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Archive for Monday, March 11, 2013

City Commission candidates quizzed on ways to cut City Hall budget

March 11, 2013

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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.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month 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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Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

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

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Katara 1 year, 1 month 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.

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kuspiderman 1 year, 1 month 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.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 1 month ago

How about candidates that do not talk about the homeless issue, nor talk about saving old houses, or how about fixing the streets instead of talking about it. By the way: KC Star today, downtown redevelopmen..............New is IN, old is NOT.

Take a lesson Lawrence!

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month 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.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month 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.

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 1 month 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.

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jafs 1 year, 1 month 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.

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jafs 1 year, 1 month 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".

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 1 month 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.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 1 month 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..

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kuspiderman 1 year, 1 month 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.

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concerned_jayhawk2010 1 year, 1 month 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.

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concerned_jayhawk2010 1 year, 1 month ago

Oh, and @bozo, congratulations on the less than 500 signatures you STILL have on change.org. 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%.

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concerned_jayhawk2010 1 year, 1 month 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.

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cowboy 1 year, 1 month 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.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 1 month ago

Whatever the city cuts is a pittance to the property taxes. The school district needs the axe!

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