It’s been a long time since Lawrence has had so many people interested in joining the Lawrence City Commission. The fact that voters will have the opportunity to consider 11 candidates for three commission seats makes the upcoming primary and general elections particularly important.
On the other side of the coin, it’s a little disappointing that only four candidates filed for three seats on the Lawrence school board. That number includes two incumbent board members so the lack of competition might be seen as an indication that district patrons are happy with most of what the current board is doing, including, perhaps, the $92.5 million bond issue with which candidates will share the ballot on April 2. Or it could be a sign of general apathy or a lack of willingness by local residents to take on a mostly thankless job.
There doesn’t seem to be much apathy in the City Commission race. The 11 candidates include one incumbent and one former commissioner, and several other people who already are reasonably well-known in the community. There are at least a couple of attorneys and a couple of business owners and several people who are or have been involved in local social services agencies. The issues they cite when asked what drew them into the race pretty much run the gamut. One candidate talked about efforts to make Lawrence a superior retirement community, while another wanted to focus on issues that had an impact on younger voters, like more late-night public transportation to cut down on the number of people who drink and drive. Fiscal matters, job creation and city infrastructure are among issues commission candidates have mentioned when announcing their runs for office.
The election doesn’t appear to be a referendum on any particular issue, although plans for a new recreation complex in northwest Lawrence may become a campaign topic. At least to this point, most of the candidates aren’t focused on criticizing the current commission, but plan to offer some different ways of doing certain things.
Lawrence is, indeed, fortunate to have so many people who are willing to step up and dedicate the necessary time to run for city commission. It indicates the dedication of residents to maintaining the vitality and quality of life in Lawrence. It also places a great responsibility on local voters to get to know these candidates and make intelligent choices, first in the Feb. 26 primary, when the field will be narrowed to six candidates, and in the April 2 general election.
When it comes to the day-to-day life of local residents and their tax dollars, there are no more important public bodies than the Lawrence City Commission and school board. Voters should understand the importance of the upcoming elections and give them the level of attention they deserve.