Archive for Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Town Talk: UPDATE: Frank Male files for county commission; keep an ear open for local sales tax talk; city hires new city engineer; wholesale water district buys land near Kaw; weekly land transfers

May 29, 2012, 9:52 a.m. Updated May 29, 2012, 10:41 a.m.


News and notes from around town:

• UPDATE: This just in from the Douglas County Courthouse: Longtime businessman Frank Male has filed to run against Nancy Thellman for a spot on the Douglas County Commission.

Male, who lives in rural Eudora, filed as a Republican. Male is a co-owner of Lawrence Landscape. He has been active in county government before, having served as a Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioner.

Male is seeking the seat that represents the 2nd District, which represents parts of Lawrence and most of eastern Douglas County, including Eudora and Baldwin City.

Candidates have until noon on June 1 to file for a seat on the commission. Two of the three seats on the commission are up for election in the November general election. Commissioner Jim Flory, a Republican, already has filed for re-election to the 3rd District, which represents parts of Lawrence and most of western Douglas County.

• Now that you’ve had that extra day off (and perhaps an extra hot dog or two), surely you have had time to digest what state lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback did with taxes during the last legislative session.

Much of the attention has been focused on reductions in the individual income tax rates and the elimination of income taxes for more than 190,000 businesses. Sometimes lost in the shuffle is the fact the state’s sales tax rate also is set to decrease by 0.6 percent in July 2013.

Everyone will be watching how the income tax cuts work with the state budget, but I’ll be watching what political ramifications the sales tax cut creates in Lawrence.

In particular, I’ll be watching whether local leaders use the reduction of the statewide sales tax as an opportunity to increase the local sales tax. There already has been discussion among some economic development leaders that the community needs a dedicated funding source for economic development, much like how Topeka has a sales tax for eco devo efforts.

One source who runs in such eco devo circles told me a strategy being contemplated is a local sales tax that simply would replace the 0.6 percent state sales tax that is going away.

Such a strategy would allow leaders to tell voters they can support economic development without raising their tax rates above current levels.

I’ve also heard a new local sales tax may be broader than just economic development. In other words, a portion of the 0.6 percent would go to economic development, while the rest of it would go to other initiatives. Dividing up a sales tax is a pretty common way to try to win votes from a broader audience.

It will be interesting to see what other initiatives would get to share in the sales tax proceeds. There will be no shortage to choose from: cultural heritage initiatives, the arts, and retiree attraction are just three that come to mind.

Again, all of this is just speculation I have heard — so take it for what it is worth — but it would create some interesting political decisions. One would be when to have this sales tax election. If you want to have the election before the state sales tax expires, you have two chances: the November 2012 general election or the April 2013 city commission and school district elections.

A second consideration, though, is how this sales tax election would impact an already-talked-about bond issue for Lawrence public schools. If voters are approached with a sales tax vote, closely followed by a school bond, it would be an interesting test of the mindset of voters.

And finally, it will be interesting to see if opponents to a sales tax increase tout what appears to be a bit of irony: State leaders say we must cut our taxes to attract businesses to the state, while local leaders would be advocating we need a new local tax to attract them.

Anyway, here’s betting that even though the legislative session is done, we’re far from done with tax talk.

• We’ll just have to wait and see if a sales tax proposal is engineered by local leaders, but we no longer have to wait to find out who will be the next city engineer for Lawrence. (I know you all have been on the edge of your seats.)

If you remember, we previously reported Shoeb Uddin, the city engineer for the last five years, is leaving to start his own private-sector engineering business.

Lawrence Public Works Director Chuck Soules confirmed to me the city has hired from within to fill the position. David Cronin, a project engineer for the city, was promoted to city engineer last week. Cronin has been with the city for five years, but before that worked for the Kansas Department of Transportation. Perhaps his most visible project in Lawrence has been designing the reconstruction of brick streets in Old West Lawrence and East Lawrence. But he also did the design work for the Burroughs Creek Rail Trail, and oversees a host of road projects.

In his new position, Cronin will be responsible for overseeing all the engineering work done in the city’s Public Works Department, which means anybody who is trying to build a project of any size in Lawrence probably will deal with Cronin in some capacity.

• One project that would need an engineer — although not the city’s — is a major water treatment plant for a new wholesale water district.

I don’t know if that is what is in the works, but I did notice the most recent land transfers from the Douglas County Register of Deeds included a property purchase by Public Wholesale Water Supply District No. 25. According to the records, the wholesale water district purchased a little less than three acres of property near the Kansas River between Lawrence and Eudora.

Specifically, the landlocked piece of property is east of East 1625 Road and north of North 1500 Road. I tried to reach an official with the wholesale water district on Friday, but had no luck. I’ll report back what I eventually find out.

But the idea of new wholesale water treatment plant is one that all city water users should pay attention to. A new wholesale water supplier in Douglas County could have major ramifications to the city of Lawrence’s water operations. Currently, the city of Lawrence is the largest wholesale water provider in Douglas County. The city uses money paid from those wholesale water customers — they include Baldwin City and several rural water districts — to help pay for the city’s two water treatment plants.

That has been particularly important lately because the city several years ago undertook a multimillion-dollar expansion of the Clinton Water Treatment Plant. The expansion increased the capacity of the water treatment plant, but did so at a cost of more than $14 million. If the city loses some of its largest water customers, it makes it all the more difficult to spread out the costs of that plant expansion.

Anyway, since I’ve mentioned land transfers, click here to see the complete list for the week ending May 21.


Edwin Rothrock 6 years ago

That land for the Water district is directly downhill from the former fertilizer plant and directly adjacent to the drainage ditch that runs down the backside of the Farmland property. I would be surprised if the nitrogen plume from the decades of production at that site didn't flow right through there. Hopefully someone has tested the groundwater in that area.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

"a local sales tax that simply would replace the 0.6 percent state sales tax that is going away."

The vote is NO! Taxpayers will have zero control on how this money gets spent. A sales tax for economic development is a money hole with no return. We don't need a "pork barrel fund".

Politicians cannot be trusted with this sales tax!

softsun 6 years ago

What’s the rest of the story?? Star June 9, 2010 COLUMBIA — “Five weeks ago Greg Williams got a phone call from a job search company. Today he is the new director of University of Missouri System research parks. Williams is now responsible for developing the 10 university research parks and incubators across Missouri.” Gregory Williams posts .... Gary, My best wishes and a prayer are Mon 12/20/2010 2:42 PM., Marilee. Gary Forsee's wife . Just a few weeks ago, another new Lawrence Chamber president was on the horizon for the Lawrence Chamber search officers. Today, he is in the Lawrence Community Vision headlights. There is no doubt, “economic development” Joint Council will chose the winners and losers in Lawrence future and in a recent LJ World article, the City has promised to be “Fair” in the Joint Ecodevo process?
Do the Douglas County and Lawrence taxpayers really want to continue paying for another round of “Harold Hill” right here in River City where over half of the cost of the Lawrence Chamber is coming from public money, “crowning Kings” by selecting who in the business community are to receive ECODEVO funds. The Chamber governance does not have a written conflict of interest policy. It took MU less than a year to conclude the “head hunters” had not been helpful so they eliminated his position and he returned to "head hunters" list for placement.
Had enough yet? The time has come for the Lawrence business community to pay the cost of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. As long as you pay for it, the Chamber will continue to choose Waver Partners as the “head hunters” who continue to guide the Lawrence Chamber Selection Committees along their path of close affiliation with the Kansas Chamber and U. S. Chamber of Commerce. This account churning of going through Chamber Presidents like Kleenex choosing the same selection chair that chooses the same “head hunters” could lead to dwindling membership.

softsun 6 years ago

A recent LJ World editorial suggested Lawrence look over the horizon. Is Cerner Corporation considering Lawrence in their expansion plans beyond the 901 New Hampshire Building. Greg Williams, the newest Lawrence Chamber President is slated to Chair the proposed Joint Commission for Economic Development. He was vetted through the same executive search firm which has direct ties to the republican based U. S. Chamber of Commerce. Thefactsare Waver Partners is the preferred executive search firm of the U. S. Chamber and one of the Lawrence Chamber recruitment requirements was that the candidates for President have a good relationship with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Many Chamber Members claim they do not know or want the Lawrence Chamber to be members of the Kansas Chamber. Less than 2 years ago, Greg Williams was on a list executive search company was using to place people with experience in economic development. He was recruited to work for the University of Missouri while Gary Forsee, former President of Sprint was the Chancellor of MU. The leader of the MU business school said of Williams "He's a deal maker. He makes deals. He gets things done," Nichols said. In Lawrence, perhaps he will get the neighborhoods working with the downtown developers by having someone talk to both sets of stake holders. There is no benefit in dragging this out through the billable hours process we are experiencing with the South Lawrence Traffic way by waiting for every process to run its own course. Let’s get 2 more buildings at 9th and New Hampshire underway. Perhaps Mr. Williams can talk to the neighborhoods, determine their needs and get their needs met, then communicate that to the developers and City. From a related article MU Chancellor “Gary Forsee was on the hot seat over alleged insider dealing in a transaction between the University of Missouri and Cerner Corporation

softsun 6 years ago

MU Chancellor “Gary Forsee was on the hot seat over alleged insider dealing in a transaction between the University of Missouri, under which Cerner would provide healthcare information services to the University of Missouri and explain to members of the Missouri University's I.T. department, the process! Forsee's son worked at Cerner for several years prior, and Forsee served on corporate boards with Cerner's CEO, Neal Patterson. Employees said it was the first time they’d heard the name “Tiger Institute.” The workers fear they will either become Cerner employees or lose their university benefits or that their jobs will be cut. Forsee would not comment on those speculations. When asked about that request, Forsee replied: “We’re done here.” Then George Carr, chief information officer for MU Health, canceled a regular staff meeting which could have shed light on the situation. “I am going to postpone the town hall meeting for a little while until we can cover the status of the Tiger Institute (MU/Cerner Partnership) with some certainty,” Carr wrote in an e-mail to staff that the Tribune obtained. He went on to say: “I do realize that this is a huge issue to everyone, so I want to make sure we spend our time wisely and get the results we need.” Employees said it was the first time they’d heard the name “Tiger Institute.” The workers fear they will either become Cerner employees and lose their university benefits or that their jobs will be cut. Forsee would not comment on those speculations. The matter quickly fell to back pages of the news and the uproar died down, but mistrust of Forsee was evident within UM's ranks, according to news reports published at the time.” Shortly after his sponsor, Gary Forsee resigned as President of the University of Missouri, MU officials announced that due to budget considerations, Greg Williams position at MU was being eliminated. What? Williams, responsible for developing the 10 Missouri University research parks and incubators across Missouri, working closely with tenants to negotiate leases and nurture existing relationships position eliminated due to budget considerations??? Forsee was named one of the "Worst CEOs in America. After taking an extended leave in December, 2010 to care for his wife, Sherry, who was diagnosed with cancer, Forsee announced his immediate resignation to the MU Board of Curators on January 7, 2011.” Soon, MU officials announced elimination of Greg Williams position and the Waver Partners “head hunters” for the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, closely allied with the Kansas Chamber again placed several applicants on their placement list. The Lawrence Chamber Board Chairman and Search Chair changed their focus seeking this economic development “Rock Star?” Shooting star? falling star? or flash in the pan, who less than 2 years ago was being anointed the darling of the University of Missouri economic development community.

softsun 6 years ago

Mail campaign run out of the Chamber Office - I do not believe it. Jean is helping with Economic Development and not campaigns.

softsun 6 years ago

Frank Male where the Lawrence Chamber Board of Directors elects its own Officers Committee, whose members serve as the Executive Committee. Frank is a member of the Chamber Executive Committee - perhaps "leader of the pack" - is Frank Male, Lawrence Landscape ..." Frank Male, co-owner of Lawrence Landscape files for county commission." Message from the Chair ... Lawrence Chamber of Commerce leaders are narrowing the field in their search for a new President according to Cindy Yulich, chair of the search committee. The government of the Lawrence Chamber, directs its own work, and the control its property and the general management of its affairs is the ultimate responsibility of the Board of Directors comprised of 30 concerned business people, to make Lawrence a better place to do business. Check out this utube from Lawrence Landscape - OSHA safety guard rails - "Green Cards" - What happened to the workers this year -

JackMcKee 6 years ago

How does a guy that runs a landscaping business get rich and powerful? Only in Lawrence.

JackMcKee 6 years ago

On the sales tax increase, no, no and hell no. What in God's name is wrong with these people? And for someting ambiguous like an "economic development fund"? That sounds suspiciously like a slush fund for "buddies" of local goverment. This is exactly the reason sales taxes are a horrible replacement for income taxes.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

There is no market for more commercial property. Tanger Mall,Riverfront Plaza,Baur Farms, Lowe's not locating here,all of the empty storefronts scattered about town,Old Navy leaving town are perfect examples.

If Lawrence was the hot market of the century retailers would be here and so would shoppers. It cost too much to shop in Lawrence = the bottom line. College towns are this way.

Legends is losing money for the county = too many generous tax dollar give aways = remember the secret sales tax that goes into the developers bank account forever.

no_thanks 6 years ago

There is no market for more commercial property? Are you high? Tanger Mall is doing quite well now, especially with Protection One's Corporate HQ and the Rezolve Group's call center. Lowe's wanted to locate here, but the City (and probably the only City in America) rejected their request. The Chamber of Commerce is about attracting and retaining businesses, but the actual negotiations for zoning and incentives rests with the political bodies. An eco-devo fund is not a slush fund for buddies. It is a fund that allows DG County to compete with neighboring counties for attracting and retaining jobs. I have no idea what you do for a living Merrill, but my guess is you do not risk your own capital in growing a business. Companies will locate along the path of least resistance, and your efforts in spreading misinformation about Lawrence and the Chamber of Commerce is damaging. If you want things to remain the same, why don't you move to Ottawa, no wait, they are more progressive than Lawrence. How about Dodge City, no wait, they are more progressive than Lawrence. How about old Shawnee?

JackMcKee 6 years ago

Betcha I can predict the "leaders" that will come out in support of this sales tax increase. Just have a look back at those invloved in the M-T sales tax increase and the library. It's always the same people involved with every one of these. Ask yourself, what is it they have to personally gain? I'm sure it's just a coincidence that it's always the same individuals.

JackMcKee 6 years ago

and lots and lots of parties. Can't forget the parties.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

If my memory serves me well Frank Male has also been a sitting board member at the Chamber of Commerce. Frank Male is a local insider. The high tax dollar bedroom community has been good to him.

I get the feeling local mover and shakers want to recreate what took the economy down the tubes. It's known as "High Inflation Boom Town Economics " aka "high taxes and no economic growth". Can we say Helter Skelter Growth?

There is one consequence of helter skelter aimless growth that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

The US Chamber of Commerce plus the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are all good friends of Sam Brownback politics = this is no secret.

These groups also back :

ENTITLEMENT - TABOR is Coming by Grover Norquist and Koch Bros.... sells out state governments, public schools,SRS services etc etc to private industry = Grab Your Wallets!

JackMcKee 6 years ago

I really really hate myself for agreeing with Merrill but I just can't support anyone that's tightly associated with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. I have yet to see a single positive thing those people have done for the local economy. It's just more of the same, same old ideas from the same old people.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

The US Chamber of Commerce plus the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are all good friends of Sam Brownback politics = this is no secret.

These groups also back :

Publicopoly Exposed

How ALEC, the Koch brothers and their corporate allies plan to privatize government.

ALEC nuts and bolts

ALEC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that in recent years has reported about $6.5 million in annual revenue. ALEC’s members include corporations, trade associations, think tanks and nearly a third (about 2,000) of the nation’s state legislators (virtually all Republican). According to the group’s promotional material, ALEC’s mission is to “advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.”

ALEC currently claims more than 250 corporations and special interest groups as private sector members. While the organization refuses to make a complete list of these private members available to the public, some known members include:

  • Wal-Mart
  • Exxon Mobil
  • the Corrections Corporation of America
  • AT&T
  • Pfizer Pharmaceuticals
  • Time Warner Cable
  • Comcast
  • Verizon
  • Phillip Morris International
  • Koch Industries
  • along with a host of right-wing think tanks and foundations.

ALEC is composed of nine task forces–(1) Public Safety and Elections, (2) Civil Justice, (3) Education, (4) Energy, Environment and Agriculture, (5) Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development, (6) Telecommunications and Information Technology, (7) Health and Human Services, (8) Tax and Fiscal Policy and (9) International Relations–each comprised of “Public Sector” members (legislators) and “Private Sector” members (corporations and interest groups).

Each of these task forces, which serve as the core of ALEC’s operations, generate model legislation that is then passed on to member lawmakers for introduction in their home assemblies. According to ALEC promotional material, each year member lawmakers introduce an average of 1,000 of these pieces of legislation nationwide, 17 percent of which are enacted. For 2009, ALEC claimed a total of 826 pieces of introduced legislation nationwide, 115 of which were passed into law–slightly below the average at 14 percent. ALEC does not offer its model legislation for public inspection.

ALEC refused to comment on any aspect of the material covered here.

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