Archive for Sunday, March 17, 2013

City commission candidates give views on economic development issues, downtown redevelopment

March 17, 2013


The Election

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.

Mike Amyx, a city commissioner and downtown barber shop owner, finished in the top spot. He was followed by: Jeremy Farmer, the chief executive of the food bank Just Food; Terry Riordan, a Lawrence pediatrician; Rob Chestnut, a former city commissioner and a chief financial officer of a private company; Scott Criqui, an executive with Lawrence’s non-profit Trinity In-Home Care; and Leslie Soden, the owner of a Lawrence pet care business.

City Commission General Election Candidates

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

Additional City Commission Campaign Coverage articles on the 2013 Lawrence City Commission election.

The road to growth in Lawrence, more often than not, runs through City Hall.

Whether it’s an industrial project to add more jobs or a multistory building to add more residents to downtown or something in between, Lawrence city commissioners usually get a chance to weigh in on it at some point.

In the first of a series of stories about issues in the 2013 Lawrence City Commission race, we ask the six candidates for their views on economic development and growth-related issues.

The list of possible questions with that subject is long. Here are the issues we focused on with candidates:

• Economic development incentives: Everything from tax abatements to special taxing districts for new retail developments, are apt to turn up at City Hall.

• Prime farmland vs. prime industrial ground: Commissioners have been asked to decide when agricultural land with “prime soils” should be allowed to be converted into future industrial sites. The area around the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Lawrence has been an area where that debate has raged in recent years.

• Turnpike industrial area: Should the area surrounding the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike become a major industrial area? Berry Plastics has built a warehouse near the interchange, but an attempt to annex about 155 acres into the city for future industrial development has been challenged in court.

• Downtown redevelopment: Large, multistory buildings are taking over Ninth and New Hampshire street, with approval so far of two apartment buildings and a hotel. Key questions include: Should the tall-building trend continue downtown, and should some city-owned surface parking lots in downtown be considered for redevelopment?

Here’s a summary of what each candidate said:

Mike Amyx

Amyx — the lone incumbent in the race — thinks the City Commission has “done a good job of doing its due diligence” on incentive requests. Amyx said he’s open to a variety of incentives, but generally is against the idea of the Community Improvement District incentives that add a special sales tax onto designated retail areas. If such special taxing districts are approved in the future, he said there should be a requirement that signs exist on the property notifying shoppers they are paying a higher-than-normal sales tax rate.

Amyx likes the city’s current plans for development near Lawrence Municipal Airport: Development at the airport itself has potential but development on the ground surrounding the airport likely would require too much new infrastructure and would threaten too much prime farmland.

Amyx comes out in favor of the potential for industrial development near the Lecompton interchange, which also is at the intersection where the western leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway connects with Interstate 70.

“That intersection makes all the sense in the world because of the easy access,” Amyx said.

On downtown redevelopment — Amyx owns a barber shop downtown — he said the city has “sent the signal” that building taller buildings is a part of downtown’s future. But Amyx said he will want to be cautious about redeveloping city-owned surface parking lots in downtown. He said redevelopment of those lots will limit the city’s options to add significant parking to downtown in the future.

Rob Chestnut

Chestnut said he “clearly is in support of using all the tax incentive tools that we have.”

“One of the best testaments of the success of incentives is East Hills Business Park,” Chestnut said. “Most of those businesses have had a tax abatement, and that is really a major employment center for us.”

He said he can support the special taxing districts for retail development, in the right situations. He’s uncertain whether he would support a sign requirement for those special taxing districts.

Chestnut said he has concerns about industrial development near the airport accelerating flooding issues in North Lawrence, and said any development requests would have to be examined “very carefully.”

He said there is good potential for industrial development, such as warehouses, near the Lecompton interchange.

On downtown redevelopment, Chestnut said “creating more density ought to be important for downtown.” He was generally supportive of the new hotel project, but said the city needs to further study its design guidelines for large downtown buildings. He said any redevelopment of downtown parking lots would need to have a clear plan for how the city would replace any lost public parking.

Scott Criqui

Criqui said he supports incentives that can help with primary job creation, but he would like the city to generally not use incentives for retail projects. He favors signs for any special taxing districts.

He supports the current plan to limit industrial development around the airport, but he said the city will need to consider allowing prime farmland in other areas to be developed for industry.

Criqui believes the area near the Lecompton interchange is “prime for industrial development in the future.”

On downtown, Criqui said he likes the direction downtown seems to be heading.

“I like infill development, and building upward is appealing to me,” Criqui said.

He said he would be open to hearing plans for redevelopment of city-owned parking lots, but the new development will need to address parking and respect the “charm of downtown.”

Jeremy Farmer

Farmer said he was supportive of well-thought-out incentives for businesses, including in the retail sector. He said he thought much of the debate on incentives stemmed from a broader issue in the community.

“I think it is about community mistrust of the process and local government,” Farmer said. “We need to bring everybody to the table and talk about that.”

He said he was uncertain whether he would support a requirement for signs in special taxing districts.

Farmer also said more conversation is needed on the issue of when to develop prime farm ground. He said he thought it was “a bit premature” to determine the development future near the airport.

Farmer said the city needs industrial ground in “prime accessible spots,” but said he was uncertain of what direction the Lecompton interchange area should take. He said a broader conversation was needed.

On downtown, Farmer said he’s pleased the new hotel project will be producing new tax revenues and was pleased that developers and neighbors “did ultimately get around the table.” He has said he wants to have more conversations about what the future of taller buildings should be in downtown. He also said he would want to talk with more downtown stakeholders about the idea of redeveloping city parking lots.

Terry Riordan

Riordan said economic development incentives are needed to keep Lawrence competitive with other communities. But he said he does not support Community Improvement Districts and their special taxing districts. He said notification signs should be a part of any special taxing district.

Riordan said “Lawrence needs to grow,” but also needs to look for ways that are least harmful to the environment. He said taking prime farm ground near the airport would be difficult for him to support.

“I think development out there would be extremely expensive for the city,” Riordan said. “When you combine that with the fact you are eliminating some of the best farmland in the world, that makes the issue not so attractive.”

He said he needs to gather more information about the area near the Lecompton interchange, but recognizes the need for industrial land near the interstate.

On downtown, Riordan said he would like to hear discussion about taller buildings being built on the western edge of downtown, instead of the eastern edge. He said the western edge may provide more buffer opportunities between development and neighborhoods. He also said the recent hotel project was a good reminder of the need for developers to sit down early in the process with neighbors. Riordan said he has “an interest in seeing” what developers may propose for downtown parking lots.

Leslie Soden

Soden said she can support some incentives, but wants to avoid a “sweepstakes scenario” where the community gets in a competition related to the size of check it can offer a company. She said she has concerns about offering retail incentives, especially to national chain stores or restaurants. She supports signs in special taxing districts.

Soden said most prime pieces of farmland are in flood-prone areas, which should cause city officials to be skeptical of industrial development in those areas.

She also said she would not be “all gung-ho” on industrial development near the Lecompton interchange. Instead, she wants economic development leaders to focus on filling up the new industrial park at the former Farmland Industries site in eastern Lawrence.

On downtown redevelopment, Soden was the president of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association when it opposed the height of the proposed hotel project. She said the city needs to do a better job of following its already approved guidelines on downtown redevelopment. She would have several questions about public-private partnerships to redevelop city parking lots. She’s uncertain the city has gotten good deals in past partnerships.

“If you have a business model that doesn’t work without public money, then maybe you need to find a better business model,” Soden said.


Phil Minkin 5 years ago

“If you have a business model that doesn’t work without public money, then maybe you need to find a better business model,” Soden said.

Wow! Here is a bit of common sense we seldom hear from a commissioner. I hope she makes it.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

Some of the things one might commonly find in a business model are:

Labor costs, which the government manipulates through minimum wage requirements. There are many posters here that routinely call for increases to that to a "living wage", which from the comments here, would easily represent a 50% increase above that already governmentally manipulated cost. Government mandates for health care also substantially increases labor costs.

Taxes, another governmentally manipulated cost that must be accounted for in any business plan and one that is subject to change on the whim of federal, state or local politicians as well as by referendum by the voters.

Fees for such things like permits must be accounted for in any business plan are again, a government mandate. The amount of such fees is subject to change as are the sheer number of permits required.

Government actions regarding property taxes, school bonds, utility costs, etc. must be taken into account whenever any business plan is developed. Certainly the government has the right to intercede whenever it feels these things are in the public's best interest. However, the more the government does intercede, the less it become "my" business model and the more it becomes a hybrid of sorts, with shared rights and responsibilities. Should a business fail, that failure is also a shared failure of the business as well as those responsible for the reasons for the failure. And it's true for a proposed business that fails to come to fruition, if the reasons are shared. It becomes as much "your" business plan as mine.

jafs 5 years ago

I disagree completely.

You're right, of course, that those various costs need to be considered if you want to open a business, but that hardly makes "your" business "mine" or "ours".

What is shared is what we determine government should do and how they should do it, at least in theory.

You make the decisions about what sort of business to open, if at all, and how to do it, finance it, staff it, etc. I've made none of those decisions with you. Sounds like it's rather challenging to open a business, run it and do well, which is why your suggestion that everybody should do it seems odd to me.

Considering that the minimum wage hasn't kept pace with inflation, we should seriously consider raising it to the level at which it would. There are so many exceptions to businesses having to offer health insurance in the ACA that that's not a real issue, I think. And, so many exemptions from fines as well.

In fact, the SC watered it down on purpose so as to make it not a substantial burden.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

"Labor costs, which the government manipulates through minimum wage requirements."

Yea, those horrible, mean-spirited meanies in government who manipulate away your ability to exploit your employees.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

I am glad I am not your friend or family member, jhawkinsf. Your contempt for the minimum wage is astonishing. The minimum wage does not even approach a living wage. It is a rare--and exceedingly contemptible bird--who disagrees with a minimum wage. If one cannot make a decent profit in a business without exploiting another human being, then one should probably not be in business.

My experience demonstrates that those who complain of the minimum wage are either overly greedy, or lacking in basic business acumen. Which one are you?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

To Jafs, Bozo and Sychophant

"Certainly government has the right to intercede whenever it feels these things are in the public's best interests" That was my exact comment.

When did I say I was against a minimum wage/living wage, or the need for permits and/or regulations, or that any business shouldn't be subject to taxation? I specifically conceded those points. What I did say was that as government did intercede more and more in my business, the less "my" business plan is "mine" and the more it becomes someone else's. Or as I said, it becomes a hybrid.

That said, if the government does choose to intercede in a wide variety of ways to the detriment of business, they also have a right to intercede in such a way as to assist businesses. Tax abatements are just as fair or unfair as raising taxes. It's no more or less fair than doubling the number of permits a business is required to get. It's no more or less fair than setting a minimum wage or living wage. It's no more or less fair than requiring worker's comp. whose costs have doubled in recent decades, then doubled again and then doubled again.

Government has the right to manipulate "my" business plan in many ways. It doesn't always have to be to the detriment of the business. It can and should assist businesses when it determines that that is in the public's best interests.

jafs 5 years ago

But, you're incorrect.

Your business plan is yours and yours alone, decided by you, and implemented by you. In that process, you obviously have to take into account a variety of factors, such as minimum wages, etc.

The role of government is open to debate and discussion, of course.

In my view, there are certain things that are rightly done by government, and others that aren't - things that are directly related to public services are very rightly done, like taxes and public services. Other things, like protecting the public health are also correct. And, minimum wages, to assure that people aren't exploited by employers.

On the other hand, assistance to business like the things you describe is not a proper function of government.

Your contention that things like minimum wages are "detrimental" to business is questionable. It may raise your labor costs, but it also provides you with a customer base that has more money, and can thus afford to buy your products.

I understand you may feel it's unfair somehow for the government to protect your workers but not you, but that's sort of the way it works. Aren't you the guy who says everybody should run out and start their own business rather than depending on others? The trade off you get by not being protected as much as your employees is that you stand to gain a lot more from the business, as you've mentioned. Of course, you can also lose more.

If you prefer a higher risk/possible reward ratio, then opening a business is a good idea for you. For those who prefer less risk, but more of a stable income, 40 hour work week and some protections, being an employee is a good choice. Since we need both, I think people should select which one they prefer.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

The problem with your line of thinking, Jafs, is that there is a huge grey area between what government rightly does and what it shouldn't be doing. I never said there shouldn't be a minimum wage, or that there shouldn't be taxes or that regulations and permits weren't necessary. What I did say is that as all of those things increase, the burdens on any business increase, sometimes to the point that businesses find it difficult to stay in business. Again, and with emphasis, I'm fine with government doing that, if it's considered in the public's interest. However, from my experience, many who are not in business and that includes government bureaucrats and unfortunately, lawmakers themselves, there are many hidden costs imposed by an over-regulated bureaucracy that puts enormous pressure on even the best run businesses.

Let me give you an example. Suppose I wanted to put a pin ball machine in my business. In certain states, I would then need to get a "Mechanical Amusement Device" permit from the state. Why? It wasn't true 50 years ago. But it is true today. Is that to protect the public? Now suppose I owned the business when this new requirement was implemented. I hadn't planned for that in my business plan, yet there is this new regulation. At least that part of the plan is that which I called a hybrid, part government, part mine. All businesses must be able to adapt to changing business environments, including changes by the government. That said, I can tell you there was a time I could put all my required permits on one large picture frame and post it, as required by law. There did come a time when the picture frame became too small to accommodate all the new permits, so I got a second picture frame. Then that became too small. I eventually installed a hinge, so the permits could be on the wall like a book with pages that can be turned to see all the permits. I felt like I needed a permit to inhale and another separate permit to exhale. As I said, if it's deemed to be in the public's best interest, fine. But there are many that are nothing more than hidden taxes, cloaked as fees for permits.

I wasn't a big fan of the auto industry bailouts. But at some point in time, the government decided that the negative effects to the economy was going to be so great, that a bailout was in the best interests of the public. That theory holds true in Lawrence, Kansas. The theory that businesses can be assisted if it is in the best interests of the public is equally valid as taxing businesses or imposing regulations that severely impact business plans, if they are deemed to be in the public's interest. I find it simplistic to say that any business that can't survive without public assistance ought to be abandoned outright.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

If you don't like the regulations in a state, then your remedy is to vote for candidates that will reduce them, if you like.

If you find running a business too burdensome, and you'd rather be an employee at somebody else's business, then you're free to sell your business and go work for somebody else.

Of course, that doesn't square with your recommendation that all of the rest of use should go out and start our own businesses very well - you can't have it both ways, I think.

Personally, I'd like for regulations to be "right sized" - appropriate for the level and kind of business that's being operated.

Neither was I, and I'd say that the problem of "too big to fail" industries is a direct result of under-regulation of those industries, so the solution is to regulate them better, not leave them alone and then bail them out.

One problem with your idea is that it's virtually impossible to find an unbiased and complete analysis of what's in the public interest when it comes to helping businesses. So even if I agreed in theory, in practice it just doesn't happen. I think I've asked before if you have any examples of unbiased and comprehensive analyses of tax abatements, etc. in Lawrence - if I remember correctly you didn't answer.

Part of the problem is that those who conduct the studies generally have a view, another part that it's very hard to accurately predict the effects of these things, and yet another that different people have different ideas of what's really in the public interest.

And, also there aren't clear and consistent guidelines, as bozo often points out.

So, what happens in practice is that well connected developers get a lot of assistance, whether or not they need it, and whether or not it's truly in the public interest as I understand that term.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

The problem with regulating businesses more is your assumption that in doing so, you'll be regulating them better. Given how government conducts it's own business, I see no reason for such optimism.

When in the past I've been in agreement with tax abatements, it's always been with the qualifier that an independent analysis be done and the abatement only be given if it's in the city's best interests. I'm aware of no studies done to see how all that works out. Hopefully, we should be electing people who are looking out for our best interests.

The bottom line is this, blanket pronouncements should be avoided, in my opinion. Saying businesses shouldn't exist if it's without government assistance is no more insightful than saying all businesses should be regulated into oblivion. Taxes should be high enough to pay for services, but not so high that those in the higher tax brackets simply leave and not so filled with loopholes that the well healed pay little if any. A minimum wage needs to be high enough that a person can survive but not so high that it will force small businesses out of business.

Soden's statement that businesses should find another business model fails to recognize that business models are already made based on a great deal of government intervention. I would suggest she temper her statements. There will be times when something like a tax abatement will be a win/win for the city as well as for business. When that happens, we should ready to embrace that.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

Since you have no examples of independent analyses, your assumption that those are possible seems a bit flawed to me.

My recollection of a variety of tax abatements is that we gave a bunch out based on some sort of guidelines that businesses needed to follow, and most of them fell short. Merrill posted the figure 35% compliance with the guidelines. But the abatements continued anyway.

If we're going to give them based on performance, then if the businesses don't perform, they shouldn't get the abatements - that seems obvious. But, the "pro business" folks don't think like that, and they're the ones giving out the abatements. One comissioner, Ms. Hack, even said straight out that the city shouldn't be "too picky" about performance.

Raising the minimum wage helps employees, but also businesses, since folks then have more money to spend. As that money circulates, it helps the economy in the larger sense.

I vote for people that are as close as I can find to my philosophy - that means I don't vote for the folks that want to deregulate business, but rather for the ones that want to regulate them.

If you prefer to vote for the deregulators, that's your prerogative. You can also lobby your representatives, move to states that regulate business less, etc.

It doesn't make any sense to me, though, to create a problem of "too big to fail" by failing to regulate, and then use that excuse to bail out the companies, and not fix the cause of the problem. One of the problems with bailouts is what they call "moral hazard" - part of the reason that businesses try to make good decisions, and not take too many unreasonable risks is the possibility and fear of failure. If we remove that possibility and/or fear, then that concern lessens, which removes that incentive.

Not at all what I want to do.

Kendall Simmons 4 years, 12 months ago

But that's not what she said. Indeed, her comment certainly was tempered.

Here it is again:

"If you have a business model that doesn't work without public money, then maybe you need to find a better business model."

chootspa 4 years, 12 months ago

I recall the poster saying that he's a minimum wage employer.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

My lowest paid employee does earn minimum wage and the highest paid employee currently earns $18.50/hr. Additionally, we offer a health plan with the business picking up 75% of the cost and the employee paying 25%. The health plan is optional.

jafs 5 years ago

Not a complete or accurate quote in context.

chootspa 5 years ago

Last I heard, Soden isn't suggesting we dismantle roads or schools. Just that we stop handing out tax incentives like candy. Sounds like she's in agreement with Senator Warren on that one.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

If a business cannot make it without several million tax $$$$ from the local cookie jars then maybe it should not go.

If a business project cannot make it without several million tax $$$$ from the local cookie jars then how does anyone know the project will ever work as a stand alone operation = tax dollars wasted.

If a business project cannot make it without several million tax $$$$ from the local cookie jar are there any guarantees this project will still be around 5,10 or 15 years later = tax dollars wasted.

Bribing an existing business from another community is not creating new employment. It is stealing jobs from one community in favor of Lawrence which kind of stinks. That company will likely be gone in a few years after shopping around for a new sweeter bribe..... after leaving an empty structure behind to locate in Lawrence. Then Lawrence will have an empty existing structure.

In general tax incentives is wasted money and too often is nothing more that providing a leg up over existing business. What if a business or two goes under as result = zero gain.

Isn't it odd that communities have to pay corporations to settle in a community? Where is this bottomless pit of free money?

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

Why should this good corporate employer receive millions of tax $$$$$$ that the community could use to prevent increases in taxes and user fees?

Allow the good corporate employer to exhibit good business skills and decisions under the Free Market umbrella = no tax dollars.

weeslicket 5 years ago

would love to have a costco in lawrence.

weeslicket 5 years ago

would love to have a costco in lawrence.

Catalano 5 years ago

That's a really broad statement. Can you give some specifics that would enlighten me? I'm still trying to figure out why people vote/don't vote for someone.

Keith 5 years ago

Redevelopment of public parking lots may be ok, if the developers pay market rates for the real estate they are purchasing. Giving away prime downtown real estate is never a good idea.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

No one can serve two masters, and the Chamber of Commerce is no exception. It works for its membership as a special interest group advocating for businesses.

If the City of Lawrence wants to pursue economic development policies that are beneficial to the community as a whole, it needs to both depoliticize and professionalize the process.

The Chamber of Commerce receives over $400,000 in taxpayer dollars each year from the City and the County. The record of accomplishments for this large annual taxpayer subsidy is very poor.

The Chamber led the City into 17 tax abatements of which only 35 percent met expectations, the remainder failed outright or did not produce the jobs, wages or investment promised.

The Chamber led the City into violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act in attempt to broker a deal without the taxpayers’ knowledge. This caused the members of the City Commission to be censured. The Chamber consistently supported more and more real estate development on the false belief that supply creates demand. They were wrong, and now the City is stuck with a large inventory of vacant housing, retail stores, and offices.

The City and the County should take this money and spend it on professional planners who report to the elected officials. These planners would bring professional skills to their work and would serve the community as a whole. The Chamber should be at the table when economic development policy is designed and implemented, but it should not be paid large sums of public money to be at the table. The Chamber can sit at the table as an equal, interested and unsubsidized partner.

Who does the best job of directing local economic development? Professional planners working for the community do the best job, not the Chamber of Commerce working for its business constituency.

Kirk McClure

Professor Department of Urban Planning University of Kansas Ph. D., Urban Planning, University of California at Berkeley, 1985; Master of City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1978; Bachelor of Arts, Urban Studies, University of Kansas, 1974; Bachelor of Architecture, University of Kansas, 1973.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

My response would have been get the money from the banks NOT the taxpayers.

Leslie Soden provided the absolute most sensible response...... in reality.

Redevelopment of downtown should NOT include taxpayers covering the cost of lost parking space. AND paying market value for any piece of downtown property nothing less.

Where are those signs notifying customers that they are in fact paying a larger sales tax courtesy of city government?

no_thanks 5 years ago

You and Leslie are hypocritical to support cash and public incentives given to the Poehler building but not to other businesses making investments in the community. Why shouldn't that project meet your test of being able to make it on its own?

You also need to update your letter from McClure. Vacancy rates across all sectors is low. Downtown is more vibrant than ever. City is generating strong sales tax revenue. Chamber has a new leader who is a 20 year Economic Development professional, who has led the charge for technical training, improved the City/County's image with tie selectors, and understands the importance of attracting primary jobs (local jobs where most of the revenue of he business is generated outside of the local community ). Be a little more objective and meet with the new Chamber CEO before passing judgment.

no_thanks 5 years ago

Improved the City/County image with site selectors.

Catalano 5 years ago

I kinda liked tie selectors. Added a whole new dimension to the ED process.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

The problem with incentives in general is that there is no clear policy about who gets them, and for what purposes.

That said, the development taking place in and around the Poehler building entails the renovation of a blighted area long neglected by the city, and it will provide low-income housing that's in short supply in this city-- all of which is clearly in the public interest.

But subsidies elsewhere tend to be of benefit almost exclusively to the development interests.

Please try to be a bit more objective.

Keith 5 years ago

If government is the referee, then development interests have worked the refs.

leftylucky 5 years ago

Mr. Farmer speaks absolute nonsense! Reminds me of Sue Hack his mentor in leadership Lawrence and the chamber pot cronies Cadre Lawrence, of which farmer was a founding member.

joes_donuts 5 years ago

Mr Farmer didn't give a definite answer to any of the questions. I have no idea how he feels on any of the issues. He just wants to "have more conversations" on all the issues.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

Lefty, you and Joe are spot on re:Mr. Farmer. He speaks with wide platitudes that are completely devoid of any substance. His list of financial contributors and "endorsers" is replete with developers, bankers, real estate agents, insurance agents and Chamber of Commerce folks whose only interest is manipulating the system--including receiving favorable treatment from City Hall--to line their pockets.

Farmer claims to side with the needy and underprivileged, but in essence, he is simply a opportunist who pimps for the wealthy. A charlatan through and through.

Phil Minkin 5 years ago

Incentives should be a carrot and stick. We have given tax breaks and other incentives in the past, with the promise of more good jobs, increased sales tax collections etc. and never follow up to see if the promises are kept. There should be be penalties for not living up to obligations.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

Jeremy Farmer is the proverbial “hail fellow well met,” a person with superior social skills, but little to no substance who manipulates his “likeability” to advance his own interests.

Let’s take a look at his positions as summarized in the article above.

Supports “well thought out” incentives. Folks, anything can be rationalized as “well thought out.” In essence, he really doesn’t have a position, or at least nothing that can be readily discerned from his comments. In fact, by stating “I think it is about community mistrust of the process and local government,” he is basically stating that anyone who disagrees with a particular incentive does so because they are suspicious of the process instead of being non supportive of the substance of the incentive. In other words, he believes he can “nice guy” anyone into accepting a particular incentive. Translation: I will support the moneyed interests of Lawrence.

Farmer is “uncertain” whether he would support a requirement for signs in special taxing districts.

“Farmer also said more conversation is needed on the issue of when to develop prime farm ground.” More uncertainty.

“Farmer said the city needs industrial ground in “prime accessible spots,” but said he was uncertain of what direction the Lecompton interchange area should take? Still more uncertainty.

Farmer “wants to have more conversations about what the future of taller buildings should be in downtown. He also said he would want to talk with more downtown stakeholders about the idea of redeveloping city parking lots.” So he wants to have “conversations” Isn’t that special. Translation for “conversation:” no articulable position. Uncertainty, uncertainly, uncertainty.

Let us not lament, however. My experience tells me that politicians with a plethora of “uncertain” positions are nonetheless very certain about one thing--trying to get elected by any means necessary.

Phil Minkin 5 years ago

There appears to be a new coalition of Farmer, Chesnut and Riorden. For all his comments about wanting 1 Lawrence, Farmer is teaming up with pro Chamber candidates to push out Soden, Amyx and Criqui who would best represent the entire community.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

You are spot on, foodboy.

Oddly, Mr. Farmer has attracted a few endorsements from folks who are publicly known for so-called "progressive." viewpoints.

“Ace” Hickey --writes a lot of letters to the editor, all with a progressive bent. Has voiced his opposition to the Citizen’s United decision and the millions of dollars that fuel political Has been a staunch critic of Lynn Jenkins. Appears to be one of the “liberals” Mr. Farmer has duped. I suggest that Mr. Hickey review Mr. Farmer’s campaign finance report/ Frankly, I don’t think Mr. Hickey is the type of guy who would be comfortable “sleeping with” most of Mr. Farmer’s supporters. Hope he reads this and re-thinks his position.

Here are a few other known “liberals” whom I believe have been duped by Mr. Farmer:

Bob Casad, Emeritus Professor of Law

Forrest & Donna Swall. Forrest is an emeritus professor of Social Welfare.

Laura Routh

Caroljean Brune

Hilda Enoch, a long-time advocate for the disadvantaged

I am truly embarrassed for these people. Don't they realize they are in bed with Thomas Fritzel’s architect, bankers, insurance agents, chamber of commerce people, attorneys for developers. Do they really think a city commission candidate who is endorsed by a guy who gave nearly over $500 to Romney and Lynn Jenkins will represent their values? Jeremy is trying to “make nice” with everyone. Surely these folks are sophisticated enough to know that such goals are hopelessly naïve. If Barrack Obama couldn’t do it, what makes them think a 29 year old kid can? Okay, so he is CEO of a food bank. Big deal. Surely they have heard of the expression, “poverty pimp.”

I wonder if they realize that most of Lawrence's long time progressive folks are conspicuously absent from Mr. Farmer's list of supporters.

Catalano 5 years ago

Please learn how to spell our President's first name, okay?

Katara 5 years ago

How can one be uncertain about a requirement for signs in a special taxing district?

Isn't the point to have an informed consumer?

How can one be uncertain about giving customers information?

Bob Forer 5 years ago

Because his handlers forgot to tell him how to answer the question. Either that, or they told what to say, and he forgot. The young man doesn't appear to be the sharpest tool in the shed.

Katara 5 years ago

You are absolutely correct. He does not appear to be very bright.

We don't need more conversations. We don't need to get together and have hugs before our meetings.

We need accurate and truthful information so we can make informed decisions about in what direction the city should go instead of it being handed out to us on a "needed" basis bit by bit.

Farmer and his friends just want to overtalk the situation in the hopes that his pretty words, that in actually say absolutely nothing, will distract from the actual issues.

Catalano 5 years ago

Why is this rocket science? As a consumer, I feel, no wait..I BELIEVE I have the right to know if the sales tax is going to be higher than other areas of town. Because I won't shop or eat there. Period. Got that message, city and developers? (insert bleecch emoticon here)

Amyx: If such special taxing districts are approved in the future, he said there should be a requirement that signs exist on the property notifying shoppers they are paying a higher-than-normal sales tax rate.

Chestnut: He’s uncertain whether he would support a sign requirement for those special taxing districts.

Criqui: He favors signs for any special taxing districts.

Farmer: He said he was uncertain whether he would support a requirement for signs in special taxing districts.

Riordan: He said notification signs should be a part of any special taxing district.

Soden: She supports signs in special taxing districts.

weeslicket 5 years ago

i had to skip past a lot of the previous. i'm sorry.

i will be voting or criqui and soden. i will not cast a vote for mr. chestnut. i had considered mr. farmer until i saw the list of his contributors. i don't mind mr. amyx, i just wish he had been able to use his persuasive abilities more and better. am also considering doctor riordan. if someone (like a doctor) can give me knowledgeable, informed and practical advice, then i always try and listen to it.

also, and to be fair: i mentioned mr. farmer's list of contributors. so,does anyone have links to the other candidates. just wondering. thanks.

Scott Criqui 5 years ago

weeslicket - Thank you so much for your support and vote.

Here is a link to the candidates receipts & expenditures reports. You might have to hit refresh a few times. The page doesn't always load.

Bob Forer 4 years, 12 months ago

I am with you on Criqui and Soden. I will not be voting for Riordan. Like Farmer, he is funded by the big money developers and chamber of commerce tyhpes.

chootspa 4 years, 12 months ago

You don't actually have to vote for three. If you've only got two strong choices, voting for only those two choices is the wiser wat to go. It maximizes the number of votes your favorite candidates get while not diluting it by voting for someone you don't want.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago


There are 3 positions available on the commission - if you only vote for two, you lose your chance to influence the 3rd position at all.

chootspa 4 years, 12 months ago

While that's true, if you're ambivalent about the third, you're only diluting the strength of the vote you're casting for the two for whom you feel most strongly. I'd especially recommend this tactic if your third choice happened to have won one of the the top three slots in the primary.

jafs 4 years, 12 months ago

I see what you're saying.

But, I still think it would be better to vote for three, if you can find three you like enough to vote for them.

I'll vote for Amyx, Criqui and Soden, since the other three have been endorsed by a "pro business" group.

Since there are 5 commissioners, one would need a 3-2 majority of candidates to prevail in decision making - I'm not comfortable leaving a third slot open like that.

Phil Minkin 4 years, 12 months ago

Channel 6 just did a story on a new PAC-Lawrence United that is backing Riordan, Farmer and Chesnut. Big money from builders and architects.

weeslicket 4 years, 12 months ago

i just recieved a mailer today entitled: lawrence united. lawrence strong.

chestnut at the top of the ticket. farmer in the middle. and riordan in spot 3.

so chestnut is out. farmer is tainted (by chestnut 1st, and 2nd by his own supporters list). riordan associated himself with chestnut and farmer.

so, my only 3rd choices seem to be either dr. riordan or mr. amyx. perhaps mr. farmer has something left to share with us.

anyways. i will be voting for crique and soden. i would still appreciate advice on my third vote. thanks.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 12 months ago

The third vote is either Amyx or simply voting for Criqui and Soden.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

Interesting article in today's print version about Kansas City's downtown booming because of all the basketball at the Sprint Center. With back to back weekends of tournaments the Power and Light District is having it's best year ever, according to it's executive director. Hotels are full, restaurants are full.

Kansas City may never be able to compete for Super Bowls. But they can compete for NCAA tournament games. Lawrence may never be able to compete with Kansas City for NCAA games. But we can compete for AAU tournaments. Do we want all those jobs here?

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