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Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2011

Town Talk: Hugh Carter, Bob Schumm and the living wage question; League of Women Voters, Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods release candidate questionnaires

March 31, 2011, 1:00 p.m. Updated March 31, 2011, 1:33 p.m.

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News and notes from around town:

• The living wage seems to be an issue that is gaining steam in the final days of the campaign for the Lawrence City Commission. Candidate Bob Schumm recently sent out a mass mailing questioning whether the living wage requirement — which requires companies that receive a tax abatement to pay a certain wage — is secure in the future. Specifically, its headline was “DANGER! Living wage under attack.” The postcard made mention that one candidate said he wanted to revisit the issue of the living wage. The postcard doesn’t mention the candidate by name, but it doesn’t take a mastermind to figure out whom Schumm was referring to. Early in the campaign, Hugh Carter had said in a Journal-World article — written by me — that he wanted to revisit the living wage issue. The comment drew some attention because I asked that same question of the other candidates, and no one else seemed to have much interest in revisiting the issue that is now several years old.

Here’s what the March 5 article said regarding the living wage issue and Carter:

Carter said he wants to at least discuss the possibility of removing the “living wage” 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.”

Since the article came out, Carter has said he’s not sure that I entirely captured what he was trying to say. In conversations with him, Carter has indicated that “removing” the living wage requirement isn’t really something he would consider, but changing it is something he would consider.

Campaigning can be about nuance, and thus covering campaigns can be about picking up on nuances. So, if I failed to do so in that interview, I apologize.

Carter has explained his position at several forums and we gave him the opportunity to address it as part of his online chat. So, I hadn’t thought much more about it. But then the postcard came out, and Carter sent out a message to his supporters further clarifying and bringing up the original article.

So, I’ve gone through my notes from the original article and decided to share them with you. But first, a word about how I worked in this situation. I interviewed Hugh on the phone, and as I sometimes do when I know that an interview is going to be long, I recorded the conversation. I use the recording as a backup to my handwritten notes. If I’m unsure about something I heard, I make a question mark by it and go back and refer to the recording. I don’t use the recording otherwise, mainly because it just takes so long to transcribe.

What follows is a transcription from the recording. The quote from the recording differs slightly from the quote that I used and took from handwritten notes. But I don’t think in a material way. You can judge for yourself, and also see what was said before and after the comments. (You’ll also get to see the type of beautiful prose I use in asking questions.)

Lawhorn : Do you think the current structure we have for tax abatements works OK? I mean, I guess the big thing is that it has been several years ago they added the living wage requirement, you know that you can’t qualify for one of these unless you pay a living wage to all the positions. Does that sound OK to you still, or what do you think?

Carter: Well, I think we absolutely have to revisit it. I’m not necessarily saying that has to change. I just want to get comfortable that if in fact with that that this living wage is still is one a wage that makes sense. And again, you are looking at a case by case basis. So I would hate to put certain restrictions on and just make them a blanket restriction that doesn’t give us the flexibility to look at something that may actually make sense.

Lawhorn: So you would like to at least look at it. Like you said, doesn’t mean you will change it, you think it ought to be a topic for discussion?

Carter: Absolutely. I think based on the time that was put in there it was a different time, so let’s revisit it and see if it still makes sense and go from there.

There you go. I hope that adds some clarity.

Related document

League of Voters questionnaire ( .PDF )

• As promised, to the side of this article are the results of the questionnaire that was conducted by the Lawrence-Douglas County League of Women Voters, which follows City Hall business as closely as any group. Also you can find the results of a questionnaire by the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods. The election is April 5.

Comments

Wellington 3 years, 8 months ago

This is a copy of the email that Hugh Carter sent out in response to the Schumm mailer.

Dear Voter,

With the election less than a week away, I can't help reflecting on how the campaign has gone. Regardless of the outcome, this has been a wonderful experience for me. I'm so proud to have garnered the broad-based support that has allowed us to raise the most funds of any candidate. I'm equally as proud of the caliber of my campaign committee, steering committee, and the many volunteers that have stepped up to put out signs, hand out literature and help spread the "Carter for Commission" message.

Early in the campaign, Chad Lawhorn of the Lawrence Journal World asked if I would be open to "revisiting" the living wage. As with all issues, I expressed that I needed to learn more about the living wage and would be open to revisiting it on occasion to ensure that we are doing the right thing when it comes to increasing jobs and incomes for Lawrence residents. When the article came out, it implied that I was open to eliminating the living wage. I called Chad and clarified my position. I've also had the opportunity to do so at the Voter Education Coalition and every public forum since the question was raised. To my knowledge, the living wage provision of the tax abatement policy has not prevented any company from moving to Lawrence. In fact, those that have received tax abatements pay well above the living wage. It is not something I think should be removed and, in my opinion, it is not even an issue. I look forward to learning more about how we define the living wage and what role benefits like health insurance and retirement plans play in establishing what the living wage should be, but that is the extent of my interest in this matter.

Many of you have probably received a flyer from Bob Schumm in the last day or two, implying that I am interested in eliminating the living wage. The cover of this flyer reads in bold red lettering "DANGER: LIVING WAGE IN JEOPARDY!". The back of the flyer goes on to say that a "candidate" recently said he would like to "revisit" the living wage and outlines how eliminating the living wage would cost you $8,000 per year. I trust that the educated citizenry of Lawrence will see through this type of political scare tactic. But, I thought I'd take this opportunity to clarify and reiterate my support of the living wage.

My platform includes making Lawrence a more senior-friendly community to attract retirees and ensuring that our police department has the staff and resources necessary to do their job. But, I believe the most important thing our City leaders should be focused on is creating an environment that allows local businesses to thrive and grow while attracting new jobs and income for Lawrence residents.

Orwell 3 years, 8 months ago

"Well, I think we absolutely have to revisit it." That doesn't exactly sound like a commitment to maintain the requirement.

The rest of the "clarification" sounds like someone who's trying to maintain enough wiggle room to weaken the policy if he gets the chance.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

That's exactly what he's trying to do.

Just as Republicans in Wisconsin didn't run on a union-busting platform, but that's exactly what they did immediately upon taking office.

eeko 3 years, 8 months ago

I thought the living wage was a great idea.....when I was employed. Now.....it looks a bit different from this side (unemployed). It would be nice to have a coulple of companies fighting over me. Then the wage would naturally go up. Some natural competition.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

Any of those companies can pay a lower rate, any time they want. All they have to do is start paying the same tax rates that every other business is required to pay.

sunflowergirl 3 years, 8 months ago

I haven't seen Schumm's mailer, but I was at a forum a couple of weeks ago where Carter also mentioned that he wanted to reconsider the living wage. The video is posted online (starts at 22:20): http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2011/mar/14/local-issues-spur-division-candidates-views-forum/?city_hall.

Eileen Jones 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm voting for those who are opposed to the special tax districts and firmly, 100% opposed to privatizing the city's trash service.

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