadne, just to name a few.

BruceWayne 6 years ago

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

svenway_park 6 years ago

Also dried_oregano, ocean, rusty2, coltrane

svenway_park 6 years ago

Also Guy, Donjuan.

That gets us to at least eleven banned identities. I know there are more.

pace 6 years ago

I don't dislike all the ideas he espouses, wouldn't mind some of them making it into the conversation. What I have against the man is he is one mean hearted, narrow, egotistical, narcissistic sour puss and incompetent in implementation. Maybe I should communicate how I really feel. I don't ever want the agony of watching his uncivil, bizarre conduct in a public meeting again. But I only get one vote.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

In the interest of full disclosure, the LJW should repost the ravings of the svombie that got him banned from this forum multiple times. The voters need to know who they are dealing with.

pizzapete 6 years ago

Yea, I'd like to know what that's all about. All those user names, what the heck?

KU_Dude 6 years ago

“It is like they are xenophobic,” Alstrom said of other commenters. “If you don’t agree with them, they go crazy.”

Pot meet Kettle.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

"Until he filed for city commission — he filed five minutes before the deadline — he had been banned from the forum by moderators for activity that violated the site’s terms of service..." He was banned multiple times. Jonathan had to take the highly unusual step of public warning Sven that he was breaking the rules and that all of his future attempts to post under other identities would be deleted. Sven still didn't get the message and the identity he was using then got banned. "...But Alstrom disputes that he got out of line on the site, especially when compared with other commenters...." I'm calling wild blueberry muffins on that. Let us see the last half dozen posts of each of Sven's banned identities & we can judge for ourselves.

monkeyhawk 6 years ago

“It was an unfortunate result of our cyclical economy,” Alstrom, 59, said. "

2004? From what I recall, those were the good days.

I'll tell you what is really unfortunate - the fact that another deadbeat is running for CC, and the fact that he is blaming it on outside factors... What in the world makes these people think that the masses will entrust the budget to anyone who has proven to be totally irresponsible with their own finances, let alone OPM?

"...he had been banned from the forum by moderators for activity that violated the site’s terms of service."

Shouldn't that be multiple times?

“If you don’t agree with them, they go crazy.”

The "crazy" person is the one who barraged others with harassing PM's. I would much rather prefer a stable person, with a stable bank account and someone that Michele Obama and the food cops would approve of. That's definitely not Sven.

jafs 6 years ago

Who are you planning to vote for?

It seems like a very disappointing slate of candidates to me.

independent_rebel 6 years ago

You are correct. It's a terrible crop of candidates. Unfortunately, that is becoming the norm for US polictics on both the national and local level. If I vote, I may only vote for one person. The problem I'm having is finding one to vote for.

Maybe I'll write in Agnes T. Southlawrencetrafficway in honor of the trolls who voted for Agnes T. Frog a generation ago?

Amy Heeter 6 years ago

Here we go again. Sven hadn't said anything worse than most of you on this forum. Just imagine of he is elected his forum homies will have new material to contest. Looks to me like some posters are blindly chucking spears.

jafs 6 years ago

That may be.

But the conduct of many on this forum is reprehensible - so not being worse than that isn't great.

brujablanco 6 years ago

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

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

Worth repeating: • jkealing (Jonathan Kealing) says… bronze- I've warned you privately, now I'll warn you publicly. You do not have bearded_gnome's name correct. If you don't immediately cease to attempt to out an anonymous user, your account will be banned. In addition, I will immediately ban any account I suspect to be created by you without notice, warning or further cause. This is your final warning. Jonathan Kealing Online editor

svenway_park 6 years ago

Well, at least he came partially clean on his financial history. But as monkeyhawk noted, his explanation really isn't a particularly good one.

It would be interesting to determine if his filings with the county indicate if he has any clients from Lawrence.

monkeyhawk 6 years ago

Considering the bozomerrill is conspicuously silent on this topic, could it be??

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

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

svenway_park 6 years ago

Another area the LJW should have dug into was potential conflicts-of-interest of Mr. Alstrom while serving on the Lawrence Historic Resources Commission.

Another area would be his practice of soliciting for business by instigating professional practice complaints against other architects. If you can't win on your merits, eliminate the competition.

He has a record of doing this in Colorado before he returned to Kansas. In Kansas, he instigated such a complaint, aggitating the state AIA chapter to file one against a KU distinguished professor of architecture. Mr. Alstrom then was the very first to post on the LJWorld forum on a story about this complaint, accusing this individual of "misrepresentation." Mr. Alstrom's posts under a identity of his which has been removed from this forum will confirm all this. (this identity one of over ten identities which have been removed).

In Colorado, Mr. Alstrom filed several practice complaints against architects. He also wrote a letter supporting a Alstrom-like complaint filed against a Mr. Jack Johnson, a candidate for the Aspen City Commission, by a Mr. Myrin, resulting in a censure action against Mr. Johnson that forced Mr. Johnson to spend thousands of dollars to be reversed to clear his name.

Mr. Johnson's crime? Noting that he was educated as an architect during a campaign forum, (even though he did not practice architecture as a profession).

The irony of course is that this Mr. Johnson actually has a real architecture degree from a School of Architecture, which Mr. Alstrom does not.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years ago

A vote for Sven is a vote for free entertainment at

There is nothing more entertaining than a bunch of anonymous internet posters getting their virtual knickers in a knot.

vuduchyld 6 years ago

Alstrom is misusing the phrase, "economic gardening".

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

Did the LJW do a background check? Did the LJW check to see if "his home" is really his home? It isn't owned in his name, leading one to conclude that he lives in his mother's home. Why won't the candidate or the LJW reveal Sven's campaign staff? Why is Merrill so quiet on these threads? His absence is interesting. Why won't the LJW release Sven's previous posts? The LJW commonly complains about organizations withholding information and annually devotes an entire front page to information availability. Why won't it release these posts when they clearly are a major part of this candidates history in Lawrence?

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

There's another story going on here.

kernal 6 years ago

Nope. That was a young hippie transient female who was passing through Lawrence and decided to stick around a while to see if she could "save" that tree. Think she left town a couple of weeks after the battle was lost.

Clark Coan 6 years ago

The article was so biased his chances of winning have just dropped to about 10%.

pace 6 years ago

I don't think the article would negatively or positively influence those people who have interacted with or observed Sven at work.

pace 6 years ago

I don't think the article would negatively or positively influence those people who have interacted with or observed Sven at work.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

His behavior on this board has been so heinous that his chances of winning should be in negative numbers.

svenway_park 6 years ago

Can anyone find another person who equates the words "ecological architecture" with someone who lives in a concrete house?

Concrete may save you from tornadoes, but it is perhaps the world's worst material for home construction when evaluated for its CO2 footprint. Does anyone who is an "ecological architect" dispute this?

And why would one (who should not be naive about land use policies) who is without children buy a house adjoining a school, and its athletic fields, then protest when the school wants to actually use its athletic fields as athletic fields?

Is there any 1) common sense or 2) understanding of the greater community good exhibited by such behavior?

auturgy 6 years ago

In all fairness, purchasing a USED house is about the most ecological thing you can do if you're purchasing a house.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

In all fairness, his mom owns the house. He just lives there. Lulz

jayhawklawrence 6 years ago

This city has had too many people like Sven involved in its political process. Sven may be able to contribute something as a thoughtful, creative and educated guy but as a leader or a manager of the complex challenges Lawrence is facing, he is the last guy in the room that I would want in that position.

My 17 year old daughter is probably 10 times more qualified than Sven.

We need someone that knows how to think and does not have personal issues they are dealing with.

LHS56 6 years ago

The City just can't have another anti-growth leader if we want to improve our revenue and tax base. What does this person know about Lawrence? We don't need another "Boulder" attitude.

beaujackson 6 years ago

Hopefully the new commissioners can kill the library expansion.

Prairielander 6 years ago

Kill an expansion that was approved by the voters? Ummmm, somehow I don't think that is going to happen.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

I'm still curious who is running his campaign. LJW? Anyone?

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

Good catch. I didn't see these until just now. Amusing to see Clark Coan's name pop up, although I can't say I'm surprised a bit. I'm more surprised not to see the Heckler clan.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 12 months ago

You're putting your own name in all caps and referring to yourself in the third-person? That may be funnier than anything else you've posted here.

svenway_park 5 years, 12 months ago

Thanks. Finally providing us your views. Don't know why it took you three weeks.

What about the Dillons remodeling?

Flap Doodle 5 years, 12 months ago

"i have decided to leave the forum. goodbye. i am signing out. SVEN January 29, 2011" As we said earlier - I tried the forum to post when appropriate. It lasted about 6 hours and then the wingnuts - Jerry Springer show crowd took over and took it up to 290+ posts. GOOD BYE It is more like the Jerry Springer show than anything rational, in part due to the moderator's policy interpretations. we ARE NOT posting again - sorry. February 8, 2011

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 12 months ago

So Sven, in third person, has declared he supports the Hecklerian anti-business approach to government? I wonder if McClure is doing any work for the campaign using government resources.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 12 months ago

Found this nugget out there on the interwebs: "Dear Sven Alstrom… …I live in Austin, Texas. Spamming the comments in my blog with posts about your campaign for a City Commission seat in Lawrence, Kansas is a bad idea for the following reasons: 1. I’m not going to vote for you, since I don’t live in Lawrence, Kansas. 2. The vast majority of my readers aren’t going to vote for you, since they don’t live in Lawrence, Kansas. 3. Any of my readers who do live in Lawrence, Kansas won’t vote for you anyway because you are a spamming scumbag. Let me repeat that: Sven Alstrom is a spamming scumbag. 4. If you keep spamming my blog comments, I will be going to your ISP, Hostgator, and I will be asking them to shut your site down. 5. Is there any word in what I just said that you have trouble understanding?..." Some adult language followed what I copy/pasted.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 12 months ago

It appears that someone is spamming Sven's stuff all over the interwebs. Do a search for his name + city commission and you'll find the same text posted under multiple user names on all sorts of blogs. Looks like a spiced ham operation for sure.

svenway_park 5 years, 12 months ago

At first I thought someone was pranking him, but after reading a few of these I conclude that Sven is posting at least some of these his very self. I mean, I believe he is using this as an advertising opportunity. Maybe his basement buddy in wyco is helping.

BruceWayne 5 years, 12 months ago

okay I figured out who he looks like...MeisterBurger BurgerMeister!

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 12 months ago

Personally, i think if you put a green cone hat on him he'd look garden gnomish.

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