Archive for Monday, March 11, 2013

City Commission candidates quizzed on ways to cut City Hall budget

March 11, 2013


When it comes to putting a damper on City Hall spending, ideas from Lawrence City Commission candidates range from slashing the proposed $25 million recreation center to creating a new citizens task force.

Residents at a candidate forum hosted by the North Lawrence Improvement Association on Monday quizzed the field of six City Commission candidates on how they would deal with future budget shortfalls, if any arise.

At least two candidates used the issue to jump back to the proposed $25 million recreation center in northwest Lawrence.

Leslie Soden said she’s concerned the estimated $1 million operating budget of the proposed center will become a drain on the city’s budget. She said the city should look for ways to make the proposed 181,000-square-foot, eight-gym center smaller.

“I think we should cut that building in half,” Soden said. “We would have room to expand after we see some real numbers, not speculative numbers.”

Scott Criqui also said he would consider recreation funding as an area to cut when trying to deal with a future budget shortfall, although he stopped short of talking about the recreation center specifically.

Instead, he — like all the candidates — said he would work first to protect core services such as police, fire, street maintenance and other such services.

“I don’t think recreation is one of those core services,” Criqui said.

City Commission General Election Candidates

Links to profiles of the six remaining Lawrence City Commission candidates in the April 2 General Election

Ideas on budget cutting from other candidates varied.

Jeremy Farmer said he was impressed with the task force the Lawrence public school district assembled to study the issue of school consolidation. He said the city may want to think about creating a new standing committee that could help with ideas on how to control city budgets during tight times.

“As a community, we have really smart people,” Farmer said. “That’s not to say that staff wouldn’t make good recommendations and commissioners wouldn’t have good ideas, but I think we really learn a lot when we listen to the community.”

Terry Riordan said the city hopefully had learned from its past practice of cutting street maintenance funding when budgets got tight. He said residents would be in a better position to make recommendations to the city on spending matters if the city’s budget were easier to understand.

“The general person should be able to read the city’s budget and say ‘that’s not right,’” Riordan said.

Commissioner Mike Amyx, the lone incumbent in the field, said he would avoid across-the-board budget cuts and would look for ways to trim administrative costs before cutting into services.

“This time I probably would start at the city manager’s office,” Amyx said. “You start at the top and go down from there.”

Rob Chestnut said better long-range capital improvement plans would give the city more comfort about future city budgets. He also said it is important to periodically review the effectiveness of all city programs.

“Something that was a good initiative six or seven years ago may not be serving the community well now,” Chestnut said. “There are programs out there that don’t add the value they once did.”

Voters in the April 2 general election will choose three candidates from the field. Voters in the lightly attended Feb. 26 primary election narrowed the field to six. Amyx, a city commissioner and downtown barber shop owner, finished in the top spot. He was followed by: Farmer, the chief executive of the food bank Just Food; Riordan, a Lawrence pediatrician; Chestnut, a former city commissioner and a chief financial officer of a private company; Criqui, an executive with Lawrence’s nonprofit Trinity In-Home Care; and Soden, the owner of a Lawrence pet care business.


cowboy 5 years, 2 months ago

How about not paying for water systems with cash. You can borrow money for extremely low interest and spread these costs out over years instead of hitting the ratepayers with increases every year then sucking the excess revenue off to pay for admin costs. We are talking many millions of dollars , 15 annually , that is being poured into the water infrastructure. Seems our eagle eye auditor started to talk about this a couple years ago and was silenced pretty quickly.

Water revenue is flat because of the punitive rate structure the city has implemented.

How about solid waste , all the new carts , still two guys on the back of our trash trucks.

Look at most any revenue stream the city has and they are at an all time high and they still can't seem to get enough and continue to raise costs of water , permits , fines , court costs , franchise fees. Time for someone with a different approach to take the helm in the city managers office.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 2 months ago

Put the rec center issue to rest, it is already a done deal. I don't agree with how it was done and the shady process surrounding it, but lets move on. This reminds me of the 6th St Walmart and SW Traffic Way fights.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

So, you registered just to make these assertions about Soden? On whose behalf are you stalking?

Randall Allen 5 years, 2 months ago

Leslie Soden is concerned with spending tax dollars, and rightly so. Perhaps you have something to gain personally by this boondoggle -concerned jayhawk.

concerned_jayhawk2010 5 years, 2 months ago

@bozo, I'm stalking on behalf of other citizens in Lawrence who are SCARED of Leslie winning any position of power since she is wholly unqualified. An after looking through your post history, I can see you registered a long time ago for the same reason.

@ themick, I'm not sure why boondoggle is such a buzz word right now, but please stop. The only thing I have to gain is sleep knowing Leslie is walking people's dog like she should be and not setting policy for the City of Lawrence.

concerned_jayhawk2010 5 years, 2 months ago

Oh, and @bozo, congratulations on the less than 500 signatures you STILL have on Obviously the citizens are SCREAMING for a referendum after the 3 months you've been posting that link on here. If my arithmetic servers me that's 0.5% of the population of Lawrence that is outraged. Yes, that's less than 1%.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

That's about 500 more people than have been screaming FOR this rec palace, now isn't it?

Why are you afraid of having a referendum? You know, where those of you who will benefit from this project can explain to all those who will be paying for it why it's such a slam-dunk great deal?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

BTW, it's the height of cynicism to take the apathy of voters as a sign of support for the corrupt cronyism that rules the day in city government, but is instead a major reason for the apathy of the voting public. And that's why you don't want a referendum, isn't it? Cronyism been good to you, eh?

concerned_jayhawk2010 5 years, 2 months ago

"BTW, it's the height of cynicism to take the apathy of voters as a sign of support for the corrupt cronyism that rules the day in city government, but is instead a major reason for the apathy of the voting public."

If the "corrupt cronyism" rules the day in Lawrence, it was put there by a majority. Look at the county clerks election results. And if you're blaming Schumm, Cromwell, Amyx, Carter, and Dever for the "voter apathy" which is a WORLD WIDE phenomena, I think you're giving them too much credit. American Idol and YouTube are more to blame for voter apathy.

I've seen at least 500 people speak out in favor of the rec center at city commission meetings, public hearings, and the like. I've also seen the same 25 or so people speaking against it at the aforementioned meetings.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

"If the "corrupt cronyism" rules the day in Lawrence, it was put there by a majority. "

A majority of a small minority, who know that keeping control of city government is very beneficial to their very narrow self interests.

"I've seen at least 500 people speak out in favor of the rec center at city commission meetings, public hearings, and the like"

Show me the list. Regardless, if it's such a popular and great idea, then it would pass in a referendum with flying colors, no?

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 2 months ago

concerned_jayhawk2010, your posts confuse me. Your tone is vitriolic, you seem to be lashing out at random at other posters, and despite your protests that you are concerned about Leslie Soden's qualifications, your comments regarding her seem to be quite personal rather than about qualifications.

I would expect any poster whose concern was truly for qualified candidates to focus on the qualifications of the candidates they support, rather than to make ad hominem attacks on others.

kuspiderman 5 years, 2 months ago

The rec center is happening. Get over it. Votes taken, bids coming, shovels soon turning. Move on. I have nothing to gain from the rec center getting built, other than healthy kids and a place that residents of Lawrence can benefit from thanks to more tax dollars being spent in our town by out of town guests. So leave your cronyism conspiracy theory for the East LAN meetings. And so what if business owners make money on their investments? God forbid. This is still a capitalist economy right? If businesses do well, people do well. And if people are working, they rely less on government. Leslie's woefully uninformed on construction costs if she thinks we can build and add on and call that good stewardship of our tax dollars. The cost of not building it include the health care costs of an unhealthy community, opportunities lost when people spend money in other visionary communities and general malaise in a town ruled by nattering nabobs of negativity who have no vision or courage but only a dream of what used to be but really never was. The costs of underbuilding include a center which doesn't provide any addition to the tax base from out of town guests, doesn't serve the residents of Lawrence adequately and doesn't alleviate the ridiculously overcrowded gyms. People, have some vision and INVEST in your community. If you keep wanting to do what you've always done, you'll end up with what you've always gotten. We are where we are thanks to people like Bozo. We'll get where we need to be with vision and courage.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

As I've said time and again, it this is such a great idea, put it to a vote, and it'll pass easily, right? What are you afraid of?

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 2 months ago

Merrill, Did you steal Bozo's login? Seeing the same posts copied over and over makes me wonder...

Patricia Davis 5 years, 2 months ago

I say yes to vision and courage. No to corporate welfare.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 2 months ago

I desperately want to "like" this. However, it is the rhetorical equivalent of a Twinkie: empty calories.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 2 months ago

That is an easy one. Quit electing clueless, firghtened, incompetant people to run the city.

Hire some professional people to do the city's business and get rid of these agended incompetant slugs that win the popularity contest that passes for a" city election"

I have not voted for any of them for years..

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence is growing to the west, for many reasons including the inability to do anything east of Mass street as the greenies will fight to protect anything that has paint flaking off of it in the name of historical preservation. The East side of town also has traffic pattern problems as you really can't get there from here. It is set up now as the industrial side of town. Downtown is, and has been going down hill in part to coddling the panhandlers and the politically aligned business and property owners. Lawrence of the future will be built around a major throughfare we now call the K10 bypass. All major cities have roads like this, most of them going right through the middle of town. Wichita has been trying to fix this problem in their town for 30 years and it looks like they are just now on the last leg of it on East Kellogg.

The new rec center (Complex) will at least have the potenital to generate some revenue for this city as opposed to that freeking library money pit, the empT money pit and the other things the do gooders have demanded in the past that only serve to create dependency on governmental services. Next up is the $93.5 million bond for the schools, the new $42 million dollar police station and we were just blessed with huge increases in user fees for water and sanitation.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Wichita - the largest city in KS - population about 380,000.

Lawrence, a small/medium size college town - population about 90,000.

Lawrence is hardly a "major city".

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Not all cities should become "major cities" - having grown up in NYC, and lived there and in Chicago for a number of years, I no longer wish to live in one of those, and prefer smaller, more livable cities like Lawrence.

There's nothing wrong with being a small, sustainable city.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 2 months ago

If these candidates want to continue to talk about the rec center, then they are not the right candidates. I want candidates that are forward thinking and not looking back on issues they will not be voting on. I don't agree with the rec center process and shady dealings, but I also know when the dotted lines are signed, continuing to complain about the issue will get our community nowhere and further divide it. That is not what leaders are suppose to do.

As the gambler said " you gotta know when to hold them and know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run!"

Fold them on the rec center issue, the bus has already left.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

That's not necessarily true.

Although the city has committed to about $2 million in costs, I'm not at all sure they've committed to more than that yet. If they haven't, then the new commission has a chance to stop this project, and/or downsize it.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 2 months ago

We all know this is being "railroaded" through, so by the time these people take office, there will already be bulldozers going. Move on and work on the next issue to help our city if you want my vote.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Well, I take the opposite approach, and will be voting for those candidates that express willingness to slow down and/or stop this project.

You don't seem to understand the difference between the $2 million that will be spent and the $25 million that might not have to be spent. I'd rather lose $2 million now than $25 million later (of course I'd prefer it if they hadn't approved the $2 million at all).

MarcoPogo 5 years, 2 months ago

We've been reduced to citing Kenny Rogers lyrics as a supportive argument...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

The badly flawed process is precisely why the rec palace should not be just swept behind us. To do so would only ensure that business as usual remains business as usual.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

The more the city expands it's borders the more it cost to maintain. If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, Lawrence would never be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of residential you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

Thus more and more cost of living increases aka tax increases.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 2 months ago

Merrill, you were against the downtown hotel which is infill and doesn't expand our borders. If you ever want to be taken seriously, you cannot say are for infill and then complain about every project.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

I was not against the hotel as such. Is there a market for the hotel? If taxpayers are forced into shelling out millions of tax dollars WE TAXPAYERS need more than assumptions.

I was and am against corporate welfare to a wealthy group of business people.

If a project cannot make a profit without corporate welfare should the taxpayer subsided project go forward? Why throw tax dollars at a failing business?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 2 months ago

Is throwing tax dollars at a failing business have anything to do with the empT or the new library or your beloved bicycle paths? You see Merrill, none of these even have a chance to pay for themselves. How about the 86K salary the bus barron makes at city hall? Can't this money be used for something better? What does this guy do other than collect a paycheck? A kid that manages a McDonalds could manage this money pit of a bus system we have.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

Here's another scenario that might come back to bite taxpayers in the butt. This one gets built.

This creates an equity issue no matter what and this new giant facility will not make that go away.

That still leaves North Lawrence and Southeast Lawrence without a rec center. Both have had a major influx of population and still growing. SE Lawrence does have Prairie Park Nature Center however athletic events cannot be scheduled at the Nature Center.

WE taxpayers know this field house scenario will cost we taxpayers more than $31 million after all infrastructure is installed etc etc etc. Traffic Lights/water lines etc etc get expensive.

Considering the total cost will be more than 31 million no matter how the picture is painted why not build a neighborhood rec center in NW with 3 gyms, North Lawrence with two gyms, and Southeast Lawrence with 2 gyms ? Spend an estimated 11 million on each each facility.

Schedule local athletic events according to where most team members reside.

Jumping in a car to drive across town is not practical thinking. Not any longer. 29 cents a gallon polluting gasoline went bye bye bye some time ago. A ton of people in Lawrence do not bring home $60,000 or more in wages such that a lot of the loudest promoters do and some are on a tax dollar payroll.

In fact it seems this 1994 sales tax money was to provide "neighborhood" rec centers. SE Lawrence is going to want a swimming pool one day as well.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 2 months ago

So if you build three $11 million dollar facilities, you are buying 3 plots of land so the city is getting less for the money, paying utilities on 3 structures, paying maintenance on 3 structures, lawn care on 3 properties, taking 3 properties off the tax role, and paying for STAFFING at 3 different facilities.

And Regional Youth Tournaments will not come because you don't have a one stop shop to support the entire tournament, so you lost the revenue they generate, plus the staffing of a tournament just became much more costly.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

the city owns the land as we speak = no property off tax rolls

the utilities on 3 may not be as much as on one monster

Cost of maintenance may not cost as much or no more

Very low budget landscape may not be more or any different

staffing would not need to be as extensive

Regional tournaments may not cover their expenses as the consultant noted there is not much money made... What regional tournaments? That's rhetoric thus far as none are scheduled....could be tough competition.

Cost of staffing is the unknown

City hands out tax abatements like a drunken sailor sooooo there are plenty of properties off the tax rolls....

llirrem 5 years, 2 months ago

"...utilities on 3 may not be as much...", "landscape may not be more...", 'regional tournaments may not cover their expenses." All arguments based one person's theory and not reality...soooo might be good to have facts before you make a statement about the benefits of opening 3 smaller ones.

The consultant's work did not include the money that will be made by a waitress at Salty's, who will then go spend that money in downtown Lawrence. Always good to have outside money coming in.

Not afraid of anything with a vote, besides a waste of time and process. We elect/pay our commissioners to make these decisions. No new taxes, no vote neccessary.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

"We elect/pay our commissioners to make these decisions. "

I'd prefer to elect/pay commissioners to make decisions in an open and transparent fashion-- not rubberstamp deals hammered out in secret by the unelected KUEA, KUAC and local developers, who trickle out details as they see fit, and expect Lawrence taxpayers to just fork over $million for whatever they concoct, no questions asked (or, at best, very poorly answered.)

llirrem 5 years, 2 months ago

What questions do you still need answered? What is so "secret" about this deal? You should absolutely ask questions, but once those questions are answered (over and over again if you have been to any city commission meetings about this) you should stop the conspiracy theory b.s. and move on.

Additionally, details "trickle out" as information is requested. When we asked for more information/transparecy, that information was provided. Because the whole thing was transparent, it caused more information to come out at each step.

You don't have to like the developers to like this deal. It's so obivous that this is going to be good for the community in so many ways. This is our chance to look forward and not backward as a community. I'm so thankful to live in a community that has a great university, developers who want to make Lawrence world class and city government that has courage and vision to see a great opportunity. bozo and merrill, what's your vision for Lawrence? I would like to hear your dreams and hopes for Lawrence from time-to-time instead of all the reactive negativity to the good that others are trying to accomplish.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

I don't have to like this deal at all. And I don't. I dislike it for the badly flawed process. I dislike it because it provides substantial subsidies for what's in reality a private project that will provide absolutely no benefit to the great majority of Lawrence residents.

Sure, for some the end justifies the means. But in this case, both the end and the means suck.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

We'll see.

Many of these overly optimistic projections don't pan out over time, and cities get stuck with higher taxes to pay for things that were supposed to pay for themselves and/or generate revenue.

My own vision for Lawrence is as a sustainable small city, one that provides a pleasant place to live for residents, rather than as a continually growing one. Growth comes with both positive and negative attributes, so it's not a uniformly positive thing.

joes_donuts 5 years, 2 months ago


City does not own enough land in all three of those neighborhoods to make this work.

Utilities will be more, because if you look at your bill, a portion of it is extra charges not related to your usage. So these fees would be paid 3 times.

Maintenance cost will be higher. More AC's, more roofs, more hot water heaters, etc... It is a fact that 3 building cost more to maintain then one large building.

How you can say landscaping would not be any more is beyond me given your profession.

Staffing would be higher. If you ever go to the East Lawrence Rec Center (which has 2 courts that you can never use because they are always in use), you know know that you have to have at least one to two people working at the front desk. Now with 3 buildings, you would need 3 to 6 people.

Who said Regional Tournaments would cover their expenses, only thing said is they wouldn't come if it was split into 3.

Cost of staffing is unknown, but it is known that if you need to have a staff at 3 buildings vs 1, it will cost more.

Cannot believe I am even responding to you Merrill but you constant lies get old.

kuspiderman 5 years, 2 months ago

Pretty sure I have heard Farmer talk about homeless, opportunities and community engagement/involvement. Merrill, southeast Lawrence has no facility? It's too much to ask people to drive from O'Connell Road to East Lawrence Rec Center? From Prairie Park to East Lawrence Rec is 2.2 miles. Not south/east enough for ya? From Broken Arrow Park to Holcom: 2.5 miles. You obviously could not be more wrong. North Lawrence: 6th & Lyon to the Community Building: 2.1 miles. From George Williams and 6th to Community Building: 5.5 miles. To Holcom: 5.4 miles. Stop with the underserved geography argument.

Katara 5 years, 2 months ago

Stop with the robocalls, Leslie. They are very annoying.

You'd think that someone who claims to be in touch with community would know that robocalls tend to tick people off.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

Why spend $31 million $$$$$$$ for one rec center in one neighborhood?

joes_donuts 5 years, 2 months ago

It is for the entire city, but I guess in your eyes the city pool downtown is only for downtown residents...

And if you were so worried about gas prices, why were you against the downtown Hotel and Apartments? You say we the taxpayers are shelling out millions, but you are not shelling out anything. That is a fact. This is money the city doesn't get now, and every year the city will get more money from these projects then they currently get from the vacant ground, without any infrastructure added.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

BS. I was against the millions in corporate welfare.

The city always needs those millions in tax dollars abatements .... always. I would rather abatements be thrown in the toilets than be constantly subjected to a variety of rate increases,fee increases etc etc etc without my approval. This new over saturated growth is not paying back the community and hasn't been for a few years.

How many for profit properties should be off the tax rolls? What's up with this? Builders won't build without tax dollar corporate welfare? Fine why should they get free rides?

Who makes up for the loss in tax revenue? Taxpayers who else.

East Lawrence was against the heights of the buildings. In fact East Lawrence did not come out against the apartments. For me again it was the corporate welfare.

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