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Archive for Sunday, October 20, 2013

KU students disagree with administration wetlands decision

October 20, 2013

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A map showing the route for the South Lawrence Trafficway. Courtesy: Kansas Department of Transportation.

A map showing the route for the South Lawrence Trafficway. Courtesy: Kansas Department of Transportation.

As the Baker Wetlands' date with construction machinery draws closer, Kansas University's student government has voiced its discontent over the limited role it and students played in a university decision to let the Kansas Department of Transportation use part of KU-owned wetlands for the new South Lawrence Trafficway.

KU's Student Senate recently issued a resolution stating its "disapproval of KU administration's omission of students" in the decision to let the state use 8.87 acres in the Baker wetlands for a highway easement needed for the road. Student Body Vice President Emma Halling said the resolution was presented to student senators "as a critique of how administration handled the sale of land to KDOT."

The land, which KU allowed KDOT to use in return for $36,000, is part of 20 acres of wetlands southwest of 31st Street and Haskell that KU has owned since the 1950s and has used at times as a student lab.

KU said that it did not exclude students from the decision-making process. University spokesperson Joseph Monaco said in a statement, "KU officials have consulted student leaders extensively this year and in prior years regarding the South Lawrence Trafficway," including conversations between students and KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little as well as public affairs officials.

The episode represents another skirmish in the decades-long saga over the wetlands and the proposed Kansas Highway 10 extension, which would route K-10 traffic around the city to the south. In September a Columbia, Mo.-based construction company won the bid to build the highway. The project is scheduled to be finished by late 2016.

For the last four years Robbie Wood, a Haskell senior from Oklahoma and current head of the Wetlands Preservation Organization, has helped organize marches protesting wetlands development. Wood and members of the Senate's Wetlands Task Force met with KU Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Tim Caboni and KU Chancellor Gray-Little this spring to express concerns about wetlands development. Wood said KU could have used its ownership of the wetlands to make a statement on preserving them, but didn't. "They could have said no, that they didn't want it to happen."

Along with in-person meetings with officials, university general counsel James Pottorff answered questions in email posed by KU student Brian Sultana. Pottorff wrote that accepting KDOT's offer prevented KU from "engaging in extensive and potentially expensive litigation" should KDOT exercise its eminent domain powers. Agreeing to the easement deal also allowed KU to maintain underlying ownership of the land, Pottorff said in the email.

Comments

Marley Schnauzer 6 months ago

Sounds like the students were in the loop for the entire process. Now they simply don't like the decision and the reasoning behind it. Sounds very much like the radical GOP members of Congress.

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David Klamet 6 months ago

20 YEARS AGO, those leading the protests, might have been able to win significant concessions, a larger mitigation area, other projects, who knows? It would have been far less expensive and far better for everyone involved.

However, displaying the same "I want it my way" attitude that we have seen recently, the activists protesting the trafficway stuck to their narrow-minded goal and will not prevail in the long run. The trafficway will be built and any additional benefits that might have been won have been lost.

Full disclosure:

  1. I've been to the wetlands several times (I'm thinking that is more than most Lawrence residents) and think they are great, no matter how they originated. The more nature and the less concrete the better. That is why I live outside of town.

  2. I live west of Lawrence and commute to KC. The completed SLT will make my commute faster.

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Cille King 6 months ago

John Graham, Please don't spread lies about the requirements to vote. Sec of State Kobach has already made it confusing enough. In order to vote in Kansas, a person needs to be a U.S. citizen, a resident of Kansas, at least 18 years of age, and if a felon, they need to have finished serving their sentence. There is no time requirement except that a citizen needs to register to vote by the 21 day deadline before an election.

A citizen does not need a Kansas drivers license or Kansas tags in order to be able to vote in Kansas, they need only the address where they are staying. Nor is it a condition that they need to get a Kansas drivers license or Kansas tags after they have registered to vote or have voted.

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Edward Coan 6 months ago

Hmm....Isn't allowing students to have a say on matters like this real world experience in itself for them? Isn't "real world experience" part of what we prepare for them to have after they graduate?

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Michael Rowland 6 months ago

If you don't call the county your permanent home, then why should you get a voice in what happens?

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Autie Anderson 6 months ago

Why would anybody in their right mind challenge this in court when the only outcome would be the state taking the ground under eminent domain? Game, set, match. The University made the right call. The rest is superfluous bickering.

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John Graham 6 months ago

Most students only pay sales tax in Douglas county. Most students do not pay any personal property taxes as they do not own real estate and most tag their car where they came from. They pay no more taxes in Lawrence than I do when I shop in Topeka. Just because I shop in Topeka does not mean I have a right to vote in Shawnee county. Most students are only temporary residents of Lawrence not permanent residents which is needed if they want to vote in the county.

The students pay for the privilege to go to KU. That does not give them the right to be consulted on how KU makes decisions on how KU functions including whether or not KU sells land to KDOT. KDOT would win a lawsuit over KU on eminent domain so the time and money spent on a lawsuit would be a waste. Fans buy tickets to KU sports but that doesn't give them right to be consulted on who plays, or who the coach is.

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Richard Heckler 6 months ago

All students need to do is register to vote in Douglas County then they have a say at the ballot box. And as local residents they can become actively involved in local politics. Simple as that.

Students pay taxes in Douglas County after all.

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Beer Guy 6 months ago

$36,000 for less then 9 acres of undeveloped "litigation cesspool" swampland? Sounds like KU got paid to shut-up and get out of the way. A wise choice. I wonder how much Haskell got for the DUMPING ground they used in the 1950's that you can still see in satellite photos at the heart of their "holyland"

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Keith Richards 6 months ago

The relationship between KU and Lawrence is a two way street. KU does make this town what it is but Lawrence makes KU what it is as well. That being said, KU students have no vote in city matters and Lawrence has no vote in KU matters. Does Lawrence get a vote when KU plays home games in KC? Did the city get a vote when KU cancelled band day? The majority of KU studenrs move away after graduation which is why they should not vote on city matters.

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John Graham 6 months ago

And they would lose in court. The university system has people to make decisions. They are called administrators and board of regents. People with real world experience in making important decisions. Of course students will say no because that is the utopian view not the real world. To have the students vote on such decisions is nothing but folly. They are limited timers at KU and in Lawrence. The administrators and board of regents have to be looking at the long term not just a couple of years while they are in school. Your logic would extend to having the city and county commissions get the students input on all issues as the students form a significant portion of the overall city/county population. For the student government to admonish the administration is nothing if not laughable. The students should remember their place in the pecking order.

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Richard Heckler 6 months ago

Without the students there would be no university. Students are the largest substantial stake holders in every KU decision. Therefore KU students should always be invited to the table on matters such as this.

Without student money where would the University be? The Wetlands decision should have been put to a vote. After all students own the majority.

If 50% of university students would donate $10.00 every 90 days to a legal defense fund they could challenge the new KDOT rulings and the KU decision.

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John Graham 6 months ago

The students have a misguided opinion of themselves if they believe they should have a say in such a matter. The university allows the students to have a play government to feel important in making decisions about issues the university feels are of no real consequence. When a substantial matter is at hand the university administration and board of regents as they should are the people making the real decisions. Just as in any business the workers may want a say but the only opinions that really matter are those that come from the board room. The university sold the land because they felt it was in the best interest of the university. Maybe the university didn't want to take on KDOT, lose in court which they would have, waste money on legal fees and possibly upset state government officials that they rely upon for university funding. College is suppose to prepare students for the real world. This is how the real world works. Those in positions of power make the decisions that count. The rest of us are along for the ride. Students need to grow up and quit whining. I would bet the overwhelming majority of students have no idea where the wetlands are.

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