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City Commission candidates split on idea of expanded rental licensing program

February 7, 2013


A proposal to expand the city’s rental licensing program appears to be just as dividing among the field of Lawrence City Commission candidates as it is among landlords and renters.

Of the nine commission candidates who participated in Tuesday night’s forum by the Voter Education Coalition, five supported increased rental licensing, while the rest either opposed or had concerns about the proposal.

“It is needed,” said City Commission candidate Scott Criqui, who said the issue was both a safety and an economic development issue. “No one wants to live in a city where your housing stock is blighted.”

Cost — both to the city to run the licensing program and to tenants who may see an increase in rent prices — was cited as the major concern with the proposal.

“My concern is the cost and the return on the investment for the city,” said candidate Judy Bellome. “Can these costs really and truly be monitored?

Overall, five candidates — Criqui, Michael Rost, Leslie Soden, Terry Riordan and Rob Chestnut — indicated support for an increased rental licensing program.

None of the five gave details of how their plan would work, such as fees or licensing requirements, but all said a program that goes beyond the city’s current system was desirable.

“I think there is a way to do this that will be fair to everyone,” Chestnut said.

Four candidates — Bellome, Jeremy Farmer, Reese Hays and City Commissioner Mike Amyx — either raised concerns or were noncommittal on the proposal.

Hays said he wants residents to speak up on the subject in order to determine what the majority of residents want to see in a rental registration program. Farmer said he could see both sides of the issue, saying the program could improve safety but also was concerned landlords may pass along licensing fees to low income residents in the form of higher rents.

Amyx said he was concerned about the expense the program would add to the city budget, and he said he wanted to better understand why the city’s current system of responding to complaints from tenants wasn’t adequate.

A majority of commissioners in November said they were ready to move forward on a new program that would require every rental unit in the city — about 18,000 of them — to register with the city and undergo periodic inspections for code violations.

The city’s current program only requires single family rental properties to register and be inspected.

The city has estimated startup costs may be about $370,000, and the city may need to charge a rental registration fee of $30 per unit. Some landlords in the community have questioned the proposal, but several residents of rental neighborhoods have lobbied for the changes. It is unclear whether the current City Commission will seek to approve a new plan before the April City Commission elections.

On other issues raised at the forum:

• Seven of the nine candidates generally supported the idea of a citywide, curbside recycling program. Only Rost and Amyx expressed significant concerns about the proposal. Amyx said he was concerned about what an increased fee for recycling — coupled with possible increases in water and sewer rates — would do to the monthly utility bills of residents. Rost said he had cost concerns and also questioned whether increased emissions from additional trucks used to collect recycling largely offset the environmental benefits of a recycling program.

Tuesday’s event was the first major candidate forum of the campaign. Candidates Will Olson and Nicholas Marlo did not participate.

A second candidate forum is set for Saturday. The community organization Cadre Lawrence is set to host a forum at 10 a.m. at Maceli’s, 1031 New Hampshire St. Organizers have said the forum is expected to touch on economic development topics.

A Feb. 26 primary will narrow the field of 11 City Commission candidates down to six. The general election — where the top three vote winners will take a seat on the commission — will be April 2.


David Holroyd 5 years, 3 months ago

If cardboard,glass,mand plastics are so valuable why aren't residents being paid to put the stuff out?

copper, old ac's , refridgerators, aluminum, for example get taken away for free?

City Commission is playing the public as fools, to create another fee!

average 5 years, 3 months ago

They aren't wildly valuable, oneeye. On a good day, the revenues from those things will offset the recycling cost.

What you don't want to take into account are that there are real, direct costs involved in landfilling it all (tip fees, etc) which can be held in check by diverting half of it.

grandpaD 5 years, 3 months ago

I will watch how every one of the candidates vote on the rental registration. A yes vote for the proposal on your part will be a no vote for me and as many of my friends that I can talk to before election day

Nonsense 5 years, 3 months ago

Looks like I will be canceling your vote. I will only vote for the ones that will look seriously at enforcing the current system and increasing its reach. I am tired of the neighborhoods in this city looking like slums due to out of town(mostly) landlords.

roadwarrior 5 years, 3 months ago

Most cities with healthy curb side recycling programs alternate trash days with recycling days which does not increase the cost of trash collection services. It's really quite simple. Also, yes, the city should avail itself of payment for recycled goods and reduce the cost of collection for consumers when that profit is realized.

roadwarrior 5 years, 3 months ago

Amyx said he was concerned about the expense the program would add to the city budget, and he said he wanted to better understand why the city’s current system of responding to complaints from tenants wasn’t adequate.


jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

Because it puts an unfair burden on tenants to be assertive, given their dependence on landlords for references.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 months ago

There are nearly 21,000 rental units in Lawrence ,Kansas which is 58% of total occupied housing units. At $25.00 per unit that more than pays for itself plus maybe two more inspectors. $25.00 per unit is much lower than other college towns and other cities in general. Iowa City is $167.00

Of course many elected officials and other powers that be own rental properties = conflict of interest as an elected official.

Other nearby cities with licensing programs are Lenexa, Overland Park, Roeland Park, Prairie Village, Westwood, Merriam, Leawood and Kansas City.

League of Women Voters Lawrence/Douglas County 5 years, 3 months ago

The League of Women Voters of Lawrence/Douglas County asked the following questions of all the candidates. If you'd like to view/download there answers, you can visit our website: and click on Elections.

Why do you want to be a city commissioner?

What unique qualities and/or skillsets do you bring to the table that you feel have been missing from previous city commissions?

In what area of city government do feel you would excel, and why?

What area of city government do you feel you know least about?

How much time do you envision being a city commissioner will take on a weekly basis and how will you be able to handle that, along with your regular employment?

What are your thoughts about changing the way we elect city commissioners from at-large to five geographic areas (such as wards). What do you see as the pros and/or cons of switching to such a system?

Would you support funding an interconnected shared use path system emphasizing routing through riparian and wooded urban natural areas where possible? If so, how would you suggest funding it?

Do you have concerns about Gov. Brownback's new budget and how that might impact the city? If so, do you envision cuts would have to be made in the city budget? If so, where?

Hot Button Issue: Given everything you know at this point in time, share your thoughts and concerns, if any, on financing Rock Chalk Park with $25 million in sales tax.

The League of Women Voters does not support a sales tax on food and groceries. Do you? Why or why not?

Best guess: How many city commission meetings have you attended last year?

Have you ever testified before the city commission on any issue(s)? If so, what issue(s)?

What do you know about your local League of Women Voters and how can we help you be a great city commissioner, if elected?

Tell us a secret about yourself.

Katara 5 years, 3 months ago

"Tell us a secret about yourself."

Please don't ask questions like this. They make you sound like People magazine or any of the many fluff magazines you see at the checkout counter.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 3 months ago

"No one wants to live in a city where your housing stock is blighted" - Scott Criqui.

Scott (and all of the commissioners who think this way), for every run down rental property you show me, I will show you TWO run down owner-occupied properties. You can't fix "blighted" with rental inspections. Will these rental inspections require exteriors to be "properly" painted? Will they require properties to be "properly" landscaped? Perhaps instead of visually "blighted", you mean economically "blighted". In which case, lets talk about the REAL culprit in the economic blight of properties - rampant foreclosures. NOTHING drags your re-sale value down like having your neighbors house sell in short sale for half what you believe your home to be worth. Since rental properties are by their very nature income producing properties, foreclosed properties tend to be owner-occupied, non-rental properties. I also don't want to live in a city where my housing stock is blighted which is why I'd like people to start taking responsibility for their debts and paying their mortgages. I don't blame landlords for my inability to sell my house for what it is worth. I blame my owner-occupied neighbors who walked out leaving the bank to take their property and turn around and sell it for pennies on the dollar. Scott (and commissioners who think like that), you have identified a problem to which you have promptly created a solution that doesn't actually solve.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 months ago

In Lawrence there are areas of rentals that are neglected homes meaning no maintenance to speak of if the exterior upkeep is any indication.

People who have walked away from their homes could likely be victims of repub home loan scams that which not only reduced the market value of the home but also cost the homeowners their employment. The icing on the cake would be the reduced market value of the home becoming far less than the mortgage.

Property values are a concern to all live in property owners no matter their wealth.

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT - Bailing out The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist aka home loan scandal sent the economy out the window costing homeowners many many $$ trillions in market value losses plus millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance.

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT Bailing out the Bush/Cheney Home Loan Wall Street Bank Fraud cost consumers $ trillions, millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. Exactly like the Reagan/Bush home loan scam. Déjà vu can we say. Yep seems to be a pattern.

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