News and notes from around town:
• UPDATED. Add Lawrence businessman Doug Compton to the list of those interested in perhaps doing a large project on the city-owned parking lot at Ninth and Vermont streets. City commissioners at their meeting tonight will discuss a proposal put forward by Lawrence architect Paul Werner. Commissioners won’t green-light the project by any means tonight, and Compton is indicating that is a good thing. He’s sent a letter to City Hall essentially saying that if the city is going to consider allowing one of its public parking lots to be redeveloped, it ought to be open to proposals from his group and others.
“If the city determines to permit this kind of development,” Compton writes, “then it is in the public interest to open such development opportunities to competition for any developer that has demonstrated financial capability and who will provide the greatest benefit for the downtown area in terms of retail development, tax base, investment and architectural vision for the project.”
Compton, in case you have forgotten, is building a seven-story building at Ninth and New Hampshire streets. His building will have apartments, offices and retail — which is much the same mix as what Werner has proposed. Compton also has asked the city to allow the project to reserve some spaces in the city-owned parking garage that is adjacent to his building. City commissioners still haven’t dealt with that request.
• It soon will be Italian Food Part II for the intersection of Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. Bambino’s Italian Cafe will open later this month in the space recently vacated by Mia’s Italian Restaurant. Bambino’s has been at 1801 Mass. for about the last five years, but the lease on that building is set to expire. Bobick Sarraf, who owns and operates the restaurant with his wife, Roxana, said the chance to move out west intrigued him.
“We’ve had a lot of people from that side of town yell at us for being too far away,” Sarraf said.
The new space, 1540 Wakarusa, will be about 1.5 times larger than Bambino’s old space. That means a larger menu also is on the way. Sarraf said the restaurant will serve a daily breakfast menu, will add a full line of pizzas and also will add steak offerings to the menu.
Sarraf hopes to open the new location in another week or so, and have a grand opening in early February.
• The first round of campaign finance reports for the 2011 City Commission elections are in, and they show that the money has already started to flow to some candidates. Hugh Carter, a financial adviser and former planning commissioner, was the first candidate to file, and it looks like he’s been making good use of his time. Carter, who filed for office in November, raised $10,900 through Dec. 31. Carter raised his $10,900 from 92 different contributors.
Hugh Carter campaign finance report ( .PDF )
Mike Dever campaign finance report ( .PDF )
Mike Machell campaign finance report ( .PDF )
Mike Machell, a human resources manager and chair of the city’s library board, has raised $2,210, although $500 of it was a loan from himself. Worth noting, though, is that Machell didn’t start raising money until Dec. 27, meaning he collected about $2,000 in five days. He received contributions from 19 contributors.
City Commissioner Mike Dever got the latest start on fundraising. He didn’t start taking contributions until Dec. 30, but he still managed to collect $1,890 from eight contributors.
Lawrence restaurant owner and former mayor Bob Schumm also has announced he’s running for one of the three seats up for election on the commission. But since Schumm didn’t start his campaign until after the New Year, he wasn’t required to file a report this deadline. There will be a couple of more reports due before the April 5 General Election. We’ll keep a close eye on the filings. Campaign contributions are the equivalent of the scientific polls that dominate national elections. They give you the best look at how large and how committed of a base each candidate has. They also can be useful in determining what type of professionals and individuals are supporting a candidate. Look to the side of this article for PDF documents showing the full list of contributors to each candidate.
• The expense reports also seem to confirm what has been widely speculated: City Commissioner Lance Johnson won’t seek re-election. Johnson filed documents with County Clerk Jamie Shew to terminate his campaign finance account. No campaign finance account means a candidate can’t accept contributions, which is definitely not the way you win an election in Lawrence. Speculation that Johnson would not run has increased after it was reported earlier this year that one of his business entities was behind on property taxes in Johnson County, and that Emprise Bank had filed a lawsuit against him regarding a $1.95 million loan that has gone into default. That lawsuit is still working its way through the system in Douglas County District Court.
• A campaign question that isn’t completely cleared up is whether City Commissioner Rob Chestnut will seek re-election. Chestnut officially has said he’s still undecided. But if I had to read the tea leaves, I would guess that there’s a better than 50 percent chance that he won’t run for a second term. But take that for what it is worth. Tea is not exactly my drink of choice. The filing deadline is noon on Jan. 25.
• As the snow piles up, reader Scott Henderson called in to remind people that more than sidewalks need to be shoveled. He said neighborhood residents need to remember to shovel the snow that stacks up in front of the bank of mailboxes that serve many Lawrence neighborhoods. Henderson, who is 70, said it is difficult for many people to get to the mailboxes, especially when snow plows leave a large pile. He also said it isn’t feasible for many people to just skip getting the mail during inclement weather. What also is not likely is that the post office will clear the snow in front of the boxes. It also probably isn’t feasible for city crews who plow the streets to clear the snow. So Henderson is hoping the neighbors will take on the job, and that if no one steps forward that the person whose house is closest to the mailbox takes on the responsibility.
• Speaking of snow shoveling responsibilities, the city will start reminding residents of theirs. Property owners are responsible for removing snow from public sidewalks that traverse their property. City code requires snow or ice to be removed within 48 hours of the end of a snowfall or ice event. Last year, city officials tried to prove they’re serious about the ordinance. Last winter the city issued about 200 tickets and received about 790 complaints. The fine is $20 per day, plus courts costs.