Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2011

Town Talk: Call center set to move to North Lawrence, add 70 jobs; my day with the South Park protestors

October 20, 2011


News and notes from around town:

• Keep an eye out for an announcement of a local call center expansion. Doug Brown, a broker with McGrew Commercial Real Estate, confirmed to me that a deal has been finalized for a local business that does call center type of work to lease about 20,000 square feet of space in the I-70 Business Center — the old Tanger Mall location — in North Lawrence. Brown, who brokered the deal, said the new space will allow the company to add about 70 new employees immediately. But Brown said he was not yet at liberty to release the name of the company. My understanding is work has begun to renovate the space. I’ll let you know when I hear more. On a side note, the project nearly completes a multi-year process to convert the former outlet mall facility into an office complex. Brown said there is now only about 20,000 square feet of space remaining, and that about 10,000 of that likely will be reserved for future expansion of this new company. The I-70 Business Center has major anchor tenants of Protection One, the national home security company that has its corporate headquarters in the facility, and Home Oxygen 2 U, which operates a call center in the space.

• Wednesday was a long day, but an interesting one. All told, I spent five or six hours with the Occupy Lawrence folks down at their camp in South Park. I thought I would pass along a few observations about the group and their operations, not with the idea of trying to pass any judgment but rather just because there seem to be quite a few questions floating around about the organization and its activities. So, here we go, "My Day with the South Parkers":

  1. The group is pretty young, but it is not exclusively made up of college-age students. In fact, the crowd Wednesday night included a few faces that Lawrence City Hall-watchers would recognize. Richard Heckler, a long-time neighborhood advocate, was in the crowd at the beginning of the night, but did not speak. Daniel Poull, a member of the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board and also of the city’s Solid Waste Task Force, was present for the “general assembly” Wednesday night. In fact, Poull gave a pretty good speech telling the crowd that he didn’t plan to get arrested for camping in the park, but told the crowd that such arrests do make a powerful statement and were important parts of the Civil Rights and Vietnam War protests. But he also told them that George Washington probably was the greatest retreater in the history of the world. “George Washington didn’t win many battles against the British army, but he won the war,” Poull told the crowd early in the evening. “We’re facing the British army right now.”
  2. Most of the people I talked to had a job and a home. There certainly were some homeless folks there (more on that in a moment), but the sense I got was that the majority were students or were employed with some type of job. I talked to — off the top of my head — a Wal-mart stocker, a pizza shop employee, a massage therapist, an employee of a concert production company, and several artists.
  3. There have been a lot of questions about what does this group stand for and what is it trying to do? In fact, the protesters themselves asked those questions a few times Wednesday night. But I got the sense that there is general agreement on a couple of broad issues: The group is concerned about the growing gap between the richest in the country and the poorest in the country. The group also is concerned about the amount of influence that corporations have in the government process. They’re also none too thrilled with the media. The group, however, doesn’t seem to have a clear plan on how to change those issues. At the moment, they seem to be in the phase of drawing attention to the cause and their organization. People have been asking whether this is a group that advocates for socialism. I never heard the word come up during Wednesday night’s meeting, but there were some speakers who espoused socialist beliefs, such as “real communities share custodianship of all resources.”
  4. This movement isn’t just about large national issues. I could very easily see Occupy Lawrence becoming an organization that ends up railing against several local issues. My best bet is that those will revolve around the rights of the homeless to occupy public spaces in Lawrence. Robert Gilmore — known by many in Lawrence as a man who goes by the name Simon, wears socks on his hands and is frequently arrested in downtown for illegal camping — is a vocal member of the group. Wednesday night, he was urging members to move their occupation to the sidewalks at Ninth and Massachusetts streets. He’s advocating that people set up their tents there. He said that would be a more meaningful statement about the rights of people to occupy public property.

“You have to confront the authorities at some point, if you want change,” said Gilmore, who according to a Journal-World article last year had been arrested 106 times by local authorities since 2000.

Wednesday night, the group also included Michael Tanner, a frequent critic at Lawrence City Hall. Tanner is the man who built a fairly sizable structure on city property along the banks of the Kansas River. He said he was housing homeless people who could not stay at the community’s homeless shelter. The city razed that structure in 2008, and Tanner has delivered several angry messages at Lawrence City Hall since then. On Wednesday night, Tanner was advocating that the campers move their occupation to the front lawn of Lawrence City Hall at Sixth and Massachusetts street.

Local resident Jim Davidson also was active in the group Wednesday night. Davidson is the individual who was removed from a Lawrence City Commission meeting earlier this year for flipping off City Manager David Corliss during a city meeting. Davidson urged the group to have a “spine,” and said that occupying the park in defiance of the city should be a major strategy of the group.

“If we back down and say that we won’t occupy our property because we’re afraid of getting a ticket or afraid of going to jail, that is saying that we agree with their authority,” Davidson said. “And I do not agree with their authority.”

The group never did take a vote or a “temperature check,” as they call it, on the idea of moving their occupation to a more prominent location in the community. It will be interesting to see how much sway these individuals have with the group, and whether we see an escalation in the group’s occupation activities.

But don’t get me wrong. There are clearly people in the group who are worried about getting arrested. It will be interesting to see what happens when the rubber meets the road.

Finally, there also are members of the group who advocated for a “tactical retreat.” Some members said the group ought to start doing door-to-door canvassing to highlight their issues, and that they should start accessing voter registration rolls to target a get out the vote effort. There also was talk of organizing groups of people to come to local government meetings on a regular basis.

“Pick your battles,” said one woman who identified herself as a former journalist who is now backpacking across the country and writing a book about poverty. “Nobody goes to community meetings anymore. Show up in mass every week. They’ll listen. If they don’t listen, bring more people.”


Paul R Getto 6 years, 7 months ago

Interesting bunch, they are. Odd how they fit with Ms. Palin, her critiques of capitalism and how it 'corrupts' politics. OWS and TP folks come at some of the same frustrations from different angles. It should be fascinating to see how much momentum OWS can generate and to see if the TP can maintain theirs.

LawrenceDiva 6 years, 7 months ago

If this group is looking for a real cause and want to make a long-term difference in the way our country operates, they should start campaigning for term limits. I believe that Congress is broken because so many members are life-time members who have gotten way too cozy with corporations. Congress will never impose term limits on themselves so it will take something like the Occupy Wallstreet et al movement to make it happen. I recommend that they stop fumbling around with their message and get behind something that will make a real difference for everyone.

deec 6 years, 7 months ago


akt2 6 years, 7 months ago

I wonder if the guy that walks around with the doll or the peace sign guy are there?

kernal 6 years, 7 months ago

both of the people you're referring to have different issues than Robert's and they have homes. Robert prefers to live on the streets.

deec 6 years, 7 months ago

See my above post for some of the proposed demands, which have not been officially approved.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 7 months ago

Sorry, but a list of "demands" posted on an independent-from-OWS website run by people who simply say they support the OWS protests doesn't actually mean very much. And it certainly doesn't answer the question "what do the OWS people want?"

Here's the OWS official website:

What are the demands they list???

Here goes..."We are our demands."

Would I like to see something positive come from this movement? Something, say, that drastically reduces corporate control over Congress? You bet!! But I don't see it happening until they start promoting something a little more concrete than "we are our demands".

christy kennedy 6 years, 7 months ago

You don't seem to have a clue so I suggest you go and listen and talk to them. I don't know if any anarchists are there, but as for anti-authoritarian types? Yes, meaning anti how-government-is-run-by-$$-from-industry-and-lobbyists. We'd have no problem with authority if authorities worked on behalf of people in general, rather than mostly for special interests and in order to get reelected. Really, go talk to them. They're not in suits and ties but that's no reason to judge them with ignorant stereotypes. It's a varied group, and while I was there only briefly last night, one quoted a Chinese philosopher, another quoted US civil codes. They're bright and informed people, actively participating in the democratic process rather than sitting on their asses watching reality TV.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 7 months ago

"Richard Heckler, a long-time neighborhood advocate, was in the crowd at the beginning of the night, but did not speak."


LadyJ 6 years, 7 months ago

ROFL, thanks, I really needed a laugh.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 7 months ago

I, for one, do not understand this joke. Is there some sort of linkage?

bearded_gnome 6 years, 7 months ago

ROTFL!!! Blue, you hit it right outa the park man! right on there.

irvan moore 6 years, 7 months ago

will the mayor be there for the eviction?

Pastor_Bedtime 6 years, 7 months ago

Brilliant. A guy who clearly can't take care of himself leading the masses in rewriting the government to fit his (sock-covered) world.

ceccarp 6 years, 7 months ago

Simon does not lead Occupy Lawrence. He is simply one voice asking to be heard and we are listening to his grievances. If everyone who is casting aspersions on him took the time to actually listen to him you would find him to be an educated, intelligent, and extremely articulate gentleman.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 7 months ago

"If this group is looking for a real cause and want to make a long-term difference in the way our country operates, they should start campaigning for term limits. " === I understand the frustration, but term limits are not a good idea. There are a few who stay too long, but most seats churn every few years. Term limits are determined by elections. The problem, IMHO, too few vote. About 10% select primary winners in Kansas and about 25% pick the president every 4 years. Only about 1/2 bother to vote even then. If none of the legislators have any tenure, no one knows what's going on and the lobbyists by default gain more power. Since money is speech, we will never get rid of lobbyists, nor should we.

Frightwig 6 years, 7 months ago

This is protest theater. All spectacle with no impact. How will camping in South Park prevent the execs at Goldman Sachs from looting the taxpayers again?

ceccarp 6 years, 7 months ago

If this movement were just those of us at South Park you would have a valid point. But it's not just us. It's people all over the world beginning with those Occupying Wall Street. Pay attention to what is happening around the world with the Occupy Movement not just to your own little corner of it and get some perspective.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 7 months ago

Except that those folks actually occupying Wall Street (well, the park there) also aren't doing anything to "prevent the execs at Goldman Sachs from looting the taxpayers again".

We are paying attention. That's why we're asking these questions.

CatnRat 6 years, 7 months ago

I rise in solidarity with the 99 percent in observance of the occupy wall street momentum. At issue is my sense of economic equality in contrast with the injustices I observe emanating from what has been determined as those who hold or control so much of the sum of wealth. Howsoever a reasoning person may statistically assess the relational 'strata', I conclude that : -where the 1 percent of the populace that owns or controls this significantly greater share of the private wealth, they should not have more than the one percent of the public voting share -that historically those with greater wealth have sought to exert undue influence on the public and the body politic, and to bad ends -that there is an obvious, grotesque inequity afoot wherein fiscal irresponsibility, malfeasance, misrepresentation, deception or fraudulent practices on the part of the economically well off are not adjudicated with the same vigilance as more public, obvious crimes; seemingly without regards to severity or to number of victims. In 2008, this nation selected a leader that, electorally, should have put to rest any notion of inequality, or slavery, or serfdom, or indenture for all time. With that in mind, it is apparent that the vocal, and yes, well-financed few have sought not to just express their desires but to dismantle the very means that the many have to express theirs. They leave nothing public, social, physical, or economic that they cannot exploit for profit. It is with that in mind that I enjoin this movement and speak to these grievances and associate with others in similar straits; and, frankly, represent those who either have no means to engage or those who are silent for fear of repercussion from the selfsame one percent (and whomever seeks to garner their favor).

CatnRat 6 years, 7 months ago

" Another Good Suggestion"

A full investigation and freezing of assets of all individuals reported to have been illegally trading, bank manipulating for bonuses, ponzi schemes, inside trading, and/or theft from the federal reserve as identified by various media. Try them in public hearings and if found guilty... put the money into social development projects, like unemployment support and development projects, subsidised health care and education.

CatnRat 6 years, 7 months ago

these come to you fromt he wonderful brain of Rat, the better half (LOL)

Lulu 6 years, 7 months ago

The message is clear the direction is just.

I would like to personally thank all the great and wonderous people who enjoy this great movement started in the grass that made its way to the wall street and our presence in our society for this is the way to make real change that matters and hope to transcend all who come before us with their aurora and enlightenment. Now we spread eagle on the air to be breathed and soar with a great roar, our hands are warmed with freedom ember log of heat, my love to all. Good camping. A movement to enjoy and savor, its rich aroma fills the downtown scape. I cry with joy!

Scott Morgan 6 years, 7 months ago

Lulu, there are a few folks who never will fit in any society getting a few seconds of fame. The rich aroma is the smell of sweaty poopoo encrusted undies worn by our protestors needing a bath.

CatnRat 6 years, 7 months ago

go down there and talk to them. they are not encrusted with anything. they are clean, and respectful of the park. Love to you, and everyone.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 7 months ago

Anbody camping out for 6 days without showers would foul anyone.

ceccarp 6 years, 7 months ago

How do you know whether or not the campers have been able to use showers? Have you asked them?? Or are you just making an assumption?? Don't assume.

ceccarp 6 years, 7 months ago

Again another assumption that the protesters are unemployed crackpots. Tell me that you have enough savings to live on for at least 6 months and that are not one paycheck away from disaster. If you have been able to put away some savings then I salute you for your ability to do so. If you have not, then all I can say is Welcome to the 99%. You may not like it, but you are one of us.

As a friend so succinctly put it:

"Not born into wealth? Don't have connections to every major finance and business CEO/CFO? Can't buy political connections? Have no say with major lawmakers? Don't own a vast, profit-generating corporation? Are subject to major economic events rather than immune to them? Aren't famous in some news circles? You're in the 99%.

"There are plenty of people out there that do just what you do and fail utterly to succeed, whether they try hard or not. And they get no break. There are plenty who have seen moderate success, only to barely cling to that success or have been driven homeless from a $300,000 house.

"Work hard, try to succeed, fine. Just don't count yourself out of immunity from and power over the real world. That's what it means to be in the 99%."

bearded_gnome 6 years, 7 months ago

City Hall-watchers would recognize. Richard Heckler, a long-time neighborhood advocate, was in the crowd at the beginning of the night, but did not speak.

---nooooo shock that Richard Heckler was down here, none at all!

shocking: he actually didn't speak!?!

maybe he just didn't eat his granola that morning?

Kudos to you Chad for making it clear that these people don't even know why they're there. even the posted list of "demands" hasn't been approved yet by the "group."

if you have no goal, you sure won't get there. simple.

pace 6 years, 7 months ago

the haters are scared. the faith in the money lenders is being shown as false. The trickle down theory turned into a dust storm reality. they are afraid. They were wrong. The banksters kept the money, killed the jobs. The trickle down , how is that working for you? Some guy tried to tell me I wasn't paying taxes at $40,000, when I said he was either stupid or just lying , he backed tracked, said I had to have a bunch of kids and use the loop holes. Well he was both stupid and lying. I don't mind my taxes going to infrastructure, but I am watching my tax money going to corporations to buy our infrastructure for pennies on the dollar. The billionaires don't have to have a pack of kids to not pay taxes, they just need a pac. I don't want their hard earned money, but they should pay fair tax, like I do, like my neighbors, like small business. Wall street, if they cheated, I want their cheating butts put in jail for stealing. I don't want to be told the " job creators" shouldn't have to pay taxes. I want the cheating bums jailed. I don't want people arrested. I will stand with them on 9th. and Mass, in front of City Hall, in front of banks, In Lawrence, in Topeka, in NY, in Salina. Things are wrong all across this country. It is our right and our duty to stand. We tell foreign countries to respect their protesters. I do not want our police to be the banks private army.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 7 months ago

today AP-Kansas reports that the protestors number 50.

50 bipeds gathered in south park.

were Dave Strano and his band of merrymakers there too?

that's a pretty derned anemic turnout for a lawrence protest. if you deduct the usual suspects, homeless, etc., what number is left? a dozen?

bearded_gnome 6 years, 7 months ago

tonight 6news had their coverage of this including an actuality of some moron stating that he expected insubordination tonight, in less than 30 minutes of this moment, by the entire LPD.

no wonder Simon Gilbert is one of their leaders.

Simon Gilbert, infamous for pooping outside behind downtown businesses, accosting law abiding pedestrians downtown, etc.

makes sense, doesn't it.

pace 6 years, 7 months ago

So you are declaring simon the leader? Or are you lying ? Oh you are lying, and you know it. If you don't lie, I won't call you a liar. If you have an argument, make it, if you lie, stand ready, I will call you a liar.

Back to the issue. Jobs/homes. $ongress spending their dime to protect and feather billionaires, or should they stand for law?

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