Archive for Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lawrence city commission candidate Bob Schumm hoping for another stint more than 30 years after first term

City commission candidate Bob Schumm answers three questions.

March 3, 2011


Bob Schumm

Bob Schumm

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Knock, knock, knock.

Every 15 minutes a young Bob Schumm would rap on the door of a Kansas University fraternity or sorority house. Evening after evening, he would stand on a stoop with his little food cart. Sandwiches, milk, potato chips, hard-boiled eggs for sale.

Hard-boiled eggs?

“I don’t know that you can make a living selling them now, but you sure could in the late 1960s,” Schumm said.

It seemed to Schumm one of the few ways to earn a paycheck in 1968 when he graduated from KU with a journalism degree.

“It was the height of the Vietnam War, and nobody was going to hire you because they knew it was just a matter of time before you got drafted,” Schumm said.

Schumm didn’t end up getting drafted into the service. He was able to join the Air Force Reserves, but by that time, the idea of being his own boss had stuck.

By 1970, he had opened his first restaurant — the Bull and Boar — in a space behind Weaver’s Department store. Many more would follow. From a Massachusetts Street office decorated with every thing from a stuffed pheasant, a grapefruit candle, and about a half-dozen partially finished glasses of iced tea, Schumm ticks them off from memory. Mass Street Deli, The New Yorker, Buffalo Bob’s Smokehouse, The Lemon Tree — “I was 10 years too early for frozen yogurt,” he says. “That ended up being missionary work for the frozen yogurt industry.” — and Arthur Porters.

“I like action, and I can’t think of another business where you have as much action,” Schumm said.

Well, maybe politics is a close second. Schumm has served two stints on the Lawrence City Commission — from 1979 to 1981 and then again from 1987 to 1993.

Knock, knock, knock, Lawrence voters. Schumm is back. He’s one of five candidates vying for three seats on the city commission. Why come back nearly 20 years later, you ask? The simplest answer may be because there are still issues he wants to tackle.

“I’ve found in my past life at City Hall that some issues last a long, long time,” Schumm said.

Hottest since Quantrill

If politician Bob Schumm was standing on doorstoops during his terms, he would have gotten a few doors slammed in his face. Maybe even gotten his fingers caught in a couple of them.

His last go-around on the City Commission was a bit rough-and-tumble at times.

The reason was simple enough, Schumm said: A mall. The community was divided over whether a suburban-style mall should be allowed on South Iowa Street.

“It probably was the hottest of issues since Quantrill’s raid,” Schumm said.

To hear Schumm tell it, everybody took a side. And everybody knew what side Schumm was on. He already had cemented himself as a mall opponent, having fought hard to keep a mall out of downtown.

The politics of the situation led to some “nasty accusations,” Schumm said. The most memorable is an accusation that Schumm got stuffed in the bottom of an area outhouse over some shady dealings. Schumm — who now brings the topic up unsolicited — said it’s not true. He has a stamped passport showing that he was in Spain at the time of the alleged incident.

(Schumm and his wife — a Spanish professor at Baker — are renowned travelers. He’s been to South America 15 times, Europe, Asia, North Africa and others. “I’ve learned as much traveling as any other source of learning I can think of,” Schumm said. “It teaches us how less important we are than we think we are.”)

Today, the mall memories and the bruises that it caused are a sign that he’s willing to make the decisions that he thinks need to be made, Schumm said.

“I’m certain that we made the right decision,” Schumm said. “We have a great downtown. It is much better than it was back then, and it is still growing today.”


Schumm, 64, remembers that a major issue in Downtown Lawrence used to be large numbers of teenagers parking their pickups along Massachusetts Street to drink beer and yell vulgarities.

“Now the evening restaurant business has grown to the point that it is tough to find a place to park to do anything like that,” Schumm said. “I’m very proud of that.”

Schumm has reduced his restaurant holdings down to Buffalo Bob’s and the associated Dynamite Saloon. He said Lawrence’s restaurant market is badly overbuilt, but he said he wouldn’t let that opinion guide any land use decisions that he would make as a commissioner. In other words, he said he won’t vote against future restaurant development just because he thinks the town already has enough restaurants.

But he does want the city to look at ways it can help encourage more retail business in downtown. He said a retail incubator that could offer smaller spaces for retailers to get started could help downtown increase its number of shops.

He also wants city leaders to be open to adding more living units to the downtown area.

“I’m convinced that will create opportunities for new types of retail in downtown,” Schumm said.

Schumm also said he wants the city’s economic development strategy to become focused on making all of Lawrence more attractive for start-up companies or for small firms that want to relocate. He often tells a story about a small publishing company he rents to in his downtown building. It started with just a couple of employees but quickly has grown close to 10.

“Those types of successes can add up,” Schumm said. “And if you can have your first success in Lawrence, you’re probably going to stay in Lawrence because it is a great place.”


consumer1 6 years, 10 months ago

Having been around Lawrence for a long long time, when he ran the first time and got elected, he basically set himself up as a successful lobbyist for his own agenda, that is, his downtown business'. I cannot help but wonder, if he is doing the same thing again? Does he want to turn the downtown area into a special tax district? To grab my tax dollars to put plants in front of his building. I still don't trust hm.

Phil Minkin 6 years, 10 months ago

I've talked to Bob about his first term and he admits he pretty much did what the chamber expected and what Ed Carter did. Toward the end of his term he realized that that wasn't the best thing for Lawrence in general and changed, but it was too late and he was defeated. When he ran again he was part of the anti-downtown group that was swept in and I feel he was pro-neighborhoods as well as supporting a strong downtown. He will listen to both sides and isn't a chamber lackey.

BobtheBuilder 6 years, 10 months ago

This man is a joke. We used to sell him product and he never paid his bills. He has no business trying to run for city commission.

Mike Myers 6 years, 10 months ago

BobtheBuilder, you are a joke. When did you stop beating your wife?

Budgets_Smudgets 6 years, 10 months ago

To consumer1:

If preventing Montgomery Wards or JC Pennys constructing a 3-level big box over the 600-700 bock of Massachusetts, and pushing surface parking into old west and east lawrence is an example of having a "special interest," I say boulya, boulya, bloulya.

I remember the days that Dolph, the chamber and others (when Downtown Lawrence was much more anemic) tried to put a downtown mall which would have f***ed up this city forever. Then the "cornfield mall" issue occurred. Same thing. The developers and the powers to be tried to squelch him.

I am glad that he has benefited from his ownership of properties. And to the others.

I would much rather our local people benefiting than from the non-Kansan mall conglomerates.

My point is that I remember when Mr. Schum helped prevent these abominations. If you want to consider that as a conflict of interest which prevents service, so be it. I think that is having an interest in local ownership other than the national mall ownership groups.

I say we need more Mr. Schums whom employ local people, without corporate policies, and have fewer corporate & mall interests

Budgets_Smudgets 6 years, 10 months ago

Careful, Consumer, you impute a lot of opinions and labels to me which I do not have. And I do not agree with all decisions which have been made relative to downtown. That survey was silly in my view. And I am for growth, and appropriate economic incentives (but every project is not deserving). Downtown gives us more than just sales taxes too. Lots of intangibles. Sorry you do not care for them.

I do believe that people travel to this city for two things 1) our downtown, 2) the university.

Had the developer-types (i.e. those who seen no bad development anywhere) (could this be you Consumer?) had their way, downtown would now be dying, and the residential area around it would be suffering too. And you could staring at a big Montgomery Wards block of a building at the end of Massachusetts street,

And everyone would be bitc**** like crazy. We would be, in a way, just another Topeka.

Relative to special district taxes, I seem to recall an op-ed piece sometime recently in the LJW authored by Schumm, which opposed the use of CID taxing district on 23rd St. (I think all the current commissioners supported it) I think CID's are pi$$ poor public policy, and I agreed with Schumm's points on that matter.

It is interesting that someone like you holds a grudge against an entrepreneur and businessman. I thought that was what conservative free market types like. If downtown prices (both real estate and items) are overpriced, Adam Smith's invisible hand will take care of that, won't it?

2002 6 years, 10 months ago

You are correct, especially on the "Dolph" and JW part. That group has never cared about the downtown. The embarrassment that they built an the entry to the downtown is proof of that. I'm not so convinced that National retailers would have been a problem, but the style of development that was killed 30 years ago was exactly the right thing to do.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

The bedroom community issue is huge. A beefed up downtown retail market won't help with that, but I do like the idea of encouraging tech startups.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Sprawl and development is a big issue.

But, nobody forced all those folks to buy new houses in outlying areas of the city.

And, in fact, current residents paid for a lot of costs associated with that development, even if they were opposed to it.

So, if you don't want to be a commuter, then buy a house where you work.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

I didn't buy new, nor did I buy in an outlying area, but I cannot afford housing in Lawrence without working in KC. I imagine I'm not alone on that one.

tonytman 6 years, 10 months ago

Bob is all about Bob When an employe of his (rusty) had worked for BoB for i cant remeber like 20 or 25 years he took out an add in LJ World to congradulate him. It was 2 lines about the employe and have a page about BOB i did not like him then and dont like him now he will never get my vote

bad_dog 6 years, 10 months ago

Kind of hard to believe one of the terminated employees didn't file a police complaint alleging possession of a controlled substance by their former employer.

Employer: "You're fired!"

Moments later... Former employee: "Ring, ring. LPD?

LPD: "Employer, you're so busted!"


Kontum1972 6 years, 10 months ago

good story.... so Bob is kinda like a Narc...with a secret agenda....

too bad you cannot find a few of those like a booger with a hair in it..!


irvan moore 6 years, 10 months ago

we have enough commissioners with direct ties to downtown but after this election we will have more. remember 20 some years ago when downtown had businesses that the average person used and shopped at. how about we elect commissioners that recuse themselves from vooting on issues that directly affect them? it's not gonna happen.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 10 months ago

I heard from a fourth cousin of an employee Bob is secretly a unicorn and that he poops gold.

Seriously? I'm not a huge fan of Bob and I'd rather have a better pool of candidates, but at least he has a public track record that one can judge instead of vague positions and a spotty record of business ownership. Although one might argue that his public behavior is self-serving, he - at a minimum - behaves like an adult and not a petulant child

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 10 months ago

What the hell is going on? WHy does this journalistic rag keep putting this past disaster on display on the front pages of this paper? What ties does he have to this media outlet that he gets all this free advertisement? Whats up Dolph? Hey, Keiling, why do you keep grandstanding for this guy? There are other candidates who in my humble opinion, would be far more beneficial than this cheerleader for the imaginary "beautiful downtown Lawrence (aka "gangland"," aggieville east" ad nausium.) How about some front page articles on some of the new candidates and a moratorium on your "Beautiful Shumboo" campaign? I have had enough of my fill of this guy to last for a few hundred decades.

Kawfarmer 6 years, 10 months ago

Remmember the story about finding him at the bottom of a clinton lake outhouse in the 70's...LOL funny stuff!

beaujackson 6 years, 10 months ago

Central Lawrence will ONLY be saved by re-populating with families - NOT students!

The question to prospective commissioners should be: "How are you going to achieve this"?

As long as central Lawrence remains over 60% student rental, even in SF zoned neighborhoods, it will continue to deteriorate into a huge slum. And neighborhood schools will continue to close.

Most downtown merchants not selling beer are struggling for lack of family support.

City commissioners either do not understand this, are afraid to offend the powerful rental lobby or, are part of the problem.

Synjyn Smythe 6 years, 10 months ago

"Central Lawrence will ONLY be saved by re-populating with families - NOT students!" Good luck with that one! Let's see, I have a wife & 2 kids and have $250K to spend. Where am I going to buy a residence? Such nice yard space downtown! Hey, kids, go play in the street!

heyheymama 6 years, 10 months ago

i recall that was the same time the riverfront mall was erected. he didn't object to that fiasco. and that was a mall IN DOWNTOWN....his memory seems very selective..

BruceWayne 6 years, 10 months ago

as a result of a strange string of events, Svombie will now be getting all three of my votes.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 10 months ago

Interesting that one can go back and look at old articles about some candidates, but one can't look at old comments made on this forum by other candidates.

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