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.