To the editor:
In response to the May 24 editorial, “Development shift?,” I offer a single word that, if considered seriously, could open many new dialogues about our downtown’s problems. The word is “classism.”
I’ve lived in Lawrence since 1974, when downtown was much quieter, more friendly to local residents and a sweeter place to stroll and shop. There are many who remember with nostalgia the Woolworth’s, Duckwall’s, Ben Franklin (chain) stores, drug stores, groceries and locally owned businesses whose merchants depended not on tourism but on the people who lived and worked right here in Lawrence. Downtown was clean and safe.
Today, downtown is noisy, crowded, dirty and an unfortunate draw for out-of-towners seeking late-night entertainment. Shootings, stabbings and bar fights are too common; drinking and sports are the mainstays of the Lawrence economy.
When “classism” becomes of the focus of our thinking about changes downtown, it’s easy to see that our elected officials, in their mission to attract wealthy tourists, please wealthy developers and allow extremely expensive projects like the new recreation center, have lost their faith in their own middle- and lower-income residents to support their town.
It should be obvious from the state of our downtown buildings and infrastructure where our money should be going: new sidewalks, garbage cans, paid employees to maintain planters and public areas, increased police protection (foot patrols), renovation of the old A&P into an operating grocery story. Make our downtown a healthy, beautiful place for our local residents. Promote its amazing historic business buildings and tourists will come.