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Archive for Saturday, March 5, 2011

City Commission candidates discuss approach to Lawrence economics

March 5, 2011

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Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles highlighting issues in the Lawrence City Commission race.

There’s a reason candidates for the Lawrence City Commission seemingly are always talking about jobs: Douglas County had fewer jobs in 2010 than it did in 2001.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 46,361 jobs located in Douglas County through June of 2010 (the latest numbers available). That’s about 200 fewer jobs than during the same time period in 2001.

The state as a whole is in the same boat — it has lost about 2 percent of its jobs. But there are some Kansas counties, such as Johnson and Riley, that have bucked the trend and become job stars in the state.

Douglas County isn’t one of them, and Lawrence City Commission candidates have taken notice.

But what do they intend to do about it? At first blush, all of the candidates can sound the same on the issue. After all, no one wins a City Commission election saying they want fewer jobs in the community.

Differences do emerge, though, as candidates talk about the issue in more depth. The Journal-World discussed economic development topics with each of the candidates last week. Here’s a look at what each had to say.

Sven Alstrom

Alstrom, a Lawrence architect, is the only candidate in the field who has expressed significant reservations about the city’s decision to take over ownership of the environmentally blighted former Farmland Industries plant on the eastern edge of the city.

“I would have liked to have seen less city involvement in that process,” Alstrom said. “My fear is that we get stuck with a big cost or a big liability.”

Alstrom, though, said he does agree that the 467-acre former fertilizer plant is an eyesore and needs to be cleaned up. He also said he’s in agreement with the city’s plan to convert the property into an industrial/business park.

Alstrom also disagrees with those who say Lawrence has had a “business unfriendly” attitude in the past. As an architect, Alstrom said he’s seen regulations in lots of communities that are tougher to deal with than Lawrence’s.

“To expect no constraints upon business is not a rational approach,” Alstrom said. “I don’t think our constraints are that bad. I think a lot of the talk about being business unfriendly is rhetoric. We have to have some constraints but still promote healthy growth.”

On other topics, Alstrom:

• Believes the community did err when it failed to close the deal to land an American Eagle Outfitters Warehouse project that was slated to be built near the East Hills Business Park. The American Eagle project was proposed during the beginning of the last decade, but it is getting lots of talk on this year’s campaign trail. The warehouse eventually was built in Ottawa after significant opposition arose to a requested tax abatement and the wages proposed by the company.

• Believes offering tax abatements and other economic development incentives to companies is generally reasonable, as long as city policies measuring costs versus benefits are weighed.

“When you look at the entire city budget and what these incentives may cost, it is really very little,” Alstrom said.

• Wants to do a better job of reaching out to Johnson County entrepreneurs to determine if there’s potential for them to be involved in Lawrence projects.

Hugh Carter

Carter, a local financial adviser, stresses that Lawrence leaders must be flexible when considering future economic development projects.

Carter said he wants to at least discuss the possibility of removing the “living wage” requirement that currently is attached to the city’s tax abatement policy.

“I think we absolutely have to revisit it,” Carter said. “I’m not saying it has to change, but I want to get comfortable that the living wage idea is still one that makes sense.”

Carter is supportive of the city’s decision to take over the Farmland site, but he said he wants to be flexible in determining how it will develop. He is proposing that the city develop at least three sets of plans for the site, and then actively shop the plans to partners that could make them a reality. He also said he would consider significant commercial development for parts of the property, an idea that the current City Commission has balked at.

“I definitely have heard about the shortage of quality industrial sites, but I still would be open to listening to whatever folks think will bring us the biggest bang for our buck at that site,” Carter said.

On other issues, Carter:

• Is “very much in favor” of efforts to attract industrial projects to the area near the Lecompton interchange on Interstate 70. He said its access to I-70 makes the area a good fit for future industrial development.

• Expressed, as all the candidates did, support for the city’s efforts to attract more bioscience companies. But he said the community needs more technical training facilities for jobs that don’t require a college degree.

• Wants the city to develop more relationships with leaders in university communities that have successfully been adding jobs.

“We have to get outside of our own world here and look at some of the best practices elsewhere,” Carter said.

Mike Dever

Dever, the owner of an environmental consulting firm and the only incumbent seeking re-election, said some of Lawrence’s job struggles have stemmed from the community being focused more on residential development than on economic development.

“I think for awhile we were focused more on residents than on providing residents a place to work,” Dever said.

He believes the current commission has restored a focus to economic development. He was a supporter of the city’s decision to take over the Farmland site and to partner with KU and others on a new bioscience incubator. He thinks the partnership with KU is critical to success.

“In the past the city didn’t focus enough on building a partnership with the University of Kansas,” Dever said. “I think we’ve taken big steps with limited resources to build partnerships for businesses to grow. It is like any type of investment. You have to start from the ground up. But we’ve laid the foundation and now we just need to start building it out.”

On other issues, Dever:

• Believes being able to offer financial incentives to companies is an important part of the process. He said the community has to think beyond tax abatements. He believes offering companies dollars to provide training for its employees is a good strategy because well-trained employees will benefit the community even if the company does leave in future years.

• Thinks the community may have sent a message that it is not interested in many types of blue-collar jobs by opposing the American Eagle project in the last decade. He said the city needs to combat that image.

• Voted in favor of annexations opening up the area around the Lecompton interchange for industrial development.

Mike Machell

Machell, a human resources director for an Overland Park company, said it is important for city commissioners to set the right expectations for economic development.

“The City Commission needs to set the tone,” Machell said. “We need to communicate that we want a process that does more to facilitate business than to regulate it. There needs to be a balance there, but you have to look at a policy and say, ‘How can I meet the spirit of the policy and still accomplish the project?’”

Machell believes the community at times has sent poor messages about how it views the importance of jobs. In particular, Machell has criticized those who labeled the proposed jobs at the American Eagle warehouse project as “dead-end jobs.”

“They were $8-an-hour jobs and people were calling them dead-end jobs and people were saying ‘hell no,’” Machell recalls of the debate surrounding the project. “That was short-term thinking. I don’t believe in dead-end jobs. Most any job we bring into the city will have a positive impact on the city over time.”

On other issues, Machell:

• Characterized the city’s decision to take over the former Farmland Industries site as “exactly the right decision.”

• Believes tax abatements and other incentives are “going to be pretty important” in trying to attract new companies to town. But he said he does support tying tax abatements to specific performance measures the company must meet.

• Wants to lead an effort on the City Commission to recruit community colleges or private institutions that can provide technical training.

“I think that would be incredibly attractive to a lot of employers,” Machell said.

Bob Schumm

Schumm, a Lawrence restaurant owner and former city commissioner, is a major reason why the American Eagle project is brought up frequently on the campaign trail.

In 2000, Schumm ran an unsuccessful campaign to win a seat on the Douglas County Commission. A major part of his campaign was opposition to the American Eagle project. In a campaign ad, he called the proposed American Eagle jobs “low-wage, dead-end jobs.”

Today, he says he maybe would have framed the issue differently, but that his opinion on the project hasn’t changed. He said the jobs were not offering high enough wages to support a family and that the company was asking for a tax abatement that was significantly larger than what was standard for the time. To top it off, he said, the project would have taken prime agricultural ground out of production.

“There are a lot of people in town who say any type of job is a good job,” Schumm said. “I’m not opposed to any job that is in the marketplace, but when you subsidize it, that’s a different matter.”

Schumm said his record as a city commissioner for eight years shows that he voted for far more economic development projects than he voted against, but he said there’s a point where the incentives and subsidies become too much. He said generally any tax abatement higher than 50 percent is going to be hard-pressed to benefit the community. He said recent tax abatements given to Berry Plastics, both of which exceeded 50 percent, likely were too generous.

“I always come back to the fact that somebody is paying for this, and it is the taxpayer,” Schumm said. “I think the tax rate is about as high as people can stomach right now. I’m really trying to stay in tune with the taxpayer.”

On other issues, Schumm:

• Believes the city is “going in the right direction” with its “strong emphasis” on biotechnology and partnerships with KU.

• Supports the city’s actions to take over the Farmland site, and hopes it can be develop much like the adjacent East Hills Business Park.

• Disagrees, generally, with people who say the city has been unfriendly to business.

“I believe that we are business friendly and that we are accommodating,” Schumm said. “I believe that the people who say we are business unfriendly probably are doing more damage than good. But if there are parts of the process that are obsolete or broken, we need to fix them or do away with them. But there are some people who don’t want any regulations ever for any reason. That is never going to happen.”

Comments

Kyle Chandler 3 years, 6 months ago

KU is an evil, corrupt, and backwards institution. In the last 20 years its done nothing but choke this entire town. Beg to differ? Tell me why there isn't a simple technical college in this county? Manhattan has one, Wichita has many, Emporia has one, i believe Hays even has one ( i could be wrong). You can drive to Overland Park or Topeka you might say, but thats just avoiding the question. This town could easily support it, but for some reason, there just isn't.

Anyone?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

There's nothing wrong with having a technical college here, but I fail to see why you blame KU for their not being one.

Given the current animosity towards education of any kind in the state legislature, how would you suggest this college get funding?

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notanota 3 years, 6 months ago

There's a Lawrence campus for JCCC, and there's a bus that goes to the main JCCC campus. What more do you want?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

"Carter said he wants to at least discuss the possibility of removing the “living wage” requirement that currently is attached to the city’s tax abatement policy.

“I think we absolutely have to revisit it,” Carter said. “I’m not saying it has to change, but I want to get comfortable that the living wage idea is still one that makes sense.”"

In other words, his economic development plan is really just an economic exploitation plan.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

Nearly everyone in this town has benefitted by not giving out corporate welfare for crappy, low-paying jobs that cost the city more than it gets in return. If they want to take another look at it, fine, but that doesn't mean that opening up the city coffers to whatever abatement requests come along will be good policy for the majority of Lawrence taxpayers.

As far as the roommate restriction, it was an attempt to deal with a real problem, but I'm not sure that it's been particularly effective.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

If you really think abatements are a fair way to go, why not give every business in town the same reduction in property taxes?

I'll answer my own question-- because the budget deficits the city and county are currently facing would be even worse-- much worse.

So at some point, it really does come down to an issue of fairness. Why should AE (and other companies) get a better deal than most existing businesses?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

Schumm was right about American Eagle. The jobs they offered were not worth the corporate welfare they were demanding, and their desired location was was a bad one.

And in the end, Ottawa offered them a sweetheart deal that Lawrence couldn't, and shouldn't, have tried to beat.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

And how much does it cost the city, county and school districts there to support AE and its employees?

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Budgets_Smudgets 3 years, 6 months ago

I'd check those numbers once again Liberal, they have 100% tax abatement on their new buildings, and the older existing building got a 50% abatement, I believe. (that is actually a 50% reduction from what property tax had been generating)

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Scott Morgan 3 years, 6 months ago

Yes, and Ottawa is doing nicely including reaping the benefits of the Walmart distributing warehouse.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

if it's such a great deal, why doesn't Ottawa give every business in town the same abatement that Wal-Mart gets?

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jafs 3 years, 6 months ago

What a disappointing set of candidates to have to choose from.

They all support tax abatements, which I oppose.

Sven's behavior on these comments sections has been less than ideal, to say the least, and shows him to be somewhat immature and petty.

I sure wish we had some better choices for this election.

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notanota 3 years, 6 months ago

I couldn't agree more on all points. Since when would I find Bob Schumm to be the most appealing candidate? It's like bizarro world.

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BruceWayne 3 years, 6 months ago

the choices are not great, but the choice is simple. We cannot elect someone that has shown they cannot handle their personal finances. We must also be concerned about a candidate that is broke and does not have a job.

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BruceWayne 3 years, 6 months ago

from facebook: Sven Erik Alstrom ANNOUNCEMENT!

New Treasurer for City Commission Campaign is MIKE RUNDLE!

John Wysocki Campaign Manager

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

As far as a Vo-Tech training institution is concerned is not because taxpayers have not been asking for one. It is because the leadership,if you will,consistently refused to pursue such.

American Eagle is in the past. There is not a lot of reason to keep bringing the matter up. It could be the owners of the real estate were asking too much money which is common and it was during the "boom town economics" period in which some thought there is no price too high IF one wanted to locate or do business in Lawrence,Kansas. OR another location could have been offered. Ottawa had the right deal at the right time.

On tax abatements there has not been enforcement behind agreements = taxpayers lose big time. Lawrence/Douglas County does not have the large enough tax base so let's not pretend were are Topeka or JOCO. Somebody must pay = taxpayers.

Education is a Lawrence niche that has rewarded this community in a big way. That is a direction that withstands economic downturns as people are constantly wanting to make themselves more sellable. Lots of info support that thinking.

Where is: a community college level Vo-Tech a business college * an art college directly connected to the arts center. Art center directors are perfectly capable of managing such a venture.

None of the above is competition for KU. It is merely offering more to those many who have no desire to attend a typical 4 year college.

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overthemoon 3 years, 6 months ago

We have at least one 'beauty school' and a massage therapy school. I'm thinking there are probably other niche education opportunities that aren't coming to mind at the moment.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

Art is a Lawrence niche: The $166.2 billion in total economic activity has a significant national impact, generating the following:

* $5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs
*$104.2 billion in household income
*$7.9 billion in local government tax revenues
*$9.1 billion in state government tax revenues
*$12.6 billion in federal income tax revenues

Our Arts & Economic Prosperity studies continue to be among the most frequently cited statistics used to demonstrate the impact of the nation’s nonprofit arts industry on the local, state, and national economy.

  1. Economic Impact : http://www.americansforthearts.org/information_services/research/services/economic_impact/default.asp

  2. Information and Services: http://www.americansforthearts.org/information_services/

More art, music and farmers market fairs in downtown proper not on the edge of downtown.

Some years back the leadership was receiving suggestions on bringing a nice aquarium to town to help spur tourism. Today we know JOCO and KCMO are both bringing aquariums to their communities.

Bicycling activity has been good to Lawrence. Let's do more.

What I like about the tourism industry is people come to have an enjoyable visit,spend money and go home.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence would be improved if we banned the use of internal combustion lawn mowers. They are killing the planet. Anyone who uses them is dumb and irresponsible!!!!!

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gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 6 months ago

Indeed. I would back a lawnmower tax. The US can't go on funding wars of conquest to fuel such luxuries!

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BigPrune 3 years, 6 months ago

It sounds like Sven hasn't had to deal with the City to know just how unfriendly Lawrence is which is perplexing since he is an architect. He must get his business out of town.

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overthemoon 3 years, 6 months ago

Having worked on projects in Lawrence, Lenexa, Leawood, Overland Park, KCK and KCMO, and Columbia, MO, I can concur with Sven that the regulations and ordinances are very lax in Lawrence compared to other municipalities in the region. The approval process for buildings, site planning and signage are arduous and often arbitrary especially in Lenexa and Leawood. It can take months to get something through any JOCO City Hall. Lawrence, by comparison, is a piece of cake. Now, if you're trying to build crap or you haven't met the very basic standards and requirements, sure, it can be tough. And that's a good thing. If a builder, business or developer can't afford or aren't able to meet the standards, perhaps they're in the wrong business.

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BigPrune 3 years, 6 months ago

Let's say you want to rent a 1200 sq. ft. vacant space in a local shopping center.

  1. You must file a site plan for the entire shopping center. GREAT for an architect or engineer wouldn't you say?

  2. If it was older zoned property like C-2, C-4 or C-5 the parking code change in 2005 didn't grandfather these properties so these properties no longer have a large enough parking lot for a tenant to rent out the vacant space. GREAT, now a parking variance will be required.

  3. Let's say you want to remove a non-load bearing wall build another floating wall, say-7'9" tall that ties into the celing tiles and the length is 8' long. The City makes you hire an engineer and architect to do a drawing just for this one non-load bearing wall and a minor rework of the HVAC duct work. GREAT for an engineer and architect!

Total time frame required, 9 months, for a 1200 sq. ft. space being rented for 3 years firm term and a couple of options.

Lawrence is known nationally as the second worst City to do business according to a national retailer (name to remain anonymous to protect the innocent for fear of reprisals).

Lenexa was a cake walk for me when I put my business in there compared to Lawrence's unnecessary red tape of B.S.

I'm not buying what you say overthemoon. Perhaps you work for Gould Evans? - not sure what they've done lately in this town.

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overthemoon 3 years, 6 months ago

No. I do not work for Gould Evans.

re number three. Stamped drawings are not required on a project of 1200 sf. You can do the drawing yourself or your contractor can do it as long as it has the required info on it. There is a simple list to follow. If your drawing is not adequate, you may be asked to get professional help.

It is harder to get stuff through any city hall if the applicant acts like a jerk.

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BigPrune 3 years, 6 months ago

...only if it is residential.

no jerk at all.

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JimmyJoeBob 3 years, 6 months ago

I would assume Mr. Schumm pays his employees more than $8.00 an hour after reading his comments about the jobs at American Eagle being dead end and too low paying to support a family

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

And I bet that Mr. Schumm doesn't get any tax abatements, either.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

“I believe that the people who say we are business unfriendly probably are doing more damage than good."

Hear hear

Thank you journal world,some city commissioners and chamber of commerce....

What is business unfriendly is economic displacement sponsored by over built retail and office and warehouse space. Soon we'll be overbuilt on over priced new senior citizen dwellings...... moving along quickly.

With increased numbers of residential = increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services they require from a municipality. This increases the cost of living by way of higher taxes,user fees, AND water/sewer/trash rates etc etc etc. In fact we might be paying for that new $100 million sewage treatment plant the developers want .... on our water and sewer bill as we speak....rumors.

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jayhawklawrence 3 years, 6 months ago

I have decades of experience in the technical field working with manufacturers and work with a lot of technical schools and colleges. I don't believe this area would be able to support a technical college. The best places to go are in Kansas City. I think we do need to get better equipment in our high schools and we need strong leadership in this area to provide competent advice for these type of very talented kids.

The best answer in my view is to promote good relationships between the high schools and the technical schools, both 2 year and 4 year. One change that I have seen in the Vo-Tech schools is that a lot of students get bored easily and you have to design these programs to be appealing to kids who have grown up in the so called digital age.

High Schools are struggling to find the way to make the content of their courses applicable to the modern economy and this is difficult with so little funding available.

We need a fast track to cover areas of manufacturing processes and then we need to put more emphasis on getting up to speed in areas such as computer aided design and manufacturing. We need to get these kids using products such as AutoCad and Solidworks. We need to get them quickly up to speed on computer hardware and software creation concepts and then we need to get them designing, creating and prototyping their own products.

The US school system is bogged down with obsolete concepts. They are running far behind industry right now and kids are bored. That is on us. We are not getting the job done on the education side.

A lot of people have good intentions and want to improve the quality of our education in these technical areas but there is no competent leadership or funding to make that happen. Even the instructors in the Vo-Tech schools are frustrated with the task before them but they understand the need is great.

The US educational system has spent years putting down the manufacturing sector but our future is in the hands of the next generation's ability to design and build the products of the future.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

One of the ironies of the current political climate is that nearly all of the training and educational needs you list are ones that would be of greatest benefit to the businesses that would hire these workers, but businesses should now be exempt from paying any of the taxes that fund education.

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Catalano 3 years, 6 months ago

Sven thinks we should have bent over and let American Eagle come to Lawrence? Oh, wait...WE DID. They just chose to go to Ottawa instead. (Ottawa actually took property already built OFF the tax rolls for American Eagle.) And I thought Sven would have been a little more supportive of the idea to protect prime farmland that was NEVER in any plan to be developed. Oh wait...HE WASN'T HERE IN 1999. It's so pathetic when people running for office don't do their homework.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

Auto Cad is in the high school....

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BruceWayne 3 years, 6 months ago

and one minority , depending how you look at it.

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moveforward 3 years, 6 months ago

Research driven universities are core to a lively cultural and economically healthy community. Just ask the folks in kansas city who can only wish they had one.

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Bob Forer 3 years, 6 months ago

Sven, I am still leaning towards your candidacy, but am troubled by your position on American Eagle. Do you really think $8.00 an hour jobs should be subsidized by the taxpayers? Never been a fan of Bob Schumm, but he sure seems to have had a more progressive prospective on the issue than you.

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jayhawklawrence 3 years, 6 months ago

At some point in the future we will see changes in the way we approach education.

I don't see much hope in this being initiated from a place like Lawrence but it will happen because places like MIT will make it happen. Our best engineering schools will demonstrate why it is important and then it will be adopted by the rest of the country.

There will be more emphasis on programs that combine related fields of study because you need a more comprehensive understanding and you need to apply what you are learning at a much faster pace.

Education does not end at high school or college. Education never ends and our system has to do a better job of creating life long learning opportunities that involve information that is useful. In the information age the challenge is finding information that is actually useful.

The pressure for change is coming from the global economy. We can sit back and enjoy the status quo while it lasts or we can embrace change and challenge that will transform the world around us.

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gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 6 months ago

Out of all the candidates, which one has declared bankruptcy? Which one has no assets? Which one owns no property in the city? Sven for the trifecta. It makes his comments about economics a little ironic.

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jayhawklawrence 3 years, 6 months ago

We are in a time when everyone wants to see a good ROI (return on investment) in order to justify any expense. Especially in Kansas right now, if you want to buy advanced shop equipment, good luck.

I wish we had a KU sponsored technical facility where people could come with their projects and get engineering or manufacturing assistance. Where they had night classes on all the major manufacturing processes such as welding, grinding, forming, turning, milling, water jet and laser.

I could see this facility being connected with our Lawrence Arts programs. Very easily.

This is the kind of thing being discussed at MIT and other engineering schools around the country. How do we nurture our country's creative talent and provide a path to bringing their ideas to fruition?

How would you manage it? How would you fund it?

When you get talented people involved in a program it starts to take off. It gets energized.

We spend a lot of time in this town talking about books, but we need to spend more time thinking about how to apply that knowledge in the real world.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink.

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Joshua Montgomery 3 years, 6 months ago

That is actually a really good idea. I know that even with an engineering degree, my first business would have been very difficult without the manufacturing base in Tulsa, where I was living at the time.

Even now, we have the sun shields and mounting brackets for Lawrence Freenet manufactured in Topeka. Couldn't find a source in Lawrence.

Putting together a rapid lab with expert help and access to quality equipment (I would add inexpensive fiber-optic data, Stereo Lithography, 3D Modeling, Plastic's Fabrication, Mold Making, Composite Materials and Optics to the list) would make it much easier to fabricate one-of items as prototypes for future businesses, or art, or just for fun.

I would also like to see the local incubator expanded outside of bio-science. I hear there is the whole "IT" thing going on that is transforming our society, might be nice to have some startups here in Lawrence.

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stuartlongman 3 years, 6 months ago

Thanks to Schumm and his cronies efforts a large number of Lawrence and Douglas County people unnecessarily spend their time and money commuting to Ottawa to work at American Eagle.

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smartsalot 3 years, 6 months ago

Illustrating his defiant opposition to American Eagle jobs, Schumm’s 2000 County commission campaign photo shows him standing on the site of American Eagle proposed 400,000 sf warehouse.

Now he’s against Berry Plastics tax abatements recently granted.

Perhaps a current 2011 City campaign photo of him standing on the rural farm site of the Berry Plastics proposed 600,000 sf warehouse in opposition would gain him the votes he’s after from his anti-jobs constituency…

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 6 months ago

There is one candidate who's been banned from this forum at least ten times for being unable to abide by the rather simple TOS. As soon as he gets banned again, the overall level of civility will rise.

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gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 6 months ago

Liberal wrote:

"There can be many reasons, why someone would declare bankruptcy, Health problems, at this time working in the building trades, etc...Some times it can not be avoided. As far as I know they let non property owners run for office, I think it has been a long time since only landowners could participate. Having no assets does not disqualify you as well."

I think I was able to get the idea of what you were saying despite the epic comma fail. Indeed, there are many reasons why one might declare bankruptcy. However, I do think that one's personal finances can be a direct reflection on how they might manage city finances and thus I think it is a valid issue. I could imagine a situation in which it might not be as important (medical bankruptcy, for example), but that was not the case with Sven.

You are also correct that owning no property or assets does not disqualify one from seeking office. However, again, I think it speaks to different issues. On multiple occasions, Sven has referred to the house in which he lives as his own. It is not. He does not own it. This creates an honesty problem. It also might be of interest to those that might believe a stronger personal investment in the community is of value in a candidate.

The lack of any asset speaks to the inability to manage one's finances. Sven is essentially broke and still under a bankruptcy order. True, he can still run for office, but I think many voters would question his ability to help manage larger budget issues when he has so clearly failed at managing his own.

Lastly, how will he handle the stress of the office? He has demonstrated in the past that he is unable to conduct himself appropriately in public forums. He is one of the very few people who have a lifetime ban on this forum and the only one who has flamed out so spectacularly. His behavior on this forum even after he was reinstated for the campaign has been less than mature.

These are real issues - certainly as real as the questions brought up about other candidates.

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