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City commission candidates weigh in on strengths, weaknesses of City Hall

March 25, 2013

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More transparency and better long-range planning are among the items Lawrence City Hall needs to improve upon, according to City Commission candidates participating in a Monday night forum.

As the campaign enters its home stretch before the April 2 election, candidates at a forum hosted by Lawrence cable channel 6News were asked to give their views on how they viewed the past performance of Lawrence City Hall.

Transparency and an open dialogue came up as concerns for multiple candidates.

“It seems like we just get sales pitches from City Hall,” said candidate Leslie Soden, a local pet care business owner.

Soden said she also wished city officials did a better job of following already adopted plans rather than issuing so many variances.

Scott Criqui — an executive with Lawrence’s Trinity In-Home Care — said the city’s decision to convert the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant into a new business park has been one of its better decisions.

But he said the process for deciding how to proceed on a proposed $25 million recreation center was inadequate.

“I heard that everywhere,” said Criqui, who has advocated that the issue should have been put to a citywide vote.

Terry Riordan — a Lawrence pediatrician — said he thought the city had learned in the past few months about the importance of keeping residents more informed, and he also said the city needs to do more in the area of long-range planning.

Rob Chestnut — a chief financial officer for a Topeka company and a former city commissioner — said he heard often from residents about the need to have a citywide plan that spells out what major projects are expected over the next seven to 10 years.

“I just hear a lot of people say, ‘I don’t know what to expect next,’” Chestnut said.

Jeremy Farmer, the chief executive of the local food bank Just Food, said city government needs to listen more and talk less, but he said he did not want to be critical of any past actions of City Hall.

“When we are critical of people, that further divides our community,” Farmer said.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx — a downtown barbershop owner who is the lone incumbent in the race — said he thought the city had done a good job in keeping an eye on the future by investing in infrastructure. He specifically highlighted the city’s recent decision to restart plans for a proposed $64 million sewage treatment plant.

The general election will be held on April 2, although advance voting is currently underway. Voters can choose up to three candidates to fill three at-large positions on the five-member commission.

Comments

MMorton 1 year, 8 months ago

Everyone but Farmer is critical of City Hall. Farmer is nothing but platitudes and generalities. I don't think he's actually taken a stance on anything in the last four months. I've seen your forum performances and your survey responses--have an opinion on something for once!

I really thought Farmer was going to be different with his Chamber ties and East Lawrence background. That kid is all platitudes and generalities. I'm really disappointed in him.

grandpaD 1 year, 8 months ago

the candidates that have aligned them selves with the new pact are just saying what the public wants to hear in these town hall discussion. They are talking in simple and general terms with no real substance. The people who put this pact money together are trying to buy the city votes to put people in city hall that will line their pockets with cash. all the talk about what is good for the city simple correlates to money in the business contributors pockets. I see Chicago big boss written all over this election. It is time the Lawrence voters stood up and took back this city government. a vote for the 3 pact money candidates is a step back to the dark ages of the good old boy system. I for one do not want political cronies running our fair city. I will not vote for Farmer, Riordan and Chestnut on April 2nd

deltaman 1 year, 8 months ago

I would hope you vote for whomever is most qualified rather than on endorsements. This is a serious election. The City runs a $175 million budget, and the vast majority of their time is spent on items other than zoning and public incentives. I like Amyx because of his experience as a Commissioner and his consistent approach, even though I do not always agree with him. I am voting for Chestnut because of his past experience as a Commissioner (he was a very good Commissioner, informed on the issues, made sound decisions) and his financial acumen. I am undecided on my third candidate. Point being, make your decisions based on who is best suited to serve, not endorsements.

lawrencereporter 1 year, 8 months ago

Rock Chalk Development

  1. 100% tax abatement for private developer’s business venture contrary to the City’s abatement policy as concluded by the City’s public incentive review committee (P.I.R.C.) and ignored by this commission! “A FIRST FOR LAWRENCE”

  2. Same developer to build infrastructure on City R.O.W., public easements, and City property “without competitive bidding”… at taxpayer’s expense. “ANOTHER FIRST FOR LAWRENCE”

  3. To issue up to $40,000,000.00 I.R.B.’s for the same private developer’s project without any due diligence as to the actual cost of the project, the financial feasibility, including equity, and the marketing of the bonds. “ANOTHER FIRST FOR LAWRENCE” Above are three recent (last 90 days) City hall staff and commission actions... setting new policies and precedents for developers. Implementation details of these policies (however incriminating) fall to the next City commission…

Yet candidates seem to think 10 year long term planning is what taxpayers are concerned about.

Lawrence has a severe leadership problem…

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