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Opinion

Opinion

Useful exchange

University communities may still have a lot to learn from one another.

July 5, 2011

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A recent Journal-World story told of a conference in Boulder, Colo., attended by City Manager David Corliss and Commissioner Hugh Carter. The meeting focused on “town-gown” relations and — surprise! — revealed that other university communities share issues like those that concern Lawrence.

Corliss noted that Lawrence wants to examine what other communities have done on situations related to neighborhoods with high student rental populations.

Decades ago, officials from cities in the old Big Eight Conference scheduled annual meetings to exchange information about common problems and concerns. Interestingly, old newspaper clippings refer to Carter’s father, former Mayor Ed, taking part, along with current Commissioner Bob Schumm during his first stint on the commission. Conference participants routinely included representatives from the universities, the cities’ news media, city officials, Chamber of Commerce leaders and others. Topics ranged widely, depending upon the issues of the day, from housing to utilities, recycling, transportation and even policies about dogs.

Ecology, local schools, municipal growth, jobs, crime and other matters deemed timely were the subject of featured speakers and panel presentations.

Attendees frequently included representatives from university communities outside the region, interested in seeing how the cities in the Big Eight were handling matters, and in how the annual Big Eight Cities Conference operated. It also was not uncommon for legislators, governors, and others to be part of the annual gatherings, which rotated among cities in the conference. (Toward the end of its successful run, the complaint from participants was that top university administrators had stopped taking part.)

Perhaps Lawrence officials should attempt to revive the conference and make sure that university leaders agree to be actively engaged in the discussions. The recent experience of Corliss and Carter would seem to underscore the value of sharing and exchanging information.

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