Archive for Thursday, June 6, 2013

Editorial: Arrogant attitude

June 6, 2013


Although final cost figures were released only hours before their Tuesday meeting, Lawrence city commissioners decided they had all the information they needed to make a final commitment to $12.2 million in infrastructure costs at Rock Chalk Park.

The defensive and arrogant comments coming from elected officials at Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting are another noteworthy and inexcusable milestone in the ever-more-divisive Rock Chalk Park project.

From the beginning, the handling of this project has been conducted without the transparency that should be given any multimillion-dollar expenditure of tax dollars.

The most recent among several egregious steps along the way — so far — took place when the final approval was given with practically no advance notice to the public. Again, only Commissioner Mike Amyx voted against the approval.

The published agenda for Tuesday’s meeting did not say that commissioners would be voting to authorize signing the contract, and the staff memo concerning the published agenda item (“project update”) indicated there would be further agreements requiring future action. If that were not sufficient chicanery, the cost estimates for the project’s infrastructure were released only at 2 p.m., a few hours before the meeting. As might have been forecast, they showed higher-than-expected costs of $12.2 million, compared to the city’s estimate of $9.3 million. Landscaping, pavement, and legal and management fees supposedly drove the increase. Bill Self’s Assists Foundation plunked down $2 million toward the project, apparently holding the city’s share at $22.5 million.

Higher costs are one thing. The comments by Mayor Mike Dever are another. He defended the timing of the city’s decision and its release of the pricing information, saying city officials reviewed the costs for several days. “As for the public,” he added, “that is a question that is up to each individual to decide whether there was adequate time.” If the mayor were writing a personal check for the project, he’d be entitled to such an arrogant attitude, but it’s the taxpayers who are paying the tab, and it smells as if those taxpayers may pay millions more than they would have if the city’s normal bidding process had been followed.

Tuesday night’s outcome probably would have been the same even if specific notice of the intended action had properly been put on the agenda, but at least Lawrence taxpayers wouldn’t feel as if they got flimflammed once again on this city project.

Said former Mayor Bob Schumm: “I’m not ashamed of what we accomplished. I’m very proud of what we accomplished.”

Maybe so. But nobody should take any pride in the way it was accomplished. Perhaps the city commissioners should eat some humble pie and remember that they were not divinely installed into office; they were elected and owe it to the voters and taxpayers to keep the public’s interests foremost in their minds. Everyone would be proud of that.


Lawrence Morgan 5 years ago

What possibilities are there for a procedure by which public officials (City Commissioners) may be removed from office by popular vote or another means?

Or is there no means to do so?

Evan Ridenour 5 years ago

Do city commissioners owe any legal duties?

Patty Buchholz 5 years ago

Our city commissioners do not feel any obligation to the regular taxpayer, only Thomas Fritzel, and that is very sad. I would hope at election time, none, with the exception of Amyx, will be re-elected.

lawrenceksfan 5 years ago

This is outrageous. This, (local politics in bed with shady developers), has gone too far. These four commissioners should be ashamed of themselves. I hope someone with more money and legal experience than I, sues the city commission (the city) for their cronyism. Or more specifically, lack of proper time for the public to review the bids. We are the ones paying for this and we were not even allowed to review the bid. The city needs to be sued and this NEEDS to be put to a public vote. Outrageous!

tomatogrower 5 years ago

They were only just voted in. People voted for the one's with their own little PAC. Except for Amyx, they ran as a group, which is pretty unheard of in city government. I realized that they were all pro sport complex, so I didn't vote for them, but apparently Lawrence wanted the thing, so they elected these guys. If people don't like it, then they should get out to vote next time, or don't vote for the ones with the fancy, glossy pamphlets.

jafs 5 years ago

Well, the turnouts are so low as to be absurd.

So, we can't say "Lawrence" wanted it, or even that the majority of eligible voters in Lawrence wanted it.

I really don't know why people don't vote in these elections - local politics affect us very directly and immediately.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

"I really don't know why people don't vote in these elections"

Because the great majority have accepted the primary lessons taught in schools-- learning how to participate in the civic sphere is considerably secondary to paying attention to the football and basketball teams, or who'll be homecoming or prom queen and king. And since most kids never get to be a part of any of the "in" cliques that dominate these activities, they just learn to zone out on anything that isn't part of their direct day-to-day experience. This "zoning out" follows most folks into their adult lives, and their participation in the public sphere tends to be voyeuristic, focussed on the stars of Hollywood, Nashville, major sports or other entertainment machines.

Those who do participate in politics tend to be the ones who know that controlling the activities and decisions of government can be very beneficial to their narrow special interests, and significantly outnumber those who think government should be concerned primarily with the greater good for the majority of the population.

fiddleback 5 years ago

Spot-on and totally depressing synopsis. I would say that the elites promoting their narrow self-interest do not outnumber those concerned with the greater good, but these elites have spent the last 30 years fooling enough other disaffected citizens into subscribing to their Randian economic Darwinism that these useful idiots tip the scales in favor of such plunder. And while typing this I realize I've just summarized "What's the Matter with Kansas" for the umpteenth time...

50YearResident 5 years ago

We can verify your comment by just looking at the front page of the Journal World. Sports have pushed News down to 1/2 page or less with 1/3 page of advertising. What happened to the old Front Page?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

I disagree with you as to why people don't vote. Compare voter turnout in presidential elections with local elections. The difference is huge. Obviously, significant numbers are making the choice to vote in one and not the other. They are making the choice to become involved up to a certain level and then no more. It's not about football games or Hollywood. It's about choices.

But if you're looking for analogies, look to the concept of compassion overload. I might get a call on the phone, asking for a donation to a worthwhile charity. I might decide to give to that charity. But if I get 10 calls per evening, day after day, month after month, I'll probably decide to contribute to none. Even though their causes are worthy. Or I might simply disconnect my land line.

We're a distracted group of people. Between work and social activities, T.V., and video games, facebook and texting each other, many don't have the time to become engaged in local politics. But it's not them that's doing it to us. We're doing it to ourselves. We decide to watch American Idol instead of the McNeil Lehrer News hour. We decide to learn who the judges are on Dancing With The Stars rather than on the Supreme Court. We decide. Or at least, most of us do.

Or you might simply ask yourselves the question, Jafs, Bozo, me. What the heck makes us so special that we vote all the time when others do not? Are we better human beings? Are we smarter? What makes us so darn special? The answer is nothing. We're just making different choices.

jafs 5 years ago

We're making "better" choices by voting, not just "different" ones, in my opinion.

As far as the rest of it, I tend to agree, and generally don't consider myself superior to others. But, I am often shocked at how un and under-educated many people seem to be.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

Turnout for presidential elections is still pretty abysmal. Regardless, the reason the turnout is better is because for a large percentage of voters it's about celebrity and tribalism, not about any sort of good understanding of the issues or policies involved.

But even in local elections, winning depends more on name recognition/notoriety than anything else, which is why money makes such a difference in the outcomes.

Carol Bowen 5 years ago

Wasn't it about 50% of Lawrence's population are not homeowners? Assuming that some portion of the renting population are permanent residents and the rest are temporary residents, we are gradually losing eligible voters with a vested interest in the future of the community.

streetman 5 years ago

Replace a few words in this editorial, and it describes the Obamacare passage process.

Smarmy_Schoolmarm 5 years ago

Which words in particular streetman? Why don't you go ahead and rewrite it, changing those few words, and post it here so that we can all see your meaning.

streetman 5 years ago

Ma'am -- if you truly cannot see (or refuse to acknowledge) the obvious parallels between the two "approval" processes, then you qualify as a "low information voter."

Carol Bowen 5 years ago

Streetman, Health care legislation has been in progress for over fifty years. Obamacare was based on the last GOP attempt and modeled after Massachusetts when Mitt Romney was governor. The were a lot of LJW blogs on the proposed legislation. I'm sorry you did not have time to read and understand it. Here is a link to the full text with an organized Table of Contents with links.

ontheright 5 years ago

Sign it and then read it to see what's in it!

bad_dog 5 years ago

Precisely what many folks do with insurance policies, mortgages...

Hooligan_016 5 years ago

I'm still somewhat befuddled where this project came from. All I recall are initial rumors of Bill Self's foundation thinking about a complex on the west side, to the foundation and university scrapping the whole thing, to the City now involved with a partnership with the university.

The timeline on this from it's inception to "final agreement" has been insanely quick.

Bruce Bertsch 5 years ago

So lets review...The entire project is going to cost less than the original projections and this is a bad thing? What has Dolph been smoking? The process was too quick with no public input? I guess some have been hiding under a rock. It's approved, so lets get it built. The time for bitching and moaning is over.

puddleglum 5 years ago

"It's approved, so lets get it built. The time for bitching and moaning is over." thank god that those who think this way are dying off by the thousands every day.

Patty Buchholz 5 years ago

No, it is not time to quit talking about it, this is the only way we may be able to make changes in a 'no bid' process with our tax money.

pizzapete 5 years ago

Our money would have been better spent upgrading and improving the recreation centers we already have. I find it a little ridiculous that the people who were complaining they had to wait five or ten minutes at times to access a pick up game of basketball are now going to have to waste fifteen minutes of their time driving to this new place way out on the edge of the prairie. Hopefully all the out of town sport enthusiasts we're wanting to bring here don't laugh when they learn how remote the location is and far from any other attractions that might encourage them to come back for another visit. Whereas a visit to the KU campus sounds like fun, a trip to a warehouse with basketball courts on the edge of town is going to be a hard sell.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

What an appropriate comment.... a no brainer.

Yes arrogance,egotism ,reckless spending and senseless voting all combined under one umbrella aka a project that may never pay back the taxpayers. This put the taxpayers so far in the red the local tourism industry has become a money hole instead of a money maker.

Let's not forget the millions upon millions upon millions going to other developers in their various projects that are making the local tourism industry a bottomless tax dollar money hole.

"Free Lunch: How the Local Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Local Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)."

Bill Moyers

David Cay Johnston

Sierra Club

Jim Hightower

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

Should the taxpayers of Lawrence subsidize the KU Athletic Association? No!

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