Archive for Monday, December 8, 2014

Former East Lawrence neighborhood president files for seat on Lawrence City Commission

December 8, 2014


An East Lawrence resident who nearly won a seat on the Lawrence City Commission two years ago is back for another run at the commission and another round of debate about tax breaks and other financial incentives handed out by the city.

Leslie Soden, who missed out on winning a seat in the 2013 elections by about 100 votes, became the fourth candidate to file for one of the three at-large seats up for election. She said her campaign will include a lot of talk about changing the city’s economic development strategies.

“For the last four years our economic path has been one where we give big tax breaks to developers and raise taxes on regular people,” Soden said. “That is not sustainable and it has to change.”

Soden, 43, is a small-business owner. She runs Pet Minders, a pet sitting business, and she’s been a Lawrence resident for the last 15 years. She currently serves as a member of the city-county Joint Economic Development Council and is a past president of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association.

During her last campaign, Soden was a critic of the process the city was following to build Rock Chalk Park sports complex, which included a no-bid contract for about $12 million worth of infrastructure work.

“I have a track record of having issues with that project,” Soden said. “It may be a stellar success in the future, which we all hope it to be, but there are a lot of issues with that project that we can’t repeat.”

Soden said she also expects the campaign to have significant discussion on how to move forward with a new police headquarters. Voters in November rejected a proposed sales tax to fund a new $28 million facility.

Soden said she does believe the working conditions of the police department need to improve. She said she wants more information about expansion possibilities at the existing Investigations and Training Center near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. She said she also wants to have a larger discussion about public safety needs, including restoring funding for the WRAP program, a Bert Nash service that, according to their website, “ designed to improve child development and learning, increase connectivity to the broader community, and provide resiliency, wellness and mental health support within one of children’s primary natural environments: their school.”

The seats currently held by Commissioners Mike Dever, Terry Riordan and Bob Schumm are set to expire. Candidates have until noon on Jan. 27 to file for one of the three at-large seats. If seven or more candidates file for a seat on the commission, there will be a primary election on March 3 to narrow the field to six candidates. The general election will be April 7.

Soden is the fourth candidate to file for the race. The others are Stuart Boley, a retired IRS agent; Stan Rasmussen, an attorney for the U.S. Army; and Matthew Herbert, a Lawrence High government and civics teacher.


David Holroyd 3 years, 6 months ago

It makes no sense to talk about taxes unless the school board gets on the train to cut their budget!

Leslie Soden 3 years, 6 months ago

Hi Chad, thanks for the article. Just wanted to point out a slight error: the WRAP program is a Bert Nash program that places mental health professionals in public schools. The School Resource Officers are police officers based in public schools, so a different thing from WRAP. WRAP already does have professionals in some public schools, but not all of them. Funding for the program was cut during the beginning of the recession, and was jointly funded by the city, county and school districts in Douglas County. If anyone would like to read more about my campaign, please visit my website at

Maura Wery 3 years, 6 months ago

Hi Leslie, thank you for letting us know about the WRAP error. We fixed it in our story above.

Thanks! —Maura Wery, copy editor

Brendan Long 3 years, 6 months ago

Hi Leslie, in March of 2013 you were staunchly against a new police facility and called the current facilities "adequate." Did you go on any of the tours, or what changed since then?

Leslie Soden 3 years, 6 months ago

Hi Brendan, we had a public referendum on the issue, and a little less than half of people that voted, voted yes for a new police facility. I feel it's my duty to be responsive to a public referendum like that, even if the measure failed. From my conversations with people, most felt strongly that deferred maintenance needs to be addressed, even if they had voted no. From an employer standpoint, working conditions are important for morale. It's unfortunate that funding the police facility was not prioritized over the large recreation center, as we would be having a different conversation now. I am looking forward to working on the issue if I am elected in April, but the current City Commissioners have the reins until then.

David Holroyd 3 years, 6 months ago

How would you fund a new police office building.

Leslie Soden 3 years, 6 months ago

Hi David, I think your question might be a bit premature. I think we should first explore my ideas mentioned in the article above (expanding the 15th & Wakarusa building, prioritize public safety needs, city/county/university/social service agency partnerships, etc), and then develop a plan of action. After we have a clear plan of action, we can then start pin-pointing funding sources.

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