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.


John Graham 4 years, 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.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 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.

John Graham 4 years, 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.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 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.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 6 months ago

The students that were registered to vote did have a say at the ballot box about the bypass, but that was approximately 20 years ago. The vote was for it.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

If they want to register to vote in Douglas county, fine. Be sure to get a KS driver's license (if from out of state) and register your car in Douglas county. Also you must "abandon" your prior residence (parent's home) which could make it more difficult for their parents to claim them as a deduction.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Unless they have their name on a personal property tax receipt from Douglas county, they have not paid property taxes in Douglas county.

John Graham 4 years, 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.

Lee Saylor 4 years, 6 months ago

Unless the renter pays property tax directly, as does the landowner who is billed by the government entity, they are not paying property tax. They are paying for the right to occupy property based on conditions agreeable to the landlord and the renter. By renting, the renter receives the right to occupy the dwelling. The landlord is responsible for paying the property taxes, clearing the snow from the sidewalk, repairing the property, paying the rental licensing fees.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Indirectly doesn't count in matters such as voting rights. You are either legal to vote or not. There is no indirectly.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Paying property taxes is one way of demonstrating residence in Douglas county which is needed to vote in local elections. If they want to vote in Douglas county then they will need to get a KS license (if from out of state) and register their car in Douglas county. If a student is using Douglas county as their residence for voting then they must use Douglas county for their driver's license and car tags. A lot of students are here temporarily, their permanent residence is still where their parents live thus they vote in that jurisdiction. Also it is a response to Mr Heckler who stated since KU students pay taxes in Douglas county they should vote in local elections. I was making the point that other than sales tax most students do not pay any taxes in Douglas county such as personal property taxes on real estate or cars because they are not true residents of the county.

Lee Saylor 4 years, 6 months ago

You only need to establish residence in the county to vote in the county. This can be done by showing mail received at a local address. I attended an event in 1980 where Andrew Young reminded us that college students should register to vote AND vote where they are going to college, because they spend at least 9 months out of the year there and therefore it most impacted their lives. College students should not be expected to put their local votes 'on hold' while they are in school.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

But once you vote where you go to college you must transfer your license and tags to that county.

Lee Saylor 4 years, 6 months ago

Keith, By your logic, if make a purchase of anything in business in Douglas County, I have paid property tax in Douglas County?

Din Rosa 4 years, 6 months ago

Of course, renters support property taxes. To suggest otherwise is similar to believing that free cell phones from carriers are truly free. Customers pay (plenty) for them, via their monthly cell phone bills. I did not pay utility bills while I rented, but I did not believe I was getting free heat and electricity, water, etc. My rent covered that expense, just as it covered the expense of property tax, or at least contributed towards it.

Michael Rowland 4 years, 6 months ago

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

Din Rosa 4 years, 6 months ago

So then people who need to move a lot have no voting rights? I voted when I was a student, in the town where I lived at the time, and at no other place, because that town was the only place I considered home, even though it was so only while I was a student there. It truly was my home at the time, and I cared about what was happening around me, more than some longer-term residents did, who did not vote. And no, I did not own my home, I rented, until my mid 30's. Saying that renters should not be involved in local politics is pretty discriminatory. Should only people fortunate to have property and stable long-term employment get to vote? People who care, and who have a legal right to vote, get to vote, and should be encouraged to do so. Even if they are young. Even if they do not own a home.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

No one is saying renters shouldn't be able to vote.

Lee Saylor 4 years, 6 months ago

Michael, See my response to another thread above.
I believe you should vote where you are now. 'Permanent home' is pretty difficult to define. What if your employer transferred you, but you aren't moving for six months. Where do you vote? What if you work in Kansas City, but live in Lawrence, where do you vote? What if you live in KC, but work in Lawrence, where do you vote? Let's bring it closer to home: Do you have a right to vote in Lawrence, if your business is in Lawrence (and therefore all of your livelihood is in Lawrence), but you live in Baldwin City?

Michael Rowland 4 years, 6 months ago

If you go by the student definition, it's where you're registered. It's where you live. It's not whether you own the property or not. Students usually give 2 addresses: a local address and their 'permanent address'. For some the permanent address is the same as the local as they aren't being claimed by their parents for taxes, they work and live in the area. Their permanent address is in Douglas County. For others their permanent address is their parents'.

Now, someone who isn't a student but is a renter, they still have a 'permanent' address here. They essentially have no other address. They should get a say in what goes on.

I believe the distinction I want to make is between someone who isn't planning on leaving in the immediate future. Those who plan on staying in the area, they're the ones who have to live with the consequences of these decisions. What is the point of letting people who are leaving have a voice in something with potentially long-lasting repercussions? "Oh hey, I'm against this idea, so I'm going to vote against it, but I won't actually be around to see how that turns out!"

And Lawrence as a residence vs Lawrence as a place of business... I'd say if you aren't a controlling voice in the business, if it's just a job, then perhaps what goes on in the town of your business is not your concern. But if you, say, own a small business in Lawrence but live in Baldwin, then sure, I can see that being necessary. Isn't that what Chambers of Commerce are for?

Cille King 4 years, 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.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

I never said they needed a license prior to voting. Read carefully what I said. Once you vote in Douglas county you have said that is your county of residence therefore you must obtain a KS drivers license and tag your car within 90 days of making Douglas county your county of residence.. If you are going to complain about what I wrote be sure you read it carefully first. If you read the Douglas county info it clearly states that if you register to vote in Douglas county then you are stating that Douglas county is your residence. As your residence you are required to register your car within 90 days of making Douglas county your residence. Also if you are a KS resident you are required to have a KS drivers license (if you have a drivers license). You can not be a resident of a county in KS and register your car somewhere else. Nor can you make KS your state of residence and have your drivers license from another state.

David Klamet 4 years, 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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