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Amyx, Farmer, Riordan win election to Lawrence City Commission

In this file photo, Mike Dever, left, and Mike Amyx, right, visit during election night on April 2, 2013. At far right is Amyx's wife Marilyn Amyx.

In this file photo, Mike Dever, left, and Mike Amyx, right, visit during election night on April 2, 2013. At far right is Amyx's wife Marilyn Amyx.

April 2, 2013

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In the race for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission, it was a night of comebacks and questions, especially about the lingering issue of a proposed $25 million recreation center.

Incumbent Commissioner Mike Amyx and political newcomer Jeremy Farmer both won relatively easy victories on Tuesday, but Lawrence physician Terry Riordan had to wait until the final ballots were counted to win a seat on the commission, thwarting what would have been a historic victory by sixth-place primary finisher Leslie Soden — a staunch critic of the current recreation center proposal.

“We had a tremendous kick tonight and we needed it,” said Riordan, who finished in the third spot by just 97 votes over Soden. “I have never worked so hard and been so happy to be in third place.”

Riordan, a partner in a Lawrence pediatrics practice, ran in fourth place for much of the evening, while Soden lingered in second or third place.

Election results

Unofficial results from Tuesday's Lawrence City Commission election:

• Mike Amyx: 6,999

• Jeremy Farmer: 5,256

• Terry Riordan: 4,816

• Leslie Soden: 4,719

• Scott Criqui: 3,558

• Rob Chestnut: 3,412

On the street

How interested were you in the city commission race?

I’m interested. I didn’t realize the election was today, but I’ll definitely read about it tomorrow.

More responses

City commissioner-elect Terry Riordan, left, is congratulated by city commission candidate Scott Criqui Tuesday night at the Douglas County Courthouse. Riordan joined Mike Amyx and Jeremy Farmer in winning city commission seats in the election.

City commissioner-elect Terry Riordan, left, is congratulated by city commission candidate Scott Criqui Tuesday night at the Douglas County Courthouse. Riordan joined Mike Amyx and Jeremy Farmer in winning city commission seats in the election.

But as the last wave of West Lawrence votes were counted at the courthouse, Riordan surged ahead to grab the third and final spot on the commission. In fact, Riordan said he came to the courthouse a little after 9 p.m. to congratulate Soden on her victory, only to learn that he had won.

“I spent a lot of time on the westside, and that paid off,” Riordan said. “Even though I didn’t do as well on the eastside, I really do believe in one Lawrence. I want the eastside to do as well as the westside, and that is how I’ll always approach it.”

Both Amyx and Farmer will receive four-year terms on the commission. Riordan will receive a two-year term. The trio will begin their terms at next week’s commission meeting.

Soden, a former East Lawrence Neighborhood Association president, would have been the first sixth-place primary finisher in recent memory to come back to win a seat on the commission. She also was the candidate who spent the least on the campaign, yet she came within a whisker of victory.

Soden said she’s convinced her strong opposition to the proposed $25 million recreation center played a large role.

“That was the biggest issue voters wanted to talk to me about by far,” Soden said. “I hope the new city commissioners pay attention to that.”

Riordan said he agreed the recreation center issue was important to voters. “I believe it is an indication that the citizens are not happy about some aspects of the center,” he said. “I would like it to not be so expensive.”

But Riordan said he doesn’t plan to lobby the commission to make any changes to plans for the 181,000-square-foot center slated for northwest Lawrence. The City Commission already has agreed to open bids on the project in mid-May.

“It wouldn’t be good for Lawrence to try to change horses in midstream on this,” Riordan said.

The top vote winner, Amyx, a downtown barber shop owner, also spoke out against the recreation center during the campaign and had been the lone commissioner to vote against the project. Amyx was in first place the entire evening Tuesday, and beat second-place finisher Farmer by more than 1,700 votes.

Amyx, who won his fifth term on the commission, said he believed his experience played a key role in the results, but added that voters also appreciated his stand on the issues.

“Let’s face it, the question of the recreation center was important in this campaign,” Amyx said.

Bringing the community together on controversial issues is what Farmer, the executive director of local food bank Just Food, said he’ll spend a lot of time on as a commissioner.

“I am convinced that deep down this community wants something more than division,” Farmer said.

Farmer said he ran a campaign that tried to highlight that the community needs to get past traditional divisions such as “builders versus non-builders, neighborhood people versus non-neighborhood people.”

Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo.From left, Lawrence mayor Bob Schumm, and city commissioner Aaron Cromwell, congratulate commissioner-elect Jeremy Farmer after Farmer won a seat on the city commission in Tuesdays election.

Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo.From left, Lawrence mayor Bob Schumm, and city commissioner Aaron Cromwell, congratulate commissioner-elect Jeremy Farmer after Farmer won a seat on the city commission in Tuesdays election.

Despite the last-minute twist, the top three finishers were unchanged from February’s lightly attended primary election. Tuesday’s election had a turnout of 16.3 percent. The City Commission field also included Scott Criqui, a local human resources executive, who finished fifth; and former City Commissioner Rob Chestnut, who fell to sixth place after finishing fourth in the primary.

Comments

jafs 1 year ago

Seems to me that this election shows a number of things - first, and perhaps most important, too many eligible voters don't vote at all.

Next, those who like to call Lawrence a "far left" place seem incorrect. Clearly there are many in Lawrence who don't fit that description, given their voting preferences.

Lawrence is a liberal city "for KS", but KS is a very conservative place (especially these days).

So, perhaps it would be more accurate to call Lawrence a "moderate" city, but even that doesn't really capture it - the truth is that it's a diverse place, with folks on various sides of the political spectrum, including left, right and middle.

And many of the liberal folks, like students, probably don't participate in the political process much.

Personally, I'd like to see much higher turnouts - I'd be interested in the results of those elections, since they'd more accurately reflect the views of most of the residents.

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Pork_Ribs 1 year ago

Let me get this straight:

Blue County in a sea of red. Completely liberal city dominated by both academic liberals and guilty rich liberals. You have the voters. This liberal rag and all of these threads dominated by whining liberals. You've got everything you need and you still can't get a simple city commission elected? If every lib in this city would have given $2 to their candidates...it would have been a clean sweep. But...that would require action instead of just blabbing.

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Kylee Manahan 1 year ago

Since I moved back home to Lawrence, it seems that the city commissioners are always the same people. I would like to see a change completely.
Scott, good job, but please keep it up!

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Carol Bowen 1 year ago

Somewhere I read that the city's population is almost 50% adult renters. So, what percent of adult renters vote in local elections? As number of property owners decreases, I'm betting voter turnout will decrease. There will be less interest in community affairs.

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bearded_gnome 1 year ago

^^gatekeeper 10 hours, 50 minutes ago

I think one thing that causes such low turnout in Lawrence is our lack of media coverage. Yes, we have the paper and this website. We have little 6 News, but only if you subscribe to Knowledgy, which many of us don't. I stopped getting the paper years ago because most of the time it wasn't worth the money, as I know many have done. I think we have a lot of uninformed people in Lawrence. In KC, Topeka, Wichita, they have multiple stations covering the news. If we had a lot of news coverage of everything going on in Lawrence, more would be informed and would probably cause more to turn out to vote. If the people don't really know what's happening with our local govt, they probably don't feel like there's any reason to take time out of their busy day to go vote.

---great post Gatekeeper. ... so, just what do we do about this to change it?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year ago

This was NOT a referendum on the rec center. But given that Riordan, a supporter of the Rec Center, and Soden, an opponent, were in a virtual dead heat, and the top vote getter by far was Amyx, also an opponent, it's pretty clear that a good chunk of the voters, perhaps half or more, were not pleased with at least the process that created it, if not the project itself.

I hope the new commission takes note of that and avoids jumping on any more major deals hatched in private, primarily for the benefit of private parties.

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positivelawrence 1 year ago

I think the LJWorld commenting regulars get wrapped up into thinking that everyone in Lawrence must agree with them. The opinions of people like Merrill and Bozo are not representative of our entire population. Although, to be honest, I generally skip over the long-winded Merrill comments, so I can't be sure what his position is on most topics. I am excited about the recreation center, even though I will have to drive to it. I am glad that our schools will have the money that they need to keep up with the times in terms of facilities, technology and safety. I like this town and all that it has to offer and there are plenty of other people who feel the same way I do. We are just too busy working and living life to constantly argue, complain and engage in the self pity that occurs in the comments section.

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ljreader 1 year ago

I figured someone would blame low voter turnout on voter ID.

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tomatogrower 1 year ago

Just a quick look at voter turnout in other places doesn't look like it was much better. KCK, I think was around 15%, and apparently Sedgwick county only hit just over 6%. People don't seem to realize that the local governments touch their lives more than the federal. Turn out is just too low anywhere and in any election. Our representative democracy may not survive, because many citizens do not do their duty as citizens, then they complain about the results. Will some people even notice if our country was turned into a monarchy? For some it would just go over their heads, as long as you didn't take away their TV, sports, or video games. Very sad.

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eugunieum 1 year ago

I DID vote. The people that won the commission, I guess we have to live with, no sour grapes on that. I am not real happy we gave the school district millions of dollars to play with. I hope some thought is put into it so they don't waste a lot of $$ like they did on the LHS remodel a few years ago. Water running out a gas line in a science lab, chemical storage room also housing massive electrical service panels, parking lot turned to crap, one is so decorative now that a school bus can't turn around in it. You know, that sort of thing. Then there is the huge gift to Bliss Sports that we get to pay for way out west at highway 40 & plowed ground. Honestly I just don't know what to think. Let's hope it all works out. I just hope when they remodel the school buildings and a student flushes a toilet, that the fire alarm doesn't go off......... Have a good one.

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Noweigh 1 year ago

Gatekeeper, "lack of media coverage"? It was in the newspaper almost daily, on the radio almost daily, candidates walking the neighborhoods daily, weekly, monthly, yard signs everywhere, etc.etc. For a "progressive" community like Lawrence claims to be, unless there is a true "not in my neighborhood" issue, we don't vote and act like more informed citizens than any other community in America. Media coverage would and should never dictate election turnout if the citizenry truly cared. We absolutely get the results we deserve. Congrats to the winners and thanks to all those that cared enough to run in the first place.

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gatekeeper 1 year ago

I think one thing that causes such low turnout in Lawrence is our lack of media coverage. Yes, we have the paper and this website. We have little 6 News, but only if you subscribe to Knowledgy, which many of us don't. I stopped getting the paper years ago because most of the time it wasn't worth the money, as I know many have done. I think we have a lot of uninformed people in Lawrence. In KC, Topeka, Wichita, they have multiple stations covering the news. If we had a lot of news coverage of everything going on in Lawrence, more would be informed and would probably cause more to turn out to vote. If the people don't really know what's happening with our local govt, they probably don't feel like there's any reason to take time out of their busy day to go vote.

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scaramouchepart2 1 year ago

Thanks. Maybe the hardworking efforts put out by community organizations like the League of Women Voters, and many others trying to improve voter turnout and Jamie Shew may have helped.

3

kuspiderman 1 year ago

Great post scar. "Politics is local", more so than ever. An uninformed, apathetic electorate is dangerous. But commission voter turnout was the best it has been since 05. What can be done to get more people engaged, involved? What's working in other communities? Farmer, Amyx, Riordan--this is your challenge. But I will agree that it is our solution.

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scaramouchepart2 1 year ago

I wish it were so. I have spent and will continue to spend my volunteer time working for public engagement. The city tries to engage the public, but actions have given rise to a belief that some are more likely to get what they want then others. The voters are the ones who decided how the city staff will act. The public needs to understand that and get engaged in their local government. Local issue affect local people more than federal elections. Our taxes are preyed upon locally more than federally. How our town communicates with possible future businesses is strictly local, how we present ourselves to the world is local, how we build neighborhoods, from homogenous to unique is strictly a local issue, equity for part or all of the community is a local decision, whether we spend our dollars on public amenities or give our money to developers ( a cry from many) is a local decision. The election, as usual was badly attended. They city needs to find out why, but the public needs to get involved and let the city staff, elected and volunteer officials know what it is they want. If the public wants same old same old, then they will get same old same old. But If the public thinks that cannot make a difference, they are wrong!

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kuspiderman 1 year ago

One more thing--Merrill, have you seen what the referendum process (where voters get to vote on whatever they can get enough signatures to add to an election) has done to California? They are currently spending billions to build a rail line from a prison to basically the middle of nowhere, because voters approved a high-speed rail line btwn LA-SF, despite the fact that it cannot be done and will waste a ridiculous amt of money. We have a process that works here--elect commissioners to do the job for us. Just because you don't agree with the results doesn't mean it's not working. In fact, it might mean exactly the opposite.

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kuspiderman 1 year ago

One of three things happened with this story: 1. Chad had it mostly written, assuming Soden won and his angle was "voters weigh in on rec center by electing 2 anti rec center. 2. He failed to see that 2 of the three who ultimately won were in favor of it; 3. He let his bias against it show by writing it in such a way that he had to spin it as somehow a sign that voters who didn't show still spoke with a voice that wasn't in the majority. No matter what, it's poor reporting and fails to capture what really happened: Lawrence voters--the people who matter most because they invest in the community by lending their voice to the process, supported candidates who supported the rec center. It's over. Done. Move on. Congrats to Mike, Jeremy & Dr. R. Thanks to the others for having the courage to put yourselves out there. You still have a voice in city hall. There is no east side, west side, pro-business, anti-growth, etc. There is Lawrence, one Lawrence. Beautiful, even with all its quirks and issues. Let's all come together to make it a home of which we are proud.

3

scaramouchepart2 1 year ago

The problem was, it was hard to tell where the neighborhoods stood. There Seems to be complaining, as usual, going on, but the top two vote getters had strong neighborhood support, as well as chamber and developer support. Amyx voted against and Rob Chestnut had financial issues with the rec center. Yet, everyone is sure the rec center was the big issue. .?? ? I expect it had little to do with the election for the voters.

1

seriouscat 1 year ago

I hope the commission receives the obvious message behind the Amyx support ...namely that the rec center deal has nothing at all to do with what is good for Lawrence citizens and everything to do what what is good for the Lawrence ol boys network. I hope the new commission acts accordingly.

Keep it up Mike! and congrats!

3

SouthernMan 1 year ago

I'm not close to politics at the local level, or national level for that matter. Just a working guy trying to pay the bills. But it seems to me that this Democracy thing is only a good idea if left wing weirdos win elections. Scary that nearly 5,000 people in this little burg believe Soden would be a good commissioner. They clearly don't know her. Just voted for her b/c she lives east of Mass Street or b/c she's a female. Lawrence dodged a bullet last night.

2

Matthew Herbert 1 year ago

Actually, as one leading a lot of the whining on this 2/3 of my candidates won. I'm not upset by the outcome, or the money involved. I'm upset by the apathy of this community. Mike Amyx won 'by a landslide' receiving 7,000 votes. In a community this large, having only 7,000 supporters should have landed Amyx a 'nice try' pat on the back not a landslide victory.

5

Karl_Hungus 1 year ago

Good job, Mike!!!!

I wonder how many votes ALF and Al Bundy received in the City Commission race?

0

IKU57 1 year ago

The voting losers from this election sound like the voting losers from the Obama winning election. What gives? Typically, your response to Obama losers was "You lost. Get over it".

It appears it's the old standard, what goes around comes around, is not such an old standard.

2

Richard Heckler 1 year ago

Too many staying home and not voting brings more of the same.

Who convinced voters their votes don't matter? Perhaps loud voices from the other side that keep repeating all candidates are the same.

How do voters who say their votes don't count know their votes don't count if they never voted or gave up voting?

Not voting never changes anything so I speculate.

Do voters across the board realize that politicians decrease OUR personal expendable cash almost each time they vote? Nickel and dime taxpayers down to nothing .

Which is why taxpayers should have the opportunity to vote on most all matters coming before the elected bodies. Lawrence won't die instead Lawrence taxpayers will have the opportunity to select exactly how they want tax dollars spent. Lawrence,Kansas would will NOT shut down for taking fiscal responsibility into OUR own hands.

Taxpayers being able to control tax dollar spending and tax dollar increases would be giving our elected officials direction.

2

btsflk 1 year ago

Why do I even bother to vote.

Wish I could leave this rich man's town.

5

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year ago

Apathy and resignation are the two key components of our system of government (along with the money of those who stand to gain the most by maintaining control of it.)

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Matthew Herbert 1 year ago

Lawrence likes to dub itself the "progressive" city in Kansas. The "oasis". What we really mean is that we turn our noses up to ideas we don't like and fear but can't truly be bothered to vote. 7 out of 8 registered Lawrence voters didn't vote. "progressive".

5

jhawkinsf 1 year ago

Sixteen percent turnout. The "on the street" interviews had one who didn't care about the election, two more who didn't even know it was happening and one who cared, but wanted a vote on the issue of recycling (one would have thought if he wanted a referendum on anything, it would have been on the rec. center).

We in Lawrence are certainly getting the government we deserve.

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Matthew Herbert 1 year ago

16% turnout is horrible. We blame the primary 9% turnout on a snowstorm...what was yesterday's problem? A snowstorm of apathy would be my guess. Pathetic.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year ago

"Farmer said he ran a campaign that tried to highlight that the community needs to get past traditional divisions such as “builders versus non-builders, neighborhood people versus non-neighborhood "

Then you need to make sure that deals like the Rec Center can't happen under your watch. (You could start by insisting on a serious review of how that one was allowed to happen, and making the findings public.)

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year ago

"“It wouldn’t be good for Lawrence to try to change horses in midstream on this,” Riordan said."

Translation-- Lawrence United expects me to promote the same ole, same ole corrupt cronyism that brought us this Rec Center Deal, so I'll dance with who brung me.

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UneasyRider 1 year ago

Election has good and bad points. Good is Chesnut's out. Bad is Farmer is in. So we simply exchanged one Chamber flunkie for another.

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Kate Rogge 1 year ago

Another city commission bought and paid for by the Lawrence developers.

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

Thanks Leslie Soden and Scott Criqui for stepping up. Good Job.

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